HC Deb 12 December 1977 vol 941 cc172-203

Again considered hi Committee.

Question again proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Lee

I was about to consider the position in which these rootless wonders, the list Members, would have no constituents to represent, let alone be deemed to be the representatives of something. I do not know whether they are to be selected by the regional organisations or by Transport House. I suppose that nominally they would be selected by some recognised party organ.

What has distinguished the elections of the past few years from the situation as it once was is that political parties are now part of the constitution. In the past few years since 1970 party labels have appeared on the ballot paper. For the first lime we have given statutory recognition to the concept of a political party.

What will be the position of a person selected by the regional organisation, let us say the Labour Party in the West Midlands, when such a person hops over the fence and becomes a Conservative or a National Fronter, for that matter. Does that mean that others will have to vet him before he is received into that party? More to the point, since he has frustrated their representation, ought they not to be given the power to present a late petition to unseat him? I understand that under the electoral law any petition to unseat a Member—and there are restricted categories for unseating—must be lodged within 28 days of elections. There may be exceptions in the case of fraud or other irregularities.

What is the situation about the unseating of such a Member? It is something we have a right to know from the Minister. If a representatives mandate is to be exhausted, what will be the machinery to replace it should he be replaced by the party receiving it? Is there to be a special provision under the list system for the party machinery or organisation to form itself into an electoral college? If a person elected under the list system changes his party machine and is unseated, is he to be selected by the party organisation of the party into which he is received, or should there be a totally new election on a constituency basis? It is reasonable to consider that.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) interrupted my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) with what I took to be a slightly satirical intervention. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we were to pay the list Members a different salary from those who would be representing their constituents in the sense of having constituencies to look after. It is a fair point and something that we shall wish to consider. We shall have to know what we are to do about differentials.

What is the proper remuneration and what are the proper terms of service for the Members? We should consider these matters before we go on to consider the electoral system by which Members are sent to the Assembly. As yet we have had no indication.

Sir Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)

The hon. Gentleman says "Before we go on to consider the electoral system". Surely we have been considering the electoral system for the past 10 minutes.

Mr. Lee

I am glad that my own representative—that is not by my assistance, but he represents the place where I live—has intervened. We should consider the terms of service of the Assembly Members. What do the firemen think of the proposed remuneration of £25,000 a year?

Mr. Skinner

No, £35,000.

Mr. Lee

I am sorry, I did them an injustice. I undervalued them. What do the firemen think about the remuneration that is proposed for those who will go to Luxembourg? What do the miners think? Arthur Scargill will have a bonanza at the next round of the NUM Executive. It will not help the Government's incomes policy—this is a rather more serious contribution—if they are to countenance the preposterous figure that is being suggested. Surely no one could need such a salary, however selfish, wasteful and greedy is his domestic life. I hope that my hon. Friend will take up this matter when he replies.

I hope that we shall be considering the Bill for a long time to come. I hope that May and June of next year will pass and that May and June of the following year will pass. I hope that we shall give the Bill the sort of consideration that it undoubtedly deserves.

Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

You have been generous, Sir Myer, in Committee by allowing the debate to range fairly widely over a number of issues. The Committee has been able to turn its attention to almost everything, from the meaning of democracy and imagination in politics to the works of Hegel and Rousseau. That has been useful in some respects, but perhaps not in all.

The First Deputy Chairman

It has been a little more peaceful.

Mr. Howell

Before the Minister of State intervenes for the second time in the debate, I shall put one question to him. Obviously he has a great many more questions to answer. I am sure that those with good will towards the Bill as a whole—I appreciate that that does not include every member of the Committee at present—will wish to see Clause 1 stay in the Bill and will support any vote on that issue. I hope that shortly there will be an opportunity to show that support.

My question arises from earlier debates and I believe it to be important. The Foreign Secretary undertook to bring forward a new clause that would satisfy the belief that any further extension of the Assembly's powers at the expense of national Parliaments and national Governments would be itself governed by an Act of Parliament. We are looking forward to seeing such a clause. We were looking forward to seeing it 10 days ago. It would be interesting to know how the Minister is getting on with its manufacture.

I share the view of those who remain somewhat worried about considering the clause as a whole until we know what is in the Government's mind. I understand the feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), but I do not go along with all that he said. My hon. Friend suggested that there was no need to worry on this score and that to do so would be offensive to the whole development of the Community. I do not share that view. It would be interesting to hear something about the new clause—for instance, when it is coming, where it is coming and how it will meet the needs of the Committee as expressed in earlier debates.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Frank Judd)

This has been an extremely interesting and searching debate. It might be helpful if I now try to deal with some of the points that have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.

Before turning to the matters that have been raised this evening, I should like to take up one important point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) after my intervention on the last occasion when debating Clause 1. My right hon. Friend asked in more detail about the relationship between the French Overseas Departments and Territories and the European Economic Community and the differences from the United Kingdom's colonies and dependencies.

The position of Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, Hong Kong and Bermuda is not really analogous to that of the French Overseas Departments. The four French Overseas Departments of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyane and La Reunion are regarded as integral parts of the French Republic, and many of the provisions of the Treaty of Rome, including the common fisheries policy, apply to them. Moreover, they send representatives to the French National Assembly, as do the French Overseas Territories, who do not, however, enjoy the provisions of Community membership other than those of association.

Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, Hong Kong and Bermuda are not directly represented at Westminster or in the present European Assembly. Frankly, it is not considered appropriate that they should be included in arrangements for direct elections when in no other State will an overseas territory which does not already participate in that member State's elections be participating in such direct elections.

Mr. Jay

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Judd

With respect to my right hon. Friend, whom I really do respect in his interventions on these matters, there are many points with which I want to deal.

Mr. Jay

If it is true that French territories, such as Martinique, are an integral part of France, I presume that it follows that any sea area within 200 miles of those territories is part of the 200-mile ocean zone of the EEC and that, therefore, this country would have fishing rights in those areas.

Mr. Judd

If my right hon. Friend will study in Hansard what I have just said, he will see that I have mentioned this evening that this includes the common fisheries policy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee) referred to the contentious issue of salaries. I should make it absolutely plain that the Government understand the strong feelings on this issue not only in this Chamber, but more widely in the country. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that some of the speculation has been quite obscene in terms of the amount that might be paid to those fulfilling the functions of members of the European Assembly. I assure the Committee that the Government fully share this anxiety and are determined that some of the exaggerated excesses that have been mentioned shall not come to pass.

Inevitably, there has been a good deal of concentration on the powers of the European Assembly. Indeed, the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) has just asked about the Government's position on these matters. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Newham. South (Mr. Spearing), who made some important points about the budgetary powers of the Assembly, the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) and my hon. Friends the Members for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) and Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) that the points that they have made tonight will be in the Government's mind in preparing their promised new clause limiting the powers of the Assembly.

Mr. Mikardo

Does my hon. Friend recall that in the debate on 1st December it was pointed out—I do not think that anybody disssented from the view—that it was difficult to ask Members to make up their minds whether Clause should stand part of the Bill, since it was very much affected by the text of the proposed new clause, until they had seen that text? When we were told that the Committee was not to resume for 11 days, it was assumed that the reason for the delay was that the Government were proposing to table the new clause before asking the Committee to make up its mind on Clause 1. Why has that not happened?

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Judd

I understand my hon. Friend's anxiety. I understand the position of all those hon. Members who, not surprisingly, want to know what the Government propose to bring forward in the new clause. I also appreciate that hon. Members do not wish to buy a pig in a poke. However, it would be wrong for the Government to rush a new clause which did not do its best to meet the genuine anxieties of hon. Members while at the same time overcoming some of the constitutional difficulties which would be encountered in such a new clause. I hope that hon. Members will be patient for a little longer and accept the undertaking that a new clause will shortly be tabled and that it will fully meet the Committee's genuinely expressed anxieties.

Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)

Since the only reason for delay in tabling the language is concern that it might not meet all the objections, presumably there will be no difficulties in Members who are interested seeing the text as it stands in provisional form.

Mr. Judd

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) has been able to join us at this late stage in the debate. We shall certainly bear in mind the points which have been made by those who have been present throughout the debate.

In what has been an interesting debate, I am sure all would agree that the high point has been the consideration of the nature of democracy. Concern with the quality of our political system is right at the heart of the feelings and attitudes of those who have genuinely held different views on this matter. It has been refreshing tonight, in the Committee at its best, to find some of those differing views honestly and candidly expressed.

Mr. Spearing

About five minutes ago my hon. Friend mentioned my contribution to the debate. In saying what he did about my contribution, is he confirming that my view about the powers of the Assembly and the budget is correct? Does he confirm that, provided that two-thirds of the votes are cast, it is possible for the Assembly under the new article to stop any change of the budget in the succeeding year and that, therefore, the Community has to operate within the budget for the preceding year?

Mr. Judd

It would be a brave man who took issue with my hon. Friend. I referred to honesty and candour in which he is second to none. I am having a close look at the pamphlet from which my hon. Friend quoted. I shall write to him about its accuracy or otherwise.

I was dealing with the question of democracy. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) in his remarks, which were dealt with interestingly and effectively by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart), dwelt on the phrase "representatives of the people". This phrase reflects the language used in Article 137 of the Treaty of Rome.

In dealing with this issue, I am sure that hon. Members will forgive me for singling out one contribution. Characteristically, my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) faced some of the most crucial issues involved in democracy. I feel as deeply as any hon. Member and I wish to make a personal contribution. We should recognise that democracy is not simply about the technique of Government. It is a guarantee of human dignity. It is an expression of faith in the creative potential of society based on the principles of individual freedom and responsibility. It is essential not to become bemused by debate and not to regard institutions as an end in themselves.

Our institutions will be judged in history by how they enabled politicians such as ourselves to contribute effectively to the qualitative improvement of society, based as it is on these concepts of freedom and individuality. But, in moving towards this fulfilment of the spirit of democracy, accountability is essential to the whole thesis, and tonight there has been a lot of talk about accountability.

The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) gave us his views as a committed

federalist. It is clear that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee respect him in his position even if they do not agree with him. He committed the error, however, of over-simplification, because he did not have time in his speech to dwell on scrutiny and its part in the whole process of accountability. One of the undertakings that I and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House have been able to give the House is that there is searching and meaningful work now under way about the ways in which we, together with the Committees responsible for scrutiny, can improve the methods of scrutiny for the House of Commons.

I re-emphasise the point I have made in previous contributions on this theme, which is that we may have differing views but we respect each other. The view of the Government—and history will judge whether we are right or wrong—is that the European Assembly has certain strictly defined responsibilities. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South has referred to some of them. We have no desire to see the powers of the Assembly increased. My right hon. Friend has given his specific undertaking to the House in that respect. What we have said, and what we stand by, is that we believe that the way in which democracy will best work within the Community is on the principle of accountability by Ministers to their own domestic Parliaments, of which the House of Commons is an outstanding example.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 219, Noes 79.

Division No. 48] AYES [10.23 p.m.
Abse, Leo Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)
Adley, Robert Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Davidson, Arthur
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Buchanan-Smith, Alick Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)
Anderson, Donald Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Dean, Paul (N Somerset)
Armstrong, Ernest Campbell, Ian Dempsey, James
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Carlisle, Mark Dodsworth, Geoffrey
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cartwright, John Doig, Peter
Bates, Alf Chalker, Mrs Lynda Dormand, J. D.
Beith, A. J. Channon, Paul Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Berry, Hon Anthony Churchill, W. S. Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Duffy, A. E. P.
Boardman, H. Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Dunn, James A.
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Cohen, Stanley Dunnett, Jack
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Coleman, Donald Dykes, Hugh
Boscawen, Hon Robert Conlan, Bernard Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) English, Michael
Bottomley, Peter Costain, A. P. Ewing, Harry (Stirling)
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Cowans, Harry Eyre, Reginald
Bray, Dr Jeremy Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E) Fairgrieve, Russell
Brittan, Leon Crawshaw, Richard Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Cronin, John Fookes, Miss Janet
Brotherton, Michael Crouch, David Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Ford, Ben MacFarquhar, Roderick Shepherd, Colin
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) MacGregor, John Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) McGuire, Michael (Ince) Sims, Roger
Fox, Marcus MacKay, Andrew (Stechford) Skeet, T. H. H.
Fraser, John (Lambeth. N'w'd) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Small, William
Freud, Clement Maclennan, Robert Smith, John (N [...]anarkshire)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Magee, Bryan Snape, Peter
George, Bruce Mallalieu, J. P. W. Speed, Keith
Glyn, Dr Alan Marks, Kenneth Stallard, A. W.
Golding, John Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Stanley, John
Gourlay, Harry Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Mayhew, Patrick Stott, Roger
Grant, John (Islington C) Meyer, Sir Anthony Stradling Thomas, J.
Gray, Hamish Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Strang, Gavin
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Monro, Hector Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Montgomery, Fergus Tebbit, Norman
Harper, Joseph Moonman, Eric Thompson, George
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Tierney, Sydney
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Tinn, James
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Neave, Airey Tomlinson, John
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Nelson, Anthony Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Hodgson, Robin Noble, Mike Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Hooson, Emlyn Oakes, Gordon Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Horam, John Ogden, Eric Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Howell, David (Guildford) Page, John (Harrow West) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Palmer, Arthur Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Hunter, Adam Pardoe, John Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Hurd, Douglas Parker, John Ward, Michael
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Penhaligon, David Warren, Kenneth
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Phipps, Dr Colin Watkins, David
James, David Price, William (Rugby) Watt, Hamish
Janner, Greville Pym, Rt Hon Francis White, Frank R. (Bury)
John, Brynmor Radice, Giles White, James (Pollok)
Johnson, James (Hull West) Rathbone, Tim Whitehead, Phillip
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Whitlock, William
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Reid, George Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rhodes James, R. Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Judd, Frank Rifkind, Malcolm Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Kaufman, Gerald Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Knight, Mrs Jill Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Lawrence, Ivan Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton) Woodall, Alec
Le Marchant, Spencer Roper, John Wrigglesworth, Ian
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Young, David (Bolton E)
Luard, Evan Royle, Sir Anthony Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) St. John-Stevas, Norman Younger, Hon George
McCrindle, Robert Sandelson, Neville TELLERS FOR THE AYES
McElhone, Frank Sever, John Mr. Ted Graham and
Macfarlane, Neil Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Mr. Thomas Cox.
Allaun, Frank Gould, Bryan Ovenden, John
Ashton, Joe Heffer, Eric S. Parry, Robert
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Hooley, Frank Pavitt, Laurie
Atkinson, Norman Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Pendry, Tom
Bean, R. E. Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Richardson, Miss Jo
Bidwell, Sydney Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Buchan, Norman Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Robinson, Geoffrey
Budgen, Nick Kerr, Russell Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Canavan, Dennis Kilroy-Silk, Robert Rooker, J. W.
Cant, R. B. Kinnock, Neil Ross, William (Londonderry)
Carmichael, Neil Lambie, David Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Carson, John Lamond, James Silverman, Julius
Carter-Jones, Lewis Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Skinner, Dennis
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Leadbitter, Ted Spearing, Nigel
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Lee, John Spriggs, Leslie
Clemitson, Ivor Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Stoddart, David
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Loyden, Eddie Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) McCartney, Hugh Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) McCusker, H. Wigley, Dafydd
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) McNamara, Kevin Winterton, Nicholas
Dunlop, John Marten, Neil Wise, Mrs Audrey
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Maynard, Miss Joan Woof, Robert
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Mendelson, John
Flannery, Martin Mikardo, Ian TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Mr. John Ellis and
Forrester, John Moate, Roger Mr. Max Madden.
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Molyneaux, James

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)

I beg to move, That Clause 3 be considered before Clause 2. The Bill is of importance. It contains clauses of great importance to our future. The motion is simple and straightforward, and I indicate now that when the vote has been taken I shall beg leave to move "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again".

There are basically two reasons for our bringing forward the motion today. The first is that representations have been made in the House on various occasions in the last week or so that the House should have an opportunity before Christmas to consider and vote upon the electoral system to be used in the United Kingdom's elections to the European Assembly.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Lord President have indicated, we wish to respond to the wishes of the House. If the Bill were considered in the usual order, it would be most unlikely that the House would have an opportunity to consider and vote upon the electoral system before we rise on Friday of this week. We therefore hope that we are meeting the wishes of the House in enabling the Committee to debate Clause 3 before Clause 2, and this will be done tomorrow.

The second reason for the motion is that a decision this week on the electoral system for our elections to the European Assembly will be of great assistance to those who have responsibility for making the practical arrangements for the conduct of these elections. If the regional list system is chosen, there will be much to be done before the elections are held in the target period of May-June 1978. The political parties will wish to consider their arrangements for the selection of candidates. The Home Office and the Scottish Home and Health Department will need to consult—no more than consult—further with local authority associations about the necessary arrangements for the appointment of returning officers and the training of election staff. The same thing applies in Northern Ireland. These discussions could also relate to other practical matters such as poll cards and election notices. If first past the post wins the day, the practicalities of election will follow the pattern that we have been used to over the years.

I recognise as well as anyone that a vote on Clause 3 is not in any sense equivalent to Royal Assent to the Bill, but there are many important aspects of the Bill which will need to be carefully considered whether the regional list or simple majority system is chosen. If, however, the Government's recommendations in favour of the regional list system are accepted by the Committee, it will be of great advantage for all those concerned with the practical arrangements for the holding of the elections to know of the decision before Christmas.

Mr. Powell

The right hon. Gentleman has very helpfully given an indication of his intention following the motion. I wonder whether he would go a little further. Suppose that the decision tomorrow on the question of the regional list or first past the post were taken, would he think it right then to proceed immediately to consider the other parts of Clause 3 or would he regard it as proper that there should be an opportunity to consider the implications of a decision upon the remaining amendments to Clause 3?

Mr. Rees

That is quite correct. The right hon. Gentleman has saved my making that point.

I wonder whether it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I indicate the procedures that will be necessary. As the Committee is now well aware, Clause 3 contains a procedural device which has enabled the one Bill to contain alternative electoral systems. We have the regional list system set out in the body of the Bill and the rival simple majority system set out in Schedules 1 and 2. Clause 3 (2) contains the procedural device of a resolution of the House to provide for the simple majority system with STV in Northern Ireland.

I do not wish to trespass on the ground that will no doubt be covered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) when moving Amendment No. 24. I should, however, point out that, if carried, that amendment will remove the whole of Clause 3(1) and the reference to a resolution of the House in Clause 3(2). My right hon. Friend's amendment will therefore enable the Committee to come to a decision in principle between the regional list system and the simple majority system.

If the regional list system is chosen, we shall in due course put down an amendment to delete the procedural device in Clause 3 (2), and at the appropriate time we shall move the deletion of Schedules 1 and 2. If the simple majority system is chosen, we shall need to give consideration to the detailed arrangements for this system that are set out in Schedules 1 and 2. That will no doubt also include discussion of Amendment No. 26 on the important question of STV for Northern Ireland, but that will be in the new year. We shall also need to come back to the question of the allocation of seats, also after Christmas. I accept, as was said by my hon. Friends, that the new clause that we shall discuss is also of great importance.

The immediate question, however, is the order in which we should debate Clauses 2 and 3. For the reasons that I have given, it seems desirable that we should devote tomorrow's debate to the consideration of Clause 3 so that all concerned can know where they stand before Christmas. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen had been listening amid the hubbub at the beginning, they would know that I have dealt with that point.

I am sure that this is the right course. I hope that tonight we can simply debate this motion and that tomorrow we can debate the amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North. This is a procedural matter tonight. The major debate will take place tomorrow. This is the intention of the Government.

Mr. David Howell

As the Home Secretary has said, the motion appears simple. But perhaps some of the vibrations from around the Committee have indicated that it leads to some fairly complicated consequences. While some of my right hon. and hon. Friends—possibly the majority—welcome the intention behind the motion, nevertheless it raises many questions.

Before we vote on the motion, there are one or two questions to which we are entitled to a reply, first, to ensure that we have tomorrow's debate on the relevant amendment in the right context and, second, to ensure that that debate does not take place on a false basis.

There are those hon. Members, who are more likely to be found on the Opposition side, who are worried that we might find ourselves proceeding to a debate which may not take place in a context that is entirely clear and which may take place in a context that is thoroughly misleading with regard to the major and important decisions that we shall wish to discuss about the system of election.

We are entitled to question the Government and the Home Secretary as to why, after 14 months of delay in bringing forward the Bill and getting to the point where these matters can be discussed, the motion is now being brought forward by the Home Secretary with such great hurry. I am sure that that question will be answered with usual candour from the Government Front Bench. We should like to know what it is all about. Is it the Government's view—this was not made entirely clear from what the Home Secretary said—that we are set to meet the May-June deadline? Is this motion supposed to help in that respect?

10.45 p.m.

Is it the right hon. Gentleman's view—and we know that there are other views in the Committee—that the May-June deadline matters? The Prime Minister has said more than once that it will not be the end of the world if we do not make it. On the other hand, the Foreign Secretary was hard at work in Brussels the other day telling us that if we adopted the regional list system now proposed in the Bill we might make the deadline. I think that the right hon. Gentleman said it was difficult but not impossible. Is that the Government's view? If it is, it is not my view and it is not the view of a good many Opposition Members and, possibly, some Government supporters as well.

We say that we want to meet the target date. I should like to see May-June 1978 met. If the Government had brought forward this Bill in the proper time, it would have been possible fairly easily to have met the target date with either first past the post or the regional list system. That could have been done if the Government had not dragged their feet. As a result of their feet dragging, it is obvious that under either system it will be very difficult to meet the May-June date.

I believe—and I think that some of my right hon. and hon. Friends do too—that it is erroneous to argue that in all circumstances, if we were to choose first past the post, that would take months and months and somehow delay matters whereas if we stuck to the proportional representation solution it would all go through like a dose of salts.

Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)

May we assume that, for the purposes of tomorrow's debate, the evidence that the Conservative Party put forward on 15th June 1976, signed by Lord Thorneycroft, still applies—namely, that the Boundary Commissioners are the only people who should be charged with the first-past-the-post system, that there must be local inquiries and, therefore, that that means option A, which takes a minimum of 30 weeks?

Mr. Howell

All assumptions about the different views held by right hon. and hon. Members will have to be tested tomorrow. I believe that some of the arguments about the great length of time that would inevitably be taken if we had the first-past-the-post system have to be looked at again. Similarly, those who argue that the regional list system can go through quite quickly may have to think again when they see some of the complexities raised. Even with the regional list system, there is the problem of boundaries and the problem of planning regions.

We should be thinking carefully before reaching a glib conclusion that one is on the fast track and the other is on the slow track. We should be careful before going into the debate tomorrow on that assumption, because I believe it to be false. To argue that the regional list system will go through very quickly and that the first-past-the-post system will not is, in my view, to twist the debate into a totally false perspective. One does not have to be for or against any system of for or against the purposes of the Bill to see that that is so.

If the Home Secretary would be more explicit than he and his right hon. Friends have been so far on the timing, we should be able at least to have a more genuine debate tomorrow than the one for which we appear to be being set up. We should be in a better position if the Home Secretary would say how he sees the timing under either system, what he believes the timetable will be, what goals he is aiming at and whether he wants to get everything through by Easter.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

All that I am seeking to do is to prepare the ground for putting these arguments tomorrow. I am simply asking that we may discuss them tomorrow, not tonight.

Mr. Howell

I am sure that that is right, but we want to make sure that the ground is prepared fairly and not in a way which will pose the Committee a bogus choice. If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to state these matters clearly, there is a chance that we shall have a good debate tomorrow. If not, those who have argued all along that we need a fair choice of systems, and those who say that any question of changing the electoral system should not be bound up with, should not be confused with and should not be merged with the other important issues of the Bill, are right to have their doubts about how matters are proceeding.

We should like to know more from the Home Secretary about how he sees the future timing. If he will not say that until tomorrow, we shall have to debate it then, but it would be much fairer if he would say before the Committee finishes this debate exactly how he sees the timing under the two different systems, so that when they are debated tomorrow they can be debated fairly and openly.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

I listened to everything that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said. What we are discussing is whether we should alter the procedure on the Bill—not regional lists, first past the post or anything of that kind.

I was unconvinced by what my right hon. Friend said. He gave no sufficient reason for such a drastic change in the procedure. It is not exactly usual to alter the order of the clauses in a Bill in the middle of our proceedings upon it. The only argument I heard from my right hon. Friend was that representations had been made to him to do this. Who made those representations? The only representations I have heard in the Chamber have been from the Leader of the Opposition. It is not usual for this Government automatically to accept any proposal from the right hon. Lady. Did my right hon. Friend accept it simply because the right hon. Lady made it? If not, from whom else did the representations come?

The only other vestige of an explanation my right hon. Friend gave was that there were various reasons of convenience and that it would be easier for those who have to administer the elections to be told rather sooner which type of election we shall have. But the Government must have known that when they drafted the Bill. If that is the only reason, why did they put Clause 3 after Clause 2 in the first place? It is obvious that whenever the Bill came forward it would be easier for those who have to administer the elections to know sooner rather than later the form of those elections.

Therefore, it seems to me that there is no substance in either of the reasons my right hon. Friend advanced. If he has some other reason, will he tell us what it is? If he has not, will he please answer those questions?

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch and Lymington)

We are discussing the reasons for changing the order of the Bill, and we are in a great hurry. My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) has already said that we have waited months and now the Home Secretary wants to get the matter through in half an hour.

May I assume that the work is to be done by the parliamentary Boundary Commissioners? Are they to consult the local government Boundary Commissioners? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the rather strange boundaries to be discussed under either system are not matters that would normally be considered only by the parliamentary Boundary Commissioners?

My next question is so mundane as perhaps not to be worth asking, but will the Commissioners work overtime? Will the Home Secretary say whether he really believes that the economic planning council areas are the right ones that should be used for the proposed constituencies?

Mr. Mikardo

I shall be brief because I have only a single question to the Home Secretary to add to those that have been put by hon. Members. My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) said that the Home Secretary had given only two reasons for this reversal of order. However, my right hon. Friend's memory was at fault because there were three reasons. The third was that the Home Secretary thought that hon. Members needed to know before Christmas. What is the relevance of Christmas in this context? Why does the Home Secretary think that it is essential for the welfare and the peace of mind of right hon. and hon. Members and their capacity to enjoy and do justice to the festive season that they should know before it comes which of two different methods we shall use at some time between now and Christmas 1978 to decide these elections?

I look at the Committee and gaze on the countenances of right hon. and hon. Members. I look at them one at a time and I try to see which of them will find himself unable either to enjoy or digest his Christmas dinner. Whichever one it is will be sitting there on Christmas Day, watching his wife cook the turkey, biting his nails and saying "I can't eat it, I can't eat. I don't know what method we are going to use." I look around at my colleagues and into their faces, one by one, trying to figure out which of them will find it impossible, because he is so worried about what method of election we shall use, to devote his mind, time and attention to the selection of Christmas presents for his children and grandchildren.

What is the relevance of Christmas? Is it any more than a hit of flapdoodle verbiage, and it is not a fact that the so-called reasons given by the Home Secretary are devoid of any serious political substance?

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) is fully justified in adding to the protests that have been made from both sides of the Committee about the switch of procedure and the proposal by the Home Secretary to change the order of Clauses 2 and 3. It is quite wrong for the Government, the Home Secretary and his colleagues to look anguished and irritated when my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) asks perfectly legitimate questions relating to the choice of systems to be debated tomorrow, and it is quite in order for us to ask these questions.

It is no good saying that what we are considering tonight in isolation is Clause 3 in front of Clause 2, which will give a not necessarily cosy but well-structured and well-organised debate tomorrow on systems. Legitimate, strong and powerful protests are due and will be made repeatedly about the grotesque delays that the Government have deliberately inflicted on the House this year and since the autumn of last year.

11.0 p.m.

The Select Committee's report recommended that it would be feasible for the Second Reading of the Bill to take place as early as last February. Later it was proposed, with substantial agreement in the House, that there could be a Second Reading in May or June. We had a "phoney" Second Reading at the end of the summer and, in many ways, an equally "phoney" delayed Second Reading this Session.

Now, at the eleventh hour, the Government say "It is not our fault. We did not create the delay. We ask that everybody should easily, superficially and without hesitation or undue delay change the order of Clauses 2 and 3." That is unreasonable. Many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will wish to add their protest about the Government's proposal. The Government may feel, with some justification, that hon. Members will be obliged to follow this lamentable course of action and change the order of the clauses. The cogent point has been made that Clause 2 is in many ways relevant by way of prior consideration to Clause 3. But the Government are determined to have their way.

It is interesting that the business has been rearranged with the co-operation of the Opposition, showing that we have consistently been ahead of any other party in prosecuting the Bill. That is a tribute to the Opposition's determination to pass the legislation reasonably. That is consistent with our desire to record a protest about the Government's glibly proposing this course.

We are considering a profound and significant procedural point. Some hon. Members may think it important to get Clause 3 through before Christmas. However, we register our protest while feeling reluctantly obliged to agree with the Government's suggestion.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

The searching questions put to the Government by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) are of value only if he is prepared to carry out the Opposition's traditional rôle—that is, to safeguard the rights of the Committee. Without his determination to show that in the Division Lobby, the hon. Gentleman's questions are so useless that they need not have been uttered, and they will be taken as that by the country.

We are facing a serious situation. Under the procedure, the Opposition, and the Opposition Front Bench in particular, are given special privileges and opportunities to safeguard the procedure. If they do not do it, the job goes by default. Many people in the country complain that the House of Commons is becoming less important and is losing its influence. The abdication of the Opposition on an important occasion like this is largely responsible if there is any truth in that allegation. Tonight we have witnessed a shameful example of the abdication of the Opposition's traditional rôle.

We look forward with great interest to discovering how the Home Secretary will answer the questions put from this side of the Committee. The Government have put forward this proposal knowing that they are not acting on their own. We should hear from the Opposition or perhaps from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary which Members persuaded him to bring forward this suggestion. The Committee and the country must be given that relevant information, and in some detail.

I want to mention an important negative factor. Whoever the Home Secretary has consulted, hon. Members on the Government side have never been consulted. No formal proposition has been put to the Parliamentary Labour Party, although there have been frequent meetings of that body. There has been many opportunities for such consultations to take place. I have always taken the simple view that the first consultations that a Government should have are with their supporters who make sure they form the Government after a General Election.

I see that the Liberals are enjoying all this greatly, and I do not see why they should not enjoy themselves. Nobody knows how much longer they will be able to enjoy themselves. It seems that they have not urged this course on the Government—or, if they have, no doubt we shall hear from them. Certainly the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) told the House on a previous occasion that he was not interested in the European Assembly. All he is interested in is a change in the system of elections in this country for domestic purposes.

Mr. Thorpe

I am fascinated by what the hon. Gentleman says, but when was I supposed to have made that statement—on which date and in what column?

Mr. Mendelson

In the Second Reading debate, the last but one—and the right hon. Gentleman has spent most of his time since then trying to get away from it. It is well known that he made that remark, and he cannot get away from it.

Mr. Thorpe

I have the Official Report in my hand: it is not in there.

Mr. Mendelson

It was said here in the hearing of hon. Members. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot get PR into the European elections, he is not interested in a Bill for such elections. That was what he said. I am prepared to go into court with him over it. I will repeat it outside. The right hon. Gentleman said it and is trying to get away from it. A rescue attempt was mounted by one of his colleagues who sits for a Scotttish constituency in trying to get away from it. It was a sordid manoeuvre by the right hon. Member for Devon, North. I choose my words very carefully and deliberately. He is interested not in European elections but in transforming the system for domestic purposes because the Liberal Party wants this country to be ruled permanently by coalition. That is the only hope the Liberals see ahead. If they had not asked for this change, we should like to hear from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House what rôle the had played.

We should also like to hear whether the Government have any political reason for wanting this change. If the Leader of the House were awakened at 2 a.m. and asked "Is it logical to discuss the composition of the new Assembly first, or the method by which it is to be elected?" I am sure he would be the first to reply, since he is a logical man, "Of course one wants to know the composition of a body before one decides its method of election."

We have a right to know what has moved my right hon. Friend to adopt this topsy-turvy procedure in this important debate. I appreciate that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has moved the motion, but we all know that it is my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Hous who is responsible for procedure, and he has an important constitutional role. We should be told what persuaded him to accept this procedure.

This is no minor matter. On other occasions in the history of the House of Commons, many Members have not agreed lightly to change procedures without instituting a searching inquiry requiring a proper explanation. In these circumstances, unless the Government are prepared to change their mind, I call on all Members of the House of Commons, on whichever side they sit, to vote with contempt against the motion.

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

It seems that the best word that has been used thus far this evening is "flap-doodle", which came from the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo). There has been a certain amount of it flying around.

The plain fact is that the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), leading from the Opposition Front Bench, spent a great deal of time arguing that the form of the election should not be affected by the timing. He said that that was important. He then asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department at great length for more details about the timing. That seemed to be a contradictory posture.

To our surprise, the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) opposed this change. He made it clear that if the motion is passed it will not make much difference to the capacity of the House of Commons to examine the proposals in the Bill. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, it does not make much difference whichever way round the clauses are put. That did not tie up with the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that it appeared to be an important matter.

The Secretary of State has brought this matter forward because if it is determined before Christmas—Christmas is by chance the festival at this time of the year—and it is decided more quickly rather than later, it will be easier, whatever decision is made, for those who are concerned with setting up the various electoral procedures to go ahead and do it.

11.12 p.m.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

As my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) noticed quickly, as ever, we are discussing a procedural motion that raises a number of issues. However, it is the procedural matter to which I reply.

The timing will emerge in a full-day's debate tomorrow. There have been no negotiations. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has said that he will take into account what has been said. I shall return to the Government's view that we should proceed in this way.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) pointed out the logic of a Clause 1, 2, 3 procedure, but against that is the reason that we shall come to tomorrow.

The hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) asked about the parliamentary Boundary Commissioners and the relationship with the local government Boundary Commissioners and the planning regions. Those are matters for tomorrow.

There are those who talk about delay and ignore the fundamental problems in the parties. There have been discussions and meetings for some Members of the Conservative Party. We believe that it is right to take this course with Clause 3. It will enable us to be more precise about timing tomorrow. It is right that this should be done at the end of this part of the Session, and it is on that that my case rests.

Mr. Jay


Mr. Rees

My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo talked about Christmas. I mean before the Christmas Recess. I shall not be thinking of these matters during Christmas dinner. I shall have other things on my mind as I read the book signed by a chap on a train who has gone around the country in recent days. As the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) walked into the Chamber, I nearly handed him a copy of "Erskine May" to sign. The fact is that it is not Christmas but the Christmas Recess. It is right that the decision should be made tomorrow, and it is tomorrow that the debate can take place.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Skinner

It is well known among Labour Back Benchers that what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department has to say is not very near to the truth. A week last Thursday, during business questions, the matter was raised, and I was able to overhear a conversation prior to business questions. It was suggested that there would be no business for the direct elections in the course of that week and, as a result, there would be a sort of protest by the Leader of the Liberal Party to indicate that he was dissatisfied with what was taking place. I note that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is getting disturbed. That is because he was the man responsible. It was said that the gesture would be made and that it would be all right in the end because the following week it would apply.

Some of my hon. Friends may remember my intervention during business questions when I made it abundantly clear what would happen. It is only too obvious what is taking place. First, the Liberal Party in the House is worried about the problem of the Lib-Lab pact as it affects its own membership outside the House. It is concerned about the continuation of the pact. It wants to be able to give the impression that sooner rather than later it has been able to achieve something. The introduction of Clause 3 in front of Clause 2 has been done for that purpose.

11.15 p.m.

On the other hand, the Tories are in a bit of a dilemma too. They, as the European party, so described by the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition when she went to Rome recently, have somehow or other to convey to their supporters, particularly the CBI and their friends who provide the cash, that they are keen on getting the Bill through but at the same time attempt to give the impression that they are obstructing it in some way. That is why the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) said what he did about the motion. But we know that at the end they will not join those of us on the Government side who will vote against the motion.

Those are the component parts of this issue: the Government Front Bench, the Tory Front Bench, Tory Back Benchers, with a few exceptions, and the Liberal Party, which is concerned about the effect of the Lib-Lab pact on its members in the country. This matter has nothing to do with Christmas. It has to do with trying to placate the Liberal Party.

I do not know what the Government are playing at. The Liberal Party, pact or no pact, is in no position politically to fight a General Election. Even if it withdrew from the so-called formal pact and discontinued these negotiations which are constantly taking place with my right hon. Friends, it is not going to place itself in the position of carrying a vote of no confidence against the Government at this time. Recent by-election results have shown that only too clearly. Therefore, I suggest that we get rid of the Liberals. We do not need them. My right hon. Friend does not need to introduce Clause 3 before Clause 2 anyway.

Finally, to those of my hon. Friends who are a bit worried about the pact, I say do not worry about proportional representation either. That does not matter. Members on the Liberal Bench have most to lose. They are merely concerned about getting involved in the latest job creation scheme—saving their own jobs.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) was giving his explanation, I noticed that my right hon. Friend the Lord President was shaking his head and that Liberal Members were shaking their heads. Therefore, I assume that there is agreement between the Liberals and my right hon. Friend that that is not the explanation.

If that is not the explanation, what is the explanation? My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave the lamest explanation that I have ever heard in my life. In fact, he gave no explanation at all.

The Lord President, when he made his announcement in the House recently, said that it was the result of representation. The Liberals say that they have not made any representation. Therefore, the representation must have come from the official Opposition. But, in listening to the speech made by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), I should not have thought that the Opposition made any representation either.

Who has made representation? I should like to know. I am in great confusion over this matter. Labour Members have not made any representation. In fact, the only representation that many of us have made has been in the other direction. We said that we did not particularly want. Clause 3 to be taken before Clause 2. There is no logic for proceeding in this way.

I do not understand the idea behind this motion. One suggestion is that if we have the debate on Clause 3 before Christmas and that is carried, the official Opposition, if most of them vote for first past the post, can be blamed for holding up the Bill. I tell my right hon. Friend that there are no great political medals to be gained from that. The working people of this country do not give a damn who is holding up the Bill, because most of them do not want it.

It is a load of rubbish to waste our time, energy and money electing people to a European Assembly. There are no medals to be gained from bringing this forward in this way. I ask my right hon. Friends to listen to representation where it is genuinely made—not from the Liberals or the Tories, but from us. Our representation is to forget it. Let us have Clause 2 in the normal way and proceed with the Bill.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)

This debate has been extraordinarily enlightening. It has restored my faith in the system of raising questions during business questions. The Home Secretary has told us that the representation to which such great attention has been paid was not made officially by the Opposition or by the Liberals but was made during business questions. That means that all who raise matters during that time about the various motions that contain hundreds of signatures may have their faith restored that they will have an effect on the business of the House in future.

The representation has been so successful that the planning that has gone into the Bill—which I am anxious to support—to put the clauses in a certain order is being overturned because of the representation to get the matter settled in good time for Christmas.

This is a damning indictment of who, ever it was who planned the business of the House. We arrived back here after a long recess—not that I complain about that. I thought that it was good, but I was not particularly anxious to get the Bill on the statute book. If I had been anxious to do that, I should have had us called back earlier. I should also have seen to it that we sat until the normal time before Christmas and did not finish a week earlier than we expected. That would have given us ample time to go through the normal motions of discussing Clauses 2 and 3.

After all, we are discussing a matter which arises from the Treaty of Rome, which was signed on 25th March 1957. That Treaty will be celebrating its twenty-first birthday in a few months' time. We have had all this time to think about direct elections. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in the House, we have had 20 years to think about them. Another year will not make much difference.

I do not wish to be pushed into making a decision. It is not yet 24th December, the day before Christmas Day. Many people are wondering why we must start the recess on 16th December if that means overturning the careful planning that has gone into the Bill to enable us to make arrangements for elections. I wonder whether we should say that will will not support the motion because it only encourages very sloppy planning by those responsible for arranging the business of the House.

Mr. Jay

Will my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary answer a question already put to him? He gave no sufficient reason for monkeying about with the procedure of the House in this way. Will he say who made the representations to him which were responsible for these proposals?

Mr. Merlyn Rees

All the representations were made openly in the House.

Mr. Ron Thomas

We failed earlier this evening to ascertain from the Government what would be the powers and responsibilities of this elected Assembly. We are now moving on to alter the order of business so as to decide the method of electing the Members of that Assembly. But we still do not know what their powers and responsibilities will be. We do not know what its position will be in terms of representing the United Kingdom. We must therefore have some justification from the Government for the change that is now proposed.

We are bypassing not simply Clause 2 but the whole range of amendments tabled to it. The whole position could be changed if any of those amendments were made. One seeks to increase England's representation from 81 to 112. The Government have no right to assume that that proposal will not be carried. If it is, those who have to plan for such matters will have been compelled to devise a plan for a certain type of election but without knowing the number of Members involved. It might be 81 or 112 for England, or eight or 16 for Scotland. There might be one Member for Gibraltar and another for the Falkland Islands.

The Chairman (Mr. Oscar Murton)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is out of order to discuss countries outside the United Kingdom.

Mr. Thomas

Amendments tabled to Clause 2 seek, among other things, to provide for one Member to be elected for Gibraltar and one for the Falkland Islands. The Government have no right to assume that those amendments will not be carried. If they were, it would put those who have to plan for the elections in a ludicrous position. We do not know how many Members there will be for each of the different countries.

11.30 p.m.

Therefore, I appeal to the Leader of the House—I think it is his responsibility—to justify the motion. I. too, would like to know what representations have been made by hon. Members to the effect that they want this business through before Christmas. If the representations were made some time ago, it is very strange that we have had a gap of about 10 days between one sitting of the Committee and the next. Whatever the representations were, they do not seem to have been so strong that we could not leave the matter until this evening.

I tend to believe, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), that it is a majority—and, therefore, a handful—of Liberal Members who have exerted this pressure. Incidentally until about 10 o'clock this evening the Liberal Bench was deserted. That seems to be another indication that all that the Liberal Party is interested in is getting proportional representation in the United Kingdom. Liberal Members were not interested in Clause 1 a little earlier. There was not one Liberal Member present

between about 7 o'clock and 10 o'clock, when we were discussing the fundamental clause.

The point has been made, quite correctly, that the Liberals are not interested in European elections except as a way of introducing PR into the United Kingdom. It is a terrible state of affairs and it is indefensible that a majority of our Cabinet should be introducing a piece of legislation for which they have no mandate in the country and for which there is overwhelming opposition in our party and our movement, and they are altering the procedures of the House of Commons in order to placate three or four Liberal Members. I find that indefensible, and I think that the Leader of the House should reply to the point.

Question put, That Clause 3 be considered before Clause 2:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 180, Noes 56.

Division No. 49] AYES [11.33 p.m.
Adley, Robert Dykes, Hugh Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Anderson, Donald Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Luard, Evan
Archer, Rt Hon Peter English, Michael Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Armstrong, Ernest Ewing, Harry (Stirling) McCartney, Hugh
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Fairgrieve, Russell McElhone, Frank
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W) MacFarquhar, Roderick
Bates, Alf Foot, Rt Hon Michael MacGregor, John
Beith, A. J. Ford, Ben McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Berry, Hon Anthony Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Fox, Marcus MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Maclennan, Robert
Bottomley, Peter Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Magee, Bryan
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Brooke, Peter George, Bruce Marks, Kenneth
Brotherton, Michael Glyn, Dr Alan Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Golding, John Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Mather, Carol
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Campbell, Ian Grant, George (Morpeth) Mayhew, Patrick
Cant, R. B. Grant, John (Islington C) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Carlisle, Mark Griffiths, Eldon Montgomery, Fergus
Cartwright, John Harper, Joseph Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Channon, Paul Haselhurst, Alan Neave, Airey
Churchill, W. S. Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Noble, Mike
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Oakes, Gordon
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Heath, Rt Hon Edward Ogden, Eric
Cohen, Stanley Hodgson, Robin Palmer, Arthur
Coleman, Donald Horam, John Pardoe, John
Conlan, Bernard Howell, David (Guildford) Pendry, Tom
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Penhaligon, David
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Hunter, Adam Price, William (Rugby)
Cowans, Harry Hurd, Douglas Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Radice, Giles
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Rathbone, Tim
Crawshaw, Richard John, Brynmor Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Cronin, John Johnson, James (Hull West) Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Crouch, David Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rhodes James, R.
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Rifkind, Malcolm
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)
Davidson, Arthur Judd, Frank Roper, John
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Kaufman, Gerald Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Kitson, Sir Timothy Royle, Sir Anthony
Dormand, J. D. Knox, David Sandelson, Neville
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lambie, David Sever, John
Duffy, A. E. P. Le Marchant, Spencer Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Shepherd, Colin Tomlinson, John Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G. Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Small, William Vaughan, Dr Gerard Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Snape, Peter Walder, David (Clitheroe) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Stallard, A. W. Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Winterton, Nicholas
Stanley, John Walker, Terry (Kingswood) Woodall, Alec
Steen, Anthony (Wavertree) Ward, Michael Woof, Robert
Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Warren, Kenneth Young, David (Bolton E)
Stott, Roger Watkins, David Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Stradling Thomas, J. Weatherill, Bernard
Strang, Gavin White, Frank R. (Bury) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley White, James (Pollok) Mr. James Hamilton and
Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon) Whitehead, Phillip Mr. Ted Graham.
Tinn, James
Allaun, Frank Gould, Bryan Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Ashton, Joe Heffer, Eric S. Reid, George
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Hooley, Frank Richardson, Miss Jo
Atkinson, Norman Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Robinson, Geoffrey
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Bidwell, Sydney Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Rooker, J. W.
Buchan, Norman Kerr, Russell Ross, William (Londonderry)
Canavan, Dennis Kilroy-Silk, Robert Skinner, Dennis
Carmichael, Neil Kinnock, Neil Spearing, Nigel
Carson, John Lamond, James Spriggs, Leslie
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Clemitson, Ivor Leadbitter, Ted Thompson, George
Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E) Loyden, Eddie Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Dunlop, John McCusker, H. Watt, Hamish
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) McNamara, Kevin Wigley, Dafydd
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Maynard, Miss Joan Wise, Mrs Audrey
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Mendelson, John
Flannery, Martin Mikardo, Ian TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Moate, Roger Mr. Max Madden and
Forrester, John Molyneaux, James Mr. David Stoddart.

Question accordingly agreed to.

To report Progress and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. Shape.]

Committee report Progress: to sit again tomorrow.