§ 4.35 p.m.
|That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining Proceedings on the Bill:—|
|Committee, Report and Third Reading|
|1.—(1) The remaining Proceedings in Committee on the Bill shall be completed in two allotted days, and those Proceedings shall be taken in the order stated and be brought to a conclusion at the times shown in the following table:—|
|Allotted day||Proceedings||Time for conclusion of proceedings|
|First day||Clause 3—remaining proceedings.||6 p.m.|
|Clause 2.||8 p.m.|
|New Clauses relating to treaties increasing the powers of the Assembly.|
|Schedule 1—Amendments before paragraph 2.||Midnight.|
|Second day||Schedule 1—remaining proceedings.|
|Clauses 12 to 16.|
|Remaining new Clauses.|
|Clauses 4 to 11.|
|Schedules 3 to 5 and remaining proceedings in Committee.||Midnight.|
|(2) The Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in one allotted day and on that day—|
|(a) the Proceedings on Consideration shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.00 p.m.; and|
|(b) the Proceedings on Third Reading shall be brought to a conclusion at Midnight.|
|(3) Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) shall not apply to this Order.|
|Proceedings on going into Committee|
|2. When the Order of the Day is read for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill, Mr Speaker shall forthwith put the Question on any Motion for an Instruction standing on the Order Paper in the name of a Member of the Government, and shall then leave the chair without putting any other Question, whether or not notice of any other Instruction has been given.|
|Conclusion of Proceedings in Committee|
|3. On the conclusion of the Proceedings in Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.|
|Order of Consideration|
|4. No Motion shall be made to change the order in which the Bill is to be considered in Committee or on Consideration.|
|5. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, Proceedings on the Bill shall be made on an allotted day except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.|
|Extra time on allotted days|
|6.—(1) On an allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted Business) shall apply to the Proceedings on the Bill for two hours after Ten o'clock.|
|(2) Any period during which Proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the period under this paragraph.|
|(3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the Proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the period during which Proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under this paragraph, and the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall also be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on the Motion.|
|7. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by the Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill or, if those Proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the completion of those Proceedings.|
|Conclusion of Proceedings|
|8.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr Speaker shall forthwith proceed to put the following Questions (but no others), that is to say—|
|(a) the Question or Questions already proposed from the Chair, or necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including, in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);|
|(b) the Question on any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that amendment or Motion is moved by a Member of the Government;|
|(c) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded; and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.|
|(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.|
|(3) If, at Seven o'clock on an allotted day, any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time have not been concluded, any Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) which, apart from this Order, would stand over to that time shall stand over until those Proceedings have been concluded.|
|(4) If a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over to Seven o'clock on an allotted day, or to any later time under sub-paragraph (3) above, the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day at any hour falling after the beginning of the Proceedings on that Motion shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on that Motion.|
|9.—(1) The Proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and the last foregoing paragraph shall apply as if the Proceedings were Proceedings on the Bill on an allotted day.|
|(2) If on an allotted day on which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended before that time, no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.|
|10. Nothing in this Order shall—|
|(a) prevent any Proceedings to which the Order applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order, or|
|(b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such Proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.|
|11.—(1) References in this Order to Proceedings on Consideration or Proceedings on Third Reading include references to Proceedings, at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of recommittal.|
|(2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to recommit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.|
|12. In this Order—|
|"allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day, provided that a Motion for allotting time to the Proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;|
|"the Bill" means the European Assembly Elections Bill.|
§ Whenever debates take place on guillotine motions—and, like everyone else who participates, I have been reading those that have taken place over the last 10 years—the same themes emerge. They relate to three needs. The first is the need to secure the passage of the Bill in question, the second is the need to protect the rest of the legislative programme, and the third is the need to give adequate time for proper discussion of the Bill. I believe that again these are the important questions to be covered in today's debate.
§ There is in this case, however, one important difference. As I pointed out on Second Reading, the divisions in the House do not run on normal party lines. The debates over the last 10 or 15 years were always very severely between Government and Opposition, with the Government part of the time saying that they wanted the guillotine and the Opposition of the time saying "No", and with the parties' arguments reversed once they changed sides in the House.
§ In this instance we are not in that position, because the divisions do not run on party lines. Just as there is more than one view on the Government side, so there is more than one view on the Opposition side.
§ First, there is the need to secure the passage of the Bill. As the House well knows, the origins of direct elections to the European Assembly go back many years—to the establishment of the Community in 1958. Article 138(3) of the Treaty provides for direct elections and ultimately according to uniform procedure. It was only comparatively recently, in September 1976, that agreement was reached among the nine member States on arrangements for elections to the European Assembly. It was a political1628
§ decision made by Her Majesty's Government. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), in one of the early debates, when perhaps that point was not as clear as it is now, brought out in his speech that this decision did not arise out of Article 138(3) but was a political decision by the Labour Government.
§ The agreed target date for the first elections was May-June 1978, but the United Kingdom Government warned our Community partners that we could not be sure of meeting that deadline. The Government are clear that they want to honour their basic commitment to direct elections, made by the Prime Minister, and I put it to the House that when the leader of a Government makes such a commitment to an international organisation it is the desire of that Government to honour the commitment. That is one of the reasons for putting forward this motion.
§ Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
The right hon. Gentleman says that it is the desire of the Government to honour their international obligations. Can we assume, therefore, that all members of the Government, including all members of the Cabinet, will be voting for the motion?
§ Mr. Rees
I suppose that the division among us will be about the same as on the Opposition Front Bench. One of the factors in this matter is the division of opinion on both sides of the House. There are divisions in the Government about it, but that was perfectly well known beforehand.
It has been claimed that a deal has been done by the Government with groups in various parts of the House. That is not true. No deal has been 1629 done with the Conservative Opposition; no deal has been done with other Opposition parties.
There are others who concede the validity of the argument for passing the Bill but say that it is not essential for the Bill to proceed to Royal Assent in the present Session. It could be argued, and will be argued, that if the original target date of May-June for the first elections cannot be met, there is no urgency for the Bill to be passed. I agree that the decision of the Committee, taken on 13th December, to reject the Government's recommended regional list system effectively ruled out the May-June 1978 date for the first elections to the European Assembly.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary informed the Council of Foreign Ministers on 17th January this year of the present stage reached by the European Assembly Elections Bill and explained the implications for the May-June 1978 target date. I am told that this news came as no surprise to the Council of Foreign Ministers. Indeed, it is by no means certain that all other member States would have been ready for elections by May-June 1978. [Interruption.] Every country must speak for itself. Various Foreign Ministers expressed considerable disappointment that the May-June 1978 date cannot be met, and there was general agreement on the desirability of fixing a new target date which all member States could be reasonably sure of meeting.
Although no decision has been taken about the new date, it will presumably be sometime in 1979. That is one of the results of the time that has been taken. Since Parliament has, in effect, decided on the simply majority system of elections and on determining the European Assembly constituencies by means of a Boundary Commission procedure, there needs to be a substantial period of time between Royal Assent to the Bill and the date for the first elections. The timings of the various schemes were given in the White Paper which the Government published last year.
§ Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
How will the decision be reached concerning the date of the elections? Will it be by the European Council or by the Council of Ministers?
§ Mr. Rees
I must be frank and say that I am not quite sure which of the two it will be. I understand that it will be decided in exactly the same way as last time.
The two things are inevitably interrelated. If we are to have the simple majority system, a Boundary Commission procedure, from the point of view of the Government, is an essential part of doing so. I remind the House that details have to come to the House in the form of an order.
There have been many of these debates. I can recall being a junior Minister at a time when a Labour Administration decided that part of the boundary changes for Parliament for the London area and other large constituencies should be put in the Bill direct, and there was an outcry about doing that. Strong views were expressed about the decisions which had been taken.
I have a responsibility—which my hon. Friend the Minister of State exercises on a day-to-day basis—for Boundary Commission decisions. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have differing views and views which conflict with what is put forward by the Boundary Commission. I accept that Clause 3 has not yet been passed, but, in effect, we have decided on the simple majority system, which will mean that the Boundary Commission will be involved.
It follows that, if the United Kingdom is to play its proper part in discussing and working with reasonable flexibility towards a new target date, it is essential that the European Assembly Elections Bill should pass through all its stages in the present parliamentary Session.
§ Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
Is the implication of what my right hon. Friend has just said about the Boundary Commisison that subsequently, when the order comes to the House, there will be no possibility whatsoever of guillotining the debate and that hon. Members may put forward any amendments they may wish to introduce concerning the Boundary Commission proposals? It seems to me that my right hon. Friend has planted in the minds of hon. Members that this really is not the final decision and that we shall have another chance later on.
§ Mr. Rees
All I am implying is that eventually the recommendations for the 78 constituencies will be brought to the House in the form of an order, on which the House will vote. [Interruption.] I am simply pointing out the procedures that we have to go through.
I turn now to the need to protect the rest of the legislative programme. I rest on what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has said already today at Business Question Time—that there is other legislation that we need to put through the House and that it is important from the Government's point of view that we have the time in which to do so. There is new legislation which springs up as a result of new needs. It is vital for the Government of the day to protect the time of the House.
I make no complaint about the amount of time that has already been spent on the subject. The opponents of the Bill are entitled to make use of the procedures of the House in order to prevent swift progress—or, indeed, to kill the Bill, which is the intention of many hon. Members who have spoken. But the Government have a right and duty to protect their legislative programme as a whole, and a guillotine motion is one of the procedures by which this can be done.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate how the Lord President will be voting in the Division this evening, in view of the line that he took in previous debates?
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)
The Home Secretary has been making a very interesting speech about the importance of getting the Bill in the present Session of Parliament and about protecting the Government's business, but the motion on the Order Paper is for a timetable of three days. Is he intending to address some remarks to that point? It seems a little odd that a Bill which needs only three days should need a timetable motion in order to get it through this Session, with the timetable motion being moved in January.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)
If the Government were to lose the guillotine this evening, would I be right in assuming that they would drop the Bill in any event rather than continue with a hopeless attempt to get it through this Session, and in that way enable room to be made for the other legislation to which reference has been made?
§ Mr. Rees
I can do no more than use the phrase "Wait and see".
The third need is to give adequate time for debate. I believe that the matter of time is most important. I fully recognise and have frequently emphasised the importance of the Bill in constitutional and parliamentary terms. It is not the case that the House has been short of opportunities to consider the principle of direct elections. On the contrary, the debates on the principle of direct elections to the European Assembly have taken place over a long period of time.
The Government's Green Paper on direct elections to the European Assembly was published nearly two years ago. There was a two-day debate in March 1976 on the Green Paper, following which a Select Committee of this House was established to look into all aspects of the matter. The Select Committee published three reports in the course of 1976, together with the record of evidence received by it. The first of those reports was debated in July 1976. The second and third reports were considered by the House in the two-day debate in the spring of 197 on the Government's White Paper on direct elections.
Subsequently, the Government introduced a Bill in more or less the same terms as the present Bill in June 1977. There was a two-day debate, as a result of which the Bill was given a Second Reading by a very large majority. Before the present Bill was introduced, therefore, the House had already spent 49 hours debating direct elections. That is before this Bill.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that one of the key issues in the Bill relates to the powers of the European Assembly. The Foreign Secretary promised to introduce a new clause in this regard which we have not yet seen. [HON. MEMBERS "We have."] Well, I have not. It must have come in today. But that has taken seven weeks to prepare, and under this vicious guillotine we shall have only three and a half hours to discuss it. Is that right?
§ Mr. Rees
I shall come to the new clause and the amendment to the title in a moment. I was making the point about spending 49 hours on the principle.
In the present Session also we have had extended debates on the principle of holding elections. The Second Reading debate on 24th November was naturally concerned with the main principle, as were the debates on Clause 1 on 1st and 12th December. All this has consumed an additional 17 hours. I do not grumble about the 49 hours that I mentioned earlier. But, taking into account those additional 17 hours, the House cannot argue that there has not been sufficient time for arguing the main principles of direct elections in the last two years.
The other major issue on which I believe it would have been wrong to limit or inhibit debate was the method of election to the European Assembly. On this we had a full-day debate on 13th December on the respective merits of the regional list system and the simple majority system of election. On 12th January we had a lengthy debate on the alternative vote system of election and we also spent a considerable time discussing the merits of the single transferable vote for Northern Ireland.
I concede that the system which the Government are putting forward for Northern Ireland is a very important matter, about which people in Northern Ireland feel strongly. We have spent time discussing this already on the Floor of the Committee. I also concede that it is likely that it would not be very long—whatever that means—before we came to a decision on that.
As the Minister in charge of the Bill, I believe it is right that we should spend time debating and considering these important and difficult questions. We have 1634 almost completed our consideration of the electoral system to be used.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
My right hon. Friend has spent a lot of time telling us how long we have spent in debating the principle. Would he not agree that on major matters such as the third London Airport and the Channel Tunnel similar debates took place? It is no good at all saying that we do not need to look at the rest of the Bill as it exists. Will he tell the House what he believes are the outstanding matters that require attention, because other hon. Members may have other lists?
§ Mr. Rees
I shall certainly come to that in a moment. I have talked about the method of election, on which there has been discussion. With regard to powers, assuming that in the debate on Clause 3 the Committee will approve the simple majority system—judging by the vote towards the end of last year, I assume that that is what will happen—what generally is left is the application of our traditional and well-understood electoral system to the circumstances of European Assembly elections.
I have with me a copy of the Bill. Everything that is left relates to methods of election which have been used in this country for normal Westminster elections since the dissolution and election Bills of 1884, nearly 100 years ago. There is absolutely nothing in the Bill which is new in concept. On one aspect, the method by which certain orders can be put in future, I shall be putting down an amendment on Report. I hope that that will cover a number of points which hon. Members have brought to my notice.
Nevertheless, the rest of the Bill, except for powers, relates to matters that have been dealt with in the Home Office over the years, that have been debated in the House over the years. There is nothing new, because this House decided that there should be a first-past-the-post system. If that had not been done, I concede that it would have meant developments to our normal system that would have excited our interest—but not now. The only thing new that is left relates to powers, and a new clause—
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
That is quite untrue. There is a whole Second Schedule to the Bill, including the curtailment of all the 1635 rights of appeal and public inquiries which are the normal familiar practice. Are we not to have any kind of debate on something which is entirely unfamiliar?
§ Mr. Rees
The hon. and learned Gentleman raises an interesting point about method which relates to the White Paper. I shall listen with interest to what will be said on this occasion. The point I am making is that there is nothing fundamentally different except with regard to powers, and a new clause is now on the Amendment Paper relating to parliamentary approval of treaties increasing the powers of the Assembly.
But the discussions that we have had during the last seven weeks in the Foreign Office and the Home Office have been held in the light of the views expressed in this House. The timetable motion has been carefully drawn up to allow an appropriate period for discussion of the method of powers which we have already discussed on the Floor of the Committee.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the question of powers and the new clause, may I ask whether he is aware that after considering this for seven weeks the Home Office has published the new clause with a major misprint which makes it completely meaningless? If such an efficient Department as the Home Office can take seven weeks and get an amendment all wrong, is that not evidence that there is not very much hurry?
§ Mr. Rees
I can only explain why it has taken us so long. But, knowing of the knowledge of my right hon. Friend and his allies, I am sure that the point can be dealt with in a matter of moments.
The timetable motion proposes that two full days should be allocated to the further consideration of the Bill in 1636 Committee and that a further day should be allocated to Report and Third Reading. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame".] Following the Committee's rejection of the regional list system of election, the Bill now effectively consists of only eight clauses and two schedules. I have already made the point about the principle and what there is left to discuss. I do not think that any question of principles arises now.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
My right hon. Friend has told us about the way in which the allotted time is to be distributed. Will he tell us what the position of the Government will be if we have a repetition of the situation last night, when they sustained adverse votes within a timetable motion, and they are now faced with the somewhat humiliating situation of having to deal with the matter again? Are we to understand that if the Government were to be defeated on any of the remaining votes there would be an enlargement of the matter while the Government had another stab of it?
§ Mr. Rees
I accept that a number of votes will take place relatively soon. On the question of powers, I make the point again that this is a matter of principle. The others are matters that have stood the test of time. We shall have to see what happens if, in this curious situation of the whole question of the EEC, adverse decisions are taken. But we have said to our Common Market friends that we would use our "best endeavours". The House must bear that in mind when the decision is taken tonight. That is the purpose of it.
It must be clear to all hon. Members that without a timetable motion proceedings on the Bill could be endlessly extended. It is important that the Bill should pass through all its parliamentary stages in the present Session. The House gave a Second Reading to the Bill by a very considerable majority, and I hope that there will be a similar majority for this guillotine motion.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. David Howell (Guildford)
We on this side of the House believe that there should be a free vote on the timetable motion this evening, but before the debate continues it might be helpful if I 1637 set out how some of us approach this matter.
In some ways I welcome the fact that the Home Secretary had the task of moving the guillotine motion, because, one way or another, I suspect that the House has had enough of the activities of the Lord President and his adventures with guillotines. It is probably just as well, not least for his own health, that he is taking a sabbatical from this type of exercise.
However, if the Home Secretary is trying to persuade us to vote for the timetable motion, he is going about it in a bizarre way. For a start, I do not accept the implication—I hope that he was not making it—that the rejection of the regional list PR system made the guillotine motion necessary. If anything, I believe that we have been placed in this difficulty because of the feebleness of the Government in failing to bring forward the measure in time.
I make no secret of the fact that this timetable motion tabled by the Government places me, and no doubt some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, in something of a dilemma. I think that is obvious. On the one hand, most of us—not all—want to see this measure on the statute book. I agree with what I think the Home Secretary was trying to say—namely, that it would be an insult to the capacity of the dedicated opponents of the Bill to assume that if there were no timetable motion they would not dish the Bill.
On the other hand—this is the other side of the dilemma—I must confess that it sticks in the gullet to help the Government out of yet another hole into which the Lord President and others have landed us.
There is a further problem. We have been told—this has been leaked in the newspaper and through the usual leaking channels—that approval of this motion is in some way connected with the Lib-Lab pact and that this is today's quoted price for that pact. I hope that I shall not sound too cynical if I say that the price of the Lib-Lab pact seems to oscillate like the daily price of a cauliflower. Therefore, we should not give too much credence to that argument.
There is yet another dilemma on which the Home Secretary—and others in their 1638 interventions in his speech—touched. Even if the arguments for a guillotine are accepted, the timetable is extremely tight. There is this vital new clause, and the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) has already told us that as tabled it does not make sense. I have no doubt that the Home Office and Foreign Office between them will eventually manage to put some English grammar on the Amendment Paper, but at the moment the clause is a nonsense. We have only just seen the clause, and one would have liked more time to discuss a matter as vital as this.
We must also consider the question of the Third Reading. There might well have been a case for having a proper Third Reading debate as we had on the European Communities Bill. I suggest that in curtailing the debate by this timetable motion the Home Secretary is screwing the process down unnecessarily tight. That is a pity, and it is why we have pressed for more time. I am sorry that the Home Secretary does not seem to recognise that point of view.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
Apart from the new clause on powers and the subject of Third Reading, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that there are 48 full pages of amendments, most of which still remain even after the elimination of the regional list system? It is difficult to see how we can consider 48 pages of amendments in the two days that we are being allowed in completing the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Howell
I would point out that not all those amendments will be selected, but my hon. and learned Friend reinforces the argument that this is a tight schedule. However, the Home Secretary so far has shown no signs of acceding to the reasonable argument for more time. We can argue endlessly whether there should be more or less time. The reality is that the question of curtailing debate on this Bill would never have arisen if this matter had not been persistently delayed by the passionate anti-Marketeers in the Government, presumably with the Lord President and others in the lead.
§ Mr. Roderick MacFarquhar (Belper)
In view of the hon. Gentleman's admission that it is the task of opponents of the Bill to delay the measure indefinitely, 1639 does it not follow that, even if the Government had introduced the Bill at a much earlier stage, it would still have run into trouble months ago and that a guillotine would have been necessary?
§ Mr. Howell
I have said that we face dilemmas on this matter. There are dedicated opponents of the Bill. I am not seeking to disguise the dilemma. My view is that if one supports the Bill and wants to see it on the statute book, one should consider voting for the timetable motion tonight. I am confident that many of my right hon. and hon. Friends will follow that course.
§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
Will my hon. Friend give advice to those of us who take the view that the new schedule in Amendment No. 78, in the names of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) and others, is the only practical way of getting elections in May-June of this year? Does he take the view that the timetable motion as it now appears will or will not result in a debate and vote on the new schedule? This is crucial, and I would value his advice.
§ Mr. Howell
If the House wants it, the opportunity is there, but it is also a matter for debate whether we should depart from the proper procedures laid down by the Boundary Commission. That is a matter for debate. I appreciate my hon. Friend's suggestion of a short-cut. When the target date for this Bill was 1978, there might have been a stronger case than there now is—I put the matter no higher than that—for pursuing that short-cut procedure. My own preference would be that we should stick to the Boundary Commission procedures laid down and recommended by the Select Committee. However, that is a matter of personal preference.
It gives me no joy to lift a finger in support of this pathetic and befuddled Government. Since it is not even a Government but a ragged part of a Government—a half Government—who are now trying to manage this Bill, I believe that it behoves those of us who support the EEC to carry this business forward and to support the motion. That is certainly why I shall support the motion, and I 1640 believe that most of my right hon. and hon. Friends will follow that course.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)
When I heard that we were to have a guillotine motion on this Bill, I was extremely angry, as indeed were many other hon. Members, and we made our anger felt in the House. Since then my anger has turned to sorrow that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should bring forward this restricted motion on this very important constitutional Bill. One can understand that the Government want to get the Bill with reasonable expedition. It seems that with the timetable motion the Government are trying to get it with indecent haste.
We must question the need for a guillotine at this time. The Home Secretary admitted that there has been no attempt to filibuster on the Bill or to delay its passage in Committee. All the amendments that have been considered so far have been dealt with in reasonable time and decisions have been reached after relatively short debates.
So far, we have spent only 22 hours in Committee and seven and a half hours of that time was spent on an issue that was deliberately introduced into the Bill by the Government and not through the will of Parliament. The regional list system was introduced as a result of the pact between the Government and the Liberal Party. The Leader of the Liberal Party admitted at the weekend that it had nothing to do with the Labour Party but was something between himself and the Government. Discounting that time, we have spent only 14½ hours in Committee so far.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
Does my hon. Friend agree that about two and a half hours was taken up by points of order, some of which were of varying validity, even though they were accepted by the Chair?
§ Mr. Stoddart
The points of order were shown to be valid. Indeed, the Chair was sympathetic to them. My hon. Friend must not grumble if hon. Members do the job for which they are elected, namely, to make sure that legislation going through the House is, as far as possible, pure legislation.
Why the haste over this Bill? The Home Secretary has tried to convince us 1641 that it is necessary to get the Bill on the statute book so that we can honour the obligations and promises made to the heads of foreign Governments and, perhaps, the Liberal Party.
However, we understand that there will be no direct elections to the European Assembly until 1979–15 or 16 months hence—at the earliest, and there is no doubt that the Government have plenty of time in which to get the Bill through this House and another place. We know from the record of another place that the Bill will go through there like a dose of salts, because most of its Members are besotted with Europe. Even without a guillotine, it is possible that the Bill could be on the statute book before the Summer Recess and that would give plenty of time for the Boundary Commission to do its work, to make recommendations to the House and for us to agree or disagree with them. I cannot understand why there is this indecent haste to get the Bill through this House in another three sittings.
There is almost no precedent for such haste. The European Communities Bill spent 10 days in Committee before the then Government decided that there should be a guillotine and they allowed a further 12 days for the Committee and remaining stages. We have to go back to the National Health Service Bill of 1951–52 to find any sort of precedent. That was an eight-clause Bill.
§ Mr. Stoddart
Indeed. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of that, because the provisions of this Bill are not Labour Party policy. Indeed, our policy is the reverse. The limitation of time on this Bill is virtually unprecedented.
Let me remind hon. Members, particularly those opposite, who have been complaining loudly about the restriction of time on the Scotland Bill that this motion will make it virtually impossible for Back-Bench Members' amendments to be voted on. There are some important Back-Bench amendments, but it is almost certain that hardly any of them will be voted on.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
May I bear out what the hon. Gentleman is saying? Has he observed that on the first allotted day it 1642 is proposed that the guillotine should fall at 6 p.m. and at 8 p.m.? If there were a number of Divisions at 6 p.m., as there easily might be, there would be virtually no time to consider Clause 2 and all the amendments tabled to it before the guillotine fell again at 8 p.m.
§ Mr. Stoddart
That is true. I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for pointing out that fact.
The timetable motion restricts debate on the amendment currently under discussion to two hours. It is a fundamental amendment and we have debated it so far for only one and a half hours. The amendment deals with the question of proportional representation in Northern Ireland, and I remind some of my hon. Friends who voted against proportional representation for England and Scotland that we had much more time to debate that question than we shall have to debate PR in Northern Ireland. This may not be a matter of importance to some hon. Members, but it is certainly important to all the Members from Northern Ireland, irrespective of their party allegiances, and the debate on this important topic will be unduly restricted.
Hon. Members who voted on last night's amendment to the Scotland Bill dealing with the limitation on the referendum should note Amendment No. 172 to this Bill, which would have a similar effect. Unless we are given a lot more time, there will be practically no discussion of that amendment.
All through we find topics of the utmost importance to the House and the country. For example, many of us are concerned about the salary levels that have been mentioned in relation to Members of the European Parliament. We want to discuss that matter, but under the timetable motion it is unlikely that we shall be able to do so.
I advise hon. Members to read the letter in The Times today from the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) about the Home Office and the way that we shall be handing over to the Home Secretary election matters over which the House exercises power at present. People may think that it is not important, but I shall give an example. At present it is the political parties that issue writs for by-elections. In other words, with certain restrictions, it is in 1643 the hands of the political parties to decide when they hold a by-election and move a writ in this House. Being the Member for Swindon, I have had some experience of this. Sometimes it does not work out as the electorate would like, but in general it is a system which works. But under the Bill we shall be handing that power to the Home Secretary as, indeed, we shall be handing over other powers over which the House now has control.
How much discussion are we to have on the new clause tabled by the Government, a very important clause and one that is absolutely vital to the future of the House and its powers? We shall have about four hours if we are lucky. It may be less, dependent upon the time at which we reach the debate.
§ Mr. Spearing
My hon. Friend has referred to the great sympathy that we had from the Chair in relation to the selection and movement of amendments out of order. Has he noticed the new draft instruction in the new Orders of the Day in the name of "Mr. Secretary Ross"—that name has appeared once again? It instructs the Committee considering the European Assembly Elections Bill that it haspower to make provision in the Bill to secure that no treaty which providesand so on. That is clearly an instruction to the Committee which allows the new clause to which my hon. Friend refers and which otherwise would be out of order. Since, under paragraph 2 of the guillotine motion, that instruction must be decided on a vote forthwith by the House itself, does that not show the extreme lengths to which the Government will go to get that new clause in order, when other amendments of hon. Members are ruled out of order by the nature of the Bill?
§ Mr. Stoddart
My hon. Friend has obviously studied the timetable motion very closely. I could not have put what he has just said any better. I therefore leave the House to savour his wisdom without further comment.
There are grave issues, vital to the House and the people, to be discussed. It is disgraceful that the Government should bring forward the guillotine in such restrictive terms. It is more repre- 1644 hensible and disgraceful that the Opposition, on an almost unprecedented basis, should advise their Members to vote for the guillotine. Since when have Oppositions voted for guillotines? [Interruption.] It is a free vote but "Follow me", a free vote but "I shall do this."
§ Mr. Stoddart
As my hon. Friend says, there is one standard for the EEC and different standards for everything else. I wish that all Members, particularly those on the Opposition Front Bench, would consider matters to be at least equal and not be so besotted with the EEC that they will allow this measure to go through the House positively unexamined. They will come up against it later on. They will find that they have made mistakes and will have nobody to blame but themselves, because they will have failed in their duty to give this important Bill the close and detailed examination that it deserves and needs.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart) referred to different standards. It is well known to the House that there are also different kinds of guillotine motions. There is the guillotine motion which is used in order to ram through, against party opposition which is using every possible device and delay, a major element of the policy of the Government. There is the guillotine which is used when a Government, believing themselves to be required to do so by their mandate, overload with major pieces of legislation the programme of a Session and, of necessity, have to make space if they are to get the larger proportion of them through. There is the guillotine which is used when a relatively small but determined band set themselves to use their opportunities to resist a piece of legislation.
Hon. Members can construct for themselves other categories. But we need not go too far into that, because we are considering a guillotine motion of a new category altogether. In the category to which it belongs it is so far the only specimen. It is the one example of the unmotivated guillotine. No explanation that can stand up to examination for a 1645 moment has been advanced for the bringing forward of this motion in January 1978.
The Home Secretary referred to the Government's commitment to participate in direct elections, direct elections which nobody now supposes will take place before 1979, and presumably a considerable way into 1979. But the Home Secretary was candid enough to draw the logical deduction from that requirement. He said that we shall need to get the Bill in this Session. The Session may end in August. It may end in October. But the need to get a Bill in this Session is no justification for voting through a three-day timetable motion before January is out.
Let us consider for a moment the history of the Committee stage of the Bill so far. There have been four days of debate. On one of those days the Government were obliged by the general will of the House—otherwise they could not have made progress at all—to promise to bring forward a clause which it was obvious that the House would have to consider very carefully. So virtually the whole of one day and part of the second day of the Committee's proceedings were concerned with a subject which the Government admitted was so vital to the House that they ought to alter the scope of the Bill in order to be able to table a new and important amendment. There was then a day which was spent in enabling the House to take a major decision upon the method of election in Great Britain, and the following day we began to pick up some of the consequences and to tidy up the results of a decision that the House had taken.
Those, Mr. Deputy Speaker—you of all people will remember—were not long days. They were not days prolonged into the night. They were not days crammed up against one another in the time table of this House. It was a leisurely proceeding. We sat usually on a Thursday, not commonly a day on which the House anyway likes to sit late. It certainly did not like to sit late on the most recent day that we were in Committee. The whole procedure has been a stately progress. It could barely be called progress, but at any rate it was stately. Now suddenly, a week afterwards, the Government discover the urgency of getting the Bill through 1646 in this Session and come forward with a guillotine motion.
The Government say that there are other matters which are, or may become, pressing and that room must be made for them. The Leader of the House is a person of great fertility of imagination and invention; he is rarely lost for an argument. But the endeavour to specify what it might be for which time was to be made defeated even the right hon. Gentleman. The Home Secretary, conscious of his lesser powers, was entirely candid and said that this was by way of a sort of contingency item in a Budget. He said "You never know what may turn up. There may be things which will come along, and it would be convenient to have some time."
Even that would be tolerable if it had colourably been suggested that hon. Members who had taken part in these not unimportant debates had been deliberately spinning out their speeches and wasting the time of the House in doing so. But the Home Secretary did not suggest that. He was careful not to suggest that there had been any experience of filibustering and time-wasting.
Indeed, this is one of the new features—and we should recognise it—of the movement of guillotine motions by this Government. When they have moved guillotine motions, previous Governments have read out long indictments of filibustering. It has been an ad misericordiam. They have asked "How can we make headway against an Opposition clearly out to wreck the Bill by talking, talking, talking?" But on two occasions at least I remember the Leader of the House in the most candid fashion saying that he was accusing nobody of filibustering, saying that there had been no waste of time, that the House had been doing its proper work in the proper way.
This afternoon the Home Secretary did not venture to suggest that time had been wasted. He said "You never know, but time might be wasted in the future." He made that observation although, as a result of a decision of the Committee, his Bill had been reduced to about half its original length, although the operative clauses and schedules could now be numbered certainly on the fingers of two hands and probably on the fingers of one 1647 hand. The right hon. Gentleman observed "You never know. The opponents of the Bill might get down to filibustering, and therefore, before they have done so, before it has happened, at the beginning of a Session, in January, we must have a guillotine."
This is an unaccountable guillotine, an unaccountable imposition upon the House—at this stage of this Bill to bring forward this motion. It is therefore the more to be feared and the more to be resented than what I might call the run-of-the-mill type of guillotine of which, let us admit, we all understand and admit the ultimate necessity. But because it is mysterious, because it is rash and unexplained, that does not mean that it is not of dangerous effect should it pass, that it may not be fateful in its results.
There are two elements in the House to whom I believe today's business is specially fateful. One is the Leader of the House himself, whose name is on the motion and who therefore, as a man must who has put his name on a motion, will vote for it. In my opinion the right hon. Gentleman is a man who possesses transparent and transcendent integrity. That is the view I hold and always have held. He told the House earlier this afternoon—I read out his words as I took them down: "In these constitutional matters the views I held on the Back Benches are the same as I hold now."
The right hon. Gentleman had a great decision to make when the Labour Administration was formed in 1974. I believe that he took the right decision, and I honour him for it. For it is not a great parliamentarian who, even after 25 years on the Back Benches exploiting and expounding as no man else what the House is about, if he has the opportunity with his colleagues to assume responsibility, would refuse it. The right hon. Gentleman was right, and of course one accepts that all office carries with it the necessity of compromise. In order to act with others, one makes a certain sacrifice of the 100 per cent. purity, the 100 per cent. logic of one's views, which one has the freedom and the duty, when not in an Administration, to express.
But there is a point—a point lies somewhere—where the contradiction between the beliefs which one is known to hold 1648 and the actions which one advocates as a member of an Administration becomes impossible to tolerate. I say with the greatest respect that I believe that that moment is reached for the right hon. Gentleman with this motion. The right hon. Gentleman, if anybody, has taught the House the consequences of this measure, nor has he concealed his hostility to the measure. Yet his name stands upon a motion, a motion which with almost impudent haste will ensure that that measure which he detests is fastened upon the statute book and that that change in our constitution, the danger of which we have learnt front him as much as from anybody, is fastened upon this country.
I say—perhaps I may dare to say it—that that is an impossible contradiction and this is a fateful day for the right hon. Gentleman. But it is a fateful day not only for him. It is also a fateful day for Her Majesty's Opposition, if they are an Opposition. The business of an Opposition—the prime business, the assumed business, unless there be the strongest and clearest reasons to the contrary—is to uphold the rights of this House, the rights of Back Benchers, the power of Oppositions, the opportunities of Oppositions, and to uphold them even if they are attacked and deserted by others. So there is a prime and presumptive obligation upon an Opposition to oppose, especially in such blatant circumstances as these, where not even the necessity of a policy to which they may be wedded requires them to support the imposition of a timetable motion, any timetable motion, let alone this one.
If the Opposition are not to oppose, they should say in a manly fashion "The following are our reasons why we shall support the Government, why our will is that this measure shall pass." That is the duty of an Opposition, but it is a duty from which they have resiled.
There is no answer from the Opposition. They give no advice to the House, or, rather, they give deliberately balanced and conflicting advice. Those who are connoisseurs of ambivalence always sit back licking their lips with the anticipation of a treat when someone rises from the Opposition Front Bench in debate after debate. Although we were cheated by the brevity, we were not disappointed 1649 with the content this afternoon. It was fully up to standard.
What sort of Opposition are they? They are involved in one of the greatest issues for not merely the House but the country, yet they remain deliberately dumb, deliberately self-contradictory, and give no advice—but perhaps I am wrong—to their supporters behind them. Perhaps I am wrong; for it is rumoured that the word has been passed round "You watch which way who goes". What a splendid fashion to conduct opposition ! If that is not sufficient guidance for hon. Members, they have been told "Well, of course, but you see, if there is an election in October and if"—this becomes decreasingly probable—" a Conservative Administration should be formed following that election"—[HON. MEMBERS: " Heaven forbid."] Labour Members say "Heaven forbid", but I hear that it is said—" we should have to pass the Bill if this Government do not do so. Why, we might have to have debates upon it. We might have to have the whole thing over again, after, presumably, we have gone to the electors and secured their support for our actions." And so the whisper goes around the corridors and the Benches "Let them do the dirty work for us and then they will take the blame. In that way the Bill will be on the statute book when we come into office."
Those who form an Opposition do so, unless they are a mere faction, so as to have the privilege of governing, the privilege of leading. I say to Her Majesty's Opposition "In God's name, give a lead. Whatever it is, give a lead. For only if you do so will you earn the possibility of being asked by your fellow countrymen to lead them".
It is a strange irony that we are having this debate 12 hours—no, a little more—after the scene in the Chamber last night. What indignation there was on the Opposition Front Bench that as a result of a guillotine motion the Administration—it was done in the name and in the interests of the Administration that now brings forward this guillotine motion—should be preventing a right hon. Member from securing a hearing for a case that only he could present in Committee.
1650 I say that the Government have lost the moral right to ask the House today, if they ever had it, to accept this guillotine motion. I say that Her Majesty's Opposition, by failing to oppose it, have cast away the opportunity that they should be seeking to lead the House, for that is the condition of ever leading this nation.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
One thing that has clearly emerged from the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is that the prospects of a reconciliation between the right hon. Gentleman and the Tory Front Bench have again receded like a mirage—there was a temporary rumour in the Press of reconciliation—however hard the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition tries to make her policies more acceptable to him. At least that has registered some interest in the state of play.
I do not take quite such a dramatic view of the Lord President. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman's name is the first that appears on the motion. As he has never asked me before to support him on a guillotine motion on a European matter relating to direct elections, I feel that I must consider this unique opportunity to give him some backing.
I hope that the Lord President will reply. I feel that he will be able to sway any of those who have remaining doubts. He will be able to do so with the passion with which he will advance the arguments in favour of the motion. I shall be disappointed if he does not reply.
I have only one criticism of the Government in this instance. The timetable, to which the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) referred, could have been greatly improved upon. The Government would have been better to follow the practice of the previous Conservative Government and consult the other parties. The Tories are perhaps more experienced in timetable motions. It may be that from now on the Government will learn to 1651 take a leaf from the book of the Tory Opposition.
When the European Communities Bill was subject to a timetable motion the offer was made to the opposition parties to discuss it. That opportunity was rejected by the official Opposition, but my colleagues and I discussed the matter with the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), who was then the Tory Chief Whip, and with the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), who was then Leader of the House. As a result, several extra days were added to our proceedings in Committee. I merely say to the Leader of the House that he should have some regard to previous Tory guillotines. The Tories seem to me to be rather more civilised in their consultation with the opposition parties. However, as I have said, perhaps the Tories are more experienced in these matters than the Labour Party. It may be that the Labour Party will learn in due course.
My reasons for believing that it is important to get this measure on the statute book are twofold. First, Her Majesty's Government have committed themselves—it was way back in December 1975 at the Heads of Government meeting at Rome—to the concept of direct elections. Therefore, the Government have a commitment to honour.
Secondly, on two occasions the House has given a massive majority to Second Readings of the Bill, the most recent of which was on 24th November when the Second Reading was carried by 381 votes to 98.
The delays on the part of the House and the country have meant that, not for the first time, we are dragging our feet on European matters. Whatever the Secretary of State for the Home Department may say, I am certain that had this country been ready for elections in June 1978, the other eight countries would likewise have been ready. They would have ensured that they were ready had they been given that spur. I accept that the delay has been largely engineered by the failure of the Government to introduce legislation at an early stage.
I say in answer to the hon. Member for Guildford that there has been no discussion as part of the Lib-Lab Pact on 1652 the need to introduce the guillotine. However, it was part of the pact that this legislation should be introduced. That has been one of the benefits of the agreement in a European context. At least we have brought the legislation forward.
I fear that the Opposition must take their full share of the blame for the delay. Had they not voted as they did on 13th December for one of the most longwinded and archaic processes of election—namely, the first-past-the-post system—we could have had elections in June without any shadow of doubt. Therefore, it is incumbent upon them, having produced part of the delay, to vote for the motion tonight.
It seems that the Opposition were far more interested in debating their own electoral prejudices than in having elections in June 1978. Why else did they have a three-line whip on a free vote? I believe it essential that as a country we discharge the obligation into which the Government have entered and for which the House of Commons has voted by an overwhelming majority on two occasions. That is why I believe we should have the timetable motion, which will get this legislation on the statute book.
The matters that have to be discussed could have been apportioned slightly differently. Some criticisms can justifiably be levelled at the Government Front Bench for not seeking discussions with the opposition parties on how they would like to see the debate arranged. That was a disadvantage.
Providing that we do not have a repetition of squatting in the Lobbies by Government supporters or anyone else, I believe that the timetable motion gives an opportunity to have a debate on the issues that are left for debate by the House, and will enable us at long last to get this legislation on the statute book. Therefore, my colleagues and I will be voting for the motion.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
There have been two very distinguished speeches in the House this afternoon, one by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart) and one by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). The speeches from the Front Benches were not very distinguished at 1653 all. One avoided putting any arguments why we have to have a guillotine. The other, to use the words of the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), was pathetic and befuddled. It explained the position of the Opposition on this question. They are pathetic and befuddled.
For the Government and, particularly, for the Opposition, the devastating case made by the right hon. Member for Down, South has absolutely no answer. Both are in a state of complete and utter confusion.
I want to take up some of the points made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He made the point, at considerable length, that the Prime Minister had given commitments on behalf of the Government. It is a very strange situation when a group of politicians from various Governments in Europe get together and make commitments to each other without necessarily getting the commitment of their own political supporters and their own people before making their commitments. I do not want to rake up the arguments over the referendum, but it is a fact that during the referendum campaign the question of direct elections was not made a central issue and was hardly ever discussed. However, the Labour Party has discussed the question of direct elections at two annual conferences. Whether or not the Government Front Bench like it, the conference has taken a very clear decision on the question. It has said twice that it is opposed to direct elections.
I do not believe that any of us in the House—unless we stood as independents—would ever have arrived here by merely our own efforts. We arrive here by virtue of being members of a party. I know that I am in the House because my party and its members go out and work for me and urge the people in my constituency to vote for the Labour Party, and I happen to be the candidate. One cannot ignore one's party people, upon whom one relies. They make basic policy decisions.
But that is what has happened. My right hon. and hon. Friends have ignored totally the views of the party. Frankly, I though that it was bad enough—it was pretty bad—that they should have ignored us to the extent of bringing in a direct elections Bill in any case, but from the Labour Party's point of view. 1654 then to put a guillotine on it adds insult to injury.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that we had had long discussions in the House on the question of the principle of direct elections. I do not deny that. I do not think that they were all that long, but we have had such discussions. However, at this stage of the Bill it is not a question of the principle. That was discussed on Second Reading. One is now discussing the detail of the Bill and how it will operate. I should have thought that what parliamentary democracy was all about was the principle that one could change some of the contents of a Bill that came from the Government in the first place. For example, I do not consider that last night I in any way opposed a principle by voting in the way in which I did on devolution. I think that the House strengthened and improved that Bill last night. That is the responsibility of Members of this House.
If hon. Members do not believe me, let me draw their attention to what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has said on other occasions. I have heard my right hon. Friend make passionate speeches on this matter. He made one on 2nd May 1972. He said:I do not believe that a system of declaratory statements in the House of Commons is an effective way of governing this country.I agree with him. I do not think that making declaratory statements is the best way, either. My right hon. Friend then said:It has never been the principle on which this country has been governed.My right hon. Friend went on to say:as many hon. Members who have studied the affairs of the House of Commons will recognise … what happens on many Bills: in the course of the Committee stages of many Bills that go through this House we discover that the matters that become of greatest interest and moment are not those which were foreseen before the Bill was introduced.That is absolutely true. It has been proved true in relation to the devolution Bill for Scotland. It is true of every other Bill that we debate here.
My right hon. Friend then went on to say:there had been countless examples in the history of Parliament, and anyone who has been here 20 or 30 years could state dozens, of a Bill being introduced for Second Reading 1655 and when it comes to the Committee stage the discussion moves to a quite different track from that forecast. Why is this? The reason is that the collective wisdom of the House of Commons—whether shown in party argument and debate, and there is nothing wrong with this, or in any other way—is a different kind of wisdom from that which exists in the Government, in the Cabinet or in the Civil Service."—[Official Report, 2nd May 1972; Vol. 836, c. 229–30.]Who could have put that argument better than my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House?
It is without shame that I say that I have idolised my right hon. Friend over the years. I regard him as one of my closest friends in the House. It gives me no pleasure at all to have to oppose him. It is very painful to have to do that, but I think that the time has come when we have to do it. Considering what the right hon. Member for Down, South said, I think that we can all understand the problems that my right hon. Friend has in relation to this question.
It has been said that there have been no deals with any other parties in the House. The right hon. Member for Down, South said that this was an unmotivated guillotine motion. I do not quite agree with him about that, because I do not think that any guillotine motion is unmotivated. There is always a motive. The trouble with this one is that we do not know what it is. That is the problem. That is the dark, hidden secret for which we are looking. We shall have to guess what it is.
Perhaps the truth is that there was some sort of discussion behind the Speaker's Chair with the Libs. I do not know. Liberal Members shake their heads, and my Front Bench do the same. All right—it is not that. What is it then?
§ Mr. Heffer
I know that. Certainly we do not have to believe them. However, taking them at face value, let us accept that.
Is it that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is so closely associated with Helmut Schmidt and others and has given his word? Is it on that basis that he must push this through, to show how good we are in trying to get it through the House of Commons, when most other countries of the EEC got nowhere near it? I do not know what all the rush and 1656 fuss is about. Why are we trying to rush this matter through the House?
The last argument that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary used concerned future legislation. One thing is quite clear. Whatever that future legislation is, it will not be the programme and manifesto as laid down by the Labour Party. The reason for that is quite simple. It adds up to 14—not 14 Liberals, but we are in a minority of 14, so we could not possibly get through the legislation that is proposed in our programme and manifesto. There is no possibility of that under the circumstances. The Liberal argument that they are holding back full-blooded Socialism because of the Lib-Lab pact is a nonsense. The day that we became in the minority of one the programme went out of the window. Anyone who knows anything about politics knows that to be true.
What is it about? I have a horrible feeling that we shall never know. I do not believe that we shall discover the dark secret this afternoon. I am sorry about that.
§ Mr. Spearing
Might it not have something to do with fisheries, the green pound, foreign political policy and the EEC? Is it not true that when bargaining in the EEC the pressures upon our Government to show willing are inevitable?
§ Mr. Heffer
That is a point. The quid pro quo process is going on behind the scenes all the time. This is precisely what some of us predicted would happen.
When giving evidence to the Select Committee on Procedure on 20th December 1976, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said:I am sure it is a mild way to describe it—even so the fact that the House of Commons can be held up by a very few Members of Parliament is one of its virtues. There have been occasions, not only about holding up Bills in particular, but there have been many occasions in the history of Parliament when the House of Commons—and I do not think it applied to this particular occasion, I may emphasise—has been held up by two or three people who were regarded as cranks or maniacs or obstreperous, and very often they have turned out to be something different.That is the essence of parliamentary democracy. We can argue and hold up business for a period of time. But on this occasion no one has been holding up business. One cannot say that cranks are involved or that anyone is being 1657 obstreperous. The Bill could go through in the normal parliamentary manner.
I urge my hon. Friends to vote with the party on this occasion. I ask them to vote in the interests of parliamentary democracy and of the British people, to throw out the guillotine tonight and to do so decisively.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)
I shall be as brief as possible. I wish to address my remarks to one point—what I believe should be done in the Lobbies tonight by a convinced European who has always supported British entry to the Communities and who believes in getting direct elections as soon as possible. I am in that position myself but I began by believing that this guillotine motion should be opposed. Indeed, I argued that in private, using the same sort of arguments—although, alas, not attaining his eloquence—as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).
My arguments came under three main headings. First, there is the advice which was given to me many years ago by the late Aneurin Bevan. It was that an Opposition even when they approve of a Bill which a Government are bringing forward, even though they admit privately that a guillotine is necessary, should nevertheless oppose it lest Governments, tyrannical by nature, be tempted to use the guillotine too often.
Secondly, I feel that the Government have tried to cram too much constitutional legislation into too short a time, and should not be given encouragement in this course by our supporting this guillotine motion.
Thirdly, it is no business of the Opposition to help the Government of the day to retrieve those parts of their programme which their own blunders have put in jeopardy. Still less is it the business of the Opposition to make room for new legislation which some hon. Members have called "imaginary".
By the time that this debate started I had, after further thought and discussion, changed my mind. I decided that someone who really believed in the future role of Britain within the Communities and who wanted to see direct elections would be wrong to oppose this guillotine motion in the Lobby. The principle underlying the Bill has been accepted by the House, the bit which many people 1658 found objectionable has been removed and we are now to have a first-past-the-post system.
But perhaps the weightiest consideration of all that made me believe that it would be wrong to oppose the guillotine was that those Europeans who are looking to the Tory Party to fulfil the role which Britain can play in Europe would be misled and disappointed. I can assure the right hon. Member for Down, South that I reached these conclusions without backstair pressure, corridor chat or any other pressure from anyone whatsoever.
For it is true that many hon. Members and many people outside the House who have been devoted Europeans are disappointed by what membership of the European Communities has brought to this country. But that is the fault of this Government, although on individual points they have fulfilled one important role and have, in the words of the late Sir Winston Churchill, been "fighting their own corner", apart from that, they have taken a timid and negative attitude. They have shown a coolness which amounts to near hostility to the main concept as well as to points of detail. Above all, they have failed to give that leadership which many Europeans hoped would be given on our accession to Europe.
§ Mr. Molloy
The right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) has made an extremely important point about giving an example to Europe and to any European Assembly. Does he agree that we are not doing that this afternoon by debating this guillotine motion?
§ Mr. Macmillan
Our partners are now disappointed and, in answer to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy), the danger is that if the pro-European Tories support the anti-Europeans, whether in the Labour Party or on our own Benches, the European Community will believe, or might be led to believe, that the Tory Party in office might also share the timidity and near-hostility of the present government to the concepts for which it stands.
These are the reasons why I concluded that it would not be right to vote against the guillotine motion, even with the recent evidence of how this Government can gerrymander business under the guillotine. I must admit that I am less certain than I was at the start of the debate after 1659 hearing the Home Secretary's speech. If the Minister who is to reply could give us some hope of having four or five days instead of three, I think that most of my remaining doubts would disappear. There are important matters to be discussed; on this I accept much of the argument of the right hon. Member for Down, South.
Leaving aside the Home Secretary's speech, in the rest of the debate the case against the guillotine has been made by those who are fundamentally opposed to direct elections and very largely by those who are opposed to membership of the EEC. That is why it is right that those of us who believe in the future of Britain in the Community and who are seeking to get direct elections as soon as possible, should depart from the normal duties of an Opposition. For once we must put the needs and future of the country before the considerations of parliamentary democracy in this House and regretfully and sadly go into the Lobby to support such a shabby Government, but supporting it in a wider and a better cause.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I wish to make my position clear to the House, as I have made it clear to my Whips in private communication before this debate, because this is a fateful occasion for me.
I wish to make one observation which I hope will help to rebut the argument that somehow we are concerned only with organisation and methods and that those methods concerning the elections are of a subsidiary kind which do not merit the degree of scrutiny or the length of supervision we would give to constitutional matters such as those embodied in the European Communities Act.
If we pass this Bill into law, we shall give a spurious legitimacy to an Assembly which consists of a curious and haphazard assortment of delegates whom none of us regards as having any authority to speak for this country. Once the Bill becomes law, should it do so, it will be regarded, at any rate in some quarters, as mandating those who claim the right to speak on behalf of this country. For that reason one would like to see the Bill destroyed.
The second reason is that, as has surely been illustrated in country after country 1660 where some form of federation or confederation has been attempted, the situation is never static. Either the federation breaks up, as has happened to many ill-fated experiments in recent years in the British Commonwealth, or, in other countries in other circumstances, the centre has become more and more powerful. Powers are drawn more and more away from the parts. I do not believe that, even with the newly inserted amendment which the Government have belatedly conceded, we can be satisfied that that will be a completely adequate safeguard that the powers that are already mandated statutorily to the European Community will not be added to, if for no other reason than that the final arbiter in these matters will be the court of the Community. It will be the court of the Community, not our own courts, that will ultimately decide whether matters will be within the powers of the European Assembly.
One can use as an analogy the early history of the United States and the way in which the Supreme Court gradually increased the power of Washington against the individual States. There may have been good reasons. That is an example, and those who believe that we are dealing merely with a subsidiary matter delude themselves entirely. There is no precedent for this situation.
Indeed, The Times, which could hardly be more fanatical in its pro-Market activities, has stigmatised the Government's guillotine as pre-emptive and as dealing with a situation which has not arisen, about which there is no urgency, or the urgency about which—whatever urgency may be said to have existed in the first place—has diminished by the voluntary postponement of the date of elections for over a year. There is, therefore, plenty of time for all matters properly to be discussed.
I shall quote from the end of the speech by my right hon. Friend now the Leader of the House in which he castigated the guillotine motion which had been brought in on the European Communities Bill. He said:What the Government and the Prime Minister, in particular, are doing is to show full-hearted contempt for the democratic processes of this country; full-hearted contempt for the normal legislative processes of this House of Commons. The stain will remain inedible on the right hon. Gentleman for ever."—[Official Report, 2nd May 1972; Vol. 836, c. 235]Indeed, it did so remain.
1661 My right hon. Friend made that comment when some 10 days had been spent on two clauses in the Bill and there were to be, although the time was not adequate, a further 12 days in Committee, quite apart from Third Reading and the short time that the House of Lords added to our deliberations by a few timid amendments.
It is therefore all the more sad that my right hon. Friend should be connected with this. He has not spoken, but his name appears on the Order Paper and he therefore commits in some measure his own authority as a parliamentarian in relation to this Bill. It is sad to see him in the fearful predicament in which he has been placed. I do not want to put too much salt in the wounds which were made so deftly and skilfully by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), but I must say that if my right hon. Friend persists in supporting the guillotine he will never quite recover the same reputation he has had with many of us. We shall continue to be very fond of him, and I say that not in a facetious sense because he enjoys enormous personal as well as political regard on the Government Benches as well as, in some measure, elsewhere.
I cannot help drawing the analogy, however, of his position after today with that of Aneurin Bevan after his famous "naked into the conference room" speech in 1957 when the light he had lit for radicalism for so long lost for ever at least a measure of its luminosity. In the rest of his life he never quite regained the ascendancy and authority he once had with those who looked to him to keep the Labour Party as a Socialist movement.
I am opposed to the Bill root and branch. I will not indulge in the cant of saying that there ever would come a stage at which I would support the guillotine on this Bill. I abominate the Bill. But what is legitimately distinguishable is for the guillotine to be brought in so early in the proceedings. Let me warn the Government just what they are setting a precedent for. If we are ever to have a vengeful Poujardiste Government from the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), do Ministers really think they will get any shrift out of that sort of Government when they introduce all sorts of 1662 vindictive, anti-working-class anti-Socialist legislation? We are giving the Conservatives a precedent and we know that they will use it in the days to come. So let Ministers realise just what they are letting us in for.
§ Mr. Lee
I will tell my hon. Friend what my position is, although I had not intended to speak for long. If 10 or 12 Labour Members are prepared to form a Kamikaze squad to hold up Government legislation which I regard as a constitutional outrage, I shall join them. If I cannot do that, I shall resign the Whip forthwith and sit for the rest of this Parliament as an independent Member.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Evelyn King (Dorset, South)
I do not pretend that the decision that hon. Members must take tonight is anything but difficult. Some hon. Members are opposed at every point to any kind of guillotine. I understand that. Others, not unreasonably, will use this occasion to seek to embarrass the Government. I understand that. There are others—I think that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is one of them—who will use this opportunity to embarrass the Opposition. There is a fourth category—for example, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee)—who are opposed to the Common Market altogether. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman directed his speech to what we are seeking to debate tonight.
I declare that I am a dedicated European. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I do not address my arguments to those who do not take that view—for example, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten). I am concerned about Opposition Members who are genuine Europeans, but who have misgivings as to how they should vote tonight.
The right way to look at this matter is to ask what will happen if the Government are defeated tonight: I do not believe that they would be embarrassed. It is even possible that they would be 1663 relieved. Defeat would rid them of difficult decisions.
Secondly, I do not think that defeat on this motion will particularly discredit the Government in the country. There is no party point to be made there.
Thirdly—this perhaps is important—if defeated I have little doubt that the Bill would be dropped.
Fourthly, if the Bill is dropped, we must project ourselves forward to the next General Election. Then I will be controversial. It is at least possible that the Conservatives will win it. If so, they will introduce a similar Bill. They, too, may find it impossible to get it through without a guillotine.
§ Mr. King
I do not want to see the party to which I belong eating its own words. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury will contain himself. I know the strength of his conviction. I am not attempting to make a party speech. I believe that the cause of Europe is above party. I also believe that we cannot perpetually fiddle with constitutions. If we are to participate in the European Parliament, we must do so as a nation. It is wholly in the interests of both Europe and this country—
§ Mr. King
—that the Bill should be introduced by the Labour Government and be supported by both the Conservative and Liberal Parties, because it will then be seen in Europe and elsewhere as an expression of the national will. That can arise only if the motion is passed tonight.
If the motion is rejected, what happens? I suggest that the Conservative Party will bring it in again, because by that time the Labour Party is likely to be in opposition. The payroll vote will have gone. Most Labour Members will swing behind their own executive. We shall get an exclusive party situation. The mass of the Labour Party will be against the Bill, and that cannot be in the interests of Europe.
§ Mr. King
I have supported the European movement for 30 years. My memory goes back to 1946 and 1947 when Winston Churchill founded the United Europe Movement. In company with many distinguished Socialists, I was a member of that movement. In those days, different arguments were used. What saddens me is how the standard of debate has declined. In those days we talked about the European movement as a contribution to world peace. We talked about binding up the wounds of war. Great speeches were made. Those speeches were not about economics or wages. They were made as, and the movement was seen to be, a contribution to the brotherhood of man. That is a good phrase to be reminded of. It is to be regretted that the Labour Party cannot now get the brotherhood of man on the Government 10 green Benches. So far has the level of debate declined.
There are times to be party minded and times when great issues are at stake. I believe that there is a great issue at stake now. Therefore, I urge those who see this matter as I do on this occasion and only on this occasion to support the Government.
§ 6,26 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
I hope that the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. King) will accept that the fact that he and I are likely to find ourselves in the same Lobby tonight is as embarrassing to me as my presence with him will be to him. We arrive at the same destination by very different ways.
I shall not take up any particular matters that have been raised in the debate. However, criticism has been made of the fact that the Lord President's name appears on the motion. My hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Hands-worth (Mr. Lee) and Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) referred to the dilemma, the difficulty or the contradiction, as they saw it, that after a political lifetime of devotion to parliamentary matters which the Lord President has displayed, he should put his name to such a motion. The right hon. Member for Down, South said that this was a "fateful day" for the Lord President. I hope that no praise of mine for the Lord President will in any way embarrass him.
1665 I want to put on record my admiration for my right hon. Friend. He has accepted responsibility in Cabinet, taken his part of the collective responsibility and, to my knowledge, has not tried to avoid that responsibility by saying, in ways which are available to him, that he did not agree with this or that, but he had to go along with it because of others. My right hon. Friend is carrying his share of the can, for reasons which are valid to him, just as all Members for Ebbw Vale over the past century have carried their share of the can for reasons which were valid to them. Each of the Members for Ebbw Vale has decided his own fate. I believe that my right hon. Friend's reputation will stand much longer than mine or some of my hon. Friends'. I am content to leave the matter there.
I have no hesitation in saying that in this matter what is good enough for the Lord President is good enough for me. Others may have different views, but that is my view. There will be many who agree with me in the Government Lobby tonight
The debate emphasises the differences on this matter. Looking round the Government Benches, I think I was right to check my insurance policies before speaking in support of the timetable motion. It may be significant that criticism of what I am about to say will come from my right rather than from my left. But at least we stand up and speak our minds. We had our say yesterday. Indeed, my critics and supporters were in the same Lobby. Tonight we shall be in different Lobbies. Tomorrow I hope that we shall be in the same Lobby again. If we have differences to express, let them be expressed openly and clearly.
Let us see what we can agree for a start. Probably we agree that Parliament should be the place where full and careful consideration is given to important matters, and where, after that proper debate and discussion, decisions are taken. Such proper discussion was never more important than in this Session of Parliament when, purely because of the numerical composition of the House, the power of the Government to impose whatever they want at any time on the House has gone. The simple fact of life in parliamentary terms is that the Government must and do propose but that the House 1666 of Commons may and does decide. We experienced an instance of that last night.
Naturally, I would prefer my Government to have an overall majority. That is partly what the next General Election will be fought about. However, I should not want to see the sort of massive majorities that we have had in the past when the Government of the day automatically got their way. I want a Government with a large enough majority to be effective but not so large as to be beyond persuasion.
For years, Back Benchers on both sides of the House have complained about "payroll votes". They have complained about the apparent neglect of Back-Bench opinions and about the decline of parliamentary government. No one can say that that is the situation today, especially after the events of last night. There is a fine balance between discussions and decisions, and we all have our own versions about what that balance is.
I have the feeling that in what I call the European dimension there is a danger that what the majority have won from the Government—the power to decide our own future and our fate—we shall lose to the minority. A variable majority of the House in this European dimension is in danger of losing the power that we have gained and passing that power to a minority in the House. There is no doubt that minorities have rights. So have majorities. I make no complaint that the rules of the House in the progress of this Bill, such as it has been, have enabled other hon. Members to use our procedures for purposes which they have wanted to pursue or prevent. I wish only that some minorities would be more willing to accept majority decisions, including those of the people who send us to this place. We do not have to like those decisions, but I think that we have to try to accept them.
§ Mr. Ogden
Certainly, and I should like to be able to bring in a wholesale reform of the democratic processes and the decision-making processes both of my own union and of the Labour Party.
Over the years I have become more and more convinced that we would have 1667 better debates, better discussion, better decisions and better government if first we had a pre-legislative stage for almost every Bill—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
I am glad that the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) is drawing my attention to the nature of his speech. I have the feeling that he is wandering from the subject matter under discussion. I remind him that this debate has to finish at 7.35 p.m. There will be a wind-up speech lasting 10 minutes, and there are still a dozen hon. Members who wish to take part. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will pay some regard to the wishes of his colleagues.
§ Mr. Ogden
If the Chair or other hon. Members care to investigate the amount of time that I have taken in this Session, I think that they will find that I have taken considerably less than other hon. Members.
I am in favour of a timetable motion for every clause of every Bill. The progress of this Bill, or the lack of it, can be measured by reference to the Official Report of our debates. It seems to me incontrovertible that, unless there is a timetable motion carried with the support of the majority, the minority will be able to have its way and we shall not get the Bill.
In the past, Government supporters complained that the patronage of the Front Bench was sending hon. Members to the European Assembly and that Back Benchers did not have that power. We asked for that power to come to Back Benchers. The result has been that Labour Back Benchers now elect their representatives in Europe. This Bill will enable the power of election to the people who send us here, and I find it strange that we should be objecting to that.
§ Mr. Rooker
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This debate is not concerned with the Bill. We are discussing the curtailment of debate on the Bill. Surely my hon. Friend is out of order.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Hon. Members may make representations to the occupant of the Chair, but I shall use my own judgment.
§ Mr. Ogden
I think that what I have been saying so far has been reasonably in order.
Unless there is a timetable motion on this Bill in this Parliament, we shall not have the Bill. Instead of the majority of the House of Commons deciding what they want to happen, that power will go to the minority and the minority will decide what it wants to happen. Unless we have a timetable motion, that will be the position.
When Government supporters objected to Prime Ministerial patronage in deciding who should represent us in Europe there was objection from Back Benchers. We now seem to be objecting to the fact that the people who send us to the House of Commons should have the right to decide who they will send to the European Assembly.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Surely the reverse is the truth. This motion means that a few hon. Members can prevent the majority of hon. Members from debating and voting on very important amendments which they wish to debate and vote upon, and that is handing over to any obstructive minority the right to stop right hon. and hon. Members voting on some crucial amendments.
§ Mr. Ogden
The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) will no doubt make his own judgment on the progress or lack of it so far.
A guillotine motion is supposed to concentrate the mind. Apparently—because we have had long discussions even on the Scotland Bill—it does not do so always, and decisions are not always seen to be as important as discussions.
One of the reasons advanced by a number of my hon. Friends for opposing this motion is that the Labour Party Conference is opposed to direct elections. That is a fact of life that we have to recognise and judge. However, a number of hon. 1669 Members present today were Members in 1966 and 1967 when there was a Bill before the House to provide for a modest degree of reform of the other place. It was in the 1966 Labour Party manifesto.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I think that the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) is going wide of the subject matter under discussion. He must show some regard for other hon. Members who are waiting patiently to speak in this debate.
§ Mr. Ogden
It has been suggested that I should oppose the Bill because it is not part of the decisions of a Labour Party Conference. Some of my hon. Friends are highly selective about which conference decisions they support or oppose. They ought not to complain if occasionally I am as selective as they are. I believe that the people who send me and other hon. Members to this place ought to be trusted to use the same common sense that they used to sending us here to electing their own representatives to represent them in Europe. That is a simple and straightforward proposition. I believe that we can trust the people to use commonsense to choose their own representatives rather than that we should do the job for them. For that reason I support the motion.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
I gather that you said a few moments ago, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there would be a 10-minute reply by the Government and no wind-up by the Opposition Front Bench. I understand, of course, exactly why the Opposition Front Bench has decided on that. It is because of their generosity—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is being unfair. I was trying to be helpful. I ascribed no reasons. It is not in order for the hon. Gentleman to try to deal with reasons.
§ Mr. Marten
Perhaps my lead-in was unfortunate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I would be glad to sit down now if my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) would agree to take 10 minutes at the end of the debate to answer the questions put to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). Many important questions were asked, and the Opposition Front Bench have a duty not only to vote against the motion but to answer the questions put in the debate. We want to know. My right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South put a whole string of questions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. King) asked what would happen if the motion were defeated. The answer is that the Govenment would bring in the guillotine again, but providing for four days or five days more for the Bill. Then we would vote again.
I suggest that my own party does not like the amount of time allocated. My right hon. and hon. Friends could vote against it for the good reason that it allows only three days. It is not anti-Europe to do that or to say that there should be four days or five days and not three days.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South said that the Europeans would not understand. Can I really believe that? Are they so stupid that they cannot read the papers?, Or would he go over to Europe and explain, in simple language, that he believed that it should not be a three-day guillotine but a four-day guillotine and that that was why he voted against it? I am suspicious of his argument.
§ Mr. Evelyn King
My hon. Friend does not understand what is being said. What I have said, and cheerfully repeat, is that in this matter, and in many others, Great Britain, partly due to its own efforts, is mistrusted in Europe because again and again we have gone back on our word. This may well be another example where the country may be said to have gone back on its word. That is not a good thing.
§ Mr. Marten
That is typical of European movement propaganda. It is time that some of the people in the European Movement really spoke up for Great Britain—and I include in that the Conservatives among them. It seems to me that Europe and European fanaticism have become more important in our case than getting the Conservative Party back into office. All this stuff about Britain getting a bad name is passed around amongst European intellectuals—well, not exactly European intellectuals but Common Market enthusiasts. One says to the other "Britain is getting a bad name—we are dragging our feet." So it goes round and round.
This is why I am waiting to hear from the Conservative Front Bench. For months its members have been criticising the Government for dragging their feet over direct elections. Yet now we know that Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Holland have not felt able to decide even on the system that they will use. Why should not they have attacks made on them for dragging their feet? If those on the Opposition Front Bench do not do that, we can fairly accuse them of double standards.
I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends who will vote for the guillotine whether they really think that three days is enough. The motion would mean that a total of six or seven days would have been spent in Committee on a major constitutional Bill. If my right hon. and hon. Friends think that that is enough, so be it—they will vote accordingly. But I cannot believe that any Conservative will think that. Our Front Bench members have been saying long and loud that this is an important Bill, yet suddenly they want to limit the Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading to a total of three more days. Is it really such an important Bill then? My right hon. and hon. Friends must think about this again before they vote tonight.
My Front Bench colleagues must also remember that if they vote for the motion they will have set a precedent for what they will do in government when imposing a guillotine on their legislation. I think that the electorate ought to take note of that. What those on the Conservative Front Bench do tonight will be seriously looked upon by the electorate. If they 1672 are so enthusiastic about Europe, they should look back on the European Communities Bill when the guillotine came down. They should turn their eyes to what happened to Mr. Roy Jenkins.
How did Mr. Roy Jenkins vote on that occasion? He was in the Labour Opposition, and he voted against the guillotine motion. Yet he really is a European. Look where his vote against the guillotine has landed him—the lush fields of Brussels. I ask my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench to follow the example of Roy Jenkins.
Much has been said about why we should have the guillotine. I believe that it is part of the Lib-Lab pact, and as a Conservative I want to see that pact broken. Do those on my Front Bench want to see it broken? If they do, they should vote against the guillotine that the pact wants.
Again, I understand from the Leader of the House that the Government want more time to introduce Socialist measures or whatever it is. What are these measures? The Government want extra time to make room for the Private Members' Bills that we had this Friday and that we are to have tomorrow and in about three Fridays' time. Those Bills will be opposed by the Conservatives. The Government want to give them Government time. Thus, by voting to squeeze the passage of this Bill down to three days more the Opposition Front Bench will be providing the Government with extra time to help through those Private Members' Bills to which the Conservative Party objects.
I have heard the argument used—it was made to me in private—that a Tory might want to vote for the guillotine because it would allow the Government to have extra time to introduce really Socialist measures. Then, at the next General Election, Conservatives could say "The Government are more horrid than we thought because we allowed them this extra time and this is what they did." If that is the attitude, if that is why some of my hon. Friends are going to vote for the guillotine, politics has gone damned sick.
This has been a debate about Parliament and parliamentary powers and not really about the Common Market. I am glad that it has not been about the 1673 merits of the Common Market because I believe that, throughout the country, there is spreading very swiftly something that I call "Euro-nausea". A vote for the guillotine tonight, particularly if supported by the Conservatives, will only increase Euro-nausea about the Common Market.
Finally, I remind the Opposition Front Bench of the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) in the debate on the guillotine motion on the Scotland Bill. He was leading for the Opposition. I address these remarks to my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell). My right hon. Friend said:Some hon. Members went so far as to speak against the Bill in the House but to vote for the Bill in the Lobby … I myself … think that this sort of practice will not raise the standing of Members of Parliament in public esteem. I think that it will give rise to cynicism, and I am doubtful whether it is a development which is good for the House.I agree with every word. I want those who have expressed criticism of the motion to vote against it.
My final quotation from that very good speech by my right hon. Friend is this:The long success of the genius of our unwritten constitution has always been in part the respect in which all parties and all people have held our institutions, and Parliament especially, and the rules, conventions and traditions surrounding them. If those rules are to be put on one side, we must weigh very carefully what we are doing and the risks that we are running with our trusteeship of the liberties of our people."—[Official Report, 16th November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 596–7.]Those on the Conservative side who vote for the guillotine tonight will be forfeiting the trusteeship of the liberty of the people of this country.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
Much of what I wanted to say has already been said, and in view of the suggestion that we should keep our speeches short, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall endeavour to do that.
Some of the newspapers of this country and some right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative Benches have said this afternoon that those of us who are not particularly enamoured of the European Economic Community and the Rome Treaty are ipso facto anti-European. That is a most contemptible canard to use in 1674 any argument about the unity of Europe or anything else.
It does not necessarily follow that those who believe that the EEC is not the right sort of instrument for creating European unity are therefore anti-European. What I ask about direct elections is: to what and for what? I believe that the intention is to give a mantle of respectability to a powerful Commission that is answerable to no one—not even to the directly elected Assembly which might come into being.
In the nature of our constitution it is possible, I confess, for a determined Opposition to hold up public business. I do not know any of the examples where Oppositions have succeeded in holding up any form of business absolutely indefinitely, but in this instance—[Interruption]. Someone has mentioned the House of Lords. In that case the Lords were successful in destroying a non-democratic and archaic system, and that was their credit.
This guillotine, in my opinion, contains all the dangers of a tyrannical majority rule, with an added threat of being progressively used to curtain the rights of Private Members. If direct elections to the European Assembly take place and the Assembly is accordingly established, there may then well be some hon. Members who may wish that they had opposed th guillotine motion tonight. I believe that it will be used in future against this House of Commons. It will be said that we have used the guillotine on the very important issue of direct elections, and that therefore we cannot oppose its use in regard to any legislation from the European Assembly which comes before this House.
§ Mr. Molloy
Not a word has been said about the issues that we are to examine. It is all supposition. Surely this is a most dangerous precedent. Indeed, it ought to be enough to change my hon. Friend's view and persuade him to join us in the Lobby against the motion. On an ordinary Second Reading, it might be 1675 said "We will not have a debate. We want to have a vote straight away." Is my hon. Friend in favour of that? If he is, he should stick to his views and vote for the guillotine.
The so-called European election debates in this House are important to the people of this country. They have a right to know our views on all aspects of these questions. On all issues concerning the Common Market there have been massive majorities in this House. It might well be that in future no minority group will ever be allowed to express itself. The more one thinks about it, the more contemptible the proposal seems to be. I should have thought that in this House of Commons, irrespective of how tiny a minority might be, there should never be any use of tyranny by a majority to crush it, but that, it seems to me, is what we are in danger of having. Up to now there have been no debates on some issues and curtailed debates on others, and yet this could all form part of the ultimate legislation affecting Great Britain's representation in an international body.
It has been suggested that we must have this measure in order that Great Britain may honour certain assurances which have been given to other members of the Community. It has been made transparently clear this afternoon that some of the other countries, far from being ahead of us, have not even caught up with us in their preparations for direct elections.
What an appalling example we are giving in this ancient House, of all places. It is never right for Opposition groups to use powers, conferred on them by the constitution, in order to deny the right of the Government of the day to govern. That has to be said. Possibly the use of a guillotine procedure may be justified if there has been abuse, but that abuse must be seen to have occurred. We must be able to read of it in the columns of Hansard. That abuse must not simply be assumed by anyone sitting on the Government Front Bench. If it is merely assumed, those who make the assumption are showing that they have no longer the democratic right to sit there.
This is a very serious issue and I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends that they must exercise great care when seek- 1676 ing to introduce guillotine measures. On this important issue of direct elections, they have no right to claim a mandate to restrict or forbid discussion in this House. If any of my right hon. Friends or anyone else in this House claims to have such a mandate, let him stand up now and say so. Let him stand up and say "I have a mandate from the people who sent me here to obstruct any discussion and curtail any examination of the question of direct elections to the European Assembly." I do not think that anyone can say that. That is why this proposal ought to be killed.
No one has the right to deny to those who disagree with the EEC the opportunity to put the views of millions of people. On the question of the Common Market they might be a minority, but nevertheless there are millions of them. The people were never asked whether they wanted to go into the Common Market. They were only asked whether they wanted to stay in. Although they certainly said "Yes" to that question, many of us are of the opinion that, given a fresh opportunity, they would give a contrary answer.
§ Mr. Molloy
Yes, of course I have been a Member of the European Parliament, and that is what qualifies me to condemn it so completely. I know the uselessness of it. I would not mind getting back there if it gave me the opportunity to continue to point that out. The hon. Gentleman's question is indicative of the dictatorial nature of the whole thing. The attitude is "How dare you come to the European Parliament and question what is going on here?" That is a fine democratic attitude to adopt, I am bound to say. If we go on in this way we shall move beyond the almighty powers of the European Commissioners. We shall find that they will be claiming the title of all-powerful European commissars. Some of us are very anxious and concerned about that.
Decisions made outside this House are being used, it would seem, to determine the time that we are able to spend here in discussing vital issues. The people of 1677 our country want to know what we are doing in this House and what our views are on this vital question, yet this afternoon we have a guillotine motion before us which has been demanded not by this House but by the politicians of other nations. I find that also a very difficult thing to accept. Too many of our debates on EEC matters have involved the guillotine. I should have thought that the guillotine was hardly the imprimatur of free men, a free Press and a free Parliament.
The Commission's decisions, which seem so powerful, and the Assembly decisions, which are ignored, are all detrimental to Europe and to Great Britain. Too many of our examinations and debates involving fundamental features of the EEC have been guillotined. The attitude has been to guillotine any discussion whatever on the Common Market and the EEC. It is now right that we in this House should guillotine that reprehensible and anti-democratic attitude.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
This is a rather more momentous occasion than is perhaps appreciated by some hon. Members. It is also a difficult decision for some of us to make. For some other hon. Members it is a very easy decision. Those hon. Members surrounding me at the moment dislike the EEC, dislike direct elections, dislike the guillotine and dislike the Opposition Front Bench. Therefore, they knew perfectly well what to do without very much soul searching.
But for those of us who feel that it is inevitable that this Bill should be guillotined, yet who regard three days as inadequate, it is a very difficult decision indeed. If I thought that by voting against the guillotine we would get another, proper guillotine very soon, I would do so, but I am quite persuaded that if this vote fails tonight the Bill will drift on for a day or two, will then be dropped and no further guillotine will be introduced. That I believe to be a common impression among hon. Members on both sides.
That being so, the conflict of loyalty is extreme. As the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) pointed out so eloquently, it is quite true that this is a serious precedent. There has 1678 been no accusation of filibustering or no suggestion that in the last Session of Parliament the details of the Bill were discussed in any way apart from the general principle, thus contrasting this guillotine with those imposed on the devolution Bills.
This is a precedent. The question is whether one can swallow that precedent. Such was the seriousness of the pledge that we gave to our European colleagues in 1976—unnecessary as it was at the time, but nevertheless given—that the Government are now rightly saying, "Unless we have the guillotine and have it early, such is the state of the programme and such are the needs of the mechanisms of direct elections that we cannot fulfil that pledge even in 1979."
We must accept that even though we may have doubts about it. We may think that the guillotine should perhaps have been introduced a bit later and that it should have been longer than three days, but we are in no position to say that because we have doubts about it we can risk the unfulfilment of the pledge that was given by the Government in Rome in 1976.
According to the Foreign Secretary, the Government were bullied into giving that pledge, and that was perhaps a reason why it need not be fulfilled to the letter. I should like to know what form of bullying took place at that meeting of the Ministers. Was it physical? What sort of intimidation was there? I cannot imagine that the then Foreign Secretary—the present Prime Minister—is the sort of man who is likely to be bullied. Yet that is what the Foreign Secretary is on record as having said. It is a most extraordinary statement.
I return to the question how one can swallow this precedent. One must admit—this was touched on by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden)—that, like it or not; I do not like it—timetables will become a more frequent feature of our lives in this House than they have been in the past, and that what we must do is get together and make them more tolerable.
The first thing we should do when a timetable is imposed is to limit the amount of time for individual speeches, otherwise the timetable can be wrecked. That concentration of the mind which 1679 is said to one of the virtues of a timetable is not achieved if it is wrecked by Members speaking at inordinate length, whether Ministers or otherwise, and taking up precious allotted time.
Secondly, I believe that this necessarily implies that every clause must be given a ration. We cannot simply bundle a lot of clauses together, discuss one and not discuss the remainder. Above all, if this desirable rationalisation and reform is to take place, it implies that there must be an effective Second Chamber. To my mind that is almost the most important proviso.
That is what worries me about this precedent. I fear that we may have a precedent for guillotines in future that does not contain the necessary safeguards that I have mentioned. However, that is the way—by accident and step by step—that this House reforms itself. Reform of the direct full-frontal-attack type—such as that delivered by Mr. Richard Crossman—always fails. What happens is that the flood comes in almost imperceptibly leading from one accidental step to another.
No one should be under any illusion but that tonight this is a step towards more timetables. I believe that we must take this step without being terrified of it. We must ensure that such a reform becomes tolerable to the minorities. I have indicated some of the ways in which that might be achieved.
I would ask those of my hon. Friends who may be frightened of this precedent not to be frightened of it but to face the future and to accept the need for reform, because I regard this as reform. I have never thought that a proper timetable, agreed in advance, and with proper time provided, was an objectionable feature.
§ Mr. Powell
If the hon. and learned Gentleman is commending the principle of the guillotine on the basis that proper time might be allotted, can he contemplate what the guillotine motion on the Scotland Bill would have looked like, and whether it is conceivable that a Government who wanted to force it through would ever introduce such a guillotine motion?
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
It would be a very long guillotine, but it is a ridicu- 1680 lously long Bill. I dare say that if a Bill were long and complicated there might be no timetable. But that is a difficult thing to imagine. However, the possibilities of that have diverted me from my great peroration which I undertook to deliver within eight minutes of getting to my feet.
I think it important that this country should honour obligations solemnly entered into. I firmly believe that without a guillotine we cannot so honour those obligations. I am desperately sorry that the Government have seen fit to put all of us in a great intellectual difficulty and ferment, first, by delaying the Bill so that it needs a guillotine and, second, by providing such a stingy amount of time for what I still believe are important subjects to be discussed in Committee.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Colin Jackson (Brighouse and Spenborough)
I shall try to follow the example set by the hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) and keep my comments down to eight minutes. Looking round me at some of my hon. Friends, I believe that it may be difficult to continue even for that long.
I hope that I shall make some relevant comments, although I cannot hope to emulate the ebullience of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) or the wit and biting humour of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). What has been done by those who oppose our membership of the EEC so far has been perfectly correct in procedural terms. I should be the last person to deny that faction their rights provided that they allow me to have my rights and to express my point of view.
However, my fear is that this debate will prolong itself indefinitely. I well remember the Bill that was introduced to reform the House of Lords. That died a natural death—and thank God for that—but on this Bill it has been said many times that we have commitments to honour in Europe. Therefore, this Bill should be passed.
I believe that a period of three days for the remainder of the Committee stage is too short. I do not believe the Government have yet consulted those who oppose the Bill about the amount of time to be allotted.
§ Mr. Jackson
It is a pity that such consultation did not take place, because some kind of compromise could have been reached on the timetable motion. That would have made things easier—[Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members will refrain from intervening from a seated position because it makes the debate less interesting, especially when I cannot hear what is being said.
I wish to make a few comments about the Opposition's behaviour on this Bill. I have watched the behaviour of the Opposition over the years, and well remember their activities in mid-1965 when they adopted the cowboy procedure of rushing into the House at 2.30 in the morning, after they had refreshed themselves, and attempting to ambush the Government. They were an ebullient lot, but the situation is very different today. They sit in silence because they were told by the former Conservative Prime Minister to be good Europeans. Therefore, they feel obliged to vote for direct elections. I suspect that many Conservative Back Benchers would love to contribute to this debate and to continue these discussions. However, although this is to be a free vote, we know that the word has gone round on how they are to act.
I shall not be particularly comfortable tonight when I vote for this timetable motion, but it is always difficult to be comfortable on any matter. My main point is that I hope that this Parliament will have time to cope with other business that is of great importance. There are many other measures that could be debated. If we had less legislation on other matters, we could have one-day debates on the inner cities, single-parent families, unemployment and environmental pollution. We must seek to provide time to discuss these important matters before the Budget arrives, at which time we shall be considering the subject of income tax relief.
I do not wish to detract from the brilliant speeches which have been made in opposing this motion, and I believe that the time could have been extended and that consultation should have been carried out at an earlier stage. However, if we deal with these matters in a reasonable time, there will then be time avail- 1682 able to deal with other matters of which the Government could be proud. I am referring to the type of subject which Back Benchers are so good at raising.
During my time in the House I have been extremely interested in the subject of foreign affairs, and I had hoped that a good deal more time would be devoted to the subject of Belize, but because of all these other activities we have not had an opportunity to debate that important matter, or the situation in the Middle East, the important developments in the position between the United States and the Soviet Union and other vital subjects. It is time that we were given time to discuss those subjects.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)
I propose to take the unusual course for an Opposition Member of voting for a Government timetable motion. My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), who so ably spoke for the Opposition, pointed to the dilemma that we face. I recognise that dilemma. However, I did not recognise the ridiculous parody of that dilemma which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) put to the House in his attack on my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford. The right hon. Gentleman got as near as parliamentary practice would allow to accusing the Leader of the House of hypocrisy in seeking to support the guillotine. But surely my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford and I—and this applies to many hon. Members on this side—would be guilty of equal hypocrisy if on a Bill which we have supported throughout we suddenly swung round and voted against a timetable motion, a motion that is necessary if the Bill is to reach the statute book.
The position of the Opposition throughout our debates, which I have attended religiously, has been to criticise the Government for delay in producing the Bill. We believe that we are failing to fulfil important international obligations because the Government are failing to give enough priority to presenting the legislation that will achieve those ends. I am delighted that the Government are finally recognising the urgency of the situation from the point of view of this country in putting this timetable motion before the House.
1683 Nobody has accused those who are against the Bill of filibustering, and I do not wish to bring any acrimony into the debate. However, I have attended all the debates on this Bill and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that if we do not agree to such a motion the prospect of the Bill ever reaching the statute book this Session will be impossible.
Would it matter if that were to happen? Some hon. Members have pointed out that, thanks to the Government's delaying tactics, there is no real prospect of our holding the elections by the target date. However, I believe that it still matters that we should be seen by our Common Market partners as taking a responsible view and not prolonging the situation any further. I do not think a sufficient number of hon. Members appreciate how much damage our responsibility for the delay is causing to this country's standing in the Community in the eyes of our partners.
Dealing with a party point, I do not think some of my right hon. and hon. Friends realise how much any contribution to that delay will damage the reputation of the Conservative Party as a European party in the eyes of our European allies if we are seen suddenly to be departing from the support which we have always given to the European concept. Any further delay would reinforce and underline the disillusion that is felt with Britain as a member of the Community. This disillusion damages Britain's position in the EEC, especially as it arises as a result of the Government's behaviour when the Government have had the responsibility of leading our nation in the Council of Ministers. But if the Conservative Party were to be seen to abandon the European commitment and to act on short-term party politicl cosiderations in an irresponsible way, that would damage our country's position even further.
It is disappointing that we are held in so low a regard by our EEC partners, but this also has practical consequences as those who oppose our membership of the EEC should also appreciate. In a number of matters we must all seek to protect Britain's interests and there are 1684 concessions to be won for Britain in the policies that are pursued in the Common Market. The decline in our standing in the Community has led to a decline in our influence and ability to get things changed in our direction. We spend much time here debating the changes that we should like to see in the agricultural policy, fisheries, the Social Fund and the Regional Fund, the need to move through a transitional period on problems such as drivers' hours, the need for an agreement on steel to meet our needs, and so on, and I personally would like to argue to our partners, for example, that we are not obliged to change our mile posts to show kilometres.
I shall argue that on a future occasion, but the point is that there are British interests which pro-Europeans are as prepared to defend as are the anti-Europeans. The Government cannot win concessions from our partners as long as they doubt whether we share the same long-term commitment to the Community. Ministers who thump the table in Europe come back here to a few easy cheers but often with precious few concessions for this country from the Council of Ministers. That will remain the position if we continue with a nationalistic and obstructive approach.
We have reached the stage where we should have a sensible timetable to allow adequate debate on the small parts of the Bill that are left following the decisions that the House has already taken. I shall not repeat the Home Secretary's argument which illustrated that the back of the Bill has been broken and all that is left are matters that have been discussed already or are in line with the Representation of the People Acts.
Important matters were raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) on the question of guillotine motions, particularly on constitutional measures that are taken on the Floor of the House. It is a significant breakthrough from the normal Pavlovian reaction of Oppositions that we are prepared, given good reasons, to support a timetable motion when we believe that it is justified on its merits.
There has been considerable discussion on whether guillotines should be permissible on constitutional measures. As long 1685 ago as July last year the Prime Minister said:I begin to despair of any constitutional change—whether on devolution, reform of the House of Lords or direct elections—ever being able to gel through this House without a guillotine."—[Official Report,6th July 1977; Vol. 934, c. 1266.]That is right. The motion underlines the inevitability of that fact. It is not possible to get fiercely contested legislation of any kind through a Committee of the whole House without a guillotine or timetable motion.
My hon. Friends who want to consider the position in the House of Lords need not imagine that they will be able to push through a reform of the second Chamber if the legislation is taken on the Floor of the House unless they introduce a timetable motion. The choice is to take great constitutional matters on the Floor of the House where the whole House can take part and where the business will have to be timetabled unless Oppositions are always to talk it out or to send such measures to a Committee upstairs.
I prefer the former course which gives all hon. Members access to the debate in Committee. An inevitable consequence to support a timetable follows for those Opposition Members who fully support the underlying purposes of a Bill. I hope that the three days allowed for discussion of the Bill will bring terse and disciplined debates and that we shall not follow the usual parliamentary practice of opponents making even longer speeches so that they can claim at the end of the day that they have been gagged and robbed of time, supporters talking endlessly in an attempt to talk out amendments or to prevent others being reached or even Government Ministers sitting in the Lobbies in an attempt to avoid debates.
I hope that the House will underline the sensible conclusion that was reached when it gave an overwhelming majority to the Bill on Second Reading.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
I shall be brief. The Home Secretary has allowed me two minutes for my speech, and he knows that I do not support the motion.
This is a black day for parliamentary democracy and the powers of this House. We have heard from various hon. Mem- 1686 bers, particularly the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan), that they believe that it will be all right for gerrymandering to occur on this guillotine, even though they did not like what happened yesterday. That was the direct implication of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks.
The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) said that on this guillotine he was prepared to allow the House to cut corners in connection with the Boundary Commissioners' powers and the right of hon. Members to bring to the House the representations of their constituents.
§ Mr. Rooker
No. It is on the record. The hon. Gentleman said that he was prepared for corners to be cut on this measure because it concerned Europe.
The Home Secretary gave no reason for the guillotine. In the absence of reasons, it is clear from what other hon. Members have said that this or any other Government will be able to abuse the procedure and use this motion as a precedent. There will be no defence for Back Benchers. At 3.30 p.m. yesterday the Government wanted, under the guillotine, to carve up Back Benchers' time by a misuse of the Business Committee. The Leader of the House had to desist from moving his motion. Even after a guillotine we saw what was referred to as the small clique in the Business Committee, backed up by the payroll vote, attempting to manipulate the little time available to Back Benchers so that the Executive and the Government could seek to avoid debates and votes on those matters which they opposed.
Yesterday was a black day. Despite what happened at 3.30 p.m. yesterday, hon. Members are still prepared to allow this guillotine to go through because they support Europe That makes this a black day also. I know which Lobby I shall be going in tonight. It will be the opposite one to that of the Home Secretary.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall reply to the debate.
The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) gave the pro-Market view from within the ranks of the Opposition. He 1687 revealed that there are differences of view within the Conservative Party. There are differences of view even within the Liberal Party.
§ Mr. Rees
There are most certainly differences of view within the Labour Party, as has been shown by some of my hon. Friends, and within the Cabinet.
As I have said on many occasions during our long discussions on the principle of this Bill, the fact that the discussions have taken so long—we have gone through the referendum and the issue has divided friends within parties—is one of the factors to be taken into account in explaining the slowness with which legislation has come forward. It is one of the factors in the background to the guillotine.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) made one of those speeches about the rôle of Oppositions and Governments which he makes so well. Fine, but I do not think that he understands that the logic that permeates so much of what he says is sometimes less applicable in the unusual situations in which that logic is not the answer to the problem that is set.
Divisions in the House over the Common Market are not the normal divisions which leave the members of each party bound together. The view of the Government is that for the reasons I gave earlier, and to which perhaps I shall return, it is our job to put forward our clear view that the guillotine motion should be passed.
The Opposition's view was not so clear. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) left no dilemma unturned. Following the recent revelations of the right hon. Member for Down, South, we shall watch with interest to see who is following whom tonight. There is no question of that on our side of the House because we know who will be following whom where. The figures are known.
The old Bill was 60 pages long. It has been reduced to 11 or 12 pages. There are eight clauses and two schedules. We have debated the principle for 49 hours in the last two years. We have an important debate to finish on the single 1688 transferable vote in Northern Ireland. There is an important vote on the powers of the Assembly following the new clause. The new clause did not emanate directly from Government but it had been discussed. It emerged from a discussion in the House on the best way of dealing with the situation. There were divisions of opinion amongst those considering the matter, let alone in the House of Commons. There will be votes on the schedule, but the timetable, in the event, will be seen not to be ungenerous.
We have discussed the allocation of seats before. I have mentioned the new clause. There will be interesting discussions on the procedures by which the constituencies are to be chosen. But, because we are following the first-past-the-post system, if the debate on Clause 3 stand part goes the way that it now seems, the differences compared with all the other proposed legislation will be far less and will need less discussion.
There are three outstanding issues and they will be split between two allotted days. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the amendment?".] I shall come to that in a moment.
We discussed in the Select Committee the matter of the boundary procedures which the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) mentioned, which has a bearing on the guillotine motion. It was discussed in the White Paper which the Government presented to the House, with options A, B and C. I have checked with the Boundary Commission how long it would take to go through the full procedures that we normally go through for Westminster elections. I can say that, begging the question of the bricks of the local government Boundary Commission of which the parliamentary constituencies are made, it would take two years. The factor of two years has to be taken into account when one is considering the date of the election next year. Therefore, we are talking about A and B, I think, of the suggestions that were put in the White Paper.
The Government will table on Report amendments which will introduce the affirmative procedure, the regulations about expenses and nominations which will give the House greater control. But the normal procedures are those which we have had for many years. It is a 1689 parliamentary procedure about which we will be talking.
Whatever else happens, where there are differences of view within coalitions of ideas, despite the cement of party, of which we are so aware, we are split on the aspects of the Market. I do not hide from the Opposition that one of the concerns of leaders of my party over the past 10 years has been to proceed on a basis which prevents the split widening in a way that the Irish question caused a split in the last centry, leading to new party affiliations. The feeling was as strong as that.
My right hon. Friend the former Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the present Prime Minister have had to take
§ that into account. I do not hide it because it is something that the Opposition have had to take into account, too. Nevertheless, given that disagreement, on Second Reading the vote was 381 to 98—a majority of 283. Splits there may be, but the House is clear that it wants direct elections to Europe.
§ The Government are saying that after all the discussions, lasting 49 hours plus 17 hours, now is the time to have the guillotine motion. It will be seen not to be ungenerous, with three major debates on matters that we have considered before.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 314, Noes 137.1693
|Division No. 82]||AYES||[7.34 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Concannon, Rt Hon John||Griffiths, Eldon|
|Alison, Michael||Conlan, Bernard||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)|
|Anderson, Donald||Costain, A. P.||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Crawshaw, Richard||Hannam, John|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Crouch, David||Harrison, Rt Hon Water|
|Ashley, Jack||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Davidson, Arthur||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Awdry, Daniel||Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Baker, Kenneth||Davies, Clinton (Hackney C)||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Heseltine, Michael|
|Bates, Alf||Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Hicks, Robert|
|Beith, A. J.||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Hodgson, Robin|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Doig, Peter||Horam, John|
|Benyon,W.||Dormand, J. D.||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)|
|Blaker, Peter||Drayson, Burnaby||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Dunn, James A.||Huckfield, Les|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Dunnett, Jack||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Dykes, Hugh||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Elliott, Sir William||Hunter, Adam|
|Bottomley, Peter||English, Michael||Hurd, Douglas|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Ennals, Rt Hon David||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)|
|Bradley, Tom||Eyre, Reginald||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Fairgrieve, Russell||Janner, Greville|
|Brittan, Leon||Finsberg, Geoffrey||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Fisher, Sir Nigel||John, Brynmor|
|Brooke, Peter||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Fookes, Miss Janet||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Ford, Ben||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Forman, Nigel||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Jopling, Michael|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Freud Clement||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Judd, Frank|
|Cant, R. B.||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Carlisle, Mark||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Carter, Ray||George, Bruce||Kilfedder, James|
|Cartwright, John||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Kimball, Marcus|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Ginsburg, David||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Glyn, Dr Alan||Knox, David|
|Clegg, Walter||Golding, John||Lamborn, Harry|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Goodlad, Alastair||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Cockroft, John||Gourlay, Harry||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Graham, Ted||Lester, Jim (Beeston)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Lever, Rt Hon Harold|
|Coleman, Donald||Grant, John (Islington C)||Lloyd, Ian|
|Loveridge, John||Pardoe, John||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Luard, Evan||Park, George||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Luce, Richard||Parker, John||Stanley, John|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Parkinson, Cecil||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Penhaligon, David||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|McElhone, Frank||Percival, Ian||Stott, Roger|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Perry, Ernest||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|MacFarquhar, Roderick||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Strang, Gavin|
|MacGregor, John||Pink, R. Bonner||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Maclennan, Robert||Price, William (Rugby)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Prior, Rt Hon James||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Madel, David||Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Magee, Bryan||Radice, Giles||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Mahon, Simon||Raison, Timothy||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Tierney, Sydney|
|Marks, Kenneth||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Tinn, James|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Tomlinson, John|
|Mates, Michael||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Mather, Carol||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Maude, Angus||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||Vaughan, Dr Gerald|
|Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Rhodes James, R.||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Wakeham, John|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Rifkind, Malcolm||Walker,Terry (Kingswood)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Walters, Dennis|
|Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)||Ward, Michael|
|Mills, Peter||Roper, John||Watkins, David|
|Monro, Hector||Rose, Paul B.||Weitzman, David|
|Moonman, Eric||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Wells, John|
|Morris, Rt Hon Charles R.||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Rowlands, Ted||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Sainsbury, Tim||Whitlock, William|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Sandelson, Neville||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Moyle, Roland||Scott, Nicholas||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Sever, John||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Neave, Airey||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Newton, Tony||Shepherd, Colin||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Oakes, Gordon||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Woodall, Alec|
|Ogden, Eric||Silvester, Fred||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Sims, Roger||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Oppenheim, Mrs Sally||Sinclair, Sir George||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Osborn, John||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Padley, Walter||Snape, Peter||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Palmer, Arthur||Speed, Keith||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Allaun, Frank||Dunlop, John||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Ashton, Joe||Durant, Tony||Jeger, Mrs Lena|
|Atkinson, Norman||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Emery, Peter||Kelley, Richard|
|Bell, Ronald||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Kerr, Russell|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fairbairn, Nicholas||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Biffen, John||Fell, Anthony||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Biggs, Davison, John||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Kinnock, Neil|
|Body, Richard||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)||Lamont, Norman|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Flannery, Martin||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Latham, Michael (Melton)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Fox, Marcus||Lee, John|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Buchan, Norman||Fry, Peter||Litterick, Tom|
|Budgen, Nick||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Garrett, W. E.(Wallsend)||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Canavan, Dennis||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||McCusker, H.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Gorst, John||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)|
|Carson, John||Gould, Bryan||Madden, Max|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Grist, Ian||Marten, Neil|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Heffer, Eric S.||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Henderson, Douglas||Mendelson, John|
|Cormack, Patrick||Holland, Philip||Mikardo, Ian|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Hooley, Frank||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Moate, Roger|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Molloy, William|
|Molyneaux, James||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Moore, John (Croydon C)||Robinson, Geoffrey||Thompson, George|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Neubert, Michael||Ross, William (Londonderry)||Torney, Tom|
|Newens, Stanley||Ryman, John||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Nott, John||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Viggers, Peter|
|Orbach, Maurice||Skeet, T. H. H.||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Ovenden, John||Skinner, Dennis||Welsh, Andrew|
|Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Spearing, Nigel||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Page, Richard (Workington)||Sproat, Iain||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Stainton, Keith||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Pendry, Tom||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)||Woof, Robert|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Rathbone, Tim||Stoddart, David||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Richardson, Miss Jo||Tapsell, Peter||Mr. Leslie Spriggs and|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)||Mr. J. W. Rooker.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.