HC Deb 03 May 1976 vol 910 cc983-1025

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Walter Harrison.]

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)

I can appreciate the discontent—indeed, the indignation—of some Opposition Members at any rate at the decision taken by the Committee of Selection last Wednesday. That indignation is perfectly understandable.

I am personally unhappy about the disagreement of the Conservative members of the Committee of Selection, with whom I have worked amiably for a very long time. In fact, about the only reward for serving on that Committee is the pleasure I have had from working with these honourable men. Politics apart, I regard them as my friends. However, as a philsopher said, magis amica veritas.

The truth is that the decision we reached was just and proper in every respect. My reasons for saying this are so simple and compelling that I do not need to make a long speech.

Before I go further, I wish to reiterate with emphasis what was said last Thursday afternoon by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House, namely, that we were under no pressure; we received no word of instruction from anybody. Some hon. Members seem to have doubted that. It seemed to me that the Leader of the Liberal Party doubted it, because he said he accepted that it was pure coincidence that the Labour Members on the Committee all voted the same way."—[Official Report 29th April 1976; Vol. 910, c. 558.] However, the right hon. Gentleman said it in such a tone of voice—and his voice is a very expressive one—as to convey the meaning that he did not accept it at all. I hope he will accept from me that we received no instructions from anybody. The responsibility for the decision was ours, and ours alone. I repeat that I believe that it was the right decision.

The guidance that we have from Standing Orders for choosing the membership of Standing Committees is short and rather vague. I believe that it is deliberately vague. Standing Orders are drawn up strictly for the guidance of Members. If a Standing Order is vague, it is meant to be. Standing Order No. 62, in dealing with the nomination of Standing Committees, states that the Committee of Selection shall have regard to the…composition of the House". That is what the whole argument is about, the composition of the House.

The main argument of our critics—indeed, the only one—is that, due to a transfer of personnel, the Labour Party has lost its overall majority on the Floor of the House. I agree that, on paper, it has lost its overall majority, but it does not follow that the Opposition have a majority in the House. They do not. They are in a minority.

The Labour Party has a majority of 39 over the Conservatives. Most of the other 40 or so hon. Members belong to four political parties. They are independent parties with their own Leaders, their own Whips and, more important, their own policies. They are the Liberals, the Scottish National Party, the United Ulster Unionist coalition and Plaid Cymru. There is also the SDLP of Northern Ireland. None of these parties was elected to support the Conservative Party in this House. They were not elected primarily to oppose the Labour Party. They were elected for positive reasons—to pursue certain policies and to serve their electorates.

Combining those parties as though they were one united group is wrong. Uniting them with the Conservative Party is doubly wrong. Lumping those parties together and saying they are a united Opposition is simply a wild and crashing confusion of thought. That is why I say that the Opposition are not in a majority in the House. There is no united Opposition. That is why the main argument of our critics is demolished.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

I have been following the sophistry of the hon. Gentleman's argument carefully. Is he saying that, besides the Labour and Conservative Parties, the other parties to which he referred should also be represented on the Committe of Selection?

Mr. Delargy

That is not a question for me. I have troubles enough of my own. That is a question to be decided by the House. An amendment could have been moved and voted upon when the Committee was set up at the beginning of this Parliament. We appoint Standing Committees; we do not appoint ourselves. A motion tabled by the Leader of the Opposition and several of her right hon. Friends instructs us to change a Standing Committee, discharge it or something of the sort.

I have been looking up precedents as far back as 1906 and all Speakers who have been asked to decide upon the procedure of the Committee of Selection have been united on one point: that there should be no interference with the Committee by the House. Once the Committee has been set up, it should be left alone.

Sir Kingsley Wood, whom many people will remember, said way back in 1924—but the ruling has not been changed— I have ascertained"— this is parallel to what we did last Wednesday— that the Committee of Selection have made a rule of their own account, but I venture to put it to you, Sir, that that in no way binds the House or the Government. All I wish to ask you is, whether it will be possible for any Member of the House or for the Government themselves, to put down on the Paper a Motion". Mr. Speaker replied: The hon. Member has referred to a rule made by the Committee of Selection within its province. It can, if it thinks fit, suspend or rescind that rule, but the House entrusts to the Committee the selection of Standing Committees, and it is not for the House, by Resolution or otherwise, interfere with the full discretion of the Committee of Selection."—[Official Report, 19th March 1924; Vol. 171, c. 451.] I thought I would remind the House of that ruling. It is not for me to give a ruling, not here anyway, no matter what I do upstairs, but I thought it would be as well to remind the House of what was said on that occasion.

I wonder about these Committees, how we have set them up and how we have endeavoured at all times to be fair and just, having in mind particularly the minority parties. It has been our practice to appoint Members of the smaller parties to Standing Committees on a rotation basis, and for the purpose of determining the places available these parties have been regarded as a block of 39 Members. I have already indicated that it is rather illogical to regard them as a unified block, but for the sake of peace and quiet and to ensure that representation of minority parties on Committees we thought that that was the best rule to adopt.

However, we were even fairer than that. We were so fair as to be unfair to ourselves, because among those 39 Members who are more or less lined up against us there are two Members—[Interruption.] Yes, lined up against the Labour Party. I have said that if the House consists of hon. Members who cannot sit for the Labour Party they will sit for some other party in Committees. The two hon. Members whom I have in mind are my hon. Friends—and they are my friends—the Members for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maguire). They always sit on this side of the House and invariably vote with the Labour Party. I assure the House that they would be mighty indignant if they were described a supporters of the Tory Party.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

The hon. Gentleman described the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) as being on the Government side. Can he explain why that hon. Member's party is happy to take part in a scheme to provide funds at public expense for Opposition parties?

Mr. Delargy

I may be unusually slow tonight, but I cannot see the relevance of that question.

Since November 1974 the Committee of Selection has nominated 85 Standing Committees on Bills. We have appointed even more Committees on Statutory Instruments, but they are in a special category of their own: anybody can attend them. Of those 85 Standing Committees, 103 places have been given to hon. Members of minority parties—the Liberals, 42, the Scottish National Party 33, the United Ulster Unionist Party 20, Plaid Cymru seven, and the Social Democratic and Labour Party of Northern Ireland one. That was on a Committee dealing with fair employment in Northern Ireland to which are also appointed four Unionists. I think that is a pretty fair representation. At all events it has been on our part a great effort to satisfy, as we should, the minority parties in the House.

I can add something else. In order to be more fair, all those 103 nominations have been made by the Conservative Party on our Committee. Indeed, I think that the Opposition spokesman will allow me to say that one of the suggestions made last Wednesday was that if there was parity among the parties I would be allowed to nominate an independent Member.

Mr. Philip Holland (Carlton)

May I correct what the hon. Gentleman said—not "allowed to", but "would have the sole right to nominate"?

Mr. Delargy

I thank the hon. Member. I should not really thank him, however, because I have a powerful argument against him here. I was going to say hat the Opposition were offering, as a gesture of generosity, something they considered to be a right of their own. The chief point is that of those 103 nominations made by the Conservative spokesman, exception was taken to only one. That was the only time we voted—and, incidentally, we lost. One of our chaps was absent, so the voting was four on the Conservative side and three on our side. Alas, on that occasion I could not have the casting vote.

In our efforts we have tried to be fair to all the minority parties in the House—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not last Wednesday."] Oh, yes, we were. We obeyed Standing Orders as we interpreted them, and I repeat that the composition of the House has to be interpreted, as the former Mr. Speaker said, by the Committee of Selection and by nobody else. If the House wants Standing Orders changed, do not blame the Committee of Selection; change the Standing Orders. We do not make the Standing Orders.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. Is the hon. Gentleman giving way?

Mr. Delargy

I am not giving way, Mr. Speaker. Time is getting on. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] We interpreted the Standing Orders in a way which we thought proper and just.

Since then, the four Labour Members on the Committee have been accused in the House and in the Press, chiefly by people who did not know the facts, of cheating, twisting and lying, of submitting to pressure and bending the rules, and all sorts of dishonourable conduct. We are not dishonourable men, and we have done no dishonourable thing.

10.36 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

I hope in a few minutes to be able to make what I consider to be a constructive proposal to the House as to how we should deal with the situation we now face. However, I should like first to explain—I believe that the House will agree with what was suggested—why I though it was right, and why the Government thought it was right, that we should proceed to deal with this matter in the way we are doing this evening.

First of all, I believed that it was right —indeed, only a matter of natural justice—that my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy), the Chairman of the Committee of Selection, should have the chance to state to the House of Commons and to those who report the affairs of this House what were the reasons why his Committee reached the conclusion that it did and why the members of that Committee took the attitude they did. I believe that was right on political and general grounds, but also, on personal grounds, I believe that everyone who has heard my hon. Friend speak—certainly I have known him since 1945—will agree that we have used the word "honourable" of one another in this House but that there is no hon. Member to whom that can be applied more aptly than to my hon. Friend. It is on that basis, first, that I thought it was right that he should have the chance to put his case to the House of Commons.

However, I also thought it was right because in dealing with any such matter as the conduct of a Committee of this character, and certainly the Committee of Selection, such an opportunity should be given to the House.

Then I thought that it was right that this should happen also in order that we should have the chance to repudiate the suggestions that have been made that we were in any way seeking to rig the arrangements or to do anything of the sort. It is not the case that I or any of my hon. Friends sought to bring any pressure whatsoever on the Committee of Selection. It would have been quite wrong if we had sought to do so. believe that it is right that in this House that should be made absolutely plain, and that is the fact of the matter.

Then also I believed that it was necessary that we should be able to make it clear to the House that we have acted in strict conformity with the traditions and the properties of the House in dealing with these matters. My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock quoted one of the principal precedents, the ruling given about what should be the relationship between the House of Commons and the Committee of Selection laid down by Mr. Speaker Whitley, an eminent Liberal Speaker. My hon. Friend quoted what was said on that occasion.

That has been the view that has been taken generally by the House and by Speakers from 1924 onwards, in varying circumstances, about the Committee of Selection. I know that Committees of Selection have not always been the same bodies, but the House of Commons has always taken the view upon which my hon. Friend concluded his speech—that is, that Committees of Selection act under the Standing Order under which they are established, and that if their conduct is to be altered the Standing Order is to be altered.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

Will the Leader of the House tell us whether the ruling given in 1924 was given before the Standing Order was formulated in its present terms, or had it already been formulated?

Mr. Foot

The Standing Orders stood in very much the same form. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] There was no alteration in the general form but there was an alteration in the nature of some of the Committees, because some of those added to the Committees were added to a nucleus which prevails in all Committees. I am not saying that the actual situation in each Committee was the same, but the rule has been the same. I can quote examples which have happened since then, and I shall come later to another in another context which confirms what I am saying.

There has never been any doubt in the House that if there was to be an alteration in the operations of the Committee of Selction it had to be done by an alteration of the Standing Order itself. It certainly should not be done by any casual statement by Members of this House or by the Government or by any such means as that. I shall come a little later to a proposal as to how we should deal with this aspect of the matter.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

Further to the inquiry put to the right hon. Gentleman by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), may I say that the Standing Order in its present form dates only from 8th March 1971, in contradistinction to certain Standing Orders which go back even to the last century? Has or has not the right hon. Gentleman checked the wording of the Standing Order as it was when the ruling relied on was made in 1924 to see whether the provision was the same in regard to the question of the composition of the House being reflected?

Mr. Foot

The question of the composition of the House being reflected was always taken into account and has been there, as far as I recollect, since 1888, if I have got the date right. So the question of the wording the composition of the House has been there for a very long time. There has, however, been some change in the nature of the Committees, which does not, in my opinion, make any difference to the claim which I was making or which was made by my hon. Friend about the precedents of the Committee of Selection itself and how the House of Commons should go about dealing with them.

I well understand that hon. Members in different parts of the House, particularly in this present House of Commons, may say "Whatever may have been the situation in the past, and whatever may have been the situation in previous Parliaments, this is a different kind of Parliament because of the numbers of parties which are represented here, because of the numbers of different parties which are represented here, because of the balance between those different parties. This House of Commons is unique in that sense and, therefore, some fresh way should be discovered for interpreting the words in the Standing Order 'the composition of the House'." The composition of the House does not by any means mean, as my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock has illustrated—and he has been seeking to interpret the composition of the House"— that all the parties which are ranged against the Government are to be locked into one category ranged against the Government. The composition of the House may vary from Bill to Bill. It may vary from moment to moment, and it may vary according to the attitude of different parties to the Government. That is the situation that my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock has illustrated.

As I say, I am not seeking to argue the permutations of these matters now. I believe that there is a better way in which this matter can be settled, and I shall describe that to the House in a few minutes if the House will permit me to do so. There is a different way in which this can be dealt with. All I am insisting upon—I believe that this is perfectly justified, and, indeed, I do not see how it can be contested—is that there are different interpretations of what might be a proper reflection of the composition of the House". I can understand that some might say "There are equal numbers". That is what we say; there should be equal numbers between the Government party and all the other parties. But there are others who might make a different interpretation, taking account of the way in which the different parties normally vote in the House. That could be a perfectly legitimate position—

Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us precisely what he meant when he said: Maybe we shall have to return to the kind of arrangement we had between March and October 1974 when the then Government took account of the numbers in the House. Governments have to bow to the House of Commons and the numbers in it."—[Official Report. 13th April 1976; vol. 909, c. 1219.] Why was the right hon. Gentleman in favour of returning to that system on 13th April but not now?

Mr. Foot

If the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) will listen to the end of my remarks, he will discover the answer to his question.

I stand by every word in that statement. I still believe that the House of Commons, in seeking to apply Standing Orders and to devise Standing Orders to guide the operation of the Committee of Selection, must take account of the changing numbers of the House itself.

As I was saying, I can understand that it may be argued in the House that we should make a fresh Standing Order to guide the Committee of Selection. I am arguing that no criticism stands against the present Committee of Selection because of the interpretation that we have made. If we reach that conclusion, we should consider together how best to deal with criticism of the Committee and with suggestions that there should be an alteration in procedures.

Fortunately, there is an excellent precedent to deal with that situation. In 1962 the same question was raised by some Opposition Members and was put to the then Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Macmillan. The way in which the Committee of Selection did its duty was criticised and the then Prime Minister gave his reply, no doubt on behalf of members of his Government. The right hon. Members for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) and for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) and the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition were members of that Government and no doubt they accepted the Prime Minister's doctrine. He suggested what I am suggesting. On 6th March 1962 he said that he did not accept the criticism made of the Committee of Selection—as I do not accept the criticism today—and suggested that the matter be referred to the Select Committee on Procedure to see whether there should be a change in the Standing Order to deal with the situation. [Interruption.] I am sorry that a suggestion from a former Conservative Prime Minister should be greeted with such scepticism.

A Committee was established for the purpose. It did not take a great deal of time to present its work. It produced a report within a measurable time which made a recommendation to the House, not altering the Standing Order that had been in operation but sustaining that situation. That is exactly what I propose that the House should do now. [Interruption.] I cannot understand why it should be regarded as a disreputable way to deal with the matter to propose that we should deal with it by exactly the same proposition as Mr. Harold Macmillan put forward in 1962.

Mr. Peter Tapsell (Hornchurch)

Is there not a great deal of difference between a Governments majority of 99, as it was then, and a Government minority of one now??

Mr. Foot

It does not make any difference—[Interruption.]—to the rules of the House of Commons dealing with how we carry out our procedures. It is Tory Members who are trying to twist the rules of the House to suit themselves.

What I propose is that we should follow exactly the precedent laid down on that occasion. I suggest that we refer the matter either to a Select Committee on Procedure or that, if it is preferred because it would be speedy—I accept that it should be dealt with speedily—the issue could be referred for immediate discussions between the usual channels with the heads of the other parties participating in the discussions. We could go about it that way if that were preferred. The purpose of such an investigation should be to see whether we believe it is right that a new Standing Order of the House should be devised to give parliamentary guidance, backed by the House, to the Committee.

I wish to make the proposal as satisfactory as possible because I believe that it is a way of overcoming all our difficulties. It might be asked by some hon. Members, what is to happen to the Committees that have already been established in the past few days on the form, to which objection has been taken, adopted by the Committee of Selection? That is a perfectly reasonable question. When we had the discussions on Thursday last, I said that in the light of the discussions taking place in the House we would suspend the introduction of those Committees. But it would clearly be impossible for the Government to hold up the operation of those Committees and thereby risk the whole of their legislative programme.

However, to accommodate any doubts or difficulties which hon. Members might have in this respect, I make another suggestion, which I hope will be found to be eminently fair and reasonable. That is, that if the Committee which I propose, or the discussion between the heads of the parties, produces a Standing Order which changes the guidance to be given to the Committee of Selection and it goes through the House, the new procedure should be made to apply to those Committees that have been set up in the past few weeks.

That would be a fair proposal. It would apply to the new Committees, to which some hon. Members are taking exception, as to the other ones. I hope that the House will recognise that in making this proposal I have made a proposal by which the House can discover a solution to the problem with which we are faced.

I do not believe that the problem can be solved by the motion which the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition and her right hon. and hon. Friends have tabled for a new Standing Order which has not been examined by the House. It is a new Standing Order which has many difficulties in it, and it does not represent what has been the normal method of dealing with the situation ever since Committees were established. It is a proposition which does not accord with the way in which we have dealt with matters.

In the light of the discussions that I have suggested, I believe that we should speedily devise a proper way of dealing with this matter, bring it to the House speedily and remove the controversy on the issue. That is the proposition that I make to the House. I believe that it can make quite superfluous any vote tonight or tomorrow.

10.55 p.m.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

Not even all the undoubted parliamentary skills of the Leader of the House can possibly disguise the paucity and meagreness of the offer that he has made It speaks volumes only for his power of salesmanship that he was able to make it at all.

First, there is no argument about the honour and honesty of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy). The hon. Gentleman has been a respected and well-liked Member for many years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Nothing in the motion on the Order Paper or in anything I shall say is any reflection upon his integrity. Nor am I suggesting that there has been any attempt—indeed, the right hon. Gentleman has specifically denied this—to rig or influence the Committee in any way. However, I wish that the right hon. Gentleman had taken the excellent opportunity afforded to him tonight to underline that by accepting otherwise than in mere words that the composition of the House had changed.

The right hon. Gentleman has thrown a good deal of dust in the eyes of the House, but I ask him whether there has ever been a parliamentary situation when the Government of the day ceased to have a majority and the Committee of Selection went on as before and ceased, in effect, to have regard to the fact that the composition of the House had changed.

The right hon. Gentleman used one extraordinary sentence when he said that the composition of the House might vary from moment to moment, from Bill to Bill. If the Government are to adopt that as the basis of their operations, at least we know how nimble-footed they are becoming, but that gives no reassurance to those of us who are worried about how they will handle our affairs. When the right hon. Gentleman offers us a Select Committee on Procedure or some device such as that, and adds that the new procedure, when agreed, would be applied in retrospect to the new Committees now set up, I am bound to say that I think we shall need a great deal of further explanation of what he means.

I shall make clear how the Opposition—

Mr. Foot

I do not think that there should be any difficulty about the matter.

If the new Standing Order gave rise to a different configuration of Committees—namely, different numbers from different parties arising from the new Standing Order—the new method should be applied to the Committees set up by the Committee of Selection of my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy). I do not think that there is any difficulty about that.

Mr. Peyton

In that case, the right hon. Gentleman envisages the Committee of Selection confirming the appointment of Committees and inviting Members to serve on them in a speculative way, with no assurance that what they did would endure beyond the deliberations of another Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If that is not the case, I find it difficult to understand one word of what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Our complaint against the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues is that the Government have always insisted that they should not be deterred from putting through controversial legislation by the mere fact that they have only a narrow majority. To them a majority is a majority, no matter how small. As long as they have that majority, nothing will deter them from pursuing the ghastly manifesto to which they constantly refer. Not one word of it is to be modified out of any regard for the opinions of other people. Therefore, they are to continue with their controversial and, in our view, destructive policy.

The situation has changed. First of all there was a by-election, which the Government lost. Then the right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stone-house) crossed the Floor of the House, and the Government's majority disappeared. Much has been made of the fact that some hon. Gentlemen have voted, when they have voted at all, with the Government rather than with the Opposition parties.

Mr. George Grant (Morpeth)

The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) has referred to a right hon. Gentleman who crossed from the opposite side. Will he also admit that that same right hon. Gentleman who crossed is still on the same manifesto?

Mr. Peyton

The hon. Gentleman has the most engaging way of describing his party's manifesto, as if it were some kind of canoe which his erstwhile right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North used to cross the Floor of the House. That is an argument that the hon. Gentleman should pursue with the right hon. Gentleman rather than with me.

Our major point is that a Committee of this House is the House of Commons in miniature. "Erskine May"—that dreadful book has just been republished in yet another edition today—lays it down that the selection of Members to serve on Standing Committees should be on the basis of Members' qualifications and the composition of the House. Until a few weeks ago that rule was followed without difficulty or quarrel by the Government and by the Committee of Selection. But now, suddenly, it has become inconvenient and, therefore, objectionable—of course, as always, on democratic principles.

I wonder why the Government are so fussed about it. Even if the mild suggestion made by the Opposition were to be conceded, we should be far from securing all or even a tithe of what we want. The Government are so obstinate and pig-headed that they are determined to take no risks with their awful policy—that hallowed thing. They are, however, prepared to play ducks and drakes with the rules. The language which is used by the opposition compared with that which would be used were the situation reversed is mild.

The point I am delicately approaching is that some intemperate people in judging such conduct would be tempted to describe it as cheating, but that would be greatly resented by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Government Benches, who are never happy to have such slurs hurled at them. Such words are reserved for their use against other people.

I have already paid a genuine tribute to the hon. Member for Thurrock, and I wish to comment on his remarks. He complained that the Standing Order was vague. It was not vague until the hon. Gentleman got at it. It is the aura of suggestion that is making it vague. After all these years, it seems to me that the hon. Gentleman has allowed his attention to wander ever so slightly from Standing Orders and "Erskine May". I concede that anyone who allows his attention to wander from either of those dreadful books can be forgiven, but on this occasion it is serious.

I should like to quote to the House what the hon. Gentleman said in the course of a recent broadcast: We have to decide how it is that the Government can get its business through even though it has not got an overall majority on the Floor of the House, but you must remember that the Government has still got a majority of 40 over the Conservatives". [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Gentlemen on the Government side say "Hear, hear" with relief, but they are the first to cheer and welcome the irrelevancy. That does not let them out of their dilemma.

The hon. Gentleman went on to say that none of the minor Opposition parties, if I may so respectfully term them, was elected to support the Conservative Party or to oppose the Labour Party. Equally, the hon. Gentleman must concede that the converse holds true: that none of these parties was elected to support the Labour Party or oppose the Conservative Party.

Then we come to the question of there being no interference with Select Committees. The hon. Gentleman was galloping away a bit too fast on this one. He was expecting a total licence for a Select Committee, once appointed, to behave as it wished. There is nothing in any precedent or in anything stated from that Chair, Sir, which would justify such an argument.

What we are saying, very mildly, to the hon. Gentleman is that he was very unwise in present circumstances to use his casting vote as he did. We therefore put down our motion, in restrained language, prejudging no one and nothing, in the hope that the Leader of the House would quickly seize the opportunity to show that he meant what he said in reply to a question of mine on 13th April.

I was gratified on that occasion when the right hon. Gentleman made clear that he thought my question was easy and simple, as I did. The right hon. Gentleman said, however: The second question the right hon. Member put was slightly more awkward but not all that difficult. He then drew a comparison between Committees already in being and those to be set up in the future. What on earth, I ask him, could his words have meant unless it was that he intended to take some positive action which actually recognised the fact that the composition of the House had changed? The right hon. Gentleman continued: Of course, the Government must take account of the alteration in numbers as must the Selection Committee.

Mr. Foot

Of course, I believe that it is perfectly proper for the House to give new instructions or guidance to the Committee of Selection, but it must do it by changing the Standing Order. It cannot do it by a word from the Leader of the House.

Mr. Peyton

I do not think there is much argument between the right hon. Gentleman and myself on this, but I do not believe that it is necessary to change the Standing Orders if a Select Committee has plainly, and in the view of the House, erred in its construction of Standing Orders.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to say, emphasising his words but taking account very clearly of the fact that the situation had changed: Maybe we shall have to return to the kind of arrangement we had between March and October 1974."—[Official Report, 13th April 1976; Vol. 909, c. 1219.] Very well. What a good idea! Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would care to look at the list of Committees set up in that Parliament. Let him look particularly at two not absolutely uncontroversial Bills. The Standing Committee on the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill had 30 members, 14 Labour, 14 Conservatives, one Liberal and one Scottish National Party Member. The Standing Committee on the Finance Bill—very relevant to this discussion—had 40 members, 19 Labour, 19 Conservatives, one Liberal and one Ulster Unionist.

In the House the other day the Prime Minister, answering questions in a most engaging way, told us that he had been whiling away the time waiting for his ordeal by reading "Erskine May". I find that a little difficult to believe, but that was what he told us. He was a little too coy, however, to tell us which page he had been studying. One was hardly surprised by that fact when one came to realise that the bit to which he referred subsequently did not occur in "Erskine May" at all Probably he had been reading a different book and had merely mistaken or misread the title page.

Then we have had over the weekend the great thrill of one of those really characteristically delicate interventions which we get every now and again from that master of refinement the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, speaking without restraint in the open air, attacked us as Trotskyites. There are so many things that I could say. Is not this a classic example of Satan rebuking sin? However, perhaps I should content myself with saying that the right hon. Gentleman, in this argument as in so many other arguments, has the advantage of me, because he is much more familiar with the jargon of that party than I am.

I come back to the Leader of the House, whose skills many of us have admired. One can only be sorry when someone with those formidable skills finds himself confronted with such a rotten case that not even the great shining garment of his eloquence is sufficient to cover up the horror of it.

The right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.]—offers us a Select Committee on Procedure. I thought I heard one hon. Gentleman opposite say "Do not get cynical." It is Labour Members who make me cynical.

The right hon. Gentleman suggested that a Select Committee on Procedure should be set up. We agree that the setting up of such a Committee is well overdue. But we object to letting the Government's programme of legislation go ahead as if nothing had changed.[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah"] The fact is that because the Opposition have not always seized upon every opportunity to exploit the Government's disadvantages they have sometimes been mistakenly criticised.

We now conclude that the Government are claiming that they alone have all the rights and the Opposition have none, that the referee is to be consigned to the stand and have his whistle taken away, that the rule book should be withdrawn while it is rewritten and that, meanwhile, Committees set up as before, under the old situation, will decide upon a legislative programme which we find objectionable and highly obnoxious.

The Government may not like our motion, but they should at least show respect for the rules which make possible the passage of their legislative programme. They should pause—seriously pause—before they persist in a course which could and will easily undermine the whole of the working of Parliament.

11.18 p.m.

Mr. Robert Mellish (Bermondsey)

I hope to try to cool some of the argument and get us back to the reality of the situation by calling upon my experience over the last few years of situations of this kind.

The success of this and of many other Parliaments has been the result of what are called "the usual channels". Many hon. Members on both sides of the House sneer and jeer at the usual channels. I recall that a Chief Whip of the Liberal Party once described the usual channels as a cooked-up, sad story. But the fact is that this House cannot function without them. Let everybody understand that without the usual channels you, Mr. Speaker, could not do your job properly. Somehow the system works.

What are the usual channels about? There is nothing mysterious about them. They are a discussion by, I hope, civilised people trying to arrive at the best pay in which the business of the coming week can be formulated and arranged.

I should like to put on record that when the Opposition Chief Whip—I know of no more honourable man—gave me an undertaking on behalf of his party, he kept his word. I knew he could not always control his mavericks. I know how it is. I had my mavericks as well. The difference was in the way one dealt with them. I used to keep by fingers crossed when a Division took place late at night. But it was the discussions which counted.

To my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench I say that one can win a battle, but I am not sure that at the end of the day one wins the war.

To the Chairman of the Selection Committee I say that there can be no doubt that the structure of the House was changed by the defection of the right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stone-house). He will not be surprised to learn that I was not surprised by his defection. He was not much good to me when he was here anyway. When I did my sums, as I did every day—surprise, surprise, I can count—I always assumed that the right hon. Member for Walsall, North would vote against the Government. If he voted with us or abstained, that was a bonus. In the whole structure of the way in which we handled our business, I never counted him as of any consequence whatever to the Labour Party. Now that he has gone over to the official Opposition, and formed some silly daft party, the name of which I do not know, it cannot be denied that there has been a change. That is a simple, elementary fact.

If the argument used by the main Opposition party is the pursuit of parity and the inevitable conclusion to which that leads, what does parity mean? On Committees on normal Bills there are nine Government Members and seven Opposition Members, making a total of 16. In the parity argument it would be eight and eight. Let us be quite clear that eight Opposition Members does not mean eight Conservatives. It means seven Conservatives; that is the most they can expect out of eight. Who is the eighth Member to be? That is an interesting position. There is the Liberal Party, which I know so well. Do not let the Liberals ever believe that they are desperately anxious to get on to Committees, because a more bone idle lot I have never met. I remember reading a copy of one document issued by the Liberal Chief Whip, who said "Please could we all be together here in one heap"—and that with 14 Members. He should have my job. It would have done him the world of good he would have lost some weight.

Then there is the Scottish National Party, and a first-class shower they are. They hate the English—

Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Moray and Nairn)


Mr. Mellish

They hate the English, they detest the Welsh, they detest the Irish. The only people they are concerned with are the Scots. That is fair enough, but they cannot complain if they never get on a Committee, except for the Scottish Grand Committee. That deals with them.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

That is cheap.

Mr. Mellish

The hon. Lady should shut up. I hope I shall not be regarded as unnecessarily flattering, but I have enormous regard for the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). He is a first-class parliamentarian. Though I disagree with many of his political views and attitudes, his knowledge of the House and its procedures cannot be denied. Negotiations with the right hon. Member as an individual could be considered. I am not so sure about his hon. Friends. Somebody once said that the Irish were as thick as two planks, but the knowledge which the right hon. Member for Down, South has of parliamentary procedure cannot be ignored.

There are only three of the Plaid Cymru characters, and two of them are very decent. They are young and intelligent, but they have a leader who is so reactionary that he makes me feel ill. He might just as well join the Conservative Party and have done with it. Until he came in, the other two characters were very decent.

We are talking of the one Committee member over whom the Conservatives have no control.

Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)

Will the right hon. Member give way?

Mr. Mellish

It had better be intelligent.

Mr. Eyre

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about a Committee of 16, with eight Labour and seven Conservative Members and one representative of a minority party to be nominated by the Chairman of the Committee of Selection. Will he accept that this was precisely the proposition put by Opposition Members in the Selection Committee?

Mr. Mellish

I am trying to make my own case in my own way. Believe it or not, I am trying to cool down the argument. I am suggesting to my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Committee of Selection some of the matters he should take into account. Whether he will do so is another matter.

If we get a Committee which is difficult—and, my goodness, I have had some—we change the Bill on the Floor of the House. This is where Bills start with their Second Readings, this is where they are finally changed. Even on an eight-eight Committee, the Chairman is duty bound not to accept wrecking amendments. He must do his best to send the Bill back almost intact to the House.

I do not see why we are getting worked up. The final decision on Bills will be made on the Floor of the House. When I was Chief Whip, colleagues often said that they had had a terrible time in Committee with three or four defeats in a morning. I replied "So what? We can deal with that on the Floor of the House."

There are two concepts to our democracy which must never be shaken: Governments must govern and Oppositions must oppose. Interfering with either of these concepts can cause great dangers for everything we stand for and everything for which we have fought. Democracy really only started in this country in the 1920s. People had to fight for democracy, for votes for women. Do not let us tamper with it.

We can finally settle disputes on the Floor of the House. If a Committee misbehaves and an Opposition are aiming to frustrate or destroy a Bill, the Government must have the alternative of a guillotine motion.

I have never believed that guillotine motions were a bad thing. I speak as an ex-party manager. The one thing that destroyed me again and again as a party manager was never knowing when a Bill would come back to the House and then go to the other place. No democracy expects a situation of that kind to go on without some form of assurance of getting the Bill through.

The Conservative Party or one of the other Opposition parties may be the Government of the day in the years that lie ahead—I do not think it will be in the immediate future—and I put it to them that there is nothing immoral in a guillotine motion. Let the Opposition beware. They have the right to fight and the right to oppose, but the Government of the day have the right to get their legislation through, and we shall get our legislation through by the only means left to us.

I put it to my right hon. and hon. Friends that two-thirds of our manifesto on which I fought the last General Election—and on which the right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse) fought it—is already on the statute book. What about that? That cannot be bad for democracy as we know it in this House. I am saying that two-thirds of the manifesto is already here in statute form.

I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) that it is against that background that we should face the problem. I ask for no losing of tempers. There is no one on the Government Front Bench who can be accused of corruption or an attempt to do anything dishonest. No one can accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock of being dishonest. Let us start talking about the best way to deal with this problem. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has made an honourable suggestion. I do not know whether it is practical, but I do know that unless the usual channels function in the way that everyone in this House wants them to do we shall all suffer.

I have been a bad member of the usual channels. I remember that on the Industrial Relations Bill I drove some of my right hon. Friends almost frantic, because when this House sits through the night it gets no votes outside. It earns nothing but contempt from the public when it does that. There is not one vote to be gained from it. People outside marvel at how stupid we can be. That is why timetable motions are relevant. My right hon. Friends have the right to decide when discussion on a Bill shall be brought to an end, and the majority of hon. Members and the minority parties understand that and support it.

My day as Chief Whip is over, and for that I am grateful. Yes, I am very grateful indeed. I am not one of those who complain about what may happen now or in the future, and on looking back I can say that I had the experience of doing a job on behalf of the party of which I am proud and of working for a House of Commons of which I am even more proud.

11.33 p.m.

Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)

The right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) has done a great service to this debate because he tried to speak on behalf of the House of Commons as a whole, and I shall attempt, albeit inadequately, to follow in that spirit.

What the right hon. Gentleman was saying was that although there may be a tactical victory here or there, the whole basis on which the House operates is an acceptance of certain conventions, certain tolerances and a certain inbuilt fairness. The right hon. Gentleman got the very point which I believe the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) did not get: that we do not believe that Standing Order No. 62 has been properly interpreted to reflect the changed balance in the House. That is what we are saying.

I must say that I enjoyed the right hon. Gentleman's thumb-nail sketch of the House of Commons. He was the rich man's Andrew Roth, although he collectivised and got one of his remarks wrong. He got the leader of one national party mixed up with another one. He thought one was on the Left and one was on the Right. I think he got them muddled up but, be that as it may, I leave them to defend their own position. However, when the hon. Gentleman said that it was eight to eight, that meant eight for the Government, seven for the Opposition and one for the minority parties. That was implicit in the Leader of the Opposition's motion. When the right hon. Gentleman says that that might produce problems, of course he is quite right. But I believe it is a problem which can be overcome, and I believe that it was overcome between March and October 1974.

I shall mention one or two Bills which the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) did not mention. On the Prices Bill, there were 11 Labour Members, 10 Conservatives and one Liberal, so that the Government, in fact, only had parity. On the Housing Bill there were 11 Labour Members, 10 Conservatives and one Plaid Cymru—again, one minority party, parity to the Government and not a majority. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill and the Finance Bill. On the former there were 14 Labour Members, 14 Conservatives, one Liberal and one Scottish National, while on the Finance Bill there were 19 Labour Members, 19 Conservatives, one Liberal and one Ulster Unionist.

Far be it for me to speak on behalf on the minority parties—it is sometimes difficult enough to speak on behalf of my own party—but we are talking about the changed balance of the House of Commons, which means that what we are asking for is equality between the Government side and the Opposition side. If that means that the minority parties have to discuss between themselves who shall serve on each Committee, it will certainly be their responsibility to come up with a civilised proposal and I see no reason why they should not be forthcoming.

The speech which we would like to have heard tonight, which would perhaps have been one of the greatest parliamentary performances for many years, would have been the speech by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), now Leader of the House, had he been sitting on the Opposition Front Bench. I am quite certain that we would have had at least one quotation from Burke. Cicero and the Greeks and the Romans would all have been pulled in. There would have been a reference to Churchill for the benefit of the Conservative Party if they were on the Government Benches, and no doubt Mr. Gladstone and others would have been brought in. By this stage the right hon. Gentleman's hair would simply have been flowing in the wind of his own creation. But that was not his position.

I acquit the Government of giving orders to the Committee of Selection, because the Committee of Selection did precisely the reverse of what the right hon. Gentleman thought they were going to do.

On 13th April—the right hon. Member for Yeovil has quoted it—the Leader of the House said: Of course, the Government must take account of the alteration in numbers as must the Selection Committee". Well, they did not. Maybe we shall have to return to the kind of arrangement we had between March and October 1974 when the then Government took account of the numbers in the House. Governments have to bow to the House of Commons and the numbers in it."—[Official Report, 13th April 1976, Vol. 909, c. 1219.] That was clearly what the right hon. Gentleman expected, if words mean anything, was likely to happen—that the Committee would have to take account of the changed balance which he accepted had occurred. Of course, it might well mean a return to the sort of system we had between March and October 1974 when the Government sometimes had parity and were sometimes in a minority. No one is asking for a minority situation. We are asking for parity between the Government side and the Opposition side.

It seems to me that the precedents are perfectly straightforward. What we are saying to the right hon. Gentleman is that we do not want a new Standing Order because we have the appropriate Standing Order—No. 62(2) relating to the composition of the House. Why we are saying that this is a rigged result is because there has been a misinterpretation of Standing Order No. 62.

The Prime Minister on Thursday, when I asked him, simply said "Well, what is Standing Order 62?". I acquit the hon. Member for Thurrock of ignorance on this particular aspect, but when it comes to the Prime Minister I am reminded of the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who once said that he would always acquit any Government of dishonesty when a simple explanation of stupidity would suffice. I acquit the right hon. Gentleman as well. I do not think that at this stage Standing Order No. 62 was engraven on his heart.

Then the Prime Minister came up with a very dangerous new constitutional argument—not one adopted by the hon. Member for Thurrock—that if the Government get a majority on Second Reading they must automatically have a majority in the Committee. What happens, for example, if it is an unopposed Second Reading? Are there to be no Opposition Members on the Committee? It is a ridiculous argument. No one but the Prime Minister has put it forward. The Leader of the House did not put it forward. The hon. Member for Thurrock did not put it forward, and neither did the former Chief Whip. It is a constitutional nonsense which should be dead and buried.

I very much challenge the interpretation placed upon the 1924 ruling. Is it seriously to be said that the House of Commons can never pass judgment upon the way in which the Standing Orders of the House are implemented on its behalf by a Select Committee which it has set up? If that is the view, there is only one alternative, and that is to discharge that Committee of Selection. That would have to be done by a motion, for which time would have to be provided in Private Business.

If the Committee of Selection would find it helpful to have an interpretation of what Standing Order No. 62 means by saying have regard…to the composition of the House", I for one would be very happy to see a body set up to interpret it. But I do not believe that it is necessary on the basis of past precedents. We have seen what happened. The right hon. Member for Bermondsey referred to the most recent precedent, which was the previous minority situation between March and October 1974. Therefore, I believe that the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition is perfectly correct in saying that we should discharge those Committees that have been set up, because in my view they have not been set up on the basis of a correct implementation of Standing Order No. 62.

However, there is one other matter that is equally important. I believe not only that we should maintain the balance in the House on Standing Committees but that the Committee of Selection itself should reflect the composition of the House. That might well mean a change in Standing Orders. It would be Standing Order No. 109, of which no doubt the Prime Minister has also heard, but it relates to the Private Business. The last occasion on which it was amended was to reduce the numbers from 11 to nine. I see no reason why, by a very simple amendment, the numbers could not be increased to 10, five for the Government and five for the Opposition parties, meaning that four would be official Opposition and one would be from a minority party.

As the hon. Member for Thurrock properly said, we are dealing in this House with 40 Members from five Opposition parties, and it is no good anyone saying "Oh, well, Bloggins and somebody else usually vote Labour, so we can count them as ours. "The fact that someone comes into one's back yard regularly does not entitle one to claim in any paternity action. As my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon- Tweed (Mr. Beith) acutely pointed out, one of these adopted children from Belfast is recognised as an Opposition party for the purposes of receiving money granted to Opposition parties under the Short plan. The Government cannot have it both ways. If that hon. Member is so clasped to their bosom, no doubt all the Opposition minority parties could share what little money he receives. At least, that would be logical.

What we need, first, is to realise that the issue is a balance of equality between the Government and the Opposition parties. The second point is that we must get a balance that reflects the views of the House of Commons on the Committee of Selection itself. If that cannot be done, if we cannot reach agreement on that, if we cannot get an interpretation of Standing Order No. 62 that is generally acceptable to the House and will last the vicissitudes of many years, we shall have this issue reopened every time a change is brought about by a by-election here or there. What is vitally important to the House of Commons is that we interpret this Standing Order in a way that is generally accepted and agreed. If that means giving further instructions or guidance to the Committee of Selection, that must be done.

I do not want to end on a harsh note, but if the right hon. Gentleman says that the Committee of Selection and its rulings cannot be changed and that it was perfectly well carrying out Standing Order No. 62 within the meaning of the Standing Order on the basis of past precedents, he leaves us with only one option and that is to put down a motion to discharge that Committee. I warn him that that may well be a proposition for which there may be a majority in the House.

Mr. Foot

May I quote the words that Harold Macmillan used on this precise subject of how a change could be made? He said in March 1962: I do not think it would be right to criticise the Selection Committee, which does its duty as it thinks right in accordance with the Standing Orders. If the matter should be changed, then the Standing Orders must be changed."—[Official Report, 6th March 1962; Vol. 655, cc. 203–4.] That is the proposition according to which the House of Commons has always sought to conduct its business.

Mr. Thorpe

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Would he not confirm that this was a criticism made before these appointments had been made? We are now dealing with a situation in which the Committee has acted on our behalf. If the House of Commons is a free House of Commons and disapproves of what has happened and disapproves of Standing Orders, it is entitled to say so.

11.47 p.m.

Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)

This debate is one of the most important that we have had for some time. There is no doubt at all that unless there are usual channels, and so on, between the two sides of this House, Parliament becomes impossible. It certainly becomes impossible if there is any suspicion that the party in power is using unfair means to get legislation through.

If anything disappoints me tonight, apart from having to say what I am going to say, it is that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) was not made from the Dispatch Box. I believe that what he said represents the feeling of the majority of Members.

I do not want to be unduly critical of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I believe that he is in a difficult situation. I think that, quite wrongly, he feels that he must give undivided support to his colleague who is Chairman of the Committee of Selection. It is unfortunate that he did that, because the proposal that he made tonight is one that would have commended itself to the House had he not prefaced it with certain remarks that created a certain amount of doubt whether he felt that, ultimately, there should be equality between the two sides of the House. If, at some stage, it is possible for him to make, it clear that his mind is completely open on this matter, I am sure that his proposal will commend itself to the majority of hon. Members opposite.

People talk about changing the Standing Order. For the life of me, I cannot see anything ambiguous about its working. When one talks about the composition of the House, one talks about the numbers in the House. If there is any doubt about that, I call the attention of hon. Members to a statement made by Mr. Speaker on 8th March 1951. At that time there was equality in the Committees, but the Labour Government had a majority—a very small one—in the House. The Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of the Committee of Selection discussed this matter and they could not come to a decision, so they went to the Speaker and asked his advice on the matter.

In a statement, which was discussed in the House, the Speaker made it quite clear that when they came to see him he said that they must have regard to the composition of the House. In fact, he said that a Committee of 20 should give the Labour Party 11 and the Opposition 9. That was at a time when the majority of the Labour Party went to two places of decimals in the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy), the Chairman of the Committee, for whom I have tremendous respect, was ill advised to use his casting vote in this way.

Mr. Delargy

I was not advised.

Mr. Crawshaw

I did not use the word "advised" in that sense. My hon. Friend was very unwise to use his casting vote. For the life of me I cannot think why he rejected the offer of equality that would allow him to select the odd man out on the Committee. Legally, this side of the House is not entitled to that.

It has been pointed out that equality on a Committee does not mean that the Government cannot get their business through and in that respect I correct the interpretation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey. The Chairman of a Committee can select amendments, but it is important to remember that he votes according to precedent. If it is an amendment to change the Bill, he must vote to leave the Bill as it was when it left the House.

Mr. Mellish

That is what I said.

Mr. Crawshaw

If that is what my right hon. Friend said, I accept it. [Interruption.] I do not expect help from my hon. Friends who have read nothing about the matter. Some of them are not even concerned about it. They merely mouth democracy without taking part in it. The way in which the Opposition will select their members is not the point of the discussion. The debate concerns the question of how many seats we should have on a Committee.

There is no doubt that composition—and there is no ambiguity about the wording—as Mr. Speaker said in 1951, means Members in the House. We should have equality on the Committee, and my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock was unwise to reject the offer made.

Of course, when a Chairman uses his casting vote in Committee, the Bill can come back to the House unchanged. It does not mean that the party cannot get its legislation. It might mean that legislation will be better thought out than it sometimes is before it goes to Committee, and therefore there will be no need for amendments. The Government will certainly not be hamstrung if there is equality in Committee. To say, because we may not get legislation through, that these rules are ambiguous, when they are not, does no service to the House or to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

11.54 p.m.

Mr. Philip Holland (Carlton)

Since the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) represents the views of only half the Committee it may be convenient if I explain the mechanics of the Committee of Selection as I understand and operate them. I shall also explain the view of the other half of the Committee membership.

In the normal weekly operation of the process of selection my function, on behalf of all parties other than the Labour Party, closely parallels that of the Chairman of the Committee on behalf of the Labour Party. The factors that I regard as governing selection are availability—because we cannot use the same Members on several Committees running concurrently—and Members' interests, so far as they are known to me. Because these usually fail to provide an adequate number for a Committee there always has to be a certain random element at the end of the day. We have to have, perhaps, "pressed" men.

It has never been my practice to consult Division lists. It may be argued that I ought to. On the other hand, it may be argued that I ought not. I am explaining what my practice is. My con- cern—and this is why it is not my practice to consult Division lists—is always to try to ensure that in the preparatory work each party, other than the Labour Party, is properly represented on a fair spread of Committees in accordance with the party strength in the House.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I have been following the hon. Members' argument with some interest. In those circumstances, why was it that the Scottish National Party was kept off the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries [Lords] Bill, which was a Scottish Bill? Why was it kept off the Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill? In view of the hon. Gentleman's interest in making sure that my party is properly represented in relation to its support, why, when the Consentatives have only five seats more in Scotland than we have, with a smaller share of the vote, have they six or seven Members on Scottish Standing Committees, whereas we are left with one, it we are lucky?

Mr. Holland

The hon. Member has raised a number of questions and there is not time to answer them in full. I should be glad to talk to him afterwards and explain things to him. The difficulty about the representation of a minority party on a Bill is that there are often other minority parties with the same interests. There has to be a variation in the representatives of minority parties. There are liberal Members who have an interest in Scottish matters. Sometimes we have to put them on to a Bill dealing with Scottish matters. I do my best, and when I have difficulties I often consult the minority parties and seek their advice. The SNP knows that I seek its advice from time to time when I am in a difficulty about selecting the right Member for a particular Committee.

What I have never done, and what, until last Wednesday, no member of the present Committee of Selection has ever done, is to decide what is a fair division as between the parties, on Standing Committees of different sizes. That decision is crucial to the responsibility of the Committee of Selection to ensure that Standing Committees reflect the composition of the House. It is a responsibility that in the past has been based precisely on a mathematical table prepared by the impartial Clerk of the Committee and adopted without amendment by the Committee.

Since the Committee has no authority to chop hon. Members into little pieces —although sometimes there is the temptation—the Clerk does a rounding-up or rounding-down operation to achieve the number of whole Members for each Committee. In the table produced following the last General Election, the Clerk, in his wisdom, decided to round up almost any decimal point to the next number in the column for Labour Members and to reduce, in some cases, to the lower figure almost any fraction for Conservative Members.

For example, in a Committee of 16, the proper proportion would be 8.048 Labour Members to 6.96 Conservative Members to 0.984 Members of minority parties. This was translated by the Clerk into whole numbers, so that the 8.048 became nine Labour Members, the 6.96 became six Conservative Members and the .984 became one minority party member. For a Committee of 21—to give an odd number and a larger Committee—the figure of 10.06 Labour Members became 11, while 8.7 Conservatives became nine and 1.23 others became one.

Thus, Labour Members have been over-represented, in fractional terms, on the basis of the tables prepared by the Clerk. That is probably because he took the view that even an overall majority of one in the House as a whole should be reflected by the smallest possible overall majority in Standing Committees, which again is one. Nobody disputed that in the Committee of Selection, because as long as the table was exactly as presented by the Clerk it was objective and impartial. It was accepted that any weighting given would be for administrative or practical reasons rather than to give any party political advantage to either side.

I should point out that in round figures each member of a Committee represents about 40 Members in the House. Actually, it is 38 to 40, depending on whether the Committee has 16 or 18 members. That is why a Labour majority of 38 or 39, or whatever it may be, over the Conservatives in the House, entitles Labour to a majority of one over Con- servatives. That is not in dispute, and it was not in dispute in the Selection Committee.

In the same-sized Committee, about 40 members of a group of minority parties, taken together, are entitled to one Member in each Committee. That partly answers the point raised by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson)—namely, why we cannot always put Scottish nationalists on all Committees dealing with Scottish Bills. This is a difficult problem.

Although the Labour Party has been heavily over-represented in Standing Committees, the recent change in the composition of the House would not have caused any need for a change in Committee. But it was the crossing of the Floor of the House of the right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse) that was the final touch that tipped the scales. So it was that the Clerk of the Committee, at the request of the Committee at its meeting just before the Easter Recess, prepared a full set of tables setting out the exact entitlement of each party, or group of parties, in Standing Committees of 16 to 45 Members. It was that impartial and objective set of tables, prepared by a neutral officer of the House, that the members of the Committee of Selection refused to accept, because it reflected the loss of overall majority that has occurred in the House.

In a Committee of 16, for example, on the new tables prepared by the Clerk, Labour would be entitled to 7.98, Conservatives to 7.2 and others to 1.01. It is almost an exact 8:7:1: relationship. The argument was used that if the Government won a Second Reading Division on a controversial piece of legislation with the aid of one or more members of a minority party, that would not be a true reflection of the existing parity. It seemed to me, and to most of the members of the Committee, that there was a good deal of substance in that argument. We therefore proposed to preserve the ground rules established by custom and practice and work to the table prepared by the Clerk. Are we to accept in all such cases that the minority party members, or members of the Committee, should be the sole selection of the Labour side of the Committee? This would have effectively given the Government a majority of two in all Committees on controversial business where they had the support of minority parties on Second Reading.

Mr. Harry Lamborn (Peckham)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he is suggesting that on any controversial Bill a Member of a minority party would be placed on the Bill only if he voted with the Government?

Mr. Holland

No. The hon. Gentleman knows full well—he was sitting on the Committee last Wednesday—that if the Government won a Second Reading with the help of minority party Members, they could choose one of the minority party Members to support them on the Committee. That would be reasonable and fair. We recognise that.

Mr. Thorpe

Is not the converse of this strange formula that the more a minority party votes against a Second Reading, and the smaller the Government's majority, the more chance there is of getting appointed, on the basis of parity between Government and Opposition?

Mr. Holland

Yes. It is also true that if the minority parties vote against the Government on Second Reading the Government do not get a Second Reading.

What was lost last Wednesday was not just a vote about whether the Government should expect the Committee of Selection to reflect the composition of the House; what was lost was the impartiality of selection in the House. What was also lost was confidence and good will between members of the Committee—a Committee which, until now, has always relied on that confidence for the efficient conduct of its business.

I join with the hon. Member for Thurrock in deeply regretting this situation. Unless reason prevails and an amicable formula can be worked out, I believe that the House will come to regret what has happened.

12.6 a.m.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

Since I represent a party that has been through an earlier period of time when there was a minority Government, I wish to make one or two observations.

A simple reading of Standing Order No. 62 leads one to believe that there is no proper interpretation of the phrase "composition of the House" that would meet the explanation offered by the Chairman of the Committee of Selection, or that put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. I shall not refer to some of the cheap-jack arguments deployed by the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), but he was on sounder ground when he said that the Government would still be in a fairly strong position if they gave up their obvious attempt to appear to hang on to power, by whatever means. The attempt by which they have chosen to safeguard their interests will merit very little respect in Scotland, or, indeed, in England.

It has already been said that the Government have achieved about 66 per cent. of their manifesto commitment—and it is probably true to say that most of their contentious legislation has been included in that 66 per cent. Obviously, the Government's strategy was to get through most of their controversial legislation before they lost their majority. Had the Government the sense to think out that strategy they would have been saved a great deal of embarrassment.

There are two points with which I wish to deal on behalf of my party. I wish, first, to deal with the need for representation of minority parties in the Committee of Selection. It is true to say that that Committee has nominated Members of my party to serve on Committees in which they have been interested. The Committee occasionally has accepted advice and guidance given to it, and also advice sought by its members. But on other occasions the behaviour of the Committee has appeared somewhat erratic. I was recently asked for recommendations in relation to appointment of Members to a Scottish Bill. I put forward three names, but a fourth name was eventually decided on by the Committee of Selection. That fourth name was mine, and I could not serve on the new Committee because I was already serving on another Committee. Therefore, the reasoning of the Committee is not always clear to us. Since we are not represented on the Committee of Selection, we have no understanding of the way in which it operates.

Mr. Thorpe

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that up to 1950 there were three political parties in the House. It has not always been a two-party preserve.

Mr. Wilson

The right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) is making the point that in the past there has been third-party representation. I should like to suggest how minority parties should be represented on the Committee of Selection so as to be capable of dealing with all the many and varied interests involved.

When the smaller parties were offered two Supply days, to be divided between them, it was left to the parties to arrive at a formula for the division of the time and when the time might be taken, and the parties were able to work out a satisfactory programme. I do not agree that it should be for the Government to select a representative from the smaller parties; it should be for the parties that wish to be represented on the Committee of Selection, by agreement, to choose a common representative.

Scottish National Party Members spend a great deal of Committee time on United Kingdom Committees, although the SNP, in terms of representation in Scotland, is the third largest party in the House. Our representation on Scottish Standing Committees is not equivalent to our standing or status in Scotland, or to the specific interest that we have in our own country and its legislation. A proposal was put forward through the usual channels by the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and the former Leader of the House for a formula to achieve satisfactory representation, but I am not sure what has happened to the channels. They seem to be bogged down.

If the official Opposition are claiming a right to alter the balance of the Committee of Selection to account for the overall political situation, we in Scotland have the right to have our situation clarified. I hope there will be an opportunity for both the Government and the official Opposition to comment on this clamant injustice. Otherwise, the people in Scotland will take it as an unjustifiable defence of privilege.

12.12 a.m.

Mr. William Whitelaw (Penrith and The Border)

The right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said—I

could not agree with him more—that it is extremely unfortunate that matters concerning the usual channels have to be debated acrimoniously in the House. As one who has spent as much time as anyone, save my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), in the usual channels, I regard it as a great pity.

Is it really necessary to continue with this argument? As the right hon. Member for Bermondsey said, the Standing Order is perfectly clear. Why do we have to change it? Why cannot we accept the position that arose between February and October 1964, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) suggested? Why cannot we be sensible? Why do we have to make all this fuss, when we can perfectly well do what the right hon. Member for Bermondsey suggested?

Mr. Foot

With the leave of the House, Mr. Speaker, I should like to speak again. I fully concur with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) about the high desirability—I would almost say the necessity—of sustaining the proper functioning of the usual channels, because without that we cannot function properly. I accept that.

I do not accept that my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) behaved dishonourably or wrongly. I do not accept that the Committee of Selection behaved wrongly. The members of the Committee interpreted the situation as they saw it. The only way in which we can change that situation according to the precedents of the House is by changing the Standing Order. I suggest to the House that we should adopt the proposal made and thereby get common agreement in the House for dealing with the question.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Spelthorne)

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 put accordingly, That this House do now adjourn:—

The House divided: Ayes 280, Noes 286.

Division No.117.] AYES [12.14 a.m
Adley, Robert Aitken, Jonathan Alison, Michael
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Montgomery, Fergus
Arnold, Tom Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Moore, John (Croydon C)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Awdry, Daniel Gray, Hamish Morgan, Geraint
Bain, Mrs Margaret Griffiths, Eldon Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral
Baker, Kenneth Grimond, Rt Hon J. Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Banks, Robert Grist, Ian Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Beith, A. J. Grylls, Michael Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Bell, Ronald Hall, Sir John Mudd, David
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Neave, Airey
Benyon, W. Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Nelson, Anthony
Berry, Hon Anthony Hampson, Dr Keith Neubert, Michael
Biffen, John Hannam, John Newton, Tony
Biggs-Davison, John Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Nott, John
Blaker, Peter Hastings, Stephen Onslow, Cranley
Body, Richard Havers, Sir Michael Oppenheim, Mrs Sally
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hayhoe, Barney Osborn, John
Bottomley, Peter Heath, Rt Hon Edward Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Henderson, Douglas Paisley, Rev Ian
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Heseltine, Michael Pardoe, John
Bradford, Rev Robert Hicks, Robert Pattie, Geoffrey
Braine, Sir Bernard Higgins, Terence L. Penhaligon, David
Brittan, Leon Holland, Philip Percival, Ian
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Hooson, Emlyn Peyton, Rt Hon John
Brotherton, Michael Hordern, Peter Pink, R. Bonner
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bryan, Sir Paul Howell, David (Guildford) Prior, Rt Hon James
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Budgen, Nick Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Raison, Timothy
Bulmer, Esmond Hunt, David (Wirral) Rathbone, Tim
Burden, F. A. Hurd, Douglas Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hutchison, Michael Clark Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Carlisle, Mark Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Chalker, Mrs Lynda James, David Reid, George
Churchill, W. S. Jenkin, Rt Hn P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Clark, William(Croydon S) Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Clegg, Walter Jopling, Michael Ridsdale, Julian
Cockcroft, John Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rifkind, Malcolm
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W[...] Kaberry, Sir Donald Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Cope, John Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Cormack, Patrick Kershaw, Anthony Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Corrie, John Kilfedder, James Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Costain, A. P. Kimball, Marcus Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E) King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Crawford, Douglas King, Tom (Bridgwater) Royle, Sir Anthony
Crouch, David Knight, Mrs Jill Sainsbury, Tim
Crowder, F. P. Knox, David St. John-Stevas, Norman
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Lamont, Norman Scott, Nicholas
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Lane, David Scott-Hopkins, James
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Langford-Holt, Sir John Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Latham, Michael (Melton) Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Drayson, Burnaby Lawrence, Ivan Shelton, William (Streatham)
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Lawson, Nigel Shepherd, Colin
Durant, Tony Lester, Jim (Beeston) Shersby, Michael
Dykes, Hugh Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Silvester, Fred
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Lloyd, Ian Sims, Roger
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Loveridge, John Sinclair, Sir George
Elliott, Sir William Luce, Richard Skeet, T. H. H.
Emery, Peter McAdden, Sir Stephen Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) MacCormick, Iain Speed, Keith
Eyre, Reginald McCrindle, Robert Spence, John
Fairbairn, Nicholas McCusker, H. Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Fairgrieve, Russell Macfarlane, Nell Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Fell, Anthony MacGregor, John Sproat, Iain
Finsberg, Geoffrey Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Stainton, Keith
Fisher, Sir Nigel McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Stanbrook, Ivor
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Stanley, John
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Madel, David Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Forman, Nigel Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Marten, Neil Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Fox, Marcus Mates, Michael Stokes, John
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Mather, Carol Stonehouse, Rt Hon John
Freud, Clement Maude, Angus Tapsell, Peter
Fry, Peter Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Mawby, Ray Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Tebbit, Norman
Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) Mayhew, Patrick Temple-Morris, Peter
Glyn, Dr Alan Meyer, Sir Anthony Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Goodhart, Phillip Miscampbell, Norman Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Goodhew, Victor Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Thompson, George
Goodlad, Alastair Moate, Roger Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Gorst John Monro, Hector Townsend, Cyril D.
Trotter, Neville Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek Winterton, Nicholas
Tugendhat, Christopher Wall, Patrick Wood, Rt Hon Richard
van Straubenzee, W. R. Walters, Dennis Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Vaughan, Dr Gerard Weatherill, Bernard Younger, Hon George
Viggers, Peter Wells, John
Wainwright, Richard (Colne v) Welsh, Andrew TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Wakeham, John Whitelaw, Rt Hon William Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Welder, David (Ciltheroe) Wiggin, Jerry Mr. Cecil Parkinson.
Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Abse, Leo English, Michael Lee, John
Allaun, Frank Ennais, David Lester, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Anderson, Donald Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Lever, Rt Hon Harold
Archer, Peter Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Lipton, Marcus
Armstrong, Ernest Evans, John (Newton) Litterick, Tom
Ashley, Jack Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Lomas, Kenneth
Ashton, Joe Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Leyden, Eddie
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Luard, Evan
Atkinson, Norman Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W) Lyon, Alexander (York)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Flannery, Martin Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) McElhone, Frank
Bates, Alf Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) MacFarquhar, Roderick
Bean, R. E. Foot, Rt Hon Michael McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Benn, Rt Hn Anthony Wedgwood Ford, Ben Mackenzie, Gregor
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Forrester, John Maclennan, Robert
Bidwell, Sydney Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Bishop, E. S. Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Madden, Max
Blenkinsop, Arthur Freeson, Reginald Magee, Bryan
Boardman, H. Garrett, John (Norwich S) Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Mahon, Simon
Bradley, Tom George, Bruce Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gilbert, Dr John Marks, Kenneth
Broughton, Sir Alfred Ginsburg, David Marquand, David
Brown, Hugh D. (Proven) Golding, John Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Gould, Bryan Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Buchan, Norman Gourley, Harry Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Buchanan, Richard Graham, Ted Maynard, Miss Joan
Butler, Mrs Joyce(Wood Green) Grant, George (Morpeth) Meacher, Michael
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Grant, John (Islington C) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Grocolt, Bruce Mikardo, Ian
Campbell, Ian Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Millen, Bruce
Canavan, Dennis Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Cant, R. B. Hart, Rt Hon Judith Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)
Carmichael, Neil Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Molloy, William
Carter, Ray Hatton, Frank Moonman, Eric
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hayman, Mrs Helene Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Cartwright, John Healey, Rt Hon Denis Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Heffer, Eric S. Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Clemitson, Ivor Hooley, Frank Moyle, Roland
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Horam, John Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Cohen, Stanley Howell, Rt Hon Denis Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Coleman, Donald Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Newens, Stanley
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Huckfield, Les Noble, Mike
Concannon, J. D. Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Oakes, Gordon
Conlan, Bernard Hughes, Mark (Durham) Ogden, Eric
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) O'Halloran, Michael
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Roy (Newport) Orbach, Maurice
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Hunter, Adam Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Cryer, Bob Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Ovenden, John
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Owen, Dr David
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Padley, Walter
Dalyell, Tam Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Palmer, Arthur
Davidson, Arthur Janney, Greville Park, George
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Parker, John
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jeger, Mrs Lena Parry, Robert
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Pavitt, Laurie
Deakins, Eric Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechlord) Peart, Rt Hon Fred
Dean, Joseph (Leeds W) John, Brynmor Pendry, Tom
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Johnson, James (Hull West) Perry, Ernest
Delargy, Hugh Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Prescott, John
Dempsey, James Jones, Barry (East Flint) Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Doig, Peter Jones, Dan (Burnley) Price, William (Rugby)
Dormand, J. D. Judd, Frank Radice, Giles
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Kaufman, Gerald Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Duffy, A. E. P. Kelley, Richard Richardson, Miss Jo
Dunn, James A. Kerr, Russell Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dunnett, Jack Kilroy-Silk, Robert Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Kinnock Neil Robertson, John (Paisley)
Eadie, Alex Lambie, David Robinson, Geoffrey
Edge, Geoff Lamborn, Harry Roderick, Caerwyn
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Lamond, James Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Ellis, John (Brlgg & Scun) Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Leadbitter, Ted Rooker, J. W.
Rose, Paul B. Stott, Roger Weitzman, David
Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Strang, Gavin Wellbeloved, James
Rowlands, Ted Strauss, Rt Hon G. R. White, Frank R. (Bury)
Sandelson, Neville Summersklll, Hon Dr Shirley White, James (Pollok)
Sedgemore, Brian Swain, Thomas Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Selby, Harry Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) Whitlock, William
Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Thorne, Stan (Preston South) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C) Tierney, Sydney Williams, Sir Thomas
Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE) Tim, James Wilson Alexander (Hamilton)
Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Tomlinson, John Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Tomney, Frank Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Silverman, Julius Torney, Tom Wise, Mrs Audrey
Skinner, Dennis Tuck, Raphael Woodall, Alec
Small, William Varley, Rt Hon Eric G. Woof, Robert
Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Wainwright, Edwin (Deanne V) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Snape, Peter Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd) Young, David (Bolton E)
Spearing, Nigel Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Spriggs, Leslie Walker, Terry (Kingswood) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Stallard, A. W. Ward, Michael Mr. James Hamilton and
Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Watkins, David Mr. John Ellis.
Stoddart, David Weetch, Ken

Question accordingly negatived.