HC Deb 24 November 1971 vol 826 cc1352-443

Order for Second Reading read.

3.48 p.m.

The Minister for Transport Industries (Mr. John Peyton)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Transport Act of 1968 left the Transport Holding Company as a rather odd body—a holding company with neither premises nor staff of its own, and very few assets to hold. These, apart from a small engineering company in South Wales, were all concerned in the travel business; 90 per cent. of Lunn-Poly; 50 per cent. of Skyways; Pickfords Travel Service; and Cooks, this being easily the most substantial. The demise of the Transport Holding Company had already been provided for by the previous Administration. What we are now proposing is a modest change in the destination of the assets, a change based upon common sense rather than doctrine.

Two of the more recent investments by the Holding Company have yielded a melancholy harvest. Skyways, in which the T.H.C. acquired a 50 per cent. holding in 1967, had, only four years later, to be placed in the hands of a receiver after over £1 million public money had been lost.

Lunn-Poly was even less happy; a controlling interest was bought in 1969 for £400,000 but trading losses estimated at over £1.2 million were incurred before the firm—together with its onerous air charters—was sold to Cunard in the summer. This somewhat misguided investment cost the public over £1.6 million.

Cooks itself has recently had a dismal profit record. Turnover has steadily increased, but profits, before tax, have declined from £1.2 million in 1968 to £0.4 million in 1970. It cannot be said that Cooks has made the most either of its reputation or of the uniquely favoured position which it occupied at the start of a period of 20 years' boom in the tourist industry.

In fact, the total return in the years 1966 to 1969 was no more than the interest from the short-term investment of the very substantial amounts of cash which it held free of interest on behalf of its customers. In 1970 profits fell below even this sad level.

The Government concluded, as I told the House on 27th January of this year, that the right course was to dispose of the T.H.C.'s subsidiaries, and that the company itself should then be dissolved.

The future of Skyways, which was then in the hands of a receiver, had already passed out of the control of the T.H.C. or the Government. I am glad to say that Lunn-Poly, the Penarth interests, and an aeroplane which was owned by the T.H.C. but used by Skyways have been sold, leaving as the only assets of substance Cooks and Pickfords Travel Service Ltd.

Pickfords has been doing reasonably well. It operates from the offices of Pickfords Removals, a subsidiary of the National Freight Corporation. It would, clearly, be sensible for it to return to the latter concern to which it is physically attached; indeed, I cannot for the life of me understand why the previous Government ever split it off.

We therefore laid an order before Parliament on 5th August this year transferring Pickfords Travel Service to the National Freight Corporation as from 1st January, 1972. I feel that hon. Gentlemen opposite will wish to welcome this decision as well as the general approach, both of which are so eminently sensible.

Cooks, which will shortly be the T.H.C.'s only real asset, grew up as a private firm, and passed into the public sector only by an accident of war when the Belgian company Wagons-Lits, which then controlled Cooks, fell into German hands. After the war it was reorganised as a subsidiary of the railways companies, and on nationalisation in 1948 the shares were vested in the British Transport Commission. Ownership passed to the T.H.C. in 1962.

It is difficult to resist the conclusion that neither the company nor the public has gained from its inclusion in the public sector. All the evidence suggests that the company would do better in the private sector and that purchasers will be prepared to pay not just for net assets but for the potential profitability of the company. Bearing in mind that the property alone is valued at £8½ million and that total net assets are worth not less than £12 million, we can look for a very substantial price and one which reflects the very great potential of the company. This will provide an immediate and substantial benefit to public funds.

The Bill is necessary in order to put beyond any doubt the power of the T.H.C. to sell Cooks and thereafter the Government's power to dissolve the T.H.C. This is achieved by Clause 1. Subsection (1) puts beyond doubt the powers of the T.H.C. to dispose of any remaining property, rights and liabilities. The sale of Cooks will, of course, be handled by the T.H.C., which will be seeking, as will the Government, the best possible price. But I will also have in mind wider considerations in deciding whether to approve a particular sale.

Cooks is a substantial undertaking which in 1970 handled over £90 million in travel and a sum of the same order in travellers' cheques and exchanged some £80 million of foreign currencies. When I made a statement in January the Leader of the Opposition asked whether we intended to sell Cooks to one of the crook organisations in the tourist travel industry which are not too squeamish about the safety of their customers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th January, 1971; Vol. 810, c. 813.] or to organisations which fleece their customers. As I said then, I was surprised that he felt it necessary to put such a question, and I hope that no hon. Member today will follow such a lamentable example.

The House will not require my assurance that any such fears are totally unjustified. Of course the Government will wish to give particularly close attention to the financial standing of the proposed purchasers—[Interruption.] Does my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) wish to intervene?

Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)

Perhaps I might intervene in order to give my right hon. Friend a rest. Will he confirm these figures, which seem to be critical to his case? He said that Thomas Cook had a turnover of £90 million, in addition to which it cashed cheques for £90 million. Under those two heads, therefore, the company has a turnover of £180 million. It made a profit before tax of £400,000; in other words, less than a quarter of 1 per cent. of turnover represents its profit, which seems ludicrous.

Mr. Peyton

It was I who wished to give my hon. Friend a rest. If my hon. Friend had been able to find time to listen to what I was saying he would have heard me put three figures: £90 million on travel, £90 million on travellers' cheques, and £80 million on its handling of foreign exchange. So there is a total turnover of £260 million. As I said, the Government will wish to give close attention to the financial standing of the proposed purchasers, to their ability and intention to carry on the business and to maintain confidence, especially in what one might call broadly the "banking side".

The Government will also wish to take into account possible implications of the sale for the balance of payments. The House will recall that we have already made it clear that, while overseas bids for a share in Cooks would not be unwelcome, we consider it preferable that the company should remain under British control. I will, of course, take into account the willingness of the proposed purchaser to co-operate fully in the arrangements to safeguard staff interests, to which I shall be referring in a moment. Last, but not least, I shall wish to consider, before giving consent to the sale of Cooks to a particular purchaser, the possible effect of the sale on competition in the tourist industry, including the provision of foreign exchange facilities.

Clause 1(2) makes it clear that the Secretary of State has the power to give directions about the disposal of securities by the Transport Holding Company. This provision is similar to Section 29(4) of the 1962 Act, and its inclusion is mainly formal. I do not expect that it will be needed. The detailed arrangements for the sale, to which my hon. Friend will be referring later this evening, are now being worked out. I have been informed by the Chairman of the Transport Holding Company that the first step will be the issue of a prospectus in about the middle of next month.

The remainder of Clause 1 is mainly technical, but I should draw the attention of the House to subsections (5) and (6). These give us limited powers to make grants to the Transport Holding Company or to the body taking over its liabilities.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

Will my right hon. Friend note that there is such interest in this passing back to free enterprise of this nationalised industry that there is only one Labour Member on the back benches opposite—and he is asleep—and one Liberal Member?

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Order. We should not have an intervention upon an intervention.

Mr. Mason

On a point of order. I think that when hon. Gentlemen who are left on the Government back benches wish to intervene they might also declare their interest when stating why they are present.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order for me, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was really addressing me.

Mr. Peyton

While I would not presume—

Sir G. Nabarro

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can we really carry on the business of this House on a major Bill without an effective Opposition, as there are only five hon. Members present on the benches opposite, one of whom is a Liberal anyway?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. These are not points of order for me. We must watch the proper dignity of our proceedings and not be facetious.

Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

An Hon. Member

The hon. Gentleman has just come in.

Mr. Hamilton

My point of order is that all my colleagues, with the exception of the five who are in the Chamber, are meeting trade unionists who have come from every part of the country to protest about the Government's policy on unemployment. On that basis, it is grossly unfair that reference should be made to hon. Members in that fashion when constituents come to meet them.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I think it would be wise to leave all this discussion and get on with the Second Reading of the Bill.

Mr. Peyton

I am quite sure that my hon. Friend does not require the advice of the right hon. Gentleman or other hon. Gentlemen opposite. I merely make this comment and offer him my advice. It ill becomes him to call attention to the emptiness of the benches opposite when, after all, they look so much nicer that way.

Sir G. Nabarro

A cheap crack.

Mr. Peyton

I am not quite sure what my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South is really talking about. When it comes to making comments about cheap cracks—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We really cannot have this discussion going on along these lines. I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to continue his speech on Second Reading.

Sir G. Nabarro

You must get on with your speech, John.

Mr. Peyton

As ever, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I bow to your Ruling. I was seeking only to give my hon. Friend some passing tribute on a subject on which he is undoubtedly an expert.

I was saying, when I was interrupted, that subsections (5) and (6) of Clause I give us limited powers to make grants to the Transport Holding Company or to the body taking over its liabilities. These may be needed when revenue-producing assets are being disposed of. But some obligations remain; for instance, in respect of pensions and staff compensation. I attach the greatest importance to the interests and welfare of the staff and have already assured the House that pension rights will be safeguarded.

Clause 2 applies to the sale of Cooks and the subsequent dissolution of the Transport Holding Company provisions for safeguarding the position of the staff comparable with those in the earlier Acts. Detailed consultations will be needed with representatives of the staff, the Transport Holding Company and the purchaser. The Clause, like previous provisions, gives wide enabling powers so that the most appropriate methods to safeguard pension rights and compensate anyone whose job is affected can be settled with all concerned. The Transport Holding Company itself intends to make it a condition of the sale that the purchaser undertakes to maintain the existing pension schemes, which have been revised in recent years, or provide no less favourable alternatives.

I believe that this eminently reasonable Bill is in the best interests of Thomas Cook and Son, its staff and customers. I therefore commend it to the House.

4.6 p.m.

Mr. Tom Bradley (Leicester, North-East)

The Minister has given us a most unconvincing and, at times, almost frivolous explanation for what we on this side of the House regard as a thoroughly undesirable Bill.

The Bill has been brought here today as a further instalment of the Government's petty and spiteful policy of hiving off profitable sectors of publicly owned industries and services, a policy which formed part of that most devalued political document of all time, the 1970 Conservative Party General Election manifesto. We are, therefore, dealing with dogma and in no sense with proposals which have been designed to be helpful in meeting legitimate and understandable difficulties.

The assets of the Transport Holding Company, which are to be sold to private bidders, are almost wholly those, as the Minister has explained of Thomas Cook and Son, whose well-known name is a byword for reliability in the unstable world of the travel trade business.

The management and staff of that firm have given considerable confidence to the public, who have been able to feel that their holiday bookings and cash transactions were safe in the hands of this highly reputable and internationally famous firm. There are many thousands of disappointed holidaymakers who can testify to the opposite experience as customers of some of the less scrupulous operators in the travel trade jungle.

No summer goes by without stories of distressed and stranded British tourists who have fallen victim to the false prospectus of some suspect travel agency. A number of breaches of the Trade Descriptions Act have littered the news column of our newspapers in recent months. They have become quite common within the travel trade industry. This is not to mention the unfortunate experience of so many tourists who arrive to find hotels unfinished and insanitary. Thomas Cook has been free from that kind of criticism, so we are not here dealing with any question of a public service failure.

I suspect that what is proving of greater interest to the supporters of hon. Gentlemen opposite is the other side of Thomas Cook's activities, its foreign exchange and travellers' cheques business.

Sir G. Nabarro

Hear, hear.

Mr. Bradley

In 1970 the foreign exchange business handled by Cooks amounted to £91 million, compared with £93½ million on the travel side. The Transport Holding Company's annual report does not give a breakdown of Thomas Cook's profits, but it is a reasonable assumption that the larger part comes not from tour operating but from travellers' cheques and exchange business.

That is what has attracted City interests. In addition to the commission charge of 1 per cent. on each cheque. Cook has the use of money for several months before encashment. At the end of 1969, we are told, £14½ million was still outstanding in cheques. During the summer peak the figure is probably double. It is little wonder that we learn from the Press how certain banking and financial groups are jostling in a queue willing to bid for Cooks. After all, they do not have to keep all the company if they acquire it, only the part which yields the highest return.

Thomas Cook is, in fact, a complicated organisation of many parts. In addition to the sale of tickets and the provision of foreign exchange facilities, it offers individual inclusive tours, package tours, business travel, conference arrangements and certain shipping and forwarding services for importers and exporters. It even owns a holiday camp at Prestatyn. The fixed assets of Thomas Cook are very clearly under-valued in the balance shoot, which takes no account of inflation or movement in the property market. The Government, by unloading Thomas Cook on to the market, are going to create an asset-strippers' paradise.

The total staff employed by Thomas Cook worldwide is more than 5,000, of whom more than 3,000 are employed within the United Kingdom. They work through 450 branches in 54 countries. In the United Kingdom there are 109 branches and 12 shipping and forwarding branches in addition. At the moment the management is seeking to establish a further 60 new branches in Britain over the next two years in a drive to expand its inclusive tour operations.

Since the General Election the Conservative Party's plans for the development of Thomas Cook's business interests and the future of its employees have been clouded by uncertainty and speculation. The political intentions of the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have produced an atmosphere damaging to morale and detrimental to the successful prosecution of the firm's activities.

Perhaps at this stage I might declare a personal interest in that, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, I have the honour to be the president of the trade union which caters for Thomas Cook's employees, the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, and I know from meetings which I have addressed in that capacity how anxious the staff are to have their conditions of service and pension entitlements protected in any change of ownership.

That is why I pressed the right hon. Gentleman on those points particularly on 28th January this year. I acknowledge at once that some provision has been made to meet those requirements in Clause 2, but the position is not entirely watertight, however, having regard to what was done for personnel affected by the 1953, 1962 and 1968 Transport Acts. But that is a matter which we can probe more thoroughly in Committee.

What I want to emphasise is the total opposition of Thomas Cook's staff to the principle of this sale. They have no desire to be pitchforked into the area of low pay and poor conditions which constitutes the private travel trade, and in which trade union recognition is a rarity.

Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that five years ago that could be said of many people working in the steel industry when it was threatened with nationalisation when the political decision was the reverse?

Mr. Bradley

I thought we were dealing with the travel trade, not with the steel industry. What I have said is a fact. The private travel trade is one of low pay and poor conditions as a general rule.

Great play has been made by the critics of Thomas Cook that the return of assets has been poor—

Sir G. Nabarro

Hear, hear.

Mr. Bradley

—but it is important to remember that, whilst the travel side produced a turnover of £90 million a year, it is a commission business, and, therefore, turnover is not a direct guide to profit levels. The tourist business is also prone to fluctuations arising from the international political situation and from individual Government's internal financial policies. Our own currency restrictions and the curbs on foreign travel from France have all played their part. The company has also faced an escalation in general costs, and selective employment tax alone amounted to £360,000 in 1970.

Nevertheless, I concede that profit levels have at times been too low, and for this situation we must place the blame on top management. That it could have improved the profitability of the company is an undoubted fact. For years the management of Thomas Cook coasted along on the firm's former prestige, content to administer but not to innovate. It was slow into the package tour business, eschewing the new cheap end of the market opened up by others in the 'fifties, believing that such sales were contrary to Cook's traditional image. It is not surprising that it has a relatively small charter business. Also, it was not until four years ago that it ventured into the inclusive tour business.

Over a period of many years the same managerial mentality stubbornly refused to accept the advice of its staff and the trade union that it should start selling rival operator's tours where Cook had no tour of its own to offer. The management, however, thought that such conduct would be beneath it. Last year this long overdue practice was introduced, and it has been a great success. More than £4 million worth of other operators' package tours has been sold this year, and no extra staff has been needed to do it.

That has been a big factor in the decision, to which I have referred, to go out for retail expansion in all our major cities. This achievement has come late in the day, and after a decade of resistance by Thomas Cook's management. If the Government are concerned over the way Cook is being run, then the remedy, as they have done with another public corporation, is not to sell the concern but to change the management at the top. All that is needed is change of outlook, not ownership.

There is no justification for this denationalisation Measure. The travel trade is highly competitive so one cannot argue that the move is necessary in order to increase competition. Indeed, since some of those who apparently want to acquire Cook are private travel interests, the result may well be a reduction in competition and the creation of a virtual monopoly as Cook's retail outlets are used to push own-brand sales to a point which will eliminate very many private travel agencies.

Mr. Gordon McNalley, the managing director of Exchange Travel, said on behalf of a consortium of travel operators, as reported in the Daily Telegraph on 5th February this year: The travel trade is concerned to prevent the Cook colossus falling under the direction of any particular group which would ultimately wield a power which could dictate its wishes to the detriment of almost any member of the industry. In my view, the Minister is missing a great opportunity—

Mr. Kenneth Lewis


Hon. Members

The hon. Member has an interest.

Mr. Lewis

Yes, I have an interest in this matter, but not in the tour operating field. As a tour travel agent, I have an interest, but not in Cooks as such and certainly not in Cooks as a saleable proposition. Until recently, Cooks has been selling its own brand and nothing else. As a consequence, it has lost money. Since it has gone over to selling other people's tours, it has been making a little more, and the potential for making more was there because of this wider intake of tours. Clearly, therefore, if anyone takes over Cooks, it would not be in his interests to sell only one brand, since the large spread of Cooks' offices is a very good market for selling all brands of travel.

Mr. Bradley

I am afraid that the prevalent fear in the travel trade is that the enormous number of retail outlets of Cooks will be used to push the products of any successful bidder. This is confirmed in article after article in Travel News, the journal of the trade.

I repeat that the Minister is missing a great opportunity to make Thomas Cook the center piece of a national travel and tourist business which could be used in alliance with and to promote all aspects of the B.O.A.C., B.E.A., British Rail and National Bus Company services. Instead, for purely doctrinaire reasons, he intends to allow private enterprise to cash in on the years of hard work by those who have established the high international reputation of this firm.

Can the Minister not tell us whether bids will be allowed by other public companies? Will he either increase their borrowing powers or permit them to borrow in the City, exactly as private buyers will be able to do, to purchase these assets? There have been rumours in the Press of a restricted B.O.A.C.-B.E.A.-Barclays Bank stake. If this is true, is it another example of this Government's demanding that State undertakers should behave like commercial concerns while at the same time preventing them from doing so?

Is it intended to sell separately Cooks' shipping and forwarding section? This is a purely freight importing and exporting business. Surely, the best and logical thing to do with this part of the organisation is to transfer it to the National Freight Corporation, where it can be integrated with Pickfords and Container-way Services. With Cooks' contacts throughout the world a very important nucleus upon which a very good and reliable service could be evolved under the National Freight Corporation.

The Minister admitted today that he had no difficulty in transferring Pickford's Travel Services from the Transport Holding Company to the National Freight Corporation earlier this year. What prevents him from dealing with this specialist section of Thomas Cook in a similar way?

Mr. Peyton

Before the hon. Gentleman presses this argument further, I would point out that there is a basic difference between the two sides of the House. We would wish to see the public sector diminished, because we do not believe that its contribution to the economy is as favourable as the hon. Gentleman believes it. The hon. Gentleman and his party have made much of public ownership but not a great success of it; this is our point.

Mr. Bradley

Then I can only assume that it is merely a question of time before the Minister comes forward with proposals to sell British Rail, the National Freight Corporation, the National Bus Co. and other public companies. Of course, if he wishes to inject that kind of political thinking into the life of the country, he is asking for considerable disruption and dismemberment of the economy. Public ownership has many proud achievements. We can give example after example of the way in which it has behaved responsibly. The Minister insists on bringing a doctrinaire approach into this very serious matter.

I repeat that the Minister should transfer this specialist section of Thomas Cook to the National Freight Corporation in the same way as he did Pickford's Travel Services. A great potential traffic flow is involved here and it requires to be organised on a national and not a competitive basis—

Sir G. Nabarro


Mr. Bradley

No. The hon. Gentleman is being almost as rude to me as he was to his right hon. Friend. I would ask him to resume his seat to allow me to get on.

We are, therefore, utterly opposed to this needless Bill. It is a piece of vindictive nonsense. It is the product of small, politically motivated men who, careless of the uncertainty which they have created, aim only to satisfy the appetites of their party's zealots and business supporters. There is no sound economic reason for what is being done. Individuals should not benefit from the nation's investment. That is why we say that Cooks and all the other hived-off sections of public industry will be reacquired by the next Labour Government on a basis which will bring no financial advantage to those who now buy them. Therefore, for the reasons which I have given, I would ask the House to reject this miserable Measure.

4.27 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Fox (Shipley)

In welcoming these proposals, I do so not in the belief that they are vindictive or small-minded, as the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley) suggested, but rather because I believe that the Minister is being forward-looking in doing something which should have been done in our last 14 years of office. I do not accept from the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are the best people to make commercial judgments on issues of this character. Their record is to the contrary. I believe the Bill to be right, in so far as my right hon. Friend has said that in the first place this was an accident and that this company should have been handed back immediately after the war. We are now putting the record straight: this company has been in a privileged position.

This company has operated like a State industry public body. We have seen, in a highly competitive field, a mentality that one can best compare with that of the Civil Service. One gets the atmosphere in the head office of this company. This is not a commercial enterprise than can do any good in public hands. The facts speak for themselves.

I hate to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), but, on my reckoning, a profit of £400,000 on a turnover of £260 million seems to represent one-fifth of 1 per cent. and not a quarter of 1 per cent.—

Sir G. Nabarro

The Minister in charge of this debate evidently misunderstood my calculation. I deliberately excluded the third item of £80 million, which is not comparable in terms of turnover to the two first-stated items, each of £90 million. When my hon. Friend examines the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow, he will clearly see that I proceeded with the utmost propriety—placing £400,000 of profit before tax over £180 million and thereby arriving at a profit rate compared with annual turnover of between a quarter of 1 per cent. and a fifth of 1 per cent. I am utterly correct in that calculation.

Mr. Fox

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. However, I do not believe that it is wrong to relate profit to total turnover.

The company has made several errors of judgment. I question the suggestion of the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East that it should have been in the package tour business earlier. That venture has not been a success. Cooks would have been far better employed building up the side of the business at which it was successful, and at which it had been even more successful in the past. I am referring particularly to travellers' cheques. A discount of 1 per cent. on a turnover of £90 million is not a bad profit to start from. The company has lacked the aggressive sales techniques that any company in that business needs. The progress made by American Express is an example.

One alternative open to us is to let sleeping dogs lie. That would have been more relevant a little time ago. The Opposition would like us to do that, because to them every part of public ownership is whiter than white.

Mr. Bob Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

The hon. Gentleman suggested that Cooks lacked an aggressive sales technique. Would not he rather accept that Cooks have not embarked on the very questionable sales techniques of many of the tour operators?

Mr. Fox

If the hon. Gentleman believes that aggression in sales is wrong, I am sorry for him.

Mr. Brown

I said "questionable".

Mr. Fox

I would not for a moment suggest that I want Cooks to operate as certain people in the industry have operated. But let us keep those people out of the debate, because none of them will be involved in the sale. In any case, they form a small part of the industry, and the public have the answer in their own hands.

Although I accept the honourable position the company holds, if it is as good as the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East suggests, how is it that the public have turned elsewhere to meet their needs?

The Opposition's course of action would be to leave things as they are. But we say that the Government should not be involved in the business at all. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on getting rid of Skyways and Lunn-Poly. We are now on the next part of the exercise. I am sure that I speak for many of my hon. Friends when I say that we hope that my right hon. Friend has not finished his venture.

Sir G. Nabarro

He has not even started.

Mr. Fox

I believe that he has started.

The Opposition are always sore when a venture like Thomas Cook fails, but in open competition where the Government are involved free enterprise usually wins. We know the results; we have seen it on so many occasions.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)


Mr. Fox

Rolls-Royce is doing very nicely. The hon. Gentleman should welcome the fact that it is now improving its position.

Mr. Lyon

On public money.

Mr. Fox

Not just public money.

In an industry where handsome profits have been made, it is nonsense to have a public involvement. At best, it is a wasteful use of public resources, and at worst there is always the risk of a large loss, which will be met by the taxpayer. My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated not only on saving the taxpayer money but on giving the public a better service.

The terms provided by the Bill completely answer the allegation that the staff have been thrown to the wolves. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) has suggested, they will get far better protection than many private employees who were taken over by nationalised concerns not so long ago. We welcome that. Their rights, and particularly their pension rights, will be looked after.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will get a good price. With assets of £13 million and the scope provided by its turnover, Cooks is a company that should attract a considerable sum. I welcome my right hon. Friend's assurance that a good sum must be obtained and that the company should stay in British hands. I should like the name "Cook" to be kept, because it is part of our history. Whatever we may say in this debate, none of us decries the immense amount of good the company has done over the years in encouraging travel.

We on this side could not suggest that the company should be taken over by another nationalised industry. I do not rule out a consortium of a number of companies, and if B.O.A.C. or British Rail, or American Express for that matter, wished to have a part in the company, there could be no objection.

At the end of the day, I support the Bill, because, as a shareholder—we are all shareholders in the company—I believe that the nation will welcome what we are doing.

4.36 p.m.

Mr. Ron. Lewis (Carlisle)

I disagree with the greater part of the speech of the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Fox). Whilst I have no personal interest in the matter, my union has a slight interest in that some of its members are employed by Thomas Cook.

The dissolution of the Transport Holding Company means, in effect, handing over the largest and most famous travel agency in the world, probably resulting in a hotchpotch of private enterprise companies, not one of them in any way approaching Cooks' world prestige.

A number of questions need to be answered. What will happen to Cooks' foreign exchange and travellers' cheques business? The sale of travellers' cheques alone totalled £91 million last year. With so many smaller firms and agencies going out of business, is there any other travel company that could match Thomas Cook for public confidence in the provision of financial facilities?

It is interesting to note the facilities that Cooks now offers: the sale of tickets on behalf of operators—airlines, railways and road and shipping companies; the provision of hotel accommodation, travel insurance and similar auxiliary services; the provision of travellers' cheques, foreign exchange and other financial facilities; individual tours of all kinds, arrangements for business travel and even the arrangement of conferences. There are also the creation and marketing of package holidays. In addition, there are car travel through holidays planned for the motorist; certain shipping and forwarding services for importers and exporters; and, last but not least, a holiday camp at Prestatyn in North Wales.

Cooks deals with many special and international assignments. From its offices in New York, Paris and Geneva it deals with the travel requirements of the United Nations Organisation, U.N.E.S.C.O. the World Health Organisation and the International Monetary Fund. It also deals with the travel requirements of this House, which are very important. It has an agency agreement with Wagon-Liss, which is one of the reasons why it came into public ownership in the first place. Cooks, unlike any other firm in Britain, covers Europe and most of the world.

I venture to assert that, once it is sold, there is no other agency which could match Cooks with these facilities. If the Government have their way, it may be matched in bits and pieces, but its international scale could not be matched. It is certain that the British public have a right as owners of Cooks even if they cannot prevent its being sold. This Government have no mandate for the sale, as they had no mandate for the sale of the State pubs in my constituency.

Sir G. Nabarro

The hon. Gentleman keeps on saying that the Tory Party had no mandate at the last General Election to deal, for example, with these miniscule operations of denationalisation such as State public houses in Carlisle and Thomas Cook. But we have the overall mandate to reduce the area of public ownership, and it is in pursuit of that that we are getting rid, by hiving off, of unrewarding undertakings such as Thomas Cook and the State pubs.

Mr. Lewis

I disagree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. It is dishonest on the part of the Tory Party to do these things when it did not give the electors any opportunity to judge them one way or the other.

Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the reason why the Government have no mandate is that they did not command more than half the votes cast at the last General Election; that more votes were cast for Liberal and Labour candidates than were cast for the Conservative Party. If the Conservatives wanted a mandate, they could reform the electoral system.

Mr. Lewis

If I talked too long about the Carlisle State pubs, I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would call me to order, and that is the last thing I want, having had my little say on that issue when the House discussed it.

Returning to Thomas Cook, a business of this nature and prestige must not be split amongst the companies which so far have expressed an interest. They have done that most probably in the hope of easy pickings, as was the case with the brewers in my constituency. Some of them may be interested in only parts of the business. But the various facilities of the company are interdependent, and the company must not disposed of piecemeal at a give away price. We cannot get any information even now on what is happening in Carlisle because the Government seem to be a little cagey, and many of my constituents seem to think that with the State pubs some backhanders are being given. I do not want that said about this Bill. The company's very size and value make its sale as a single entity impossible at a realistic price, and it must be retained in public ownership if we cannot sell it as a whole at a realistic price. After all, it is the public's money that the Government would be giving away. The public are entitled to a high price.

The profits in 1970 amounted to about £400,000, compared with £1,100,000 the previous year. But everyone in the travel trade knows today that 1970 was recognised in many respects as a disappointing year in the trade generally.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Eldon Griffiths)

The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the profits fell to £400,000 last year, and that profits vary. But he ought to know that in the current year those profits of £400,000 have virtually disappeared.

Mr. Lewis

I do not know. We had better wait until the financial statement is presented, and then we shall be in a better position to see. But the Government are always selling off the profitable sections of the nationalised industries.

Sir G. Nabarro

That section is not profitable.

Mr. Lewis

It is making a profit, as were the State pubs in my constituency. They were making a very handsome profit.

During the passage of the Industrial Relations Bill and the Code of Industrial Practice the Government made great play of the suggestion that one of their main concerns was encouraging trade union membership. This is an opportunity for them to put their words into effect, because Cooks is the only travel agency with trade union organisation on any scale. Will the Government give an undertaking that a condition of sale will be that trade union membership will be encouraged and sustained by whoever purchases the company? The total staff of Thomas Cook, worldwide, is over 5,000, and many are union members. It is doubtful whether there are as many union members in all other travel agencies combined.

I was glad of the assurance from my Front Bench today that the Labour Party's policy, when we form a Government after the next General Election, will be that any part of the nationalised industries which is sold now shall be taken back into public ownership without any compensation. I go a little further. When we form the Government of the day I hope we shall look at this question and not even give compensation equivalent to the amount for which these industries are sold. We have already given the undertaking that they will come back into public ownership. I say to whoever purchases them and to whoever purchased the State brewery in my constituency, and all the pubs, "Let the purchaser beware."

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

On a point of order. I do not know whether you are aware of it, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but at this moment the Metropolitan Police have brought in the mounted police at the gates of the St. Stephen's entrance to the House of Commons. I have been watching the events there. There was certainly a great deal of pushing; much too much pushing, in my opinion. But, in my view, to bring in the mounted police is a provocation which will create more problems than it will solve. Under those circumstances, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to protest at the use of mounted police and, at the same time, to urge that the officials of the House should make every endeavour to get them removed at the earliest possible moment, and return to some normal procedures at the St. Stephen's entrance.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

I do not think that that is a point of order for me.

Mr. Heffer

Further to that point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask that the Home Secretary should come to the House and look into the whole matter? This is a very important issue.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That, again, is not a matter for me.

Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)

Further to that point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker. Have you any authority to send for the Home Secretary because of this situation?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

No, I do not think that I have that authority.

4.50 p.m.

Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)

I warmly welcome the Bill. It implements much of what we on this side promised during the recent elections. But not only at the last election, but on many other occasions the Conservatives have made it quite clear that the State should handle as little as possible of the nation's money and that people should be given greater opportunity to spend their own money. This means that raising funds by means of increased taxation to take part in activities which should be no concern of the State should cease, wherever possible, and be reduced where this is not possible. I welcome the Bill as one more move in the right direction.

I wonder whether the exposition by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis) of the virtues of Thomas Cook might not turn out to be the same as that an American congressman would have delivered to expound the virtues of the American Express Company should Congress ever decide to nationalise that company. The virtues of the American Express Company and of Thomas Cook are world-renowned. The company in the United States is in the private sector. The British company has inadvertently fallen into the public sector after the declaration of war in 1939. I believe that Thomas Cook can well revert to the private sector and continue to enjoy the reputation it has recently acquired.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

May I be allowed to put the record straight? Thomas Cook has not fallen inadvertently into the nationalised sector. It was put into the nationalised sector by a decision of the House when the railways were nationalised in 1947. No one should make such wild statements as the hon. Gentleman has just made. The decision was that of the British Parliament in 1947. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw that silly statement.

Mr. Osborn

The hon. Gentleman is splitting hairs. He well knows that in 1939 Thomas Cook was taken over by the railway companies. The decision to nationalise the railway companies was taken in 1947. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to correct me he is welcome to do so, but I think that he and I agree on the matter.

Why must we have the Bill at all? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] Thomas Cook should not have been in the public sector in the first place. I was one of the hon. Members who served on the Standing Committee which considered the Transport Bill in 1968. Section 53(1,a) of the Act contains phraseology which gave hon. Members concerned great cause for thought: (1) The Minister may by order, which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament— (a) transfer any such property, rights and liabilities of the Holding Company as may be specified in the order, being property, rights or liabilities not already transferred under section 4 or 28 of this Act or this paragraph, from the Holding Company to such other person, being either a publicly owned body (that is to say, a body established for the carrying on of any industry or part of an industry … It is the wording of the 1968 Act which makes it necessary to have the Bill. I regret that the Secretary of State cannot take the type of action which he took with Skyways Coach Air Limited.

My right hon. Friend has outlined the need to do this. The company was originally purchased for about £26,000. The public injection of finance was £1½5 million and then there was the further demand for £0½3 million which prompted the course of events which we know. Similarly, Lunn-Poly was purchased for a low figure by Cunard—namely, for some £100,000. The original purchase price was £400,000 and again there was an injection of public money—some £1½3 million.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice. A dangerous position is arising outside the House of Commons. Following on from the previous point of order, is it not possible for you from the Chair to ask or instruct the Serjeant at Arms to investigate and see if there is anything in the powers of the Officers of the House which will alleviate this problem, which might get worse?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

What is going on outside the House is not directly within my purview, but, if something else is going on inside the House, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell me and I might then be inclined to ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate.

Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In the past it has been a matter where instructions have been given to the Serjeant at Arms. No one understands better than hon. Members the difficult task that the police have on an occasion like this. There are a very large number of people outside who feel very strongly. I will not go into the merits of the issues which have been debated in the House. All of us have sympathy for the police in this. I have met literally hundreds of those who have come within the precincts of the Palace. They are peaceable, and I think that they are concerned to put their point of view in a peaceful way.

If you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have no powers to ask the Serjeant at Arms to look into this matter on behalf of hon. Members, all of whom want to see the lobby proceed peacefully and the task of the police eased, is it not for the Government Front Bench to make representations to the Home Secretary that someone on his behalf should watch this situation and intervene to ensure that it is as peaceful a demonstration as I am sure that most of the demonstrators wish it to be and as the whole House wishes it to be?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

As it is plain that there is something going on which we desire should not go on, it would probably be best for me to ask the Serjeant at Arms to see if he can find out what is happening and to inform me.

Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether, through you, we can address a question to the Leader of the House, who is also the Chairman of the Services Committee, which holds responsibilities for the services of the House and for the approaches to the House and request that he, too, should make inquiries.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think that it is sufficient if we ask the Serjeant at Arms to do this for the moment, and to inform me of what is happening.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Further to that point of order. We are glad that the Leader of the House has now arrived. I appreciate that events have moved quickly, and we therefore understand the position in which the right hon. Gentleman finds himself. We welcome the speed with which he has come to the House.

May I repeat, for the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman, what has gone before? First, you. Mr. Deputy Speaker, have acceded to the request that the Serjeant at Arms be asked to inquire what is happening. All of us want to protect the police. Second, I have said that all of the demonstrators whom I have met are very peaceable and friendly. If this matter is outside the purview of the Serjeant at Arms, perhaps the Government Front Bench will bring the matter to the attention of the Home Secretary so that he can have a representative there to see that as far as possible this matter is dealt with with the utmost consideration, so that those who want to come to the House and lobby in a peaceful manner will be allowed to do so.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I respond to the Leader of the Opposition and say, first, that I am grateful for the way in which he has raised this matter.

Representations will be made to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I am sure that the Serjeant at Arms will look into the matter. It is in the first instance a matter for him and for the Inspector of Police on the spot. I will see that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is duly warned.

Mr. Harold Wilson

I am grateful to the Leader of the House.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was in the House attending the debate a few minutes ago when the point of order was raised about the police. I have just been outside. As some criticism was levelled, may I say that the police outside seem to be doing a splendid job with great good humour but they are having to cope not only with the unemployed, but with large numbers of students who obviously are not unemployed.

Mr. Ron Lewis

On a point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker. No one made any allegations against the police in the previous point of order.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is not for any hon. Member on either side to seek to make a judgment. All that we can ask you to do—you have now agreed to do it, and the Leader of the House has also agreed to take action—is to ask those who are competent to take direct action so to do.

I apologise to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) for interrupting his speech.

Mr. J. H. Osborn

I appreciate the seriousness of the situation which gave rise to that interruption, and I will continue with my contribution to this debate.

In my view the incursion of the Transport Holding Company into, for example, the Lunn-Poly and Skyways Coach Air Ltd. type of business did not prove a success. The public money invested in Thomas Cook could have been more wisely spent.

What do we know about Thomas Cook? It is clear that it should never have been brought into the public sector, where it has existed for a number of years. Its presence among other public industries sticks out like a sore thumb. It is like a golden nugget in a sack of coal. It is a great and valuable asset among all those interests that have been nationalised.

It is not my purpose to discuss whether a sack of coal, by which I mean the existing nationalised industries, is of poor or good quality. Nor is it my purpose to discuss the way in which any of these industries are run. Time and again we have discussed reports of the Select Committee on the Nationalised Industries. We have tried to establish yardsticks for the running of individual industries and we have suggested the form in which public accounts should be presented.

I suggest that a coal merchant does not necessarily have the expertise to handle gold, and this type of gold, which is bought and sold throughout the world, is better handled by the dealers who specialise in this type of precious metal. Thomas Cook is a nugget of good quality but in view of what has been said about it and the criticism that has been made of its management, it is clear that it has become somewhat tarnished.

I appreciate my right hon. Friend's difficulty in this matter. If he were to run down Thomas Cook now and condemn its management and structure, he would make it more difficult for the Transport Holding Company to sell it at a good price, and he must give an assurance that public money is not wasted by debasing an asset for which he is responsible. On the other hand, if he praises its virtues too greatly hon. Gentlemen opposite will say that there is no case against keeping it as a State enterprise.

Thomas Cook is the type of activity which should not be run by the State, and time and again my hon. Friends have made it clear that there are fringe activities and assets that ought to be released by such sales and used to expand those businesses for which the nationalised industries are primarily responsible. To put it bluntly—and I promise not to continue with this analogy—dealers in rare metals do not trade in coal. Coal merchants are well advised not to trade in gold, and this parallel—

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

The hon. Gentleman must, before proceeding, say why, if what he has said is true, we have such things as conglomerates in private enterprise. Is it really necessary for everyone to stick to his last when it is possible for marketing organisations to handle a great many different products?

Mr. Osborn

That subject is probably best pursued in debates following the Reports of the Select Committee on the Nationalised Industries. In any event, the nationalised industries as a whole have given a poor return on the capital employed, particularly when they are in competition with firms carrying on similar activities in the private sector. If the hon. Gentleman will read speeches I have delivered on this subject in the past, particularly when we have debated reports of the Select Committee, he will see that I have made my views clear.

I come to the imputation by certain hon. Gentlemen opposite that the management of Thomas Cook has not been progressive and that this has been responsible for many of its failings. Parliament is not well fitted to criticise management, and this is one of the problems we face, whether we are debating a small or large nationalised industry.

Be that as it may, let us consider what we know about the travel industry. I have been in touch with the—

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

On a point of order. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh no!"] I do not apologise for interrupting the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) and I do so in the knowledge that the point I wish to raise with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, has already been raised with the Chair on two occasions. I raised it with Mr. Speaker and foretold that there would be a lot of trouble unless assistance was given to the electors and taxpayers of this country who are being forced on to the unemployment market and who have come here by appointment to see their hon. Members.

I rise on a point of order to inform you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that these citizens are being prevented from coming here, into the Palace of Westminster, although they have appointments to see their hon. Members. Outside the doors of this building are hundreds of policemen preventing them from entering, yet there are plenty of rooms in this House available and empty. Westminster Hall, St. Stephen's Hall and all the Committee Rooms are empty. Our constituents are waiting outside to see us and we have made appointments with them to come here to talk to us. This is a breach of privilege, I claim, because no one—I emphasise "no one"—is entitled to stop hon. Members meeting and discussing matters with their constituents.

I want you to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that someone has given an order. As a result, police are stopping people from coming into this House to see us. I ask you to defend the democratic right of the people to come here and see their hon. Members. I urge you to order, not to ask, whoever was responsible for giving this order to the police to withdraw it so that we may see our constituents. Nobody should prevent my constituents from coming here to see me.

I am very well aware that a number of hon. Members feel the same way as I do about this because they, too, have made appointments to see their constituents—[Interruption.] I intend to refuse to allow the debate to continue until you see to it, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I retain my right to see my constituents. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite may not care about this. I do.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

The hon. Gentleman is making loud statements.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

People are making loud protests.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has only just come into the Chamber—

Mr. Arthur Lewis

That is not true.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

—because he has doubtless been doing other things.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I have been here, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Steps have already been taken—

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I was here.

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Several Hon. Members


Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am replying to it.

Steps have already been taken to find out what is happening. When the report is made to me, I shall decide what, if anything, I can do.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order.

Mr. Orme

On a point of order.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I am speaking to one. You made a false statement, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Orme

On a point of order—

Mr. Arthur Lewis

You have made false statement—

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Mr. Peyton


Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order. You are wrong, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) resume his seat?

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I simply want to tell you that I was in the House and heard my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Will the hon. Gentleman resume his seat?

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Arthur Lewis

I have just been outside. I can tell you what is going on out there, Sir.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman refrain from trying to monopolise the proceedings?

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Arthur Lewis

My point of order, in addition to reminding you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I was here and heard the Leader of the Opposition speak about this and the Leader of the House answer him, is to tell you that the mounted police are batoning down my constituents. I want—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Unless the hon. Gentleman resumes his seat I shall have to name him.

Mr. Will Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you know, I have been in the Chamber intermittently during the debate. I was here when my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) raised this matter a little time ago. I thought I heard you say at that time that the matter he raised was not within your province, that you could not deal with it. In view of what you have just said to my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis)—that you have commenced inquiries into the matter—presumably that has happened during one of the periods in which I have been out of the Chamber. Is that the present position?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is correct.

Mr. Orme

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been out several times during the afternoon to see constituents. I took part in the march this morning from Euston to Tower Hill, which was well-conducted both by the marchers and the police. Unfortunately, someone in the early part of this evening gave orders to use mounted police to clear the area outside St. Stephen's entrance. This has had a very bad effect. The area is now cordoned off, arrests are being made and people are being prevented from entering the House. If it were possible for people who are on deputations coming in and for people going out to be filtered through, there would not be a build-up of the problem existing at present. As one who has witnessed many of these demonstrations, I would say that I have not seen one as bad as this one at present outside the House, and I ask you, with great respect, and, through you, Mr. Speaker, for something to be done as soon as possible.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I can tell the hon. Gentleman at this stage that something has already been done. The Leader of the House has been into the Chamber and has undertaken to take steps to see that there is an investigation and if necessary to put right anything that is wrong.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry that I lost my temper and I apologise. But I did hear the exchange between the two Front Benches, including my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and I raised this point with Mr. Speaker at 3.30. The point I am trying to put is that, notwithstanding what may or may not be taking place now, you or Mr. Speaker should give an order that these people should be allowed into St. Stephen's Hall, Westminster Hall and the Committee rooms, because the place is almost empty.

What I am suggesting is that we should get them in off the streets, first, because of the cold outside, and, secondly, because they can be controlled better inside than outside. If they are inside, hon. Members can meet them in the Committee rooms and discuss matters with them. Surely there are many hon. Members not here at the moment who would like the opportunity to meet these people. Therefore, let them all come in. Let us get as many in as possible to avoid the possibility of batoning and the horses being used and all the uproar outside. I suggest with respect that this can be done immediately and that the other investigation can take place later.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In view of the various interventions which have been made, I wonder whether the Government Front Bench could confirm that not only are Officers of the House investigating but that the Home Secretary himself, so I understand, has intervened in the matter. If that is the case, I think that we are at the point where something now can be resolved.

Mr. Peyton

Further to that point of order. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House came in as soon as he heard that the Leader of the Opposition was here and assured him that a message would be conveyed to those in authority. Literally only minutes have elapsed since then. I am sure that by this time my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is aware of the situation.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

Further to that point of order. I ask whether the Home Secretary or someone from his Department will give immediate instructions for the withdrawal of the mounted police, the most provocative force that is used in demonstrations of this kind. It is our task to see that our constituents have access to this House, and we cannot tolerate the use of mounted police against them. May I ask whether the Home Secretary will give that instruction immediately?

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) would not want to misrepresent the situation. I was downstairs and I saw police letting groups in.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

They should let the whole lot in.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

They cannot let the whole lot in. They were letting groups in to various rooms, where deptutations have been met by hon. Members. I followed some of the groups coming through. Many of us believe that the mounted police are not provocative and that their use is part of the normal activities of the police.

Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I must take issue with the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis). I was told that no one was to be allowed in. I myself was prevented from coming in until it was explained that I was a Member of this House. Constituents of mine who have come here on a delegation to the Minister, about an important contract which would mean employment for thousands of people in Manchester, have not been allowed in.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that the moment has been reached to leave the matter for the moment where the Leader of the House made his statement I think that hon. Members will accept the statement as dealing with the situation for the moment.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I sympathise with the view you have just expressed, but there is a matter of some urgency. Some of my hon. Friends have indicated that men have been arrested because they are trying to get into the House and the police have stopped them. If that is true surely it is a prima facie breach of privilege and cannot be left until tomorrow morning because, if these men are arrested today they will be brought before the magistrates tomorrow. Surely in these circumstances the Chair should rule, before legal proceedings are taken, that this is a breach of privilege.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I do not propose to say that a breach of privilege has been committed until I know precisely what has happened. What happens out in the street is not a breach of privilege here.

Mr. Loughlin

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I ask for your guidance. There appears to be great concern about the situation obtaining outside St. Stephen's entrance—particularly on this side of the House. Am I in order in requesting you to suspend this Sitting for half an hour so that we can go down and interpose ourselves between the mounted police and our constituents?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I do not think that it is necessary to suspend the Sitting at present. The Leader of the House, together with what colleagues he can get hold of at short notice, is dealing with the matter and I think that we should leave it there for the moment.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There are strong feelings on this matter and there is great concern. Could the Government Front Bench assure us that the Leader of the House, who has been most helpful—we realise that he has been making inquiries only in the last 5 or 10 minutes—will come to the House at the earliest possible moment and make a statement?

Mr. Peyton

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has put his question. A message has been conveyed already to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. Hon. Members know his willingness to help the House on all occasions. I have no doubt that he will do so on this one.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I wish to move that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, do report progress or suspend the House or something, because I am not satisfied.

I raised this point at 3.30, almost two hours ago. I am not concerned with what the Home Secretary may or may not be doing. I am more concerned with what he does to protect the rights of hon. Members, back benchers in particular, and their constituents. What I want is for the Chair to give instructions that any constituents of mine or any other hon. Member shall be allowed to come into the precincts of the House—into the Central Lobby or Westminster Hall. I am not concerned as to whether the Home Secretary has or has not given orders to the police. That is his business. I am concerned that it is almost two hours since I raised this issue, because I knew the situation that was coming. I cannot get out to see them and they cannot come in to see me. I have raised the matter with Mr. Speaker. What is needed is a simple instruction to the effect that every person outside who wants to come in shall be allowed to come in. There is ample room in this Palace for them all to be accommodated.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that what has already been done to achieve what the hon. Gentleman has in mind is quite sufficient in the circumstances. I propose to leave the matter there. Mr. Osborn.

Mr. J. H. Osborn

When I began my contribution, I promised that it would be short. I hope that HANSARD will not record me as having made the longest intervention in any debate in my parliamentary career.

I was trying to show how the tourist industry has expanded. The Association of British Travel Agents points out that in 1961 it had 44 affiliated members. In the current year it has 310. In 1961, it had 458 full members and currently it has 1,455. The total number of officers in the same period has risen from 1,006 to 3,580. There has been a considerable expansion in the number of holiday visitors from this country, including people going on cruises. The figure was 5 million in 1968, 5½3 million in 1969 and 5½6 million in 1970. I suggest that Thomas Cook and Son has not shared in this expansion.

Mr. Rose

On a point of order. I have made inquiries of the officer on duty at the St. Stephen's entrance and I am told that nobody is being allowed into the House and that if we want to meet our constituents we have to break the police barrier in order to get outside. This is monstrous and a breach of privilege.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has seen what he has seen. I now have a report from the Serjeant at Arms which says that many policemen have already been injured, and it could well be, in those circumstances, that it is not practical to allow people to come into the building.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

On a point of order. When the Chair rules that electors cannot come to see their Members at the Palace of Westminster because certain police officers have been injured, surely we have reached the stage at which there has been a breach of privilege. It must be the right of any Member of Parliament to see his constituents in the House if they wish to come in.

As my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has pointed out many times, there is plenty of room in the Palace where Members can see their constituents. Surely it is right that people should be allowed in—perhaps in a trickle or perhaps in a controlled flow—to see their Members of Parliament at regular intervals. Surely they cannot be stopped just because some police officers have been injured.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have made no ruling whatsoever on the rights of constituents to come into the House. I have made certain animadversions about it being possible for them to come in. As a matter of fact, I have just heard that constituents are being allowed in.

Mr. Rose

Further to my point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You seemed to indicate that there might be some danger involved if people were allowed to come into the Palace because policemen have been injured. Therefore, it would seem very strange that I should be informed by an officer that it was all right for me to go into the crowd. This would seem to be inconsistent. My constituents are not being allowed to come in to see me. In five minutes I am due to have an important meeting with a Minister. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to suspend the sitting immediately so that this matter may be dealt with, because some of us have problems arising from what appears to be a prima facie breach of privilege.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

My information is that constituents are being allowed in.

Mr. Rose

That is not true.

Mr. J. T. Price

With great respect, and without wishing to enter into the merits of this serious matter and commotion which has been brought to the attention of the Chair, may I say that my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) has made, in my hearing, a submission to the Chair that there has been a prima facie breach of privilege. I therefore suggest, with the utmost respect, that when a submission is made from the Floor of the House that there has been a prima facie breach of the privileges of the House the Chair must say that it will consider the submission and give a Ruling. It cannot be just brushed aside. I am not speaking to the merits of the situation, but I submit that you, Sir, cannot dispose of the submission in that way. I therefore seriously suggest that, if you feel in no position to give a Ruling or that you have not sufficient authority to do so, your clear duty is to send for Mr. Speaker so that he may take the Chair.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am not satisfied that there has been a breach of privilege. I have been told that constituents are now coming in. Perhaps the matter can rest there.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order. I have witnesses to something which happened in Westminster Hall two minutes ago. I saw a police officer physically twisting the arm of a constituent. I told the officer that I was a Member of Parliament and I asked him to let the man go as I wanted to discuss matters with him. The policeman not only refused but physically attempted to prevent me from speaking to the man. I said, "I want to speak to that man. Let him go". He not only refused but sent for more police, and the man was dragged away through Westminster Hall. I explained to the police that I was a Member of Parliament, and they spoke to me by name, saying, "It is all right, Mr. Lewis". I said, "It is not all right". They knew who I was.

We know the battles that we have had in the 1970s between the Commons and the Crown and authority. We must stand up for the ordinary people, not for authority. Hon. Members witnessed the occurrence about which I have just spoken. The police would have used physical force against me had it not been obvious that Members were watching. I have seen a man being manhandled within the precincts of the Palace. This is not good enough.

I therefore suggest that you, Sir, should suspend the sitting and go and see what is happening. You will see, Sir, that people are not being admitted; indeed, they are being physically prevented from coming in. What greater breach of privilege is possible than a situation in which an hon. Member says to the police, "Please allow me to speak with my constituent", and they not only refuse but twist the man's arm behind his back and drag him along Westminster Hall? That happened two minutes ago in the Palace of Westminster.

Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

Further to the point of order. This was a long-term operation which was planned as an orderly demonstration. I received a letter from Mr. Vic Feather of the T.U.C. asking if I would circulate my colleagues and request them to see their constituents. Some of my colleagues represent very remote constituencies and people may have travelled a long way. Not one of us has yet received a constituent. If the allegations which have been made by hon. Members are correct, this is a most serious matter.

I suggest, with great respect, that the proper course is to ask Mr. Speaker to return to the Chair to suspend the sitting. This is a most serious matter; I have never known anything like it in my relatively short time as a Member. The right of access to the Palace of constituents who have travelled some distance to see their Members of Parliament is crucial. We cannot brush it aside by raising points of order in the middle of a debate.

Mr. Whitelaw

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I may be able to help the House. On the previous point of order, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition I said that I would report the position to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. That I have done. Of course, the House will appreciate that it is a matter for the Commissioner of Police—

Mr. Arthur Lewis

It is a matter for the House.

Mr. Whitelaw

Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to come to the point. If he will allow me, I am coming to the point and to accept the point he is making, but I cannot accept it if he will not allow me to reach it.

I understand that Mr. Speaker is coming back to the Chair. Mr. Speaker, as you have now returned to the Chair may I proceed with the point of order which I was addressing to Mr. Deputy Speaker?

My point is simply that, as requested by the Leader of the Opposition, I reported the situation, as far as the police are concerned, to the Home Secretary. I understand that, in my absence, hon. Members have raised other matters not necessarily concerning the police. The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) will agree that some of the references he has made concern the police. As far as matters concerning this House are concerned, I understand that the Serjeant at Arms was inquiring into these matters. As far as I am concerned. I am entirely, Mr. Speaker, in your hands as to what you feel would be the best action in the interests of hon. Members seeing those of their constituents who have come on the demonstration which, in reply to the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), I personally accept was a demonstration which was planned as an orderly demonstration. Everyone, I think, accepts that. Everyone wishes it to be so. Everyone wishes as many as possible—we all know the difficulties—of those who wish to see their Members to be in a position to do so.

I would have hoped that it might be arranged, and that it might be possible, Mr. Speaker, for you to consider how better arrangements might be made so that those constituents who wish to see their Members could be in a position to do so.

Mr. Heffer

As I was the one who originally raised this question in the House this afternoon, I should like to make it absolutely clear that once the mounted police were brought in that was regarded, as everyone knows it is in demonstrations, as a provocation and that it was at that stage that the matter got entirely out of hand.

I went out and invited through six people from Liverpool. The last one who came through was grabbed by his hair by the police and has been incarcerated in a room in this House for the last half an hour or so. I do not know what has happened to that worker. I inquired from those who came through whether he was from Liverpool and they said that they did not know him personally but that he had marched all day, and those workers have marched from Euston to Tower Hill and from Tower Hill to here this afternoon.

I wanted people from Liverpool to come in to see not only myself but other Liverpool Members of Parliament. I want to ask what precisely is going to be done in relation to this sort of thing, because the provocation was such that a peaceful demonstration turned into something quite the opposite. In these circumstances I really think that this House must pronounce on the future of demonstrations of this kind coming to the House. I should like to know now what is to happen in relation to those other workers from Liverpool, the Secretary of Liverpool Trades Council, and Alderman Bill Sefton, who came with a letter to me. They have not been able to get into the House. I think that this is most regrettable, and that something must be done now to clear up the position.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

I did not hear the opening comments on this second occasion that this matter has been raised. I have been watching from a window in the House what was happening outside, and I had a very clear indication of what was happening. From what I saw there can be no question at all that the police horses provided no provocation. They were handled in an expert way which was most helpful indeed. As regards hon. Members having their constituents inside this House, I saw the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans) go from the House and actually bring six people in, and he did it properly. I saw the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) walk out of the House into a clear space which had been provided outside the House—

Mr. Arthur Lewis


Sir Harmar Nicholls

I am on a point of order. I am telling the House what I saw and what I saw was a demonstration which, clearly, started peacefully, but which did get slightly out of hand. I saw the police, both on horseback and on foot, deal admirably with it, and within something like 5 to 10 minutes clear St. Stephen's entrance to enable hon. Members to collect their constituents and bring them in. That is what I saw.

Mr. Whitelaw

Further to the point of order. I wonder if I may help the House. I am perfectly prepared in my capacity as Leader of the House, responsible for helping hon. Members of the House, to go to see exactly what is going on, and perhaps I might be accompanied by the Opposition Chief Whip, if he will agree. We can see what better arrangements we can make. Perhaps hon. Members will agree to continue the debate meantime. Perhaps I can be accompanied by the Government Chief Whip also. We will see what arrangements can be made satisfactorily to hon. Members. If they cannot be made, it will be for hon. Members further to criticise me. I think that is a reasonable proposition on my part.

Mr. Loughlin

I appreciate the offer which has been made by the Leader of the House. I myself, along with a number of my colleagues, have just been outside. We have seen what is going on. The police in the main—there are far too many of them are doing a reasonable job, but I have had actually to pull up a constable, J 16—I give his number—for an action which I considered to be entirely unjustified. I have seen a number of demonstrators manhandled through that crowd in St. Stephen's entrance.

The point of order I would like to put to you, Mr. Speaker, is that a number of people have been arrested while attempting to meet their Members of Parliament. I ask you whether it is within the competence of this House to make an investigation into the arrest of those people in view of the Sessional Orders which we pass at the beginning of every Parliament.

Mr. Speaker

No. I think I can say at this point that I would personally be very much obliged if the Leader of the House and the Opposition Chief Whip would do straight away what they have suggested they might do. As far as the wider issues are concerned, of course there can be inquiries later. With regard to the position inside the Palace, I did make inquiries, and I found that there were 2,000 people on the premises. That gives the size of the problem. Certainly one must do what one can to see that hon. Members have reasonable access to their constituents, and to see that law and order are maintained outside. As for the conduct of the business of the House, I suggest that the best thing now is for the two right hon. Gentlemen to do what they have suggested.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Mr. Speaker, I raised with Mr. Deputy Speaker, when he was in the Chair, the question whether the conduct of the police raised prima facie a breach of privilege. I put the issue shortly. The first issue is, is it prima facie a breach of privilege to stop any constituent coming to see his Member of Parliament at the door of the Palace of Westminster?

My second point is of some urgency and it will be too late to raise it tomorrow. Some of my hon. Friends have seen men arrested because they were trying to come into the House to see their Members of Parliament, and they will be brought before the magistrates tomorrow morning. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, as a matter of urgency, perhaps not now but later in the day, to consider whether the arrest of these men is a prima facie breach of the privilege of this House. If it is, it would be wrong for the magistrates to proceed tomorrow morning, since all the men were trying to do was to enter the Palace to see their Members of Parliament. I ask you, therefore, to consider that second aspect of the submission perhaps later tonight and to rule on it at any rate before tomorrow morning.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Further to that point of order. As is recorded in HANSARD, I explained to your Deputy what happened when I tried to talk to one of the men. This is not second-hand or hearsay evidence, and several hon. Members witnessed what happened. I saw the policeman twisting the man's arm and frog-marching him into Westminster Hall. I said, "I am a Member of Parliament and I wish to speak to that man". Notwithstanding that, more policemen came up and forcibly moved the man out. I said. "Let him go, I am a Member of Parliament. You are within the precincts of Parliament, and it is a breach of privilege for you to do this unless Mr. Speaker gives you authority". Notwithstanding that, more policemen came up and attacked the man, and then Inspector Sims came along. I said, "Inspector, let that man go. I want to talk to him". My request was completely ignored, and the man was dragged down Westminster Hall, I know not where.

Is it in order for a policeman to arrest a person and drag him along Westminster Hall after a Member of Parliament has courteously asked permission to speak to him and been refused? I intended to take the man to a Committee room to talk with him. Permission was deliberately refused in the knowledge of who I was. You and I, Mr. Speaker, know the battles that have gone on for hundreds of years between the Executive and Parliament, and between the Sovereign and the Commons. We know why we have this privilege. It is not our personal privilege but the privilege of the people to come to discuss matters with their Members of Parliament.

Will you please see to it that the man—he was wearing a red shirt, and Inspector Sims will know who he is—is released, because it is not right that he should be arrested in the precincts of Westminster.

Mr. Rose

On a point of order. Is not the House entitled to an immediate ruling upon the question that our constituents who have appointments to see us are at this moment being prevented from seeing us, and on whether or not they have a right to enter the House when St. Stephen's Hall is virtually empty?

Having gone through an empty St. Stephen's Hall and questioned the police officer, I was told that nobody was being allowed in, and, if I wanted to see a constituent, I could go into the throng where assaults were taking place. As a result of this, I have lost an interview with the Ministry of Defence about a contract that will affect the livelihood and future employment of several thousands of people in Lancashire. This is the result of the police, within the precincts of the House, physically preventing me from entering the House and physically preventing me seeing my constituent.

Will you, Mr. Speaker, give a Ruling now, and not after these people have gone back to Manchester in an hour's time, on whether they can come into the Palace to see the hon. Members whom they have come to see on important matters affecting their employment? We understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite are not interested in their employment, but we are.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)

On a point of order. I am concerned that I should see my constituents who have notified me that they wish to see me here at a particular time. I wish also to verify what my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has said, because I witnessed what occurred. I should like you to address your mind, Mr. Speaker, to the situation in which an hon. Member is placed when he sees a constituent being manhandled by policemen inside the Palace of Westminster. My hon. Friend pleaded with the police to let the man go, because he wished to talk to him. This is an extremely important matter for every hon. Member, including some hon. Members on the other side with their moronic minds.

Mr. Whitelaw

Further to that point of order. As I undertook to the House, in common with my right hon. Friend the Government Chief Whip and the right hon. Gentleman the Opposition Chief Whip, I went to St. Stephen's entrance and inspected the position there. I found that there was a queue of about 50 people still waiting to see their Members of Parliament. I was informed by the Inspector of Police that, because of the length of time some hon. Members were taking in Committee Rooms, there was some overcrowding, yet I felt, as there were only about 50 left, even if it meant overcrowding, that those 50 should immediately be admitted.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

There are thousands.

Mr. Whitelaw

I have, therefore, arranged with the Serjeant at Arms and the Inspector of Police that all the remaining people who are waiting to see their Members of Parliament will now be admitted to the House, and none of the people who were standing there will now be waiting. That is the position which the right hon. Gentleman the Opposition Chief Whip and I found. Perhaps he would wish to speak for himself on what he found.

Mr. Robert Mellish (Bermondsey)

I understand my hon. Friends' concern and respect them for it. Neither the Leader of the House nor I saw what is said to have happened, and we cannot speak of that. I confirm what the Leader of the House has said. I have just come back from the front of the House where about 50 people are waiting. As the right hon. Gentleman said, very wisely, it has now been decided that they should all come in forthwith. The rest of the people who were there—I gather some thousands—have now dispersed.

What has agitated some of my hon. Friends is what is said to have happened some time ago. I respectfully suggest that there could well be an inquiry into this matter, and I have no doubt that those concerned will take note of this suggestion. From what we have been told, the numbers are now under control and the 50 who were waiting are coming in. I hope that my hon. Friends will understand that we on the Front Bench will do all we can to ensure that there is an inquiry into some of the things which have been said. I think it would now be right to get on with the debate, which is of great importance. I am obliged to the Leader of the House for the way in which he has handled the matter.

Mr. Speaker

Order. May I be allowed to intervene for a moment? I fully appreciate the importance of these matters and I will co-operate in seeing that there is the fullest possible investigation. These matters are very important and must be examined. Whether it is right to examine the matter as a question of privilege, as was suggested by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), I shall have an opportunity to consider, but it would be in the interests of the House and its privileges and in the interests of public order that these matters should be investigated. I hope, therefore, hon. Members will not persist too long in pursuing points of order.

Mr. Orme

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I accept what was said by the Leader of the House and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) about the current situation. I feel we should put on record that what happened—and I witnessed this myself—was that the stewards of the T.U.C. urged their members, because of the disturbance outside and because it looked as if there was going to be really serious trouble, to go to Central Hall. It should also be put on record at this stage that some of us intervened with senior police officers, who told us that they had taken the decision to clear the front of the House because they felt they had not sufficient facilities outside the House, which included the House of Lords car park. In consequence it appeared to many of us that the liaison between the Officers of this House and its custodians and the police outside was virtually nonexistent. Whoever gave the order for police officers to be used against a peaceful demonstration—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that both sides of the House will regard this as a serious House of Commons matter. I would ask the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) whether he is not now giving the kind of evidence which an inquiry might like to hear? What he is raising is not a matter of order.

Mr. Orme

I understand that, Mr. Speaker, but I think it is right that these things should be said and, if necessary, they can be contradicted. I accept the current situation as outlined by the Leader of the House and confirmed by my right hon. Friend, but many hon. Members will press for the fullest and most searching inquiry.

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

On a point of order.

Hon. Members

Oh, no.

Mr. Molloy

It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen to groan. They have not been outside. They do not know what is going on.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order. What is the point of order for me to decide?

Mr. Molloy

While I was trying to make my point of order, Mr. Speaker, perhaps you did not hear some of the cacophonous cackling by hon. Members opposite. What I was trying to point out was that there has been a massive demonstration in London—[HON. MEMBERS: "What is the point of order?"]—with the police themselves enjoying the demonstration all the way through London. Many of our constituents who are unemployed were coming to the House to lobby us and we had made the necessary arrangements. I went outside to see if the people who had come to see me would be allowed in. At one point, with the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), I stood at a window and watched what was happening. There was a reasonably orderly crowd and a large queue outside the St. Stephen's entrance.

Those people stood there in an orderly fashion for an hour waiting to enter the House. Not one could get in. The only way to get into the House of Commons to lobby one's Member was to take a chance, become unruly and be dragged in by the police. This was an absurd situation. If the control had been orderly and those people had been allowed in in batches to see their Members, we would not be facing the problem we are discussing now.

Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to make two brief points. First, I am informed that some of my constituents are to engage in a Lobby later this evening at about eight o'clock. I hope that the situation can be resolved by that time. My second point is that this is the second time within a week that this sort of thing has happened. A similar situation arose last week when the students sought to lobby. I hope that this will not become a precedent.

Mr. Wilfred Proudfoot (Brighouse and Spenborough)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I personally walked through the thickest part of this demonstration—in fact I strolled through it—but I did not see any of the troubles which have been mentioned. It was a well-mannered crowd. One person who had an appointment to see me at 5.30 must have come through the crowd, since I have the green card he gave me timed 5.31.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We will have no more points of order this evening.

Mr. J. H. Osborn

I think it will be as well to bring my remarks to a close as quickly as I can. I was pointing out to the House the extent to which the tourist and travel "package" industry has expanded. We were discussing whether Thomas Cook had shared in this expansion. I hope hon. Members who are trying to listen to this debate will be able to hear me above the noise of the crowd that is dispersing.

I have been looking up the work of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, and I draw to the attention of hon. Members House of Commons Doc. 298. I gather that only once has the activities of the Transport Commission been brought to the attention of a Select Committee in some 15 years. There has been no reference by the Select Committee to the activities of the Transport Holding Company or even to Thomas Cook since the 1962 Transport Act.

This brings me to the accounts at which it might be as well to take a brief look. What interests me in looking through the accounts of Thomas Cook and those of the Transport Holding Company is to see that there is no record of turnover of any of the activities within the Transport Holding Company. We know that the assets of Thomas Cook are of the order of £13 million, the current assets are about £4 million, fixed assets £6 million. It has been suggested that the property is undervalued.

Mr. J. T. Price

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that there is no record of turnover in the accounts of Thomas Cook? May I draw his attention to the fact that last year the turnover of Thomas Cook in its travel business was £93½5 million, compared with £90½3 million in the previous year. Why does the hon. Gentleman make such a statement?

Mr. Osborn

I am reassured to hear that the hon. Member has accounts showing turnover. If the hon. Gentleman has seen the turnover, so much the better. My right hon Friend the Minister for Transport Industries has told the House a little more about the company. The turnover is between £260 and £270 million, which is made up of three components. We know all about this, but what we do not know is the performance over recent years—at least this information is not readily to hand, and the situation is difficult to assess.

In all the years in which Thomas Cook has been part of the Transport Holding Company, and the Transport Commission before it, the Select Committee has not looked into its affairs. Parliament has not chosen to direct how Thomas Cook should or should not be run. This point must be borne in mind.

It should be pointed out that Cooks is planning to expand.

I have had drawn to my attention an advertisement which appeared in the Estates Gazette on 23rd October, 1971, headed, "Cooks want premises". This is expansion which is going on at the moment. It means that, although Thomas Cook has been going through a period of transition, whoever its future owners may be, there is every intention of looking ahead with optimism. That is greatly to be welcomed. Furthermore, a constituent of mine has written to me about changes to the branch of Thomas Cook in Fargate, Sheffield, where £30,000 is involved in a new building.

The point that I wish to make about that is that there is no Select Committee which is able to adjudicate whether this has been money well spent, and I consider that the type of activity engaged in by Thomas Cook is much better handled as a small unit outside the public purview where its performance can be judged by results.

The Leader of the Opposition has implied that many travel agents have reputations which leave much to be desired. That, too, is a matter which can be dealt with by this House. If travel agents are to expand their businesses, they must not fail to comply with the Trade Descriptions Act, and if they are to stay in business they know that they must deliver the goods—whether tour or travel arrangements—that they have advertised. These are matters which are entirely outside the point under consideration at the moment.

The remaining point is who may the purchaser be. I share the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Fox) that a small shareholding by interested parties, including B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., possibly with Barclays coming in, would not be unacceptable. The possibility of a foreign purchaser has not been ruled out. However, in my view, the company should go to private British hands. I hope very much that that will be the case.

This Bill provides a rationalisation and a balance between public and private ownership in the travel agency business. I welcome it and accord it my support.

6.3 p.m.

Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)

In his closing remarks, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) gave the game away: the party opposite is in favour of competition, but only English competiton. Thomas Cook must remain with good old John Bull in control.

Mr. J. H. Osborn

I think I said that I should prefer to see that. However, I did not rule out the possibility of a foreign purchaser.

Mr. Pardoe

I neither prefer nor do not prefer. As a free trader, I have an open mind about where the competition should come from.

I had no intention of intervening in this debate. I remained in the Chamber merely to discover which way to vote. Nor do I have to declare any interest, either in the tourist industry or from the point of view of a contribution to the Tory Party.

From the two Front Benches, we have had two caricatures of political attitudes. From the Minister for Transport Industries we heard that here was a company, Thomas Cook, badly managed and with a very low profit. I do not think anyone will quarrel with that assessment. In fact, it is an assessment which gives added force to the view that over the years central Governments, both Tory and Labour, have demonstrated that they could not run a second-hand toffee shop, let alone a travel agency. It is a condemnation of the central Government rather than of the management of Thomas Cook.

Mr. J. T. Price

I can stand hostile statements, but how does the hon. Gentleman justify a silly statement like that? The Government, whether Tory or Labour, do not administer and run the nationalised industries. The hon. Gentleman must know that industries which are under national control are not under the political control of this House. They are run by competent executives, by and large, and Thomas Cook is no exception to that process.

Mr. Pardoe

The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) has enormous political acumen. He has just made the point that the Liberal Party has been making about the nationalised industries for the last 25 years, namely, that there is no public accountability whatever and that this House should have greater control of public enterprises than it has. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for making the point for me.

The Minister went on to say that he wanted to reduce the public sector. He tried to make out that this was a great philosophical divide between the two sides of the House. Coming the day after the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that he intended to increase public investment in the public sector by £160 million or more in order to assist in solving the unemployment problem, I find the Minister's suggestion an extraordinary one.

Then we heard the attitude of the Labour Party. The hon. Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley) spoke of Thomas Cook as though it was John Bull Ltd. more than Thomas Cook. The hon. Gentleman spoke of hiving off profitable enterprises as though that was a disastrous step to take, even though this company is not a profitable enterprise. One can say that its return on capital or its profit in relation to its turnover has been abysmal by any standards. The hon. Gentleman stressed how bad the management had been. I agree, and I find it incredible that such bad management should have been allowed to continue for so long.

The questions that I wish to ask are these. I accept that private capital would be helpful. There are disciplines which private capital introduced into public ownership would create, quite apart from causing a degree of profitability. But if private capital would be helpful in an industry of this sort, why not sell shares in public co-ownership? Why do we have this sterile argument between public and private enterprise? I find it tragic that hon. Members on this side of the House who speak for those who are involved in Thomas Cook as employees have not called for a new industrial partnership in the company.

Here is a classic case of a company which is at present owned by the State, albeit by accident, and of which the Government wish to rid themselves. I cannot understand why it is necessary to go the whole hog the other way. There is a middle way. We could create in Thomas Cook a partnership along the lines of the B.P. solution: in other words, a partnership between the State and public enterprise.

Will hiving off improve the management? Is private enterprise always well-run? It would be a nonsensical proposition to suggest that it was, and the Minister came near to making it. With the example of Rolls-Royce and the long list of company bankruptcies before him, the right hon. Gentleman cannot back up his proposition.

The right hon. Gentleman also made the point that returning the company to private enterprise would encourage competition. But does private enterprise introduced into such an industry really encourage competition? I agree that it should do, and I should want it to, but we have the example in the travel business of the competition which exists on the cross-Channel ferry services between British Rail and Townsend Thoresen. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at their respective schedules of fares, he will see that for years there has been an extraordinary identification between the fares charged for carrying an identical car across the Channel by British Rail and by Townsend Thoresen. Only last August, the executives of the two organisations got together and fixed identical increases in fares to exactly the same levels. So far, the Government have refused my requests that this monstrous piece of price-fixing be referred to the Monopolies Commission. Shall we have the same situation arising in a reconstituted Thomas Cook? In my view, the chances are that it will be exactly the same.

To whom will the right hon. Gentleman sell the company? I do not expect him to say exactly who are the bidders. However, he has admitted that there are political restrictions on those to whom he would be willing to sell; in other words, it will not necessarily be to the highest bidder. What exactly does this mean? The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Fox) said that he would have no objection to British Rail being involved in a consortium to buy the company. May we be told whether the Government will impose any limitation on the free bidding of B.E.A., B.O.A.C. or British Rail to buy the company?

The Minister's description of the ideal bidder for whom the Government are looking is an English company involved in the tourist industry. All the matters which he itemised portray a picture of B.O.A.C., B.E.A. or British Rail. I suggest that they probably are the ideal purchasers, even by the Government's standards. Unfortunately, they are in the public sector. That means that they would not accord with the Government's ideology, but they would accord with their reasons. Since the right hon. Gentleman described them as ideal bidders, although not in exact terms, if they make a satisfactory bid, will they be allowed to raise the capital to buy this company in the normal way?

The Minister also said that this company should never have been in the public sector. It is in the public sector, however it got there. Do we have a better alternative before us? Frankly, I do not believe that we have. Therefore, we might as well leave it where it is until the Government come up with a distinctly better alternative than they have produced in the Bill.

6.11 p.m.

Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)

I will try to help the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe). He told us at one moment that he had not made up his mind what he would do when the time came to vote and at another moment he said that he did not believe there was any better solution than the present position of Cooks. He has, therefore, decided already how he will vote.

The hon. Gentleman said that he had no real interest in what happened to Thomas Cook. He should have, because in the West Country tourism is the biggest single industry and employer of labour. We should be looking to a company like Thomas Cook to have done a great deal more than it has over the past few years, with the tremendous facilities at its disposal which it has built up over 100 years, to bring more overseas visitors to the West Country. If I can help the hon. Gentleman to make his decision, I ask him to bear this important point in mind.

Mr. Pardoe

The hon. Gentleman knows that when a Member declares that he has no interest, it does not mean that he has no political interest; it means that he has no financial interest. I suggest that he should declare what his financial interest is or has been in the tourist industry before making his speech.

Mr. Adley

Let us get one point clear. The hon. Gentleman says that he does not have a financial interest. But he now says that he has a real interest in the Bill. When lie began his speech, why did he admit that he had not thought of intervening in the debate?

I shall mention my interest in the tourist industry because for many years I have worked in it. Therefore, I like to think that I can speak from some experience. I have no financial interest in Cooks or any travel agency.

Time is running short. I welcome the Bill. It is an opportunity to utilise the assets which Thomas Cook has built up over the past 100 years but which have lain rather dormant in the last 20 to 30 years.

It is some time since the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley) spoke, but I should like to take this opportunity to repudiate his unwarranted attack on the travel industry as a whole. We all know that a small number of companies in the travel industry, as in every industry, by their misdemeanours receive great publicity. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will accept that the travel industry, and the package tour industry in particular has in the last 15 years brought to millions of our constituents the opportunity to escape from their humdrum lives by travelling abroad and seeing places which, without the imagination of so many companies in the industry, they would never have enjoyed. Before casting aspersions on the travel industry as a whole, the hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that millions of people are grateful for the energy and enthusiasm with which so many companies in the industry have worked over the last 15 years.

I was particularly interested in the hon. Gentleman's point about confiscation—[Interruption.] Is he disagreeing with his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis)? Perhaps he will tell us whether he agrees with his hon. Friend.

Mr. Bradley

My words are on record. I am responsible only for my own words.

Mr. Adley

As I recall, the hon. Gentleman was threatening those who may buy Thomas Cook that it would be taken back into public ownership without compensation. Those are certainly the words of some of his hon. Friends. I shall be interested to read HANSARD to see what he did say. I have been here throughout the whole debate and I understood him to say that. These attempts at confiscation will not stand his party in good stead when the time comes for the electors to have their say.

My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Fox) mentioned the way that Thomas Cook has unfortunately been left behind in the development of the travel industry over the last 20 years. It has remained the leader in size, but it has stopped leading the industry in ideas. Private enterprise operation of Thomas Cook can restore to that company the use of its size and experience to bring profitability to the company in whatever ownership it may be held in future.

The hon. Member for Leicester, North-East, repeatedly called for a State travel industry. We have had numerous advertisements for the Prestatyn holiday camp. I do not know much about it. Perhaps under the plans of the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East we may look forward at some future date to the establishment of Wilson's Tours whose slogan might be, "It is better to travel than to arrive."

Thomas Cook has not been fully exploited over the last 25 years. The hon. Member for Cornwall, North asked me to declare an interest. That was an attempt on his part to insinuate that I had some financial interest in Thomas Cook. Of course I have as a taxpayer. As taxpayers we all have a financial interest.

As a West Country Member I have an interest in the development of the tourist industry. I believe that Cooks has fallen down in the last few years because it has completely failed to make use of modern marketing methods which could have put it in an outstanding position in the world tourist industry. I believe that Thomas Cook started is business in Loughborough—

Mr. Bradley


Mr. Adley

He started in Leicester and ran an excursion to Loughborough. Thomas Cook himself was an entrepreneur. In finally trying to convince the hon. Member for Cornwall, North to vote with us this evening. I ask him to look back at the history of Thomas Cook and the way that he started. He was the first man to put together a package tour. What my right hon. Friend is trying to do with Thomas Cook and Son Limited is entirely within the spirit of the man who started that business in the first place.

Several Hon. Members


Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

Mr. Mason.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

First, I apologise to some of my hon. Friends—

Mr. J. T. Price

On a point of order. May I inquire, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the rising of my right hon. Friend signals the winding-up of the debate? If so, I strongly object. The Standing Orders of the House do not require that the debate should finish at 7 o'clock. Some hon. Members have been sitting here during almost two hours of interruption of the debate by events outside the Chamber. I wish to make such dignified protest as I can that the House will not be satisfied with your agreeing to take the winding-up speech at this time—twenty minutes past six—when Standing Orders allow the debate to continue until ten o'clock.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is within my discretion whom I call. This signifies nothing whatever about the length of the debate.

Mr. Price

It is the usual signal.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Further to the point of order. I support the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), and all the more so because there are only two or three hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate and who, presumably will not make long speeches.

May I ask for an assurance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) insists upon winding-up the debate for the Opposition you will nevertheless call those back benchers who want to take part in the debate before the Minister winds up? That is all we ask.

Mr. Mason

As there has been a series of interruptions, and as I know from personal knowledge, having been here throughout the debate, that there are possibly only three or four hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate, I am prepared to wait for another half an hour or 45 minutes before winding-up the debate for the Opposition, if both sides of the House will co-operate.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

So be it.

6.21 p.m.

Mr. Walter Johnson (Derby, South)

I should declare an interest as I am an honorary national officer of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, the trade union which organises and negotiates on behalf of the staff of Thomas Cook and Son Ltd.

Since the Government have been in office, rumour has followed rumour about which undertakings were to be taken to the knacker's yard of free enterprise and dismantled for the sake of private profit. It is now clear that the decision that Upper Clyde shipyard was intended to go to the wall was taken even before the Government came to power and that other profitable sections of nationalised industries were receiving attention for the purpose of being hived off to the friends of hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Just how high the Government set their sights can be seen from the remarks of the Minister for Industry, who said: The pubic sector should only be concerned with activities which cannot be done by the private sector. In other words, it is all right for the nationalised industries to continue activities in which it is difficult for them to make a profit and to provide a social service but when it come to the easy sell, the profitable sections should be hived off. Perhaps we shall find out in due course just what is in the Government's mind, not only in relation to this Bill, but in relation to hiving off generally.

We are talking today about one section within the nationalised transport industry, Thomas Cook and Son Ltd. The proposal outlined in the Bill is both unnecessary and unjustified. It cannot be defended even under the criteria put forward by the present Government for the denationalisation of this company, and hiving off is quite unnecessary. The change is not necessary in order to increase competition. The likely outcome of the major part of Thomas Cook being taken over by other travel agencies is a reduction in competition and the creation of a virtual monopoly. On the other hand, if Thomas Cook were sold to someone outside the travel trade there would be the danger of the company's suffering from a lack of expertise. We are all aware of the unhappy experience of many people who have saved throughout the year to go on holiday and have then had their holidays ruined by unscrupulous travel agents, but this is where Thomas Cook has been a shining light.

Reference has been made during the debate to Thomas Cook being a profitable organisation, and the fact is that it has consistently shown a profit, even if that profit has been low in relation to turnover. The Government stand indicted for selling off a profitable section of a nationalised industry for the sake of personal gain by the purchaser.

The decision embodied in the Bill will affect the livelihood of more than 3,000 people, many of whom have given a lifetime of devote service and whose efforts have gained for the company an international reputation second to none. It is without doubt the most reliable travel agent in the world. That is the reputation which has been built up by Thomas Cook, and now the Government want to break the company into small pieces and hive it off without any justifiable reason.

Other travel agencies have been handing difficult bookings to Thomas Cook to deal with because of their expertise, and the staff of Thomas Cook stand to lose considerably because they enjoy better conditions of employment than do other sections of the travel trade. There is no provision for the union to which I have referred to be consulted by the new owners during the crucial period immediately following the transfer of ownership. Perhaps the Minister will be prepared to give a guarantee that Thomas Cook will not be sold to any organisation which pays lower rates and offers poorer conditions of service than those now appertaining in the company. That assurance is absolutely vital.

It is true that the financial results of Thomas Cook have been disappointing in recent years, but the fact is that the company has consistently made a profit and it is estimated that even in 1971, with all the difficulties which the company has had to face, there will be a surplus of about £30,000. I accept that that is a small return for the amount of turnover in so large a company.

I hope that the Minister will fully consult the T.S.S.A. on all aspects before the Government hive off the various sections of Thomas Cook. I hope, too, that the union will be given the opportunity to discover the kind of employers to which the staff of Thomas Cook are going. That information, too, is absolutely necessary.

At the Labour Party conference this year it was decided unanimously that a future Labour Government would re-nationalised hived-off sections of nationalised industries, such as Thomas Cook, and would do so without compensation. Would-be speculators should take warning. They will burn their fingers if they purchase hived-off sections of nationalised industries because, I repeat, a future Labour Government will renationalise without compensation. The Government should think again and drop the Bill forthwith.

6.28 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

I thank the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) for allowing me to take part in the debate and I shall be as brief as I can in the circumstances.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right, having found himself with the Transport Holding Company owning virtually only Thomas Cook, to wind up that company. There is no doubt that in the long run the fact that Thomas Cook is a public company, though not a nationalised one, will be good for the company and for the country as a whole.

Because of what has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite and because of their criticism of the Bill, there may be some misunderstanding on the part of the public. They may have the impression that we think that Thomas Cook is not a very good organisation. It was, and it is, unprofitable in terms of the money that it makes to cover the capital employed in the business, but it has many good qualities and it has done a great deal for the travel industry since the end of the war.

It is the only great British international travel company. Initially, it was the only company which carried out training in the travel business. Other companies are beginning to follow the example of Thomas Cook and, of course, the industry is now covered by one of the training boards. Cooks began it. Thomas Cook has given the industry as a whole a continuous flow of trained staff who have been vital to the growth of the business. It is the only British travel company which is big from the point of view of not only the issue of tickets and the arranging of tours, but the carrying out of banking arrangements. It was Thomas Cook which, through its leadership, originated the Association of British Travel Agents, which has grown immensely and has provided for the travel industry a stability and, I hope, a restraint against those who may seek to bring it into disrepute.

The hon. Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley) was a little hard on the industry when he pinpointed those very few companies which occasionally let the public down. By and large, the industry provides a very good service to the public. This of course includes Thomas Cook itself. It was nationalised entirely by accident. The Government owned it after the war. The fact that we are denationalising it now will not harm it.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend has made it clear that the staffs will not be hurt either through redundancy or through their pension arrangements. Denationalisation will provide an incentive to management. The company has some good management, particularly good middle management, and it will now have the opportunity to give that management the scope which it has not had in recent years.

Therefore, although it is no longer to be a nationalised company, it will still be a public company and a British company. When my right hon. Friend makes the company available, he must safeguard the currency aspect through a banking interest. He must try to avoid a monopoly situation being created which it would be all too easy to do if the company were sold to an already very big company in travel. The company must stay in British hands, because it can do much to bring tourists to this country and, therefore, provide considerable export earnings.

The Minister should also seek assurances against stripping. If the assets are broken down to assist the company to serve the country better, that is fine, but to allow the stripping of assets to the disadvantage of the company would be wrong.

This company, although it will become a free enterprise concern, will still be able to provide for the country an advantage both to those who travel and to those who are employed in the business. It should secure the incentive of enterprising management and I believe that it will become an expanding company. I have no doubt that it will also be profitable. If it is really profitable, it will provide a sum for the Exchequer larger than it has been able to do in recent years. It will do this because it will be paying taxes just like any other company, and the Exchequer will get the advantage of that tax out of those profits.

6.33 p.m.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

I am glad, Mr. Speaker, that you have returned to the Chair because I was almost on the point of leaving the Chamber. I never like to remain here when I am bad-tempered, so I am fortified to see that the Minister of Transport Industries has stayed with us. Our proceedings have been considerably interrupted during the last few hours by more serious events outside. Without making any apology to anyone, because I was involved in those events at the beginning of the debate, I did not have the advantage of hearing the right hon. Gentleman or my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley). So what I say is entirely divorced from anything they may have said.

First, I am happy to see the Minister. He knows that I have a personal regard for him. I say that with the utmost sincerity. Therefore, I can say to his face and not behind his back that although I hold that regard for him as a man, I have the utmost contempt for this sordid little Bill which he has brought before the House.

It is a strange circumstance, surely, that when we have 20,000 people demonstrating outside the House against an unemployment total of 1 million, when our neighbours in John Bull's other island across the Irish Channel are on the verge of civil war, when the Middle East may go up at any time because of the tensions there and when inflation is running away in this country to an alarming extent, the British Government have nothing better to do than bring forward a piddling little Bill of this kind to satisfy their ideological prejudice against anything which is nationalised.

Like me, Mr. Speaker, you have had to endure this sort of ideological debate many times over the last 20 years—[Interruption.] I do not want any assistance from South Worcestershire either. I notice that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) has returned to the House and wants to announce the fact. I hope that he will make his speech on his feet and not make interruptions when I am speaking.

Against the background of the desperate world and domestic events in this country, I do not know how a British Government can justify occupying a day of parliamentary time with a little Bill like this merely to give satisfaction to the Primrose League, the old dames who finance them and run tea parties for them and all the spivs in the City of London who are looking for a few more chips to play with by denationalising a nationalised industry.

I have taken part in many debates about transport and on other occasions we have had some rational debates in Committee, when I have sometimes broken a lance with the present Minister and have always enjoyed a genuine difference of opinion. There is nothing to justify the Bill, however, and the apathetic speeches of Tory back-benchers this afternoon. They spoke as if they would not qualify even for a Sunday school league, let alone the Third Division. How anyone can be so small-minded as to make an ideology shibboleth of something which has been one of the most noteworthy pieces of public enterprise like Thomas Cook, I do not know.

Despite the statements which have been made, incidentally, the company was not nationalised by accident. It was nationalised by this House under the Transport Act, 1947. Otherwise the Bill would not be necessary and the change could be made administratively. I know that the Conservative Party must please its friends, the people who give it not only moral and physical but also financial support at election time. We know that when a Tory Government—[Interruption.] The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment need not rub his hands. It is a conventional attitude of the men in the City to rub their hands. When a Tory Government are in power, they know that loot is going and they want to get their hands on it.

This company enjoys a world-wide reputation. It is not losing money. It may not produce the sort of dividends which would be accepted in the City on a commercial basis, but I have never agreed, as a Socialist Member for over 20 years, that a balance sheet is the only test of a company's success.

The company has at least given good service. In every country in which I have travelled I have found that the company with an even higher reputation than American Express is Thomas Cook. Conservative hon. Members, too, have travelled the airlines of the world on occasions and they know that what I say is true. Thomas Cook has been well-managed and well-advertised and has had its offices in the right places. It has produced reliable services and has earned for this country a world-wide reputation.

I cannot understand the type of mind that believes that because something is nationalised it is bad, and because it is private enterprise it is good. That is complete nonsense. [Interruption.] Does my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) want to help me?

Sir G. Nabarro

Hurry up with it.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It would be better if hon. Members would refrain from making interruptions from a sedentary position.

Mr. Price

I am trying to make a vigorous argument as courteously as I can but the standard of debate from the Tory benches has been pathetic.

We are under the pressure of great events outside: mass unemployment returning for the first time for 30 years, almost civil war in Great Britain and world tension at a record level in many trouble spots, including India and the Middle East. The international bankers, who are supposed to express the commercial expertise of the business community, are completely baffled in their attempt to provide a rational form of international exchange. The whole capitalist system is shaken to its foundations by the machinery it has created, unable to provide full employment or a rational system of exchange between nations and unable to prevent inflation. And yet, as a humble Labour Member, I have to listen to balderdash about those failures being due to the failure of nationalised industry.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) tried to damn Thomas Cook with faint praise. He said that it did not produce much profit, but he did not say that it produced a loss. Another young man who has been here five minutes, the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley), who I think was an executive in the travel industry and who may not be without interest in the matter, said that Thomas Cook was inefficient, that it was not carrying out its functions, and so on. Those statements are not in accordance with fact.

Conservative hon. Members are entitled to peddle their old-fashioned ware about the virtues of private enterprise and the wickedness of public enterprise but any intelligent man will see that it is complete nonsense to make such a distinction. Public and private enterprise, properly and efficiently run, must function side by side for a long time. I do not believe in a dictatorial system or one that gives complete monopoly. I have always said that.

Despite all the snide comments this afternoon, Thomas Cook had a £400,000 profit last year and a £1¼ million profit the year before, and in other years it did even better. I agree that it could produce more in terms of commercial results but I do not judge whether something is successful by the balance sheet alone, important though that is. I do not run away from that test, but I am disappointed when little-minded commercial business men who may have been functioning as junior executives on a unit trust or in another sphere of public relations activity have the cheek to talk that kind of rubbish, which was out of date in the sixth form at my grammar school over 40 years ago. The House is getting too many such Members. I hope that we shall be able to bring them up to be more respectable citizens in due course.

I appeal to the Government for genuine answers to the question why Thomas Cook is being denationalised. Can it simply be that there are plenty of people with greedy eyes who helped fill the Tory war chest at the last election and who are constantly looking for new sources of access to land, the exploitation of which is the damnation of this country? Every site in our great cities, if it can be cleared of its buildings, whether Cooks' or anyone else's, becomes worth £100,000 or £200,000 an acre. That is where inflation starts, not in the mismanagement of Thomas Cook or any other nationalised concern. The capitalist system which Tory hon. Members defend has created these anomalies. I am disappointed that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) has left the Chamber because he is the most ideological of all Tory Members on these matters and can sometimes express himself quite forcibly.

I may have made my protest a little roughly but I have said what I believe. It is unworthy of the House to be spending time on hiving off the profitable sections of our nationalised industries and making greater problems for those who will have the duty of running those industries. I know from experience that nothing pleases a certain type of Tory Member, who perhaps is not typical—he may be uneducated or politically illiterate—than to go on to the hustings, write articles in the Press and make speeches at Primrose League meetings saying, "This great nationalised industry lost £X million of public money last year. It is your money that these wicked Socialists are losing." He never tells the public that the electricity and gas industries are making money and that but for the Tory Government's nationalisation of the atomic energy industry in 1954, we should have no atomic energy industry because private enterprise could not provide the capital required.

If any hon. Member wants ideological arguments, there they are. I invite anyone who disagrees to sort them out. We have weathered many storms and faced them with resolution and fortitude, as Churchill used to say at the Dispatch Box. It is not worthy of the House to be trying to score little ideological victories for all the nitwits outside the House who are the camp followers of the Tory Party and who helped fill its war chest. We have better, bigger things to do. We must make the nationalised industries better if we can.

I have never stood in the way of efficiency. I have always supported it. One hon. Member constantly referred in his speech, which was very much interrupted by the trouble outside, to the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, as though to imply that it supported the denationalisation of Thomas Cook. I am a member of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, and I have been for some years. I have taken an active part in its work in all kinds of inquiries, including the inquiry—the first ever made by the House—into the affairs of the Bank of England, and I had the honour and pleasure of cross-examining many of the leaders of the financial world on these matters.

No hon. Member is entitled to insinuate that in some way the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries would support a Bill of this kind. The Select Committee on Nationalised Industries is composed on an all-party basis. It is not a piece of the Tory Party machine. It is part of the effective working machinery of the House of Commons. So I make my protest on that score, too.

I suppose I ought to stop now, but I have been thwarted a little today in not being allowed to get started. At ten o'clock tonight there will be the usual ritual. Hon. Members who have not heard the debate will hear the bells ring and go off into the Lobby to vote in favour of denationalising Thomas Cook. When they do that, let them just reflect that in spite of all the silly speeches which have been made in support of this stupid Bill today, not so very long ago our present Tory Government, who have been in office, with disastrous consequences for the nation, for the past 18 months or so, had to bring in a little Bill to nationalise one of the greatest private companies in the world, Rolls-Royce of Derby.

The nationalisation of Rolls-Royce was a bitter pill for the Tories to swallow. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths), the Under-Secretary of State now on the Treasury Bench, was not personally involved in that episode. I assume, but I bet that the senior Minister concerned was not a very happy man. He had to ask the House to pass a Bill to nationalise that great international company, which was non-viable and which was declared bankrupt by the auditors appointed to investigate its affairs. It is one of the greatest trade names in the world and a famous company of which we are all very proud.

Now, having done that, as a little bonus, so to speak, to their disappointed supporters who found that pill difficult to swallow a few months ago, the Government are giving them back Thomas Cook so that someone can play about with it, perhaps alter its structure and make a bit of profit out of it.

I have talked more of general principles today because I thought it right to do so on such an occasion, but to revert now to the specific question of Thomas Cook I warn the House—I speak entirely for myself, as a private Member—that those hon. Members who have expressed the hope that this company, once it is taken back by private enterprise, will remain British have no ground for that hope. Once the shares go on to the international stock market, no one in the House will have any power to make conditions or control the source of investment.

The Minister for Transport Industries is no novice in the House; like me, he has been here a long time. It completely beats me how he can seriously deploy the argument that the nation will be better served by private enterprise and that transport undertakings—I think that this is how he put it—should be concerned only with transport and not with all the odds and ends of items like hotels, tourist services and the like, which ought to go back to private enterprise.

Has the right hon. Gentleman ever considered how British capitalist finance works? Has he never heard of the conglomerate company or the holding company? Has he never heard how the Companies Act is so manipulated by clever accountants and lawyers that a man like me, who is very interested in these matters, finds it most difficult, even with the services of our Library stocked with one of the most extensive collections of references in this country, to ascertain who really owns what in the business world? The conglomerate and holding company technique is used for all sorts of purposes.

If it is regarded as sound practice in terms of good commercial management for a great company—I shall not name any because I might give the wrong impression, though I could name quite a few—holdings ranging from, say, pen-nibs to tractors, aeroplanes and goodness knows what else, why should not the same principle be applied in nationalised industry? If it is good commercial practice for great companies to have all manner of diversified activities and alternative sources of revenue available to them, all under the umbrella of the great conglomerate, why should that principle not apply to a nationalised industry which is serving the public good and is at least answerable to the House in the final analysis in a way the others never are?

I have, perhaps, taken longer than I should, but I have waited a long time. I fear that this will be only the first of many similar exercises in handing back national undertakings to private enterprise for private exploitation. The House is being asked to do something against the best interests of the country. Such an exercise should have no kind of priority in face of the great problems of unemployment, inflation and the threat of civil war now confronting the country.

I beg the Government to have second thoughts about it. If they do not, I warn them, on my own responsibility, that if this industry and others which are targets for the handling over of loot—yes, loot; that is the right word—to the commercial friends of the Conservative Party are denationalised, I for one, if I am still here—many of my hon. Friends will do the same—will insist that any future Labour Government not only take them back but, against all our better instincts, take them back without compensation.

6.58 p.m.

Mr. Peter Rost (Derbyshire, South-East)

I, too, welcome the Bill, for I regard it as the Government's first step in what I hope will become a large-scale programme of denationalisation.

Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)

Including Rolls-Royce?

Mr. Rost

I had intended to say something about the profitability, or lack of it, of Thomas Cook, about the way profits have fallen from £2 million in 1965 to a current year's level which is questionable, to say the least—and all this against a background in which the travel business has been one of the most rapidly expanding in this country, and when other firms in the business have grown rapidly not only in profits but in their turnover and in their assets. But time does not allow me to present that side of the picture in support of the denationalisation, and, in any case, many of the points have already been made in the debate. I shall, therefore, say a few words about one aspect of the matter which concerns me, namely, the proposed method of denationalisation.

The case for denationalisation is overwhelming, but I am not happy about the method by which, apparently, we are to sell the Holding Company and Thomas Cook. We have been told that it will be sold as a going concern. It is a going concern. It is a self-contained viable commercial unit which is able to stand as an independent unit, and it is for this reason that I regard the so-called hiving off principle as undesirable and politically unpalatable. The proposed method of selling it off to a syndicate or, perhaps, another firm in the travel business, or perhaps a bank, is unjustified. Moreover, it is undignified. The picture one gets from Press articles over the past few months of eager buyers hovering in the background like a pack of wolves in for the kill is unpalatable. We should do something far more noble. The denationalisotion should be effected by a direct sale to the real owners of this business—the public.

I see no reason why Thomas Cook should not be put on the market with a proper prospectus. As it is a desirable morsel, it has great potential, which everyone can see—hence there are potential buyers—as a self-contained viable unit. It offers the Government an ideal opportunity to launch as a pilot scheme the first stage of what could be a major denationalisation programme. I suggest that the formula which should be seriously considered by my right hon. Friend is that the company is offered in the normal way through the Stock Exchange, with a prospectus, for public subscription, and that first, Thomas Cook is transferred to a nationalised industries realisation agency, and that then approximately 25 per cent. of the capital is offered by tender to the highest bidder, which would be an institution or a merchant bank. This 25 per cent. to be offered by highest tender would then provide some institution or merchant bank with the incentive to inject commercial and financial management. But the balance of the capital, 75 per cent., should be offered for sale to the public by subscription.

The price at which the shares ought to be offered for sale to the public should be at a substantial bargain level to ensure success. To make it quite clear that the offer would be for a sale at a bargain price, allocation should be strictly limited to not more than £100 per family, and, if there is over-subscription, as I believe that there would be, the allotment of shares should be even less than £100. Employees and staff should receive preferential allocation to provide management incentive.

Moreover, I suggest that there ought also to be provision for instalment purchase for those families that cannot afford even £100 worth of allocation. I do not see why an instalment purchase scheme should not be adopted through the Pay-As-You-Earn system. This formula for denationalisation has been successfully employed in Germany, where nationalised industries such as Volkswagen and Lufthansa have been denationalised on the basis of a small subscription on a strictly rationed basis. To avoid abuse, those receiving small allocations at bargain prices should have a restriction on sale, perhaps, for three years, or at least, if they wished to sell within a three-year period, they should be obliged to pay full capital gains tax on any capital gains that arise on their holdings.

I have not time to develop this thesis, this formula for denationalisation, which has proved successful in Germany, could be adopted in Britain for other denationalisation in easy stages. By following this formula we can create genuine public ownership under private enterprise management, and we can offer employee-identification through part-ownership—a desirable objective—and at the same time we can provide a profit incentive to the management which would have the 25 per cent. stake. Not even the most doctrinaire of hon. Members opposite, if they were ever in office again, would dare expound an expropriation of shares in such a denationalisation because, by threatening to take over again the small holdings of a massive number of shareholders they would be hitting probably some of their supporters, the employees of the company and the general public.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)

Would the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rost

No, I must conclude because I have promised to keep my remarks brief. I urge the Government not to miss this opportunity. Those who try to argue that denationalisation is not practical because no one would be persuaded to buy the industries could be proved wrong if we adopted this formula or some adaptation of it. We can reap economic and social rewards and, at the same time, achieve denationalisation by a formula which would be politically acceptable.

7.5 p.m.

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

I am sorry that some hon. Members have been inconvenienced by a series of interruptions during this afternoon's debate, which did not enable us to conclude as quickly as we should have liked. Nevertheless, 11 hon. Members have spoken and I am obliged to hon. Members opposite and to my hon. Friends for co-operating towards the end.

The Bill heralds the indiscriminate carve up of the profitable parts of public enterprise. We have had other hiving-off Bills before this one, but this is the most important hiving-off Bill to date. It mainly concerns Thomas Cook and its 5,000 employees. It is a firm of undoubted international reputation, with a total travel business amounting to £93½ million last year. It is transacting business throughout almost 500 offices in over 50 countries. It is synonymous with travel almost everywhere in the world, and it has become a famous international household name.

The company's reputation for good will and honesty in trading has been recognised by everyone who has travelled internationally, and it has been recognised particularly by many of the international organisations, among them the United Nations Organisation, U.N.E.S.C.O., the World Health Organisation and the I.M.F., who entrust Cooks with all their worldwide travel arrangements.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley) as president of the union with the membership involved, dealt with the company's activities in detail, and I shall not repeat them. It is worth while repeating to the House that its total travel business is £93½ million. It has travellers' cheques sales of £91 million. It managed an accumulative profit before tax, from 1965 to 1969, of nearly £7 million.

Although many hon. Members opposite have talked during the debate about the profit not being enough, profit motive is not our guiding light in life. I should have thought that public service came into this. Nevertheless, the company has held its head above water and has not had constant losses. But of those figures, what rich pickings there are now available. We can see the frantic rush there now is to pluck Cooks back into the private sector. There is a consortium of travel trade operators involved. Horizon Holidays has taken an interest. So has Global Holidays, subsidiaries of Great Universal Stores; Clarksons, subsidiaries of Shipping and Industrial Holdings; Trafalgar House Investments' holiday package fleet, Cunard, Lunn-Poly and Sunair; the Thomson Organisation; and American Express. All these are now queueing up to make their bids for this big plum that is about to fall out of public hands.

Of the publicised interested bodies two have already financed the Tories war chest in the past, as one of my hon. Friends said, and two of the bankers already publicised, Hambros and Kleinwort Benson Lonsdale have poured thousands of pounds into the Tory coffers in recent years. We shall be watching their bids with interest in the next few weeks.

It goes without saying that I utterly deplore this hiving-off operation. If the Transport Holding Company is to be wound up, Thomas Cook could have been transferred to a joint B.O.A.C.-B.E.A. charter and travel service and could have provided us with a great international travel industry which would have out-rivalled American Express. That possibility should have been considered.

The right hon. Gentleman bathed in the sunshine of the beams from all his hon. Friends as he embarked upon this denationalisation Bill. I hope that the Under-Secretary will tell us to what extent B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. will be allowed to bid. How will the sale take place? What is the tendering practice? What rules have been drawn up for these hiving-off operations? I hope also that the Under-Secretary will be able to tell the House that this sale will be conducted in the most open and public way with full exposure of all assets, liabilities, turnover, and so on, and full information about the bidders.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman gave some undertaking to the effect that there would be no foreign takeover. We know that American Express is involved. What conditions will be imposed upon the sales? Will the Government sell it as a whole or in parts? Will those who receive it be allowed in turn to sell it off if they wish?

On the general theme, there does not seem to be any general policy or clear guidelines for the House or the threatened nationalised industries about which peripheral activities are to be hived off. What are the criteria governing the Government's approach? The Minister for Industry has said that by and large the public sector should be concerned primarily with those activies which cannot be sensibly done by the private sector. That is no test. It is just an assertion, by which the hon. Gentleman means that private enterprise wants only those that make a profit.

The Government cannot use the argument either that it will increase competition; for if an ancillary goes to a similar producer or firm competition is lessened, and if it goes to anyone else competition remains the same.

That answer is party political dogma. It is a trend to satisfy influential friends. In doing so, so far no good explainable reason why the Government are creating havoc and despair among large sections of public industry by hiving off has been given.

I will explain why the general policy of hiving off is doing harm. There is, first, the question of Government time and the time of chairmen of boards in denationalisation discussions—meetings with chairmen of the boards, board chairmen meeting their members, Cabinet and Cabinet committee time, the preparation of Bills and orders, then the introduction of the Bills, legislative time, and so on.

What about the major reviews which are taking place—the major reviews of the activities of the National Coal Board and the British Steel Corporation's ancillary activities? Lord Melchett and Derek Ezra must be in constant discussion and argument with civil servants and Ministers. They are absorbing valuable working time and energy which should be devoted to solving many of their own present problems. What proportion of their time at present is being diverted to defending the hiving off of chemicals or brick production instead of their being allowed to concentrate on steel and coal production?

So there is, first, a major diversion of time and endeavour.

Second, nationalised industries are always in the straitjacket of constant Government torture. I still think that there is a case for their being granted more commercial freedom; but Governments control their borrowing, their investment and their prices. They are riddled with parliamentary inquiries such as Select Committees, borrowing powers Bills and Parliamentary Questions. Now on top of all that, they have the constant anxiety of the threat of hiving off.

This is bound to affect their financial targets. Indeed, setting financial targets for nationalised industries at present does not make sense, because one hiving-off operation of a profitable subsidiary can make nonsense of the target. Therefore, targets must at all times be a constant worry to a nationalised board.

Third, it is bound to demoralise the management of nationalised industries. It will curb the spur to efficiency; because, if ancillaries that are profitable are likely to be hived off, it will be a positive disincentive.

The National Coal Board runs a contracting industry. There would be catastrophic social conditions if it collapsed. It is aided and abetted by some of its ancillary operations. Some of them are on an expanding basis, which helps boost the morale of management.

Some fields of peripheral activity, such as fluidised bed experiments for power stations and chemicals of the N.C.B. and special steel work of the British Steel Corporation, or hovercraft development by British Railways, are very new developments. These are the pathfinders in industry. Their industry's growth may well depend on them. If they are cut off, the feelers for future growth are hived off and the industry will die or, as the Government seem to want it, leave behind islands of profitless inefficiency. The result is bound to be loss of morale, loss of key management, and failure of technical development.

The fourth reason why the policy is bad is that the publicity and the Government's known sympathy with the policy of hiving off invariably lead to poor prices being obtained, and private investors make capital gains at public expense. The reasons are, first, that the price is likely to lower because the ancillary is being cut from the benefits of its parent undertaking. There is also the growing desire in the Labour Party for a future Labour Government to re-nationalise and not compensate. That, too, has an effect on price.

Those ancillary activities which are in the course of developing and for which, therefore, there is no established record of profit, will not fetch much of a price. One or more of those factors adversely affects the price levels. The worst case of all was that of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. The routes were just hived off. It was a give-away to private enterprise with no compensation. The nearest forthcoming analogy I can think of would be if there were difficulty in developing the commercial radio stations and the Government decided to hive off the present local B.B.C. stations: there would be no payment to the B.B.C. for establishing and developing its stations.

For all those reasons, I urge the Government at least to issue a White Paper or to make a major policy statement on their hiving-off intentions. Irreparable damage has already been caused in our major publicly-owned industries.

Better still, the Government should stop this witch hunt against nationalisation and the constant pilfering of the public purse. Their disgraceful methods of reviews of subsidiaries, calling for a list of their activities, is leading virtually to a forced sale of assets at knock-down prices. If any public corporation assets are to be sold, it should be done as a result of normal commercial practices. The Government seem to be acting like an ogre, breathing down the necks of State subsidiaries and forcing them to sell too quickly and too cheaply.

I well remember the case of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., because they were the first to suffer. This was a case of confiscation without compensation. It was an act of unparalleled political dogmatism. Everybody concerned has been warned, and this will apply generally to other acts of hiving off in that manner, that it is our intention to retrieve those routes and claw them back without any compensation. That is not as narrowly doctrinaire as hiving off or confiscation, because they will have profited in the meantime. Caledonian-B.U.A., on average profits, because the routes themselves were making profits of £¾ million to £1½ million a year, could on those routes alone and the profits there generated make £3 million to £4 million before we enact the clawback procedure.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Would the right hon. Gentleman say what view the then Minister will take of the views of the staff who will not want that kind of disruption, in addition to the views of the management who will have done commercially better?

Mr. Mason

The hon. Gentleman's knowledge is very narrow in this sphere. He must know that, for example, B.E.A.'s and B.O.A.C.'s rates or pay, hours and general conditions of work are well in advance of the private enterprise airlines. The workers in these State Corporations do not want to be clawed out of the public and into the private sector, and that will apply when we return to office.

I strongly deplore this new narrow, doctrinaire technique of hiving off. Across a very broad section of public industry the threat of hiving off profitable parts is very real. The uncertainty is worrying to all concerned. Efficiency and profit levels are being affected because, after a third degree period of torture, a Bill is introduced or an order is laid and then the speculators move in to buy at unreal, knockdown, low-price levels.

This is at best a rotten technique. At worst it is soul destroying for thousands of workers. It is morale destroying and disheartening for the managements of publicly-owned industries. But the evil of the system is that the State assets of our publicly-owned industries are being virtually given away to the gods of greed in our society.

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

Would my right hon. Friend care to substitute "devils" for "gods"?

Mr. Mason

The Conservative Government have lurched very much to the right. There now seems to be a dictatorial streak in their philosophy, epitomised by confiscation without compensation. It is thoughtless, it is without conscience and it is blundering on without any thought of the ultimate consequences. Apart from the trail of misery and harm it is doing to large sectors of British industry, it is obviously oblivious of the counteraction; the reaction—the quiet, simmering revolution it is provoking and which, in return, is demanding a lurch to the left.

If confiscation without compensation is their creed, if damning the name of public sector success before hiving oft, thereby enabling them to sell cheap to their friends, is their religion, then let them beware, and all who consort with them in these practices, that a future Labour Government—and I warn my right hon. and hon. Friends and those who aspire to occupy the Treasury Bench opposite—and the Parliamentary Labour Party and our supporters in the country will strongly demand that the public sector he increased, that their powers against hiving off be strengthened and that all who have been harmed in this series of narrow doctrinaire acts should in some way have the satisfaction of their dues.

It is now incumbent on Her Majesty's Opposition to start compiling their logbook—recording every denationalisation act, noting which firms have been involved and documenting the total sums of public assets that have been filched, ear-marking in particular those that have been confiscated without compensation.

It is the duty of the Opposition in any democratic society to warn the Government of the day that if they overstep the mark—the dividing line between democracy and dictatorship—then we must, on behalf of the people, try to safeguard their interests and, given power, take steps to redress the imbalance. [Interruption.] Confiscation without compensation is an act of dictatorship which the next Labour Government will certainly have to redress.

The sum looks something like this: they have pinched from B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. £6 million worth of routes; already 206 State brewery pubs, State assets valued at £4 million, have been hived off; the Transport Holding Company's subsidiaries of Skyways and Lunn-Poly and the State's share in the Penarth Dock Engineering Company have all gone; on North Sea gas licences, our proviso that the nationalised industries be involved in the new consortia no longer applies; the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company is being hived off and now Thomas Cook is being thrown to the speculative wolves.

Yet to come are the results of the major reviews of steel and coal. They have not been completed. Decisions are awaited on the retail and repair activities of gas and electricity. Many areas are still threatened and the file is mounting. The logbook looks like being thick.

We cannot agree with this Bill. We cannot condone this Measure. It is sheer unadulterated political dogmatism. In asking my hon. Friends to vote against it, I give warning that every hiving off operation of this kind will be closely scrutinised and, where we deem it necessary, the operation will be logged and on return to power we will claw back those plundered assets once more into the public purse.

7.27 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Eldon Griffiths)

The expression of great good humour on the face of the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) as he resumed his seat demonstrated quite conclusively that not even he took seriously his effusion.

I have always thought of the right hon. Gentleman as a somewhat moderate fellow. Having sat through the whole debate, nothing has struck me more forcibly than the contrast between the lucidity of my right hon. Friend's opening speech and the way in which the right hon. Member for Barnsley lashed himself into a not very convincing display of indignation about havoc, despair, straitjackets and torture. One can only conclude that he is not certain of being elected to the Shadow Cabinet.

On one thing the House has been agreed, namely, that the post-war generation has seen a virtual explosion in international travel. Out of this explosion huge revenues have been generated and handsome profits, not least for our balance of payments, have been earned in foreign exchange.

Against that flourishing background the House might expect that Thomas Cook Limited would have reaped a valuable harvest. It had Europe virtually to itself at the end of the war. It had a large float of working capital and the firm possesses some of the choicest real estate and some of the best sales locations in most of the world's major capitals. I am sorry to say that in spite of those advantages, Thomas Cook has expanded more slowly and has earned a far lower rate of return on its capital than have competing firms in the private sector, whether in this country or abroad.

The most relevant comparison is perhaps with American Express which, starting out from well behind, has now left Thomas Cook utterly outdistanced. Exact parallels are hard to draw, but the two companies' interests are sufficiently alike to enable one to compare their overall experience during the last few years.

Since 1963 Thomas Cook's profits have had their ups and downs. Between 1963 and 1967 they fell by 43 per cent. while American Express doubled its net income and earnings per share. From 1967 to 1970 Cook's profits went down a further 50 per cent. while American Express diversifying itself, increased its net income by 50 per cent. In the first nine months of 1971 the net income of American Express went up by a further 25 per cent. and it is expected to reach 100 million dollars in this full year. In contrast. I regret to say that Thomas Cook will find it very hard indeed even to stay out of the red.

So much for the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Barnsley that this is a plum. It has a vast potential but it has not been adequately managed within the public sector. Therefore, on this basis, I think I can say—

Mr. J. T. Price


Mr. Griffiths

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. He knows perfectly well why I will not give way to him.

On this basis, I think the House will agree that Thomas Cook as an enterprise has gained very little from its long, if incidental, association with the State. Neither its business, its management nor its employees have gained from nationalisation. The House might find this disappointing result acceptable if the State for its part had gained from the relationship—if the taxpayer, for example, had won some countervailing social advantages for any losses which have been made. But there are no such social advantages.

I hope that hon. Members opposite are not seriously pretending that there is some all-embracing social reason why the booking of tickets to concerts or the cashing of travellers' cheques should be conducted by a State-owned firm. The package tour business has its place. Indeed, many hon. Members, myself included, have found package tours excellent value. Unlike hon. Members opposite, however, I have never been able to persuade myself that all-in package tours are one of the commanding heights of the economy.

I come now to the arrangements for the sale. The Transport Holding Company will be seeking, with the advice of its merchant bankers, to get the best possible bargain. It will be selling Thomas Cook as a whole. Under Clause 1(1), however the sale will require the consent of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and under Clause 1(2) he could, if necessary, issue directions about the method of sale. In giving or withholding his consent, he will have uppermost in his mind the overall national interest, in particular the interest of the taxpayer. His consent will not be forthcoming unless the Transport Holding Company is able to obtain a high price for these potentially valuable assets.

To put it in words of one syllable, Cooks is not going for a song. Nor is it going to what hon. Members have been pleased to call as asset-strippers' paradise. On the contrary, we shall ensure that it is sold only to reputable concerns able and willing to carry on and develop its national and international business. I was asked whether nationalised organisations would be able to join in the bidding. My right hon. Friend by no means rules out the participation of other nationalised concerns but this would have to be justified in terms of their existing main-line activities and would also have to depend on their financial position. I would not expect nationalised concerns would take more than a comparatively small holding, because anything other would be inconsistent with the purposes of the Bill.

The detailed arrangements for the sale are now being worked out by the Transport Holding Company in consultation with my Department. A full valuation of the pension schemes has been made by independent actuaries and similarly the property has been most carefully valued by independent valuers. The latter includes not only a valuation of Cooks existing property interests which, as they stand, may well be worth some £8½ million, but also of the potentially greater value that might be realised if, for example, the leasehold interest of the head offices in Berkeley Square were to be "married" with the freehold. Bidders will be expected to take full account of these potential "married" values.

Those independent valuations, together with the normal financial information, will form the basis of a prospectus which, should the House approve the Bill tonight, I expect will be issued by mid-December. Thereafter bids will be welcome from all comers, and I am confident that there will be many serious contestants. But Cooks is not for sale on the cheap. The Government would certainly prefer a satisfactory sale to be completed quickly but if, improbable as it seems, there should be no reasonable bids, my right hon. Friend will wait until there are.

I want to mention one particular safeguard for the staff, to which the bulk of the Bill is devoted. As far as pensions are concerned, the purchaser will be required either to maintain existing pension schemes or to institute and maintain schemes which are no less favourable. This obligation is expected to form part of the sale contract but the Government expect to supplement it by means of orders made under Clause 2.

It will be necessary to bring into the Cooks schemes certain employees who are now in other public sector pension schemes and to remove from the Cook's schemes a number of people no longer employed in the group. In addition to this tidying up, the Government will also safeguard by order the accrued rights of existing pensioners and members of the existing schemes.

I do not expect that those orders will impose on the purchaser any significant liabilities beyond those implicit in the maintenance of the existing schemes, but in the unlikely event that any significant further liability arises, arrangements will be made for the Transport Holding Company or any successor body to reimburse the purchaser for the cost, assessed at the date of the order, of any such liabilities.

I turn now to job security. We intend to make regulations to cover compensation for any loss of office. This will be done on the basis of the established Crombie Code, which has been evolved in the public sector since the last war. We are, however, adding a new obligation. While the Transport Holding Company and its successors will be responsible for paying compensation to anyone covered by the regulations, it also intends to require the purchaser as a term of contract to indemnify the Transport Holding Company against any expenditure so incurred. This will mean that while the employee has a call on—a guarantee from—the public sector, the cost of any redundancy will fall where it belongs, on the purchaser.

Here indeed is a further answer to those who suggest that we are selling off a public asset on the cheap. The facts are exactly the opposite. I say to the staff that, on the one hand, their jobs and their pensions will be protected as effectively as it is possible and reasonable for them to be protected in any commercial venture while, on the other hand, they will benefit from the company's better prospects under a more progressive management.

Finally, I turn to the kernel of the argument between the two sides of the House. At the heart of the matter is the simple question, who does what? In our view, the rôle of the State is best confined to doing those things which our people, whether as firms or as individuals, are not able to do for themselves. On the evidence there is little doubt that private industry can manage and develop a travel business like Cook's at least as well as, and probably a great deal better than, the various agencies of Government through which it has passed.

I have with me some brochures setting out a number of Cooks' more interesting tourist offerings. For example, under the heading "French Riviera", Cooks very wisely tells us that when one visits the Casino in Cannes, you may not amass a wealth of francs with James Bond panache, but you can still live like a millionaire in Monte Carlo. Then again, in its "Winter Sun" brochure it beguiles the potential customer with powerful advertising copy about how

nightly in the famed market square of Marrakesh, snake charmers, jugglers and acrobats perform.

I have no objection to any travel agency vigorously promoting its wares in this fashion but the House can hardly accept that it is a necessary rôle for the State to sell weekends in French gambling casinos or to use the taxpayer's money to promote visits to Marrakesh.

This Bill is a good one. It is good for Cooks, it is good for the taxpayer, it is good for the staff of the company. I believe that it will also prove to be good for what the whole House and the public as a whole want to see—the more rapid and profitable development of our travel and tourist industry.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 295, Noes 270.

Division No. 16.] AYES [7.40 p.m.
Adley, Robert Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)
Alison, Michel (Barkston Ash) Chichester-Clark, R. Glyn, Dr. Alan
Allason, James (Hamel Hempstead) Churchill, W. S. Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Goodhart, Philip
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushciffe) Gorst, John
Astor, John Cockeram, Eric Gower, Raymond
Atkins, Humphrey Cooke, Robert Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)
Awdry, Daniel Coombs, Derek Gray, Hamish
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Cooper, A. E. Green, Alan
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Cordle, John Grieve, Percy
Balniel, Lord Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Cormack, Patrick Grylls, Michael
Batsford, Brian Costain, A. P. Gummer, Selwyn
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Critchley, Julian Gurden, Harold
Bell, Ronald Crouch, David Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)
Bennett, Sir Fredrick (Torquay) Crowder, F. P. Hall-Davis, A. G. F.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Davis, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Benyon, W. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hannam, John (Exeter)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Dean, Paul Harrison, Brian (Maldon)
Biffen, John Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Haselhurst, Alan
Biggs-Davison, John Digby, Simon Wigfield Haslings, Stephen
Blaker, Peter Dixon, Piers Havers, Michael
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Dodds-Parker, Douglas Hawkins, Paul
Body, Richard Drayson, G. B. Hay, John
Boscawen, Robert du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Hayhoe, Barney
Bossom, Sir Clive Dykes, Hugh Hicks, Robert
Bowden, Andrew Eden, Sir John Higgins, Terence L.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Edward, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hilley, Joseph
Braine, Bernard Elliot, Cart. Walter (Carshalton) Hill, James (Southampton, Test)
Bray, Ronald Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Holland, Philip
Brewis, John Emery, Peter Holt, Miss Mary
Briton, Sir Tatton Eyre, Reginald Hornby, Richard
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Farr, John Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Fell, Anthony Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Howell, David (Guildford)
Bryan, Paul Fidler, Michael Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Hunt, John
Buck, Antony Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Hutchison, Michael Clark
Bullus, Sir Eric Fookes, Miss Janet Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Burden, F. A. Fortescue, Tim James, David
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Foster, Sir John Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) Fowler, Norman Jessel, Toby
Carlisle, Mark Fox, Marcus Johnson Smith, G. E. (E. Grinstead)
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Cary, Sir Robert Fry, Peter Jopling, Michael
Channon, Paul Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Chapman, Sydney Gardner, Edward Kaberry, Sir, Donald
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Mudd, David Speed, Keith
Kershaw, Anthony Murton, Oscar Spence, John
Kilfedder, James Nabarro, Sir Gerald Sproat, Iain
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Neave, Airey Stainton, Keith
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Nicholls, Sir Harmar Stanbrook, Ivor
Kinsey, J. R. Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
Kirk, Peter Normanton, Tom Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Kitson, Timothy Nott, John Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Knight, Mrs. Jill Onslow, Cranley Stokes, John
Knox, David Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Lambton, Antony Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Sutcliffe, John
Lane, David Osborn, John Tapsell, Peter
Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Owen Idris (Stockport, N.) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Le Marchant, Spencer Page, John (Harrow, W.) Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Parkinson, Cecil Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n C'dfield) Percival, Ian Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Peyton, Rt. Hn. John Tebbit, Norman
Longden, Gilbert Pink, R. Bonner Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Loveridge, John Pounder, Rafton Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
McAdden, Sir Stephen Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
MacArthur, Ian Price, David (Eastleigh) Trafford, Dr. Anthony
McCrindle, R. A. Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Trew, Peter
McLaren, Marlin Proudfoot, Wilfred Tugendhat, Christopher
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
McMaster, Stanley Quennell, Miss J. M. van Straubenzee, W. R.
Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Raison, Timothy Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
McNair-Wilson, Michael Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Vickers, Dame Joan
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Waddington, David
Maddan, Martin Redmond, Robert Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Madel, David Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Maginnis, John E. Rees, Peter (Dover) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Rees-Davies, W. R. Wall, Patrick
Marten, Neil Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Walters, Dennis
Mather, Carol Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Ward, Dame Irene
Maude, Angus Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Warren, Kenneth
Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Ridsdale, Julian Weatherill, Bernard
Mawby, Ray Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Wells, John (Maidstone)
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) White, Roger (Gravesend)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Wiggin, Jerry
Miscampbell, Norman Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Wilkinson, John
Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W.) Rost, Peter Winterton, Nicholas
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Russell, Sir Ronald Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Moate, Roger St. John-Steves, Norman Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Molyneaux, James Scott, Nicholas Woodnutt, Mark
Money, Ernie Sharples, Richard Worsley, Marcus
Monks, Mrs. Connie Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Monro, Hector Shelton, William (Clapham) Younger, Hn. George
Montgomery, Fergus Simeons, Charles
More, Jasper Sinclair, Sir George TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Skeet, T. H. H. Mr. Walter Clegg and
Morgan-Giles, Rezr-Adm. Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Mr. Victor Goodhew.
Morrison, Charles Soref, Harold
Abse, Leo Buchan, Norman Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)
Albu, Austen Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil)
Allen, Scholefield Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)
Armstrong, Ernest Cant, R. B. Deakins, Eric
Ashley, Jack Carmichael, Neil de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey
Ashton, Joe Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Delargy, Hugh
Atkinson, Norman Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Dempsey, James
Barnes, Michael Clark, David (Colne Valley) Doig, Peter
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Dormand, J. D.
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Cohen, Stanley Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)
Baxter, William Coleman, Donald Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Beaney, Alan Concannon, J. D. Driberg, Tom
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Corbet, Mrs. Freda Duffy, A. E. P.
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Dunnett, Jack
Bidwell, Sydney Crawshaw, Richard Eadie, Alex
Bishop, E. S. Cronin, John Edelman, Maurice
Blenkinsop, Arthur Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Edwards, Robert (Bilston)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Edwards, William (Merioneth)
Booth, Albert Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.) Ellis, Tom
Bradley, Tom Cunningham, Dr. J. A (Whitehaven) Evans, Fred
Broughton, Sir Alfred Darling, Rt. Hn. George Ewing, Harry
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Davidson, Arthur Faulds, Andrew
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rankin, John
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Lipton, Marcus Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Lomas, Kenneth Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Loughlin, Charles Rhodes, Geoffrey
Foley, Maurice Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Richard, Ivor
Foot, Michael Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Ford, Ben Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Forrester, John McBride, Neil Robertson, John (Paisley)
Freeson, Reginald McCann, John Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)
Galpern, Sir Myer McCartney, Hugh Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Garrett, W. E. McElhone, Frank Roper, John
Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) McGuire, Michael Rose, Paul B.
Golding, John Mackenzie, Gregor Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mackie, John Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Gourley, Harry Mackintosh, John P. Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Maclennan, Robert Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'ctle-u-Tyne)
Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) McNamara, J. Kevin Silkin, Rt. Hon. John (Deptford)
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Sillars, James
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Marks, Kenneth Silverman, Julius
Hamling, William Marquand, David Skinner, Dennis
Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Marsden, F. Small, William
Hardy, Peter Marshall, Dr. Edmund Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Spearing, Nigel
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Mayhew, Christopher Spriggs, Leslie
Hattersley, Roy Meacher, Michael Stallard, A. W.
Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Steel, David
Heffer, Eric S. Mendelson, John Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Horam, John Mikardo, Ian Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Millan, Bruce Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Miller, Dr. M. S. Strang, Gavin
Huckfield, Leslie Milne, Edward Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Molloy, William Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Tinn, James
Hunter, Adam Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Tomney, Frank
Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Morris, Rt. He. John (Aberavon) Torney, Tom
Janner, Greville Moyle, Roland Tuck, Raphael
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Urwin, T. W.
Jeger, Mrs. Lena Murray, Ronald King Varley, Eric G.
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Oakes, Gordon Wainwright, Edwin
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Ogden, Eric Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
John, Brynmor O'Halloran, Michael Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) O'Malley, Brian Wallace, George
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Oram, Bert Watkins, David
Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Orbach, Maurice Weitzman, David
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Orme, Stanley Wellbeloved, James
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Paget, R. T. White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Palmer, Arthur Whitehead, Phillip
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Pardoe, John Whitlock, William
Judd, Frank Parker, John (Dagenham) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Kaufman, Gerald Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Kelley, Richard Pavitt, Laurie Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Kinnock, Neil Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Lamble, David Pendry, Tom Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Lamond, James Pentland, Norman Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Latham, Arthur Perry, Ernest G. Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Lawson, George Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Woof, Robert
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Prescott, John
Lestor, Miss Joan Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold Price, William (Rugby) Mr. James A. Dunn and
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Probert, Arthur Mr. Joseph Harper.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question put, That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Mellish]:—

The House divided: Ayes 273, Noes 295.

Division No. 17.] AYES [7.50 p.m.
Abse, Leo Ashley, Jack Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)
Albu, Austen Ashton, Joe Baxter, William
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Atkinson, Norman Beaney, Alan
Allen, Scholefield Bagier, Gordon A. T. Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Barnes, Michael Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Armstrong, Ernest Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Bidwell, Sydney
Bishop, E. S. Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hamling, William Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Booth, Albert Hardy, Peter Moyle, Roland
Bradley, Tom Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Murray, Ronald King
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Hattersley, Roy Oakes, Gordon
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Ogden, Eric
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Heffer, Eric S. O'Halloran, Michael
Buchan, Norman Horam, John O'Malley, Brian
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Oram, Bert
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Orbach, Maurice
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Huckfield, Leslie Orme, Stanley
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Cant, R. B. Hughes, Mark (Durham) Paget, R. T.
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Palmer, Arthur
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Pardoe, John
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Hunter, Adam Parker, John (Dagenham)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Janner, Greville Pavitt, Laurie
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Cohen, Stanley Jeger, Mrs. Lena Pendry, Tom
Coleman, Donald Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Pentland, Norman
Concannon, J. D. Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Perry, Ernest G.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda John, Brynmor Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Prescott, John
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Crawshaw, Richard Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Cronin, John Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Price, William (Rugby)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Probert, Arthur
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rankin, John
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Davidson, Arthur Judd, Frank Richard, Ivor
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Kaufman, Gerald Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Kelley, Richard Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kerr, Russell Robertson, John (Paisley)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Kinnock, Neil Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Lambie, David Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Lamond, James Roper, John
Deakins, Eric Latham, Arthur Rose, Paul B.
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lawson, George Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Delargy, Hugh Leadbitter, Ted Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Dempsey, James Lestor, Miss Joan Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Doig, Peter Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Dormand, J. D. Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lipton, Marcus Sillars, James
Driberg, Tom Lomas, Kenneth Silverman, Julius
Duffy, A. E. P. Loughlin, Charles Skinner, Dennis
Dunn, James A. Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Small, William
Dunnett, Jack Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Eadie, Alex Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Spearing, Nigel
Edelman, Maurice McBride, Neil Spriggs, Leslie
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McCann, John Stallard, A. W.
Edwards, William (Merioneth) McCartney, Hugh Steel, David
Ellis, Tom McElhone, Frank Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
English, Michael McGuire, Michael Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Evans, Fred Mackenzie, Gregor Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Ewing, Harry Mackie, John Strang, Gavin
Faulds, Andrew Mackintosh, John P. Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Maclennan, Robert Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Filch, Alan (Wigan) McNamara, J. Kevin Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Tinn, James
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marks, Kenneth Tomney, Frank
Foley, Maurice Marquand, David Torney, Tom
Foot, Michael Marsden, F. Tuck, Raphael
Ford, Ben Marshall, Dr. Edmund Urwin, T. W.
Forrester, John Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Varley, Eric G.
Freeson, Reginald Mayhew, Christopher Wainwright, Edwin
Galpern, Sir Myer Meacher, Michael Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Garrett, W. E. Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Mendelson, John Wallace, George
Golding, John Mikardo, Ian Watkins, David
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Millan, Bruce Weitzman, David
Gourley, Harry Miller, Dr. M. S. Wellbeloved, James
Grant, George (Morpeth) Milne, Edward Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Molloy, William Whitehead, Phillip
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Whitlock, William
Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.) Mr. Joseph Harper and
Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin) Woof, Robert Mr. James Hamilton
Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Adley, Robert Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Lambton, Antony
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Lane, David
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Emery, Peter Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Eyre, Reginald Le Merchant, Spencer
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Farr, John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Astor, John Fell, Anthony Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n Cdfield)
Atkins, Humphrey Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Awdry, Daniel Fidler, Michael Longden, Gilbert
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Loveridge, John
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles McAdden, Sir Stephen
Balniel, Lord Fookes, Miss Janet MacArthur, Ian
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Fortescue, Tim McCrindle, R. A.
Batsford, Brian Foster, Sir John McLaren, Martin
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Fowler, Norman Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Bell, Ronald Fox, Marcus McMaster, Stanley
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Fry, Peter McNair-Wilson, Michael
Benyon, W. Galbraith, Hn. T. G. McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Gardner, Edward Maddan, Martin
Biffen, John Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Madel, David
Biggs-Davison, John Glyn, Dr. Alan Maginnis, John E.
Blaker, Peter Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Goodhart, Philip Marten, Neil
Body, Richard Gorst, John Mather, Carol
Boscawen, Robert Gower, Raymond Maude, Angus
Bossom, Sir Clive Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Bowden, Andrew Gray, Hamish Mawby, Ray
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Green, Alan Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Braine, Bernard Grieve, Percy Meyer, Sir Anthony
Bray, Ronald Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Brewis, John Grylls, Michael Miscampbell, Norman
Brinton, Sir Tatton Gummer, Selwyn Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Gurden, Harold Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Moate, Roger
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Molyneaux, James
Money, Ernie
Bryan, Paul Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Monks, Mrs. Connie
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Hannam, John (Exeter) Monro, Hector
Buck, Antony Harrison, Brian (Malden) Montgomery, Fergus
Bullus, Sir Eric Haselhurst, Alan More, Jasper
Burden, F. A. Hastings, Stephen Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Havers, Michael Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) Hawkins, Paul Morrison, Charles
Carlisle, Mark Hay, John Mudd, David
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hayhoe, Barney Murton, Oscar
Cary, Sir Robert Hicks, Robert Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Channon, Paul Higgins, Terence L. Neave, Airey
Chapman, Sydney Hiley, Joseph Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Chichester-Clark, R. Holland, Philip Normanton, Tom
Churchill, W. S. Holt, Miss Mary Nott, John
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Hornby, Richard Onslow, Cranley
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Cockeram, Eric Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Cooke, Robert Howell, David (Guildford) Osborn, John
Coombs, Derek Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Cooper, A. E. Hunt, John Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Cordle, John Hutchison, Michael Clark Parkinson, Cecil
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Percival, Ian
Cormack, Patrick James, David Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Costain, A. P. Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Pink, R. Bonner
Jessel, Toby Pounder, Rafton
Critchley, Julian Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Crouch, David Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Crowder, F. P. Jopling, Michael Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Proudfoot, Wilfred
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kaberry, Sir Donald Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Dean, Paul Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Quennell, Miss J. M.
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Kershaw, Anthony Raison, Timothy
Digby, Simon Wingfield Kilfedder, James Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Dixon, Piers King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Dodds-Parker, Douglas King, Tom (Bridgwater) Redmond, Robert
Drayson, G. B. Kinsey, J. R. Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Kirk, Peter Rees, Peter (Dover)
Dykes, Hugh Kitson, Timothy Rees-Davies, W. R.
Eden, Sir John Knight, Mrs. Jill Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Knox, David Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Ridsdale, Julian Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Wall, Patrick
Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Stokes, John Walters, Dennis
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Ward, Dame Irene
Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Sutcliffe, John Warren, Kenneth
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Tapsell, Peter Weatherill, Bernard
Rost, Peter Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Russell, Sir Ronald Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart) White, Roger (Gravesend)
St. John-Stevas, Norman Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Scott, Nicholas Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.) Wiggln, Jerry
Sharples, Richard Tebbit, Norman Wilkinson, John
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret Winterton, Nicholas
Shelton, William (Clapham) Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Simeons, Charles Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Sinclair, Sir George Trafford, Dr. Anthony Woodnutt, Mark
Skeet, T. H. H. Trew, Peter Worsley, Marcus
Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Tugendhat, Christopher Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Soref, Harold Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin Younger, Hn. George
Speed, Keith van Straubenzee, W. R.
Spence, John Vaughan, Dr. Gerard TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Sproat, Iain Vickers, Dame Joan Mr. Walter Clegg and
Stainton, Keith Waddington, David Mr. Victor Goodhew.
Stanbrook, Ivor Walder, David (Clitheroe)

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).