HC Deb 01 February 1989 vol 146 cc317-37

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the county constituency of Pontypridd in the room of Brynmor Thomas John, Esquire, deceased.—[Mr. Foster.]

4.55 pm
Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

I wish to speak not as a procedural way of delaying a debate or to refer to the impeccable tradition and service of Brynmor John, whom we still mourn in this House, but to refer to the technical issue of the nature of the electorate and the rights of potential electors to be registered and able to vote. I have made this technical objection to raise the issue and to request the official Opposition Chief Whip to delay the moving of the writ so that all the potential voters will have an opportunity to register and vote.

At the beginning of this year, it became clear to the electoral registration officers of the Taff Ely borough council which is the district authority for the parliamentary constituency of Pontypridd, that there were at that time some 4,000 houses in the Pontypridd constituency without an entry in the electoral register. Under the legislation, those who are not registered are of course entitled to be placed on supplementary lists, but, because of the changes in electoral law passed by the House last year, many electors are not yet aware of the way in which the registration rules operate. The Taff Ely borough council officers have contacted those electors and we understand that the rate of response is improving, but, if the election is to be held on 23 February, many electors—hundreds, possibly thousands—including a high proportion of younger people, may not by then have registered their right to vote.

The names of those wishing to vote in any election held before 28 February will have to have been received by electoral registration officers before 19 January because supplementary lists normally come into effect on the first day of the month. By calling the election one or two weeks later, in March, there would be a greater opportunity for unregistered electors to have their names entered on supplementary lists and, therefore, to be able to vote.

I raise this issue because I am anxious that all electors entitled to vote should be registered to do so. We in Wales and elsewhere in the United Kingdom do not want to slip into American-style electoral practices where non-registration can have as much effect on election results as the votes cast. For those reasons, I object technically to the moving of the writ and request the Labour Opposition to defer moving the writ in the interests of democracy.

4.57 pm
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)

I should first like to pay tribute to Brynmor John, who died so sadly on 13 December. He had been a Member of this House for more than 18 years and was extremely well liked and respected on both sides of the Chamber. He will be greatly missed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is the convention not only that the writ should be moved within three months of the vacancy occurring but also that it should he moved by the party whose Member formerly occupied the seat, and that party should have priority in choosing the day for the by-election. That is what the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) is now seeking to do, and I do not think that there can be much objection to it.

The comments of the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas) about the electoral register will have been heard in the appropriate quarters. The new register comes into force on 16 February, in time for the by-election, as he said. Any possible omissions are a matter for the local registration officer. About 4,000 homes were missing from the first draft roll, but the local registration officer recanvassed and the 1989 register now has about 1,250 more electors than the 1988 register. The claims of the Plaid Cymru candidate do not bear much inspection. The House should support the motion.

4.59 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

I join the Leader of the House in paying tribute to the late Brynmor John, who was popular not only in the House but with the electors of Pontypridd—rightly so, because he represented them well for many years. They will miss him, and so shall we.

I also join the Leader of the House in responding to the point raised by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas). The electoral registration officer for the district council of Taff Ely said that during the preparation of the 1989 register of electors it became apparent that there would be a parliamentary by-election in 1989. At that time, 89 per cent. of the householders in the constituency had responded to the original canvass. A further canvass was undertaken and 4,000 householders were identified as not having responded. They were then re-canvassed. One thousand six hundred people immediately responded, increasing the percentage response to 94.5 per cent. However, the remainder of those who had not responded but were on the 1988 register have been carried forward to be included in the 1989 register, which will therefore include 1,260 more electors than appeared on last year's register.

Any concern that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy may have felt is rendered irrelevant by the electoral registration officer's information. The hon. Gentleman may be more concerned about the limited number who will register votes for his candidate than about those who will register for the election.

5.2 pm

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

I should like to link my name to the remarks already made by other hon. Members about the late Brynmor John. I recall his last speech in the Welsh Grand Committee. We crossed swords there, but generally he had a gentle and polite way of treating his political opponents.

The Pontypridd by-election should go ahead as soon as possible, if only to spare the Opposition the trauma of deciding where they stand on Welsh devolution. That will be a major issue in the by-election—so major that the Leader of the Opposition was reported in last Friday's Western Mail, the national newspaper of Wales, as having come "off the fence on devolution". The Western Mail said that the Leader of the Opposition gave his clearest commitment so far to the principle of establishing an elected assembly in Cardiff…he told a press conference at Westminster, 'I am in favour of devolution throughout Britain'". It said that the conversion came only weeks before the 10th anniversary of the ill-fated devolution referendum, which the then left-wing back bencher"— I think that is a reference to the Leader of the Opposition— did much to sink as a leader of the `No' campaign.

By Saturday, 28 January, a Western Mail headline read: Off-the-fence report gets short shrift". The article said: Labour leader Mr. Neil Kinnock yesterday waded into the Western Mail report saying that he had come off the fence over devolution. He said it was a 'mischievous misrepresentation or gross ignorance of what I have said and stood for over the last 15 years'. The Western Mail report he referred to as 'palpable nonsense'. He told a Cardiff press conference, 'Wales will get devolution (under a Labour Government), but what is not yet determined is the form of devolution.' The article continued: While Mr. Kinnock said he supported devolution, he refused to say what form it should take, and whether Wales would remain one unit or be divided into two or three.

Presumably the Leader of the Opposition is working on the basis that, if Wales and the United Kingdom are divided into small enough bits, one bit will eventually return a Labour majority. I do not know how small those bits would have to be.

It will be of great importance to the people of Pontypridd when they vote to know that the Western Mail continued:

After the press conference, Mr. Jones"—the Welsh chairman of the Labour party— admitted he personally had not seen any replies from the 2,500 organisations approached in Wales which favoured the possible division of Wales spoken of by Mr. Kinnock.

The article said that the deputy leader of the Labour party, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), as chairman of the central review group, took a stronger line on a Welsh assembly than Mr. Kinnock. In late December, he published his own views involving a Welsh assembly possessing powers to make its own laws and to raise the necessary revenue. The article quoted the Opposition Leader as saying: 'In the North-East, the predominant demand is for an economic planning council'. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) has heard much demand from people in the north-east for an economic planning council. I am sure that is all they talk about.

The article quoted the Labour leader as saying that in London the demand was for a strategic authority, and 'in Wales the demand is for a different form to Scotland'"—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that it is in order to quote from an article, but not to read at length.

Mr. Bennett

I am trying to be fair to the Leader of the Opposition. It is important for the electors in the Pontypridd by-election to be aware of what the Leader of the Opposition said and that he should not be misrepresented.

Mr. Gwilym Jones (Cardiff, North)

I know that my hon. Friend is trying to be fair to the Leader of the Opposition. He is right to raise the Opposition Leader's conflicting and confusing stance on devolution during our debate on the writ for the Pontypridd by-election. However, perhaps this is not merely the Leader of the Opposition shooting himself in the foot again, but a desperate tactic on the part of the Labour party to talk up the Plaid Cymru campaign, which until last week was a nonentity, because it is afraid of the rapid advance of the Conservative candidate, Mr. Nigel Evans.

Mr. Bennett

My hon. Friend makes a telling point. There may be a second reason why the Opposition want the by-election to take place quickly. Perhaps they have an attack of Govanitis. They saw what happened in that Scottish constituency, where there was a larger Labour majority than the Labour candidate enjoyed at the last Pontypridd election and were worried that, if the debate was allowed to continue, and Plaid Cymru and other candidates were allowed to question the stance of the Leader of the Opposition from day to day, they might find themselves in even more of a mess on devolution.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)

Perhaps the Opposition wish to move the by-election writ as quickly as possible because, during the past 10 years, they have changed their view on defence—an important issue for everyone in this country—and no doubt there is concern that they may change their mind on devolution.

Mr. Bennett

That is a good point. As we discovered when we discussed Richmond, the Labour party would not like the electors to consider a range of issues, including education and defence. We can add Welsh devolution to that list, and before polling day arrives, I am sure that several other isues—for example, rates—will arise which the Labour party will not wish to discuss.

Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)

My hon. Friend was good enough to say that he had reached the conclusion that the by-election should be held straight away. Will he consider another matter, which may lead him to a different conclusion? There have been reports in the press that the Labour candidate for Pontypridd is a Communist or has Communist sympathies. My hon. Friend talked about setting up democratic institutions for Wales. Perhaps the Labour candidate does not believe in democracy.

Mr. Bennett

My hon. Friend is right. The Labour candidate for Pontypridd, according to the Leader of the Opposition, was a member of the Communist party for a short time. The Western Mail of 27 January said that the Opposition Leader said that it was a Euro-communist party at the time he was in it, and the issue has never had particular resonance in the South Wales Valleys". When the Labour candidate fell out with the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers during the 1984-85 strike, he resigned from the Communist party.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

I know that my hon. Friend is in a hurry to finish his contribution, but lest he be in too much of a hurry, I wonder if he could take note of the fact that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who is very concerned about not moving writs for by-elections, is not here—perhaps it is a call of nature or he is having a cup of tea—so can my hon. Friend go slowly through his notes? Of course, he will want to accelerate afterwards. If the hon. Gentleman is detained longer, perhaps my hon. Friend, being a kind gentleman, will send him a copy of Hansard so that he can get the full benefit of my hon. Friend's remarks.

Mr. Bennett

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's contribution. I am sure that it will be noted by my secretary, who will send a copy of Hansard to the hon. Gentleman.

The views of the Leader of the Opposition are of great interest. In the Western Mail, the Leader of the Opposition reportedly came off the fence on Friday and back-tracked a bit on Saturday. When we look at his record—because the Leader of the Opposition has challenged the Western Mail as being inaccurate—we find that when he was a Back Bencher, he said on Second Reading of the Wales Bill on 15 November 1977, which was introduced by a Labour Government: I certainly hope and confidently believe that the referendum will crush this nonsense once and for all and, with it, the architects of it and the profiteers from it, the Welsh nationalists … But we shall have some difficulty in explaining to the people of Wales the incredible waste of time and the incredible insensitivity of the Government to what they must surely know—because members of the Government are people who represent seats which are no different in any important respect from ours, in a country beset by the most enormous social and economic difficulties—is the most nominal support among the people for this constitutional change."—[Official Report, 15 November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 465-6.] So the Leader of the Opposition was attacking his own Government in 1977 and opposing in principle the whole concept of devolution.

That was not the first time that the Leader of the Opposition had changed his mind. In 1974, in an election address for the constituency of Bedwellty, as the Labour candidate he put in a line saying that he was in favour of meaningful devolution and an assembly. By 1977, he was against it; he had changed his mind again—and now he has back-tracked yet again. Is it any wonder that on Monday the Western Mail was moved to write in an editorial on the subject that there was a whiff of déjà vu around. It is better known as devolution, although some would have us believe it is the slippery slope to Home Rule. Many of the players are the same as in the great debate which preceded the 1979 referendum. Only the costumes have changed. Remember Neil Kinnock, the voluble backbencher, and Leo Abse, the flamboyant member for Pontypool, whose cut and threat despatched the then proposed devolution package (with its Welsh Assembly) into a political black hole? Ten years later Mr. Kinnock leads a Labour Party struggling to escape from its own black hole.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Remarks must be related to why the writ should or should not be moved, but not to the views and opinions of the leader of the Labour party.

Mr. Bennett

One of the major issues in the by-election will be where the Government and the Opposition parties stand on the crucial issues of Welsh devolution and separatism. We thought we knew where the Leader of the Opposition stood in 1974 and 1977, and where he stood until last Friday. We are not sure where he stood on Saturday, and even less sure where he stood on Monday or today. it is clearly important for the electors of Pontypridd to know that, but it is clearly also important for the Labour party that a by-election should take place as quickly as possible before it changes its policies and its mind again.

On 23 February, the electors will at least have the opportunity to make a decision on what they believe to he the policies of the various parties. They will find a Conservative candidate, Nigel Evans, who will stand clearly and firmly against Welsh separatism, devolution and a Mickey Mouse assembly in Cardiff, for retaining the unity of the United Kingdom and for the people of Wales having a proper voice in the House.

5.16 pm
Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

I should first like to pay tribute to the late Member for Pontypridd, Brynmor John. He was a sincere and kindly man and expressed the character of the valley from which he came. He was the epitome of the people whence he came, and it is with great regret that we have lost that Member of Parliament.

It is not for us in the House to be lectured by Nicholas-come-latelys to the Welsh political scene. I have been fighting on the issue of devolution for many years and, like many of my fellow countrymen, I have been forced to leave the country to find work.

Mr. Keith Raffan (Delyn)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Livsey

I shall not give way.

Since I have compaigned consistently on the issue of devolution for Wales, the House knows exactly where stand on that issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Scotland?"] If the writ is moved, the by-election in Pontypridd will be held on 23 February. It is regrettable that many electors in Pontypridd have not been registered at an earlier stage, but we have heard sufficient here this afternoon to know that many more people are now on the register and it is important that the people of Pontypridd have the earliest opportunity to go to the poll. They are greatly afflicted by problems of' housing and employment, in particular, and are in great need. I do not see any reason why the people of Pontypridd should have to wait any longer to be represented here, and I trust that the writ will be approved by the House this afternoon so that democracy can prevail.

5.18 pm
Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

I rise in something of a quandary. On the one hand, I should be pleased to see the electorate of Pontypridd return a Member of Parliament—and a Conservative one—as soon as possible. On the other hand, I am concerned about the effect that that might have on my constituency and my region. At this very important time in our industrial redevelopment, there arises for the people of Pontypridd the unique opportunity to place their achievements on the map of the world's industrial achievements.

Much of what has happened in south Wales has been a transformation industrially, especially with the arrival of the Ford engine plant at Bridgend with an enormous investment in jobs and money, which the electorate of Pontypridd will fully appreciate and realise to be a direct consequence of this country—I mean the United Kingdom—embracing the disciplines of a Conservative economic policy which has encouraged enormous investment in this country. There has, especially, been enormous investment in Japanese factories here and Japanese job opportunities.

The electorate of Pontypridd can put something over on the electorate in Birmingham and elsewhere by presenting themselves as an electorate ready to embrace those economic achievements and new disciplines in the workplace and the new productivity and jobs available and by advocating that theirs is the place for the Japanese Toyota company to come to invest in this country.

That places me in an embarrassing position. I know that the Conservative candidate in Pontypridd will advocate such a policy and point out the new economic vitality of the province, the new opportunities that have arisen and the economic growth and achievements that are taking place and that is the area where companies such as Toyota should come to invest. I shall read about that and see it on television and I shall be saying that I should like those jobs in the midlands as well. But we do not have a by-election, so we do not have that unique opportunity.

Mr. McLoughlin

Is my hon. Friend aware that, the other day, the Leader of the Opposition said that 1992 would steal 1 million jobs? Is that not strange bearing in mind that that was the very week that Toyota said that it wanted to come to this country to take advantage of the Community? Does my hon. Friend agree that the only way that 1992 will lead to the loss of 1 million jobs is if a Labour Government are elected?

Mr. King

My hon. Friend is right. I must point out that Toyota has not committed itself to this country just yet, but I have absolute confidence that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will leave no stone unturned to ensure that Toyota comes to this country—and, in particular, to the province of south Wales, which would be a highly acceptable place for Toyota to set up business.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin) is absolutely right. On the one hand, the Labour leader and the Labour party advocate decline, dereliction and no hope, while on the other hand the Conservative Government are bringing jobs to the province. I hope that they will continue to bring jobs, especially to Pontypridd. However, there is a price or a cost for the electorate of Pontypridd—to endorse wholly the philosophies that the Government hold so dear.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

Will my hon. Friend recognise the great work done by people who move around Wales to help the Welsh economy and Welsh political life, and pay a special tribute to "Richard Move-around-the countryside", who represents Brecon and Radnor, who went to Reading university and Bedales school in Hampshire, was a farm manager in Scotland, fought the seats of Perth and East Perthshire in 1970 and of Pembroke in 1979, before ending up with Brecon and Radnor?

Mr. King

As my hon. Friend knows, each and every member of that party has a global responsibility, so it is necessary that they adopt the maxim, "Have bag, will travel", and that is what they have done.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke said, many people have come to Wales and helped the Welsh economy. It is because they have come, and because it is an area that has turned its attention to restructuring and redeveloping itself satisfactorily, that jobs and investments come to that area not only from the United Kingdom and Europe, but from the rest of the world. I am sure that the electorate of Pontypridd cannot wait to get the election over, to prove to everybody that they are determined to continue to attract inward investment, but I am also sure that they will recognise that, for people like me, trying to attract that inward investment to our areas, the election comes as something of a setback. May the best constituency and the province win, for the sake of all those new jobs.

5.22 pm
Mr. Keith Raffan (Delyn)

I should like to join the tributes that have been paid to the late hon. Member for Pontypridd, Mr. Brynmor John. He commanded great affection among hon. Members of all parties and great respect from all hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies. He was a marvellous constituency Member and everybody is right to pay tribute to him.

Before turning to the writ, I should like to comment on the speech made by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey), who told the House that he had supported devolution for many years. Perhaps that is why his majority fell so dramatically between his by-election victory and the last election and why, with his slender majority of 56, we shall win the seat from him at the next election. I advise the hon. Gentleman to keep up the fight for devolution because then he will disappear from this place.

I turn now to the reasons for moving the writ for Pontypridd today. My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) was absolutely right about the extraordinary conversion of the Leader of the Opposition on devolution. He was the man who played such a significant and major role in bringing down the last Labour Government. He was the Labour leader of the "Wales say No" campaign in Wales, and, apart from Conservative Members, he did more than anybody else to bring down his party and defeat his own Government in 1979.

However, in his accurate remarks about devolution, my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke missed one nuance, one slight contradiction in Labour's argument. Although the Labour party proposes devolution for the people of Wales, it chose its Pontrypridd candidate in London. At the very moment that it is saying that the people of Wales should have far greater say, in Cardiff, in debating their own political future, the Labour party is saying that the Welsh Labour party is not fit to choose its own candidate for Pontypridd and that that candidate must be approved by the London-based national executive, and chosen, not because of his ability to represent constituents in this place, but because of his televisual ability to try to avoid another Govan.

That is what is at the heart of the Labour party's sudden and dramatic conversion on devolution and why, with every day that passes, the promises become more committed and more detailed. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) is now going into great detail, promising that there will be a Welsh assembly—this is even before his party's official policy review and before his party has agreed to it. Conservative Members had been under the distinct impression that such things had to be approved by the Labour party conference but, to avoid another Govan, that has gone out of the window and the Labour party is making policy on its feet. It will do anything, however desperate, to try to hold on to this seat.

The political antecedents of the Labour candidate are important. No doubt we shall be able to judge him on the hustings and that is why I am also in favour of the writ being moved as soon as possible. The Labour candidate has been a member of another political party in the relatively recent past—as recent as 1981. The Leader of the Opposition told us that the candidate was a Eurocommunist. That is fair enough and, in a sense, it is fairly flattering because a Eurocommunist is probably greatly to the Right of the Labour party in this House. I realise that that is a helpful point to make on behalf of Dr. Howells.

However, I wonder what would happen if we in the Conservative party put up a candidate in a by-election who had National Front antecedents. Think of the howls we would hear from the Labour party and how Labour Members would lambast us in press conferences day after day. I have been a candidate's aide in by-elections. I am pleased to see my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sir H. Miller), a former vice-chairman of our party, in his place. He joined me in those by-elections and we know what happens at those press conferences. Each day as the by-election continued the Labour party would concentrate on hammering home the political antecedents of our candidate, so Labour Members should realise that we are justified in inquiring into, and making points about, the recent political antecedents of the Labour candidate at Pontypridd.

The campaign will also revolve around the tremendous achievements of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales since he took office after the last general election. That is what the Labour party cannot stand. Last summer my right hon. Friend introduced the valleys initiative. He has done more for the Opposition's safe Labour seats than they ever did. What they cannot stand is that they had the opportunity, when they were in government, to act for the valleys—the hard core of their party support—their safest seats in the entire country and seats that they have consistently represented for many years. The Opposition had the opportunity to bring jobs to those valleys and to improve the housing there, but they did not do so. It is this Government, with the valleys initiative, who are doing that.

I am glad that the former shadow Secretary of State for Wales, the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), is in his place. We in Wales get rather dizzy because the Opposition change their chief shadow spokesmen so frequently. When I was with the Daily Express and someone asked me at lunch who the editor was, I used to say, "I'll check when I get back to the office and give you a ring." The position is the same with the Opposition—they change their shadow Secretaries of State for Wales with the same frequency. The right hon. Gentleman criticised the valleys initiative when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales announced it in the House, while at the same time the leaders of Labour-controlled local authorities in the valleys were welcoming it sincerely, and with open arms, knowing that they would never have had it from their own party.

In the by-election we shall see a campaign that is not only about devolution but about the economic good fortune, industrial regeneration and the housing improvements that this Conservative Government have brought to the valleys—not because we had a vested interest in doing so, and not because we shall necessarily benefit politically or electorally from them, but because we thought them right. The fact that the Opposition never introduced such an initiative will be one of the main planks of our campaign, and that is why I believe that we shall see a significant improvement in the fortunes of our party in that constituency, with our young, able, energetic and eloquent candidate, Nigel Evans.

Unemployment is falling faster in Wales, in the valleys, than almost anywhere else. In my constituency it has fallen by 46 per cent. in two years—because of the Government's policies. Under the previous and the present Secretaries of State, housing in Pontypridd that had never been improved has now been improved. The Opposition did not do it when in government—we did. It is for those reasons—the decrease in unemployment, the improved housing, the creation of jobs the clearance of derelict land, the improvement of the environment—that the Conservative party stands such a good chance of achieving a good result in this by-election. Let us get to it. Let us move the writ now so that we can begin the campaign. We have nothing to fear.

5.29 pm
Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

The House is a little ambivalent about whether the writ should be moved, hut there is no division between us in our sincere remarks about the late Brynmor John. I am sure that the people of Pontypridd will find it extremely difficult to find a candidate, from any party, who could command so much respect in the House.

When we had a debate in the House just 10 days ago on moving another writ, one of the subjects that came very much to the fore was the weather. It was said by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)—and he was supported by many of his colleagues—that there should not be a motion for a writ which would force a by-election at a time when the weather was so likely to be intemperate. This was said by people who had never ever been to north Yorkshire.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Would my hon. Friend care to reflect on the decision by his right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) to have a general election—my hon. Friend will remember it—on 28 February 1974? My right hon. Friend—no, his right hon. Friend—is not, alas, in his place. Would we not be wise to proceed with a vote on this matter without listening to the advice of his right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup?

Mr. Holt

I have to say to my hon. Friend that that was a most timely interjection—timely because he draws out of me the fact that on that bitter, cold February day I celebrated my 24th wedding anniversary with one of the biggest hidings of my life when I lost in Brent, South. and it is impressed on me that the right hon. Member for Old "somewhere or other"—I would not wish to be described as other than a candidate colleague of his in 1974—suffered from the bitter extremes.

I know that my hon. Friend followed my campaign in Brent, South very closely, but Ile probably was not fully aware that the paid-up membership of the Conservative party in that region was not overwhelming. But I did have a supporter. He was a coalman, and we used to go out day after day on a flat lorry after he had delivered his coal. We stood on the back of the lorry doing our campaigning, finishing up at the end of the day covered in snow and coal dust. It was most atrocious, but I remember it well. Perhaps everyone ought to remember that that was the sort of weather that was enjoyed in the London borough of Brent, whereas at present people up in the north-east of England, and perhaps in Pontypridd, are enjoying a magnificant sunny period.

Dr. Thomas

I can give the hon. Member a weather report for Pontypridd as of yesterday. It was fair and dry, and I expect that it will be the same tomorrow and from now until polling day.

Mr. Holt

I am very grateful for that up-to-date information. That is exactly what I was seeking to do in comparing the weather of 10 days ago, which played such a vital and germane part, with what it might be likely to be in Pontypridd. As I recall from my schoolboy knowledge of Wales, it is very wet down there in the month of February.

Mr. Gow

My hon. Friend talks about wetness. Does he recall that when we had a general election in February 1974 my—no, his—right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup was Prime Minister? Does he recall that that Government had asked the approval of Parliament to a measure that asserted that by passing an Act of Parliament the evil of inflation could be abated, and that we had a compulsory prices and incomes policy? Will my hon. Friend address his attention to that matter?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Only if it is relevant to the by-election.

Mr. Holt

Would I ever stray from the path of righteousness, Mr. Speaker? I recall very well what my hon. Friend says because, as I have just said, it was my wedding anniversary. I think that I might have misled the House over the number of years, but I will work it out, or my wife will tell me when I get home.

The important thing, in relating that to the people of Pontypridd, is that many young people in Pontypridd may be casting their vote for the first time when this election comes round.

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is a very important motion that we are debating. It is about moving a writ for a constituency in Wales. It is obviously a matter of great importance for the Labour party. I believe that at the moment, for some reason or other, there is no Labour Back Bencher from Wales in the House. I wonder if it would be possible to adjourn the debate.

Mr. Speaker

Patently that is not a matter of order.

Mr. Holt

As I was saying, these young people will be casting their votes for the first time, and they will be paying for the same possible faults of inflation and the runaway loss of their savings, and wondering how they are going to bring up their children.

I was always taught that if the Jesuits got you they had you for ever. I feel the same about Communists, and I find it very difficult to refer to anybody who has ever been a member of the Communist party as being a member of any other party. So if I slip up it will not be with any malice; it is just that it is a habit of mine always to work in that way.

I was talking about the weather in Pontypridd, and I was brought up to date on that matter. The hon. Gentleman who did so may well have checked on the weather at the moment, but has he done as my hon. Friends have and checked on the weather in Pontypridd during that crucial week in February over the last 20 years, and is he satisfied that the weather would be satisfactory and would allow all the elderly and all the other people that we heard about from the hon. Member for Bolsover to vote? One of his hon. Friends kept saying, "and the women".Might he reflect on that and say that the weather may not be right?

Mr. Robert Hayward (Kingswood)

When debating current issues in respect of Pontypridd, will my hon. Friend please recall also that trade and industry will be major subjects? No doubt the sacking by the leader of the Labour party within the last two hours of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) as trade and industry spokesman will be an issue in the Pontypridd election. If they have to sack a spokesman no doubt there is uncertainty about their policy.

Mr. Holt

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, but I believe that it is possible that one of my other hon. Friends will be making that point during the speech that I know he wishes desperately to make. But perhaps I will be excused from talking about that very embarrassing matter at this moment because I think I have enough to keep me going for the next five or six minutes.

I want to refer briefly to the question of Toyota. Everyone has seen what a magnificent success Nissan has been under a Conservative Government in going to the Labour heartlands where the Conservative Members supported the project all the way, as did all Conservatives in that area. Only today, at lunch time, I was at the launch of a new Wearside campaign led by Tyne-Tees Television, the industrialists and the people of the area. We are encouraging Toyota to go there to stand side by side with the Nissan factory.

We are not going to adopt a dog in the manger attitude just because this is not exactly a Conservative constituency at the moment. It is only a matter of time. As the people in the north of England see the benefits of this Government, gradually more and more Conservatives at all levels are being returned. And that will happen in Wales. So I imagine that there is a certain ambiguity among Welsh Members as to whether they want Toyota to go there. The last thing that the Labour party ever wants is success. Our policy is never to have poor people; we want to have only rich people. We want everyone to be in a job; we do not want to keep the people subjugated.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

I shall try to correct my hon. Friend. He is using the generic term "Welsh Members" as though Welsh Members resisted Nissan or Toyota. That is certainly not the case with Welsh Conservative Members, who are steadily increasing in number. It was inexplicable that Nissan did not go to south Wales. I am sure that Toyota will go to south Wales. The green light for Toyota to go to south Wales would be for Nigel Evans, the Conservative candidate, to be elected to Pontypridd.

Mr. Holt

I bow to my hon. Friend. He is absolutely right. One thing that would guarantee Toyota going to south Wales is the return of Nigel Evans at the by-election.

I do not wish to tax the House unnecessarily, but I shall raise another matter before I resume my seat. It is of vital interest not only to the people of Pontypridd but to my constituents in the north-east of England.

We can never get a clear-cut policy statement from any Opposition Member. The House has heard a brilliant speech about the somersaulting methods of the leader of the Labour party. I am concerned about the deputy leader of the Labour party. I wonder what he will say in Pontypridd. He has stated publicly in the north-east of England that he would have regional councils with their own tax-raising rights. Never before has that been the case.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend has asked what the right hon. Gentleman the Lunchtime O'Sparkbrook would have to say if he went to the constituency of Pontypridd. I ask my hon. Friend if he knows whether there are any decent restaurants there. [Laughter.]

Mr. Holt

I confess that, because of the laughter of other hon. Members, I did not hear my hon. Friend, but I take it that it was a germane point, and perhaps almost as relevant—[Interruption.] I must defer to my hon. Friend. He would know better than I whether there are any decent restaurants there.

Dr. Thomas

I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is an excellent Italian restaurant there called John and Maria's. I am sure that he will want to dine there, because he will have nothing else to do if he is to canvass for the Conservative candidate.

Mr. Holt

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps we can share a celebration lunch after Nigel Evans is elected.

It is important for the people of Pontypridd to have a clear statement on the Labour party's policies. Although hon. Members are discussing a writ for one constituency, we all know that, by their definition, by-elections tend to have an impact on the rest of the country. Therefore, the rest of the country will focus on how the Labour party's policies would reflect on the rest of the country, and my constituents would be frightened.

We shall have a resounding victory in Richmond. There is no doubt about that. It will shake the Opposition even more when two new Conservative Members are elected to the House.

5.42 pm
Mr. Gwilym Jones (Cardiff, North)

I start by associating myself with all that has been said about the late Brynmor John, and I do so as a neighbouring Member of Parliament, because my constituency abuts the Pontypridd constituency. Hon. Members know that I do not demur from anything that has been said about Brynmor John—a man of great kindness and gentleness, who would listen to all arguments and would steadfastly put forward his own point of view in an entirely reasonable manner. I cannot but feel that it must be at least a contradiction or, worse, an insult for the Labour party to advance its present candidate for the Pontypridd constituency. Surely all hon. Members will recollect——

Mr. Marlow

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Jones

I shall develop my point and then I will give way to my hon. Friend.

All hon. Members will recollect that Brynmor John stood for all that was best in the traditions of the Labour party—a fast-disappearing animal in the party today. Instead, the Labour party has adopted a Communist candidate for the Pontypridd constituency. Surely he is still a Communist candidate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) mentioned, we have certainly not heard of any recantation or that there has been a blinding light conversion on the road to Damascus by the Labour candidate in Pontypridd. He is merely a Communist who has changed label.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend will remember that, during an earlier intervention. I drew the attention of our hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) to the situation of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), about whom we are all deeply concerned. My hon. Friend said that he would see that he got a copy of his speech. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is now fast asleep in the Tea Room. Perhaps my hon. Friend could also undertake——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that that has anything to do with this writ.

Mr. Jones

I will not digress down that road or raise my voice so that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) can hear me.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) is temporarily absent from his place. I suggest that the Labour candidate in Pontypridd does not look like a dud candidate, or at least not in the obvious definitions of the word. He might instead be defined as a sleeper or some form of time bomb.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jones

I shall finish this point and then I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

The Labour candidate for Pontypridd might be some form of time bomb. His true colours will later be revealed for all to see, whatever protestations I am now to get from Opposition Members.

Mr. Winnick

The hon. Gentleman referred to the past background—I emphasise the word "past"—of a certain person who will be a Member of this House in the near future. Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us about his own background?

Mr. Jones

If I did that, you would rather quickly rule me out of order, Mr. Speaker, for speaking about something that was not necessarily relevant to the writ for the Pontypridd by-election. The hon. Gentleman referred to the past. I recall that, as recently as the last general election—we know how far past that was—the Labour candidate for Pontypridd admitted that he had recently joined the Labour party. He admitted also that he had so recently left the Communist party that, by the Labour party's own rules, he was not allowed to stand for Parliament. Presumably that short period has elapsed and he can stand.

I offer these comments as they are entirely relevant to the Pontypridd by-election, particularly in view of the character of the former incumbent for that constituency —a man who was greatly liked throughout the House. Indeed, I should think he was greatly liked by Opposition Members.

Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton)

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most pressing reasons why the writ should be successfully moved this afternoon is that with the forthcoming by-election in Pontypridd we will have an opportunity to debate the outbreak of authoritarianism in the Labour party? My hon. Friend will be aware that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) recently went into partnership with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit).

Mr. Speaker

Order. In what way is that relevant to the by-election?

Mr. Hamilton

It will be relevant to the by-election because it is an issue that will certainly loom large in the minds of the constituents of Pontypridd. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby is going to work for Mr. Rupert Murdoch on Sky television. As a result, the Leader of the Opposition has sacked the hon. Gentleman for Great Grimsby. That is a most appalling denial of free speech, restraint of trade, and so on. The hon. Member——

Mr. Speaker

This is supposed to be an intervention, not a speech.

Mr. Hamilton

It is an intervention and I am trying to make my point as succinctly as possible. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby is held in great affection by us all. Conservative Members are frequently accused——

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is an abuse. The hon. Gentleman is intervening in the speech of another hon. Member. He has made his point.

Mr. Jones

I accept my hon. Friend's point, that there is yet another example of the rise of authoritarianism. It was said that the rise of authoritarianism was noticeable in the recent decison of the Labour party's national executive committee conveniently to be able to ignore party conference decisions whenever it suited it to do so.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

Does my hon. Friend consider that a crucial issue in the timing of this writ is the possibility of the return of the Labour group from Russia? Maybe it is planning to bring multilateralism in our time—from Russia with love. Perhaps the idea is to leave the SLDP cruelly exposed as the only party without some kind of a defence policy and the only party with a totally idiotic policy of unilateral disarmament, or whatever it was when it last stated it. Does my hon. Friend think that that is the key to Labour's strategy in moving the writ today?

Mr. Jones

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. It is highly questionable whether there is enough time between now and 23 February for the Labour party's representatives to return from Russia and make sense of a policy which they can package up in a cohesive form. Perhaps the Labour party's Chief Whip has made a great mistake.

During the deliberations of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs this morning I learnt why the writ was to be moved today. Some hon. Members might find it difficult to appreciate how supremely important and crucial that Committee is. It has a vacancy for a Labour Member. Far from the massed ranks of Labour Members eager to fill that place, the Labour party is so desperate to find somebody to fill it that it is hoping that its candidate for the Pontypridd constituency will be successful because, on the basis of Buggin's turn and the last in principle, he will have to do duty on that Committee.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

The late Brynmor John was my first pair when I entered the House, and I want to put it on record that he was held in deep affection by hon. Members on both sides of the House. He was also helpful when I occasionally raised with him railway matters that were relevant to his constituency. My hon. Friend will know that the Wales Railway Centre in Cardiff, which was my brainchild, is connected by rail through the Pontypridd constituency with Big Pit at Blaenavon. Does my hon. Friend agree that all the candidates in the by-election should do everything that they can to keep open all the railway lines that presently pass through the Pontypridd constituency?

Mr. Jones

I go along with my hon. Friend's sentiments. He touches on some aspects that are important to the people of south Wales. The Wales Railway Centre in Cardiff will be important. I was pleased to hear of his support for Big Pit. When British Rail last appeared before the Select Committee, I asked it to reconsider improving and expanding rail links in south Wales, particularly the rail link for the new garden festival in Ebbw Vale. I am glad that it has recently announced that it hopes to have some service running up to Ebbw Vale for that festival.

My hon. Friend may also know that the Wales Railway Centre is linked with my constituency and the neighbouring constituency of Pontypridd by the old Taff Vale railway line. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend on the importance of our local railway lines, which the former Secretary of State for Wales, Lord Crickhowell, and the present Secretary of State for Wales have done so much to encourage.

On this occasion it would not be inappropriate for me to pay tribute to Mid Glamorgan and South Glamorgan county councils. They do not get much right, but they have followed the urgings and advice of my right hon. Friend and his predecessor in the exciting plans for south Wales railways.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

My hon. Friend mentioned the defence issue, which is so important to the people of Pontypridd. My hon. Friend will know that the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) is a native of the Pontypridd area. No doubt, as a newly appointed junior Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Lady will be making a visit to Pontypridd to discuss defence. Does my hon. Friend think that when she does so she might explain what she means by reciprocal unilateralism?

Mr. Jones

I hesitate to mention it, but I think that my hon. Friend means Pontypool, not Pontypridd. It is close to Pontypridd in geographical terms. However, I suggest that that question is not best answered now, certainly not at the time of the Pontypridd by-election, because the last thing that the Labour party wants to do in the interests of hanging on to the marginal seat of Pontypridd is to allow the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) to run riot there.

Mr. Marlow

The writ was moved in good spirit and good heart by the Labour party at a time of peace in its ranks. But since the writ has been moved, an unholy row has broken out. An Opposition Front-Bench spokesman has been sacked, and sacked by a Welsh Member of Parliament—the Leader of the Opposition. The Opposition might want to change their mind about the writ, and one reason for that is that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) is in such a fury with the Leader of the Opposition that he may well wish to resign his seat and fight that of Pontypridd instead. If my hon. Friend were to allow the Opposition a little more time, they might be able to come to a mature decision about whether to move the writ.

Mr. Jones

My hon. Friend returns to a significant point. My hon. Friend seems to be having a destructive effect on the Opposition Front Bench, as he always does. He will have noticed that his previous point of order had the effect of physically forcing the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) to move from the Opposition Front Bench to the Back Benches just when she was thinking that she had served her penance and might now be brought back to the Front Bench. My hon. Friend's point of order seems to have downed her for another two years or so.

The writ for the Pontypridd by-election should be moved today. That by-election needs to be fought on most important issues, not least the need to reduce the number of people unemployed. The fall in unemployment in Wales began earlier, and has continued longer, than the fall in unemployment in the rest of the United Kingdom. Wales has been successful in developing new industries and in helping new employment and attracting investment. For a number of years now Wales has been able to attract one fifth of all investment coming into the United Kingdom. The massive investment in the engine plant at Bridgend has been mentioned, as have Nissan and Toyota. I stand by what I said about Toyota's excellent prospects of coming to south Wales. I look forward to that.

There has also been significant growth in indigenous industries. I mention just one. AB Electronics in my constituency, which also fortunately happens to be in practically every valley constituency in south Wales, is going from strengh to strength.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)


Mr. Jones

I give way to the hon. Lady because I know that AB Electronics' headquarters are in her constituency.

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)

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 365, Noes 3.

Division No. 70] [5.58 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Armstrong, Hilary
Adley, Robert Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Alexander, Richard Ashby, David
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Allen, Graham Ashton, Joe
Alton, David Aspinwall, Jack
Anderson, Donald Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Arbuthnot, James Baldry, Tony
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Doran, Frank
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dorrell, Stephen
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Dover, Den
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Duffy, A. E. P.
Barron, Kevin Dunn, Bob
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Dunnachie, Jimmy
Beckett, Margaret Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Beggs, Roy Durant, Tony
Beith, A. J. Dykes, Hugh
Bellingham, Henry Eadie, Alexander
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Eastham, Ken
Bermingham, Gerald Emery, Sir Peter
Bevan, David Gilroy Evans, John (St Helens N)
Bidwell, Sydney Fallon, Michael
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fearn, Ronald
Blackburn, Dr John G. Fishburn, John Dudley
Blair, Tony Fisher, Mark
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Flannery, Martin
Blunkett, David Flynn, Paul
Boateng, Paul Fookes, Dame Janet
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Boscawen, Hon Robert Foster, Derek
Boswell, Tim Franks, Cecil
Bottomley, Peter Freeman, Roger
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) French, Douglas
Boyes, Roland Fry, Peter
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Fyfe, Maria
Bradley, Keith Galloway, George
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Garel-Jones, Tristan
Bray, Dr Jeremy Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Brazier, Julian Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Gill, Christopher
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Buck, Sir Antony Goodhart, Sir Philip
Buckley, George J. Goodlad, Alastair
Burns, Simon Gould, Bryan
Burt, Alistair Gow, Ian
Butler, Chris Gower, Sir Raymond
Caborn, Richard Graham, Thomas
Callaghan, Jim Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Greenway, Harry (Eating N)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Greenway, John (Ftyedale)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Gregory, Conal
Canavan, Dennis Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Carrington, Matthew Grist, Ian
Cash, William Grocott, Bruce
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Chapman, Sydney Hanley, Jeremy
Chope, Christopher Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Harris, David
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Haselhurst, Alan
Clay, Bob Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hayes, Jerry
Cohen, Harry Hayward, Robert
Colvin, Michael Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Conway, Derek Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Heddle, John
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Heffer, Eric S.
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Henderson, Doug
Cope, Rt Hon John Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Corbett, Robin Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hind, Kenneth
Cormack, Patrick Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Cousins, Jim Holt, Richard
Cran, James Home Robertson, John
Crowther, Stan Hood, Jimmy
Cryer, Bob Howard, Michael
Cunningham, Dr John Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Curry, David Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Dalyell, Tam Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Darling, Alistair Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Devlin, Tim Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Dewar, Donald Hunter, Andrew
Dicks, Terry Illsley, Eric
Dixon, Don Ingram, Adam
Dobson, Frank Irvine, Michael
Irving, Charles Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Jack, Michael Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Janman, Tim Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Janner, Greville Paice, James
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Patchett, Terry
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Pawsey, James
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Pendry, Tom
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn) Pike, Peter L.
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Key, Robert Powell, William (Corby)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Primarolo, Dawn
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Quin, Ms Joyce
Knapman, Roger Radice, Giles
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Raffan, Keith
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Redwood, John
Knox, David Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Lamond, James Reid, Dr John
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Rhodes James, Robert
Lawrence, Ivan Richardson, Jo
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Leighton, Ron Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Robertson, George
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Robinson, Geoffrey
Lightbown, David Roe, Mrs Marion
Livingstone, Ken Rooker, Jeff
Livsey, Richard Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Rost, Peter
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Rowlands, Ted
Loyden, Eddie Ruddock, Joan
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Sackville, Hon Tom
McAllion, John Salmond, Alex
McAvoy, Thomas Scott, Nicholas
McCrindle, Robert Sedgemore, Brian
Macdonald, Calum A. Shaw, David (Dover)
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Sheerman, Barry
McKelvey, William Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Maclean, David Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Maclennan, Robert Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
McLoughlin, Patrick Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Shersby, Michael
Madden, Max Short, Clare
Mahon, Mrs Alice Sillars, Jim
Malins, Humfrey Sims, Roger
Marek, Dr John Skeet, Sir Trevor
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Skinner, Dennis
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Maxton, John Soley, Clive
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Spearing, Nigel
Meacher, Michael Speller, Tony
Meale, Alan Squire, Robin
Meyer, Sir Anthony Stanbrook, Ivor
Michael, Alun Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Steel, Rt Hon David
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Steinberg, Gerry
Miller, Sir Hal Stern, Michael
Mills, Iain Stevens, Lewis
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Strang, Gavin
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Straw, Jack
Moonie, Dr Lewis Sumberg, David
Morgan, Rhodri Summerson, Hugo
Morley, Elliott Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Morrison, Sir Charles Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Moss, Malcolm Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Mudd, David Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mullin, Chris Townend, John (Bridlington)
Murphy, Paul Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Neale, Gerrard Tredinnick, David
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Trippier, David
Nicholls, Patrick Turner, Dennis
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Twinn, Dr Ian
Norris, Steve Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Vaz, Keith Wiggin, Jerry
Waddington, Rt Hon David Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Wakeham, Rt Hon John Winnick, David
Wall, Pat Wise, Mrs Audrey
Wallace, James Wolfson, Mark
Waller, Gary Wood, Timothy
Walley, Joan Woodcock, Mike
Walters, Sir Dennis Worthington, Tony
Ward, John Wray, Jimmy
Wardell, Gareth (Gower) Yeo, Tim
Wareing, Robert N. Young, David (Bolton SE)
Warren, Kenneth
Welsh, Andrew (Angus E) Tellers for the Ayes:
Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N) Mr. Frank Haynes and
Wheeler, John Mr. Frank Cook.
Whitney, Ray
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Tellers for the Noes:
Carttiss, Michael Mr. Nicholas Bennett and
Porter, David (Waveney) Mr. Tony Marlow.

Question agreed to.

Question put accordingly and agreed to.

Ordered, That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the county constituency of Pontypridd in the room of Brynmor Thomas John, Esquire, deceased.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House will have noted that you accepted a closure motion of a debate on a by-election writ within 60 minutes. I am sure that you will understand that that has implications for proceedings on other legislation that comes before the House.

Mr. Speaker

As I said earlier in answer to a point of order, the Chair does not give reasons at the moment a closure is taken.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you will recall, when the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) moved the closure, the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) was on her feet. As the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has pointed out, grave constitutional questions are raised by what has just happened. The action of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland could be regarded as sexist. As the hon. Lady is from Wales, it could also be regarded as racist. I believe that those are two of the greatest crimes in the statute book of the Labour party. Most important, the authoritarianism shown by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland in cutting off the debate after such a short time should be noted for the future and censured.

Mr. Speaker

The House will take a charitable view. It is possible that the Opposition Chief Whip did not see what was happening behind him.

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is proper, if one makes a mistake in the House, to apologise. I may have to crave the indulgence of the House. I suggested earlier that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who had taken a great interest earlier in our proceedings on writs for by-elections, might be asleep in the Tea Room. That has certain implications. I understand that it is possible that on his way to the Tea Room he was gathered into the torture chamber on the right hand side——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a point of order.