HC Deb 01 April 1981 vol 2 cc387-431
Mr. Golding

I beg to move amendment No. 10, in page 9, line 24, leave out from first 'The' to 'dispose' in line 26 and insert: 'Corporation may, after consultation with the Secretary of State,—(a)

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may discuss the following amendments:

No. 11, in page 9, line 28, leave out 'to'.

No. 12, in page 9, leave out lines 32 to 35.

No. 62, in clause 60, page 51, line 8, leave out from beginning to end of line 9 and insert— '"(5) The Post Office may, with the consent of, or in accordance with the terms of a general authority given by, the Secretary of State—'. No. 63, in page 51, line 10, leave out 'to'.

No. 64, in page 51, line 12, leave out 'to'.

No. 65, in page 51, line 16, leave out 'direction' and insert 'consent or general authority'.

Mr. Golding

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the power to direct the sale of assets is taken from the Secretary of State. It is an important amendment. The Post Office Engineering Union has for many years bitterly opposed hiving off.

The Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to hive off by giving directions to British Telecommunications to sell assets. After fighting an election claiming that they would interfere less with nationalised industries, why on earth have the Government decided to take power to interfere in this way?

I realise that British Telecom must have the power to sell assets which it does not need and to conduct its business as best it can, but the Secretary of State is again lifting his head from all the problems that he has created in the steel, car and other manufacturing industries. He has created one problem after another. He has had to find finance to save industries which he has done all that he can to smash. The Government are destroying our manufacturing base. At the same time, they are making desperate efforts to save what they can of British industry because of the cost of maintaining high unemployment. Now, the Secretary of State is to be given the power to sell assets.

This Secretary of State will sell assets for the worst possible reasons. First, he will be tempted to direct British Telecommunications to sell assets so that he can avoid going to the Treasury to ask for further investment finance. He will direct British Telecommunications to sell assets which could be profitable in future and which were created as a result of public investment and skill. He will direct the sale of the assets because of the shortage of cash in the Government's coffers. He will ask British Telecommunications to sell profitable assets in order to afford investment in profitable ventures. How daft that is. The Government are destroying profitable public business. I hope that we shall always oppose very strongly the destruction of our publicly owned businesses.

The instruction to sell assets will be issued not only because of the economic necessity that the Government have created for themselves but because of the temptation that the Secretary of State always feels when he sees a profitable part of the public sector to sell it to his friends in the City. That is a temptation which we should take away from the Secretary of State, because the Government will get into more and more difficulties. As they sell off the profitable parts of the public sector they will find it increasingly difficult to maintain the parts that remain in public ownership. They will use the difficulties that are created in order to try to discredit the whole notion of public ownership.

Valuable assets should not be sold, because if they are sold we shall not be able to meet the social and industrial needs of the country. There is a need now and there w ill be in the future for the profitable growth parts of British Telecommunications. The significance of this can be seen if we postulate that British Telecommunications could have developed Prestel and then seen it sold off.

The provision here is the same as the provision in earlier clauses. The Government are seeking the power to enable private individuals—outsiders who have taken no risk in the development of certain products and certain services—to come in and take the easy pickings. We should never give the Secretary of State the power to direct the sale of assets, because it is completely daft at the present time for Britain to be selling off its public assets. It is ridiculous that we are to deplete the public purse by selling off the profitable, expanding industries that have a great future. It is absurd for the Government to sell them off in order to save something from the wreckage of their own economic policy.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

The purpose of amendments Nos. 62, 63, 64 and 65 is to delete the draconian powers taken by the Secretary of State in this Bill to direct the Post Office to dispose of its assets and to allow the Post Office itself to take such action.

The amendments are directed to a subsection of clause 60, which, together with clause 65 on derogating the monopoly and clause 66 on licences, constitutes the heart of our opposition to the postal side of the Bill. It is my contention that this subsection facilitates the privatisation of parts of the Post Office and thereby threatens the very survival of a countrywide postal service. I accept that the postal service is less vulnerable to this kind of asset stripping than is the telecommunications service. But what I am seeking to do by these amendments is to stop the Secretary of State from hiving off profitable activities of the Post Office to the Tory paymasters in the private sector.

11.15 pm

The Minister will accept that the Post Office is finely balanced. It is under enormous financial pressure, largely because of the Government's attitude to the financing of nationalised industries. The Government's squeeze on cash limits is having a severe impact and their interference in pricing policy has compounded the problem.

I illustrate my argument by referring to the ½p increase that was denied to the Post Office on second class mail. The House will recall that it was permitted only a 1½p rise in postage rates and tariffs instead of the 2p increase that was needed. That decision denied the postal business about £30 million in lost revenue in a full year. Interestingly, this is about the same as the £30 million loss in the first half of its current accounting year to September 1980. One can see the fascinating correlation between the actions of Government and the financial impact that those actions can have on the management of the Post Office.

As a result of both improved productivity and the recent tariff increase on 26 January, the postal service expects to recover the position and remain in the black, making a small profit by the end of 1980–81. But it will still fall short of the financial targets that the Government have set. To meet this gap, the Post Office is seeking staffing economies to raise at least £35 million net, meaning staff reductions and economies of about 4½ per cent. As a result of an agreement with the Union of Communication Workers at national level, management has issued a circular to all areas and local discussions are now taking place on making further savings.

It is difficult to estimate what results these proposals will produce. This will be the third major drive for economies since 1975–76. Much will depend on the vigour with which this is pushed by management. There is every sign that local managers will be encouraged to press hard. We are bound to ask the Minister what the Government envisage as possible candidates for privatisation. In Committe the Minister rightly and sensibly ruled out privatisation of Post Office counters. He surely cannot be thinking of the privatisation of any part of the main mails network. Can it be the potentially profitable electronic mail services like Intelpost, which is presently envisaged? If that is so, we would stress how damaging any such proposal would be.

It is self-evident that the advent of electronic mail will itself erode the volume of letter traffic. The Post Office forecasts that the volume of inland letters will remain about the same until 1983–84 and then begin to decline over the following five years. The estimated drop in the volume of letters handled by the Post Office by 1988–89 is envisaged as being 16 per cent. On the other hand, parcels are expected to increase by 38 per cent., overseas mail by 19 per cent. and agency work by 8 per cent.

A huge growth in electronic mail is predicted, directly affecting postal traffic. I was fascinated to read the Science Policy Research Unit report, which highlights the growth of communicating word processors—basically typewriters with visual display units that can store and edit text—and the growth of facsimile photocopying enabling a document to be electronically scanned and transmitted to a distant location over the telephone network and there printed out as "hard copy". SPRU's forecasts show a loss of postal traffic as a result of such electronic mail services. The question is by how much and when.

Electronic mail will be used especially on a business-to-business basis. SPRU reviews the forecasts of the extent of the impact which those developments may have. It concludes that a loss of postal traffic of 25 per cent. is likely as a result of electronic mail by the end of the decade. That would in turn mean a loss of about 35,000 jobs in the postal service. It is therefore vital that posts should continue to have the electronic mail services and the other new services introduced in the last 12 months as part of a comprehensive postal business.

We object to the Government's whole philosophy towards public corporations. If they are unprofitable, the Government are quick to jump on them. If they are profitable, they are to be privatised and hived off.

My amendments are directed to a subsection which is unacceptable because of the draconian powers given to the Secretary of State to direct the Post Office to dispose of its profitable assets. I hope that the House will divide on the amendment.

Mr. McWilliam

We were told in Committee that the Secretary of State was taking those powers but probably would not use them. If that is so, why is he bothering to take the powers at all? That seems strange, because it is taking up time and the Bill is long and complicated. If the Secretary of State is not going to use the powers, why should he seek them?

I do not wish to quote my sources, but I was always taught that good capitalist philosophy was that one should not live off one's capital but should live off one's income. That is eminently sensible, although I shudder to say it from the Opposition Benches. The powers in the clause give the Secretary of State the opportunity willy-nilly to dispose of the capital assets of the Post Office without recourse to any question whether the income from those resources is needed to maintain services in posts or telecommunications. There have been examples in the last 18 months in which, because of the daft system of Government cash limits, that has happened.

In its wisdom, the Post Office decided that because of cash limits on the postal service it would dispose of the Hope Street Post Office building in Edinburgh. It was sold and leased back from the people to whom it was sold. That is nutty. If the building is profitable for the people to whom the Post Office sold it, it must originally have been a good investment for the Post Office.

The amendment seeks to put the onus not on the Secretary of State but on the corporation to initiate any such disposal of assets. It should take that decision in the light of the business climate with which it is faced. Only then, if it is satisfied that there is a good case for disposing of capital assets, should the corporation ask the Secretary of State whether he agrees.

The position at present gives the Secretary of State the same kind of powers as a medieval Eastern potentate. He can dispose of the corporation's needed assets without any concern about the revenue which would result from the retention of those assets. It allows the right hon. Gentleman to dispose of those assets, whether or not it is in the best interests of the corporation, the Post Office or the country.

I do not think that this is a reasonable clause. The opportunity to introduce a political bias into what is fundamentally a business consideration is great. By their very nature, Secretaries of State are busy men. I do not exclude the Secretary of State for Industry. Not only are they busy men; I doubt whether they have the time completely to analyse all the effects which such an arbitrary decision may have.

Mr. R. B. Cant (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Is it not remarkable for the Secretary of State for Industry to pursue this policy when the Secretary of State for Energy has been overruled not only by the Foreign Office but by the Treasury on the sale of part of the BNOC's assets?

Mr. McWilliam

It is more than remarkable. It is quite ridiculous that the right hon. Gentleman has got himself into this situation.

The Secretary of State has made it perfectly clear in the past that he believes in capitalism, free enterprise and business working in the way in which it ought to work—

Mr. Mikardo

He believes in Adam Smith.

Mr. McWilliam

Exactly. He believes in Adam Smith.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Is he a Member?

Mr. McWilliam

No. He is buried in the Canongate kirk in Edinburgh. He was an economist once upon a time.

The right hon. Gentleman believes in Adam Smith. It is also clear that he has not fully thought through the fact that if he operates these powers without regard to the business requirements of the Post Office, at some time in the future he will have to answer not only for what he has done in the past but for what he is likely to do, given these powers.

I doubt very much whether the right hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity seriously to consider all the implications of what exists within the clause. The clause is dynamite. It is really dangerous. If the corporation initiates such decisions, I do not mind, because it can at least be argued that they are taken for sound business reasons. If, however, the Secretary of State is to initiate such action, it can only be seen as further political action designed to meet the requirements of those who put so much money into Conservative Party funds. That is dangerous, and could cause problems.

I would far rather see the amendment carried and the temptation removed from the Secretary of State. Without it, he might later on grab this tempting apple.

11.30 pm
Mr. Mikardo

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) and my right hon. and hon. Friends who have supported the amendment have directed their thoughts to what the Secretary of State might do with the substantial powers given to him in the clause. I agree with everything that they have said, and I shall be adding my own small voice to what they have said.

Irrespective of what the Secretary of State may intend to do with the powers if he gets them, we must first consider whether he ought to have the powers at all. A short while ago there was an exchange about what the Secretary of State believed in. I know one thing that he believes in, because he has said so many times. He said it some time ago when he gave evidence to the Select Committee on Industry and Trade, of which I am member. He gave some more evidence to the committee today, and I was sorry that I could not be present as I was here in the Chamber. Some time ago, when the Select Committee questioned him about British Leyland and the British Steel Corporation, the Secretary of State held to the thesis that the business of a sponsoring Minister vis-vis-vis a publicly owned industry was merely to lay down broad lines of policy and not to intervene in its day-to-day management or in the business decisions that it took, or ought to take, on purely commercial criteria.

I agree profoundly with that proposition. Fourteen years ago, when I was its Chairman, the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries produced a major report on relations between Ministers and the nationalised industries which said precisely that. It is the business of the Minister to lay down broad policy and the business of the chairman of the corporation and the members of his board to manage the organisation and to make the commercial decisions necessary to implement that broad policy.

The trouble with the Secretary of State is that he does not practise what he preaches. He preaches Adam Smith, but practises Mr. Busybody. The powers given to the sponsoring Minister under the Bill are contrary to what the Secretary of State has argued is the right attitude of a Minister to a public corporation. Having been involved in the discussion of every nationalisation and denationalisation Bill since 1945, I speak from experience and I weigh my next words carefully. The Minister's powers under the Bill are wider, deeper and stronger than the powers taken by a Minister under other legislation relating to the relations between a sponsoring Minister and a public corporation.

In Opposition and during the election, Conservative Members complained steadily that there was too much government. Even the Minister himself used to say that there was too much Whitehall interference—for example, with the powers of local authorities. Then, under the Local Government, Planning and Land Act, the Secretary of State for the Environment took more draconian powers over the local authorities than any Minister has ever had, turning councillors, including Conservative councillors, into virtual puppets.

Exactly the same has happened with industry. I often agreed with Conservative criticisms that Ministers interfered too much in the decisions and investment programmes of the nationalised industries. Yet now they are doing all the things they criticised others for doing, only more so—and never more so than in this Bill, under which every decision by the two organisations here created will be subject to more detailed dictation than any other public corporation.

I have mentioned the Minister's theory about relations between him and the nationalised industries, and what he said to the Select Committee on Industry and Trade. The proceedings of that Committee have made it clear that this Government are interfering more closely in the detailed management of the public corporations than any of their predecessors did.

In six months, the chairmen of the Post Office and British Telecom will face the same problem as already confronts the chairmen of British Leyland and British Steel. Those two gentlemen have been asked, "Do the chaps in the Department of Industry who interfere in your investment programmes and criticise your decisions have more expertise than you? If not, by what authority can they tell you what to do? If they are more expert than your managers at making steel or motor cars, should they not be working for you?"

The same applies to the Bill. If people in the Department are more expert at running telecommunications services than are people in British Telecom, they should be working for British Telecom. Then their expertise would yield the best results, for the national benefit. If they are not more expert, why are they telling those concerned how to run their business?

Mr. Skinner

My hon. Friend is talking of people in the Department who would be expected to take on the job hitherto done by those at managerial level in British Telecom. Is he taking into account the fact that whole sections of the staff of Departments of State are now engaged in strike action? Could it be that even some of those in the First Division Association, who voted marginally in favour of a strike, much to the astonishment of myself and my hon. Friend, are not likely to be in the best frame of mind to do anything on behalf of the Secretary of State or his junior Ministers? They are worried about the way in which the Government have kicked them from pillar to post over their wages. That may be an added complication which we have to face if we go ahead with this proposal.

Mr. Mikardo

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I confess that that is a point that I had not thought of—and neither, I suspect, had the Minister. Certainly it had not occurred to those drafting the Bill. If the present industrial action goes on for any time, as my hon. Friend sugggested, the points I am making will become even more weighty.

In a sense the Minister is acting like the chairman of a holding company in respect of these two corporations. He is acting as though they were held by a single holding company of which he is chairman. I know of no greater power of interference in the running of an organisation than the power to decide what subsidiaries can be set up, what functions they should carry out, how they should be capitalised, what assets they should acquire, what assets they should dispose of and what should be the functional boundaries between subsidiary A, subsidiary B and subsidiary C. There is no action that can be taken by the board of a holding company which constitutes more detailed interference in the management of subsidiaries than interference in those decisions. That is exactly what the Secretary of State is giving himself the power to do.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman would find it difficult to find men of spirit to run these corporations if they are to be subjected to the ministrations of a puppet master in the Department of Industry. I would not take the job on those terms. I speak as one who has been invited to take this sort of job. I would not take a job on the basis that I am just a puppet of the Minister. That is what these people will be.

We have heard talk of draconian powers. These are not merely draconian powers; they are all-pervasive. They leave the people over whom the power is exercised with literally no room for manoeuvre and no right of decision. How does the Minister reconcile this with Conservative Party theory and with all that it preaches about less Government interference?

11.45 pm

We have been debating the Bill for over eight hours, but the Secretary of State condescended only to pay us a fleeting visit. If he had been present I would have asked him about Adam Smith. Adam Smith would have voted against the Bill on Second Reading, on Report and on Third Reading. To place power over a business in the hands of a Government Department to such an extent as this is to fly in the face of everything that he wrote. How can the Government justify that? How do they expect to carry out a policy—making function if they spend their days making management decisions about British Telecommunications and the Post Office? Those decisions should not be taken by them.

My right hon. and hon. Friends suspect that these powers will damage the national economy because the good bits of the business will be hived off. Bad bits will not be hived off, because no one will buy them. All the profitable bits will go and all the loss-making parts will remain, and Conservative Members will be able to make weekend speeches on the subject that nationalisation is always unprofitable because nationalised companies lose money. If the profitable parts are sold, the remaining parts will lose money. Conservative Members are writing themselves briefs for weekend speeches which they will make in 12 or 18 months' time.

That is not the way to treat two industries with great and proud records. In some respects they are the envy of parallel industries in other countries. This device will facilitate hiving off. That is its only purpose, and it is utterly transparent. We shall not conclude our proceedings before lunch-time tomorrow. Before the conclusion, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) will give fair warning—caveat emptor—to anyone who is thinking of buying his way in. After a few years he may find that he has not made a very good investment. Potential investors should be well warned: a change of Government is inevitable, and no one will be allowed to get on the gravy train that the Government are signalling out of the station. Doubtless some will climb on board but ere long the train will stop. Those on board may find that it has stopped before they have had time to get any gravy.

I do not speculate except occasionally on four-legged animals, but sometimes friends ask me for advice. The last thing that I would advise them to do is to invest one penny in a hived-off asset. I shall sit down because I want to listen to the Minister. I look forward with passionate and breathless interest to the great disquisition that we shall hear about how the theories of Conservative non-interference with business can be reconciled with the Bill, which I repeat gives the Secretary of State wider, deeper, greater and more persuasive powers than any other Bill introduced since the end of the war.

Mr. Stott

I shall briefly take part in this important debate on the industry that I spent my entire working life serving and working for.

My hon. Friends the Members for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) and Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) spoke briefly about Adam Smith. They said that the Government seemed to pay much attention to that gentleman's economic philosophy. I suggest that the Government have exhumed the rotting corpse of Adam Smith and have dragged it stinking into the second half of the twentieth century. They have put people to an economic experiment which has as much relevance to the twentieth century as the spinning jenny.

I have observed the way in which the Government introduce their legislation. In rapid succession they have introduced a number of Bills which seek to denationalise and privatise the profitable parts of the public industry. As they won the election with a large majority and we live in a democracy, we cannot argue about that. We might argue about the detail, their philosophy and their reasons for doing it, but we do not argue that they have a right to introduce Bills to do it. One of the most extraordinary things that the Government have done, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow elucidated so admirably, is that not only are they seeking to privatise a number of profit-making public industries; they are enshrining in legislation provisions which give individual Secretaries of State draconian powers. I would use the words "powers of a despotic dictator".

Conservative Members should be entirely clear about what they are voting for. I wonder whether many of them have read page 9 of the Bill. If they have not I draw it to their attention. Clause 6(6) provides: The Secretary of State may, after consultation with the Corporation, direct the Corporation— that is, British Telecom or the Post Office, the biggest business in Europe, employing more people than any other industry— to dispose of any part of its undertaking or any assets held by it The House is investing those powers in the Secretary of State. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] Hon. Gentlemen say "Hear, hear". They were elected on the basis of less Government interference. That was a fraudulent promise if ever there was one. We have seen a catalogue of Government interference in publicly owned industries. In every Bill—whether it dealt with British Airways, British Aerospace, flogging off British Rail subsidiaries or the British Transport Docks Board—every Secretary of State has taken upon himself the ultimate power to dispose of assets without reference to the House.

Mr. McWilliam

Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the intellectual athletics of the Secretary of State in exercising his powers may be similar to those when he closed profitable steelworks like Consett and thus had to write off the capital deficit on the remaining plants?

Mr. Stott

That is a serious point, worthy of comment, but perhaps not now.

I bow to the knowledge and expertise of my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow, who has been in the House for much longer than I have. He has never before seen a Secretary of State taking such powers. Why is the right hon. Gentleman taking the powers? Does he believe that it will make British Telecom better? I have worked for the company for my entire working life and know that it has nothing to apologise for. It may have been financially starved by Governments of both parties, but in its productivity, innovation, and research and development it has nothing to apologise for.

The Secretary of State is taking powers to flog off the profitable parts of British Telecom and the postal service. No one should doubt what the Bill seeks to do. The Secretary of State is taking the power to flog off PABXs and house exchanges.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

To his pals.

Mr. Stott

That is right. He will flog off the profitable bits of secondary instruments in large conurbations. He will not flog off the 40-span route on the Pennines on which I worked, waist deep in the snow, mending the faults for the farmers. No one would be daft enough to buy it. We had to provide the customer with a service. We had to provide on the Rowland Hill principle a certain level of service throughout the United Kingdom, whether in London, Todmorden or the Isle of Skye.

The right hon. Gentleman will use the powers in the Bill to dismember an efficient organisation called British Telecommunications. That is why I and my hon. Friends the Members for Blaydon and for Newcastle-under-Lyrne (Mr. Golding), who have spent our lives in this industry, and also my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris), will resist the Government's proposal as long and as hard as we can.

I have observed the manner in which the Government write legislation. Every Bill that comes forward is a massive enabling Bill to permit the Government to do what they want. We have learnt the lesson. We have learnt the language. We have learnt the words. When the next Labour Government comes to power, we shall use similar enabling powers to take the whole damned lot back.

12 midnight

Mr. Skinner

My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) was present at the lobby today by several thousand men and women belonging to the Post Office Engineering Union and the Union of Communication Workers. My hon. Friend made a speech, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo). Those speeches raised the spirits of most of those present. The message was that Opposition Members tonight would be fighting the Bill line by line, putting forward all possible amendments to carry proceedings through until dinner time. It has happened before. On that occasion, we smashed the Government's business for the day.

Those who attended today's meeting in Central Hall were rallying to our intended action over the Bill tonight. I gained the clear impression that the proceedings would last a long time. The Government should grant another day for this Report stage and Third Reading. There should be a reappraisal. The Bill, with its multitude of clauses and schedules—

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

It is general.

Mr. Skinner

Yes, it is general. It is about as general as you were—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. As far as I am aware, I have not been general at all. The hon. Gentleman is being general. He should address himself to the amendment.

Mr. Skinner

I have to answer the riposte of the hon. Member for wherever-it-is—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must address himself to the amendment and pay little attention to interventions.

Mr. Skinner

I think you will agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if a challenge is made from the opposite side of the House, it is necessary to reply. The hon. Gentleman said that the speech was general. I have heard some other general speeches while I have been sitting in the Chamber. I remind the hon. Gentleman that he was making very general remarks when the miners were on strike. He went on the radio that morning, frightened to death—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Whatever the hon. Gentleman said on radio that morning, it clearly had nothing to do with the amendment.

Mr. Skinner

The hon. Gentleman had a different attitude then from his attitude now. He is being a little belligerent now. That morning, he went running to the BBC to say that it was time that the Government changed their policy. The people I met today in Central Hall were demanding that the Governments hould change their policy.

Another day should be allocated for the Bill. That is a fair point in our discussion of the amendment. Insufficient time has been allowed. A new clause to deal with the interception of mail, and so on, was an additional item. Debate on it took up part of the time allowed, and that should be taken into account. More hon. Members are coming into the Chamber, and the chances are that they will take part in debates on other amendments.

My constituents from Bolsover and people from the adjoining districts, from Chesterfield, Sheffield and elsewhere, told me "Get into the House and keep those lousy Tories up as long as you can". Those people are fighting for their job security.

The Social Democrats do not appear to be represented tonight. They reckon to be in favour of the mixed economy. The Bench where they usually sit should be full.

I am responding to the discussions and the rally that took place this afternoon. Those on the lobby were so successful that they managed to grab more Tories than on many other occasions. Most of the time, Tory Members and all the other ragbag—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been over similar ground on many occasions. He knows how to stay in order on an amendment. He must keep to the amendment.

Mr. Skinner

This is the first time I have spoken in a debate dealing with postal and telecommunications matters, so you have not heard that before, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You have not heard that there has been a lobby today—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. There is nothing about the lobby in the amendment.

Mr. Skinner

There has been a massive lobby today of people who work in the industry. Nobody on the Government Benches works in the industry. Some of my hon. Friends have played a leading role in it and some are still engaged in union activities. The people whom I met are fighting for their jobs. Nobody here is fighting for his job, apart from the Liberals, who are frightened to death of the Social Democrats.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have told the hon. Gentleman a number of times that he is entitled only to speak to the amendment. So far, he has made little mention of the amendment.

Mr. Skinner

The amendment deals with the draconian powers being given to the irresponsible Secretary of State. Handing over those powers could mean the demise of many thousands of jobs in the industry, if he gets hold of the reins. He has been a disaster from beginning to end. He should not be allowed to have such powers. Every time people see him on television, they nearly all think that he has gone mad. They say that it is time he was shifted.

Imagine, Mr. Deputy Speaker, handing over power to that fellow. He was fighting in the Cabinet and during the pre-election period for the true implementation of Friedmanism and the philosophy of Adam Smith and others, yet he has spent most of his time in the past six months handing out money, in complete contradiction to what he believes in.

The Secretary of State got into such a mess with British Steel that he had to find £5,000 million as a result of his policies over the previous 18 months. He had to—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. There is a limit to the number of times that I can ask the hon. Gentleman to return to the amendment. Will he now please try to do that?

Mr. Skinner

The amendment is clear. My hon. Friends are saying that they do not want to hand over these powers to the Secretary of State, and they have said why they do not trust him with such powers. My language is perhaps more colourful than that of my hon. Friends, but we are all saying the same thing—namely, that in view of the past record of the Secretary of State he cannot be trusted with these powers.

Let us take the question of interference, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow referred. This Government interference has spread to the private sector. They hope to hand over lucrative parts of the telecommunications service to the private sector. What guarantee is there that the private sector can handle them? Naturally, it picks the juicy bits, but it has not been very successful in dealing with the juicy bits in manufacturing industry. It is not long since the Secretary of State came to the Dispatch Box and said that the part of the private sector known as ICL was up to its neck in trouble. He announced a proposal that might involve £200 million being handed over to bail out ICL in the private sector, yet here he condemns the public sector for not being efficient.

The amendment proposes to hand over certain parts of this important and efficient industry to the private sector. I am saying that we cannot be sure about the private sector. All of industry is being run down by the present Government. They are de-industrialising all industry, not just the public sector. As a result, the Governor of the Bank of England had a secret meeting with people from private industry, and with a nod and a wink from the Treasury millions of pounds were handed out to firms like Stone Platt, which cannot keep their heads above water.

So it is nonsense for the Secretary of State to have powers to hand over parts of a viable public sector, which would be even more viable if it were given more money and not restricted by cash limits to the tune of about £200 million. It would be nonsense to hand over parts of that industry to people in the private sector like Arnold Weinstock—now Lord Weinstock—who will pick up the juicy bits and probably make a short-term profit.

Is there any guarantee that GEC and others will not come to the Government later and say to the same Secretary of State—probably he will have gone by then, and we shall have another one—"We are in a mess. You had better organise another meeting with the Bank of England, because we want bailing out"? That is why it is nonsense to hive off an important part of the public sector and hand it over to such people.

For that reason, therefore, the amendments should be supported, quite apart from many of the other reasons that have been advanced by my hon. Friends. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) said that one of the reasons for the hiving off was to get sufficient money to bail out the Government's disastrous fiscal policy. They have had a bout of, monetarism or Friedmanism and it is not working, so 'the Cabinet said "Let's hive off parts of the public sector. It is a good idea in principle, and we can shovel off bits to our friends who provided us with money for the election. At the same time, we can draw in sufficient money to enable us to balance the books."

12.15 am

Of course, the Government did not realise that while they were making all their wondrous plans the dole queues were lengthening and, as a result, the public sector borrowing requirement went through the roof—about £5,000 million over the top. Even if they sold all the lucrative bits of the telecommunications industry they could not amass £5,000 million.

The Bill is an attempt to balance the books. It is nonsense to say that it is good economics. The Bill, like other attempts to sell parts of the public sector, is an attempt by the Government to bail themselves out. Their monetarist strategy has been found wanting and they do not know how to escape.

My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton referred to a lesson that we must learn. We know what we shall have to do to ensure that this situation does not arise again. This massive enabling Bill gives powers to the Secretary of State. I remember that when Ministers in the Labour Government proposed an enabling Bill they were laughed at by the Tories in Opposition, who threatened us with the media, which, by and large, they have in their pocket, and used our proposal against us in the election campaign. But they have produced an enabling Bill to allow the Secretary of State to meddle and interfere. It is a complete contradiction of what they said in Opposition.

Next time, we shall need an enabling Bill. It may not need as many clauses as the Bill that is now before us. Perhaps the civil servants who are still knocking around at the time might—I put it no higher than that—be more favourably disposed to us after all the agonies that they are going through at present. We might have won a few friends; I am doing my best. They might assist us in drawing up that enabling Bill to make sure that the attack contained in the Bill cannot be launched in future. We must ensure that when we tie up the loose ends next time, this lot, and some of their Social Democratic allies—where are they?—fighting for a mixed economy, cannot interfere in this way.

The most important lesson is that the Bill is only one strand of a deliberate Government strategy to attack the wealth creators in this country—the workers, the 25 million people who produce the wealth. Many have been thrown out of work as a result of the Government's policies. When we get back, we shall have an enabling Bill to deal with this mess and we shall ensure that we have learnt the lesson that we must represent our class interests. That will enable us to ensure that we carry out a Socialist programme with which the Tories will not be able to meddle in the future.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

The debate has ranged wider than might have been expected from looking at this modest amendment. I hope that members of the NEC of the Labour Party who have just, listened to the tirade by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) paid particular attention. They will adopt what he said for their manifesto at the next election. There speaks the true voice of the Labour Party. They will all go along with it at the next election.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) accused my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—and I could hardly believe my ears—of creating the problems of British Steel, British Leyland and British Shipbuilders. We did not create them; we inherited the whole damned lot from a Government who refused to face many of the problems of nationalised industries during the six years that they were in power.

The hon. Gentleman said that we had engaged in a policy of destroying the profitable parts of the public sector. I could hardly believe my ears. The problems that burden the economy and the national finances are not the profitable parts of the public sector but the unprofitable parts. They go back to our inheritance and the refusal of the Labour Government to deal with many of the long-standing and intractable problems.

The debate covered the philosophy of the two major parties about private and public ownership. That mirrors the great divide between the two parties. We prefer more in the private sector and less in the public sector. The Opposition do not support that view and are not in the business of politics to support it. We have begun to implement our beliefs in that philosophy with the sale of British Aerospace a fortnight. ago.

It has been said that we were selling British Aerospace to Tory paymasters. About 40 per cent. of employees of British Aerospace bought shares in the company. They cannot be described as Tory paymasters. As a result, 6 per cent. of the company's equity is now owned by the people who work in it. That is why a little over a fortnight ago I announced that later this year we shall offer for sale 49 per cent. of the Government's ownership and shares in Cable and Wireless. I have no doubt that that will be successful. It is a curious and old-fashioned belief that only public ownership is good and virtuous. Aneurin Bevan himself abandoned that belief.

I deal now with the amendment. Several hon. Members made much of the inclusion of the Secretary of State's power in the Bill. They must recognise that a similar power appears in many other nationalised industry Acts, including those which nationalised gas, electricity, transport and steel. Hon. Members have expressed passionate anger about the powers that we are asking for, but such powers are included in Acts introduced by Labour Governments. Governments of both political parties have felt it appropriate to take that power. I do not believe that they were wrong to do so. I do not believe that the present Government are wrong to do so.

Mr. Mikardo

The Minister really cannot get away with that. None of the Acts specifically provides the power for hiving off as widely or in as much detail as this Bill.

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman anticipates my next remarks. I can assure him that the Acts that I mentioned contain powers of discretion for the Secretary of State to give directions to nationalised industries to dispose of their assets. The phraseology which we have used in the Bill is exactly the same as that which has been used in the past.

It is not a power that the Government, in all probability, will use on an extensive basis. It is a reserve power and it will be usual for the boards of BT, or the Post Office to consider and implement disposal of surplus land or such other to raise essential funds.

Nevertheless, it may be necessary for the Secretary of State to use his powers. I shall not give hypothetical examples, but I emphasise that they would be primarily concerned with what might be called the fringe activities of the Post Office or BT because if there were a major disposal of some of the assets mentioned by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) this would involve further legislation because of the statutory privileges and the wayleaves which bodies like the Post Office Corporation and British Telecommunications enjoy.

Mr. Martin J. O'Neill (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

Can the hon. Gentleman guarantee that the Secretary of State would not use his ideological commitment to use these powers, that he will allow people in charge of the various departments and establishments to use their judgment and will not use his political and ideological commitment to force sell-off on them? This is what is really worrying, not only in this nationalised industry but in many others.

Mr. Baker

I have just specifically said that. I have dealt with that exact point.

Mr. Crouch

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you help me at this late hour by letting me know whether this debate will end when the Minister sits down or whether you will be calling other hon. Members who wish to speak?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We shall have to wait until the Minister sits down to see whether any hon. Members wish to speak.

Mr. Baker

That was obviously an anticipatory gesture by my hon. Friend.

I said in Committee, and I say again, that the various powers which the Secretary of State has under this Bill—the power to create subsidiaries, the power to direct the corporation to dispose of assets, and the power to licence—will always be used in the general context that whatever happens in future British Telecommunications will still provide the basic telephonic and telecommunications network of the country, although in the liberalised regime there will be many other private companies that will be able to offer services. That will undoubtedly improve both the efficiency of British Telecommunications and consumer choice.

Any Secretary of State, whatever Government may be in power at the time, will always be concerned about the effect of the use of these powers upon the basic viability of the business. If he uses the powers to thrust British Telecom or the Post Office into a substantial loss position the Government will have to pick up the tab for that. Therefore, we have to live in the real world and recognise the constraints that would lie upon him.

I have already said that we intend to move to a liberalised regime in the telecommunications industry. That is why this Bill and this power are important. I believe that when the Bill gets on to the statute book we shall see this great industry moving from one which has been dominated by monopoly to one being driven forward by competition.

12.30 am
Mr. Gregor MacKenzie

I listened with great care to the Minister's reply. I thought that he dealt less than adequately with some of the questions asked by my hon. Friends. I know that one or two Conservative Members are rather irritated. I have noted the irritation in some of their sedentary comments.

The Bill contains 86 clauses and has 127 pages. We all know that it is three Bills in one—a Bill about the Post Office, a Bill about British Telecommunications and a Bill about Cable and Wireless. If Ministers and their supporters present us with such Bills, they cannot expect to get them through on the nod.

These are extremely controversial measures, to which we take the strongest possible exception. This clause has provoked a great deal of anger on the Opposition Benches and in the industry. We would be doing less than our duty if, at this stage, we did not articulate at some length the views of those who work for the Post Office and of its customers and our own views, no matter the hour of the night, which is not something of our making. That responsibility lies with the Minister.

The Secretary of State is taking massive powers unto himself. The Minister quoted various measures in which Secretaries of State took powers to direct. I have not had the advantage of having served in the House for as long as my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo), but in almost 17 years' membership of the House I have never read a Bill in which a Secretary of State has taken so many powers to himself within one piece of legislation as the Secretary of State has taken in this Bill.

Secretaries of State are not given powers. They do not even genuinely seek powers. If Conservative Members, who are constantly telling us that they want much less intervention, read the Bill with care and learnt of the power that the Secretary of State and his successors will derive from this measure, they would be quite frightened by the powers that the right hon. Gentleman is taking to himself. Members will be whipped through the Lobby to ensure that the Secretary of State gets these powers, or that they are given to those who advise him.

We are worried that any Secretary of State should have such massive powers not only to advise and consult but to direct. The Secretary of State is responsible for the Post Office, British Telecommunications, the steel industry, shipbuilding and a range of British industries. How he can hope to exercise discretion in all these matters is beyond me.

The right hon. Gentleman is seemingly possessed of a versatility that knows no bounds. However, we know deep down that he will not exercise these powers; they will be exercised on his behalf. When the various rules and regulations are issued that state that the Secretary of State will do this, that or the other, they will be exercised by those who are not elected and who are not responsible to the House. That must be a cause of concern even to Conservative Members. They are the very people who said in their election commitments that they thought that the Labour Party had interfered far too much with the nationalised industries. They said that nationalised industries should be given more freedom to operate as commercial enterprises. That is what is being denied them now.

Sir William Barlow, who was until recently chairman of the Post Office, said in one of his public lectures that he had been formally summoned to see the Secretary of State and the Minister of State more frequently in one year than during all the years when the Labour Government were in office. We should be concerned about how much power we are giving the Secretary of State and how he will boss the departmental chiefs, the chairman of British Telecom and others.

We know why the Secretary of State wants this power. The Minister of State said that he was in favour of liberalisation and privatisation and that we were not. This is where there is a wide divide. When I was a Minister I was often accused of being doctrinaire, but we can say nothing other than that the Secretaryy of State is exercising what we would describe as a purely doctrinaire policy. The Minister of State made a point of saying that it would be a reserve power and that he did not visualise the Secretary of State exercising it with great regularity. If that is so, what is the Bill about?

The Bill has but two purposes. The first is to break the Post Office's monopoly and the second is to sell off the more profitable parts of British Telecommunications. The Bill is wrapped up in 87 clauses, but those are only two reasons why we have the Bill before us now.

This part of the Bill will not be to the benefit of the consumer or the industry in general. We all know that the Secretary of State will not direct the chairman of British Telecommunications to sell off just a few pieces of land, as the Minister of State implied. He will direct the chairman of British Telecommunications to sell off its profitable growth sections. They will be bought not by charitable organisations but by people who are in the business of making money. It is their business to get on with making profits. I do not quarrel with a man who says that that is what he wants to do. However, we cannot wrap up the matter, as the Minister of State has done tonight, by saying that this section of the Bill is virtuous and that it will be for everyone's good.

Who will buy the unprofitable parts of British Telecommunications? Who will buy the unprofitable parts of the Post Office? No one. We are not in that sort of game. What irritates me about this part of the Bill is that the Minister will sell off the profitable growth sections which have been built up by skilled and talented people in the Post Office and which have reached their present peak because a great deal of public money has been spent on them over the years. The telecommunications side of the business has created its own profits and has reinvested them. That public money will be used to make a fast buck for many people in the private sector. That offends me, because the rewards of growth and enterprise should go to those who created them. They should go to the staff of the Post Office and be used for improvements in services as well as expansion.

I believe that the organisations will suffer. Some of my hon. Friends have pointed out that in their weekend speeches a number of Conservative Members dearly love to say how bad and unprofitable the nationalised industries are. How will they be able to make a profit if all the profitable bits are sold off? I am sure that at some stage the Minister will be only too happy to tell us. If he carries out his policies logically, and if his public utterances are anything to go by, we fear that the organisations will suffer.

As of now, the two sections of the Post Office are considerable purchasers of British equipment. Both on Second Reading and in Committee we were alarmed by the fact that no guarantee is written into the Bill that the Secretary of State will direct BT or the Post Office to sell its assets only to British companies. Even if he were to do so, there is no guarantee that these companies would necessarily make their purchases from companies which operated in the United Kingdom. That is why we are concerned about the employment prospects for many of our people.

There have been redundancies throughout the country. In my constituency they occur in their hundreds every week. Therefore, the Minister cannot be surprised if we express considerable concern about the fact that no longer will there be a ministerial interest—which he has exercised in the past—in ensuring that these companies purchase from other British companies as often as they can.

The staff of BT and the Post Office are thoroughly demoralised by the measures proposed in this part of the Bill. They have worked hard to achieve something which is worth while, and are worried that it is being sold off now that it has reached a peak of achievement.

During the past few months, Conservative Members have said that this is all designed to help the customer. On Second Reading, the Minister of State chided my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) for not mentioning the consumer frequently enough. I am concerned about the consumer, because that is what this debate is all about. If the best parts of the Post Office and BT are sold off, and if less money goes into their coffers, they will not be able to provide the best possible service and will have to charge more for it.

Conservative Members were aware of that concern. When the Secretary of State came to the House not long ago and indicated that he proposed to break the monopoly of the Post Office, it was his hon. Friends who were worried. They felt that people in the rural communities were bound to suffer. I think that it was the hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson) who, while accepting the statement about breaking the monopoly in broad general terms, said that Conservative Members would be watching with great care to ensure that the rural areas were protected.

We have all seen over the past few months what the Secretary of State and some of his colleagues think about the rural areas. Many people think that the Government have treated those areas very shabbily. His Grace the Duke of Norfolk and his noble Friend Lord Butler of Saffron Walden created a great stir in the other place because they believed that people in rural areas were being shabbily treated by the Government. I believe that one of the effects of the Bill is that people in sparsely populated areas of the country will suffer.

12.45 am

The Secretary of State has produced a Bill that will break the monopoly of the Post Office. Parts of the Post Office and the more profitable parts of British Telecom will be sold off. If anyone is worried about the reactionary nature of the Government, there is proof positive here. Not even the Governments of Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, the Earl of Home or the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) ever dreamt of introducing a Bill of this kind. Not in 100 years of the most reactionary Conservative Governments has a Bill of this kind been produced. We had to wait for the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) to come to office. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is an accolade indeed. We now know how progressive and how concerned Conservative Members are about this matter. The clause will not help the staff of either organisation. It certainly will not help the industry. Both organisations will be the poorer for it. Above all, it will not help the customers. I therefore strongly urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the Opposition amendment.

Mr. Crouch

I know that I shall be unpopular in all parts of the House for keeping hon. Members up at this late hour, but I do not speak in favour of the Government's position, or, indeed, for that of Labour Members.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

What about the Social Democrats?

Mr. Crouch

Nor do I speak for any side or party, large or small. I intervene in the debate because I was extremely moved yesterday afternoon by a representation made to me by no fewer than 15 trade unionists from three trade unions.

Mr. Skinner

I referred to that.

Mr. Crouch

I know that the hon. Gentleman did. They made their case to me with great cogency and sincerity but, I think, with some misunderstanding and unawareness of what the Government intend. They were greatly concerned about what the Government intended, not appreciating that the Government's intentions were not as bad as they thought.

I therefore intervene at this late hour on behalf of my constituents who pleaded with me to do so. They mentioned many aspects of the Bill, in which I had previously shown no interest other than to read it, take a passing interest, as one does, and see that it went through. But one cannot pass over a Bill when one is approached by constituents and made to realise that they are concerned and worried. When a trade unionist says to one, as a Tory Member, "We have never been on strike, and I retire next year"—

Mr. Skinner

A good thing, too.

Mr. Crouch

I do not mean myself. Even if I did, I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no chance for him in my constituency. A trade unionist in my constituency who has worked all his life as a Post Office engineer and in his last year of service is to be transferred to British Telecom told me that he was concerned to know what was in the mind of the Minister and the Government. He was concerned about what the clause seemed to say. That was well expressed by the right hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. MacKenzie), although with the exaggeration which is justified in an Opposition spokesman. The concern was that the Secretary of State might be taking on responsibilities which were unwise.

That is what those 15 union representatives told me today—that they feared that the Secretary of State would be breathing down the neck of British Telecom. The Secretary of State may laugh as I make these remarks, but I do not see why he should. I am describing the concern of my constituents. They may not have voted for me, but I still have to represent them, even at this late hour.

I told those constituents that they were too frightened about the work of British Telecom being diminished and about its being driven out of business by private competition. I asked "Why do you think British Telecom will disappear and Plessey, the IBM and the Japanese"—it is the Japanese that worry them most—"will take over?" [HON. MEMBERS: "What did they say?"] They asked what I thought. I said that they should not be frightened, that I had flown only twice with British Caledonian and perhaps 200 times with British Airways, and that was the measure of the "problem" of private competition.

The Bill is not irresponsible. It does not give the Secretary of State too much power. But it appears to do so. The concern expressed by trade unionists and by Labour Members—in more or less exaggerated speeches—arises because they read too much into it. Public and private sectors must work satisfactorily together. I support the mixed economy, but we must reassure those in the public sector that their work will not be reduced.

The people to whom I talked feared that they would be left only with telephone kiosks in villages. I said "You must be joking." They replied "No. Private enterprise will take over all the cities and we shall be left with the unprofitable areas."

Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)


Mr. Crouch

I shall not give way. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is normally my custom to do so.

I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) with interest. He and I worked together on the old Select Committee on Nationalised Industries. We really used to look at the nationalised industries then. The Post Office was not such an industry then. In some way, the hon. Member was expressing his concern that the nationalised industries should be able to exist in the mixed economy. He looks at things differently from me, but we on the Conservative Benches look upon the nationalised industries as an fact of life. They should be allowed to exist and provide not simply a public service but a service that can compete with any other service in the country. That is what British Telecom is aiming at.

I ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind my short intervention. I am watching the clock and shall sit down soon. [Interruption.] If my hon. Friends cheer me too much, I may be longer. I was warned that I might be required to be here all night. When I am warned of that, I am ready to be here all night, on behalf of my constituents—even if, as in this case, there are only 15 of them. [Interruption.] If I can still be heard by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I am addressing my remarks to you since I know that they find no favour on either side of the House, I say that I am speaking tonight for 15 men and women who are concerned that there should be a future for British Telecommunications. As a Conservative, supporting the Bill—without the amendment to the clause—I ask for an assurance that British Telecommunications will continue in existence and will be a dominant factor in industry, competing with the private sector.

Mr. Cryer

What the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) is saying is that, basically, there is a credibility gap around the Government. That sentiment would probably find many echoes on the Labour side of the House, particularly since the Minister of State, replying to the earlier part of the debate, referred to the public sector as "this damned lot". Those were his words. That is the sort of attitude that the Minister has.

I cannot imagine that the Minister would refer to multinational private corporations or small businesses as "this damned lot". It is just the public sector. It is hardly surprising that one of his colleagues should have 15 members of the POEU raising questions about what the Government intend to do with the public sector. They know that people in the Government, those who take the decisions, refer to the public sector with very great contempt indeed. The hon. Member for Canterbury was carrying out his duty in raising this issue and trying to penetrate the credibility gap of the Government.

Amendments Nos. 10, 11 and 12 refer to the telecommunications sector. In making his scandalously brief remarks to the House earlier, the Minister suggested that consumer choice would somehow increase. I support the amendments, but they hardly go far enough. They are extremely moderate and reasonable. They have been put forward in the vain hope that this dogmatic, vicious and hard-hearted Government might show one iota of flexibility. They do not rule out the possibility that the Post Office could make a decision about a certain degree of hiving off. However, the Government have rejected such a reasonable attitude.

1 am

If the Bill is enacted unamended, consumer choice will be limited. Amendment No. 12 would remove the following words from clause 6(6): the Secretary of State shall not give any direction under this subsection unless he is satisfied that he will not thereby impede or prevent the proper discharge of the Corporation's duty under section 3(1). It is right that that passage should be removed, because it it flatulent and meaningless.

Clause 3(1) states: It shall be the duty of the Corporation (consistently with any directions given to it under the following provisions of this Part) so to exercise its powers as to provide throughout the British Islands (save in so far as they are provided by other persons or the provision thereof is, in its opinion, impracticable or not reasonably practicable) such telephone services as satisfy all reasonable demands for them. When the Secretary of State exercises his discretion to direct the corporation to dispose of its assets, he must do so in conformity with clause 6(6)(b). In turn, that is qualified by clause 3(1), which, in essence, states that if it is not reasonably practicable to provide a telephone service it does not matter. Therefore, there will be discretion to discard something that is the pride of our telephone service. No rural farmhouse or village has been deprived of a telephone service because of arbitrary high charging or because the Post Office has refused to provide a service. The Post Office has used its best endeavours to provide such services as part of its universal pattern. We have always been proud of that.

In some areas, the cost of providing such a service is extremely high. Many miles of cable may have to be laid and there may be difficulty of access. Nevertheless, a service has been provided. Those rural areas may be deprived of a telephone service because the corporation may say that it is impracticable or not reasonably practicable to provide one. There is no obligation on the Secretary of State to say that he cannot hive off these services because the Post Office's pattern of service might be disturbed.

The Post Office could say that it was not reasonably practicable to provide a telephone service in a certain area. There will be not a widening but a narrowing of consumer choice. That is implicit in the legislation. The idea is not that services to rural areas, far-flung farms and tiny hamlets that are 10 or 15 miles from a town should be sold but that services in city centres should be sold. That is where the money can be made. In city centres there is intense usage and low linage. Thus, the consumer will suffer because the profitable parts will be hived off.

Mr. Skinner

I have no quarrel with the argument that my hon. Friend is deploying about the rural services being depleted, but it is worth noting that apart from a few exceptions nearly all those rural areas are in constituencies held by Tories, by most of the Liberals, apart from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton; and by a few of the Social Democrats. The constituencies of Labour Members are not affected, apart from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson).

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friend has made an important point. It is interesting that in this part of the debate I was impelled to speak because the hon. Member for Canterbury raised the matter as a Conservative Member after his constituents had said that the Bill raised problems. He complained that the Government were not presenting the Bill in the correct light.

The fact is that the constituents of the hon. Member for Canterbury are correct. Many rural voters in Tory areas—

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

Only 15 representative.

Mr. Cryer

I am going wider than that. The hon. Member may feel some resentment at his hon. Friend raising constituency points, because he uttered that remark from a sedentary position in what I thought was a churlish growl. Nevertheless, the hon. Member for Canterbury was correct to raise the matter because many thousands—indeed, millions—of constituents of Tories do not realise what is happening behind their backs. The Tories are selling them out to multinational corporations.

Mr. Henderson

Talking of being aware, is the hon. Gentleman aware that the words to which he took exception in the Bill are a direct copy of the words in the Post Office Act 1969.

Mr. Cryer

I am grateful to the hon. Member. The fact that the same senior civil servants provide services for both Governments causes me grave concern. As my hon. Friend the Member of Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) mentioned in his useful contribution, that is something that a future Labour Government have to show more determination about because we feel that these people have had too much influence. Perhaps some of the wording that was used was put in that Act with something in mind that was not entirely in accordance with Labour policy.

Mr. Allen McKay (Penistone)

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is a continuing attack on the rural areas? The Secretary of State for Education and Science creates a system that closes rural schools. The Secretary of State for Transport cuts transport from those areas, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer increases petrol by 20p. Therefore, it is a continuing attack.

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friend is correct. His Penistone constituency covers a wide area and my hon. Friend understands the difficulties of both rural and urban areas and has been fighting hard, contrary to the Conservatives, against the erosion of rural areas. As he correctly points out, this provision is the latest in a long line of difficulties and attacks on the life of the rural dweller. I shall not be tempted along that path so graphically described by my hon. Friend, because there is another aspect of telecommunications that I wish to deal with—namely, research and development.

I want to deal with clause 6(8) in relation to the amendments that deal with hiving off. Clause 6(8) deals with technological research and development. If the Secretary of State directs that those sectors are hived off, the public will lose the benefits that have been achieved.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Amendments Nos. 13 and 19 are in the following group of amendments.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) is in order. Hiving off is relevant to these amendments.

Mr. Cryer

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for resisting the attempt which has been made to gag me.

The corporation is involved in research and development, and under the Bill the relevant sectors can be hived off at the Secretary of State's discretion. Amendments Nos. 10, 11 and 12 are designed to prevent that. The benefits of research and development should go to the community, and the telecommunication sector should remain intact to provide a service to the public.

We do not praise sufficiently the service given by our public sector industries. For political reasons, and because it wishes to discredit public industries, the press seizes on every failure and fails to mention the virtues and achievements of the public sector, and particularly British Telecom. We should praise our public telecommunications industry. The Government will hive off only a tiny profitable sector, which will be a disservice to the community.

Amendments Nos. 62, 63 and 64 deal with the traditional side of the business, with which we are all familiar—the Post Office. Telecommunications is the growth sector and, I suspect, will receive immediate consideration by the Secretary of State for sale. The Post Office, too, provides a fine service. We should recognise the work done by the members of the Union of Communication Workers. In spite of the barrage of media criticism, motivated by the small number of people who own newspapers and want to discredit public ownership, our postal service is equal to or surpasses the best in the world.

My hon. Friends' amendments are as moderate and reasonable as those dealing with telecommunications. They adopt a flexible approach. They do not exclude the possibility of sale. My hon. Friends are trying desperately to arouse a glimmer of flexibility from the hard-faced and vicious-hearted Government, bent on their dogmatic wrecking of the public sector because of the domineering views of a domineering woman leading a weak and gutless Cabinet. That is the position that we face. My hon. Friends have put forward amendments that they thought might accord with the dripping views of the wets in the Government. This has not proved to be the case. It shows that we need to remain determined and to expect no compromise from the Government. The poor, the sick and the old will be trampled on.

1.15 am

Once again, the profitable sectors are to be hived off. I recall visiting, two or three years ago, the Keighley sorting office, where I encountered complaints similar to those made in this debate. The Yorkshire electricity board, albeit another publicly owned industry, was delivering its own bills in the urban centres. The rural areas, the distant hamlets and the awkard locations were left to the Post Office. There were grumbles because the Post Office felt that if it had to perform the hard work of delivering to the rural areas it sho:uld also have the easy and profitable sectors.

The provision in the Bill is of a kindred kind. It means that the Post Office, which, like all service industries, has faced considerable difficulties, exacerbated by the lunatic policies of the Government, now faces, along with the prospect of a downturn in business, the possibility that its most profitable sectors will be hived off to people who will not be accountable to the House. My view was that the Post Office should have remained a Government Department and, therefore, more answerable to the House. I did not agree with the Labour Government's decision that it should be turned into a business. I still do not agree. There should be accountability to the House.

There is some element of accountability, however slight, due to the relationship between the Post Ofice Corporation and the Government. If, however, any section is sold off to Securicor, what accountability will exist to the House? The Bill means a diminution of parliamentary accountability as well as a diminution in the performance and effectiveness of a service that has been provided, day in and day out and in all weathers, by Post Office workers. While the Government are busy selling off sections built up by the devotion to duty of postal workers, they do not hesitate to praise those postal workers who are vigilant in detecting letter bombs. At the same time as they are praising the workers for vigilance, they are eroding the services to which in many instances those workers have devoted their life's work.

Mr. Mikardo

In the block of flats in which I live there are 200-odd flats and it is possible to deliver to all of them in two hours. That is a profitable business compared with going out into the wilds of the country, and people will want to buy that part of the postal service. But there is another attraction, which arises from a matter that we debated earlier. The private enterprise deliverer of letters will be able to promise his customers that their letters, unlike those delivered by the Post Office, will be free of interception, and of the likelihood of being opened and copied, because only letters delivered by the Post Office can be intercepted by the security services.

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friend has made a very interesting point. It may be one of the reasons why the Secretary of State may use his powers under the clause to provide a non-intercepted service as an attraction. As my hon. Friend said earlier, there may well be advertisements saying "Use your local private postal service, because you can be safe from the Government snooper." It would not be beyond the Secretary of State to hive off in that way, using Government powers to push business into the private sector, making the difference between that and the Government sector an inducement.

If a part of the business is sold off it will be in the interests not of service but of profit. In the Post Office there is still the tradition of service of a Government Department, which was translated into a public corporation with the obligation to make a profit. That has been done, but once it becomes a private sector concern profit will become the overriding factor.

When there is an emphasis on profit and productivity, will letter bombs be so well detected as they have been in the Post Office? Will there be the safety and security that we have come to expect from the Post Office service? Of course, employees will use their best endeavours, but the main concern will no longer be public service. It will be profit, which will be increased by short cuts, dodges, clever advertising and other means.

I suppose that when we vote we shall find that the Tory Whips have done their work. I can only hope that the independent mind of the hon. Member for Canterbury will extend to his feet and that he will vote against this hiving-off provision and for the amendments.

It is sad that the Government should be pursuing this barmy course. There is one matter that they seem never to take into account; indeed, they do not care about it. I conclude where I started, with the Minister's comment on the public sector—"This damned lot". It does not matter to the Minister. He is a man about town. He is articulate. Before he became a Minister, no doubt he was a director of a few companies, as was the Secretary of State. He is not a person who lives by his own creed, or who has to face market forces. During the time that the Secretary of State has been in Parliament he has received lucrative incomes from outside.

What about the workers in the postal services whose futures the right hon. Gentleman is putting in doubt? Will their confidence in the future be improved as a result of his being given power to sell off the telecommunications sector and the postal sector? Will they wake up in the morning with a greater sense of belonging, or will their confidence be undermined by this legislation?

The Secretary of State and the other Ministers know that confidence of the working men and women in the Post Office is undermined by this legislation. That is why there was a lobby today of anxious people who came here to try to persuade the Government to change their minds. They want a decent future for the industry in which they work. But this Government will not be convinced by those working men and women. They do not have the level of incomes of the Government Ministers who are making this decision. Those working men and women, who are worth a thousand of this rotten Government, are being undermined. This measure is utterly contemptible, because it attacks the very people who provide the service. The Government do not care about them.

Mr. Ioan Evans

I was provoked into making a brief intervention in the debate when I heard the Minister's slashing attack on public industries in general. What finally made up my mind was the contribution of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). He told us about the representations that had been made to him by the trade unionists who came to see him today—a modern "Canterbury Tales".

We all had representations made to us today. People came here today from Wales. After listening to the hon. Member's speech about Canterbury, I decided that we on the Opposition Benches, too, should take the opportunity of this debate to express the feelings put to us by trade unionists today. It was a tremendous lobby. It was well organised by both the main Post Office unions. Unfortunately, for some reason some Government Members did not meet the union representatives, who gave cogent and compelling reasons why the Government should withdraw the Bill. If those Conservative Members had heard the arguments I am sure that they would join us in the Lobby tonight.

This debate is about the hiving off of parts of the industry. The Bill's purpose is to separate the postal and telecommunications sides, which I believe is basically wrong. Certainly, the Carter report recommended that the postal and telecommunications sides should be separated, but the postal side is labour-intensive while the telecommunications side is capital-intensive. It has been argued that we could have a publicly owned postal side and a publicly owned telecommunications side, but I believe that it would be better to keep them within one corporation, because the tremendous profits from the developing telecommunications business could be ploughed back into the corporation to ensure that we had a cheap postal service.

1.30 am

The Government have adopted the Carter report recommendation and are separating the industries, but we should at least try to ensure that they are maintained under public ownership. The Government obviously intend to hive off the profitable activities to the private sector and to retain only the less profitable elements in public ownership. That may be all right for the entrepreneurs who will make a packet, but they will make their profits at the expense of the rest of business in this country.

We are in the worst financial mess that the country has known and 364 university economics professors have questioned what the Government are doing. What relevance has the Bill to the situation facing us. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will maintain their opposition to the Bill and will ensure that when we return to power—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) laughs, but he should look to his majority. Any Tory Member with a majority of less than 15,000 is in a marginal seat. The hon. Member may be depending on boundary changes but all the boundary changes in the world will not enable him to get re-elected. The Government are attacking Post Office workers and by supporting the Government the hon. Member for Watford is taking action that is to the detriment of those workers. He and his right hon. and hon. Friends should remember that Post Office workers knock on every door in their constituencies and have a great deal of contact with the people.

Given all the financial, industrial, economic and social problems facing the country, it is deplorable that the Government should have introduced such an irrelevant Bill. I hope that even at this late stage they will have second thoughts. The Minister for Industry and Information Technology is one of the more reasonable Conservative Members—comparaitively speaking—and one would have thought that when he joined the Secretary of State at the Department of Industry—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must relate his remarks to the amendment.

Mr. Evans

We are dealing with the powers of the Secretary of State, and the Minister for Industry and Information Technology may become Secretary of State. He may take on the tremendous powers in clause 6: The Secretary of State may, after consultation with the Corporation, give to it such directions of a general character as to the exercise by it of its powers as appear to the Secretary of State to be requisite in the national interest. The Bill is against the national interest. Did any Conservative Members tell their Post Office worker constituents that they would introduce such a Bill? They did not. But the Secretary of State was preparing the documents. When the Minister of State entered the Department it was hoped that sense would prevail and that he would curb the Secretary of State. But today he has tried to justify the hiving off. He did not have his heart in what he said. In effect, he said that the Secretary of State would not be daft enough to implement the powers. We are not so sure about that.

My hon. Friends on the Front Bench are anxious to make progress, but I believe that we should fight the issue. The Government want to push the legislation through. There is massive opposition to it by Post Office workers. We would be failing in our duty if we did not express the bitterness, anger and disappointment felt by Post Office workers about this miserable Bill and the Government's miserable move to hive off profitable sectors of the industry. We experienced 13 years of Conservative Government. Even previous—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying a long way from the amendment. He must not discuss the Bill in general. He must deal with the amendment.

Mr. Evans

I am trying to relate my remarks to the Secretary of State's powers. I am relating the hiving-off powers to the Government's general policy. They are trying to privatise industry. Government Members do not realise the full implications. If they, like the hon. Member for Canterbury, had met the trade unionists who came here today, they would know that those people are concerned not merely about their employment but about the national interest. It is impertinent of the Minister to talk about the national interest, because the Bill is against the national interest. The amendments are in the national interest. We must minimise the damage that can be inflicted by the Secretary of State on the Post Office.

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 122, Noes 192.

Division No. 134] [1.40 am
Alton, David McNair-Wilson, M. (N 'bury)
Beith, A. J. McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas McQuarrie, Albert
Bowden, Andrew Madel, David
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Major, John
Bright, Graham Marlow, Tony
Brinton, Tim Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Bryan, Sir Paul Marten, Neil (Banbury)
Bulmer, Esmond Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Burden, Sir Frederick Mawby, Ray
Butcher, John Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Mellor, David
Chapman, Sydney Meyer, Sir Anthony
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n) Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Costain, Sir Albert Moate, Roger
Cranborne, Viscount Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Dover, Denshore Murphy, Christopher
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Needham, Richard
Durant, Tony Neubert, Michael
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Eggar, Tim Parris, Matthew
Faith, Mrs Sheila Pawsey, James
Fanner, Mrs Peggy Penhaligon, David
Finsberg, Geoffrey Porter, Barry
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Fookes, Miss Janet Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Rost, Peter
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Royle, Sir Anthony
Garel-Jones, Tristan Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Shelton, William (Streatham)
Gow, Ian Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Gower, Sir Raymond Shepherd, Richard
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Silvester, Fred
Gray, Hamish Sims, Roger
Greenway, Harry Speller, Tony
Griffiths, E. (B'y St. Edm' ds) Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Sproat, Iain
Hamilton, Hon A. Stanbrook, Ivor
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Steel, Rt Hon David
Hastings, Stephen Stevens, Martin
Hayhoe, Barney Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Heddle, John Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)
Hicks, Robert Stokes, John
Hill, James Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Taylor, Teddy (S' end E)
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Temple-Morris, Peter
Hooson, Tom Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G 'ldf'd) Trotter, Neville
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Waddington, David
Jessel, Toby Waldegrave, Hon William
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Walker, B, (Perth)
Kaberry, Sir Donald Wells, Bowen
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Knox, David Wickenden, Keith
Lang, Ian Wilkinson, John
Lawrence, Ivan Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Wolfson, Mark
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Tellers for the Ayes:
Loveridge, John Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and Mr. Carol Mather.
Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Adams, Allen Bennett, Andrew (St 'kp't N)
Allaun, Frank Bidwell, Sydney
Anderson, Donald Booth, Rt Hon Albert
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Boothroyd, Miss Betty
Ashton, Joe Bray, Dr Jeremy
Atkinson, N.(H' gey,) Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Brown, R. C. (N' castle W)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Brown, Ron (E' burgh, Leith)
Benn, Rt Hon A. Wedgwood Brown, Ronald W. (H' ckn' y S)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Field, Frank
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Flannery, Martin
Campbell, Ian Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Ford, Ben
Cant, R. B. Forrester, John
Carmichael, Neil Foster, Derek
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Foulkes, George
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Fraser, J. (Lamb 'th, N' w 'd)
Coleman, Donald Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Cook, Robin F. Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Cowans, Harry George, Bruce
Cox, T. (W' dsw'th, Toot' g) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Crowther, J. S. Golding, John
Cryer, Bob Graham, Ted
Cunliffe, Lawrence Grant, George (Morpeth)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Grant, John (Islington C)
Dalyell, Tam Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Davidson, Arthur Hamilton, W, W. (C' tral Fife)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Hardy, Peter
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Deakins, Eric Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Haynes, Frank
Dempsey, James Hogg, N. (E Dunb't' nshire)
Dewar, Donald Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Dixon, Donald Home Robertson, John
Dobson, Frank Homewood, William
Dormand, Jack Hooley, Frank
Douglas, Dick Huckfield, Les
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.
Dubs, Alfred Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Duffy, A. E. P. Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Dunnett, Jack Janner, Hon Greville
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Eadie, Alex John, Brynmor
Eastham, Ken Johnson, James (Hull West)
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're) Jones, Barry (East Flint)
English, Michael Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Ennals, Rt Hon David Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Evans, John (Newton) Lamond, James
Leadbitter, Ted Richardson, Jo
Leighton, Ronald Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Litherland, Robert Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Robertson, George
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Rooker, J. W.
Mc Cartney, Hugh Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Mc Donald, Dr Oonagh Rowlands, Ted
Mc Elhone, Frank Ryman, John
Mc Guire, Michael (Ince) Sheerman, Barry
Mc Kelvey, William Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Mc Nally, Thomas Short, Mrs Renée
Mc Namara, Kevin Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Mc Taggart, Robert Silverman, Julius
Mc William, John Skinner, Dennis
Magee, Bryan Snape, Peter
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Soley, Clive
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Spearing, Nigel
Martin, M (G' gow S'burn) Spriggs, Leslie
Maxton, John Stallard, A. W.
Mikardo, Ian Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Stoddart, David
Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) Stott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw) Strang, Gavin
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Straw, Jack
Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
O'Halloran, Michael Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
O'Neill, Martin Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Pavitt, Laurie Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Pendry, Tom Tilley, John
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Tinn, James
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Race, Reg Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)
Walker, Rt Hon H. (D' caster) Winnick, David
Watkins, David Woodall, Alec
Welsh, Michael Woolmer, Kenneth
White, Frank R. Wright, Sheila
White, J. (G' gow Pollok) Young, David (Bolton E)
Whitehead, Phillip
Whitlock, William Tellers for the Noes:
Williams, Rt Hon A. (S' sea W) Mr. Allan Mc Kay and Mr. George Morton.
Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H.(H' ton)
Wilson, William (C' try SE)

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 193, Noes 280.

Division No. 135] [1.53 am
Adams, Allen Ford, Ben
Allaun, Frank Forrester, John
Anderson, Donald Foster, Derek
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Foulkes, George
Ashton, Joe Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Atkinson, N. (H' gey,) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) George, Bruce
Benn, Rt Hon A. Wedgwood Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N) Golding, John
Bidwell, Sydney Graham, Ted
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Grant, George (Morpeth)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Grant, John (Islington C)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) Hardy, Peter
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Brown, Ronald W. (H 'ckn'y S) Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't' n & P) Haynes, Frank
Campbell, Ian Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Cant, R. B. Home Robertson, John
Carmichael, Neil Homewood, William
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hooley, Frank
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Huckfield, Les
Coleman, Donald Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.
Cook, Robin F. Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cowans, Harry Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g) Janner, Hon Greville
Crowther, J. S. Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Cryer, Bob John, Brynmor
Cunliffe, Lawrence Johnson, James (Hull West)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Davidson, Arthur Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lamond, James
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechfd) Leadbitter, Ted
Deakins, Eric Leighton, Ronald
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Dempsey, James Litherland, Robert
Dewar, Donald Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Dixon, Donald Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
Dobson, Frank Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Dormand, Jack Mc Donald, Dr Oonagh
Douglas, Dick Mc Elhone, Frank
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Mc Guire, Michael (Ince)
Dubs, Alfred Mc Kay, Allen (Penistone)
Duffy, A. E. P. Mc Kelvey, William
Dunnett, Jack Mac Kenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Mc Nally, Thomas
Eadie, Alex Mc Namara, Kevin
Eastham, Ken Mc Taggart, Robert
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're) Mc William, John
English, Michael Magee, Bryan
Ennals, Rt Hon David Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Evans, John (Newton) Martin, M(G'gow S'burn)
Field, Frank Maxton, John
Flannery, Martin Mikardo, Ian
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Mikardo, Ian Stallard, A. W.
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) Stoddart, David
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw) Stott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Strang, Gavin
Morton, George Straw, Jack
Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
O'Halloran, Michael Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
O'Neill, Martin Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Pavitt, Laurie Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Pendry, Tom Tilley, John
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Tinn, James
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Race, Reg Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
Richardson, Jo Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Watkins, David
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Welsh, Michael
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Robertson, George Whitehead, Phillip
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Whitlock, William
Rooker, J. W. Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Rowlands, Ted Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)
Ryman, John Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Sheerman, Barry Winnick, David
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Woodall, Alec
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Woolmer, Kenneth
Short, Mrs Renée Wrigglesworth, Ian
Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford) Wright, Sheila
Silverman, Julius Young, David (Bolton E)
Skinner, Dennis
Snape, Peter Tellers for the Ayes:
Soley, Clive Mr. Frank R. White and Mr. Hugh Mc Cartney
Spearing, Nigel
Spriggs, Leslie
Aitken, Jonathan Buck, Antony
Alexander, Richard Budgen, Nick
Alison, Michael Bulmer, Esmond
Alton, David Butcher, John
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Ancram, Michael Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Arnold, Tom Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Aspinwall, Jack Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne) Chapman, Sydney
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) Churchill, W. S.
Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E) Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Baker, Kenneth (St. M'bone) Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Banks, Robert Clegg, Sir Walter
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Cockeram, Eric
Beith, A. J. Cope, John
Bendall, Vivian Corrie, John
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Costain, Sir Albert
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Cranborne, Viscount
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Critchley, Julian
Best, Keith Crouch, David
Bevan, David Gilroy Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dorrell, Stephen
Biggs-Davison, John Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Blackburn, John Dover, Denshore
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Boscawen, Hon Robert Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Durant, Tony
Bowden, Andrew Dykes, Hugh
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Braine, Sir Bernard Eggar, Tim
Bright, Graham Fairbairn, Nicholas
Brinton, Tim Faith, Mrs Sheila
Brittan, Leon Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Brooke, Hon Peter Finsberg, Geoffrey
Brotherton, Michael Fisher, Sir Nigel
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n) Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Browne, John (Winchester) Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Bruce-Gardyne, John Fookes, Miss Janet
Bryan, Sir Paul Forman, Nigel
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Marlow, Tony
Fox, Marcus Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Marten, Neil (Banbury)
Fry, Peter Mates, Michael
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Mawby, Ray
Garel-Jones, Tristan Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Glyn, Dr Alan Mayhew, Patrick
Goodlad, Alastair Mellor, David
Gorst, John Meyer, Sir Anthony
Gow, Ian Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Gower, Sir Raymond Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Gray, Hamish Miscampbell, Norman
Greenway, Harry Moate, Roger
Griffiths, E. (B'y St. Edm'ds) Monro, Hector
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Montgomery, Fergus
Grist, Ian Moore, John
Grylls, Michael Morgan, Geraint
Gummer, John Selwyn Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Hamilton, Hon A. Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hampson, Dr Keith Mudd, David
Hannam, John Murphy, Christopher
Haselhurst, Alan Neale, Gerrard
Hastings, Stephen Needham, Richard
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Nelson, Anthony
Hawkins, Paul Neubert, Michael
Hawksley, Warren Newton, Tony
Hayhoe, Barney Onslow, Cranley
Heddle, John Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Henderson, Barry Osborn, John
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)
Hicks, Robert Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hill, James Parris, Matthew
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Pawsey, James
Hooson, Tom Penhaligon, David
Hordern, Peter Percival, Sir Ian
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Pink, R. Bonner
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd) Pollock, Alexander
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Porter, Barry
Hunt, David (Wirral) Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Proctor, K. Harvey
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Jessel, Toby Raison, Timothy
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rathbone, Tim
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rees-Davies, W. R.
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Renton, Tim
Kaberry, Sir Donald Rhodes James, Robert
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Kershaw, Anthony Ridley, Hon Nicholas
King, Rt Hon Tom Rifkind, Malcolm
Knight, Mrs Jill Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Knox, David Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Lamont, Norman Rost, Peter
Lang, Ian Royle, Sir Anthony
Latham, Michael Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lawrence, Ivan St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Scott, Nicholas
Lee, John Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Shepherd, Richard
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo) Shersby, Michael
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Silvester, Fred
Loveridge, John Sims, Roger
Luce, Richard Skeet, T. H. H.
Lyell, Nicholas Smith, Dudley
Mc Crindle, Robert Speed, Keith
Mac Gregor, John Speller, Tony
MacKay, John (Argyll) Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Sproat, Iain
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Squire, Robin
McQuarrie, Albert Stanbrook, Ivor
Madel, David Stanley, John
Major, John Steel, Rt Hon David
Marland, Paul Steen, Anthony
Stevens, Martin Walker, B. (Perth)
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Waller, Gary
Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire) Ward, John
Stokes, John Warren, Kenneth
Stradling Thomas, J. Watson, John
Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Wells, Bowen
Temple-Morris, Peter Wheeler, John
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Whitney, Raymond
Thompson, Donald Wickenden, Keith
Thorne, Neil (Ilford South) Wiggin, Jerry
Thornton, Malcolm Wilkinson, John
Townend, John (Bridlington) Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath) Winterton, Nicholas
Trippier, David Wolfson, Mark
Trotter, Neville Young, Sir George (Acton)
van Straubenzee, W. R. Younger, Rt Hon George
Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Waddington, David Tellers for the Noes:
Wakeham, John Mr. Spencer le Marchant and Mr. Carol Mather.
Waldegrave, Hon William

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendments made: No. 101 in page 9, line 26, leave out from beginning to 'to' in line 28 and insert—

  1. '(a) to make a scheme under subsection (1) of section 4, or to exercise its powers under subsection (4) of that section, for such purposes and in such manner as may be specified in the direction; or
  2. (b)to dispose of any part of its undertaking or any assets held by it or'.

No. 102, in page 9, line 32, leave out 'this subsection' and insert 'paragraph (b)'.

No. 103, in page 9, line 35, at end insert— '(6A) The Secretary of State shall lay before each House of Parliament a copy of every direction given under subsection (6) unless he is of opinion that disclosure of the direction is against—

  1. (a) the interests of national security; or
  2. (b) the commercial interests of any person.'.

No. 104, in page 9, line 36, leave out 'directions' and insert 'direction'.

No. 105, in page 9, line 38, leave out from second 'that' to end of line 39 and insert 'disclosure of the direction is against—

  1. (a) the interests of national security; or
  2. (b)the commercialinterests of a person other than the Corporation and its wholly owned subsidiaries. '.—[Sir Keith Joseph.]

Mr. Orme

I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page, 9, leave out lines 40 to 46.

I understand that with this we may discuss amendment No. 99, in page 9, line 45, leave out from 'matters' to end of line 46.

Amendment No. 13 deals with research and development carried out by the British telecommunications industry. In clause 6(8) the Secretary of State takes powers unto himself. The subsection provides: The Corporation shall settle from time to time, after consultation with the Secretary of State, a general programme of technological research into matters affecting the services provided by it or its wholly owned subsidiaries and other matters affecting its or their functions, The subsection goes on in that vein. It means that the Secretary of State is taking powers directly to intervene in research and development carried out by British telecommunications.

The research programme carried out so far by the British telecommunications industry under public ownership has been of an outstanding character. It has created centres of excellence. The development of modern technology by the industry has put it at the forefront of the world's telecommunications industries.

Telecommunications will play an increasingly important part in our future. They will dominate technology for the rest of the century. It is essential that the British industry should maintain its prime position. If it does not, it will be vulnerable to overseas penetration and may well be overtaken by developments elsewhere.

I pay tribute to the case made in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch). I understand that one of the key centres, at Martlesharn, is in his constituency. The work coming out of this centre is of vital importance to the industry.

One of the problems with British industry, both private and public, is that we have not paid sufficient attention to research and development over the past 25 to 30 years. There are many instances of Britain being first with an idea, an invention, with new technology, but then failing to make the money available for essential development. We have not followed through. The telecommunications industry takes 95 per cent. of its requirements from our domestic industries and thereby provides a good deal of work. This is an example of frontier-crossing between the public and private sectors. Here we have a publicly owned industry which has created work in the private sector. This will increasingly be the case in the future.

We are disturbed to learn that the Secretary of State feels it necessary to take these powers. We see them as an interference. The Secretary of State is not an authority on the technology. He will have to be advised by departmental experts. I do not think that there are many experts to advise him on some of the new technology.

We see this move, as set out in the subsection, as a method of implementing cash limits in the telecommunications industry. We feel that subsection (8) is unnecessary. We should like to know from the Under-Secretary of State for Industry when he replies what is meant by the words shall settle from time to time". How much interest will the Secretary of State take in this? Will there be regular interference and demands for reports? Will not this unsettle crucial research and development? We are concerned that we should not lose the impetus of this new technology. There are examples of instances when we have done so. For instance, television tubes are no longer produced in the United Kingdom. They have to be imported. We are concerned about this multi-million pound industry which creates a great deal of wealth and provides much employment.

In columns 163 and 164 of the Official Report, Standing Committee B on 20 January 1981 my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) made a strong case for the industry. He gave examples of developments such as system X, TXE4 and other exciting developments. We want an assurance from the Minister about this subsection. We are worried about the proposed interference of the Secretary of State.

2.15 am
Mr. Mikardo

I beg to move, That the debate be now adjourned.

I wish to know the Government's intentions towards our proceedings. We have been at it for nearly 11 hours. We have had a series of good debates. I have a right to say that, because I have been here for all 11 hours, apart from 35 minutes when I had to carry out some necessary natural functions. During that time we have dealt with seven new clauses, five of which were Government proposals and only two Opposition ones. We have dealt with 31 amendments of which 23 were Government amendments and only eight Opposition ones. We have devoted about three-quarters of the time to Goverment-sponsored proposals. Some were kindly tabled by the Minister and his colleagues in fulfilment of obligations undertaken in Committee. We are all grateful for that. Nevertheless, we have been discussing more Government than Opposition business.

Even the young ones like me are a little past their best. Some of the older ones who came into the Chamber only just before midnight, and who have not learnt to stand their prandial delights as well as they will do later, are much more tired than I am. All of us are a little past our best. There is some important business to come, including the amendments, now before us. We must still discuss the important subjects of research and development, licensing, and cash limits. Several provisions relating to telephone tapping must be put to the vote, although they will be taken formally as they have already been debated. The postal monopoly has yet to be discussed.

We have not even begun to debate the third Bill. It has already been said that the Bill is really three Bills in one—a Post Office Bill, a British Telecommunications Bill and a Cable and Wireless Bill. We have not even begun to debate Cable an Wireless Ltd. Indeed, we must wait until clause 77 to discuss that, and that is a long time ahead.

I am sure that the Government will agree that we shall not do justice to the Bill if we continue now. No doubt the Government's business managers would like to dispose of the Report stage now; I can understand that. However, on a rough estimate of Mr. Speaker's provisional selection of amendments, we have completed between one-quarter and one-third of the work in just under 11 hours. If that assessment is anywhere near correct we shall not complete the Bill even if we continue our debates until after the normal starting time for Thursday's business.

The Government may find that they are in the worst of all possible worlds, because they will have kept their supporters and Opposition Members up until a late hour without achieving their objective of completing the Report stage in one sitting. No one has been filibustering, or messing about. We have been dealing honestly and fairly with the work before us. If we cannot complete our work in a single sitting, is there any point in keeping hon. Members here much longer at this hour of the morning?

I beg the Minister to understand that I am making these points genuinely and in a spirit of helpfulness. I am not trying to make points at anyone's expense. I am trying to be practical. I am sure that if the Government think about what I have said they will realise that the analysis that I have made of the potentialities for the remainder of the sitting are valid and realistic. I hope that they will react accordingly.

Mr. Alton'

I support the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo). I think that the Minister and other members of the Government should give serious consideration to the plea that has been made, as some important debates lie ahead. Although I am happy to stay here all night to listen to debates and participate in them, it is impossible at this time in the morning to do proper justice and give the right consideration to the important matters that lie before us.

We have discussed the right to strike, interception of mail, and telephone tapping, and now we have reached the more important decisions about the future of the telecommunications industry which we spent many hours debating in Committee. It would be a tragedy if that were now to develop into a late night session with undue and unadequate consideration being given to those important matters. If that happens the industry will get the impression that the House has rushed the matter through without adequate consideration.

I hope that the Minister will take into consideration the plea made by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

I find myself in some agreement with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) in that there has been a series of good debates since we started at 3.30 pm, to some extent because he has taken part. I make no complaint about the nature of the debates. They have been exhaustively thrashed out and they have been interesting. They have gone rather wider than they did in Committee, but I make no complaint about that. That is partly the purpose of Report, because hon. Members who were not the experts on the Bill in Committee now have the opportunity of bringing their new approach.

The length of the proceedings has been extended by the debate on telephone tapping. Although that was an important debate, it was peripheral to the main purpose of the Bill. I do not belittle the importance of that debate, but it stands apart from the main consideration of the Bill. It was exhaustively examined.

The hon. Gentleman said that he was past his best. I am sure that that is not the case. He has plenty of stamina. It would be sensible for the House to try to make further progress on the Bill. Before the debate on telephone tapping, we had a debate and vote on the right to strike. Since then, we have had various measures on which we have been able to make some concessions. We have further measures to announce that I think will please the Opposition. I hope that we shall make further progress this evening.

Mr. Mikardo

I am sorry that the Minister has not been more positive. I am deeply grateful to him for his kind remarks. I hoped that he would agree that we might now adjourn. Nevertheless, I read between the lines of what he said and have the feeling that if we go on a little longer he may be disposed to take a similar motion later, either from me or from someone else. In view of that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

We now continue the debate on amendment No. 13, with which we are considering amendment No. 99.

Mr. Butcher

I do not intend further to test the patience or stamina of the House. I listened carefully to the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). He appeared also to be advocating my amendment No. 99, although the two are not necessarily compatible. The former deletes lines 40 to 46 and the latter simply deletes the last line of subsection (8).

I take issue slightly with the right hon. Gentleman. If we consult the ACARD report on public sector research and development, we realise that there are strategic reasons for ensuring that research is motivated by a need, for example, to develop products suitable for export and not only for the domestic market. That is welcomed by both sides of the industry, I see no reason why the enlightened and benign attention of my hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Information Technology should not assist British Telecom in that endeavour.

My amendment seeks to remove the last 11 words of clause 6(8). I can see that there are good reasons for the Government being consulted on British Telecom's research and development programme, but it is essential that the programme can be changed with changing circumstances. My amendment makes that clearer than does clause 6(8) as drafted. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to accept the amendment.

Mr. Golding

I congratulate the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher) on being the only Conservative Back Bencher brave enough to table an amendment. I strongly support his amendment. It is nonsense to include the provision that, once a research programme has been settled, the corporation shall secure the carrying out of any programme so settled. Research programmes, by their nature, are varied. A programme cannot proceed regardless of the discoveries that are made, changes in technology, or other outside discovery.

My amendment goes futher. I cannot understand how the Secretary of State has time to give himself yet another power. It is further interference in the day-to-day working of a nationalised industry. In April 1979 the Tories told the country that they would reduce Government interference in the day-to-day business of nationalised industries, yet ever since the right hon. Gentleman became Secretary of State he has been dreaming up additional ways to interfere.

In Committee, the Minister frequently told us that various provisions were contained in Labour legislation, but this is a new power. Goodness knows who dreamt it up and who wanted the Secretary of State involved. He has enough problems on his plate without looking for new ones. It is incredible that he should go out looking for work. Many other people are out looking for work because the Secretary of State has failed so abysmally in his duties. I cannot see why he wants to be consulted. He would not have a clue what the proposals from the corporation meant.

2.30 am

The clause will produce a duplication of officials. It states that The corporation shall settle from time to time, after consultation with the Secretary of State". The reality is that officials of the corporation will talk to officials in the Department of Industry. That is nonsense. It would be interesting to know whether the Prime Minister is aware that the Bill creates new statutory duties for officials. It cannot be argued that Martlesham is a lame duck. Ministers recognise, I believe, that Martlesham has been one of the bright stars. Optical fibre, system X and Prestel have been developed within Post Office research facilities. I wonder why the Secretary of State wants to interfere in research activity which has been so successful. He can only make a muck of it. He will make matters worse.

Research is often done in collaboration with, or subcontracted to, private industry, which does not want the Secretary of State involved. Private industry wants to deal with the research department of British Telecommunications. It does not want to be told that matters will be subject to what the Secretary of State says about the research programme. There is no sense in that approach.

The need is for speed and for decision-making. The Secretary of State is building further delay into the settlement of plans for research and development. Officials, scientists and researchers within the corporation will spend much time preparing detailed plans. They will have to explain those plans and try to get agreement from officials in the Department of Industry who, being human, will justify their existence by putting up objections. That means delay.

I make no bones about the situation. The body that will be blamed for the delay and for the bureaucracy is British Telecommunications. It will not be the Government. Private industry and outside bodies will blame British Telecommunications, but it will not be its fault. The Secretary of State cannot bear to be kept out of anything. He insists upon interfering in every aspect of those parts of the day-to-day management of the nationalised industries on which he can get his hands.

I hope that the Government will accept my amendment, which goes much further than the amendment of the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West.

Mr. Tom McNally (Stockport, South)

I am very pleased to be called to take part in the debate, not least because the amendment dovetails perfectly with the amendment to which I wished to speak earlier, when I was prevented by an intervention. I am flattered that at so early a stage in my partliamentary career, when the House was asked whether it wanted to hear me it voted so frmly in the affirmative. I trust that it will continue to take a similar view. I shall be brief in order to encourage it to do so.

Unlike my assiduous hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo), I was unable to be here earlier in the debate, because I was in a Select Committee, where we discussed British Steel. We had a distinguished witness before us. I shall not risk straying out of order by stating what his evidence was, but I think I can say that many of the arguments that we have heard today sounded familar—selling off the best, then using that to explain the failure of the worst.

The reason why many people, many of the most highly skilled technical people in our society, lobbied the House yesterday was that they realised that ideology was interfering with technology and a good industry. Their doubts and fears about their industry, about where it is going under the present ideological Government and about which sectors will be hived off are not being answered. Whether they came from Aberdare, Canterbury, Bethnal Green, Bow or South Manchester—one of our high-technology areas, with many members of the Post Office Engineering Union—their fears remain. They are victims of an ideological commitment rather than a commitment to work out the best system for their industry.

One of the most passionate speeches that I heard was that of my very good friend the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott), a worker in telecommunications for a long time. I think that it can fairly be said that no hon. Member has been up telegraph poles more than he has. Possibly only Buzby has been up them more. Ail hon. Members with expertise in the industry are worried about the Bill. They are worried about the split in their industry. This high-technology industry has uncertainty and doubt fed into it by Government ideology.

Ministers must explain how the clause and their policy will advance research. Neither the workers nor those in industries that work with British Telecom are convinced that it will do so. Therefore, there is a strong suspicion that the Government simply have a blind, ideological commitment and that, as we have seen so often in so many nationalised industries, they are to do something because they promised it, because the Secretary of State committed himself to it, thanks to one of his think-tanks or super-boffins.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) said, the Secretary of State has accrued to himself more powers than any Secretary of State for Industry in peacetime. He has said to every industry with which he has been involved "I am humble. This is not a matter for politicians. Civil servants have no right, but, by the way, we are going to take it into the Department of Industry." There are British Aerospace, the NEB and British Telecom; and so it goes. In the end, it is the Secretary of State's judgment that is involved. Now he is going into the microchip business, a high-technology area, where he will be the man who makes the decision.

I believe that the House has a right to ask the Secretary of State to pause, hold back his ideological juggernaut and consult people in industry who are beginning to doubt his capacity to make these judgments.

I was in Japan just before Christmas. It is a successful country, which keeps people like the Secretary of State for Industry one step away from the powers that he is trying to take in the Bill. Mitel is an example. Decisions there are not taken by giving the Secretary of State for Industry the dictatorial powers proposed in the Bill or by giving him the idelogical open highway that he seeks in almost every aspect of his office.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow said, it is time to pause and consider whether this high-technology industry should be put into the hands of the Secretary of State for Industry and—more important—whether the capacity, inventiveness and investment in high technology should be subject to his judgment. My belief is that that should not happen, and I hope that the House will agree with me.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)

I am sure that the House will be delighted to know that I am about to make my shortest speech of the night—or at least my shortest speech of the night so far.

I want to comment on the two amendments, and I shall take first, amendment No. 99, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher). The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, because the words that the amendment seeks to delete could lessen the flexibility of the research programming and activity of the corporation. Theoretically, the words should make no difference. Theoretically, they are meaningless and useless words, which add nothing. I am not sure whether they are a redundancy, a tautology or a pleonasm, but they are certainly superfluous.

It could be argued that the obligation on the corporation to secure the carrying out of any programme so settled does not mean that it is compelled to carry on the programme already settled, even though the circumstances and the needs change. According to the first line of the subsection, the corporation could settle the programme every day, or even three times a day after meals.

The hon. Gentleman was right to table the amendment, because what will happen is that programmes will be agreed, a report will be prepared and then something will crop up—a new piece of equipment or some new technology—and someone will produce a report to replace the previous report. The hon. Gentleman intends to avoid that nonsense, and the House should support him.

2.45 am

The title of clause 6 is: Powers of the Secretary of State over the Corporation". We have had much argument, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South (Mr. McNally) has just contributed, on the question whether the powers taken by the Secretary of State are, as I put it earlier, deeper, wider and more all-pervading than those in any other Bill. Ministers claim that the provisions are copied from previous measures, including some introduced by Labour Governments, but they are not. Clause 6 covers more than two pages and consists of 107 lines and 12 subsections. I do not believe that Ministers can point to another Bill containing such a long clause relating to the powers of a Secretary of State over a corporation.

In addition, I cannot recall a previous case of a technological research programme having to be agreed by a Secretary of State. The clause raises the point that I touched on earlier about the relative expertise of those in BT and those in the Department. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) rightly pointed out that subsection (8) lays new duties on the officers of the Department. He said that the Prime Minister would object to that because she wanted to reduce the work of the Department. I go further. I believe that the subsection will require the Department to take on additional, highly expensive staff.

I strongly fancy that no one in the Department has sufficient technological knowledge of telecommunications to be able to monitor BT's technological research programme. I doubt whether the Department has anyone who knows as much as the chaps at BT, who are among the best in the world. In order to carry out the obligation in subsection (8), the Department will have to hire somebody who is better than the chaps he will have to monitor. If there is such a fellow knocking about, would it not be more sensible for the Secretary of State to make sure that he works for BT? He would do some good there instead of sitting in the Department of Industry operating the old nanny's dictum of "Find out what Johnny is doing and tell him to stop it." That is what busybody, interfering monitoring means.

What will appointing more personnel do to the PSBR? What will it do to the already sleepless nights of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Appointing a civil servant to monitor advanced technological research is impractical nonsense of which only an abstruse, airy-fairy, stratospheric theoretician such as the Secretary of State could think. I hope that the House will dispose of this rubbish with the dispatch and contempt that it deserves.

Mr. Michael Marshall

We always enjoy listening to the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo). That was his shortest speech and he was in his usual pithy form. I suspect that he will find that his enthusiasm is misplaced.

Both sides of the House are agreed about the excellence of Martlesham. The constituency of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch) includes Martlesham, and I am sorry that he is not here tonight. On Second Reading, he and I agreed that one of the problems of Martlesham was that not enough had been made of its undoubted technical excellence. If the Department of Industry is to take a sensible view on industrial development, it must understand where centres of excellence in research and development are in both the private and the public sectors and to what extent they can be used for commercial development.

Many claims are made upon us in relation to science and technology and product and process development schemes. It is sensible to try to understand what centres of excellence are about. I have had the opportunity to study such matters on a day-to-day basis, knowing my right hon. Friend's great enthusiasm for the subject. We are willing to stand up and be counted about why we have an interest in such matters.

I am disappointed at some of the remarks by former Ministers in the Labour Government. Hon. Members who had responsibility for the Department in a previous Administration are apt to fold their tents silently in the night. They suggest that the Department should be divorced from such matters. We believe that we should take an interest in them.

The Bill responds to technological change and its ever-increasing pace. It is important to understand the implications of that technological change, for two reasons. The first is that the kind of research and development within British Telecom is of very great importance to the future investment programme because, obviously, the way in which research and development are going will influence the outcome for much of the next generation of telecommunications equipment. Within the terms of the Bill, that can apply in both the public and the private sectors. Therefore, it is important that we should be involved in the process of consultation, and I stress "consultation".

There is no dictatorial power such as the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Mr. McNally) talked about. He is very good on a number of interesting matters. I happen to know that he is an expert on the Holloway monologues, and I salute him for that and for the breadth of his vision. On this matter, however, he went overboard in talking about ideology and dictatorial powers. Consultation rules, O.K. Surely, in current thinking consultation is what we are supposed to be all about.

On the second aspect of what the research and development should mean to the Government of the day, surely they are of great importance in terms of opening up new services and different types of equipment. If we look at the Bill as a whole, we see that number of things that we seek to do would surely lead us to have a reasonable dialogue about the very birth of technoloy within this great industry.

I want to make the point that we are not seeking to approve the programme, and here I address myself to the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow. It is process of consultation. British Telecommunications will retain its commercial freedom exactly as at present, and I believe that that is right. But we think that consultation is important. The hon. Gentleman suggested that this was some kind of unique affair. I must remind him of the precedents for this. I think that we had this in Standing Committee, but I remind him again. The Transport Act 1968 specifically sought a power of approval. The Conservative Act of 1972 sought consultation. In this matter, the precedents would seem to suggest that we are perhaps rather more relaxed than previous Labour Governments. This is important in its own right, and I urge the hon. Gentleman to think this through perhaps a little further.

Certainly, in terms of the arguments that have been put forward tonight, I want to try to go some way to meet the Opposition, and I particularly want to meet the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher), because his amendment—I recognise that the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) supported it in opening—was designed to make sure that we were concerned here with consultation. The emphasis on the follow-through aspect, where I think the hon. Gentleman was on sounder ground in questioning whether the words were necessary, brings us to a situation in which the Government certainly want it to be quite plain that we think consultation is appropriate in this situation.

Therefore, in order to make the matter clearer we are disposed to accept the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West, and we hope that this will go some way to assure Opposition Members that we consider this to be a serious question on which we have sought to find common ground.

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 174, Noes 263.

Division No. 136] [3.00 am
Adams, Allen Dixon, Donald
Allaun, Frank Dobson, Frank
Anderson, Donald Dormand, Jack
Archer, Fit Hon Peter Douglas, Dick
Ashton, Joe Dubs, Alfred
Atkinson, N. (H' gey,) Duffy, A. E. P.
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Dunnett, Jack
Benn, Rt Hon A. Wedgwood Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N) Eadie, Alex
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Eastham, Ken
Bray, Dr Jeremy Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) English, Michael
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) Ennals, Rt Hon David
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S) Evans, John (Newton)
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Flannery, Martin
Campbell, Ian Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Forrester, John
Cant, R. B. Foster, Derek
Carmichael, Neil Foulkes, George
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Coleman, Donald Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Cook, Robin F. George, Bruce
Cowans, Harry Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g) Golding, John
Cryer, Bob Graham, Ted
Cunliffe, Lawrence Grant, George (Morpeth)
Cunningham, Q. (Islington S) Grant, John (Islington C)
Dalyell, Tam Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Davidson, Arthur Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Hardy, Peter
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Deakins, Eric Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Haynes, Frank
Dempsey, James Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)
Dewar, Donald Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Home Robertson, John Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Hooley, Frank Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Huckfield, Les Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Hudson Davies, Gwilym E. Robertson, George
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Rooker, J. W.
Janner, Hon Greville Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
John, Brynmor Rowlands, Ted
Johnson, James (Hull West) Sheerman, Barry
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Short, Mrs Renée
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Lamond, James Silverman, Julius
Leadbitter, Ted Skinner, Dennis
Leighton, Ronald Snape, Peter
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Soley, Clive
Litherland, Robert Spearing, Nigel
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Spriggs, Leslie
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W) Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
McCartney, Hugh Stoddart, David
Mc Donald, Dr Oonagh Stott, Roger
Mc Elhone, Frank Strang, Gavin
Mc Guire, Michael (Ince) Straw, Jack
Mc Kelvey, William Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Mac Kenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Mc Nally, Thomas Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
McNamara, Kevin Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Mc Taggart, Robert Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Mc William, John Tinn, James
Magee, Bryan Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
Martin, M (G'gow S'burn) Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
Maxton, John Watkins, David
Mikardo, Ian Welsh, Michael
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce White, Frank R.
Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw) Whitehead, Phillip
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wilson, William (C'try SE)
O'Halloran, Michael Winnick, David
O'Neill, Martin Woodall, Alec
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Woolmer, Kenneth
Pavitt, Laurie Wrigglesworth, Ian
Pendry, Tom Wright, Sheila
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Young, David (Bolton E)
Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Race, Reg Tellers for the Ayes:
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Mr. George Morton and Mr. Allen McKay
Richardson, Jo
Alexander, Richard Braine, Sir Bernard
Alison, Michael Bright, Graham
Alton, David Brinton, Tim
Ancram, Michael Brittan, Leon
Arnold, Tom Brooke, Hon Peter
Aspinwall, Jack Brotherton, Michael
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E) Browne, John (Winchester)
Baker, Kenneth (St. M'bone) Bruce-Gardyne, John
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Bryan, Sir Paul
Banks, Robert Buck, Antony
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Budgen, Nick
Beith, A. J. Bulmer, Esmond
Bendall, Vivian Butcher, John
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Best, Keith Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul
Bevan, David Gilroy Chapman, Sydney
Biffen, Rt Hon John Churchill, W. S.
Biggs-Davison, John Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Blackburn, John Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Clegg, Sir Walter
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Cockeram, Eric
Bowden, Andrew Cope, John
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Corrie, John
Cranborne, Viscount Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Critchley, Julian Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Crouch, David Loveridge, John
Dean, Paul (North Somerset) Luce, Richard
Dorrell, Stephen Lyell, Nicholas
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Mc Crindle, Robert
Dover, Denshore Mac Gregor, John
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Mac Kay, John (Argyll)
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Durant, Tony Mc Nair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Dykes, Hugh Mc Nair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Mc Quarrie, Albert
Eggar, Tim Madel, David
Fairbairn, Nicholas Major, John
Faith, Mrs Sheila Marland, Paul
Farr, John Marlow, Tony
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Finsberg, Geoffrey Mates, Michael
Fisher, Sir Nigel Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N) Mawby, Ray
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Forman, Nigel Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Mayhew, Patrick
Fox, Marcus Mellor, David
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Fry, Peter Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Miscampbell, Norman
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Moate, Roger
Glyn, Dr Alan Monro, Hector
Goodlad, Alastair Montgomery, Fergus
Gorst, John Moore, John
Gow, Ian Morgan, Geraint
Gower, Sir Raymond Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Gray, Hamish Mudd, David
Greenway, Harry Murphy, Christopher
Griffiths, E.Ce'ySt. Edm'ds) Neale, Gerrard
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Needham, Richard
Grist, Ian Nelson, Anthony
Grylls, Michael Neubert, Michael
Gummer, John Selwyn Newton, Tony
Hamilton, Hon A. Onslow, Cranley
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hampson, Dr Keith Osborn, John
Hannam, John Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)
Haselhurst, Alan Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hastings, Stephen Parris, Matthew
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Hawkins, Paul Pawsey, James
Hawksley, Warren Penhaligon, David
Heddle, John Percival, Sir Ian
Henderson, Barry Pink, R. Bonner
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Pollock, Alexander
Hill, James Porter, Barry
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Hooson, Tom Proctor, K. Harvey
Hordern, Peter Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Raison, Timothy
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Rathbone, Tim
Hunt, David (Wirral) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Renton, Tim
Jessel, Toby Rhodes James, Robert
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rifkind, Malcolm
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Kershaw, Anthony Rost, Peter
King, Rt Hon Tom Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Knight, Mrs Jill Scott, Nicholas
Knox, David Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lamont, Norman Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lang, Ian Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Latham, Michael Shepherd, Richard
Lawrence, Ivan Shersby, Michael
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Silvester, Fred
Lee, John Sims, Roger
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Skeet, T. H. H.
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Smith, Dudley
Speed, Keith Viggers, Peter
Speller, Tony Waddington, David
Spicer, Jim (West Dorset) Wakeham, John
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Waldegrave, Hon William
Sproat, Iain Walker, B. (Perth)
Squire, Robin Waller, Gary
Stanbrook, Ivor Ward, John
Stanley, John Warren, Kenneth
Steen, Anthony Watson, John
Stevens, Martin Wells, John (Maidstone)
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Wells, Bowen
Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire) Wheeler, John
Stokes, John Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Stradling Thomas, J. Whitney, Raymond
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Wickenden, Keith
Temple-Morris, Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Wilkinson, John
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Thompson, Donald Winterton, Nicholas
Thorne, Neil (Ilford South) Wolfson, Mark
Thornton, Malcolm Young, Sir George (Acton)
Townend, John (Bridlington) Younger, Rt Hon George
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Trippier, David Tellers for the Noes:
Trotter, Neville Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and Mr. Carol Mather.
van Straubenzee, W. R.
Vaughan, Dr Gerard

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendments made: No. 99, in page 9, line 45, leave out from 'matters' to end of line 46.—[Mr. Butcher.]

No. 106, in page 10, line 29, leave out 'section' and insert 'Part'.

No. 107, in page 10, line 31, at end insert '(a)'.—[Mr. Kenneth Baker.]

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