Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House at its rising tomorrow do adjourn till Monday, 5th June.—[Mr. R. Carr.]
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Paget (Northampton)
I feel grave anxieties about leaving the situation in the position we have. We have recently had three major measures upon which both the great parties have been in agreement. I notice that such agreements are almost always disastrous. I refer to sanctions, direct rule and Concorde. Agreement between the two great parties is nearly always based upon mutually guilty consciences that commit them to continue mutual folly.
Certainly regarding the situation as it has developed under our direct rule in Northern Ireland, I do not feel we ought to go into Recess. I put certain statistics to the Minister earlier today. In just over two months arrests have fallen by two-thirds, shootings have rather more than doubled and explosions have rather less than doubled. On any view, this is a gravely deteriorating situation.
The Minister said "But you cannot connect arrests with shootings". When dealing with a crime wave, one normally looks, on the one side for successes, which are the arrests, and, on the other side, for failures, which are the crimes one has failed to stop. In this case preventive measures are failing, crimes are increasing alarmingly, and everybody seems complacent about it. This is what worries me.
As against this we are told, "But the women of the Bogside have come out". That is the sort of euphoria spreading through the country on this matter. Some time ago they came out in Anderson's Town, but not for very long. This strange idea that the women will come together and stop the war is based on ancient feminist mythology. Aristophenes produced it when the women were going to stop the Peloponnesian war. They did so in a play, but not in reality.
We were told by the suffragettes that we had only to give women the vote and wars would come to an end. It was not so long ago that we had three wars on our hands at the same time being run respectively by Mrs. Golda Meir, Mrs. Gandhi and Mts. Bandaranaike. The 1657 amount of evidence in support of this idea is not very strong.
Of all countries I cannot think of one in which it is less likely to happen than in Ireland. Whatever else can be said of Ireland, the Irish are not a matriarchal society. They may possibly be described as a leonine society in that the male sometimes has no objection to the woman being the provider. That is often the case in Derry—the male does not give the female any rights for having provided —at any rate not in this Irish society. To imagine that the biddies will see off the IRA is a piece of wishful thinking.
Whilst we have a Government thinking on these wishful lines I am anxious about going away for the Recess.
Then there is the question: what is the peace these ladies are supposed to be bringing us? Is it the peace between order and disorder? Is it the peace between the police and the criminal? That is just the peace which in fact they are said to be bringing us. One of them, Mrs. Docherty, said:We told him we do not want the IRA out of Derry. They are our boys. We are not here to shop them.We are told—I think Father O'Neill says this—that we are to have a ceasefire. What does a ceasefire mean? We have a ceasefire in some areas of Palestine which has been there since 1948 and in others which has been there since 1956. A ceasefire means conceding the area to the successful gun. Is that what is being sought in Derry? Is that what is being welcomed?
Another case where we had a ceasefire, which may be somewhat distant but none the less very much an historical parallel to this event, was when Hasan the Imam of the Assassins was given a ceasefire by Saladin. The castles of the assassins then blackmailed and levied a toll on the trade of the Middle East for 300 years. If we allow areas to become refuges for the criminal, areas which are outside the law and which live by a process of blackmail threats, the situation does not get better; it gets worse the longer we tolerate it.
I am worried about going into Recess, because I have no confidence in the Minister. This is not on personal grounds. I have no confidence in the Minister because he is much too nice a man for the job. It used to be axiomatic when 1658 making a posting never to send a nice officer to an Irish regiment. He was always a disaster. The kind of man we want for this job is not somebody like the Minister—I hope he will forgive the for saying so—but somebody like the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). We want somebody with an iron will. The right hon. Member for Streatham has often looked to me to be just the kind of man, in the Iron Duke tradition, to lead an Irish regiment: a man with an iron will, of great courage, with no humour or imagination, and an eye which would pose no problem to a sculptor working in basalt. 'That is the kind of man who leads Irish armies and that is the kind of man the Irish understand. His friends know where they are and his enemies know where they are. With the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State in Ireland, nobody knows where he is.
The Protestants are starting to drill in real panic, wondering whether he is letting them down. The enemy, including the ladies from the Bogside, are asking, can this be true? They are saying, "If we had a horse, what a fellow to sell it to". That is the situation. I do not believe that the present set-up is working. I do not believe that one can succeed in avoiding casualties simply by postponing them.
We are faced with the situation that in an area over which we have taken direct control we do not even pretend to assert control. It is an area in which we are negotiating as though it were a foreign country, and where we are accepting and acknowledging frontier guards as though it were an alien country. It is an area from which attacks are emanating. The most serious attack of all was made only last week, when not only was a bomb put in a car park but the Protestant workers at the factory were lured into the car park. If that continues, by the time we come back we shall have a civil war on our hands.
I am not somebody who wants blood. I am not somebody who wishes violence, or wishes to be hard or unkind to people, but, in these circumstances, the more we funk the decision the more people will get killed in the process. I believe—and I believe this because of what I have heard from officers with whom I have discussed the position—that if we tell the Army to 1659 go in and do not tie its hands, there will be very few casualties, indeed, as long as we are not half-hearted about it. But if the Government do not want to do that they should recognise that this is an area which has passed out of our rule and, using the river and the old wall of Derry as boundaries, they should take the area away from the North and Ulster and put it on to the free South.
Having done that the Government should tell people in "free Derry" that the frontier with us is closed and that in future when they wish to collect their social insurance benefits they will have to do so from Dublin. Similar information should be given to Dublin. That will be something. If we let the war drift week after week, with the shootings doubling, the bombings doubling, the Protestants drilling, and new no-go areas being set-up, by the time we come back there will he a civil war on our hands
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
I fully support what has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I believe that he has got his finger more correctly on the pulse of affairs in Northern Ireland than even my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench.
There are many topics, including the announcement today of the members of the Advisory Commission, which require urgent and immediate consideration in this House. It was impossible, following my right hon. Friend's statement, to consider the appointment of this commission because the names were not announced. They are to be given by way of a written reply which we shall see either tonight or tomorrow morning. As it is about two months since the Parliament at Stormont was suspended, it is not right that an announcement as important as that should be made in this manner, and in a manner which means that the constitution of the commission cannot be properly considered by members from Northern Ireland before 12th June.
I agree with what the hon. and learned Gentleman said about the increased tempo of terrorist activity in Northern Ireland. During the last eight weeks I have raised this matter several times in the House and received what I consider to be totally unsatisfactory answers 1660 from the Minister. In replying to Written Questions from myself and other of my hon. Friends the Minister has produced statistics which support what was said by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and yet when he has spoken on the Floor of the House on the few occasions when we had an opportunity to question him on these matters he has drawn totally inaccurate conclusions from the figures which have been produced.
Anyone who has spent even a few days in Northern Ireland over the last two or three weeks realises that there has been an increase in the number of explosions in Belfast. Only the night before last there were three explosions in the centre of the town which wrecked many shop premises. The tempo of terrorist activity has in no way abated as a result of the political initiative.
About 10 days ago the Co-operative store on the edge of my constituency was destroyed. This has meant the loss of jobs for about 750 work people, and it will cost the taxpayer—who in the end will have to foot the bill—about £10 million. Not only have terrible matters such as that to be debate in the House urgently, but we must debate also the fact that the number of separate shooting incidents has increased steadily since the political initiative was taken.
The last two or three days have seen the murder—I do not hesitate to use the word "murder"; I am often surprised to see these events reported as "killings", and I want to use the correct word—of men and soldiers, and here I am thinking particularly of Ranger Best who was on leave in his own home in Deny. He was taken out by the IRA, court-martialled and murdered. Other soldiers have been shot while on duty. Yet others have been shot in front of their wives and children in their own homes. All this is due to the murderous activities of the IRA. I suggest to the House that if murder, bombing and arson were to take place on even one-tenth of this scale in other parts of the United Kingdom the House would demand an immediate debate; yet we shall have to wait until 12th June to debate the matter. That is not for another two or three weeks, and I regard that as totally inadequate.
I, too, welcome the action of the women of the Bogside. I agree with the small deputation of six women who 1661 spoke to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but I feel in accord with the hon. and learned Gentleman when he says that it would be wrong to read too much into that initiative. One must remember the previous attempts of the women in Andersonstown and in the Bogside to persuade the Republicans, the terrorist members of the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA to lay down their arms. In each case they were opposed not only by members of the IRA but by other women who were outspoken in condemning their actions.
Be that as it may, I feel that for the sake of long-term peace in Northern Ireland there should be a statement by my right hon. Friend assuring the House and the vast majority of the law-abiding population in Northern Ireland that there will be no amnesty for those who are responsible for the horrible, murderous bombing that has taken place over the last three years. Only by such a firm statement shall we hope to dissuade other terrorists from similar activities in future. If there is any doubt that the IRA will continue its campaign of attacking and maiming people by explosions and other means, one need only remember that in the past three years there have been 350 murders. Those responsible must be brought to justice.
When answering questions today and on previous occasions my right hon. Friend has said that if conditions have deteriorated since the political initiative was taken no hon. Member can be sure what conditions would have been like without that initiative. I do not accept that argument. It is commonly known in Northern Ireland that since the political initiative the IRA has been re-forming in Belfast.
But for the initiative—this is apparent to the security forces and the people of Northern Ireland generally—we would have continued gradually, throughout the Province, to get on top of the IRA threat. As a result of the political initiative and the softly-softly policy—the release of many from internment and the dramatic fall in the number of arrests—the IRA has had time to regroup.
Time is not on the side of the Government. My right hon. Friend is trying what has been described as a gamble. I urge him to place a definite and early time limit on his actions. If they are 1662 not successful in the next few weeks, he will have to review his policy dramatically, and his intention to do this should be made clear now.
If those in the Bogside and Creggan areas are given an indefinite time to go on with their planning and preparation, there will be no hope of peace in Northern Ireland. The only hope for this initiative is for my right hon. Friend to give a clear indication that the people have a certain time within which to deal with the I.R.A. With the mounting death toll and incidence of bombing, the ordinary citizens of Northern Ireland will no longer sit back. A time is bound to come, unless what I say is done, when the loyalist citizens will reach the end of their tether.
I urge my right hon. Friend to realise that the death toll is likely to mount and that the terrorists will use this time, just as they have used the time in the last eight weeks, to prepare, train and build up their supply lines. The more time that is given them, if this policy is not successful, the greater the death toll will become when the policy is changed, and then the soldiers will have a harder task in taking the initiative and restoring order throughout Northern Ireland.
I wish my right hon. Friend would appreciate that in circumstances such as exist in Northern Ireland today there is more need than ever before to have a parliamentary safety valve. The past eight weeks have not seen a proper debate on the affairs of Ulster. We have been promised what amounts to a half day's debate on Monday, 12th June. If Parliament is to serve any useful function in the United Kingdom, it must act as a safety valve so that the ordinary law-abiding citizens feel that their grievances are being properly ventilated on their behalf.
The arrangements made in the last eight weeks both for the debate of the affairs of Northern Ireland generally and for the consideration of the many Bills that are outstanding—there are between 30 and 40 of them, some of a detailed character—have been totally inadequate. These Bills deal with such matters as local government reform and turn very much on whether Stormont will be restored. They may require not only general discussion in the 90 minutes that we 1663 have been promised but detailed amendment, dotting the i's and crossing the t's.
I hope we shall be given some definite information on the points I have raised.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I am pleased to see you in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because you may not be aware—on the other hand, you may be aware—of some local difficulties which we have been having and which should not be left unresolved on our departing for the Whitsun Recess.
I refer to some details which we should be given concerning the Bill which proposes to take us into the EEC. In Committee on this Bill we have asked for facts, figures and information to help us in our work. For more than 18 months I tried to get the Government to publish, for the benefit of hon. Members, the EEC rules, regulations and directives which we shall have to pass in toto if we join Europe. Eventually the Government published these documents and we naturally thought that they were factually correct, especially after they had had 18 months in which to publish them.
We found to our horror that, as with so many things done by the present Government, they had made a complete hash of publishing this information. Having had 18 months to consider publishing these matters and a further six months in which to think about doing so, not only were they partly wrong but the Government had to publish a booklet of 144 pages correcting the many mistakes in the documents.
I would have liked during the Whitsun Recess to have studied these documents to prepare myself for the debates which will take place when we return, but what is the point of my studying them if they are likely to be wrong to this degree? I remind hon. Members that the documents of which I speak were available to our colleagues in Brussels not just recently but as long ago as last November. The Government have had them, but apparently hon. Members are not entitled to have them. Hon. Members have to wait six or seven months, and even when they get them they cannot be sure that they are factually correct. We are in the invidious position of being expected to go on holiday without having 1664 the right documents to study, and not knowing whether those which we have are correct, or whether we can obtain the correct documents. We are expected to return for debates on the matter, but we are told that we have to accept these documents whether or not we like them, and to accept that the Government are unable to supply them for hon. Members. That is not good enough. The House should not go into recess until the Leader of the House can give more definite information.
I am in a quandary because I am not sure about where the responsibility lies in this matter. With the utmost respect, I thought that it was Mr. Speaker's duty to see that documents were available to hon. Members. But even in tabling quite a few Questions I have found that a bit of jiggery pockery goes on. When things are a little awkward the Foreign Secretary switches some Questions to the Leader of the House, the Leader of the House switches some to the Minister for the Civil Service and others are switched between Ministers. Whom does one blame? I blame the Government in toto. However, as the Minister who is to reply to the debate is the Leader of the House, perhaps I should say that probably he is the Minister responsible. I can now reveal that his predecessor as Leader of the House at the time, who is now Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, saw my first pile of documents, which were also seen by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The pile was about three feet high and weighed what felt like half a ton. I said to the then Leader of the House "Have you seen these?" He replied "Of course not." I said "Do you mean to tell me that, as a Cabinet Minister, you have not seen them?" He replied "Of course not. No Member of the House has seen them." I do not suppose hon. Members have seen them. Indeed, if from then onwards Ministers had been doing nothing but studying these documents by night and day they would still not have got through them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), the "shadow" Leader of the House, will agree that not all Ministers could have been constantly studying these documents, because some Ministers have been in the Chamber. They have obviously not read them because when questioned about one or 1665 two of them by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Latham), who is a diligent attender of debates, they have been unable to give satisfactory answers.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Leader of the House to give us a definite assurance on two matters. First, I am told by some Ministers that if I care to apply to them they will let me have a copy of a particular document. But that is privileged and preferential treatment which is offered, and I do not want it because I have never had privileged or preferential treatment since coming to the House. To start receiving it after 27 years of membership, and to be given a privilege above that given to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, would mean that I could not face my hon. Friend knowing that I was getting something which he was not.
The more serious point is that if I can apply for and receive a copy of a document privately, why cannot all hon. Members have a copy? I suggest that this is a legitimate request which the right hon. Gentleman ought to convey to all the Departments concerned. The Minister of Agriculture has hundreds of these documents, dealing with sugar, milk, butter, cheese and so on. He knows, as I know, that one of the effects of entry into the Common Market is value added tax. We know that value added tax will be imposed upon food. The Government know that, but they are dishonestly hiding the fact from the electorate. The Government know that in all the countries of the Six VAT is imposed on food. The Minister of Agriculture knows that we shall have to harmonise our VAT based upon that imposed in the Common Market. But when I have tried to obtain information from him he will not let me have it.
The Government know that in the countries of the Six a value added tax is imposed upon all forms of construction at the very high rate of 23 per cent. Even private house building is taxed at 17½ per cent. of 33⅓ per cent. of the value of the property. This will vitally affect my constituents who are now very badly housed. We have a great housing problem. But I do not think that the public know that when we enter the Common Market houses erected for local councils and the poor who have no homes will 1666 have VAT imposed upon them at 17½ per cent. of one-third of the valuation of the property. Few hon. Members will know that all building construction will be subject to VAT.
All this information could be made available. The Government have this information, but are deliberately with-holding it from hon. Members. It is not good enough that we should go into recess knowing that it is being deliberately withheld.
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale is present in the Chamber because yesterday I walked out in a bit of a temper—for which I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to the House—because I was so disgusted at being unable to get certain documents. Probably I should not have walked out in a temper because I see from the OFFICIAL REPORT that, as always, the "shadow" Leader of the House does much better than the actual Leader of the House. My hon. Friend tried to help the Committee on a nonparty basis—as always. He was able to look up Erskine May and find that it is the duty of the Government to make these documents available. He found also that if the documents are wrong, deliberately distorted or incorrectly supplied to the House that may well be a breach of privilege.
We are in a unique situation in which there is the possibility of the Government being in breach of privilege of Parliament, because it is the Government who have deliberately withheld documents and subsequently produced inaccurate documents. They must have been known to be inaccurate because the Government have subsequently rectified the inaccuracies. I understand that there will be further rectification of the rectifications. So we shall have a series of new documents coming through saying that "No. 1 document is wrong. It should be amended by No. 2 document. No. 2 document will be amended by No. 3." This may happen for the whole time that the European Communities Bill is in Committee, and we shall be supplied with inaccurate information. The Government should deal with this matter in view of the importance of this legislation.
This is not something that can be put right at a later date, because this is a 1667 once-for-all Bill. As we have been told, by the Prime Minister downwards—perhaps I should say, by everyone else upwards to the Prime Minister—this is probably the most important Bill that has come before Parliament in recent history. If we are to be hamstrung by this important Measure in perpetuity the Government should ensure that everything connected with it is right.
There are a number of other reasons why I oppose the Motion. I have been looking by accident through the Notices of Motions. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will no doubt be as amazed as I was to find that there are no fewer than 336 urgent Motions and Amendments. Hon. Members know, but the Press and verbatim reporters may not know, that Motions deal with urgent matters which hon. Members believe should be debated.
It would take a long time to go through all 336 Motions, but I hope to be forgiven if I pick out some of the more important ones. It will be fortuitous if some of them happen to have been sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and myself. Motion No. 52 is entitled:Unemployment and the Government's Terms for Market Entry".There are some good Amendments to this important Motion. So urgent does my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) consider this matter to be that he has tabled a Motion. The matter has not been debated.
I am glad to see two or three of my Scottish Friends here. Whenever important matters are being discussed, my Scottish hon. Friends are here. They can tell us that the unemployment problem, which is bad nationally, is particularly pernicious in Scotland. I should like this Motion to be debated next week, probably Tuesday or Wednesday. I should not like my Scottish hon. Friends to have to come all the way from Scotland on Monday. Almost all Scottish constituencies are represented by Labour Members, because the Scottish people wisely would not elect Tories. I am sure that my Scottish hon. Friends would be more than willing to return on Tuesday to debate this question.
An important Motion of mine which I should like to be debated is that which 1668 concerns the question of the abolition of the Origins of Marking Order, again done to facilitate our entry into the Common Market.
A Motion which will appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale is No. 60, which I have tabled and which is entitled:Lack of Democracy in Parliament, Due to Subservience to the European Economic Community".I am sure that if we were to return next Tuesday my hon. Friend could be persuaded to make a wonderful speech on this subject, after I had briefly introduced the Motion.
I shall not have the chance to do that because, against the will of the majority on this side, we are to have a long recess. The recess has been contrived and arranged. No one consulted me as to whether we should have a longer or shorter recess. Probably the usual channels were consulted. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover was not. Those of us who want to remain here to bring these important matters to the attention of the country cannot be held responsible for the length of the recess.
Motion No. 61, which has been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) is entitled:Value Added Tax on Owner-OccupiersWhat more important subject could be discussed by Tory Members, who are now conspicuous by their absence? They claim to be the champions of the private owner, but only four of them are now present.
§ Mr. Lewis
Labour Members out numbered Tory Members by about 2 to 1. Tory Members, who claim to champion owner-occupation, should declare to owner-occupiers that if Britain joins the Common Market on the present terms a value added tax will have to be imposed on owner-occupied houses, and apparently my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover has already worked out the amounts
The Motions cover almost every burning issue confronting the Community. Motion No. 202, which has been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker), relates toArmed Forces Pensioners' Widows1669 It is strange that my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster should be the one who is interested in these pensioners' widows, because we are usually told by the galaxy of hon. and gallant Members who usually sit on the benches opposite and who are now conspicuous by their absence that they are the friends of the Armed Services pensioners' widows. When it comes to it, however, not only do they not table a Motion but they are not even present to press the Government to allow time to debate this important subject.
Motion No. 222, which has been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), and to which I have two Amendments and my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) has one, is entitled:Value Added Tax—Essential Domestic Goods and Services".I am willing to return on Tuesday next to discuss this Motion.
It cannot be said that I have been biased and have advanced the case for my own Motion being debated. Perhaps we could debate Motion 222 with Motion No. 224. This stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs), and it deals with the adversely effect for the retail trade if we join the Common Market.
I hope I shall be forgiven if I draw particular attention to Motion No. 232. I believe it is one of the most important Motions because it refers to democracy in Parliament. The sponsor is none other than the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), who always puts good Motions on the Order Paper, if I may say so on his behalf.
§ Mr. Lewis
No, they are never called and I never get an opportunity to explain how important they are because the Government say there is no time for a debate. They always say that there are Bills and other things to be debated, but if they cut the recess short we would have an opportunity of debating all these matters and everybody would be happy.
There is also Motion No. 238, which deals with tragic matters. It relates to the imposition of the value added tax on hearing aids. If we join the Common Market there will be a 10 per cent. In- 1670 crease in the price of hearing aids to the poor deaf people because of the imposition of the value added tax. These items already cost between £60 and £80.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale is a very skilled and knowledgeable parliamentarian. When I left the Committee in a huff yesterday he was wisely able to look up Erskine May and refer to the point I had raised in the House. He was able to discover important matters which would have been of assistance to myself and the Chair. I do not have a copy of Erskine May, and if I wish to look it up I have to leave the Chamber and go to the Library. By the time I have consulted the book and returned to the Chamber the issue has been dealt with. Motion No. 248 puts forward a much better idea. It says that every hon. Member should be supplied with his own copy of Erskine May.
§ Mr. Lewis
No, it is one of the very few Tory Motions, but it is a good one nevertheless. If we had a short recess we would have time to debate this and explain to the Government, who say that the proposal would cost too much, that it would be a once-and-for-all outlay. Once hon. Members had the book they would not have to be supplied with another because when we are in the Common Market we shall not need Erskine May. All the decisions will be taken in Brussels, and we shall become a rubber-stamp House.
Thirty or 40 selected Members, who will be the "Yes-men", will go to Brussels to represent us there. We shall be told only what has been decided in Brussels, and we shall be able to debate the merits and general issues but we shall not have an opportunity of amending the decisions in any way, shape or form. I do not believe that is good for democracy, and I do not believe that one single hon. Member, from the Prime Minister down to the newest hon. Member who won the election at Southwark recently, told his electorate that if Britain joined the Common Market all the decisions would be taken by the Council of Ministers and that the British Parliament would have no chance of amending them. I would gamble that not one hon. Member explained that it could affect taxation, the 1671 standard of living and where and whether citizens were allowed to work.
Motion No. 277 deals with the impact of the value added tax on the poorer families, of which I have a large number in my constituency. I would like an opportunity to discuss the Motion because it is of vital importance for many of my constituents. I could explain to them that, although the cost of living is rocketing in this country, they need not worry because it will be as of nothing compared to what will happen when we are in the Common Market. I could tell them that the Government promised that before we joined they would seek the full-hearted consent of Parliament and the people, but that with a majority of five, as they had yesterday, they will take us in just the same. I could tell them that the price of food will rise by 10 per cent. or 12 per cent. I could tell them that we had an opportunity to discuss and debate these matters on a Motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman), but that because our recess was too long we did not have the time.
Another Motion which I think every hon. Member should and could support stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell), dealing with retirement pensions. This is another vital matter. I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover present because, like me, he has been campaigning for the old-age pensioners since he first came to the House. He has been battling away against a stony-hearted, cruel Government who awarded the old-age pensioners a 75p increase but refused to give it to them until October. Before the ink is dry and the announcement is made, that 75p increase will be absorbed in the rise in the cost of food and other prices and it will be lost to the old-age pensioners. If someone in commerce tried to do that to the general public, he would be charged with a confidence trick. If I tried to sell something for 75p, knowing that it would completely evaporate, I should be charged with obtaining money by false pretences. But here we have a crooked Government who crookedly announce that they will give a 75p increase knowing that because of the actions they have taken the price of food, 1672 rents, the cost of houses and all other prices will so depreciate the purchasing value of the pound that before the old-age pensioners receive their increase they will lose more than the 75p they are due to receive in October.
There is no need for the pensioners to wait until October. All that the Government need to do is to tell the post offices that every pension order book should be over-stamped from the date of the Budget with a 75p increase, and that could be paid. The Government do not want to do it. This is another matter we could discuss but for the fact that we are going into recess. I should like the recess to be shortened to enable some of the Motions to be discussed.
Motion No. 328 is concerned with the grave effect for the chronically sick and disabled telephone subscribers of a 10 per cent. value added tax. One of the names attached to it is that of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe, who is rightly interested in the chronically sick and disabled. He introduced a magnificent Act to help them, which has done a very good job. I am sorry the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications is not here, because I believe he would like a debate on the matter. He has probably gone to Spain.
The sick and the disabled and the chronically sick will have to pay the tax, I suppose because the Prime Minister insists on taking us into the Common Market without the full-hearted consent of Parliament and the people. They have to pay for his ego and the pleasure of taking us in when we know that the overwhelming majority of the people and the whole trade union movement are against it. [Interruption.] The Leader of the House may laugh, but if he does not believe that let him have a referendum.
Modesty forbids my giving the name of the sponsor of Motion No. 330, concerning support for political action by the European Economic Community against the opponents of democracy. The Motion refers to Greece, a subject we have not discussed for two or three years. We might well find that a debate on Greece would be of interest.
1673 I would mention the Motions of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover, but that would make my speech longer than I had intended. I conclude with some of those that I know he is interested in.
Motion No. 331 is entitledWho Are the Blackmailers".It is supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover. I am pleased he is here, because he will know that it is a Motion we could debate if we were not going into Recess until 5th June. We have heard what Ministers and Tory Members have said about ordinary trade union workers, men working hard with their sweat, their tears and their toil at the benches. The railway workers are trying to obtain a decent wage, up from £17 to £20 a week. They are accused of being blackmailers because they want a 12½ per cent. increase. If we could debate the Motion we could point out that the Government, who are denying £20 a week to railway workers, are already planning to give £80 a week extra on a £400 a week salary. That is a 20 per cent. increase. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover is taking these figures in.
§ Mr. Lewis
The railway workers feel they are justified in asking for £20 a week for a full week's work. They are told by the Government that they are not entitled to it, that they must have a ballot, that the Government will spend £250,000 forcing them into legal action, forcing the trade unions to be fined. Company directors who commit contempt of court can get away with it, but if a trade union is involved the courts can meet on a Saturday and Sunday to impose the will of the so-called democratic courts upon it. When a crooked company director walks away with a couple of million pounds, the case can go on for year after year with no action taken. The Motion says that the blackmailers are certainly not the railwaymen. It is the Government who are dishonestly withholding information which they have from the Boyle Committee, which has recommended increases for some people of up to 20 per cent. and in some instances 25 per cent.
1674 That leads me to the next Motion that I want to mention. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe always gets good Motions on the Order Paper. I must ask him to consult the hon. Member for West Ham, North, because he might be able to explain to that hon. Member how to put down some good Motions. His Motion is on the wages and conditions of farm workers. Strange as it may seem, there is an Amendment to that Motion, by none other than the hon. Member for West Ham, North, who has a bit of a bee in his bonnet about the higher-paid civil servants, the chairmen of the nationalised boards and the judges. The Amendment draws attention to the fact that, while the poor old farm workers are told that asking for a few pounds a week extra would be inflationary, and would be the most terrible thing for them to do, the Boyle Committee is recommending increases of up to 25 per cent. for certain of the higher-paid civil servants, chairmen of the nationalised boards and judges. The Government have had the report for the past six or seven weeks. It was leaked to the Press, I think officially, but then the Government found that the rail dispute started to boil up. "Boil" was an appropriate word, which I used quite unconsciously.
Many poor old-age pensioners do not understand percentages. They understand the 75p they have not got, but if they are told that they will have a 1 per cent. or a 2 per cent. increase they do not understand. It would not mean anything to an old-age pensioner if I told him that the Chairman of the British Railways Board was to receive a 20 per cent. increase, but if I explained that it meant £80 a week extra on a £400 a week salary he would understand. It is people like the Chairman of the Railways Board who say that to give a £20 a week rise is a generous offer by any standards. I wonder what he will say when he gets his £80 on top of £400? Perhaps he will say that it is over-generous, and he may well be right.
If we were not to adjourn tomorrow we should have an opportunity to consider Motion No. 335, entitled:Full-hearted consent of Parliament and the people for the implementation of the Boyle report.I am sure that the Government would be glad to have that discussed. The 1675 Prime Minister loves his phrases about "the full-hearted consent of the British Parliament and people". What better way of testing the feelings of the people than to publish the Boyle report? Is it to be published during the recess?
§ Mr. Skinner indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Skinner
I can hardly imagine that the Government will announce the Boyle recommendations and state their view on the report until the railway dispute has been settled. In the light of that report, they would not expect the railwaymen to reach a conclusion in the Government's favour, so I am sure they will hold it back for some time.
§ Mr. Lewis
I had not given that a thought. My hon. Friend is much brighter on these things than I am. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend could be wrong. The Government forced the ballot on the railwaymen, and they may, after being wrong so often during the last two years, be right in thinking that the railway workers will support their approach.
§ Mr. Lewis
Who knows? Perhaps the overwhelming majority of the poor railway workers will vote in support of the Government's approach, whereupon the Government will loudly proclaim that the railwaymen have voted to have £20 a week with the strings attached, and then announce that they will give the chairman of the board £80 a week extra. But we are in the realm of hypothesis; we are guessing. All we know is that the Government have had the Boyle Report for seven or eight weeks now. I have put Questions almost every day to the Prime Minister asking whether he will publish it. Perhaps my hon. Friend is right in thinking that the Government will not publish it for fear of the reaction of railway workers.
I have given many good reasons why the House should not adjourn tomorrow or should come back earlier than is proposed in the Motion. I have had to cut my remarks short, because time did not permit me to go into all the other important matters which should be raised, but I have said enough to make the case clear.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
After that bout of verbal diarrhoea, I do not know what one can say. For sheer hypocrisy it is probably unmatched. One can go downstairs now and see the suitcases of hon. Members opposite ready for them to take away. They are quite happy to go off for their holidays, and we know very well that they would be seriously inconvenienced if the Motion were not passed.
I may be old-fashioned in these matters, but I thought that we were discussing the simple proposition that we should go away for four days—that is what it amounts to—from Whit Monday until the following Monday. Listening to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), one would think that we were going away for a year and that nothing else would happen.
We had a speech from the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) which suggested that if the House sat for four days next week the problem of Ulster could be settled. What rubbish! The presence of Members in this place for four days would not settle the problem of Northern Ireland, or any of the other major problems facing the country today.
We had a fairly hard time over the winter, with some very late nights, and it would do no harm for the House to have three or four days rest. This is what happens in business.
§ Mr. Cooper
The idea of every company at this time of the year sitting down to decide whether it should have two or three days' holiday, with all sorts of reasons for and against, is ridiculous. The House of Commons is entitled to have three or four days' holiday. Ministers are entitled to have a few days away from the hurly-burly of this place so that they can get to their desks. I say that not because I support the present Government but because I know that the same must apply to every Government in office, Labour or Conservative. There must be a period of refreshment for Ministers at various times throughout the year so that they may, as it were, recharge their batteries ready for the next sitting.
1677 The only reason why I go some way in support of the hon. Member for West Ham, North is that I have some concern about the Summer Recess, and I have a suggestion to put to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. We still have a great deal to do this Session, and there is almost the certainty that the long recess, as it is usually called, will in the event be short. I suggest that it could conceivably be better, and it would have the support of the House, if the Whitsun Recess were eliminated altogether and we could be sure that the Summer Recess would be—I do not say of the normal length in past years—somewhat better than many of us suppose it may well be.
We have not had exactly a rough time over the last few months, but there has been a severe strain on most hon. Members. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), whose attendance throughout has been assiduous. He has done a tremendous job for the Labour Party during these past months, and I pay him ungrudging tribute for it. He, like many others, is entitled to a few days' rest, and I do not believe that four days is too much.
§ Mr. Cooper
Why does the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) keep trotting out remarks about the railwaymen? They have been going slow, on strike and all the rest for weeks and weeks. What is he talking about?
§ Mr. Cooper
The hon. Member for West Ham North trots out his class prejudice about an £80-a-week rise for the Chairman of the Railways Board. He does not tell the House how much Richard Marsh will have to pay in tax if he gets the rise. These things are never talked about. All hon. Members opposite talk about, in their attitude of prejudice, malice and envy, are gross figures. Remember that Richard Marsh was a member of the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Cooper
Everybody has a cross to bear and Richard Marsh has the hon. Member for Bolsover to bear. If Richard Marsh gets £400 gross, he will be lucky 1678 to take home an extra £15 a week net. With all this talk about a £80 a week rise, I would ask whether you really know anything about it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Order. I am not supposed to know anything about these things.
§ Mr. Cooper
I apologise to you. Sir Robert. The hon. Gentleman knows that I am speaking the truth. The amount of tax and surtax taken from the chairmen of nationalised boards is enormous, and the final take-home figure amounts to only a meagre sum. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bolsover always talks about the railwaymen There are two factors about which he never tells the country. First, there is the value to each railwayman of his travel concessions. Secondly, there is the fact that many thousands of railwaymen live in very heavily subsidised houses. Those facts are never mentioned by Labour Members.
§ Mr. Cooper
I get none whatever. I am willing that the hon. Gentleman should examine my finances, but I assure him that I receive no concessions.
The hon. Member for West Ham, North mentioned the housing problem in his constituency. He has had a Socialist council in West Ham for more years than I can remember. Therefore, if he still has a housing problem it is a sad reflection on the policy of the Socialist Party in that town.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
I know the hon. Gentleman will be fair. He knows that West Ham lost over a third of its accommodation in the war and the remaining two-thirds were blitzed, blasted and bombed. This created an enormous problem. Since then successive Governments have made it difficult in terms of economic pressures which have adversely affected the situation.
§ Mr. Cooper
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the war finished quite a long time ago. I would also remind him that Ilford, South suffered no fewer than 42 V2s, which was the highest figure reached in the country, apart from in Croydon. We have managed to put the situation right since that time. Of course we have a housing problem, and indeed 1679 every town has its difficulties, but we have not a problem such as faces West Ham, which has had a Socialist Council for as long as I can remember. I do not know how to deal with the situation.
I conclude by saying that if the Summer Recess could be made longer I should be happy to do away with the Whitsun Recess.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
I disagree with the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) first for chastising my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) for indulging in a legitimate practice on these occasions, and, secondly, for suggesting that the Whitsun Recess should be abolished. I disagree with him on medical grounds. It is wise after parliamentary spells of 10 weeks or so for us all to spend some time at home and take the opportunity to see our constituents even if the break is only as little as four days.
I do not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House about the length of the Whitsun Recess even though it is rather short. Unfortunately, however, there is a great deal we can do in our constituencies which we are prevented from doing because we have to spend so much time on the business of the House.
I am not on this occasion seeking to raise a constituency matter. I hope that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will consent to receiving a deputation from my constituency in the Whitsun Recess so that my constituency matters, and. in particular, unemployment, can be raised with him directly. I am seeking to take part in this debate because of the appalling answer which I was given this afternoon by the Leader of the House. I would not detain the House at all if it were not for that terrible answer.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman is a fair and reasonable man but I feel that he may have got a little lost in the great brief which he carries. He has obviously forgotten the procession of events concerning our requests over the past year or so for a debate on local government reform in Scotland. There was a two-day debate on the reform proposals for English local government, with a White Paper and subsequent ministerial state- 1680 ments. But we Scots who are one year in the political reform calendar behind English Members have not even debated our White Paper. Yet the legislation is due this year. Both the present Leader of the House and his predecessor the Member for Penrith and the Borders (Mr. Whitelaw) have constantly dodged this matter.
In the summer of last year when a White Paper was published following the Wheatley proposals—the Scottish equivalent of Redcliffe-Maud—we had Government statements on housing finance. We heard the remarkable statement that housing finance legislation would take precedence over local government reform, and this is now a reality. We asked, therefore, last July for a debate on housing finance in the Scottish Grand Committee and we were given it. The Scottish Office Ministers would have preferred us to discuss the reform of local government but we prevailed on them to debate housing finance instead. However that decision has been used by the former Leader of the House as a reason for saying that we did not want to debate the matter at a time suitable to the Government. This, quite frankly, is a frivolous argument to put forward.
The Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Bill has still to go through its Report stage. It was obvious in July of last year that we would have to have a full debate; we were told in October, 1971, that it would be considered in the new Session of Parliament. We were then in November told that it would be considered some time before Christmas. Then we had a statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland on 22nd December which substantially amended what he had said in the White Paper. We at once requested a debate and were told that we might have a debate in the Scottish Grand Committee. This is not good enough. Our Scottish Grand Committee and the various Select Committees have been in almost permanent session on legislation since January of this year. We cannot accept that we should not be allowed the opportunity of a debate on the Floor of the House. The reason for our preferring the Floor of the House is that more Scottish Members can have the opportunity to speak, even though in the Grand Committee we tend to ration ourselves in time.
1681 I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look at his notes again and consider all the references in HANSARD to this subject over the past year or so. Will he also turn up the letter from his predecessor to my hon. Friend for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan), the Secretary of the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Group, saying that he would favourably consider finding a suitable day on the Floor of the House? I hope that he will now assent to the modest proposition I made at business question time that he would find one day for the debate before the end of July.
Perhaps one is not aggressive enough in Parliament. Perhaps that is why we do not get our requests met. If I had demanded a day during the first week after the recess I might have got a positive answer, but I asked, quite reasonably, for a day before the end of July. What could have been more reasonable than that? Like all Leaders of the House, the right hon. Gentleman at this time of the year is in difficulties in finding parliamentary time, but I repeat that the Scots are entitled to a day on the Floor of the House to debate the White Paper on the reform of their local government. If the English, quite properly, got two days, we are entitled to at least one day.
This is a very important issue in Scotland. On many matters in the White Paper the Secretary of State has, perhaps legitimately—we do not know—changed his mind. Daily, councillors, local authority personnel and others come to Members of Parliament both here and in Scotland to put their views. There is also the parliamentary aspect. The reform of local government inevitably has consequences on parliamentary boundaries, and it is a piece of impertinence by the Government that in all this time they have never sought the opinions of hon. Members on what is happening.
Yet, inexorably, the machine preparing the Bill is going on in the Scottish Office for its presentation in November. Are Ministers aware what hon. Members think? Not at all. This is not a party matter in the narrow sense but a House of Commons matter. The right hon. Gentleman is our titular protector, and I hope that he will take what I have said very seriously. I do not want to impede the progress of business, but to a request for a day before the end of July the 1682 answer can be only "Yes" or "No". I hope that it will be "Yes". In all fairness, it must be.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)
I shall not keep the House long, as we have other important business to discuss, but, like the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), I have great anxieties about our adjourning for the Spring Bank Holiday Recess at this critical time. Had there been adequate opportunity for debating Ulster affairs since the imposition of direct rule, and were there a resident Parliament and Government in the Province, it would be very different. We could then perhaps turn our backs on its problems without such apprehensions.
In the debate on the Third Reading of the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, I said that the successful pursuit of anti-terrorist measures depended upon the support of the majority. I feel that this support is ebbing away fast, if it has not entirely been dissipated. I should like to know, as would the law-abiding majority in Ulster, what exactly the policy of the Government on Northern Ireland is. I felt at the time of the passing of the Act, and feel now, that this Measure was a complete leap in the dark. The constitutional objectives of the Government have in no way been clarified since that date.
Nor have they been clarified by today's announcement of the formation of an advisory Commission without even declaring simultaneously the composition of its membership. Indeed, by comparison the constitutional arrangements of the last days of the British Raj look a model of representative democracy to me. It is this political vacuum and the improvised machinery of Government which have exacerbated the fears of law-abiding citizens, who are already deeply aroused by the inability of the security forces not just to protect satisfactorily peace-loving people in the IRA-dominated enclaves but also to protect British citizens in those areas of Belfast which prize most highly the United Kingdom connection, and are the loyalist to the British Crown.
I hope that my right hon. Friend can assure me, before the Motion is put, that he will present to the Secretary of State 1683 for Northern Ireland the view of many of us who wish the Secretary of State well that he should review his policy constantly. There is not only one course possible for Ulster affairs. If the situation deteriorates further, a low profile approach to security pursued too long could lead to the point of no return being passed, beyond which that very bloodshed and those casualties which, by so-called "over-reaction" to terrorism the Secretary of State so understandably very much wishes to avoid, might very well ensue.
Before we decide upon the Motion, I should like to know how normality is to be restored to Ulster, not just politically but in law enforcement also. While the Secretary of State expresses cautious optimism about developments in Northern Ireland, he has still said nothing about how security in the Province is to be made less dependent upon the Regular Forces of the Crown. Any successful pacification programme in a counterinsurgency campaign must be constantly orientated to the future and place increasing reliance on locally recruited law enforcement agencies, both police and military. This has not been the case in Ulster.
I must express considerable anxiety about rising for the Spring Bank Holiday Recess at this critical moment in Ulster's destiny. We cannot afford to leave it just to Father O'Neill of Londonderry Cathedral to expose the true nature of the IRA without practical political support, and assistance from the forces of impartial law enforcement. The threat of those IRA men whom Father O'Neill condemns is not just confined to Ireland, North and South; their methods are increasingly widespread in the Western world. It is a threat which cannot just be wished away.
Before we rise for the Recess, I hope that my right hon. Friend can assure me that the Secretary of State will be prepared to use, if necessary, methods which, though temporarily unpleasant, may exorcise the menace of terrorism and get the IRA gunmen off the backs of those who have in recent days so bravely spoken out for peace.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I apologise to the hon. 1684 Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) for not following him in his speech. If I thought the problems of Ulster could be solved by keeping the House in Session, I should be opposed to its rising for the Recess. I was sorry to hear in the Secretary of State's statement today that Mr. Faulkner, the former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, is ill. We all hope that he will be quickly restored to health, as we hope that the political health of the Province will be quickly restored.
I want to reinforce the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Mabon), who objected very strongly to the answer he got from the Leader of the House during business question time about a debate on the White Paper on the reform of local government in Scotland. Since I became a Member of this House in June, 1970, we have been appraised of the fact that local Government reform in Scotland has been taken on board by the Government. We have had the White Paper and the promise of an opportunity, with no fixed date, to debate this very important matter. When I return to my constituency during this Recess, I shall be meeting convenors of county councils and many county councillors, who will be asking me pertinent questions about the functions of the proposed new regional and district authorities. I shall be discussing with them the boundaries that might ensue from the subsequent reform of electoral divisions. As my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock said, this does not affect only the local authorities; it affects all 71 Scottish Members. It is important that, at an early date, we should have an opportunity of discussing this matter in the House.
We have already met, within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster, deputations from Scotland expressing disquiet at the way in which boundaries have been drawn, wanting to discuss particular functions of the new local authorities. They are pressing us to get some clarification from the Government about their intentions and at least to get a debate on the White Paper. I speak for two county councils who will be within the central region if the proposals are implemented and the convenors of these councils are pressing me to get a great deal more clarification, particularly on the boundaries.
1685 I have to tell them that while they may have entered into correspondence, may have discussed the new boundaries, functions and reorganisation with people in St. Andrew's House, I have not had the opportunity of putting these points in Parliament. They are appalled at this, they find it unbelievable. Time after time we have put questions to the Leader of the House and his predecessor and have been fobbed off with promises that we may get a debate in the House in the near future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock put very forcibly the point that the time has come for a clear and firm undertaking from the Government that this White Paper will be debated. It is not part of the democratic process for the administrative procedures reorganising Scottish local government to be going on behind the scenes, for boundaries to be drawn, functions re-aligned, the Staff Commission working away, when this House has not had the opportunity of a debate. I ask the Leader of the House to give a clear and firm indication that before the Summer Recess we shall have an opportunity of discussing this urgent and important matter on the Floor of the House.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
In reply to the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) may I say that although I agree that the problems of Northern Ireland will not be solved in four days, this House nevertheless has a solemn responsibility in that it voted to take away the Northern Ireland Parliament and by doing so assumed parliamentary responsibility for the Province. This House therefore has a double responsibility laid upon it to consider matters relevant to the present position.
It is all very well for hon. Members to say that four days will not solve anything, but in those four days there could be happenings in Northern Ireland which we should want—and we have the right —to raise urgently on the Floor of the House. I find myself in agreement with what was said by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster), that these matters need to be fully ventilated on the Floor. For four days probably—we hope not—there could be an escalation of violence, there could be a most serious situation. There could be an intensifica- 1686 tion of a campaign that would bring the Province of Northern Ireland almost to a state of civil war. I hope that hon. Members are aware of the tense situation there.
It is only right that representatives from that part of the United Kingdom should continually bring to the attention of this House the seriousness of the problem with which we are confronted. I will not weary the House with a catalogue of some of the matters that cause grave and great concern to all who are interested in peace, progress and prosperity being restored to the Province. I underline the nature of the present situation, its seriousness and what might happen in the coming days. I trust that the House, when it returns, will keep the matter of Northern Ireland before it and will be prepared to give adequate time within the parliamentary machinery for Northern Ireland Members to bring before it the problems that are causing terrifying concern in the hearts of the people of Northern Ireland.
I would like to press the Leader of the House on the matter of accountability. With the prorogation of Stormont the Public Accounts Committee of that Parliament also ceased its activities. This means that the various Departments of the Northern Ireland Administration are not now being scrutinised. This is serious. Government Departments spending large sums of money on various services are not now being scrutinised. I wonder what the Government have in mind about this. There will be an Order in Council presented after we return in which we shall be deciding on the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation which is to receive £50 million from this House to help restore and rehabilitate the Northern Ireland economy.
Written into that Order is the fact that the Comptroller and Auditor-General of Northern Ireland will have the responsibility for looking at the accounts of that Corporation. Will the Comptroller and Auditor-General of Northern Ireland report to this House now and will the Public Accounts Committee of this House have the opportunity of scrutinising these accounts? If this is so, would it not be right for Northern Ireland Members to have the opportunity of voicing their opinions either before that Committee or 1687 a sub-committee dealing with it? The question of public accountability cannot be shelved. It is an urgent matter about which the Government should have made some announcement before the Whitsun Recess.
One other matter relates to a private Bill which will be coming before the House, the United Reformed Church Bill. It has gone through a Committee of this House and in that Committee there was submitted as evidence a booklet called "The Joint Committee for Conversations Between the Congregational Church in England and Wales and the Presbyterian Church of England. The Scheme of Union". On page 8 of that booklet there is a passage which I feel is contempt of this House because it clearly says that the Bill will become law, that there will be no amendments. It does not say "perhaps" or "if". It does not say it may be accepted or rejected, it simply says that the Bill is to be passed. It says:The Bill will by then have received the Royal Assent.I feel that the Leader of the House should look at this. What is the use of parliamentary machinery if people can say that a Bill will become law before it comes before this House? There are within it matters which hon. Members will want to debate when it reaches us. I will not go into them now but I call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this. Since the Bill proposes to take away the property of the churches and to vest it in a central authority and to take away the local autonomy of many thousands of churches in this country, it is essential that it be given the closest possible parliamentary scrutiny.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Latham (Paddington, North)
I wish to refer to two matters, one of which follows upon the remarks of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and underlines the point which I put to the Leader of the House at business question time today. It is regrettable that my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) and I should be deprived even of a 10-minute opportunity to submit to the House a Bill dealing with civil rights in Northern Ireland and a Bill dealing with proportional representation.
1688 Regardless of the merits or otherwise of the proposals contained within the Bill concerning Northern Ireland, to some extent it would meet what was said by the hon. Member for Antrim, North if it were possible for a Committee of the House which was less divided on party lines to be given the opportunity to discuss in detail reforms in Northern Ireland. That would provide a much better opportunity for an exchange of views than is provided either by a short debate or by the statement and question procedure.
Although the Leader of the House said that the loss of rights under Standing Order No. 13 is not unprecedented, a situation in which so many days remaining in a Session are allotted to guillotined business is unprecedented. The erosion of back benchers' rights is therefore on a scale never previously experienced. Again I appeal to the Leader of the House to provide an opportunity for a vote on that matter.
The second matter with which I want to deal is the fact that the House should go into Recess without hearing a statement either by the Secretary of State for the Environment or by the Minister for Housing and Construction of the Government's intentions about the implementation of the Housing (Finance) Bill. It is particularly pertinent to raise this matter on the Motion to adjourn for the Recess because during the coming week and after there will be many conferences of local authority representatives to determine their attitude to the legislation. Although there may be differences of view about the propriety of considering the non-implementation of a Stautue, that is one matter which the local authorities will be considering. The discussions will go on against a background of confusion which it seems that the Ministers responsible have deliberately created. When local authorities meet to deliberate whether to implement the legislation or how to implement it, they will not be clear precisely what the Government expect them to implement.
Over the past several weeks my hon. Friends and I have submitted Questions to the Department of the Environment seeking clarfication of the Government's intended interpretation of Clause 50 of the Housing (Finance) Bill and of their 1689 reaction to the informal proposal submitted by the Director of Housing in Birmingham for the Minister to exercise his powers under Clause 63(4) of the Bill.
The sad fact is that the Department of the Environment has earned a reputation for giving the least informative and almost evasive answers to Questions of any Department of State. Answers given on the Housing (Finance) Bill are a classic example of the complete dodging of any commitment as to the meaning of Clause 50 or the way in which Clause 63(4) is to be applied. Much to my surprise, I received one straight answer to a series of Questions on the subject. The explanation might appear to be found at the top of the sheet which contains the Questions put by myself and the answer given by the Minister which is headed:Mr. Arthur Latham (Con.—Paddington, North)That is the only answer that carried that mistake and it is the only one that has produced any information from the Department. The latter part of the answer reads:If the rent of a dwelling resulting from an increase towards fair rents to which a direction under Clause 63(4) applies is less than the fair rent as subsequently determined, the dwelling is a qualifying dwelling for the purpose of subsequent increases towards fair rents in accordance with Clause 65."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1972; Vol. 837, c. 353.]That at least was a straightforward answer and it confirmed what most of us believed, that even if the Minister exercised his powers under Clause 63(4) and acknowledged a local authority's submission that the increases proposed were likely to result in rents which were higher than the fair rent level, if subsequently the rent scrutiny board fixed a fair rent at a higher level the increases would have to be paid by the tenants.
It is extremely important that local authorities should understand what is required of them by the Government. Those who want to ameliorate the effects of the Bill should be clear about what they are ameliorating. Those who choose not to implement parts of the legislation should be clear as to the penalties involved and which actions are in conformity with the spirit and intention of the Government in promoting the Bill.
1690 I underline the point by mentioning the criteria which have been applied in the submission by the Birmingham Corporation to the Minister to exercise his powers to exempt the Corporation from imposing the increases under the Bill. Birmingham has had regard to the general level of wages in the area. That, we understood, in 57 meetings of the Committee, was not a factor expected to he taken into account by the local authority. In that submission from Birmingham regard has also been had to avoiding a situation in which the majority of tenants become eligible for rebates. That again is a point which we consistently raised in 57 sittings of the Committee, being at all times assured by the Government spokesman that this factor was not to be taken into account in determining the so-called fair rents.
Further, Birmingham has had regard to the absence of sufficient registrations of comparable properties in the private sector of housing and has applied its own interpretation to the requirement to have regard to the investment value of a property. Never in Committee or subsequently has any guidance been offered on whether an investment value is to relate to present-day prices or is to be based upon the original cost of building with allowance made for inflation and other costs meanwhile. Birmingham has also disregarded a relationship between its fair rent assessments and gross values, and has even added a sixth principle to the effect that the majority of people living in flats would rather live in houses. Therefore, if there were a situation in which supply and demand were in balance, the rents of flats would be at a much lower rental.
It is vitally important that all local authorities should know whether these criteria are acceptable to the Government. It seems perfectly clear by any lawyers' or commonsense interpretation —one hopes that the two will most times be the same—that the criteria which Birmingham have included in its submission are contrary to the provisions of Clause 50 of the Bill. But whenever my hon. Friends and I have asked questions we have received non-answers from the Department. I see sitting opposite the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott). The lion. Gentleman will 1691 take the point, regardless of our arguments about the merits or otherwise of the Bill, that it is criminal that the Government will not have the honesty and straightforwardness to tell the local authorities who will be charged with implementation precisely what they are intending to do.
The Birmingham assessment results in an average increase of about 35 pence a week. Other local authorities are desperately anxious to know whether similar submissions based on the same criteria by themselves are likely to be approved by the Secretary of State. I submit that he has a duty to tell this House and the country, the tenants and the local authorities, at the earliest possible moment whether these criteria are acceptable to him.
The Secretary of State has tried a further device to dodge the answer by suggesting that the correspondence between his Department and Birmingham is a private matter having no important implications and repercussions for other local authorities. I have tabled today, in a final effort before we go into Recess, a further Question which I hope and pray will produce some elucidation. I am equally intrigued to find how the Department of the Environment dodges this one. The Question, to which I have not so far received an answer, is to ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether it is the intention of the Government that rents determined by rent scrutiny boards under the Bill shall correspond to registered fair rents for comparable dwellings in the private sector, and whether it will be open to private tenants to object to the rents determined for their dwellings on the ground that comparable rents for council dwellings are lower and vice versa.
That is the acid test. It was argued originally in the White Paper, and I quote from page 8 of the so-called Fair Deal for Housing:The Government proposes to apply the principle of fair rents to local authority dwellings. These rents will be subject to the same broad criteria as the rents of private unfurnished dwellings. In consequence the two main sectors of the market for rented housing will, for the first time, be goverend by one common equitable principle—fair rents for all.If that still holds and that is still Government policy, that is the intention of 1692 Clause 50 and the then Minister for Housing and Construction was totally dishonest in making even a passing reference to the Birmingham figures at the Third Reading debate. If that is not the case it means that the Government intend to depart substantially from the principles described in their own White Paper and what we were told were the policies and programmes of the Government in Committee on the Housing Finance Bill.
The Government should make up their mind whether they will back track or whether the application by Birmingham three days before the municipal elections was simply a propaganda exercise on which the Government intend to renege at the earliest possible opportunity. Either the Birmingham criteria are right and the Bill is being substantially modified, or the Birmingham criteria are not applicable. The Government have an obligation in all honesty to meet the local authorities who will be charged with the difficult task of trying to implement this complex legislation and to make their position clear before the House goes into Recess.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
I had not wanted to intervene in the debate and I do so exceedingly briefly. My intervention arises out of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) concerning the United Reform Church. The United Reform Church is the proposed amalgamation between the Presbyterian and Congregational churches in England and Wales. The matter was considered yesterday in a private Bill in Committee.
I thought my hon. Friend slightly misled the House in suggesting that there will be something rather undemocratic in this amalgamation. The Congregational Church voted on this matter and those churches that are joining voted by 75 per cent. so to do. Those who decided not to join are standing out.
There was some discussion in Committee about whether the right should be given to any Congregational church to opt out once having come into the scheme. Counsel for the promoters of the Bill decided that without writing it into the Bill they would give an undertaking 1693 that any church which in due course felt impelled to come out, once it went through the normal stages of the Presbyterian Assembly, would be given the right to do so.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
The point I made was not the content of the Bill, on which I said I would comment when it came properly before the House, but a matter to which my hon. Friend has not referred. My hon. Friend has accused me of slightly misleading the House, which I had no intention of doing. The point I made was that evidence was laid before the Committee and that there was a statement which in my opinion was a breach of privilege.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
Although I was present in the earlier part of the debate may I apologise to the House for my absence during part of it. My absence was not through any intended discourtesy but because I was called away for a time on another matter.
I have been extremely anxious to speak in this debate because there are urgent and compelling reasons why, before the House goes up for the Whitsun Recess. the Government should take certain specific actions on the urgent problems affecting Manchester and, in particular, my own constituency.
I am pleased that we have the right hon. Gentleman as Leader of the House because before he took up this position he was secretary of State for Employment. Therefore, he will be seized of the particular and urgent problems which should have action taken upon them before the House rises for the recess.
1694 It is not realised, because of the long and proud record of the city of Manchester, what a serious situation that city now faces, and the comprehensive measures which are needed to cure it. In June, 1970, when the right hon. Gentleman took up his appointment as Secretary of State for Employment, Manchester's unemployment rate was 2.2 per cent. compared with the national level of 2.4 percent. That is 8 per cent. below the national average. It is now 4.4 per cent. compared with the national average of 3.8 per cent. That is 16 per cent. above the national average. During that period, unemployment in Manchester has more than doubled and vacancies have halved. Whereas in June, 1970, one breadwinner in 30 was out of work in Manchester, there is now one breadwinner in 15 out of work. Whereas in June, 1970, there were five breadwinners chasing every vacant job, there are now 22 breadwinners chasing every vacant job in Manchester.
There is an alarming level of unemployment among school leavers and among university graduates unemployment is now 8.5 per cent. compared with 5.5 per cent at the end of 1970.
There is a terrifying current of redundancies sweeping the jobless along. In the past two years in Manchester there have been 21,880 redundancies, and of these 8,750 have taken place in the past four months alone, so the speed of the current is accelerating.
To counter this trend the number of new manufacturing jobs which have been created as a result of industrial development certificates allotted has been only 2,830 and, in the past four months, only 859. So this year only one new job has been created to match every 10 redundancies which have taken place.
One of the urgent reasons for my regarding it as so pressing that action should be taken before the House agrees to the Motion is the state of affairs at the Avon Moseley Rubber Works, which is literally across the road from my constituency, and in which many of my constituents have worked. This works has been closed down, and 468 workers have had their employment terminated. The Department of Employment has made 640 submissions, but has found only 161 places. At this time, 85 workers in that establishment are registered as unemployed
. 1695 It is true that against this background, having pressed continually for intermediate status for Manchester, we have achieved it. We welcome that, but I submit that in the present desperate situation it is far from enough. Since the designation of Manchester as part of the North-Western intermediate area, more than two months ago, there have been only nine inquiries for sites or premises, and there is no guarantee of a single job arising from those inquiries or from our intermediate area status.
In the light of this bleak situation, I believe that Manchester has the right to ask for more aid. Indeed, we unhesitatingly demand it. I demand it now, and demand a response before the House agrees to the Motion.
The aid for which we ask is highlighted in two authoritative statements. The first is from the North West Industrial Development Association which, talking about the incentives in the Government's White Paper and, indeed, in the Industry Bill, said:A serious omission in the new package of incentives…appears to be the lack of any Government initiative at this stage to attract office projects to the North West.…any realistic and effective policy for achieving a better regional balance of job opportunities must include strong measures to discourage further expansion of office employment in the South together with strong incentives to encourage office development in areas such as the North West.The Manchester Evening News, in a leading article on 12th May, commenting on the same incentives, said:But there may be a flaw in the very foundations of the policy. The incentives now being offered…benefit most the highly capitalised manufacturing industries. They will not necessarily create jobs.The traditional manufacturing industries of the regions, which have now run down, were the great users of labour. The new ones are not. It is clear in America and other highly industrialised countries that employment growth is now in service industries rather than in manufacture.That authoritative leading article concluded:Service industries, moreover, can do a great deal to improve the social infrastructure of the regions, making life in old industrial areas like Greater Manchester more pleasant and therefore more attractive to people thinking of setting up factories here. They are not soft options or lazy alternatives to the man's work of coal, steel, and cotton. They are the future.1696 So I ask the Leader of the House, the former Secretary of State for Employment, in winding up, to make a positive response to these heartfelt pleas for incentives to office and other service developments in Manchester.
As part of the plea I am making at this urgent time, I submit that Manchester must also have a lively and expanding manufacturing sector. At present, two major sources of employment, with thousands of jobs at stake, are under sentence of death. I refer to the British Steel Corporation works at Irlam and Churchill Machine Tools at Altrincham. The Whitsun Recess is a crucial period, because June is the crunch month for both these establishments. It is the month which will decide whether they go ahead or whether thousands of jobs are to be lost. We can save them through the Industry Bill, which the House debated on Monday, on which it is possible for the right hon. Gentleman to make an encouraging statement tonight.
We have the right to demand the response for which we ask. I ask the Minister to make a positive statement tonight that the Government will use their powers under Clause 7 of the Industry Bill to save Churchill Machine Tools and BSC, Irlam, from closing down. Both of these actions arc possible as the Government are being given the necessary powers. I ask the Minister, in winding up, to give a specific and unambiguous promise on this matter. It is vital to save these industries, but it is even more vital that we should have expansion in our area. More incentives are needed. I ask the Leader of the House to appeal to his right hon. Friend the Minister for Industrial Development to extend the machinery and plant grants in Clause 1 of the Industry Bill to the intermediate areas—at half rate so that the differential can be maintained with the development areas—so that Manchester can have them.
All these needs are vital. Even so, they are only patchwork at best. Manchester is too important to be content with patchwork measures. The Local Government Bill, which we shall be debating when we return, recognises that Manchester is the most important metropolitan area outside London. It must be developed on a scale matching its importance. Therefore, I ask the Minister to say that the Government will agree 1697 to my plea, and that the Departments of the Environment and of Trade and Industry will draw up a comprehensive plan for Manchester. I ask them urgently to launch a survey in depth of the new greater Manchester metropolitan area taking into account the skills of its people, land availability, the markets for its products and services, an industrial census, a survey of communications, of population trends, of educational potential, of amenities and of the mass communications media.
I ask the Minister to respond by saying that, on the basis of this survey, the Government, in consultation with the local representatives of Manchester, will draw up a balanced plan for the metropolitan area's development as an employment centre—a plan which the Industry Bill, which the House has approved, can help to finance.
If the Government allow Manchester to slide into an irreversible decline—and the danger of that exists—they will commit a crime against a centre which has made a major contribution to Britain's achievements in the past and which is equipped to make an even greater contribution in the future. This great city must grow again. We must plan to bring that about, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to respond in that spirit when he winds up the debate.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
Northern Ireland Members naturally feel that the recess has come at a critical period for the people of Northern Ireland, when there is so much confused thinking on the success or otherwise of the so-called initiative. Quite clearly the initiative has failed, at any rate in its first objective which was to stop the violence, and when people talk about working for a period of 12 months towards a solution they completely ignore the fact that it was never intended that this discussion should take place against a background of gunfire and explosions. It is rather like arguing that one can put a satellite into orbit after the first stage of the rocket has failed to ignite.
There was a general belief that the shock of direct rule would somehow cause a ceasefire, at least for a temporary period. In fairness it must be said that the Government and, for that matter, the Opposition, too, were led astray by 1698 the advocates of the initiative to believe that violence would stop if only Stormont were suspended and certain other demands were met. But those who made such promises knew that they could not be kept. In plain terms, they did not and could not deliver the goods, and it must be a further disappointment to the Government that some people, even hon. Members of this House, have made little in the way of subsequent contributions.
Nor is this surprising, for what had the IRA to gain from a ceasefire? It would inevitably have resulted in the transfer of real power from the IRA command to those who, in many cases, had ridden to power on the backs of the terrorists. Nor was it reasonable to expect the terrorists who had gained their objectives by violence to retire from the stage and become forgotten and unknown men.
To me the urgency of the moment is not the "no-go" areas. Despite the helpful happenings over the last few days, it is difficult to see how the inhabitants of those areas can free themselves from the domination of the IRA, a domination which results from consolidation over a period of three years, without at least some help, and not merely encouragement from outside.
I believe that the matter which should be treated with real urgency is the containment of further extension of terrorist control. In the past few weeks the gunmen have reached out to what were hitherto peaceful areas and brought death and destruction to many innocent people, including one in my constituency. In the same period, by well-designed and well-intentioned regulations, law-abiding, decent, ordinary citizens have been prevented from parking their cars even in their own villages when they go on a shopping expedition. They are in the ludicrous position of having to park their cars in a country road, trudge into the village and trudge out again with their purchases, simply because the IRA have dictated the pace all over Northern Ireland, and not just in the danger areas.
I end with a personal experience which perhaps illustrates to right hon. and hon. Members what it is like to he a Member for a Northern Ireland constituency. Three weeks ago I had occasion to visit two old-age pensioners, constituents of 1699 mine, who live in the IRA-dominated area of Anderson's Town. Shortly after I had gone into their house there was a knock at the door and on looking through the window I saw two chaps in combat jackets and wearing IRA berets. I naturally thought that I was the attraction. The lady of the house went to the door and on returning said to her husband, "John, it is the collectors. What are we going to do?", to which he replied, "Mary, I do not think that you will get away with anything less than a pound" and the pathetic old lady had to bring out her purse, take out a pound note and give it to these rascals who then moved on to the remaining houses in the street. I naturally reported this to various authorities, but they asked, "What do you expect us to do? We cannot go in and live there". I hope that that will be accepted as an accurate and first-hand illustration of what life is like in these areas.
It is against that background that I ask the House to keep us very much in mind and in its prayers during the coming recess.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I shall not detain the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House or the House for more than one or two minutes, not because there is not plenty to say, but because it is perhaps the least effective time to say it, and so I shall not say it.
Everyone knows that the Government's legislative programme is in a hopeless tangle. Nobody knows it better than the right hon. Gentleman, and it would be almost parliamentary sadism to pursue that aspect of the matter further. But that is the reason why some of my hon. Friends from Scotland have had to plead for a proper debate on the local government matters which they wish to discuss. Many other matters which have been raised fall into that category, but they are prevented from being discussed because of the Measures which the Government are seeking to push through the House under the guillotine.
I do not wish to pursue the matters raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) at the beginning of the debate, but that is not because I do not think they are 1700 important. They are. We do not accept the statement by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that these documents are not documents presented to Parliament and therefore the criticisms which we have made of them are not apposite. When the House returns from the Recess we shall seek to return to this question because it raises important constitutional issues.
The matters concerning Ireland have been the most prominent matters discussed in this debate, and I do not believe that anyone would be critical of hon. Members, and particularly those who represent Irish constituencies, for raising them today. I think that they have every right to do so. Indeed, they have a duty to do so.
We heard the views of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). Perhaps one could say that the perversity of his opinions was matched only by the brilliance of his invective, but I am not sure which was the more effective. Perhaps one could apply that generally to every argument in almost equal proportions.
Those who spoke on Irish matters raised issues which are of supreme importance for the reputation of the House as well as for the wellbeing of the people in Ireland. Whatever differences of opinion there may be in the House, I say to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and others that we believe that they have every right to insist on full parliamentary rights to debate these matters in the House. The corollary of direct rule is that this House of Commons must provide time for their matters to be raised persistently. Indeed, because of the tragic nature of the events taking place in their constituencies they have a prior right to ensure that these questions are raised. I believe that that is the desire of the Government as a whole, and I think that the House has sought to provide time for these momentous matters to be discussed.
We are in general agreement with the initiative being attempted by the right hon. Gentleman in these matters. We believe that he is attempting to deal with them with courage. We wish him success in his operations, but we insist—and I believe he agrees with this—that he must be accountable to this House all the 1701 time, and the more we argue that power should be removed from Stormont the more necessary it becomes that the right of inquiry should exist in this House of Commons.
For the rest, it is to be hoped that we return after Whitsun refreshed to deal with some of the problems to which I have referred and many of the others which have been raised by hon. Members. This is one reason why I am in favour of our departure for a brief holiday at Whitsun. It was the greatest Irishman who ever lived, Jonathan Swift, who described the parliamentary Recess as "a lucid interval". The sooner we reach it the better.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robert Carr)
I will try not to delay the House from departing for a "lucid interval". However, I should get into trouble if, as Leader of the House, I did not deal, however briefly, with most, if not all, of the points that have been raised.
Since I first became an hon. Member of this House, some 22 years ago, it has been remarkable to me with what energy, indeed passion, some hon. Members apparently refuse to go on holiday. The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) showed that passion, and at great length, today.
I wonder how many of his hon. Friends, and some of mine, would be here next week with him if, contrary to expectation, I were to seek leave to withdraw the Motion? Be that as it may, I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) that it might be a consideration whether we should give up the Whitsun Recess in order to rise a little earlier in the summer. However, I doubt whether that would happen.
It is the experience of hon. Members that there comes a time when to have a few days off—even at the loss of four days in terms of parliamentary business, as we shall lose next week—refreshes us —I was about to say cools us down—so that we return and get on with our business with more despatch and effectiveness.
1702 Perhaps it is up to the Leader of the House to repeat at reasonably frequent intervals something which many people may not realise, namely, that hon. Members are not necessarily on holiday when the House of Commons is in recess. Indeed, we should be much less good hon. Members—I was about to say "even" less good—if we spent all our time here and did not have a few weeks now and then in the year not only spending time with some leisure in our constituencies but getting about and seeing what is happening in the country, and perhaps abroad, on the major matters which come before us.
One such matter which the hon. Member for West Ham, North raised but which his hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) did not raise—at least, not on this occasion, but with ominous warnings of what may happen on some future occasion—was the availability and accuracy of documents concerning the EEC.
I do not intend to get involved in the great debate about this subject tonight. This is not the right moment to do that. I assure the House that we are making every effort to ensure that the texts which are published are of a high standard and come forward as quickly as possible. However, in a task of this size and complexity it is no good even a supporter of Common Market membership on either side denying the complexity, difficulty and enormous size of the task involved.
We are trying to produce these texts as quickly and accurately as possible but, as I say, it is an enormous task. It is regrettable if mistakes occur, but in a task of this scale perhaps some mistakes are inevitable. The hon. Member for West Ham, North makes a lot of the 144 pages of amendments to which he often refers. But, taken in comparison with the very large volume of material involved, as a percentage of that volume the number of errors is very small indeed.
Anyone who looks through the book of amendments to which the hon. Gentleman referred will realise that some of the corrections are of a highly technical nature. Indeed, when I looked at some of the pages of the booklet during this debate I realised that to understand such matters I would have to revive the knowledge of organic chemistry which I had many years ago at university. In many instances 1703 they are matters of great detail and complexity.
§ Mr. Carr
I agree that they are important in detail, but the House will realise that such detailed technicalities exist in some of our own legislation and that errors cannot always be avoided there.
Nor is it fair to say that we always wish to debate, for example, the number of carbo atoms and the complex molecules of various compounds. I thought the hon. Gentleman made rather heavy weather of some of these technicalities, and I repeat that my hon. Friends are doing their best to ensure that these documents come forward as quickly and accurately as possible.
I assure the House also that there is no question of the Government intending deliberately to withhold material from the House. The Government have said that to be helpful to hon. Members they are willing to have information made available in advance of the official texts being printed. It is in an effort to help hon. Members who have sought such information that the Government are taking this course. This attempt to help hon. Members in advance of the universal availability of information should not be turned against the Government as some sort of crime. After all, to do so hardly encourages Ministers to be as helpful to hon. Members as they wish to be.
I come to a matter raised by the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon), the hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas) and referred to by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale; the question of local government reform in Scotland. I was asked particularly strongly by the hon. Member for Greenock to promise a day to debate this matter before the end of July. I regret that I cannot give such a definite promise.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale referred to the "tangled mess" in which the Government's legislative programme was situated. I admit that it is congested, but it is by no means tangled. The lines are clear, and they lead straight to the Summer Recess. I look back as a rela- 1704 tively new Leader of the House with horror and dismay at some of the tasks that faced some of my predecessors in office. I think, for example, of what faced the then Leader of the House in 1966 when hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power. Compared with that, my task is a relatively simple one. I concede, however, that there is congestion.
I understand the strong desire of hon. Members from Scotland to debate this matter and I wish that I could give the promise sought by the hon. Member for Greenock. I cannot, but I hope I shall succeed in what I regard as one of my first tasks as Leader of the House, which is not to promise what I cannot perform. I hope occasionally to perform what I have not promised. I certainly do not want to achieve the reverse.
Without casting any blame for the choice of subjects, I hope that hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies will agree that the Scottish Grand Committee is the forum in which these matters can be discussed. It was, after all, one of the reasons for establishing first the Scottish Grand Committee and then the Welsh Grand Committee that some of these matters for which it is difficult to find time on the Floor of the House—matters of immense importance to Scotland and Wales—could be discussed with greater freedom in their own special forum.
Although I wish I could give the promise for which the hon. Member for Greenock asked, I regret that I cannot do so. Nor would I wish to pretend that the outlook is very bright for such a day before the Summer Recess.
The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Latham) raised two matters, and I will deal with one of them straight away. He asked for a statement from my right hon. Friend about the implementation of the Housing Finance Bill. The hon. Member raised a number of extremely important but also, as I am sure he would admit, very detailed and technical points to which a non-departmental Minister such as myself would not be expected to be able to reply in a substantial way. I will draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to what the hon. Gentleman has said. I know that my right hon. Friend is considering some of these matters, notably, for example, the proposals put to him by Birmingham, and 1705 has not yet made up his mind about them. I cannot accept the charges made by the hon. Gentleman against my right hon. Friend and his Department of dodging answers to the questions they have been asked. We have to bear in mind that this Bill is still a Bill. It is not yet an Act. It is still going through another place. For all we know, it might have to return to this House before finally becoming an Act. But I will draw my right hon. Friend's attention to what the hon. Gentleman has said.
I come now to a matter to which I did not expect to have to reply. I know that on these occasions Leaders of the House are expected to have a very clear crystal ball into which they can gaze and prepare themselves for answering questions on almost anything. But I did not expect to have to reply about the United Reformed Church Bill. I was relieved when my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) appeared and began to inform the House about this matter, only very properly to be called to order by yourself, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the briefing of the Leader of the House being cut short in mid-stream. But I may say to my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) that this Private Bill is going through the proper Private Bill machinery as far as I know. I do not believe that there can be any question of contempt or a matter of privilege—if there were, it would not be for me to pronounce upon—but I will make some inquiries and brief myself about it to make myself better informed than I am at present.
I return to the point raised by the hon. Member for Paddington, North, a point which he has raised with me not only in the debate this evening but also at Business Question time for two weeks running, and by this Early Day Motion on the Order Paper, namely, the effect on the opportunity to hon. Members of introducing Ten-Minute Rule Bills on allocated days under timetable Motions. I am afraid that I must maintain the position I have stated in reply to Business Questions. I cannot suggest that the House should alter the existing timetable Motions under which it is working and which have been passed by the House. I repeat that as far as I know the effects that these Motions are having on such 1706 activities as Ten-Minute Rule Bills are not new. They are, I think, in line with past precedent. But perhaps I may underline a little more carefully than is possible in answering a Business Question the fact that as Leader of the House I shall particularly bear this point in mind if, alas, I should ever have to consider the drafting of timetable Motions in the future, because I doubt whether it is necessary to have this restriction. I should not like to be categorical about it, but I assure the hon. Member that if ever we have to draft any timetable Motions in the future I will take this point carefully into account and see whether we can avoid this unfortunate effect in the future.
§ Mr. Latham
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for that amplification of the assurance that I understood him to give at business question time. It is not at all a complicated matter; it is simply a matter of restoring our Ten-Minute Bill right, at present. I have put the point to the right hon. Gentleman that the volume of guillotine days occurring at present is unprecedented. In view of the kind way in which he is receiving representations, would it really be so difficult simply to allow time in the House to enable back benchers to pass the Motion which I have tabled?
§ Mr. Carr
The holiday mood tempts one to be kind to all, but I am sorry to tell the hon. Member that I must stick where I stand on this matter, and I cannot offer any chance of changing what we are doing at present. But I will try to see that the matter is considered on any future occasions.
The hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) raised a number of points about the problems of the Manchester area. Of course unemployment in that area is higher than we ought to regard as acceptable for that area, just as it has been in almost every part of the country for some time past. I cannot make specific announcements about matters which are the responsibility of my colleagues in the Government—I am sure that the hon. Member knows that—least of all may I make specific statements about exactly how the powers will be used in relation to a Bill which received its Second Reading only a few 1707 days ago and is not yet an Act of Parliament. It would be improper as well as rather difficult for me to do so. But I am sure that my right lion. Friend the Minister responsible will take into account the matters raised by the hon. Gentleman.
When the hon. Gentleman talked about the problems of unemployment, I felt that he was rather short in having anything to say about how this situation has arisen. In Manchester, as throughout the country, there can be little doubt that the main cause of our present unemployment difficulties is the effect of five or six years of almost complete economic stagnation culminating in an unprecedented cost-inflationary explosion. That is undoubtedly the main cause. The main remedy is to achieve expansion. That is the key to the Government's economic strategy. That has been the purpose of the measures we have taken. Those measures are now beginning to have effect. Growth is beginning to come, and it is the Government's policy to maintain sustained growth. If we are successful in that, it is only within that context that not only unemployment in total but unemployment in particular areas can be solved. It is only in the context of economic expansion, to which the Government are committed, that the unprecedented incentives which we are giving to the special regions will fruitfully be able to take effect. So it is a combination of special incentives and overall sustained growth that is the remedy for the problems the hon. Gentleman raised about Manchester, and not only those of Manchester but those of the whole country.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman very strongly about the importance in this modern world of giving better treatment to service industries. As he will realise, that is why we have reversed the policy which the Labour Government used to pursue in these matters, notably by the abolition of selective employment tax.
I come lastly to a matter which I have deliberately left until last because it was, clearly, the most important subject which has arisen in the debate; that is, the subject of Northern Ireland. I think that five hon. Members spoke about this matter, and I am glad that of those five —and many more could have spoken—two of them—in other words, almost half 1708 —were hon. Members representing English constituencies. I am glad that it was not only hon. Members from Northern Ireland who were expressing concern. Indeed, I have got my arithmetic wrong. Six hon. Members mentioned this matter, including the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. So over half of the hon. Members who have stressed the vital importance of this subject do not represent a Northern Ireland constituency.
It is right that all parts of the House of Commons should make clear to the people in Northern Ireland their understanding of the tense, critical, tragic and highly dangerous situation which exists in that Province. On behalf of the Government, I say to them that we, of course, understand the concern with security, with the need for law and order, and with the need not just to condemn but as soon as possible to eradicate the murder and intimidation taking place there.
What we want to say also to those who are so worried about these matters is that, in our view, and in the view of the overwhelming majority in the House, it is necessary, if we are to see an end to this situation, that a policy of law, order and security, and its enforcement, should be combined now with political initiatives and new attempts at reconciliation between the different sections of the communities.
I know that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) takes another view. [Interruption.] The hon. and learned Gentleman is, as he himself said, a compassionate man. I know this from having been in the House with him for more than 20 years. Indeed, the hon. and learned Gentleman has been here for longer than I have. I am aware of the number of issues on which he has shown his compassionate nature.
However, the hon. and learned Gentleman seems to me to be inconsistent on this subject; because, when he was commending the qualities which he believed were desired in Northern Ireland, I thought that he was drawing our attention to the qualities which, because they had been only too evidence, not just in Northern Ireland but in the whole of Ireland, 100, 200 and 300 years ago, were part of the reason why we are in this trouble today. I do not believe that 1709 those are the qualities of approach to which the Irish people do most happily respond.
Of course there are risks and dangers in the new policy. Hon. Members who criticise the new policy should in all fairness ask themselves whether the old policy was showing any signs of working. I do not think that in fairness it can be said that it was.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton talked about the euphoria which had arisen about the activities of women in Londonderry or anywhere else. I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland showed any euphoria today.
§ Mr. Carr
We often suffer, not only in this subject but in many others, from excesses and exaggerations of reporting in the news media, which either make everything unnecessarily black or unnecessarily white, either gloomy or hopeful.
It is a very serious situation. We should not be too depressed with melancholia, nor should we give way to euphoria when something goes right.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) said something rather critical about my right hon. Friend's announcement of the Advisory Commission. My right hon. Friend thought it right to take the earliest opportunity of informing the House of the composition of the Commission and the fact that it had been set up. He thought it right, however, not to take up the time of the House by giving the names in his statement today, because he wanted also in his statement to do what he felt that the House wanted; namely, to deal with other matters as well as simply the membership of the Commission. I hope that the House will acquit my right hon. Friend of in any way deliberately trying to keep the names of the members of the Commission away from the House or of trying to protect himself from any criticism on this point.
My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) had something important to say about accountability, the question of what was to happen to fill the gap left by the Public 1710 Accounts Committee of Stormont and of the Northern Ireland Comptroller and Auditor-General, in regard to the expenditure of all the Northern Ireland Departments, in particular of the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation.
I assure the House that my right hon Friend is very aware of this and is actively studying what can be done. He hopes soon to be able to come forward with arrangements and with an answer which will, I hope, satisfy my hon. Friend and other hon. Members that we intend to ensure that there is the proper sort of accountability through bodies like the Public Accounts Committee and the Comptroller and Auditor-General. I cannot give a categorical answer here and now, but my right hon. Friend authorised me, when I gave the House the assurance that he was looking into the matter, to strike a hopeful note about the outcome.
Finally, I have very much in mind the need for parliamentary debate and control over the affairs of Northern Ireland. This was something about which the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale properly had something to say in his few remarks. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East spoke about the particular need for a safety valve, as have other hon. Members from Northern Ireland. Although the position may not in their eyes be by any means satisfactory, I hope that they will feel that we have made some progress in the last week or two in the right direction. We are having frequent statements from my right hon. Friend. Not only have there been the statements my right hon. Friend made today and last week, but earlier this week he answered a Private Notice Question. On each occasion there has been an opportunity of widespread questioning of my right hon. Friend. I believe that there is an Adjournment debate tonight which my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is to answer.
I was particularly glad that in my Business Statement earlier today I was able to announce considerable time for Northern Ireland affairs on Monday,.5th June, and on Monday, 12th June. Particularly on Monday, 12th June. I hope we shall have a substantial amount of time, and I hope that the nature of the business to be dealt with on the second half of that day will enable the debate to range fairly wide and to deal 1711 with some of the matters which I know that hon. Members want to take up.
I repeat that I will be very ready to discuss not only with the usual channels, but particularly with hon. Members from Northern Ireland how best they think we might arrange that debate to meet their needs as fully as possible.
I realise that there is still a major problem to overcome about Northern Ireland legislation. I think it will probably be acceptable that those Measures which have been either completely through or through most of the Stormont procedures can be dealt with in a relatively quick and easy way in the House; and at least some hon. Members from Northern Ireland have indicated to me that that would be the case. I realise that when we move onto new legislation or legislation which has not been fully debated at Stormont we must find some more effective machinery here.
Discussions are going on. One of the things that we shall have to consider very seriously, and I believe adopt, is some form of Northern Ireland Committee to deal not only with general subjects but also with legislation in a manner which is consonant with proper parliamentary control. I am sorry that the discussions have not yet been completed and that I cannot make a definitive statement now. The matter is very much on my mind.
I think that I have dealt with most of the matters which have been raised in the debate, though I am sure that I have not dealt with all of them completely satisfactorily. I believe the House has earned a few days of tranquility and calm and that we shall return the better for it. I can only wish all hon. Members a few pleasant days' rest.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House at its rising tomorrow do adjourn till Monday, 5th June.