§ motion made, and question proposed, That this House at its rising tomorrow do adjourn till Monday 10th January.—[Mr.Foot.]
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)
The Leader of the House will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that this is the only year in this century in which there has not been more than one day set apart for a foreign affairs debate. Certainly we have had no proper discussion of matters relating to foreign affairs. Further, the Select Committee on Cyprus has sat and reported to this House as long ago as April. Yet we have still not had an opportunity to debate that report, which is of the deepest concern to hon. Members in all parts of the House.
The mismanagement of the business of the House this year has been intolerable. Every single moment has been taken up with a volume of indigestible legislation. Because of this we have not fully discussed the financial state of the nation and we have as a result shut away from ourselves, in true parochial fashion, the opportunities which the House has always hitherto had for full and proper discussion of international affairs.
I would not have sought to raise this subject on the Adjournment but I do not believe that it is right that we should go into recess this Christmas without an opportunity for some of us to express a view upon the Middle Eastern situation at a time when a new initiative can be seized in different parts thereof, not only in Greece and Turkey but—and I see the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) in his place—in Israel and throughout the Arab States. An international initiative to break the deadlock is now vital. That international initiative must come from British leadership.
690 More than any other country we have an obligation with Greece and Turkey to find a solution to this problem. We must not sit back. We must take active steps to secure that solution. I would like to draw attention to some wise words uttered by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition at a dinner on 24th November, which I believe represent the policy which ought to be adopted not only by the Conservative Party but by the Government. My right hon. Friend said:I would like to see a much stronger effort to concert the foreign policies of the Nine and to ensure that the economic strength and importance of the Community are used to further our common interests. Let us take for example, the unsolved problems of Cyprus which continue to overshadow peace in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus, Greece and Turkey all have agreements with the Community; and Greece, with our full support, is negotiating for membership. I would like to see a joint initiative between the Community and the new American administration to bring together the different parties on the island and outside and make a strenuous effort to achieve the settlement which has eluded us all for so long.In the recent election in the United States we know that strong support was given to President-elect Carter by the Greek community. We know, too, that the new Foreign Secretary in Mr. Carter's administration is an experienced man with a desire to secure a solution in the Middle East, more particularly with a desire to bring together Turkey and Greece and to resolve the problems of Cyprus and the Aegean. This is the moment for our country, for the first time for many years, to seek to show true British leadership. In the report of the Select Committee on Cyprus, which I had the honour to initiate, we said:Her Majesty's Government should raise with the Members of the EEC the need for an early solution of the constitutional problems in Cyprus and invite early consideration of this issue in the European Parliament.A further initiative on Cyprus should be made at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.Britain had a legal right, a moral obligation, and the military capacity to intervene".That the Government had that opportunity and could have intervened in July and August 1974 there is no doubt. Had they decided to intervene at that stage, we should not be in the serious predicament in which we find ourselves in today.
691 On 14th June this year, Lord Caradon, speaking in another place, said:But if, when with the authority of my Government "—and this comes from a person very close and dear to the heart of the Leader of the House—I signed the Treaty of Guarantee, I had been told that the events—of which we now know—would take place without our Government intervening to take effective action to prevent the disasters which have befallen the island, I would not have believed it possible. I should have thought it was inconceivable."—[Official Report, House of Lords; 14th June 1976; Vol. 371, c. 1047.]The Leader of the House knows full well that members of the Labour Party in another place are unanimous in their view that it is time we secured effective action. It is also true in this House, from the extreme Left of the political spectrum to the extreme Right, across all parties. We all believe that we should exert much greater effort to secure a solution in Cyprus.
Nobody could be so arrogant as to suggest that he had any one solution which would necessarily prove to be successful. But the Select Committee drew attention to a number of options, all of a constructive nature, that were open to us. We pointed out that everything hinged on unanimity of thinking in the EEC, and whether the EEC would seek to use the mailed fist or take more diplomatic action. The EEC could virtually force a solution. It has control over the arms and over the economy of those nations. It is not for me to say whether that is the right approach, but I believe that the situation is now such that it is imperative that the newly appointed President of the Commission, who this year is British, should at the beginning of the year immediately seek an initiative for a joint foreign policy on this issue with all the countries of the EEC.
In this area we have not so far had the successes and initiatives in the Common Market that have been seen in many others. Some of the initiatives in other matters have been failures, but at least they have been tried. For example, the common agricultural policy may have met with many failures but no one could say that there has not been much effort and much discussion. In this area of foreign policy, on the other hand, there has been virtually no public effort. 692[a2] We are told that conversations and diplomatic talks are continuing. No doubt they are, but it is time now for positive action and debate here and in the European Assembly. Where is the joint approach of Right and Left, with both parties getting together to say that Britain will give a lead to secure a solution? This matter should, therefore, be debated before we rise for the recess.
I think that the problem is not always sufficiently understood. After all, the Republic of Cyprus was established as an independent State, except for the two base areas over which we have retained our sovereignty. The Government have stressed that that will continue and that the sovereign bases will not be handed over to NATO or anyone else. But the independence and basic constitutional order, guaranteed by Britain, Greece and Turkey, overrules and outlaws Enosis and Taksim—the division of the island—and both those solutions were ruled out again in 1965 by the United Nations mediator Galo Plaza.
In 1972 the population of Cyprus was about 650,000, of whom over 110,000 were Turkish. What is the present situation? The Turks command some 40 per cent. of the Island, including Famagusta, the heart of the tourist centre. At present it is being pillaged. Much of the property is being destroyed. The ownership of the property is, in fact, Greek Cypriot. The trouble is that it does not matter who the owners are; the whole of the valuable tourist industry is being set at naught by the continued retention of control of Famagusta by the Turks.
It is an open sercret that the Turks themselves do not particularly wish to retain Famagusta. If there is to be a partition, it can only be by the agreement of the peoples of Cyprus. Surely, this House could at least unite to say—whether or not one feels that the Turks may have been badly treated in the past, and no doubt there is a great deal of force in such arguments—that it is in the interests of both Turk and Greek alike, and not only in the island, to bring the two sides together. Only by a solution of the Cyprus problem and then of the problems in the Aegean can we, together with the other countries of Europe, secure them as valuable allies in NATO once more, and as partners whom we need in the battle against Soviet imperialism.
693 This must be viewed as an extremely important matter for our nation. It is shameful that this Government have so mismanaged their business that we have not been able to discuss this problem on the Floor of the House or have an opportunity to discuss other wider and equally important problems throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. The problems in Israel, the Arab States and the Aegean, and the question of which issues can by law be referred to The Hague and which should be so referred are just some many such issues.
I hope profoundly that next year we shall have an opportunity in this House to discuss matters of overriding importance both to Britain and to the rest of the world rather than engage in the party-political bickering on small issues which casts a shadow on what this great assembly ought to be.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)
I shall not take up the argument presented by the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies), except to say that I agree with him that we should have had a foreign affairs debate. I make but three comments on what he said. First, if we look to Israel at the moment we see the perils and horrors of coalition government and the sort of miseries that can come about when one is forced into partnership with those whom one would prefer not to have in the same Government.
Second, I agree that this is a time when we should be doing all we can to help the parties to come to terms in the Middle East. I hope that there will be a return to Geneva, and that it will be a meeting of representatives of decent Governments, not of terrorist organisations—of people who want to make peace, not war.
Third, it is a matter of the gravest concern both in the House and throughout the world that within the last 24 hours there have been arrests in Russia of people who had been seeking to leave the Soviet Union to go to live in Israel in peace and freedom and who have committed no crime whatever. I am sorry that we do not have an opportunity to debate that matter, and I ask the Leader of the House, who is known for his passionate concern for the freedom of all peoples, not just those privileged to live in and serve this country, to ask the 694 Government to express to the Soviet authorities the disgust and anxiety of all right hon. and hon. Members at the current treatment of minorities in the Soviet Union, and our particular concern for the safety of those who have been arrested in the last 24 hours. I was told only a few minutes ago that they have simply disappeared. Their families do not know where they are, their children do not know and their colleagues do not know. They are among the most distinguished and bravest of the people fighting for freedom in the world today—professors and men of learning—and all they wished was to hold a seminar in a private house, having been forbidden to do so in public, as they should be entitled.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
Before the House adjourns for Christmas there ought to be some expression of our concern about what Mr. Bukovsky has said. He claims that since the Helsinki Agreement the measures taken against dissidents in Moscow have been harsher than before.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
The scope of the debate on the Adjournment for the recess always presents considerable problems for the House. What I have listened to since I came into the Chamber today is a foreign affairs debate. The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) has not yet made any reference to the Adjournment. I know that it is difficult, and that the scope of the debate is wide, but it is wholly irrelevant to have an Adjournment debate on foreign affairs.
§ Mr. Janner
I bow to your judgment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I thought I had twice referred to the fact that the House must not adjourn without discussing this matter. We in this House are concerned not only with our own freedoms but with the freedoms of others. I respectfully suggest that this is a matter of grave concern to all of us and that the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West should have been able to make the speech that he did make.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am not disputing that this is a matter of grave concern. I must make that abundantly clear. The question is whether this is the occasion to express such concern, and whether this should be a foreign affairs debate.
§ Mr. Janner
In any event, I wish to raise, briefly, another matter which is of immediate and absolute concern, namely, the disgraceful behaviour of the Post Office in connection with discrimination against people who live in particular streets or areas. I had hoped that this could be debated before the House rose for the recess.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am sorry to interrupt so often, but the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West was successful in the ballot to raise this matter in the Consolidated Fund Bill debate, but he chose to withdraw.
§ Mr. Janner
It was No. 19 in the list of subjects for debate and the reason that—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
It may have been nineteenth in the list and not reached until 10 o'clock in the morning, but that is the business of the House and the way in which the House conducts its business on the Consolidated Fund Bill.
§ Mr. Janner
I am much obliged to you for that indication, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall try to be extremely brief.
I wish especially to raise matters that have happened since then and that will concern all hon. Members—not only those who might have been awake at the hour at which the subject might have been raised during the Consolidated Fund Bill debate. The matter is of enormous interest and importance and it verges on a question of privilege.
Sir Edward Fennessy, who is the deputy chairman of the Post Office Corporation, responsible for telecommunications, has continued to refuse to give me details of those areas in my own constituency in which discrimination is exercised. It is bad enough that the Post Office should say that because someone lives in a particular street it will not give that person a telephone without payment of a large sum in advance. It is worse when a great corporation insists on shrouding its operations in a cloak of secrecy and refuses to give MPs information about the people against whom it is discriminating.
During the last few hours I have received a huge number of letters and telephone calls from all over the country. 696 They indicate that this is not a local matter at all, but one which concerns people from the North of Scotland to the South of England.
In those circumstances, I am sorry that we cannot debate the Post Office and other establishments in the private and public sectors that seek to impose credit terms, demand advances and insist upon deposits, not because an individual person is or is not creditworthy—as they are entitled to do—but because of where a person happens to live. This form of guilt by habitation ought to be banned from both private and public sectors. Sir Edward Fennessy ought now to change his methods, apologise for refusing to give information and apologise for his delay in replying to constituency letters, or resign.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
I wish to speak against the motion for the Adjournment of the House on the grounds that the House should not adjourn tomorrow until it has discussed Early-Day Motions Nos. 57, 58 and 59 that have been put down in the names of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) and myself and that relate to bankruptcy matters. The House should not adjourn until some assurances have been received from the Government about those matters.
In order that the House may form some view as to the merits of my proposition I must give the barest outline of the background upon which it is based. The House knows that a measure called the Insolvency Bill came to us from the Lords early this year and that it occupied much of our time until 26th October when the Bill went through its final stages here.
The Bill had a bad start because there had been no consultation at all. That matter was repaired through the joint efforts of Ministers, Opposition Members and a working party of banisters and solicitors that rendered very great assistance to all those who were concerned with this measure. That is of particular relevance to my motion for a reason which I will tie into my argument in a moment.
I need not remind the House that bankruptcy is one of the few remaining ways in which a person lawfully owed 697 money may recover it from another who has assets but will not pay. It was proposed to put up the minimum debt upon which a bankruptcy petition could be founded, and quite rightly so because the value of money has changed. There was considerable argument about the threshold and the Government finally accepted our view that it should be £200 and not £300.
That is, however, only one of the monetary considerations which are very important when a person has to decide whether to take advantage of the bankruptcy procedure. The other consideration is the size of the deposit that must be paid when a bankruptcy petition is filed. At the moment it is £5 in the case of a man filing his own petition and £7.50 for a creditor filing a petition against a debtor.
These deposits are not altered by statute in the same way as the £200 limit which has therefore been fully discussed by the House. These limits are altered by Statutory Instrument made by the Lord Chancellor with the concurrence of the Secretary of State for Trade. Furthermore, the form of Statutory Instrument used is one which does not come before the House at all and is not even subject to the negative procedure. It is called a Statutory Instrument and it is laid before the House but there is no procedure open to us to discuss what is being done by such a Statutory Instrument.
Right from the start, it was known that the Government proposed to change these deposits and to put them up dramatically. It was also known that we could not discuss the merits and demerits of that within the debates on the Bill because the matter did not come within the provisions of the Bill. On 27th April the question of these deposits was raised and I ask the House to bear that date in mind because although the Government have frequently said since then that this matter of the deposits was urgent, nothing was done about it until 15th November, the date when the Bill received Royal Assent.
By 1st June we had all agreed that something else should be done. That was that a new Rules Committee should be set up to consider rules such as the one 698 of which I have just spoken, and which hitherto had not been open to consideration either by hon. Members or by anyone else. It will be no surprise to the House to know that the argument was advanced at an early stage that because we could not discuss the question of raising these deposits in the House, that question should be postponed until this new Committee was in being and could consider them.
On 1st June, however, the Under-Secretary of State for Trade wrote to me as follows:I ought to add, however, that we shall not be able to delay, until the Committee has been set up, the amendment to the Bankruptcy Rules which will give effect to the increased deposits required to be paid on the presentation of bankruptcy petitions, as these are crucial features in reducing the present excessive strains on the Insolvency Service.I ask the House, against that background, to bear in mind that nothing was in fact done until 15th November. It transpired that it was not quite as urgent as the Minister had at that stage suggested.
On 17th June in Committee I warned the Minister that if the deposits were to be put up in such a way or at such a time as to preclude the Committee from looking at them, that procedure would be open to serious criticism. That is exactly what has now happened, and I adhere to the view that what happened is open to serious criticism. Further, the Leader of the House knows, I think, that that view is held strongly by many hon. Members and by interested persons outside the House particularly those who did so much to help those of us in the House to improve the Bill.
It is fair to say that the Minister said that he could not give me the undertaking for which I asked on 17th June. The result was of course that we set up a watching system, to make sure that the order was not laid without our knowing, for if the order had been laid while the Bill was still going through the House, we would still have had our negotiating position to assist us with our argument about those changes.
But nothing happened, no order was made before, on 26th October, on Report, the Under-Secretary of State for Trade introduced a new clause setting up the Committee that we all wanted to see 699 set up. I wish to quote one paragraph from what he then said:The purpose of the clause is to establish a committee which will be under a statutory duty to keep the bankruptcy and winding-up rules under review and to make recommendations to the Lord Chancellor about any changes in the rules which the committee deems it to be desirable.But it is to the next sentence that I wish particularly to draw to the attention of the Leader of the House:In addition, the Lord Chancellor will be obliged to consult the committee before exercising his existing powers to make bankruptcy or winding-up rules."—[Official Report, 26th October 1976; Vol 918, c. 287.]I and others inside and outside the House felt at that stage that the battle that had been waging was over, and that the Minister was saying in effect "We have not put up the deposits yet. We shall now have a Rules Committee which will do such-and-such in the future and, in addition, the Lord Chancellor will have to submit changes under his existing powers to that committee." On that day the Bill went through very amicably, and we all thought that that was the end of the matter.
On 11th November—after the Bill had completed all its stages here—the Lord Chancellor signed an order putting up the deposits. On 15th November that order was signed by the Secretary of State for Trade. Also on 15th November the Bill received the Royal Assent. No information about this was before Parliament even then because the order was not laid until 24th November. None of us suspected anything.
Had we not just passed a Bill which included provision for setting up a Rules Committee to which such rules would in future be submitted, and had we not received an assurance from the Under-Secretary of State for Trade that the committee would consider the rules made under the Lord Chancellor's existing power? How innocent we were! On 19th November another order had been made—the commencement order bringing into force Section 10, which set up the Rules Committee. This order brought that section into force on 20th December.
So the order putting up the deposits was made on 15th November, laid on 24th November, and came into operation on Friday 17th December whilst the 700 order setting up the Rules Committee was made on 19th November, and brought those provisions into force on Monday 20th December. The various provisions had been so used that nothing was done until the House had lost its position in relation to the matter and, in particular, the Opposition had lost their negotiating position. The two powers were then used in such a way as to ensure that the deposits were raised to these highly controversial sums on the Friday before the Monday on which the Rules Committee which should have looked at them was to come into being.
An outside observer has made this moderate comment:The timing of these orders is striking.So it is. The Opposition have so far taken the view that they could not believe that Ministers would deliberately so use their powers as to produce intentionally a situation in which matters of great interest to the public were precluded from discussion by anyone. If that were done deliberately, it would be disgraceful.
Two Ministers are concerned—the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Trade. I am happy to say at once that I am assured by the Under-Secretary of State for Trade that the Lord Chancellor was not concerned in the timing. I am not surprised at that, and I am happy to accept and repeat that information. I am left wondering about the actions of others who must be concerned.
I am choosing my words carefully, because I would still much rather see this put right than make a fuss about it. It can be put right. The new deposits came into operation on Monday, two days ago. If the order were withdrawn, the few who have paid the new deposits could be given their money back and for the short period it would take to deal with the matter properly the old rates could continue to apply.
I urge upon the Leader of the House that he should take action. It is very important that he do so for two main reasons. First, it simply is not right that such charges should be made without the opportunity for discussion of them particularly when, as in this instance, that opportunity could be so readily provided.
Secondly, I want to read one passage from a letter written by the chairman 701 of the joint working party to which I referred earlier, to the Solicitor-General. Having set out the timing to which I have referred, he said:Sorry as I am to say it, it is precisely conduct of this kind which fosters the disillusionment and lack of trust which already constitutes a very serious division between politicians and the rest of the community, including, I fear, the professions.I know the writer of that letter as a moderate and fair man. I want the Leader of the House to understand that that is the feeling of people outside the House who have taken an interest in this matter and themselves worked hard for so long to assist us in improving the Bill. If at the end of it all, because of some mistake or because somebody—at what level I do not know—thought that it was clever, we were to set all that at nought when it could be so easily put right, I think we would be mad.
I end by relating my argument to the motion again. For the reasons that I have given I do not think that this House ought to adjourn without discussing this matter, or—I repeat my alternative—receiving an asurance from the Government that steps will be taken to remedy the grievances to which I have referred, I consider that they are very real and genuine grievances but whether they are or not, there are many people like the writer of the letter that I have quoted who feel very strongly that that is so. They are grievances which can do nothing but harm to this House and which could defeat any future efforts to ensure the kind of co-operation that we had on this Bill unless we take some steps to put them right—and it is so easy for us to take steps to put the matter right if we just have the will to do so.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I would raise the £6½ million investment by Barclays Bank in the South Africa Defence Bond fund as a reason why the House should not go into recess tomorrow. This matter was reported last week when it was revealed that the £6½ million investment is the largest contribution so far to the South African Government's appeal for a fighting fund which now totals £60 million.
In response to questions about why the bank had done this, the managing director 702 of Barclays National in South Africa said:We regard the contribution as part of our social responsibility, not only to the country at a particular stage in its history, but also to staff members called upon to do service on our borders.That means South Africa's borders. The kind of social responsibility and the kind of society in that country is revealed in a report from Johannesburg on the 15th December headed:Another detainee dies in South Africa.It stated:He is Mr. George Botha, aged 30 a teacher,who had been taken in for detention and questioning. Mr. Botha is the ninth person to die in detention in South Africa this year. The report adds:His death comes only three days after an Oxford graduate detainee, Mr. Wellington Tshasibane, was found dead in a police cell.When the Press made inquiries to the South African police about what had happened the Commissioner, General Gert Prinsloo, said:He jumped down a staircase well next to the lift as he was being taken up to the office.This kind of excuse with regard to the number of people who have died while in detention, or under questioning and torture in South African prisons, numbers many dozens. Often the excuse is that a person jumped out of a window nine storeys up and was under no pressure or harassment. General Prinsloo said of Mr. Botha:He hadn't been questioned yet.That is a common reply—that a person had not been under questioning and had been under no pressure or harassment. These people were just so terrified about what might happen to them that they had to take this course of action. The number of times and the number of ways that this kind of death to people in detention occurs is serious.
It was reported that on 10th December, 433 people were held in detention, some of them without trial and many of them without charge. It is true that some of them are released. But we know that there are many hundreds still in detention and that this is only the tip of the iceberg of the violence in South Africa.
One has only to remember the events in Soweto and many other townships to realise the kind of society in which 703 Barclays National believes that it has a social responsibility. Barclays Bank is important not just because of this investment. We ought to realise the important part that Barclays National plays in the banking system of South Africa itself.
§ Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)
It is important to point out that Barclays Bank, while in no way condoning the Government in South Africa—indeed, I in no way condone the Government in South Africa—was simply making an investment switch from one necessary form of investment for continuing operations within South Africa to another necessary form of investment under the Government's rules. The bank was not condoning any action by the Government by making this cross-investment.
§ Mr. Hughes
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so, I think that is the lamest excuse that I have heard.
§ Mr. Rathbone
It is true.
§ Mr. Hughes
There is no compulsion on Barclays National to put one farthing or one rand or one pound or whatever into the fighting fund. Barclays Bank is under an obligation to hold a certain amount of its investment in general stock within South Africa, but there is nothing whatever to compel it to cross-reference that investment. The hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) suggests the lamest of excuses.
The hon. Gentleman recognised the importance of Barclays, but Barclays is not the only bank. Barclays and the Standard Bank have dominated the South African banking scene for the last 50 years, despite pressure from the buildup in the number of Afrikaner banks. Two major British-owned banks control over 60 per cent. of South Africa's banking deposits. Indeed, they have gone much further. Taking all the different types of banks together—commercial banks, merchant banks, general banks and hire-purchase houses—British companies have majority holdings in four of the South African top 20 and substantial minority holdings in many others. Their banking business goes right across the board within South Africa itself. As the hon. Member for Lewes said, Barclays Bank and other British companies 704 and multinationals have told us many times that they do not condone apartheid and that they are against apartheid. We have had enough of those pious protestations. We have been told that they had their money in South Africa not to defend or support the white minority but to help the black majority. All of us on this side of the House, and, I believe, many hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side, know that that is not true.
We have always known that these companies had a vested interest in maintaining apartheid. In the past we have described the multinationals and British companies that had such investments as the accomplices of apartheid. With hindsight and in view of what has happened recently, that is too charitable. It is perfectly clear that they are the bulwark of apartheid. They are the mainstay and an integral part of the apartheid system, because neither investments nor apartheid could exist one without the other.
The assertion by Barclays that the investment is a social responsibility clearly shows that it is firmly in support of the apartheid system. It is investing voluntarily, without any pressure whatever, in defence bonds to ensure that the South African army is built up and that it has the best of equipment in order to carry out its policy of oppression.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch and Lymington)
In the hon. Gentleman's opinion does the same situation pertain because the present Government are making available long-term, low-interest loans to the Soviet Union? Does that mean that the present Government are in support of the Communist Party in Russia?
§ Mr. Hughes
I think that we are speaking about different matters. We are speaking, on the one hand, about bilateral trade and, on the other hand, about a company which, in the view of many of its supporters, has said that it is entirely opposed to apartheid, yet is willing to place itself firmly in that system and to support the deliberate oppression and massacre of people. Does the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) defend the system of apartheid? I certainly do not defend the Soviet system. We always hear these selective arguments from the hon. Gentleman.
705 I raised this question with the Prime Minister by letter, but so far I have received only an acknowledgement. I also raised the matter with the Leader of the House during business questions last Thursday. My right hon. Friend said that he would look into the matter, try to discover what the position was, and report to the House. The House certainly should not go into recess until it has a report on what action the Government intend to take.
I hope that we shall not be told that the matter is purely and simply for Barclays National in South Africa and that the Government have no locus. I point out that 65 per cent. of Barclays National is owned by Barclays in the United Kingdom, so there is a direct British rôle in this investment.
The Government took the view—I welcomed it, although it did not go far enough—that they had a responsibility for the way in which British companies behaved in South Africa when, following the Public Expenditure Committee Report, they sent guidelines to British companies operating in South Africa regarding the conditions that they should offer to black workers, wage rates, trade union participation, and so on. The Government recognised that, although the companies may be subsidiaries of British companies, they had a clear locus in the matter.
I believe that the matter goes further. The Labour Party has adopted a tough programme of action to try to end apartheid in South Africa. If, by means of shifting money from one place to another, multinationals can bypass the Government's policy on apartheid, particularly the arms embargo, it is an extremely serious matter.
Many people, having heard of this investment, have called upon the Government to insist that the investment be cancelled. We believe that apartheid brings nothing but horror to the people who have to live under it. This system has gone on for many years. It is time that the Government took strong action on their policy towards South Africa. In particular, they should tell the multinationals that they do not regard their 706 presence in South Africa as helpful to the people who have suffered under such domination for so long.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I wish to speak against the motion.
In common with other hon. Members, I had raised with me late last night matters which I believe call for a ministerial statement—namely, the effects of the Government's measures on the concrete pipe industry. Only yesterday we had the opportunity of debating at length the general economic measures, but little specific information was forthcoming. Many hon. Members will have constituents and constituent firms who are beginning to realise what the effects of the economic measures will mean to them.
I want to draw the Lord President's attention to the concrete pipe industry. It is important that we get a ministerial statement regarding the effects of the economic measures on that industry. However, the procedure open to us offers little prospect of any such statement being made. I hope that the Leader of the House will use the means at his disposal of averting the necessity for opposing the motion by ensuring that he has information to bring before the House when he winds up the debate. The House should not go into recess before this serious matter has been dealt with.
It is all very well for us to pass a motion saying that we can go home and enjoy Christmas with our families, but we must show concern for constituents who may pack up work for Christmas for the last time, because, unlike us, they will have no work waiting for them after the recess. That is the position facing the concrete pipe industry, which is closely tied to the water and sewerage industries and the work of the regional water authorities which are to be heavily subject to the Government's measures.
I should like to draw to the attention of the Leader of the House messages received by the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment last night and a telegram which I received late last night from a factory in my constituency belonging to Hume Pipe Ltd. The factory is at 707 Howick, near Longhoughton, in my constituency. The telegram reads:Howick factory under threat of closure if six month moratorium is imposed on water authorities.The telegram then quotes the message given last night to the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment:'Mr. Armstrong, Concrete Pipe Association reported six month moratorium being imposed on all regional water authority new contracts. If this is done literally my company and I feel the whole industry will have to give formal notice of redundancy to all employees before Christmas. Current levels of deliveries have already reduced the industry to near breaking point. We have since November 1973 taken disproportionate share of cuts and merit exemption from this round of cuts. We require assurances and guidance'".I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will find some way of giving that guidance and those assurances before Christmas, because some of my constituents will be breaking up for the holiday period with no certainty of jobs afterwards.
§ Mr. Lawrence
I share a common cause with the hon. Gentleman on this occasion. Is he aware that Spun Concrete (Branston) Ltd will almost certainly have to sack 100 employees within six weeks after Christmas if this moratorium goes through, because the company is dependdent for 98 per cent. of its work on the regional water authority and has hitherto been working at 50 per cent. under capacity?
§ Mr. Beith
The situation described by the hon. Gentleman closely parallels that in my constituency, where a firm employing 66 men is in a similar position. About 90 per cent. of that firm's work is for the regional water authorities. Less than 10 per cent. of its work is for other organisations. If further work on the construction of concrete pipes for the regional water authorities is not available, there will be no employment for those 66 men. There is not the slightest prospect of other employment for those men in my constituency. Where else can they go? The construction industry—the only industry which could employ them—is in a desperate state and in no position to offer jobs to people made redundant in other industries.
The factory concerned has been threatened with closure before under earlier cuts. As the telegram pointed 708 out, the industry has suffered a whole series of these cuts. The industry needs to know straight away whether there will be any prospect of continuity of work or whether the six months' moratorium will become a 12 months' moratorium.
I hope that the Lord President will find some way of communicating with the Department of the Environment and of ensuring that some guidance is given to the firms involved. We are dealing with men who have little or no prospect of alternative employment—men who have already been on short-time and have spent periods out of work in this badly hit industry.
We shall need the concrete pipe industry if we are to solve our major pollution problems. Without the pipes for the sewage and water systems, we cannot tackle the problems that the public are demanding that we should tackle in future years. I fear that if the industry does not get more detailed guidance on the effects of these measures now, individual firms will close. Most of the firms involved have factories in different parts of the country. Therefore, they are bound to consider which of their units to close down completely and which to keep going during the moratorium with virtually no work at all. I greatly fear that the unit in my constituency will be closed. I beg the Government to give an indication of how they see this important industry getting through what is bound to be a difficult period.
I think that it would be more manageable if we had more detailed guidance than we have had so far, and I do not think that right hon. and hon. Members can pass motions casually giving ourselves a holiday without recognising that the holiday for some of our constituents could be the beginning of a long period of unemployment.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
It would help the Chair to keep a proper balance in the debate if any right hon. or hon. Member wishing to participate in it would indicate whether he thought that the period of the recess was too short. In that way, the Chair will be able to keep the debate on an even keel.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
You are aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that 709 certain Members of this House and of the other place are members of the British delegation to the European Parliament.
I regret that time has not been found for this House to examine the procedures and the hopes and aspirations of the European Parliament and, not least, the experience of some of those who have served in it for a little while. I believe that many of the advantages which may materialise in due course will not do so if some of the bad features of the administrative and structural make-up of the European Parliament are allowed to persist.
I am sure that most right hon. and hon. Members acknowledge that the existing procedures of the European Parliament hardly qualify that institution for being called a parliament at all. However, it must be added that these may be regarded as early days and that, since the advent of the British delegation to it, especially of the Conservative and Labour Members who have been part of that delegation, a massive improvement has been brought about, and I have no doubt that this will continue. [Interruption.] I did not catch what the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) said, but it was with deliberate honesty that I excluded his party from my comment.
I believe that this House should be made aware of the frustration, irritation and annoyance of those of us who endeavour to contribute to the work of the European Parliament and that this House ought to debate such matters as the power of the Commission and of the Commissioners. We appreciate the administrative necessity for them. At the same time, many of us believe that the powers vested in the Commissioners are far too great. Although, until now, the EEC Commissioners may have been reasonable men, that does not mean that in exercising their powers in the future they will not be unreasonable men.
An EEC Commissioner is, after all, the equivalent of a Permanent Under-Secretary in one of our great Departments of State. I sometimes wonder what would happen here if a Permanent Under-Secretary decided to override and disregard a motion of this House or a statement by a Cabinet Minister. That is the kind of situation that can arise under EEC procedures, and there seems 710 to be no way of checking that it has occurred. That is one matter that I want this House to acknowledge.
We do not see in the near future any likelihood of the creation of ways and means whereby we might change the massive power which is vested in the Commision and its staff, although there is some hope that, with a British President this coming year, we shall see a move towards a more democratic structure in the European Parliament and some diminution of the present authoritarian powers of the Commission.
Taking into account the contributions of the Members of the European Parliament who come from the various countries, it might be expected that, when motions of that parliamentary gathering have been passed, there would be some way of ensuring that the expressions of opinion in the European Parliament would be taken cognisance of, if not incorporated in legislation. That is not always the case, however. Perhaps one small example of it is to be found in the present fishing dispute with Iceland and the endeavours of the relevant Commissioner and his staff. In this instance they have tried very hard. However, it must be stressed that the procedure was set in motion thanks primarily to the efforts of the British delegation.
Here again, hon. Members who are at one on this issue as Members of the European Parliament sit in various parts of this House, and I believe that if some of their endeavours had been embarked upon much earlier we might not have reached the present impasse.
As I understand it, in a few years there will be direct elections to the European Parliament. It seems to me that, unless the men and women who ultimately will be elected from our country have some parliamentary experience and unless they know precisely what it involves, there is a grave danger that these almost almighty bodies will gather unto themselves total power. That is the danger, and I believe that this House should be made aware of it.
Having lived on the Continent for many years and having had experience of all that was involved when I was employed in one of the Departments of State, I was opposed originally to the idea of Great Britain joining the EEC. 711 What is more, the British people were never asked whether they wished to go into the Community. However, after a period of years they were asked whether they wanted to stay in, and their answer was an overwhelming "Yes". That had to be accepted, and I have accepted it in my own endeavours. But it must be said that some of the apprehensions which many of us had about the EEC are now seen as proven fact, especially when we see the lack of power of the European Parliament when compared with the power vested in the Commission of the EEC.
I believe that it would be of advantage to our people and to the people of the other eight member States if, long before the holding of direct elections to the European Parliament, the Mother of Parliaments took the time to examine in detail the procedures of the EEC, and I regret that we have not had an opportunity to do so before rising for the Christmas Recess. However, I hope that what I have said today will merit attention by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and that he will try to make good this omission when we return to the House after the recess.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)
Before I make my one brief point, I wish to add my support to what was said by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) in asking for the debate that he wanted. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not here to hear me voice my support, because it may surprise him. I give him my support because it may bring home to him and other Government supporters that there are many Opposition Members who also deplore apartheid but that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House also believe that, despite all their drawbacks, the banks in this country, as in South Africa, help to build bridges between people rather than to burn them. The hon. Member's condemnation of Barclays Bank in South Africa was unwarranted, unnecessary and unfair.
I wish to add my support to the request by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) for a debate on the EEC because it seems that hidden within his contribution was advocacy of direct elections to the European Parliament. 712 Answers to Questions only this afternoon caused me and, I believe, other hon. Members to doubt the Government's solid commitment to introduce direct elections within the life of this Parliament.
I believe that instead of adjourning on Thursday we should sit on Friday and debate transport. The debate we were to have had on this subject last Session failed to take place, as even the Leader of the House will admit, because the Government were frightened to put in tellers for a vote on the motion for the Adjournment which preceded it on the Order Paper since they feared that they would lose the vote. The House therefore adjourned and the transport debate failed to take place.
The debate would be even more pertinent now than it was then because of the recently announced cuts in Government expenditure which encompassed, among other things, expenditure on transport. This is an important subject in all areas of the country, but nowhere is it more important than in Sussex. That county has drawn the short straw on road building programmes over the years from all Governments. Road schemes have been postponed in the county more often than elsewhere, and there is a delay in the crucially important scheme to relieve South Street, Lewes. That road is an integral part of the communications system to the thriving and expanding port of Newhaven.
It seems impossible to extract from the Secretary of State for Transport a decision about what the scheme will be and when it will start. The scheme is crucial to this part of the country. The Government have not yet given any indication of their policy on the ports, a policy which has assumed immense importance since they decided to cancel the Channel Tunnel.
In addition to the elements related to road transport we could also cover in a transport debate the question of rail transport. This point was well developed by my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) earlier this week. These many other elements of transport would catch the interest of the House. If the Leader of the House cannot undertake to change the date of the Adjournment from Thursday to Friday, at least he could commit himself to providing time for a debate early in the new year.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)
I agree with the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) in his support for my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) who said that we should have a debate on South Africa. Many of my hon. Friends would welcome the chance to find out where the Opposition stand on the condemnation of apartheid. If we were to have, as has been suggested, a two-day debate on foreign affairs we could spend one day on South African matters and discuss developments in Rhodesia and Namibia. It is important that we in this House, like the United Nations, should condemn what is taking place in South Africa and the activities of the Club of Ten by which South African finance is being used in our newspapers to whitewash an evil system.
It comes ill from the Conservatives to condemn the Government for not having a foreign affairs debate. When we recently debated the Queen's Speech the Opposition chose the subjects for debate each day. If they had wanted a foreign affairs debate they could have arranged one then.
The Government have also been criticised for not having a foreign affairs debate in the last year. The Opposition are free, however, to choose which subjects will be debated on supply days. If they wanted such a debate they could at least have provided a day for one.
I want to deal with the question of unemployment. Wales and Scotland are at present engaged in discussing devolution and the machinery of Government, but my constituents are more concerned about the prospects for employment and job opportunities. Obviously we cannot now expect a debate this side of Christmas unless we have it on Christmas Eve—
§ Mr. Rathbone
§ Mr. Evans
If the hon. Member will suggest sitting on Christmas Eve I will support him. I hope, however, that the Government will consider making a statement before we rise. We have had an economic statement. The Chancellor referred to import controls, and while some of us do not argue for a siege economy, we believe that the Government 714 could constructively consider the recommendations made to them by the joint deputation from the CBI and the TUC.
I hope that as soon as we resume after Christmas the Government will make a statement about whether—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is raising a matter which should be raised during supplementary questions on the Business Statement tomorrow. The hon. Member is not discussing the motion which is before the House.
§ Mr. Evans
I am arguing, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we should not go into recess before we have a statement from the Government. I am making these points now in case I am unsuccessful in doing so during supplementary questions on the Business Statement tomorrow.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
Is my hon. Friend suggesting that he might not be able to catch my eye from Aberdare?
§ Mr. Evans
No. I realise that my right hon. Friend has deep anxieties about current unemployment. We might differ on the question of devolution, but I know that we heartily agree about unemployment.
Perhaps I may read a telegram that I received from a manufacturer in my constituency. It says:Deeply concerned about discontinuation of REP without prior warning. Serious repercussions of future employment in Welsh valleys unavoidable due to sudden substantial loss of revenue. Please call for full effect to be investigated before implementation to achieve at very least gradual phasing out to enable alternative financial arrangements to be made".That telegram demonstrates the deep anxiety which is felt by manufacturing concerns.
The regional policies pursued in Britain have helped to maintain its economic unity because they have permitted jobs to be taken to the people in areas such as Wales, the North-East, the North-West and Scotland. I hope that the Government will seriously look at this question again.
This Christmas many people are unemployed and many others have a deep 715 foreboding. I hope that the Government will give their highest priority to bringing forward proposals to create conditions of full employment. I hone that at least in the course of next year we shall see that we are altering our economic and industrial strategy so that we can improve manufacturing conditions. I hope that we shall stick to the Government's policy, which I understand is to divert the money that is being given to public administration to manufacturing industry. If we are to stop the regional employment premium and put those resources into additional administration, we shall be moving in reverse of what the Government intend. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take note.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)
I feel that it would be quite wrong, as would my constituents, if we adjourned without mentioning certain matters which are of the greatest importance to my constituency. Before doing so I take up one of the remarks of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), who I am sorry is no longer in the Chamber. The hon. Gentleman referred to Barclays Bank, which I always call a fine Norfolk company. In fact, it started in Norfolk. I do not think anyone in this place believes in apartheid. Surely it cannot be imagined that Barclays seeks to support apartheid. Surely it has acted to support Africa as a bulwark against Communism.
We have spent the whole of 1976 doing things that we should not have done, and, as the Bible says, leaving things undone that we should have done. The nation's problems have not been tackled. I urge that we should not adjourn without a debate on what I call an attack on the rural areas.
Reference has already been made to transport, which is extremely important in rural areas. I must also draw attention to what seems to be the Government's attack on agriculture by the appointment of the new Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Agriculture is our greatest industry, but it is losing valuable land which is being put under concrete. That land will never again produce food. Our present Minister does not seem to realise the importance to the industry of losing farming land. That is a matter 716 that should be debated in the House before we adjourn.
Agriculture is our greatest industry. We could save millions of pounds worth of imports if we supported home agriculture, which is quite capable of producing foodstuffs for our consumers at reasonable prices. I am not talking about knock-down prices or about prices that are derisory in contrast to the prices found in the Common Market countries, our partners with whom we have to trade.
Mr. Lardinois came to Norfolk a month or so ago and pointed out that we shall go short of meat unless we are prepared to pay prices to the farming community that are nearly equal to our partners in the EEC. Italy already has a meatless week once a month. We are selling so many calves abroad that we shall not have enough to be fattened as fat cattle in this country. That means that we shall be short of beef in one or two years' time. If that happens, prices will increase and then we shall not have the money to buy from Argentina, Australia or elsewhere. In fact, I do not believe that there is much to come from those sources.
I am extremely worried by the way in which the Government have appeared to appoint a Minister who is no longer a Minister of Agriculture but a Minister of Food.
Again, the rural areas are being attacked by rate increases. The country districts are being discriminated against in favour of the London and metropolitan areas. I shall point out one way in which my constituents are already discriminated against, and I know that many Members who represent rural areas will agree with me. If my constituents want to seek a job outside their village, where they have to live because that is where the council houses were built to serve the farms which then needed more labour, they have to travel between 15 and 20 miles to go to a job and to get back. They start earlier than their neighbours and return later. This is costing my constituents between £5 and £7 a week. This is never taken into account when unemployment pay is fixed. It is not taken into account in income tax payments or in social benefits. The man who goes out of his village to get a better job, to do better for his country and family, is discriminated against. In the same way 717 people in Norfolk are discriminated against in the payment of rates.
My constituents will be extremely worried if we do not debate the attack on our defence forces, which has led to an alarming lack of morale among some of my Royal Air Force constituents. The other day a technical sergeant told me that he had been instructed not to report to his station for a week except on pay day to draw his pay because there was no work for him to do. The Services are being cut back to such an extent that in some instances they are not allowed to have the petrol or ammunition that is necessary to undertake exercises. That being so, there was no job to be done by the technical sergeant.
But to come back to the most serious matter that it is necessary to debate—that is, the attack on the rural areas as opposed to the town areas. My constituents produce food for the rest of the country. Only about 3 per cent. of the country's work force is employed on the land. During the drought this summer the rest of the country began to realise that the job done by the 3 per cent. is extremely important. If we should have a time when farmers are starved of money so that they put their land down to grass instead of producing crops, we as a nation shall starve. That will be the consequence if we do not support agriculture sufficiently.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich. East (Mr. Snape), who is in juxtaposition to my right hon. Friend the Lord President, will give my right hon. Friend a nudge and tell him that we want a debate on transport—namely, the debate that we did not get at an earlier stage.
It is with difficulty and characteristic self-restraint that for the first time in 15 years I somehow resist the temptation, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to follow your advice urging someone to argue that we should have a much longer recess. If the truth be known, the dropping of a certain piece of legislation would not cause me to grieve.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman but I was not thinking in terms of extending the recess for a whole year.
§ Mr. Dalyell
No, just until such time as the daffodils come out in the West Country and in Ebbw Vale and the snows melt in Scotland. That would be sufficient. I should busy myself in West Lothian and Brussels and doubtless the Government would busy themselves in more productive areas.
I give the undertaking that there will be no filibustering on my part when we consider the Bill. I shall say nothing that I think is irrelevant and there will be no unnecessary repetition.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I do not know why the hon. Gentleman is so anxious not to have the debate. He anticipates the debate and starts telling us what contribution he will make. He should tell us why we should not adjourn for the Christmas Recess.
§ Mr. Dalyell
What I have said does not mean that there will be no long speeches, since there is so much to discuss.
I should like to talk quietly to my right hon. Friend the Lord President to suggest why he should make a statement before the House adjourns. I do not want to abuse the House by getting onto the substance of the Scotland and Wales Bill. but the matter is a bit difficult, because my right hon. Friend has a Jekyll and Hyde rôle. As Leader of the House, he should tell himself that as Secretary of State for Devolution he should make a statement, before we rise, on the mechanics of the proposed referendum on devolution. How much will it cost? Who will pay? Will public funds go to umbrella organisations? If so, to which umbrella organisations will they go? Will the "Scotland is British" organisation, for example, qualify as an umbrella organisation? What will be the attitude on free votes? If there is a referendum, the participants in it can hardly be muzzled at earlier stages.
I should like to make it clear, however, that I have had nothing but kindness and generosity from my party on this subject. The Whips have perhaps been more decent than Whips should be to dissidents.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I should like also to extend my kindness to the hon. Gentleman from the Chair. But he knows full well that the matters he is 719 raising will all be relevant during the Bill's Committee stage, when they will be discussed at length and most thoroughly.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Before the House adjourns my right hon. Friend should, in his capacity as Lord President, ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the following question: "Is it right and sensible that a Lord President who is also chairman of the Cabinet's Legislation Committee should at the same time carry possibly the heaviest of all burdens as a Secretary of State?"
We should have a statement about ministerial representation. I am not one for making personal allegations of any kind, but those who sat through virtually every speech in the four-day Second Reading debate noticed that the Government Front Bench was denuded of Cabinet Ministers. That should not have happened. Very often it was populated by relatively junior Ministers—no discredit to them—or a Whip was standing in. I in no way attack the Whips, but on a major constitutional issue members of the Cabinet should not be constantly absent they might learn the ugly reality of devolution.
I understand very well that my right hon. Friend the Lord President has many other key jobs, particularly as chairman of Cabinet committees. That was the undoing of Dick Crossman in that position when he undertook Lords reform, compared with which devolution is a much heavier burden.
Therefore, I ask, first, for consideration of a statement about representation on the Government Front Bench during the passage of this vital constitutional Bill. Secondly, in particular, what representation will there be of the Law Officers, not only the Scottish Law Officers but the English Law Officers? It was argued during the passage of the European Communities Act that they should be present, and throughout these proceedings the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General should be required by the Cabinet to be present.
There is one thing on which I think all Members can be agreed, whatever their views on the Bill. It is that the House should be taken seriously on this matter, and that does not mean Ministers 720 merely asserting that they have read Hansard for the previous day or previous week. Taking the House seriously during the passage of this major constitutional Bill means the physical presence of senior members of the Cabinet on the Front Bench from time to time.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)
I shall not take up any of the points made by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), because time is desperately short, except to comment that perhaps it is appropriate for a pro-devolutionist to follow an anti-devolutionist.
There are several reasons why I believe the House should not adjourn for such a long break. The basic reason is that in the past Session and in the current Session the Lord President has been trying to push through far too much legislation that is not appropriate to the problems of our time. One of those problems is the high level of unemployment. The detailed figures not being available because of industrial action, we can but guess, but I believe that in Scotland there are now 150,000 to 155,000 unemployed. That is nearly double the October 1974 figure, when the Government retained office on all sorts of promises to improve the employment position. Since then we have had eight or nine Budgets, and nobody, except perhaps himself, has any confidence that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has it right yet.
It is obviously wrong to leave Westminster unless we have encouraging news about employment trends in the coming weeks. There have been endless messages of hope, but they are wearing thin. Whether we have advance factories or promises from the Scottishs Development Agency, we must all feel grave concern that unemployment will not improve between now and the spring.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
§ Mr. Monro
I shall not give way.
Secondly, we are desperately concerned about leaving London when the fishing crisis is as serious as it is. The Government have failed to push home the policies that they should be adopting in the interests of fishermen, whether relating to Icelandic waters or to the problems 721 of our inshore fishermen. These have a particular impact in my constituency, where we have an important processing factory.
Thirdly, we should not adjourn until we see a glimmer of hope in regard to inflation, which seems to be increasing beyond today's 15 per cent. I share the views of hon. Members on both sides of the House about the cost of transport in rural areas, including the cost of petrol, diesel fuel and rail tickets. These serious matters should be discussed before we break up.
Fourthly, there is the serious rates burden. We are to debate rates later tonight, but we shall have to decide on this motion before we have a chance to make clear our views on the impact of rates on our constituents.
Fifthly, the House should not adjourn without a debate on the Flowers Report on nuclear energy. During Monday night we had a chance to talk about our nuclear power programme and nuclear waste, but we need a full day's debate at reasonable hours on what is one of the major issues facing the country.
All in all, it is not a happy Christmas for the Government or the vast majority of our people. We should not go away without the Lord President's saying something much more helpful about the Government's policies, particularly on economic matters.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. James Sillars (South Ayrshire)
I, too, argue that we should not adjourn tomorrow for the recess—in case my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has not been persuaded even by the eloquence of my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). It is incumbent upon the Government to resolve first a number of serious questions arising from the decision in principle to hold a referendum on the Scottish Assembly.
When the Government come to reflect on that decision, I think they will realise that they have raised more problems than they believe they are solving. I refer to correspondence between my right hon. Friend and myself on the question of the referendum. In a letter on 14th October he said, referring to the referendum on British membership of the EEC:the Scottish vote was in line with that of the rest of the country. The answer given was 722 not the one for which you and I campaigned, but all of us, I believe, have to accept it as final.But the point is whether that referendum was really binding and final, and whether the referendum on an Assembly is to open up to the Scottish people the question of continued membership. If the EEC referendum was not binding, this second referendum offers the Scottish people a chance not only of opting out of the United Kingdom but of opting out of the Common Market, which is the double-take of separation.
If the Common Market referendum was final and binding and all other referenda are to be within the context of the EEC, the question of independence could not be defined as separatist in any circumstances by any Government, because if the Scottish people were to say, "Yes" to independent representation within the EEC they would not be so much leaving England as joining with England in a new partnership along with the other countries in the Community. The highly emotive phrases that one would expect in the referendum campaign such as "breaking off", "rupturing trade between Scotland and England", "separation", "Scotland going into isolation", or "Scotland going off on its own" would all be invalidated as nonsensical propaganda.
There is another problem besides the question of Scotland's status within the Community. It revolves round the question 'whose oil is it?" If the Government put the question to the Scottish people, "Do you want to be independent?" they have to define very clearly—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have already drawn the attention of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) to the position. I think that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) is in exactly the same difficulty. This is not a matter which will take place during the recess. There will be a Committee stage of the whole House when all these matters which are being raised will be adequately discussed.
§ Mr. Sillars
The substance of my argument, within the rules of order, is that I believe that these matters should be tackled by the Government before we come to the Committee stage. That is 723 why I do not think that the House should adjourn for the recess until the Government have addressed themselves to the principle and the details arising from the principle. The point I was making is that if the independence question is set, the Government must define what they mean by "Scotland".
The Government cannot say to the Scottish people "You can have the waters off the West Coast round about the Minch and further west because they contain only herring but the waters off the East Coast are not Scottish because underneath is oil." There is a range of considerable problems for the Government if they are tempted, as it were, to go for the separatist question, and the Government should address themselves to them before the House rises.
I undertook, Mr. Deputy Speaker, not to speak beyond five minutes. You will be delighted that I have managed it in four.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. George Younger (Ayr)
I apologise to the Leader of the House for the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) cannot be present. My right hon. Friend asked me to deputise for him, which I will do to the best of my ability.
I do not suppose that the Leader of the House is surprised that so many hon. Members on both sides of the House have been anxious to complain about the numerous different matters for which it has been impossible for the Government to find time to discuss in this Session so far. All those who have spoken have, for various reasons, suggested that it would be inappropriate, in view of these omissions in the Government's programme, to adjourn for the period specified in the motion.
These complaints are not surprising because, by almost common consent, the business of the Government during this year has been uniquely badly mismanaged. We have spent an inordinate amount of time throughout the year discussing matters of little interest to the general public, and, indeed, of little interest to many hon. Members—matters of Socialist programmes which have passed through various manifestos and so on but which have raised no spark of 724 enthusiasm in the country. They have consumed an enormous amount of time of the House and have involved a great deal of money which, we are now bitterly discovering, could well have been spent on many more important things.
That is why my hon. Friend and learned Friend the Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) began by referring to the unsatisfactory position with regard to the discussion of foreign affairs. I wonder whether we are right to go off for the recess leaving the discussion of foreign affairs in the immensely unsatisfactory situation in which it is. According to the researches I have been able to make—they may not be complete—in this year we have had in Government time only one day for the general discussion of foreign affairs—that is leaving aside such matters as discussion of Rhodesia sanctions orders and the rest, which are particular matters.
My hon. and learned Friend pointed out that the very important question of the situation between Greece and Turkey as it affects Cyprus has lasted through almost the whole of this year without there having been a proper debate on the subject. I think that hon. Members on both sides will agree that this subject greatly influences and interests many of our constituents. Many of us see people who have relatives in Cyprus and are extremely concerned. It is regrettable that the Government's overstretched and overcrowded programme for a lot of irrelevancies has squeezed out the question of Cyprus. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider this very carefully before he just goes off home.
The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) raised the question of the disturbing news in the last few hours about the new arrests taking place in the Soviet Union of Jews who were trying to hold a seminar. This, again, is a matter that concerns many of our constituents, some of whom have relatives involved, and who have a very strong interest in trying to keep alight some sort of freedom in the Soviet Union. I hope that the Leader of the House will take seriously the hon. and learned Gentleman's request that the Government should find some way of expressing clearly and strongly to the Soviet Union our concern—in all parties—whether these new reports are correct, 725 and our additional concern that this is precisely the sort of thing that we thought the Helsinki Agreement was supposed to prevent from happening.
While we are on the question of the need for foreign affairs to be considered before we rise for the recess I should mention the remarks of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) about the European Parliament. We have been somewhat surprised that at this time in the Session we still have not seen the Bill introducing direct elections. We had expected to have had it by now. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to assure us that it will be coming soon, because there should be full opportunity for studying it before it comes for discussion in the House.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take seriously these comments about the unsatisfactory state of discussion of foreign affairs.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans
Would the hon. Gentleman address himself to the fact that during the debate on the Queen's Speech there was opportunity for the Opposition to provide a Supply Day for a foreign affairs debate, but that there was no request from the Opposition through the usual channels? Was that omission perhaps because the Shadow Foreign Secretary was being moved out and his successor being moved in?
§ Mr. Younger
I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman is on a good point there. In the first place, I believe that so far in the Session we have not been offered any Supply Days, although I may be wrong; but it is not in any case satisfactory to say, when we refer to certain matters which have not been debated, that the Opposition should have raised them on Supply Days. I am sorry to have to make this point, but the Government have been making such an imperial mess on every other aspect of their policy that there have been 10 different candidates for every Supply Day. The Opposition cannot be expected to give up those important days for matters for which the Government ought to provide their own time. I hope that the Leader of the House will assure us that he regards it as part of the Government's responsibility to make a reasonable allocation of Government time for the discussion of foreign affairs.
726 We had a most important and interesting contribution from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) about his great concern at the way in which the Government have been dealing with the implementation of the Insolvency Act. I shall not go over the points that he made, but I hope very much that the Leader of the House has received advice about the questions raised my my hon. and learned Friend, and I hope that he will directly answer the particular question. Can the order which has been introduced in the unfortunate circumstances described by my hon. and learned Friend please now be withdrawn in order to give a chance for further discussions to take place and to try to get the Act off to a better footing? Its passage was conducted very much in discussion between the parties involved, and the events that have been described are very unfortunate.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), in a very sincere but totally illogical contribution, mentioned the question of Barclays National Bank in South Africa and its shareholdings and investments.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will find on either side of the House anyone who has any time for apartheid as a system. I think that it is generally agreed throughout this country, and by all parties in the House, that the system of apartheid is one that we do not support or agree with, and that we should try our best to persuade the people of South Africa to avoid apartheid.
However, I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he should try to find out more about the facts on the question of investment by Barclays National Bank before he comes to the House to talk about it. As I understand it—no doubt I shall be corrected if I am wrong—this is a South African company, albeit with its ownership being in a holding company in this country. It is a South African company, and, as such, it is obliged to hold a certain percentage of its deposits from the public in a certain number of particular prescribed national institutions in South Africa, and they include Government and quasi-Government and municipal stocks, and loan stocks issued by universities, local authorities and so on. What has 727 happened in this case, as I understand it, is that Barclays National Bank, which is managed on a day-to-day basis not in this country but in South Africa, has decided to switch some of its investments from one of those types of holdings to another.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is going into far too much detail in answering the debate; we are not debating that matter. I want to hear his views on the question of the Christmas Adjournment.
§ Mr. Younger
I shall comply with your wishes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I thought that as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North had made a number of points, it would be right in the interests of good debate that another point of view should be put forward. I am sure that you will tell me if I am in any way out of order, and I shall gladly bow to any ruling that you make. It is sufficient for me to finish on this point by saying to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North that this is a matter of investment, and it is not one in which the British Government have any responsibility, and not one which makes any difference either way towards approval or disapproval of apartheid. For that reason, I do not believe that this is a very good reason for suggesting that we should not pass the motion.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Had the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) resumed his seat?
§ Mr. Younger
No, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I had given way to the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I must have been mistaken.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) for giving way, especially as he has said that I ought not to come to the House without being aware of the facts. He should know that the facts of the matter, as I acknowledged earlier—and I accept his viewpoint about the stocks—are that there is absolutely nothing that compels Barclays National Bank in South Africa to invest in the fighting fund for apartheid, and that it is 728 a propaganda exercise to boost South African morale. Barclays has not used as a defence the suggestion that it is compelled to make this investment.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I shall not allow a debate on the situation in South Africa on this motion, which concerns the Adjournment of the House for the Christmas Recess.
§ Mr. Younger
I am happy to pass on from that matter now. I have made the points that I wanted to make, as has the hon. Gentleman.
Another very important matter which has been raised is the question of why we are rising for the recess without having a long-awaited debate on transport. This is assuming a high degree of importance now because I understand that the Government are committed to producing a White Paper on this subject in the spring. It would be very unfortunate if they were to produce that White Paper when the consultative document, which we have had for some months, has not been properly and fully debated in the House. I wonder, therefore, whether it is right that the House should rise without that matter being discussed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) mentioned the very serious situation that has arisen in the last few days as a result of the further defence cuts the Government are introducing as part of their package and the extremely unsatisfactory nature of the reason given, which has been purely that in any serious expenditure cuts defence must carry some of them. That is the attitude of a blind man with a pin. It is wrong for a Government responsible for this country's defence to carry out these expenditure reductions in a completely haphazard manner. They might as well be filling in football pools as working out defence expenditure in this most irresponsible way.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) raised a number of important points, which we would greatly have liked to debate before rising for the recess. There is the situation of rising unemployment, which affects many people all over the country, and the grave difficulties into which all of us are put by the fact that we cannot have accurate figures on this subject because those employed 729 in compiling them are in some dispute which makes them unable to provide the Government with the figures that they require. It is ironic, at least for Opposition Members, that it should be in the middle of this appalling level of unemployment, the highest since the war and further, that the Government find themselves miraculously unable to produce the figures. This is not a happy situation. I hope that the Leader of the House will assure us that maximum efforts are being made to give full information on this serious matter.
There is no time to go any further into the equally serious problem facing our fishing industry. This was discussed after the statement made yesterday by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I could not possibly agree to the motion without registering once again our very deep concern for the fishing industry and for the many communities around the country who will be affected, directly or indirectly, by the continued delay in coming to an agreement about a new fisheries policy, and the effects of the unilateral creation of the 200-mile zone by some countries, and now ours, from 1st January.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take to his colleagues the message that we expect the Government to put at the top of their priorities from the New Year onwards the putting of proper pressure on their colleagues in the Community, and upon those others who are involved outside the Community, to see that the new regulations are agreed as soon as possible and that proper arrangements are made for our fishermen to be properly protected, because at present they have very little confidence that the Government have realised the increased policing difficulty that will arise with the much greater limits that we shall have to cover.
Finally, I return to the point with which I started. This has been an extremely unsatisfactory Session in every way from a parliamentary point of view. I hope that the Government have learned their lesson this time. The Government have forced through vast amounts of unpalatable and hopelessly partisan legislation with a majority that has dwindled at times to practically nothing. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman, of 730 all people, would have known that. If he did not know it before, I hope that he has learned it the hard way now and will consider that matter before we asks us to rise for the Christmas Recess.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The Lord President.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Adley
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I point out to you, with respect, that some of my hon. Friends and I have sat in the Chamber since the beginning of this short debate? Is it your intention, after the Lord President of the Council has spoken, to accept a closure motion even though some of us have sat here throughout the debate?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The question of choice of speakers is entirely a matter for the Chair. I have no intentions. I do not know what will happen after the Lord President of the Council has resumed his seat.
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) began with a most courteous apology for the absence of his right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). The hon. Gentleman did not need to apologise, and I mean no reflection on his right hon. Friend in saying that. I fully understand the reasons for the absence of the right hon. Gentleman from the debate.
I hope that the hon. Member for Ayr will excuse me if I do not enter into an elaborate debate on the question whether the business of the Session has been appropriately conducted. I am sure that I shall satisfy the hon. Gentleman in the period after the recess when we shall be discussing the excellent Bill on devolution, which I know he greets with such impartial enthusiasm. I am therefore glad that the hon. Gentleman is looking forward to the next part of the Session.
The hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) raised, in particular, a question about Cyprus. Her Majesty's Government, in concert with her European partners and American ally, have been engaged in sustained and Vigorous diplomatic 731 activity to secure the resumption of the inter-communal talks on Cyprus. Our aims are to support the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General, to foster continuing and substantive exchanges between the two communities, and to impress on all concerned the need for flexibility in the conduct of these negotiations. Her Majesty's Government earnestly hope that these efforts will soon bear fruit but believe that they are best pursued in confidence. I see no advantage in having a debate on the matter at the present juncture.
The hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West quoted remarks made by Lord Caradon in another place. I am sure that he was wise in the choice of person he quoted, but I have nothing to add to what I have said already.
I agree with hon. Members who have said that they would like the House to have a full day's debate on foreign affairs. I appreciate that we should have one at an early date to discuss the questions on South Africa referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and other subjects which have been raised. Like many hon. Members, I am sorry that in recent weeks we have not had the opportunity to debate foreign affairs. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) rightly said, the choice of subjects for debate in the House does not rest solely with the Government; it rests with the Opposition as well.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) raised important questions on foreign affairs. I think that these matters were dealt with at Question Time today by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. He stressed that the British Government have raised strongly with representatives of the Soviet Government the question of civil liberties whenever opportunities have arisen in this country, in the United Nations, or in other places where we meet. In making those representations, the Soviet Government should understand that the Foreign Secretary has been speaking for the whole of the House and for the whole country, and he will continue to make those representations in the way that he thinks most effective. I believe that most hon. Members will agree that he has raised them effectively in the 732 past and that he will continue to do that in future.
The hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) referred to the remarks made by Mr. Bukovsky about the consequences and events which followed Helsinki. We must take into account what Mr. Bukovsky says. Perhaps we should also take into account the views of the Government and of others about the possibilities since Helsinki.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West referred also to the telephone installation question which he had raised on another occasion. I must, with diffidence, agree with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if a subject could have been raised in a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, that is perhaps a reason why it is not an appropriate subject to raise in a debate such as this. The practice of the Post Office of charging deposits in some cases before installing telephones is designed to protect the generality of subscribers who would otherwise have to pay higher charges to cover bad debts. The Post Office has for some time been seeking alternative methods of dealing with the problem, and discussions to this end are taking place. I am sure that both the Post Office and others will take careful note of the strongly held views of my hon. and learned Friend, and this discussion may assist in that purpose.
The hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) certainly raised a matter which came strictly within the rules of a debate on the Adjournment motion, if I may be so presumptuous thereby to cast any conceivable doubt on the remarks of other hon. Members. No one could say that the matter that the hon. and learned Gentleman raised was not one of urgency, in view of the dates he cited. From my experience of debate in the House, I say that it is a most unwise hon. Member who does not take note of what the hon. and learned Gentleman says because often it needs to be noted very carefully. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say how innocent he was. That was the only part of his speech which did not have the same familiar ring of truth about it as the rest of it. I take careful note of what the hon. and learned Gentleman said.
733 The hon. and learned Member raised the question of the bankruptcy amendment rules. I should like to acknowledge how consistently helpful he was during the passage of the Insolvency Act, but I regret, at any rate on the advice that I have received—I shall say something further about that—that I cannot offer him any comfort about the subject he raised.
The erosion of money values since 1915 has brought within the framework of bankruptcy an ever-increasing number of small and unproductive cases, and the increase in the deposits payable on the bankruptcy petitions cannot be delayed any longer because of the completely unacceptable burden of work which this imposes on the staff of the Insolvency Service.
I understand that the Government's position on this matter has been clear for a long time. It is not true to say that we have moved stealthily or have attempted to deceive anyone. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade made this clear to the hon. and learned Member for Southport as long ago as June 1976 when he wrote to him as follows:I ought to add, however, that we shall not be able to delay until the Committee has been set up the amendment to the bankruptcy rules which will give effect to the increased deposits required to be paid on the presentation of bankruptcy petitions as these are crucial features in reducing the present excessive strain on the Insolvency Service.Therefore, the Government's intentions have been clear for a long time and I cannot accept that this matter should delay the Christmas Adjournment. However, I promise the hon. and learned Member for Southport that, in view of what he has said today, I shall make further investigations and if there are other aspects of the matter to which Government attention should be given we shall give it and I shall ensure that we communicate directly with the hon. and learned Gentleman to make certain that we are dealing properly with it.
I replied in general terms to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North when he raised, the other day, the subject to which he referred today. I believe that many of the questions that he raised would figure in a general debate on foreign affairs, and I can understand the desire of the House for such a debate. I 734 shall not enter into the dispute which arose between my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) on the attitude of the different parties to apartheid. There is no doubt about the Government's attitude. We regard apartheid as utterly evil. We believe that further steps have always to be examined in order to ensure that the economic support given to apartheid cannot be sustained. It is in that spirit that my hon. Friend put his case to the House.
The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) and others spoke of the appalling unemployment problem. Many people throughout the country have expressed anxiety about the unemployment total this Christmas, despite the fact that, owing to industrial action, we cannot have the actual figures. Undoubtedly this problem causes great anxiety all over the country, as I know from my constituency and from the way in which these problems have built up in other constituencies.
The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed raised the subject of possible redundancies in the concrete pipe industry and cited a letter from a firm in his constituency. I understand that the six months' moratorium just announced relates to lettings in regard to construction contracts and not to routine maintenance work. There is no cessation of work on existing water authority contracts. I assure my hon. Friend that the Government are aware of the consequences of the moratorium and are doing everything that can be done to alleviate the situation. Hon. Members can raise with the Department of Employment immediate questions involving threatened redundancies in their areas. I am sure that the Department will do what it can to assist.
There are some cases in which temporary employment subsidy can assist. The subject of the regional employment premium was mentioned, and the removal of the premium under the recent Government measures. One of the reasons why we felt it was necessary to consider the removal of the premium related to the considerable growth in the operation of the temporary employment supplement, which has proved to be of far wider significance in preventing unemployment than many people appreciated 735 when the temporary employment subsidy arrangements were originally introduced. That is one way in which assistance can be given to firms in difficulty. In that case and in others I am sure that hon. Members will wish urgently to approach the Departments of Industry and Employment to see how they can assist.
The hon. Member for Lewes asked about the possibility of a transport debate, and criticised the fact that we had not had a debate recently. Other hon. Members underlined the desirability of such a debate. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) also asked about this subject in one of the more pertinent parts of his speech. We hope that there will soon be a debate on transport, possibly in the week when we return. There is to be a business announcement tomorrow. I cannot say for certain, but I hope that we shall be able to have such a debate in the week that the House returns. I hope hon. Members will realise that we have tried to satisfy demands from many of my hon. Friends, and indeed from Opposition Members.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare mentioned the Club of Ten and the article in the Observer on the subject. That was an article of great significance and should be examined carefully. The implications can be far-reaching. I hope that I have covered that aspect in reply to my hon. Friend's point.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) commented on the operation of the Common Market Commissioners. I should stray outside the rules of order if I were to comment on that subject.
My hon. Friend and others also mentioned the subject of direct elections. I wish to make clear to the House that there will be no direct elections to the European Assembly before we meet on 10th January. I do not believe that topic need give any anxiety to my hon. Friends as to what will happen between now and when we reassemble.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
May we have an assurance that there will be no maturing of thoughts in the Government's bosom before 10th January about the application of a guillotine 736 since some of us intend to talk at great length on that Bill should there be any danger of its becoming law?
§ Mr. Foot
I can assure my hon. Friend that any thoughts I have do not mature in my bosom. They are entirely the product of another part of my anatomy. I also assure my hon. Friend that we shall proceed properly and sedately in these matters. We shall have proper debates on all these subjects. There is no reason why there should be any anxieties about these matters before we reassemble in January.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans
My right hon. Friend mentioned 10th January—but he did not say of which year.
§ Mr. Foot
We may well have another debate of this character in December 1977. If I can give the same answer to my hon. Friend as I have given now, nobody will be more satisfied than I.
I turn to the speech of the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins), whose remarks covered comments made by other Opposition Members who, throughout the last few months, have been demanding public expenditure cuts. However many of them devoted a considerable proportion of their remarks today to reasons why there should not be individual cuts in expenditure. They should sort out some of these matters before they seek to attack the Government. These general questions cannot be dealt with in an Adjournment debate. Many were covered in yesterday's debate. Many more will be covered when we reassemble in January 1977.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian raised the general subject of the referendum, as did the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars). I agree that such important questions must be carefully thought out, but that will not be achieved in propositions presented to the House either before Christmas or immediately after it. We shall provide proper time for these matters to be decently debated in the House and for the House to reach conclusions on them. But when we come to these debates, everybody will agree that the Government have provided a proper way of deciding these matters. We believe that if the settlement that is to arise from our devolution proposals is to be satisfactory, it will be all the better, 737 and we shall accept it all the more clearly, if the people of Scotland and Wales have an opportunity to pronounce on the matter. I agree with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire that the form and manner in which that occurs is a matter of major importance. I assure him that the Government approach these matters in that sense.
I believe that I have touched on almost every question that has been raised in this debate although I cannot say that I have relieved every anxiety in the minds of every hon. Member. I believe that I can say with some diffidence that my speech has been even more in order than some other contributions to this debate.
§ Mr. Walter Harrison (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question accordingly put and agreed to.
That this House at its rising tomorrow do adjourn till Monday 10th January.