HC Deb 19 June 1984 vol 62 cc159-72 4.41 pm
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

I wish to draw attention to words spoken by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) during the debate on 12 June —Official Report, columns 830 and 840–1—and I beg to move, That the matter of the complaint be referred to the Committee of Privileges. Last Tuesday, 12 June, the House debated the Greater London Council (Money) (No. 2) Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Sir A. Berry) proposed an Instruction to the Committee considering the Bill to make part of the Greater London council's capital expenditure subject to Treasury consent. During the debate the hon. Member for Newham, North-West said: I know what projects will be hit if this instruction is carried. I shall use what small influence I have at county hall to ensure that we hit the constituencies of those Conservative Members who vote in favour of the instruction. There will be a certain degree of 'selective vindictiveness' —I use a phrase that has been mentioned before. There is no way that Conservative Members should think that they can escape from the consequences of their actions. I shall do my best as an individual member of the GLC to ensure that retribution is visited on the heads of Conservative Members. I hope that the GLC will ensure that the constituents of Conservative Members know exactly who is responsible for cutting projects in their areas. Then, following an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), the hon. Member continued: Conservative Members will not be allowed to get away with quietly passing this measure. No one is reporting this debate, so it will not get a great deal of publicity. They must not believe that they will get away with this action, without some retribution being visited upon them. I shall certainly use whatever influence I have at county hall to ensure that they pay the price. Later, when my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) rebuked the hon. Member with some force, the hon. Member for Newham, North-West intervened to say: I do not apologise for one word that I said, but I want the hon. Gentleman to know that I spoke as an individual Member of this House and as an individual member of the Greater London council. I do not apologise. I shall use my influence in just the way that I described."—[Official Report, 12 June 1984; Vol. 61, c. 830, 840–1.] The hon. Member was invited to withdraw those words. He has not done so. Meanwhile, I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) heard the hon. Member for Newham, North-West repeat similar remarks in a radio broadcast.

All local councillors in any local authority have some executive role in that local authority. I believe the hon. Member will not mind if I say that for some years he has been a leading and influential figure on the Greater London council. He has been chairman of two important committees. We must assume that he meant what he said and that it was not meant to be an empty threat.

Because of the meaning of the words that he used, it must be right for the House to refer the matter to the Select Committee of Privileges. The words "selective vindictiveness" in that context mean that the constituents and the constituencies of hon. Members voting in a certain way would be singled out from other constituencies for damaging reprisals.

It is the essence of parliamentary democracy that hon. Members can speak or vote without threat to themselves or to their constituents, and without intimidation. On that "Erskine May" is quite clear. It says: Attempted intimidation of Members. To attempt to influence Members in their conduct by threats is … a breach of privilege. The House cannot let this go by. We cannot submit to threats or blackmail, financial or otherwise. As Kipling put it: We never pay any-one Dane-geld, No matter how trifling the cost; For the end of that game is oppression and shame, And the nation that plays it is lost!

4.46 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I believe that this motion represents an unpardonable waste of parliamentary time. There are 4 million people unemployed, and the Government are at war with the people; yet the House chooses to debate a motion about whether comments I made should be referred to the Committee of Privileges because some London Tory Members of Parliament feel sensitive about them.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) has somewhat overstated the case. In the debate last Tuesday, 12 June, I spoke as an individual Member of the House and as an individual member of the Greater London council. I am not in control of GLC policy and I cannot commit the GLC to a particular course of action.

I remind the House of the situation on Tuesday, 12 June, when the Greater London Council (Money) (No. 2) Bill was debated. The Government were proposing—I admit they put up a number of Back Benchers to do it —a series of massive reductions in the GLC's capital spending programme for 1984–85. The effect of the instruction to the Committee was that there should be a 52 per cent. cut in the council's planned new capital expenditure. That would affect projects throughout London. When I said that I knew the projects that would be affected, I was referring to all the projects throughout London, in whatever constituency they happened to be. Those projects include nursery classes, indoor lavatories, playing fields, provision for the single homeless, new homes, environmental improvements and new roads. Why should London Tory Members of Parliament believe that they could enforce cuts in capital spending and get away with it scot free?

The hon. Member for Twickenham correctly quoted from the Official ReportWhat I said. He seems to have taken exception to the phrase "selective vindictiveness". The implication of my words needs to be clearly understood. The meaning was that, when decisions were being taken at county hall as between which capital projects should proceed, and where all other questions were equal, I would argue, as an individual member of the GLC, that discrimination should be exercised against those projects which were in the constituencies of the Tory Members of Parliament who forced the cuts to be made in the first place.

I am sure that the overriding concern of the GLC would always be the needs of Londoners, as it always has been; but where hard choices have to made, and all other things being equal, I believe that the voting record of Tory MPs should be taken into account.

The word "blackmail" has been bandied about. Blackmail presupposes a threat to extract something. Last Tuesday, as ever, Tory MPs were beyond reason or threat. I told them honestly what I would seek to do after the vote. There was no thought whatsoever in my mind that hon. Members would or should interpret my words as a pre-vote threat; rather, that they should interpret them as a post-vote promise.

All Members of Parliament, Mr. Speaker, must accept the consequences of their actions and not whinge afterwards. When it comes to acting vindictively, few could match the record of the present Government. The entire local government strategy is based on vindictiveness——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must confine his remarks to the motion before us and not go wide of it.

Mr. Banks

But the term "selective vindictiveness" is one that seems to have affected hon. Members opposite. I was merely seeking to demonstrate that selective vindictiveness lies at the centre of the Government's strategy with regard to local government.

The abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils is based on selective vindictiveness. They are all Labour-controlled authorities. The rate-capping hit list that we have heard so much about is similarly based on a Government strategy that is singling out those Labour local authorities that choose to defend their services, rather than bow down to the diktats of the Government.

I ask the House, to balance the Government's real selective vindictiveness against my few gentle words. I spoke honestly, if somewhat robustly, during the debate last Tuesday. I was not seeking to influence the voting of hon. Members opposite. They are beyond hope. What I said was in the spirit of robust debate and, in my opinion, was not a breach of parliamentary privilege.

The hon. Member then withdrew.

4.54 pm
Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

It is with sadness that I rise to speak on this matter, because the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is, like myself, a new Member of the House. We came here on the same day. I have listened with regret to the attitudes taken by the hon. Member during his speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order"]

Mr. Speaker

I must say to hon. Members that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is withdrawing in accordance with precedent.

Mr. Tracey

It must be accepted by us all that when we are Members of such an august place as this we must conduct ourselves according to the rules. We must be the guardians of our own rules and stand up for them. It is for that reason that I supported my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) in writing to you, Mr. Speaker, on the matter.

I was shocked indeed to hear what the hon. Member for Newham, North-West said during the debate. He continued to say it, not once but several times. It was, of course, heavily reported in the press. I was shocked to hear him once more speaking in an interview and repeating the same sort of threats on LBC during last Wednesday morning.

Because of the heavy reporting, I and other right hon. and hon. Members in London have received very worried messages and telephone calls from constituents. I am sure that their fear is shared by many Conservative leaders of borough councils in London. It was made clear—and I shall repeat one of his sentences in answer to what we have just heard from the hon. Member for Newham, North-West— I shall do my best as an individual member of the GLC to ensure that retribution is visited on the heads of Conservative Members."—[Official Report, 12 June 1984; Vol. 61, c. 830.] That was a very clear threat to those of us who supported the instruction on the Bill. I fear, Mr. Speaker, that that was a typical act, of the sort that we are beginning to see certainly in London politics, but also in a wider area, and which often comes from hon. Members who are not prepared to accept the rules.

4.56 pm
Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

Mr. Speaker, I hope that the House will decide to refer this matter to the consideration of the Committee of Privileges, and for a very specific reason. There seems to me no doubt, if the words in question had been spoken by anyone who was not an hon. Member, that that would have constituted a most gross contempt of the House and it would have been incumbent upon the House to proceed against him. But that does not necessarily apply to an hon. Member. We must be particularly careful that we do nothing that limits the freedom of expression and of speech of hon. Members in the Chamber and in their capacity as Members of Parliament.

This is a matter on which we need advice, after the precedents have been carefully considered and, in a cooler atmosphere, after the matter has been debated by the Committee of Privileges. I would be sorry if we should fail to deal with an allegation that might tend in future to limit the freedom of debate and of speech in this House. I think that the Committee of Privileges can serve us best, and I hope that we shall seek its help.

4.57 pm
Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

I rise to draw to your attention, Mr. Speaker, that, not for the first time, there is an extremely serious error in "Erskine May" on this matter. As far too many right hon. and hon. Members regard "Erskine May" as authoritative, I should draw this matter to the attention of the House. At page 174, "Erskine May" says, quite wrongly: Where the Member complained of is present when the complaint is made, or attends pursuant to the order of the House, it is the rule that he should be heard in explanation or exculpation as soon as the question on the motion founded upon the comp taint is proposed from the chair, and then withdraw". It goes on to say at the end of the paragraph: If the Member does not withdraw, of his own accord, the Speaker will direct him to do so. That is wholly incorrect, Mr. Speaker. I raised this very point in the Maudling case, and Mr. Speaker Thomas, your predecessor, ruled that neither a Standing Order of the House nor any other requirement entailed an hon. Member withdrawing. It was the clear wish of the House that hon. Members complained of should hear all charges made against them.

Because this false doctrine has been repeated in the latest edition of "Erskine May", I want formally to place on record once again the danger of relying on "Erskine May". I suspect that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has withdrawn from the debate in the erroneous belief that there is a rule that he should do so, and has founded his erroneous belief on the false statement in "Erskine May". The House should be warned, once again, of the danger of relying on a fallible reference work, as if it were a statement of authority, which it is not and never can be.

4.59 Pm

Mr. Michael Foot) (Blaenau Gwent

I am sorry to disagree with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who has spoken on a matter of privilege, because we have usually been in agreement on these matters. I strongly disagree with what he said to the House a few minutes ago, and I should like to say why.

Over the past few years there has been a change in the procedure for dealing with privilege. That has brought about a great improvement. The change has meant that fewer issues of privilege have been raised. They have been sifted through Mr. Speaker's Office, which has meant a great reduction in the number of privilege cases brought to the House. That is greatly to the benefit of the House of Commons, and it has sustained the principle that the right hon. Gentleman was enunciating—that we in this House should strongly uphold the rights of free speech and do everything in our power to prevent any interruption of that process.

However, under the new procedure, even when it is agreed by you, Mr. Speaker, that an hon. Member should have the right to move his motion, that does not mean that the House of Commons has to agree with that proposition. We have every right to listen to what is said by the mover of the motion, to take into account various factors, including those mentioned by the right hon. Member for Down, South, and to decide that we do not want the matter to be sent to the Committee of Privileges. I shall give some reasons why it is wrong in this instance.

If the matter is sent to the Committee of Privileges, there will be an elaborate investigation, and it is likely that there will be disagreement in the Committee. The matter will then have to come back to the House, and that will not settle the question. There will have to be a debate. Far from that ending the matter, it is likely to be extended over a much longer period.

Therefore, I appeal to the House to exercise its sense and to finish the matter here and now. The best way to do so is, having aired the matter, for the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) to withdraw his motion. If he does not do that, I urge the House to reject his motion. Members of Parliament, above all other people, must show that they have thick skins to stand up to these matters. They have available the means of answering all the accusations made against them. If some London Members did not like the accusations made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), they have every opportunity of answering them inside or outside the House. That is the proper way to deal with those matters.

If the matter were referred to the Committee of Privileges, and if the Committee upheld the claim made by the hon. Member for Twickenham, there would be a limitation on the speech of hon. Members. It is much better for us in the House to show that we are in favour of the full cut and thrust of debate.

Privilege matters are not for the Government. I hope that the Leader of the House will not support this proposition.

The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Foot

I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman is shaking his head. In most cases, we have been in agreement.

I suggest to the hon. Member for Twickenham that the best way to deal with the matter is for him, having aired it, to withdraw his motion. If he does not, I urge the House to reject it, in the name of free speech.

5.3 pm

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you played your part in deciding to give precedence to the motion in today's business. Under our new procedures for discussing matters of privilege, that is how we go forward.

I was provoked by what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) to speak at this point. It is right to consider whether it is sensible, whether we are right, and whether the House of Commons is sufficiently seized of the matter to go through the procedure and rigmarole of reference to the Committee of Privileges. I should like to put two or three points to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House, to show why, in my view, it would be a mistake so to proceed.

My arguments are these. First, I remind the House of a ruling that you gave, Mr. Speaker, on another matter concerning the use of unparliamentary language. You said that a great deal depended upon the context in which the alleged offence took place. I agree that the context is extremely important. If we stand back for a moment from the passions involved and consider the context in which those exchanges took place and those words were said, we see that the context was part of a series of debates on the Greater London council, which, whatever other hon. Members think, is faced with limitations on its powers and its expenditure, rate capping, the abolition of voting in London and the abolition of the council itself. Whatever else the House may say about that, there is likely to be a highly charged atmosphere. It was in that highly charged atmosphere that the remarks were made. Therefore, the context is important.

My second point concerns the seriousness and gravity of the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is, as he went out of his way to stress, one member of the GLC. I remind the House that last time we considered a matter of privilege it was on almost exactly the same issue. I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that it was a voice from outside the House, so it was much more serious. It was alleged that voices were heard in county hall threatening Members with a selective cut off of benefits and capital allocation if they voted in a way that the GLC disapproved. It turned out not to be the case. A letter was read out by your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, on 19 January 1983, making it absolutely plain that it was the policy of the GLC that decisions on which projects would proceed would not be based on how MPs voted but on the needs of London. The leader of the GLC added these words: 'the GLC will continue to allocate resources on the basis of need. To do otherwise would be to penalise the working people of London'."—[Official Report, 19 January 1983; Vol. 35, c. 339.] I have no doubt that that remains the policy of the GLC and would remain the policy supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West, who is a member of that authority. [HON. MEMBERS: "He did not say that."] The third thing that I shall mention is what my hon. Friend did say, and his intention, which he expressed a few minutes ago. He went out of his way to say that he was not seeking to influence the vote on the day. That is what he said to the House in what must be considered a personal statement involving his personal honour. He said that he was not seeking to influence the vote, although he did not withdraw what he said about taking action afterwards if he had his way. However, in no sense will he get his way because it is not part of the policy of the authority of which he is a member.

We have a vast machinery to consider matters of privilege. Among other things, "Erskine May", which, I agree, we have to read with great care, tells us that privilege is basically about an act which obstructs or impedes any Member of the House in the discharge of his duty. I do not honestly think that what was said and the influence and authority of the hon. Member who said it would in any way affect the conduct of Members of the House and prevent them from discharging their proper duties.

Therefore, I hope that the House will reject the motion or, better still, that the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) will withdraw it.

5.7 pm

Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)

I would like to believe that the right hon. Members for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) and for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) are correct, but I do not think that they are. After the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) made his statement last week, he had more than one opportunity to withdraw it in the House not only that day but again two days later. However, he consistently refused to do so.

When hon. Members are elected to this House, we are proud of the fact that we take up certain privileges. One of the privileges that we prize most is the ability to speak without fear or favour on behalf of our constituents. In this case, an hon. Member was threatening other hon. Members that if they failed to do what he wanted he would bring retribution upon them. That is an attempt to take away one of the privileges of Members of the House.

Therefore, I have no wish to encourage my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) to withdraw his motion. I hope that he will pursue it to a vote if necessary, because I believe that the only answer in this case is for the matter to be referred to the Committee of Privileges.

5.9 pm

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

I hope that the whole House will reject this absurd motion, which arises from the antics of weasels in Twickenham. The last time that I heard the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) speak was on 24 February this year, at the Maidstone college of art. His speech then, like his speech this afternoon, was full of unction and piety and laced with pantomime tickling and farce. He began by developing the spermatozoic theory of art. That is the theory that the love of art stems from the genes in the sperm. He said that we could be sure that his love of art was genuine because his wife, his granny, his nephews and his nieces——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that an important debate is due to take place after the House has dealt with this issue.

Mr. Sedgemore

Indeed, Mr. Speaker. However, the hon. Gentleman referred to two matters which are pertinent to this debate and to the serious charges that, in his absurd way, he is seeking to bring against my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). First, the hon. Gentleman developed a theory of art which was in complete contradiction to that which my hon. Friend has developed. That shows that there may be an element of ideological spite in the bringing of the motion. However, in what was perhaps the worst economic diatribe ever issued on any platform in any land at any time, the hon. Gentleman went on to call for massive public expenditure cuts. That is precisely what my hon. Friend has promised the hon. Gentleman in his constituency. That being so, why is he croaking and squawking in mounting a spurious protest?

The House should reject the motion, for two basic reasons. First, it must decide whether it is an adult institution which believes in free speech. Secondly, it must decide whether it wants to become an institution which has 654 Members of little Ruritania in which we all wear funny hats and take ourselves desperately seriously and pompously on these occasions. I am sure that no one can surpass the hon. Member for Twickenham in pious pomposity. If the House is to have some relevance to freedom of speech and decency, we should reject the motion out of hand.

5.12 pm
Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) appeared to be talking about what he described as an accusation. We are talking about a threat, a promise or a declared intention, and not an accusation.

Secondly, the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) gave the impression that the words spoken by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) during consideration of the Greater London Council (Money) (No. 2) Bill were uttered in a heated debate. The fact is that it was not a heated debate and there were genuine opportunities for the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the promise of selective vindictiveness. That he failed to do, and has still failed to do. Like the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), I believe that the matter should go to the Committee of Privileges and we should then consider its report.

5.13 pm
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

I support the suggestion that the motion should be withdrawn or rejected. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) was merely drawing attention to the implications for Londoners of the retribution that the Conservative Back-Bench group, inspired by the Government, was seeking to impose upon so many poor people in London. The issue that should be before the House is the treatment of British people, especially those in the poorest inner city areas, by Conservative Members.

Mr. Speaker

Order. But that is not the issue before the House. The issue before the House is that which appears on the Order Paper.

Mr. Corbyn

I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. There must be a sense of proportion in the treatment of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West. As a member of the GLC, my hon. Friend was saying that the GLC would be grievously affected by the Conservative Back-Bench move to withhold millions of pounds by blocking the Greater London Council (Money) (No. 2) Bill and he spoke of the effect that that would have on Londoners. He said that, "all things being equal", he would treat differently constituencies represented by Conservative Members as opposed to those represented by Labour Members.

Millions of pounds have been removed from London. The antics of Conservative Members have cost the borough in my constituency £2 million in housing and other forms of capital investment. Those who will be denied any opportunity of decent housing in future by Conservative Members will have no means of answering back, but Conservative Members have every means of speaking up in their own defence at every stage.

I hope that the House will reject the motion. Conservative Members have adequate access to speaking in this place and their friends in the media have the power to ensure that their views are known. London's homeless and those of other inner city areas do not have that right.

5.15 pm
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

The electorate will find it strange when it hears that the House is upset that one of its Members, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), decided to say on one occasion, when there were many other opportunities, that some politicians might be hurt in their constituencies as a result of a statement made in this place, which some electors refer to as "pork-barrel palace". That happens every day that the House sits. The Government have put 4 million on the dole. Every Conservative Member has decided that in the north of England and in many other areas there will be worse unemployment than elsewhere.

What about Members who decide on their own account to restrict their own freedom? No one has made them do that. About 350 of them have decided to become directors of various companies. I am told that one Conservative Member has more than 20 directorships. Members of Parliament who have accepted directorships have decided to become part-time Members when it comes to looking after their constituents. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West has not told 350 Conservative Members to take directorships and to restrict their freedom to look after their constituents. He has not said, "If you happen to run into conflict with your job as an MP"—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not the issue before us.

Mr. Skinner

Of course it is.

Mr. Speaker

No. The hon. Gentleman is an experienced parliamentarian and he knows that he must confine himself to the issue that is before the House, which is a complaint, and should not go wider than that.

Mr. Skinner

I am trying to explain the issue for the electorate, Mr. Speaker, and not for the cosy club in this place. This is a matter for everyone outside the House. The electorate will think that this place is super-sensitive if a Labour Member—I stress, Labour—is called to task for saying something that many Tory Members are putting into practice every day.

It is unchallenged that many Tory Members are restricting their own freedom. If a Member has 27 directorships, it must limit his ability to carry out his work on behalf of his constituents. There are 350 directors, 150 consultancies and adviserships, 50 Lloyd's underwriters and about 100 lawyers in this place. Many of them—but not my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore)— work in the courts. That is why we start at half-past two in the afternoon. Every one of them is restricting his freedom and ability to serve his constituents.

I have never known such a load of pompous arrogance in my time. Someone has had the nerve to say, "By the way, the Government are abolishing the GLC and all those who represent London constituencies and constituencies within metropolitan authorities, including Tory Members who marched through the Government's Division Lobby, will be affected." One of my hon. Friends has had the guts to say—he was fortified by some of his hon. Friends—that there will be consequences for Tory Members. He has had the guts not to bow down and we have every right — indeed, a duty — to say that the Tories are acting similarly every day.

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Skinner

I have not finished yet, Mr. Speaker. You used to be a Whip, Mr. Speaker. You were in the Conservative Whips' Office for many years. You know as well as anyone else who has been in that office, including those who have been hanging around this place for a number of years, that there are many hon. Members who get trips abroad——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to be brief. We have an important debate ahead of us and many right hon. and hon. Members, including Labour Members, want to participate in it.

Mr. Skinner

Yes, it is an important issue, as is free speech, and that has been said over and over again. When Members decide to go on phoney fact-finding trips—they are mainly Conservative Members who have been assisted by the Government Whips, but they include Labour Members—they are restricting their freedom to represent their constituents. That is the result of them lying in the sun in the Caribbean.

I know why some Tory Members will walk into the Division Lobby with the hon. Member for Twickenham. It is because the house is based on patronage, and they have a weather eye on the Tory Front Bench. Many Tory Members will think about a tinpot job, a junior Minister's job, a bag-carrying job or, for those who have missed the boat, a knighthood or peerage. That is how the House operates.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that the hon. Member is concluding his remarks.

Mr. Skinner

Yes, Sir, I have nearly finished. The House is based on patronage, and it stinks. That is why I shall support my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West in his attempt to stop this stupid motion being carried.

5.20 pm
The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)

The Standing Order requires that this privilege debate takes precedence and that requires the House to show great self-discipline, because the debate comes before other business. Today it comes before a most important defence debate. This debate has been most entertaining and fairly wide-ranging and was not confined religiously and pedantically to the motion. I thank the Members who spoke, not least the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who is House of Lords material of the decade.

The contributions from the right hon. Members for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) and for Down, South (Mr. Powell) characterised the debate. The House could not have two more respected and revered proceduralists to distinguish its debates. They put to the House its choice. The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent said that, although the subject was important, the House must have a sense of proportion about such a matter, and that we may find that we have done little more than cause a modest degree of martyrdom. The right hon. Gentleman is as good a martyr to many causes as any. He argued, on the principle of good, sound common sense, that we should move to next business.

By contrast, the right hon. Member for Down, South suggested that the topic was not wholly dissimilar from a recent debate regarding remarks made outside the House, when the House decided that it was appropriate to refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges for further advice and consent. He said that it would be undesirable if we did not again go to the Committee of Privileges. Otherwise, it might seem that there was one attitude for remarks made outside the House and another for remarks made in the House. That raises an issue of interest and fascination, and possibly of principle.

When we vote, which I hope we shall do soon, I shall consider it a privilege to be in the same Lobby as the right hon. Member for Down, South.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 303, Noes 135.

Division No. 373] [5.23 pm
Adley, Robert Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Aitken, Jonathan Boscawen, Hon Robert
Alexander, Richard Bottomley, Peter
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Alton, David Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Amess, David Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Ancram, Michael Braine, Sir Bernard
Arnold, Tom Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Aspinwall, Jack Bright, Graham
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Brinton, Tim
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Brooke, Hon Peter
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
Baldry, Anthony Browne, John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Bruinvels, Peter
Batiste, Spencer Bryan, Sir Paul
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.
Beith, A. J. Buck, Sir Antony
Bellingham, Henry Budgen, Nick
Bendall, Vivian Bulmer, Esmond
Benyon, William Burt, Alistair
Berry, Sir Anthony Butcher, John
Best, Keith Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Carlisle, John (N Luton)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Body, Richard Cartwright, John
Cash, William Holt, Richard
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hordern, Peter
Chapman, Sydney Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Chope, Christopher Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Howells, Geraint
Clegg, Sir Walter Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Cockeram, Eric Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Colvin, Michael Hunt, David (Wirral)
Conway, Derek Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Coombs, Simon Hunter, Andrew
Cope, John Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Couchman, James Irving, Charles
Critchley, Julian Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Crouch, David Jessel, Toby
Currie, Mrs Edwina Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dickens, Geoffrey Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Dicks, Terry Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Dorrell, Stephen Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Dover, Den Key, Robert
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward King, Rt Hon Tom
Dunn, Robert Kirkwood, Archy
Durant, Tony Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Dykes, Hugh Knowles, Michael
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Lamont, Norman
Eggar, Tim Latham, Michael
Emery, Sir Peter Lawler, Geoffrey
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lawrence, Ivan
Fallon, Michael Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Farr, John Lee, John (Pendle)
Favell, Anthony Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fletcher, Alexander Lester, Jim
Fookes, Miss Janet Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Forman, Nigel Lightbown, David
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lilley, Peter
Forth, Eric Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Lord, Michael
Fox, Marcus Luce, Richard
Franks, Cecil MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Freeman, Roger Maclean, David John
Gale, Roger Maginnis, Ken
Galley, Roy Major, John
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Maples, John
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Marland, Paul
Garel-Jones, Tristan Marlow, Antony
Glyn, Dr Alan Mates, Michael
Goodlad, Alastair Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gower, Sir Raymond Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Greenway, Harry Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Gregory, Conal Meadowcroft, Michael
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Mellor, David
Grist, Ian Meyer, Sir Anthony
Ground, Patrick Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Grylls, Michael Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Hampson, Dr Keith Monro, Sir Hector
Hancock, Michael Montgomery, Fergus
Hanley, Jeremy Moore, John
Hannam, John Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hargreaves, Kenneth Moynihan, Hon C.
Haselhurst, Alan Neale, Gerrard
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Needham, Richard
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Nelson, Anthony
Hayes, J. Neubert, Michael
Hayhoe, Barney Newton, Tony
Hayward, Robert Nicholls, Patrick
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Norris, Steven
Heathcoat-Amory, David Oppenheim, Philip
Heddle, John Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Henderson, Barry Ottaway, Richard
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Hicks, Robert Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Parris, Matthew
Hind, Kenneth Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Patten, John (Oxford)
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Pattie, Geoffrey
Pawsey, James Sumberg, David
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Tapsell, Peter
Penhaligon, David Taylor, John (Solihull)
Porter, Barry Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Temple-Morris, Peter
Price, Sir David Terlezki, Stefan
Proctor, K. Harvey Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Raffan, Keith Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Rathbone, Tim Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Renton, Tim Thornton, Malcolm
Rhodes James, Robert Thurnham, Peter
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Tracey, Richard
Rifkind, Malcolm Trotter, Neville
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Twinn, Dr Ian
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rossi, Sir Hugh Viggers, Peter
Rowe, Andrew Waddington, David
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Ryder, Richard Waldegrave, Hon William
Sackville, Hon Thomas Walden, George
Sayeed, Jonathan Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wallace, James
Shelton, William (Streatham) Waller, Gary
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Shersby, Michael Warren, Kenneth
Silvester, Fred Watson, John
Sims, Roger Watts, John
Skeet, T. H. H. Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wheeler, John
Soames, Hon Nicholas Whitfield, John
Speed, Keith Wilson, Gordon
Spencer, Derek Winterton, Mrs Ann
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Winterton, Nicholas
Squire, Robin Wood, Timothy
Stanbrook, lvor Woodcock, Michael
Stanley, John Yeo, Tim
Steel, Rt Hon David Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stern, Michael Younger, Rt Hon George
Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Tellers for the Ayes:
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Mr. Ian Lang and Mr. Tim Sainsbury.
Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Stradling Thomas, J.
Abse, Leo Boyes, Roland
Anderson, Donald Bray, Dr Jeremy
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Buchan, Norman
Ashton, Joe Caborn, Richard
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Campbell-Savours, Dale
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Canavan, Dennis
Barnett, Guy Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Clarke, Thomas
Bell, Stuart Clay, Robert
Benn, Tony Clwyd, Ms Ann
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cohen, Harry
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. McNamara, Kevin
Conlan, Bernard McTaggart, Robert
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) McWilliam, John
Craigen, J. M. Madden, Max
Crowther, Stan Marek, Dr John
Cunningham, Dr John Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dalyell, Tam Martin, Michael
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Maxton, John
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Meacher, Michael
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Michie, William
Dewar, Donald Mikardo, Ian
Dixon, Donald Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Dobson, Frank Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Dormand, Jack O'Brien, William
Douglas, Dick O'Neill, Martin
Dubs, Alfred Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Duffy, A. E. P. Park, George
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Parry, Robert
Eadie, Alex Patchett, Terry
Eastham, Ken Pavitt, Laurie
Ellis, Raymond Pike, Peter
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Fatchett, Derek Prescott, John
Fisher, Mark Radice, Giles
Flannery, Martin Redmond, M.
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Forrester, John Richardson, Ms Jo
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Freud, Clement Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
George, Bruce Robertson, George
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Rogers, Allan
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Rooker, J. W.
Harman, Ms Harriet Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Rowlands, Ted
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Ryman, John
Haynes, Frank Sheerman, Barry
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hogg, N. (Cnauld & Kilsyth) Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Home Robertson, John Skinner, Dennis
Hoyle, Douglas Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Stott, Roger
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Strang, Gavin
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Straw, Jack
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
John, Brynmor Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Johnston, Russell Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Leighton, Ronald Wareing, Robert
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Weetch, Ken
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Welsh, Michael
Litherland, Robert Winnick, David
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Young, David (Bolton SE)
Loyden, Edward
McCartney, Hugh Tellers for the Noes:
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Mr. Brian Sedgemore and Mr. Jeremy Corbyn.
McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered, That the matter of the complaint be referred to the Committee of Privileges.