HC Deb 13 February 1978 vol 944 cc173-203

10.16 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Privy Council Office (Mr. William Price)

I beg to move, That the Resolution of the House of 20th March 1975 shall have effect from 1st January 1978 with the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph 2 of that Resolution:— 'That for the purpose of determining the annual maxima of such assistance the following formula shall apply: £550 for each seat won by the party concerned plus £1.10 for every 200 votes cast for it at the preceding General Election, provided that the maximum payable to any party shall not exceed £165,000.'

Mr. Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), leave out "1978" and insert "1979".

Mr. Price

This motion proposes a 10 per cent rise—the first since the scheme was introduced nearly three years ago—in the level of financial aid provided to Opposition parties to assist them in carrying out their parliamentary duties at Westminster.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that hon. Members who have to leave the Chamber will do so quietly.

Mr. Price

The present basis of the annual grant paid is £1 for every 200 votes cast for the party at the preceding General Election plus £500 for each seat won at that General Election, with a maximum party entitlement of £150,000 per annum. The effect of the motion is that there would be a new basis of £550 for each seat won at the preceding General Election plus £1.10 for every 200 votes cast, with a maximum party entitlement of £165,000 effective from 1st January this year. The additional expenditure involved is about £20,000.

The purpose is to assist Opposition parties in carrying out their parliamentary obligations. A party wishing to claim assitance—and I remind the House that the amounts are maximum amounts—has to certify that the expenses for which a claim is made have been incurred exclusively on parliamentary activities as ap- proved by the Accounting Officer of the House and subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Within the limit of the 1975 resolution the allocation of this aid is at the discretion of the parties, but I understand that in practice the bulk of the money goes towards research and secretarial assistance and in staffing the Whips' offices. I hope that the House will agree that it is reasonable for the Opposition parties to be helped to meet rising staff and office costs in this way. I have no doubt that in practice they will have regard to the level of settlements for comparable staff in the public sector and I see no reason to formalise the matter in the way my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Bar (Mr. Rooker) suggests.

I remind the House that this is the first rise in the scheme since 1975. If the staff concerned had been solely dependent upon the scheme—obviously, they are not—they would, of course, have done far worse than those employed in the public sector.

The only other observation I should like to make is that this rise is a separate matter for the recommendations in the Houghton Report. That raises much wider issues of aid for political parties generally, not merely Opposition parties and not only in respect of their work at Westminster. The recommendations of the Houghton Committee are still under consideration.

I do not think it necessary for me to say much more at this stage. The principle in this scheme is not at issue. The question before the House is whether, in view of the increase in the costs which the scheme was designed to meet, it is reasonable to increase the amounts payable by 10 per cent. Believing, as we all must believe, that costs over that period have risen by much more than 10 per cent., I think that the increase is justified and, indeed, overdue, and I accordingly commend the motion to the House.

10.22 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

I opposed the motion when it first came before the House and I am consistent in opposing it now. I am strongly against my already hard-pressed taxpayers having to pay their hard-earned taxed money to political parties which they violently oppose and have violently opposed all their lives. I have taxpayers who have given a lifetime of service to the Labour Party.

Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)

Not all of them.

Mr. Lewis

The right hon. Gentleman may laugh, but he is on the gravy train.

I have taxpayers who have given a lifetime of service to the Labour and trade union movement. They have contributed out of their limited incomes in order to maintain and advance the Labour Party and the trade unions in which they believe to fight and to contest against the Liberal and Tory Parties. It is unfair to expect them now to pay towards the costs of those very parties to which they most strongly object.

At present, rightly or wrongly—I shall not go into the merits—the Leader of the Opposition is claiming that we should stop immigration. The Press and the media have said that she is racialist. I do not say that she is—the Press and the media say it. What we certainly do know is that the immigrants themselves, rightly or wrongly, believe it. Twenty per cent. of the population of my constituency is immigrant.

Mr. Pym

What is the relevance of what the hon. Gentleman is now saying to the motion on the Order Paper? I do not think that it is relevant to the amount of money which may or may not be supplied to Opposition parties.

Mr. Lewis

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I much prefer him to rise to his feet to intervene. If he had listened to me, he would have discovered that my next sentence contained the answer to his question. These immigrants are paying taxation. They are contributing money so that the Leader of the Opposition can use it to attack them. That is the relevance of what I am saying. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) may not think so, but the Leader of the Opposition said that the indigenous population thought that there were too many immigrants.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The issue before the House is whether this money to Opposition parties should be increased by 10 per cent. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) to argue against the establishment of this money altogether.

Mr. Lewis


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

Order. I take it that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) will not be answering this point of order. I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman's argument. I suggest that he should be allowed to develop it so that we may see where it leads. I shall keep in mind the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud).

Mr. Lewis

So that you may understand the point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is the case that my immigrant population were never consulted—nor was any other person in the country—about this assistance to Opposition parties. It was referred to in none of the election addresses. No political party put forward such a proposal. However, it was agreed in this House on a vote that we should pay the original money. It is suggested now that we should increase it by 10 per cent. I do not know from where the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire thinks the 10 per cent. is coming. It may be that he thinks it is coming out of the pockets of Tory and Liberal Members in this House. But it is not. It is coming from the taxpayer, who may be a Labour Party member or a trade union member, who may be anti-Tory or anti-Liberal, who may be a member of the National Front or an immigrant.

Why should these people have to pay additional taxes or any of their taxes to help support political parties to which they are violently opposed simply because a dirty deal happens to have been done through the usual channels between the Front Benches?

Mr. Pym

That is quite untrue.

Mr. Lewis

It is not untrue. A dirty deal was done, and another dirty deal is being done to provide an additional 10 per cent.

How much will it cost in detail? How much will it cost if we keep going like this? How soon will it be argued yet again that we cannot afford to give to people who are in urgent need? As I say, I have a great many immigrants in my constituency. We have a housing problem, an education problem and a hospital problem. But when I ask this Government for more money, they say that they cannot afford it. However, they can find money for this purpose.

Mr. William Clark (Croydon, South)

Because they spent £500 million on steel.

Mr. Lewis

That is the sort of interjection that we expect from the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Clark). I doubt whether that is so. In any event, I shall ignore what he says.

I am strongly of the view that if we are to ask persons to contribute to political funds, we should allow them to contract out. Before any Opposition Member asks whether I want to bring in a closed shop, I ask the House to hear me out, because I want to bring in a closed shop. Recently, we have had a great deal of argument and furore in this House about whether there should be a closed shop. It is the lawyers, who have the best and most effective closed shop, who object most strongly to it. They have always objected to trade unions having a closed shop and to having political contributions to the Labour Party. They have always claimed that this is wrong and that, instead of having contracting out, there should be contracting in. All I say is let us have either contracting in or contracting out in this case.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have now gathered the gist of the argument of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West. It is the fact that the Resolution of the House of 20th March 1975 has given effect to this system, so the establishment of these political payments is not in question. What we are considering at the moment is the increase proposed in the motion.

Mr. Lewis

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I mislaid my notes. I always read from notes, but I have mislaid them, and I have not got my glasses, either. I should have referred to the 10 per cent. extra being contracted in or contracted out. My objection is that my constituents, and the constituents of other Members, loyal supporters of the Labour Party, are not allowed either to contract in or to contract out in relation to the extra 10 per cent. I agree that they have no rights in relation to the original scheme, thanks to the democratic action of this Government, ably supported by the democratic effort of the Tory Party, ably supported by the Liberal Party—

Mr. William Clark

It is the hon. Gentleman's Government.

Mr. Lewis

I referred to the Government first. The hon. Gentleman cannot be listening. He should dig his ears out. Perhaps some of the money should be used for him to dig his ears out. I referred to the Government, then to the Tory Opposition, and then to the Shadow Government, the Liberal Party. The Liberal Shadow Chancellor is not here. I am attacking them all, because they—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Privy Council Office has blotted his copybook many times. He was once a great liberal democrat. He should be with me, but he has a vested interest in keeping his job on the Front Bench.

There are many hundreds of thousands of people who deeply resent being compelled to pay up the 10 per cent. extra which is now proposed. They will not be allowed more than 10 per cent. on their wages. Whether they like it or not, that rule will be rigorously enforced. But on this proposal they will not have a say.

I looked through the Labour Party's election manifesto and could not see a word about the original Resolution or about the extra 10 per cent. Needless to say, my election address did not refer to it. I have not had time to look up the Liberal and Tory election manifestos, but I bet 10 per cent. of my salary that it was not mentioned in either of them.

Why are taxpayers and ratepayers now so fed up and disgusted with Parliament? There are two reasons. One is that they say that Parliament takes no notice of them. The other is that Parliament not only ignores them but actually takes advantage of them day in and day out. I regard this proposal as taking advantage of the electorate, and, more particularly, it is taking advantage of those who disagree politically with the Liberal, Labour and Tory Parties.

Mr. Pym

Will the hon. Gentleman address his mind to this aspect of the matter? The public relations machine of the Government numbers between 1,450 and 1,500 people, at a cost of over £8 million. Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that 10 per cent. of that would be £800,000? His constituents, who, he says, were never consulted about the matter under debate—the increase of £20,000—were never consulted about whether they thought it a good idea for the Government to spend £8 million of their money on PR.

Will the hon. Gentleman appreciate that 10 per cent. of what the Government spend on PR—never mind the ordinary work-a-day research work of Opposition parties behind the scenes—is £800,000, which is 40 times greater than the £20,000 covered in the motion before the House? Will he put the matter in some sort of proportion?

Mr. Lewis

If I were to develop that theme now, the Chair would tell me that the motion is about 10 per cent. extra on the lines already agreed. But I am ready to debate the matter with the right hon. Gentleman on the basis of how, rightly or wrongly, both his Government and the present Government were elected. The establishments to which he refers are here, they can be debated, they can be voted on, and the House can disagree with them. From day to day we can put down Questions. We can challenge and question. But on this matter we cannot. It is like the pact with the Liberals: we cannot put down Questions, because the Government, in cahoots with the Liberal Party, have banned us from putting down Questions on the pact. That is another negation of democracy.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire that the Government are wasting far too much money on so-called public relations. I have attacked them probably more than any other Back Bencher on that subject. But if I developed that argument, I am sure that you Mr. Deputy Speaker, would stop me. However, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I could develop it at some length.

What about the two right hon. Gentlemen—the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) and the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath)—who get the equivalent of £6,000 a year tax free on their salary by being supplied with cars? That is above 10 per cent.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)


Mr. Lewis

My hon. Friend is one of the greatest exponents of the miners' cause. I am sure that he would agree that the miners did not know that when they receive their increase part of it will go towards paying this 10 per cent. increase.

Mr. Skinner

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) referred to the massive amount allocated to the Government for all their various purposes. The salient point, as my hon. Friend will certain agree, is that that money does not go to assist Back Benchers—as distinct from the Government—to provide some form of opposition, of which my hon. Friend is very capable.

Mr. Lewis

I should have given way to my hon. Friend earlier. As always, he not only hits the nail fully on the head but clouts it so well that I cannot add anything to what he said.

That is why I object to this proposal most strongly. It is true that at various times we allocate money to various purposes to which we have the chance of objecting, but in this instance the electorate has never been consulted. It has never had the matter put before it. I originally put down an amendment which I cannot discuss because Mr. Speaker did not select it. I wanted to see this matter put back until after the next General Election.

After all, what has happened? The Leader of the House is always saying that we cannot do anything until after the next election. Why not? I suggested that we should reduce the pensionable age of Members of Parliament to 60. My right hon. Friend said that we could not do so until after the next election. The Government cannot do anything. They do not want to do anything if it suits them not to do it.

When it does suit them, we all know what happens. They go behind the Speaker's Chair, fix the matter up through the usual channels and bring it on as late at night as they can—after other business—in the hope that hon. Members and the public will not know of it.

Believe me, the public will know of this proposal. I think that the public will condemn the Government for it. I am very much against this 10 per cent increase.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I beg to move, to leave out '1978' and insert '1979'.

The point at issue is the increase in financial assistance. I do not think that any case has been made for a change in the amounts paid to Opposition parties between General Elections. A few of the sentences uttered by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) were very reminiscent of the arguments over the Civil List, when it is claimed that most of the money is used to pay workers, staff and secretaries, and that we must not vote against it, for it we do their earnings will suffer.

I do not see why the Opposition parties, knowing the basis on which financial assistance is calculated, should not adjust their budgets to make the money last over the election period, despite rates of inflation. When the next election comes, the matter will be put to the public. This is the system that is operating, and by a fait accompli they are approving it in any event. One hon. Member argued that there should be no change in our salaries between elections, and that argument holds great weight. The argument is not strictly comparable with this case because this was not part of the election platform at the hustings in 1974.

The reason why my amendment is worded in this way is that I could not find a form of words to cover the objective that this increase should not take place until after the next election. Whatever the form of words, that could lead to the sorts of loopholes that result in amendments not being selected. On the reasonable assumption that this may be election year, it is fair enough to make the operative date 1st January, 1979.

Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Mitcham and Morden)

Would my hon. Friend not accept that it would be desirable that Opposition parties should have the opportunity to do a little research into the promises that they have made in the past? In the absence of research facilities, they do not know what they have promised.

On a more serious point, is it not desirable that Opposition parties should be able to research what they are going to do in office? It is very undesirable for any party to come into office without adequate research having been done.

Mr. Rooker

It is not as if the Opposition had had no money since the original motion was passed. The Conservative Party has had almost £500,000 since 1975. If this does not provide adequate backup for its election manifestos, its arguments do not hold weight. Let us not beat about the bush; this financial assistance to Opposition parties may have been put through while we were in office, but we should know that one reason why it was urged from these Benches was that we did not want to get into the mess that we got into between 1970 and 1974 because of the funding of the Leader of the Opposition's private office.

I am not arguing about that in principle. This debate is not about that; it is about the increase in the money between elections. I am not opposed to the expenditure of the extra £20,000 in order to assist the Opposition parties. It is a question of the way in which the money would be used. The only people who are entitled to speak without vested interest are Back Benchers on this side of the House. We do not gain one penny piece from any increase in or from the basic assistance. I defy any hon. Member to say that we do not require it. It is not true that we are financed by the Civil Service.

The money should be spent on the Library. Because it ran out of funds in December 1976, the Library could not take up any more subscriptions to periodicals and magazines. Thus, Back Benchers were deprived of their only weapon against the Executive.

I do not say that we should spend the extra £20,000 on assisting the parties. I resent the fact that efforts have been made to nod this motion through late at night during the past few weeks. This debate has been secured thanks to the vigilance of some of my hon. Friends. It was important to have the issue debated. This is a fundamental change in the system. It was not written into the original motion in 1975 that we would, as it were, index-link this amount. I do not say that 10 per cent. covers the inflation which has occurred since that motion was approved.

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

The hon. Gentleman will recall that the then Leader of the House made it clear that it was the Government's intention that the amount would be reviewed periodically to take account of rising costs.

Mr. Rooker

Many things are said by my right hon. Friends and are recorded in Hansard. Ministers frequently say that in the future it might be useful to pursue a certain course. For example, last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the next priority was a higher threshold for the tax allowance, but it was left to others to secure that the law was changed to bring that about.

I do not accept that this principle should be operated between elections. I argue that we should spend more money on assistance to hon. Members.

The motion begs one question. Since the motion was passed in March 1975 things have changed in the House. The title of the motion is Financial assistance to opposition parties. What is an Opposition party now that we have the Lib-Lab pact? I have not checked to find how much money the Liberals have had under this arrangement, but no doubt some of my hon. Friends will be armed with that information. If my amendment were accepted, at least we should know before the end of 1978 whether the Liberal Party was an Opposition party.

Hon. Members will have heard the rumours or leaks—this place is like a sieve—of offers of a Cabinet seat, perhaps, or of electoral pacts. The Liberals were elected as an independent sovereign party. It is on that basis that the original motion has operated, but it no longer applies. That is an additional reason for not changing the basis of payment until the position of the Liberal Party has been clarified at a General Election or a further move down the slippery slope towards coalition government.

Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)

Would not the hon. Gentleman's point be made if the money allocated to the Liberal Party were re-allocated among the real Opposition parties?

Mr. Rooker

The effective opposition to this Government, the check on the Executive, to ensure that they fulfil the promises in the manifesto on which they were elected comes from this side of the House. The money is wasted when spent on hon. Members opposite. The Tory Party could do without it. The Tories have not improved as an Opposition since they have been in receipt of the money. The extra £15,000 that they will receive under the motion, back-dated to 1st January, will not improve the Opposition's performance.

There is an additional reason why there should be a delay. This is relevant because it relates to the finances of those who may sit on the Opposition Benches. Most of the very long report from the Select Committee on the Conduct of Members, which we debated at great length last summer, was totally ignored. It dealt with issues which had attracted public attention and which concerned three hon. Members. Paragraph 30, relating to the position of a Shadow Minister, contained a specific reference. That recommendation lays down that the House should give guidance and that the parties should give guidance on the financial probity of Shadow Ministers having paid employment outside this House.

I do not accept that that does not relate to the operation of financial assistance to Opposition parties and to the picking up by Opposition Members of directorships and consultancies. They have obtained those jobs because they are Members of this House and they have obtained that money flowing from the "fun games" which they play across the Floor with the Government of the day.

The House has never had a chance to debate that recommendation. I believe that the whole of 1978 will give the House adequate time for the Leader of the House to come forward with the proposal that we should debate the recommendation in paragraph 30.

Mr. Freud

I understand that the hon. Gentleman believes in free collective bargaining. Does he now deny the Opposition's right to employ staff who indulge in exactly what he believes in?

Mr. Rooker

There is no record of a speech by me in this House in favour of free collective bargaining. I am not in favour of a free for all, and I have always said that.

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

The hon. Gentleman's amendment seeks to insert the year "1979". I understand that there need not necessarily be a General Election on 1st January. Therefore, should not the date be "1980"?

Mr. Rooker

That is a fair point. I faced that problem when I tabled the amendment. I had to make the best guess I could to enable the amendment to be accepted by the House. I believe that there is more chance of an election this year than next year. I thought originally that we should debate the form of words chosen by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West so that the provision would not be triggered off by an election. But the wording of the amendment was not precise enough for me to believe that the Chair would select it. A compromise has to be reached in these matters.

I want the matter put off for a year. The reason for my selecting the topic of the financial holdings of Shadow Ministers was to emphasise the fact that, while that money is being expended, the Library is being starved of funds. That affects the interests and services of Back-Bench Members, and the Government have paid scant regard to that factor.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

If the Opposition are so worried about this aspect, does my hon. Friend not agree that they could have tabled their own amendment to support my hon. Friend's case?

Mr. Rooker

But the Opposition did not say that they accepted my amendment. They may have said it by implication, but not in so many words.

We on the Labour Back Benches are the only people who can speak without interests. We cannot gain anything from this expenditure or from any increase. We shall have to pay for it and so will our constituents. All the others stand to gain. The Government stand to gain because it is the payroll vote that is behind the motion, and they have done a deal behind Mr. Speaker's Chair. I believe that the motion should be voted upon only by those who do not have an interest in the matter. If Opposition Members have the slightest degree of principle left, they will stay out of the vote later on. Let the matter be decided by those with no interest at all in the outcome.

Mr. Pym

The hon. Gentleman has been arguing that there is no case for an increase between General Elections. At no time has he suggested that those working for the Government on their background and PR work should not have an increase. They have had enormous increases. The hon. Gentleman also said that hon. Members should not have pay increases between General Elections, but have he and his colleagues who, he says, will not gain from the motion, accepted the salary increases that have been given? Is it reasonable for him to suggest that the money supplied for the background work of Opposition parties should not be increased when the Government have had vast increases since the last General Election?

Mr. Rooker

I said only that one hon. Gentleman took that view and that I thought that it carried a great deal of weight. I have given the Low Pay Unit the increases that I have received above what was allowed in 1975 and many of my hon. Friends have done the same. We have funded research projects into low pay which have been a useful source of information for us in order to beat the Government over the head.

I have also made a case for the Library having the £20,000 increase that we are considering so that all hon. Members could gain from it—including Ministers who may not believe what their civil servants tell them. The Library ran out of funds in December 1976. Meetings were held to discuss the matter. I found out about it when there were problems in the funding of periodicals that I wanted to look at. That was disastrous, because the Library is the only weapon for all hon. Members. If the Opposition parties cannot agree to an extension of the Library's research facilities which are available to all hon. Members, it is a pretty sorry state of affairs.

Mr. Pym

No one is suggesting that the Library should not have greater facilities and more resources. We all want that, but it has already had increases of infinitely more than the £20,000 that we are talking about. I do not complain of that, but the hon. Gentleman has the whole matter out of proportion if he says that the Library has had nothing and that the sum included in the motion is a large amount. We are talking about something quite different and the hon. Gentleman has made no case against an increase in the financial help given to Opposition parties.

Mr. Rooker

I have made a more than adequate case for no increase between General Elections. If parties fight elections on the basis that, if they end up in opposition, they will receive £X,000 a year for every so many votes received, the so-called business experts on the Tory Benches ought to be able to organise their budget so that it lasts for the duration of a Parliament. Just because they are given £150,000 does not mean that they have to spend it all in the first year.

Mr. Pym

What about the Government's increases?

Mr. Rooker

The Government are different. They are the Executive arm. I have been on the receiving end of the Government's PR machine, as have hon. Members opposite. It was turned on me and my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mrs. Wise) last summer. I have seen it in operation in a way that I did not like. I could not argue against the spurious remarks of the PR people about what my hon. Friend and I did on the Finance Bill Committee. But I do not object to that. Indeed, I think that the Government do not spend enough on putting their policies across to the people. They should spend more. But that is not the argument.

It is not for the Opposition parties to use their money on PR work. They can spend it at their discretion. I do not object to that, but I do object to their money being spent on salaries and then the parties coming back at the end of the first year and saying that salaries have increased and they need more money. The Tories are the party which is supposed to be against public expenditure increases.

We seem to argue more in the Chamber about small sums than large sums. When we come to the Consolidated Fund Bill, hundreds of millions of pounds are agreed, in effect, on the nod. We are debating the spending of an extra £20,000, but an important principle is involved. If we are to have debates on the expen- diture of £20,000, I am prepared to accept them.

The Conservative Party is against increases in public expenditure. That has been on record for the past three years or four years. However, it wants an extra 10 per cent. now. I think that it asked for more, but a deal has been done between the two Front Benches.

Mr. Pym

Can the hon. Gentleman substantiate that?

Mr. Rooker

If I substantiated that, I should be breaching a private meeting and a private conversation, which I am not prepared to do.

The Conservative Party is in favour of an incomes policy for the public sector but not for the private sector. It is clear that members of the Conservative Party are employees in the public sector. They are paid their taxpayers' money. Clearly, the taxpayers will pay for the increase.

I do not know whether there will be a limit of 10 per cent. That is what I tried to envisage in the amendment that Mr. Speaker did not select. However, I hope that in the speeches from the Opposition Front and Back Benches we shall be given a little more information about why the increase is needed. I hope that Opposition Members will give us more information than we gain from asking Questions. All that Labour Members can do to gain information is to ask Questions to ascertain the grand totals that are drawn.

We do not know what is done with the money. We do not know why the Opposition parties need a 10 per cent. increase. We do not know on what they will spend the £20,000. I accept that the Tory Party will not get the whole of the £20,000. I believe that that is the total and that there will be a small amount for the Liberal Party and the Scottish National Party. However, the Tory Party gets by far and away the largest sum, and I hope that it will tell us how it intends to spend the extra money. When we have heard the arguments of Tory Members, I hope that the House will vote for my amendment.

11.3 p.m.

Mr. Max Madden (Sowerby)

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) lamented that the original motion passed in 1975 was not debated by the House.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

It was debated.

Mr. Madden

Or that there was no consultation.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I said that it was debated and that I opposed it. I am not sure, but I think that I called a vote. It was opposed and it was debated. I opposed it along with other hon. Members. Needless to say, we lost handsomely because of the payroll vote.

Mr. Madden

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's guidance. The point that I was about to make is still valid—namely, that if it had not been for a number of us objecting to the motion when it appeared on the Order Paper over the past few weeks, there would have been no debate tonight. My hon. Friend and others would have had no opportunity to debate these matters if there had not been that opposition. To secure a motion that increases public expenditure without even the opportunity of a debate is something about which all hon. Members, regardless of whether they are in receipt of the benefit, should be concerned.

Some hon. Members have sought to dismiss the money that is involved. They have dismissed it as small fry, as something that we should not be discussing at a few minutes after 11 o'clock. That is not a valid argument. The disbursement of any public money, whatever the amount, is worthy of consideration, even at a late hour.

The sums with which we are concerned are not insignificant. In answer to a Question we have been told that as at 10th November 1977 a total of £541,000 had been paid from the House of Commons Vote for financial aid to Opposition parties under the terms of the motion that we are now discussing. This sum was made up of payments to the Conservative Party of £412,000, to the Liberal Party, £92,000 to the Scottish National Party, £26,000 to the Welsh National Party, £6,000 and to the SDLP just over £3,000. The further point we ought to be concerned about is how the largest recipient of this money—namely, the Official Tory Opposition—has fared.

I have been most interested in some of the interventions from the Opposition Benches. They do not altogether tally with the facts. Here I am grateful to the Library—and I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) in paying tribute to Library staff—for providing me with certain information. The Library tells me that the Conservative Party's accounts for 1975–76 and 1976–77 show clearly how much was received under State grants towards providing parliamentary services inside the Palace of Westminster. The amount involved, the maximum of £150,000 in each case, represented only a part of the total actually spent on research and parliamentary services, which in 1975–76 amounted to £388,000 and in 1976–77 amounted to £498,000.

If that increase, which is substantial, has primarily gone to pay increased salaries for the staff involved, I feel that the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) would be worried as to whether Conservative Central Office should be, or is about to be, placed on the black list of a certain Government Department. I should like an explanation from the Minister about whether he believes that the figures I have quoted primarily represent increases in salaries paid to research assistants acting on behalf of the official Opposition.

This brings me to my second point—

Mr. Freud

If, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, the official Opposition are placed on the black list, I wonder what sanctions the Government are likely to impose.

Mr. Madden

I am tempted to think that they might invite the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) to join them.

My second point, and I am sure that it will be supported by others, concerns the need, when public moneys are disbursed, for there to be proper accounting. It is a matter for regret that the Opposition parties are not required to publish accounts showing how they disbursed this money. I am told by the Library that it is clear from an Answer to a parliamentary Question on 13th February 1976 that the declaration as to parliamentary use is quite straightforward and that normally a party will not be required to produce accounts or papers in support of its claims. The Answer concludes: if the Accounting Officer had any reasonable doubt about the validity of any claim he would refer the matter to Mr. Speaker."—[Official Report, 13th February 1976; Vol. 905, c.414.] While I am sure that this machinery has not been operated since the original motion was introduced in 1975, may I ask the Minister to say whether to his knowledge any such action has been taken to refer any matter concerning disbursement of these moneys to Mr. Speaker?

The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) seems to be concerned about the amount of money devoted by Government to public relations and information. In the course of the debate it has been pointed out that the Executive has a responsibility in terms of informing the public about its actions and policies. That is quite distinct from the effectiveness of individual hon. Members belonging to political parties. In that respect it would be useful if the right hon. Member, in his comments later, could tell us whether any of the money which the official Conservative Opposition have received has gone to a public relations agency called Good Relations.

This matter has been raised in the past. There were newspaper reports that the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) and his hon. Friends the Members for Bridgwater (Mr. King) and St. Ives (Mr. Nott) were in receipt of assistance from this public relations agency, one of its services being the polishing-up of speeches to this House. There has been a great deal of uncertainty and doubt as to whether the agency had been retained by the Conservative Opposition, whether it was acting for those three Members. The right hon. Gentleman could help the House by clearing the matter up once and for all when he winds up.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr on this matter. It is verging on the hypocritical for certainly the official Opposition, who day in and day out preach the virtues of reducing public expenditure, to be caught tonight with their noses in the public financial trough. It would be a service that would be recognised by many men and women in the country if they were to uphold the virtues of moderation that they preach to everyone else, if the Official Conservative Opposition were to tighten their financial belts tonight and say that, in deference to the difficulties and restraints of others, they will defer this increase for a year. If my hon. Friend's amendment were supported by the official Opposition, that would be warmly welcomed.

I hope that the matter will be treated seriously. I am glad that there has been the opportunity of this debate, and I hope that some of my questions will be answered. I hope that my hon. Friend's amendment will be supported and will be successful. I hope that we can defeat the motion and reconsider these matters, perhaps in a year's time, when the moment might be more opportune for certainly the official Opposition to get their hands further into the public financial trough. At present, I believe that the majority would think it most inopportune.

11.12 p.m.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

I rise to ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary one question, but first I want to say that I rather disagree with the view that my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) expressed. I believe that it is in the national interest for political parties to be well informed, to be effectively sensible and sensitive, and to have the capacity to contribute properly to society.

What concerns me is that our experience over the past year or so does not give us any confidence that the amount of money we have already provided has been sufficient to provide Britain with that quality and capacity on the Opposition Benches. Does my hon. Friend feel that the 10 per cent. of which he is talking tonight will be enough? If not, as it is vital for Britain to have these qualities revealed to the nation, can he hazard a guess as to the amount that would be involved?

If it will not be sufficient, will this miserable amount mean throwing good money after bad? As a Yorkshire Member, like my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby I must again take a rather critical view. The House would be obliged if my hon. Friend could give an authoritative comment on this question.

11.14 p.m.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

I am opposed to the motion. The House should be reminded of the exact amounts of public money that have already been spent, before we decide whether an increase is justifiable. I noticed some eyebrows raised on the Opposition Benches when my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) mentioned some figures.

Since the original motion was passed in March 1975 the most up-to-date figures—up to November last year—show that the Tories have received £412,500, the Liberals £92,468 and the Scottish National Party £26,669.50. Among those three Right-wing parties, that is more than £500,000 of public money. How on earth can one justify that kind of public expenditure, especially at a time when there are cuts in essential social expenditure?

Surely, when debating whether an extra £20,000 should be given to these people on the Opposition Benches we should ask whether they are essential and whether they are performing a social service. No one could argue that the Opposition parties are essential, because the only constructive opposition in this place is the Tribune Group, which receives nothing from public funds. No one could seriously argue that any of the Opposition parties are performing a social service. That is why I am opposed to the motion.

I understand that the original sum and the increase that is now demanded is supposed to be for work in this place—for parliamentary work. It is somewhat anomalous to decide to give £26,669,50 to the SNP when its declared purpose is to destroy this Parliament as we know it. It is foolhardy and undemocratic to use public money in that way.

Despite the SNP claim that this Parliament is corrupt and unjust to the people of Scotland, secretly the members of that party like this place. They love London. They love coming down here week after week and enjoying the trimmings and trappings of London society. They are keen to have an extra slice of this public money so that they can give more money to themselves or to their lackeys and servants.

Mr. Hamish Watt (Banff)

Does the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) intend to stand for a seat in the Scottish Assembly? I can assure him that virtually all our members will be doing so.

Mr. Canavan

Whether I stand for a seat in the Assembly depends on the outcome of the selection process within the Labour Party. It does not depend upon me alone. I know that the SNP does not have the same standards of party democracy and has candidates foisted upon it by national executives, and so forth. It has centralised control. But I do not wish to be detracted from the main argument.

I have every sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby when he says that when public money is spent—whether it is for industry, essential social services or Opposition parties—there must be public accountability. I see little accountability to show where the fantastic sum of £500,00 has gone. I am therefore against giving an extra £20,000 unless there is more accountability.

Some hon. Members have tabled Questions to find out what Opposition parties are doing with the money. About 18 months or two years ago a parliamentary answer appeared in Hansard. It showed that some of the money—it was not just a few hundred pounds, but thousands—allocated to the Opposition parties went to the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt). This appeared to me to be very strange.

I therefore raised the matter with my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council. I noticed that afterwards, when Questions were asked about aid to official Opposition parties and where the money went, the name of the hon. Member for Banff was conspicuous by its absence. The hon. Gentleman is one of the first to complain about what he considers to be the mean attitude of the English Government, yet it appears that Scottish National Party Members are willing to come down here with their begging bowl. I know that the hon. Gentleman likes to collect his farmers' subsidies from the English Government, and that he also likes to collect his aid for Opposition parties. That is a terribly two-faced attitude.

We often hear this propaganda from the SNP about how the big London-based parties—they are supposed to be London-based, althought I was born and bred in Scotland and had never set foot in this place until the electors of Scotland sent me here—get their money either from big business in the case of the Tories or from the big unions in the case of Labour, the insinuation being that the SNP does not get money from any big business men at all. Yet it is on record that Sir Hugh Fraser—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are not discussing the financial resources of the Scottish National Party.

Mr. Canavan

I realise that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall therefore return to the motion, which proposes an extra £20,000, and no doubt the SNP will be hoping to get its slice of the cake.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You have just stopped my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) from making a comment about the SNP. I think that he named a Sir Hugh Fraser, of whom I have never heard, as a contributor to the SNP. The motion concerns the question whether we should give an extra £20,000 to the Opposition parties. Surely, my hon. Friend would be in order, if he could prove that the SNP is getting say, £500,000 from Sir Hugh Fraser, to argue that that is a good reason why the taxpayer should not contribute £10,000 extra to the Scottish nationalists. Would that not be in order?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), who was making the point, realised that he was totally out of order and accepted the position.

Mr. Canavan

Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It appears to me to be somewhat anomalous that the Government should be proposing an extra £20,000 to Opposition parties and that no doubt the SNP will be looking for its slice out of that £20,000, when, at the same time, it appears to be getting more than adequate funds from millionaire friends like Sir Hugh Fraser and the hon. Colin Tennant and other benefactors.

The Tories certainly get enough money from big business. They argue that it is private funds, but I understand that it may qualify for tax allowance. So the poor taxpayer is being asked to pay twice—once through the system of tax allowances and again through the system of giving an extra share of the £20,000 proposed.

Finally, I re-emphasise what others have said about sheer hypocrisy and two-faced attitude of the Opposition parties, all of whose spokesmen at one time or another have been calling for savage cuts in public expenditure. In spite of that, here they are putting out their hands for more public expenditure. We have had the Tory Party, the Liberal Party and the SNP doing it.

I noticed that when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last November provided for an extra £1 billion of public expenditure as a much-needed reflationary measure, the SNP candidate who is opposing my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—the Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing)—said how wrong that increase was. He said that he did not believe in increased public expenditure because it interfered with individual freedom.

I want more public expenditure to go to people who are in need—pensioners, deprived schoolchildren, and the poor in society. Every penny of public expenditure that is available should be going to them, and until their needs are satisfied I do not think that we should be devoting public expenditure to the Opposition parties, because all that they intend to use it for is to line the pockets of their lackeys with taxpayers' money.

11.25 p.m.

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

I want to respond mainly to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), although I must say that it was a little odd of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) to refer to the employees of all political parties other than his own as "lackeys" and to say that they ought not to be paid out of the pockets of taxpayers, the implication being that they were people whose salary increases were in some way not to be countenanced or tolerated.

We are, after all, talking about people's salaries, as the hon. Member for Perry Barr pointed out both in his remarks and in his amendment, and we are given some clue to his thinking by his other amendment, which proposes the addition of the words any salary increases paid from this financial assistance shall conform to those which are operative for the rest of the public sector. That is a principle with which I agree entirely. Indeed, if his amendment had been selected and carried, we should be getting considerably more money than the motion offers us, because, in that same period, employees in the public sector generally, including those of the Government and some employees of the official Opposition who are counted as part of the public sector in the Opposition Whips' Office, have been capable of having their salaries increased, in some cases quite substantially.

When funds for Opposition parties were first voted the then Leader of the House said that it was the Government's intention that what was being voted should be examined from time to time in the light of inflation and other questions to see whether it was still the appropriate arrangement. [Interruption.] We are very glad to say so; that is why we are happy to settle for the 10 per cent. that is being offered. We are happy to conform to the pay limits which the hon. Member for Perry Barr laid stress on and supported.

Hon. Members who oppose this motion should recognise that in my party the salaries of the people whom we are discussing are the salaries of people who work side by side with people, for example, paid out of the Member's secretarial allowance. Those who are paid out of the Member's secretarial allowance. Those who are paid out of the secretarial allowance have had provision made for increases in pay within Government pay policies on a number of occasions—the 5 per cent. limit of last year, the £6 a week limit of the previous year, and earlier recommendations which included increases for other purposes, including the results of the Boyle Report, not all of which can be brought into this comparison. But certainly over the period from January 1975 to July 1977, opportunity was taken by most hon. Members to increase the salaries of their secretaries in accordance with the Government pay guidelines, and we expect that a further opportunity will be made available for Member's secretaries' salaries to be increased in line with the present Government pay guidelines before this year is over.

There seems to be no logic or justification in denying to staff employed out of a different set of funds—those granted for Opposition parties—the same opportunity for salary increases within pay guidelines.

It is that simple issue which is at the heart of the matter, and the strictures of Government supporters who sit below the Gangway will be taken to heart by those who do a job and expect the same reasonable possibility of salary increases as other servants employed in the House are given and assumed to deserve.

If that condition were to be satisfied fully, we would be making provision for the past missed opportunities to be taken—for the £6 a week and for the 5 per cent. increase. But tonight we are simply giving ourselves the opportunity to increase the salaries of those staff within the present 10 per cent. guidelines, ignoring any increases that they may have missed in the preceding two years.

Mr. Rooker

Can the hon. Member tell us what proportion of the money the Liberals have had over the past two and a half years has been spent on salaries?

Mr. Beith

By far the greater part of it, taking into account employers' national insurance contributions and other costs which employers have to meet, all of which have gone up in this period quite considerably. Much the largest part of our expenditure is on the salaries of the staff whom we employ in the Leader's Office, the Whips' Office and in research, all within the confines of this House. It is only reasonable that those people should be given the same consideration as Members' secretaries.

We welcome the fact that the Government have made that overdue consideration tonight, and we think that those hon. Members who look at this proposal in a more objective light will agree with it.

11.30 p.m.

Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)

I wish to intervene only briefly.

Although the House has enjoyed this debate, I have been rather depressed by it because it has been characterised by a degree of hypocrisy and humbug which I cannot remember having been equalled. We are dealing with a serious constitutional matter—the question of giving public money for the support of Opposition parties. We are not debating the principle itself. We are debating this matter on the first occasion that an increase in that financial support has been proposed.

What has been said tonight has been out of proportion because it is nearly three years since the system was introduced for better or worse, and since then there has been no increase whatsoever. The increase now proposed, after three years, is 10 per cent. Anybody listening to this debate who did not know the background to it might have thought that there had been a substantial increase each year and that a further 10 per cent. was being added. But that is not so. This is the first time that an increase has been proposed. Members have had increases in the intervening years and the impression has been given to anyone listening to this debate that they had had no increase, and that something horrific was occurring, whereas what is being suggested is that the Opposition parties should have a modest increase of resources to carry out their work.

The debate has got out of perspective. For example, the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) made an impassioned speech. Nobody who had not looked up Hansard would have had the remotest idea—it would not have crossed his mind—that when the principle of giving money to opposition parties was debated he voted in favour of it. Not one sentence in his speech tonight did not imply that he was passionately against the whole scheme. Nobody who heard his speech tonight would have believed, except on the basis of pure hypocrisy, that he had voted in favour of the principle. I am sorry to have to say that.

After nearly three years, it is reasonable in all the circumstances to propose this very modest increase. Plainly it will leave the Opposition parties much worse off in real terms than they were then. Some Opposition parties may have beseeched the Government to make an increase. That is certainly not the case with the official Opposition, as the Lord President of the Council would be the first to agree. But, faced with a motion tabled by the Government, as this one was, in terms which give a 10 per cent. increase after nearly three years—

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I should like to be clear on this matter. Did the right hon. Gentleman say that this was being done at the behest of the Government, without any request having been made by the main Opposition, or, to his knowledge, by any of the other Opposition parties? In other words, are the Government ladling out money to their friends on the Opposition Benches but not on other issues?

Mr. Pym

I can speak for no other Opposition party but mine. There has been no request of any kind whatsoever. The Lord President will be the first to confirm that. Therefore, the strictures of Opposition Members below the Gangway, however unintended, could not possibly be more wide of the mark.

Mr. Rooker

After the right hon. Gentleman's statement, I withdraw my earlier imputations. But then I have to ask myself, who asked for the increase?

Mr. Pym

The hon. Gentleman can ask—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] It is easy to get excited after 10 o'clock; I can understand that.

Mr. Beith

Being anxious that the truth should out, may I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact—it may have slipped his memory—that I reminded the Government of their commitment on 2nd October 1976 to look at the allowance again, and received support from other Opposition parties but not from his?

Mr. Pym

That confirms what I have said.

As I have pointed out, the debate is out of proportion and is not very apposite. The crucial point is to what extent one should develop the constitutional principle of providing Opposition parties with financial support. After the events of the past three years and the failure of the Government's economic policy, and so on, we are in a different situation from the one that we were in originally.

But that is not what we are debating now. I regard the increase proposed as very modest, and I can only say that my right hon. Friends and I feel that, in all the circumstances, it is reasonable. We did not ask for it, but we are entirely prepared to accept it.

Mr. Rooker

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer for his party the question which I put to the Chief Whip of the Liberal Party? How much of the Tory Party money is spent on salaries? What is the proportion?

Mr. Pym

The overwhelming proportion, I believe, and, conceivably, the whole of it. I cannot be categorical about that because I do not have control over accounts and so on, but I think I am right in saying that in our case the whole of it goes to that purpose. I should have to check that to give the hon. Gentleman

Division No.107] AYES [11.34 p.m.
Flannery, Martin Parry, Robert Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Wise, Mrs Audrey
Kerr, Russell Richardson, Miss Jo
Lamond, James Rooker, J. W. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Skinner, Dennis Mr. Max Madden and
Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Spearing, Nigel Mr. Dennis Canavan.
Mikardo, Ian
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Foot, Rt Hon Michael Morris, Rt Hon Charles R.
Armstrong, Ernest Ford, Ben Mudd, David
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Forrester, John Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Atkinson, Norman Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Newton, Tony
Bain, Mrs Margaret Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Noble, Mike
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Freud, Clement O'Halloran, Michael
Bates, Alf George, Bruce Palmer, Arthur
Beith, A. J. Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Park, George
Blenkinsop, Arthur Golding, John Penhaligon, David
Boardman, H. Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Price, William (Rugby)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Grant, George (Morpeth) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Brotherton, Michael Grant, John (Islington C) Rhodes James, R.
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Hardy, Peter Rowlands, Ted
Buchanan, Richard Harper, Joseph Sever, John
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Cant, R. B. Henderson, Douglas Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Carlisle, Mark Hicks, Robert Snape, Peter
Carson, John Horam, John Stallard, A. W.
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Steel, Rt Hon David
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Huckfield, Les Stott, Roger
Coleman, Donald Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Strang, Gavin
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) John, Brynmor Swain, Thomas
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Cowans, Harry Jones, Barry (East Flint) Thompson George
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Kaufman, Gerald Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E) Lambie, David Tinn, James
Crawshaw, Richard Lester, Jim (Beeston) Urwin, T. W.
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) McCartney, Hugh Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Davidson, Arthur MacCormick, Iain Ward, Michael
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) McElhone, Frank Watt, Hamish
Deakins, Eric MacFarquhar, Roderick Weatherill, Bernard
Dempsey, James MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Whitlock, William
Dormand, J. D. McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Magee, Bryan Woof, Robert
Duffy, A. E. P. Mahon, Simon Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Action)
Eadie, Alex Mallalieu, J. P. W.
English, Michael Marks, Kenneth TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Mr. Ted Graham and
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Mr. Frank R. White.
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Millan, Rt Hon Bruce

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:

an absolutely firm answer. If not the whole, I am sure that the overwhelming proportion of it goes to that purpose.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 15, Noes 124.

The House divided: Ayes 118, Noes 15.

Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) John, Brynmor Roderick, Caerwyn
Davidson, Arthur Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Sever, John
Deakins, Eric Kaufman, Gerald Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Dempsey, James Lambie, David Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Dormand, J D. Lester, Jim (Beeston) Snape, Peter
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Stallard, A. W.
Duffy, A. E. P. Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Steel, Rt Hon David
Eadie, Alex McCartney, Hugh Stott, Roger
English, Michael MacCormick, Iain Strang, Gavin
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) McElhone, Frank Swain, Thomas
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) MacFarquhar, Roderick Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Thompson, George
Ford, Ben McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Forrester, John Magee, Bryan Tinn, James
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Mahon, Simon Urwin, T. W.
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Mallalieu, J. P. W. Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Freud, Clement Marks, Kenneth Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
George, Bruce Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Ward, Michael
Golding, John Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Watt, Hamish
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Morris, Rt Hon Charles R. Weatherill, Bernard
Grant, George (Morpeth) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King White, Frank R. (Bury)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Newton, Tony Whitlock, William
Hardy, Peter Noble, Mike Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter O'Halloran, Michael Woof, Robert
Henderson, Douglas Palmer, Arthur Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Horam, John Park, George
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Penhaligon, David TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Price, William (Rugby) Mr. Ted Graham and
Huckfield, Les Pym, Rt Hon Francis Mr. Joseph Harper.
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Rhodes James, R.
Flannery, Martin Moate, Roger Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Kerr, Russell Parry, Robert Wise, Mrs Audrey
Lamond, James Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Richardson, Miss Jo TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Skinner, Dennis Mr. Dennis Canavan and
Madden, Max Spearing, Nigel Mr. J. W. Rooker.
Mikardo, Ian

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the Resolution of the House of 20th March 1975 shall have effect from 1st January 1978 with the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph 2 of that Resolution:— 'That for the purpose of determining the annual maxima of such assistance the following formula shall apply: £550 for each seat won by the party concerned plus £1.10 for every 200 votes cast for it at the preceding General Election, provided that the maximum payable to any party shall not exceed £165,000.'