HC Deb 01 February 1989 vol 146 cc297-316

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 Richmond, Yorks in the room of the right hon. Sir Leon Brittan, QC, who, since his election for the said county constituency, hath accepted the Office of Steward or Bailiff of Her Majesty's Manor of Northstead in the County of York.—[Mr. Waddington.]

3.33 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

I rise to oppose the issuing of the writ for the Richmond, Yorks constituency, under the rules set out in "Erskine May", pages 326 and 327, and on the precedent of 19 April 1983.

The crux of the argument for opposing the writ is that, before the electors of the Richmond, Yorks constituency go to the polls, they are entitled to the truth about exactly what happened in January 1986. Before the writ is issued a tribunal should he set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, which should report to the House about what occurred before the by-election takes place.

As things stand at present, the purpose behind the writ, to allow one of our former colleagues—we must now call him Sir Leon Brittan—to become Vice-President of the European Commission, seems improper. To many of the electors of Richmond, it looks like the reward for silence.

In normal circumstances perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have been a highly qualified candidate on grounds of intellectual and academic attainment and of experience of great offices of state. But as things stand at present the circumstances are far from usual; in fact, they are exceedingly unusual and abnormal. The electors of Richmond need to know the real reasons for the departure of Sir Leon Brittan before they are required to make an electoral judgment.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that this is Opposition time. Would it be in order, if the hon. Gentleman is to make a speech about the writ, for hon. Members on this side of the House to make speeches of similar, if not greater, length? If so, it might be rather tragic for the Opposition motion this afternoon.

Mr. Speaker

As the House knows, the motion is debatable; but it must be debated in order.

Mr. Dalyell

Whether hon. Members like it or not, the fact is that the former right hon. and learned Member for Richmond remains the scapegoat, the fall guy, the man who has taken, and continues to take, the blame for one of the most shoddy misunderstandings that this House has seen.

There are colleagues who say that the Westland affair occurred three years ago, but it continues to be the case that the electors of Richmond need to know whether the House of Commons is simply going to shrug its collective shoulders when it knows that matters have not been cleared up. Are we doucely to allow a by-election to facilitate the then Member who, we are required to believe, caused misunderstandings in the stratosphere of British politics? The electors of Richmond are entitled to know, because it is an issue of the collective self-respect of the House and, in my opinion, the self-respect of the honourable profession of being a politician.

Remember the consternation of the present Attorney-General, formerly the Solicitor-General, the author of the Law Officer's letter which was so abused without his knowledge. Remember how the then Attorney-General, Sir Michael Havers, came back from his sick bed and was so angry that he said that if an inquiry were not set up he would have the police at the door of No. 10 Downing street. That is why an inquiry was set up—because of the Attorney-General's threat to have the constabulary at the door of No. 10 if an inquiry were riot agreed to.

Before we agree to the issuing of a writ, the electors of Richmond should have an explanation about how that inquiry never came to any conclusions about the timing and the state of knowledge of senior Ministers as to how that leak occurred. The electors of Richmond will want to know, before they choose a new Member, how it was that their last Member appeared before the Select Committee on Defence, chaired by a Conservative Privy Councillor subsequently sent to the House of Lords, and solemnly refused to answer questions properly put by his colleagues and mine.

Never has a Minister treated a Select Committee of the House in that manner. Members of the Committee and others present, as I was, will not forget the contemptuous attitude displayed upstairs that day by our former colleague Leon Brittan, stonewalling a Committee that was set up by the House to do a job.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I also took the trouble to attend that Committee meeting. I could see no sign of contempt on the part of our colleague.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Lady can make that point if she catches the eye of the Chair.

Mr. Dalyell

One thing will alter our attitude towards the by-election and allow us to send our former colleague on his way to Brussels with our good will, and that is if it were explained to the electors of Richmond that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not to blame for the Westland affair and that he was simply carrying the can for the misbehaviour of someone else.

In order to accept the Prime Minister's version of events in January 1986, the House has been required to believe that, for 14 days or more, Leon Brittan, the cause of this by-election, kept his senior civil servants, such as Sir Brian Hayes, his Cabinet colleagues and his Prime Minister in the dark about his role relating to the Law Officer's letter. If Leon Brittan really did that, should the House be creating a by-election to send him as our country's nominee to a highly prestigious job in the EEC? If the right hon. and learned Gentleman's behaviour is by no means the whole story, should not the electorate of Richmond——

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman keeps referring to 1986. There has been a general election since 1986 at which Leon Brittan had an overwhelming majority. The people of Richmond must have been highly satisfied with their representative.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman might make that point if he is called to speak.

Mr. Dalyell

The electors of Richmond will want to know about the Prime Minister's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who has often put pertinent questions to her. She said to my hon. Friend that she did not know about the role of the then Trade Secretary until the inquiry had reported. Before a writ is issued, a tribunal should be satisfied on that point.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether I could have your guidance. Clearly this is a narrow debate on whether the writ should be moved. We all know that the former Member for Richmond has already left. Surely we must be talking about the candidates who are to be put forward. Clearly Sir Leon Brittan is not to be one of those candidates, so what we are hearing must be out of order.

Mr. Speaker

I am listening with great care, as I listened on Friday nearly two weeks ago when this writ was first moved. Nothing that the hon. Gentleman has said today and nothing that was said then was out of order.

Mr. Dalyell

Before the House agrees to the issuing of a writ for the Richmond constituency, for the sake of the good name and reputation of the former Member, should not the Prime Minister give the electors of Richmond an explanation of her own role——

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Is it a point of order? I have heard nothing out of order from the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell).

Mr. Field

Representing the Isle of Wight, I cannot take too much excitement. I have heard this argument once or twice before. I wonder whether it would be in order to move a writ this afternoon for a by-election in the constituency of the hon. Member for Linlithgow.

Mr. Dalyell

Before the House agrees to the issuing of a writ, for the sake of the good name of Leon Brittan, should not the Prime Minister give an explanation to the electors of Richmond of her own role in the Westland affair? The House heard her answer yesterday to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. All this could have been avoided had she explained her role. After all, at the end of the day the Prime Minister is accountable not to President Bush, Mr. Gorbachev or any other world politician; she is accountable to the British electorate through the House of Commons, and particularly to the electors of Richmond.

The House has not yet had an explanation of the unique resignation correspondence between the Prime Minister and the then right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks, which ended: I hope that it will not be long before you return to high office to continue your Ministerial career. The Prime Minister did not say that to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) or to anybody else. That is unique. How could any Prime Minister have expressed such a hope if her Secretary of State for Trade and Industry had really misled her? The electors of Richmond will want to know.

They will want to know that it was a negotiated correspondence. As things turned out, the Prime Minister found it hard to deliver her side of the bargain. What we have before us today, with the Government asking for the writ to be issued, is the shoddy compromise of being made a Vice-President of the European Commission. Should the House of Commons go along with allowing the by-election to oblige the Prime Minister and Sir Leon Brittan?

Is it not in the interests of the electors of Richmond that we should have an inquiry which might ask Colette Bowe and John Mogg why they found it necessary to put their accounts of these events in a bank vault? Civil servants whose accounts of events tally with that of their political masters do not normally find it necessary to put their accounts in bank vaults.

The inquiry might also ask Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell why they did not tell the Prime Minister what the Select Committee—chaired, I repeat, by a Conservative Privy Councillor, sent subsequently to the other place—knew about Leon Brittan's role: paragraph 187 of the report of the Select Committee on Defence.

The Prime Minister should also be asked by the inquiry for the benefit of the electors of Richmond why, if Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell failed to tell her what they knew about the Law Officer's letter, they still remain in two of the most important offices in Britain. Why are they still in Downing street, basking in unprecedented favour, if that was the case?

The tribunal might also ask why this most inquisitive of Prime Ministers—no Conservative Member would deny that—requires us to believe that she never had the curiosity to ask her Secretary of State for Trade and Industry——

Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman's comments are interesting, and we have cantered round this course before, but how far are you prepared to let the debate widen? For some while the hon. Gentleman has been talking about circumstances in which Sir Leon Brittan left the Government, not the House of Commons. Therefore, I suggest that he is going wide of the point.

Mr. Speaker

I was present for much of what went on a fortnight ago when the motion was first debated. Nothing was out of order then, and nothing that I have heard today has been out of order. However, I hope that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) will not take too much time of the House.

Mr. Dalyell

I am curious to know how it was that, according to the Select Committee, Mr. Powell and Mr. Ingham knew all about its former member's role on 7 January, and yet a Prime Minister who saw them five times a day never sought to ask about a matter that was threatening her Government, or at least her personal position, day after day. That was an exceedingly uncharacteristic lack of curiosity.

There is something more that the Prime Minister and Sir Leon Brittan ought to tell the electorate.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has given the House his views on that matter. Perhaps he will return to explaining why he believes that the writ should not be issued.

Mr. Dalyell

Before any writ is issued, and before any by-election takes place, there ought to be an explanation as to why, on 27 January, the Prime Minister could murmur, "I may not be Prime Minister at six o'clock tonight."—[Interruption.] She herself confirmed that to David Frost.

He asked her four times, and on the fourth time of asking she replied to Mr. Frost, "Well, it is just one of the things that one says."

Mr. Speaker

Order. That has nothing to do with the issuing of the writ. I ask the hon. Gentleman to return to that matter.

Mr. Dalyell

The British electorate may wonder why, after seven years in Downing street, and wanting to be re-elected for a third term, the Prime Minister would say such a thing. She said it for one reason only—because she did not know whether Sir Leon Brittan, sitting on the Back Benches, would spill the beans on her. That is why she said, quite uncharacteristically, that she might not be Prime Minister by six o'clock on that night.

I do not wish to try the patience of the House, but for some right hon. and hon. Members these are not frivolous issues but issues of deep importance concerning the integrity and probity of public life. That is why—for the first, and I suspect only, time—I oppose the writ.

3.52 pm
Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) seems not to have understood that our former right hon. and learned Friend took up his appointment as commissioner in Brussels at the beginning of last month. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's attempt to deny the people of Richmond the opportunity to have a Member of Parliament, if its purpose is to prevent Sir Leon Brittan from becoming our commissioner, is futile. The hon. Gentleman told the House today nothing that he has not told it on many previous occasions. I have no doubt that the electors of Richmond will pay precisely the same avid interest to his remarks this afternoon as they paid to his remarks on all the previous occasions.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin) pointed out, since the events to which the hon. Member for Linlithgow referred took place in January 1986, there has been a general election, when Sir Leon Brittan was Conservative candidate for Richmond. Between January 1986 and June 1987, the hon. Member for Linlithgow made many speeches almost identical to that which he made this afternoon. Therefore, if the people of Richmond were to be influenced by his words, they had the opportunity to do something about the matter in the months that elapsed between January 1986 and June 1987. The people of Richmond gave their verdict on our former right hon. and learned Friend when, at the last general election, the Conservative majority in Richmond increased from 18,000 to 19,500. That was in marked contrast to the Labour majority in Linlithgow, which fell from 11,000 to 10,000.

We are entitled to inquire about the real motive behind the hon. Gentleman's speech. At the last general election, the Labour candidate for Richmond received even fewer votes than the alliance candidate. This time the Labour party, characteristically, has chosen a dud candidate in Richmond.

The reason why the hon. Gentleman seeks to defer the writ——

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

Does the hon. Gentleman regard as a dud a man who parachuted at 2 in the morning of D-day to capture the bridges behind the beaches? Is that man a dud? He is our candidate at Richmond.

Mr. Gow

The courage of the Labour candidate is not in doubt; but, almost by definition, if one is a candidate for the Labour party in present circumstances, one is a dud. Indeed, it is a mark of the courage of the Labour candidate at Richmond that he has put himself forward as a candidate.

We may mark the contrast between the courage of the Labour candidate at Richmond and the courage of the Labour delegation which has made a journey to Moscow to seek advice about what defence policy should be put before the electorate. Indeed, that is one factor behind the wish of the hon. Member for Linlithgow to defer the by-election, for it may take many months—some might think many years—for the Labour party to fashion a defence policy suitable to be put before the electorate of Richmond, or anywhere else.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is in his place. He is anxious to expound the virtues of the Government's housing policy, but my right hon. Friend will expect, as I do, that those on the Opposition Front Bench will seek to prolong the life of this Parliament so that they may try to get together a defence policy to submit to the electorate.

There is another aspect of the Richmond by-election. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, because you follow these things closely, that at the general election there was but a single candidate for what was then called the alliance. Since then the alliance has split asunder and we are told that there will be two candidates for the single grouping which at the general election formed the alliance. l could well understand it if the representatives of the Liberal party and of the Social and Liberal Democratic party had sought to postpone the by-election because they need more time to get their act together.

I have a keen affection, as does the hon. Member for Linlithgow, for another former Member of the House, Dick Crossman. I had the good fortune to be the Conservative candidate in Coventry, East nearly 25 years ago. I have to say, because I am a fair man, that as a result of my efforts, Dick Crossman's majority rose from 6,000 to 16,000—but we shall let that pass. I have been re-reading the diaries which are so beloved by the hon. Member for Linlithgow. On page 49 of volume 1 these words appear: Tam Dalyell himself makes it very difficult. He is as awkward, stubborn and lovable as ever. I agree with Dick Crossman's verdict.

4 pm

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

The House has considered at some length the question of the issuing of the writ for the Richmond by-election. On a previous occasion I said that I preferred to rely on the judgment of the Patronage Secretary as to when the writ should be moved, although I signified that he would, of course, follow the convention of moving it before three months had elapsed from the time the seat became vacant.

My right hon. and learned Friend is now keen to give the voters of Richmond the opportunity, as is their wont, to return a Conservative Member of Parliament. A wide variety of issues concerning this motion have already been debated, from the likely weather on polling day to the rigours of Catterick camp.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has made his predictable speech and he will know by heart my

response to it. We have an important Opposition day debate this afternoon, and I do not think the hon. Gentleman's colleagues would thank him if their Supply Day were truncated by yet another debate on the Richmond writ.

I hope that the House will now approve the motion.

4.2 pm

Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro)

I support the Leader of the House in calling for the House to move ahead with the writ. The people of Richmond have been deprived of representation for a considerable time by silly party political bickering between Labour and Conservative Members over the timing of this by-election.

The real scandal is the delay on the part of the Conservative party over this by-election, which could have been over before Christmas and the people of the constituency would have had proper representation. The delays that are now occurring are preventing important matters being debated, including housing.

4.3 pm

Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton)

We should be told why the Labour party is so undesirous of having this by-election held. This is the second occasion on which the Government have attempted to move the writ. Two weeks ago the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) frustrated the evident desire of the people of Richmond to have a Member of Parliament to represent them. Today the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) seeks to delay the moving of the writ yet again.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow is sticking as tenaciously as ever to his obsession with the Belgrano, with Westland and with various other issues in which the country long ago lost any interest. Just as the Belgrano has gone to the bottom of the Atlantic, so the Labour party will go to the bottom of the poll when this by-election is held. Although the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) sits on the Labour Front Bench and appears to be desirous of having this by-election, Labour Members are running scared and do not want it to take place under any circumstances.

We could resolve this matter today and the hon. Member for Linlithgow could bring his views to the attention of the country if he would apply to the Patronage Secretary for the Stewardship of the Manor of Northstead, resign his seat and then become the Labour candidate in the by-election in Richmond. In those circumstances, the hon. Gentleman, who is a member of the county aristocracy in his part of the world, would greatly appeal to the up-market members of the community in Richmond. So he could do a great deal to improve the Labour party's potential in the by-election.

But if the hon. Gentleman were to take that course, it might not appeal to the occupants of the Labour Front Bench. I do not think they would be happy to have a by-election in Scotland at this time. It is not long since there was a by-election in the Glasgow, Govan constituency, and just as Queen Mary of England went to her grave with "Calais" written on her heart, so I believe the Leader of the Opposition will go to his political grave

at the next election with the word "Govan" tattooed on his fingers. Therefore, the Labour party would not be keen on having an election in Scotland, or anywhere else, just now.

The Labour candidate in Richmond is performing the same sort of function as the Light Brigade performed for this country in the Crimean war. He knows that he is going into the jaws of death and the mouth of hell, and we admire his courage.[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will hon. Members who appear to be having a committee meeting on the Bench below the Gangway please desist or leave the Chamber?

Mr. Hamilton

I know what it must be like to be the Labour candidate in Richmond. On the first occasion that I put myself forward as a parliamentary candidate I stood for Abertillery. I duly turned in 9 per cent. of the vote, which I doubt the Labour condidate in Richmond will achieve. A least I had the satisfaction, when we were able to bring the boundary changes into force after the election, of seeing that constituency abolished and divided between Islwyn and Blaenau Gwent. I thought, "Serve them right" in the Abertillery constituency for rejecting me.

I appreciate the sensitivity of Labour Members to having by-elections at this time. That is surprising because at the mid-point of a Parliament Oppositions normally do well. At present, we seem to be in the extraordinary situation—perhaps not so extraordinary when one considers the huge success of the Government—that today the Conservatives are doing better in the opinion polls than they were at the time of the last general election. So we shall be looking to increasing the majority of the Conservative candidate in the Richmond by-election, and that will be the most eloquent testimony to the interest of the people of this country in the points that the hon. Member for Linlithgow has made today and in the policies of the Labour party.

While I, as a kind and compassionate individual, should be happy not to cause more hurt and harm to the Labour party—because we should always look upon the political down-and-outs with the same compassion as we should look to those who have difficulty in running their own lives—the interests of the people of Richmond, and of Britain generally, depend on moving the writ, not only for this by-election but for Pontypridd as well. I look forward to seeing another two representatives of the Conservative party on these Benches after those by-elections have taken place.

4.7 pm

Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon)

There is a melancholy ruin in Linlithgow. I recall that the Palace of Linlithgow is a red sandstone building. Queen Margaret, shortly after the battle of Flodden, took to one of the upper rooms and gazed across the horizon for her husband to return, and he did not. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) reminds me of Queen Margaret gazing forlornly, hoping for something to turn up.

My constituency of Skipton and Ripon borders that of Richmond. I worked with Sir Leon Brittan when he was the Member for Richmond—one of those happy parts of the country which could be described as a Labour-free zone—and I am in a position to testify to the esteem in which he was held by his constituents.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow kept referring to what the people of Richmond were entitled to have and needed.

I can tell him about both of those. They are entitled to a Member of Parliament, and that we are now trying to give them. They are concerned with issues about which I could speak for some time, but I assure him that they are not concerned about the events of several years ago to which the hon. Gentleman frequently refers.

Mr. Dalyell

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of Queen Margaret, may I ask him to agree that we should receive an explanation of the Westland affair?

Mr. Curry

The Secretary of State for Education and Science has said that more British history should be taught in our schools. If it were, perhaps more people, including the hon. Gentleman, would be aware that the battle of Flodden pre-dates the Westland affair, having taken place in 1513.

The matters which concern the people of Richmond and which need the attention of a Member of Parliament are, for example, the future of the national parks, which was referred to in the recent planning document published by the Secretary of State for the Environment, farm incomes, matters affecting the uplands and less favoured areas and the whole question of planning permission. We are speaking of one of those happy areas where there is rapid growth and where unemployment is rarely over 4 per cent., thanks to the success of the Government's policies. While they are concerned about low-flying aircraft, they welcome the presence of our defence forces in the constituency which testify to the success of the policy of deterrence.

They wish Sir Leon well in his new responsibilities. They saw him go with regret because he was such a good Member. They know that he will have great enthusiasm in Brussels and that he will do an outstanding job for Britain, and I could easily enumerate his responsibilities there and their great importance.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

As Sir Leon Brittan's old constituency borders my hon. Friend's constituency, I presume that my hon. Friend will be including in his peroration comments about the Settle to Carlisle railway line.

Mr. Curry

My hon. Friend is right. I have received some letters about that matter from Richmond constituents, and I am dealing with that correspondence. They are most anxious to ensure that the line is maintained. My hon. Friend will recall that a report on the tourist implications of the closure of that line said that there could be a serious tourist loss. We support, therefore, the continued existence of a railway which is unique in the United Kingdom and which touches the Richmond constituency, mine and many other constituencies. We could go into the details of this matter this afternoon.

There are two essential points. First, the people of Richmond are concerned about their Member of Parliament getting their matters dealt with and supporting the Government in the House. For that they need a Member of Parliament—a Conservative Member of Parliament. The dismal battle for fifth place between the ecologists and the Labour party is of very little concern to the people in that constituency. Secondly, they wish Sir Leon the greatest luck in his important responsibility. They saw him go with regret and they wish him well. They applaud his excellent work, and they are confident that the next Conservative Member will do just as well.

4.21 pm
Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

When I looked at my Order Paper this morning, I noticed that today was an important day, because it was an Opposition day. I noticed that the Opposition have set out two important—I presume they are to them—motions. The first was to have been on housing, and the second on wages councils. I said "was", but they still may be debated. I then asked myself why, when the Opposition have what they consider to be important motions on the Order Paper and have a few of their troops here—there are many Conservative Members here. but not many Opposition Members, which is the usual position—they have decided to initiate a debate about the Richmond by-election. They have initiated it, and they shall have it.

I believe that there are many points to be made about the Opposition's reasons for initiating this debate. I confess that I am not capable of making all the points myself. The Opposition may be having a debate on the moving of the writ for the by-election because they are concerned about their motions on the Order Paper. The Opposition may have had second thoughts. They may be deeply worried about the implications of those motions. They have a motion on housing. Why should they he worried about that one? Perhaps it is because they do not have a housing policy.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

If the hon. Gentleman would sit down, he would find out.

Mr. Marlow

Does the hon. Lady wish to intervene?

Mrs. Clwyd

If the hon. Gentleman sat down, he would find out the answer to that question very rapidly.

Mr. Marlow

I will indeed, when I have addressed myself to this important debate, which her hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow initiated, I presume, with the full support of the Opposition. I shall sit down when I have dealt with this matter, but, of course, some of my hon. Friends may then have something to say.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On three occasions the hon. Gentleman has said that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has made this point about the writ with the agreement of the official Opposition. The hon. Gentleman and the House know that that is untrue. Any individual Back Bencher can raise any subject he likes. I have done it many times, and certainly without the agreement of my Front Bench. Hon. Members must not say that the Opposition are doing something officially when, in fact, it is a Back Bencher using his rights in this House.

Mr. Speaker

It is an absolute right of an hon. Member. All Members are equal in this House.

Mr. Marlow

If I have made a wrong statement, I crave the indulgence of the House. However, I and my hon. Friends have a great deal of difficulty with this, because there are so many splits and crevices in the Opposition that it is difficult to know whether a motion or a measure such as this is proposed with the whole-hearted support of the entire Opposition Front Bench, part of the Opposition Front Bench, the Chief Whip on the Opposition Front Bench, the leader of the party or anybody else.

Mr. Adley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is a kind and compassionate man. In view of what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) has said, I am concerned that it may be argued that the Opposition Chief Whip is not in control of the troops on his own Benches. That has serious implications for this House and the parliamentary procedures which we all follow. I wonder if my hon. Friend would like to turn his mind to that point.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that he will not do that. The hon. Member should get back to the reason why we should pass this motion. Is not that what the hon. Member is arguing?

Mr. Marlow

You are right, of course, Mr. Speaker. I am afraid that my hon. Friend was being a little uncharitable. I am sure that the Opposition Chief Whip has total control over his party. The difficulty is knowing what proportion and what part of the Labour party he has control over.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) said that, if I were to sit down—my hon. Friends having made their points and Opposition Members having spoken on this important writ, because I am sure that many other Opposition Members wish to make a contribution——

Mr. Heffer

Sit down, you idiot.

Mr. Marlow

I am not sure that I heard that, but I am told that it takes one to know one.

Mr.Tony Fayell (Stockport)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Marlow

Will my hon. Friend be patient? I shall give way in a moment.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley said that she wanted me to sit down so that the Opposition could tell us about housing policy. We have now embarked upon an important debate, and it may take a significant amount of time. What will not take a significant amount of time is telling the House about the Labour party's housing policy.

Mr. Favell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, which I believe he has just done. Has it escaped his notice that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who is opposing this motion, is a Member of the Scottish Labour party? Does he welcome his intervention, as I do, in what is essentially English business, just as English Members try to participate in Scottish business?

Mr. Marlow

That is an important point. As you remind us—often quite rightly—Mr. Speaker, we all stand or sit here as Members of Parliament for the United Kingdom, and we are proud to do so. It is important that Members of Parliament for the United Kingdom are involved in debates on all subjects concerning the whole of the United Kingdom. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing that point to my attention.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) stated in his all-too-brief intervention that the Labour party was concerned because of its defence policy. It was concerned about the date of the writ being moved, and the by-election coming forward, because the Labour party had not quite worked out its defence policy. Members of the Labour party have gone to Russia to sort out the party's defence policy; the party has received its orders from Russia; but it has not yet put its defence policy together.

Mr. Speaker

Order. the hon. Gentleman's comments must be related to the Richmond by-election.

Mr. Marlow

I am sure you will acknowledge, Mr. Speaker, that Catterick camp, one of the foremost military camps, is located right in the centre of the Richmond constituency. Defence, therefore, will be on everybody's tongue throughout the by-election campaign. It is an issue which is of the essence. I am sure that it will feature strongly and prominently throughout the whole campaign. If the writ is moved today to the date which my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary has suggested, it will be a relatively short campaign. One might almost say that defence is such an important issue in that constituency that one should be concerned that it is such a short campaign. Labour party's policy on defence is so obscure, convoluted and changing by the day that not only would it take a long time for the Labour party to sort out its approach to that policy, but it would take even longer to explain it.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

As defence is so important to the electorate of Richmond, I wonder whether they listened to the Labour spokesman on Sunday, who outlined a policy that bore no resemblance to Labour party policy. Which is the official policy?

Mr. Marlow

Normally my hon. Friend is extremely charitable—we all try to be charitable about people in difficulties and we particularly try to be charitable about the Labour party. This is an opportunity for the Labour party to clarify its policy on defence before the by-election takes place. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne cogently said earlier on, the time afforded for such clarification is not long enough.

Defence is one of the many policies which will be debated and discussed during the forthcoming by-election, if the motion is carried today. The constituents of Richmond will also need to know about education policy.

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield)

Does the hon. Gentleman also agree that one of the issues that must be discussed before the by-election is our attitude to Europe, particularly prior to 1992? Bearing in mind the history of the ex-Member of Parliament for Richmond, Yorks who is now the Commissioner in Europe, does he believe that Europe will come to the fore during the by-election? The hon. Gentleman and I are members of the Select Committee on European Legislation, a sitting of which started 21 minutes ago. Does he not believe that he should wind up his contribution to get this matter out of the way so that we may both go upstairs to fulfil our duties?

Mr. Marlow

I second the hon. Gentleman about the importance of Europe and later in my speech I intend to develop my thoughts on that at greater length than I have done thus far. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about the sitting of the Select Committee on European Legislation, which was supposed to start 21 minutes ago. The hon. Gentleman would like to be there, as would many of us. It has been suggested that—[Interruption.] What is going on on the Opposition Benches, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think it matters what is going on on the Opposition Benches. The hon. Gentleman should keep to the question about the Richmond writ being moved; that is what should be going on.

Mr. Marlow

Yes, but messages have been passed. I suppose that those messages were not from you, Mr. Speaker, but originated from some other power within the House. That is fine. There is a problem.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)


Mr. Marlow

I shall give way in a moment, if my hon. Friend would be patient.

Someone has suggested that it may be possible to suspend the sitting of the European Select Committee until such time as this particular issue has been debated. I do not know whether there is a procedure to do so. Is that possible, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

I am not responsible for the sittings of Select Committees.

Mr. Marlow

I am grateful for your ruling.

Mr. Holt

I am grateful to my hon. Friend giving way, as the discussion of European elections gives me the opportunity to discuss the attitude of the Labour party in the neighbouring constituency to mine, which has a Conservative Member of Parliament. What will be the Labour party candidate's attitude at the forthcoming by-election given that in the north-east we fought the two previous general elections on the Labour party's desire to come out of Europe?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not believe that that is relevant to the Richmond by-election, to which we must return. There is a further writ to move before we get on to the business of the day.

Mr. Marlow

May I gently and mildly reprimand my hon. Friend for trying to lead me down a path other than that of righteousness? What he raised is certainly something to which I should not refer at this stage in the debate.

I have already told the House about the problems inherent in the Richmond by-election and in conducting it within a short period of time. One policy of particular importance to Richmond, as it is to my constituency, is education. The Labour party has no defence policy to put before the people of Richmond and I believe that it has no education policy to put before them. Perhaps that is why the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was called upon to move the writ, so as possibly to delay the holding of the by-election. We do not know, but perhaps we should be told. If the Labour party has no proper policy on education, how can it face the electorate of Richmond?

I will take another example out of the hat. Yesterday, we had an extremely important statement from my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health. He set out a brilliant, new, exciting, stimulating and revolutionary policy for improving the Health Service of this country and, among the health services of this country, obviously the health service of Richmond figured prominently in his mind. He wants to improve the health services available to the people of Richmond. Various questions were put by Opposition Members, we had leaks by the Opposition, smothering tactics and misleading statements by the Opposition, but we have had no policy from the Opposition. That is the problem. Probably that is another reason why the hon. Member for Linlithgow was called upon to make his speech—because the Labour party does not want the by-election to take place until it

has a positive policy on health, education and defence. On that basis, it will he an extremely long time before it is ready to take a by-election in Richmond.

4.25 pm
Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

I was constrained to join briefly in this debate only by the confirmation by my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) that the Settle-Carlisle railway line runs along the boundary of the constituency.

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall accept the closure when the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) has completed his speech.

Mr. Adley

This is a serious matter, because the people of Richmond may believe that the Government's decision on whether to keep open the Settle-Carlisle railway line is determined by the timing of the by-election. Therefore, this is an appropriate opportunity to say a few words. I am sure that the hon. Members for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) recognise the relevance of that issue to the by-election and will join me in hoping that, somehow, the holding of the by-election will help to convince the Government of the absolute necessity of retaining that railway line. I am confident that my right hon. and learned Friend the Patronage Secretary, who never speaks, will be silently nodding his head as the River Ribble rises in his constituency.

Mr. Neil Hamilton


Mr. Marlow


Mr. Adley

I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton).

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend cannot give way during an intervention.

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is some confusion. I called the hon. Member for Christchurch. He has started his speech and I hope that he can get on with it.

Mr. Adley

My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) feels constrained to intervene in my speech, which he thought was an intervention in his speech, but which Mr. Speaker believes is a speech on its own account. I shall give way later to my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton, on the assumption that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North does not wish to make an intervention in what he thought was an intervention in his speech.

I am waiting to decide how to vote on this motion by determinig whether it is better for the people of Richmond, who want to see the Settle-Carlisle line retained, to have a by-election or whether to allow the Government a pregnant pause for thought before that by-election. Perhaps we should restrain our enthusiasm for this by-election. The Government must reach a decision on the future of that railway line by May, and they might be further and better pressurised by not having the by-election and by not moving the writ today.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

I am sure that the House will have great sympathy with my hon. Friend about the possible closure of the Settle-Carlisle railway line. On the question of closures, did my hon. Friend note, a moment ago, that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) shortly intends to move the closure of the debate? Considering that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) instigated the debate in the first place because he believes that the Government have gagged discussion of Westland and so on, does my hon. Friend agree that it is rather extraordinary that his colleague, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, is pursuing the same tactics of which he falsely accuses the Government?

Mr. Adley

I agree with my hon. Friend. It shows, first, that Labour Members have a contempt for democracy, and, secondly, that they have no real interest in the outcome of the Richmond by-election. Perhaps that answers the point that my hon. Friend made so eloquently.

Mr. Conway

I am sure that my hon. Friend will accept that some hon. Members may believe that some off-the-wire filibuster has begun. That is not the case, because some of us have prepared speeches for the housing debate which we hope will follow, and if you, Mr. Speaker, were gracious enough to call me, I would wish to make that speech. Some of us did want, if an early closure motion was not moved, to contribute to the debate. Those of us who have a personal knowledge of Richmond, where my wife went to school and where I did some military training, wished to talk about the excellent constituents who live there. The filibuster was begun by Labour Members who spoke about everything but Richmond and has been continued by the Conservative Members who want to let the electors of Richmond know how concerned and aware we are of their life styles and their interests.

Mr. Adley

I share my hon. Friend's concern. I agree with everything he said except his split infinitive which I am sure Hansard will adjust properly.

Mr. Holt

I want to remind my hon. Friend about a recent occasion when an Opposition Member spoke on this writ for about three hours. One of the subjects that was vital to that debate was the weather in the area. As I represent the next-door constituency, and live there, I would be able to make a considerable contribution about the weather if the debate were allowed to continue. I remind the House that at that time Mr. Deputy Speaker ruled that, as long as sufficient hon. Members wanted to speak and stood up, the debate would not be curtailed except by the Chair. Therefore, I hope that, when my hon. Friend has sat down, I will have the opportunity to speak at great length on the weather in the area at the moment and the likely weather pattern over the next few weeks leading up to the by-election.

Mr. Adley

My hon. Friend will excuse me, but if I were to agree with him it would be taken as critical of Mr. Speaker of how long he allows the debate to continue.

Mr. Favell

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Adley

In a moment. I should like to comment on an eloquent and eminently acceptable speech made by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bolsover is hiding his head in his hands at the thought of receiving compliments from me, but he is also a supporter of the Settle-Carlisle railway line, so I hope that he will not mind my mentioning his eloquent speech.

As I have a meeting with my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport at 5 o'clock to discuss the future of the Settle-Carlisle railway line, you, Mr. Speaker, my hon. Friends and Opposition Members will be pleased to know that I shall not continue my speech for much longer.

Mr. Favell

I understand my hon. Friend to be suggesting either that the writ should not be moved until he has received from the Government a decision satisfactory to him about the Settle-Carlisle railway line, or alternatively he intends to continue speaking until such a decision has been taken. Is he really suggesting what is now known in Labour party annals in Yorkshire as doing a Humber bridge?

Mr. Adley

Before I comment on the Humber bridge, my hon. Friend has in his constituency the famous Stockport viaduct which has been restored——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should address his remarks to the motion. That viaduct is not in Richmond.

Mr. Adley

I was going to go straight from the Stockport viaduct to the Ribblehead viaduct, which is the main physical feature of the Settle-Carlisle railway line. Many people in the Richmond parliamentary constituency hope that the railway line stays open and are extremely concerned about that great listed structure immediately adjoining their constituency. I hope that the candidates in the by-election, when it is declared, will turn their minds to the importance of the retention of that line.

At the moment, British Rail is seeking permission to close the line, but the Government have put British Rail in charge of co-ordinating efforts to keep the line open. To my mind, that is rather like inviting Genghis Khan to become the general manager of a refugee camp. Therefore, I very much hope that candidates in the Richmond by-election will give the future of the Settle-Carlisle railway line their absolute priority. By a quirk of legislative fate, the Manpower Services Commission is unable to provide assistance to British Rail, as it is a nationalised industry.

One reason why the future of the Settle-Carlisle railway line is in jeopardy is the state of the Ribblehead viaduct. Over the years, British Rail has exaggerated the cost of repairing the viaduct and is unable to take advantage of the Manpower Services Commission funds because British Rail is a nationalised industry.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Is my hon. Friend aware that one of my constituents has been instrumental in trying to preserve one of the arches of that viaduct in which the people of Richmond have a legal interest?

Mr. Speaker

Order. These comments are interesting. I know about the railway line, but could the debate be related to why the writ should or should not be moved?

Mr. Adley

I entirely agree with you, Mr. Speaker; therefore, I shall conclude after my hon. Friend has intervened again.

Mr. Holt

I appreciate my hon. Friend's great interest in the railway line. He mentioned the Humber bridge. One of the matters which will be germane——

Mr. Speaker

Order. But that bridge is not in Richmond.

Mr. Holt

I was saying that one of the matters which will be germane in Richmond will be whether the A1 road which goes right through the constituency should be made into a motorway. That is of vital importance for the people of Richmond. My hon. Friend would do well to balance his remarks about the railway by considering the needs of road traffic, as the two matters are very much complementary.

Mr. Adley

I shall be brief, as I do not wish to abuse the House, and I do not wish to be late for my meeting with my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport.

My hon. Friend may have heard my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister respond to my question yesterday. I asked her to instruct the Department of Transport to reconsider the comparative criteria which that Department uses in assessing the costs of and benefits to the nation of road versus rail transport. I certainly hope that the candidates in the Richmond by-election will take my point. I do not know the budget of the north Yorkshire constabulary in whose area the Richmond constituency lies. The budget of the Dorset constabulary is £40 million a year. The chief constable does not know, because he has never been invited to find out, what proportion of his budget has to be spent on costs involving roads and road traffic offences.

An enormous proportion of any chief constable's budget involves not only policing accidents but dealing with offences, attending court and administration. I am quite sure that the situation in north Yorkshire is exactly the same as that in Dorset. How can any Government accurately assess road versus rail costs unless items such as the policing costs of road traffic and road transport are taken into account?

Mr. Marlow


Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)


Mr. Adley

While I welcome my hon. Friends' views, in view of my appointment at the Department of Transport, I shall not give way. I would be abusing my position if I were to give way. You, Mr. Speaker, asked me to come to the point about the timing of the by-election.

I am not certain whether the future of the Settle-Carlisle railway line is best preserved by an early by-election or a later by-election. In view of the timing of the decision by the Department of Transport in May as to the future of the railway line, it may be better if the by-election is postponed and left hanging over the Government's head until they have made that decision. That is the purpose of my brief intervention in the debate.

Mr. Foster

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 344, Noes 6.

Division No. 69] [4.39 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Adley, Robert Ashby, David
Alexander, Richard Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Ashton, Joe
Allen, Graham Aspinwall, Jack
Alton, David Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Anderson, Donald Baldry, Tony
Arbuthnot, James Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Armstrong, Hilary Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Barron, Kevin Durant, Tony
Batiste,Spencer Dykes, Hugh
Beckett, Margaret Eadie, Alexander
Beith, A. J. Eastham, Ken
Benyon, W. Emery, Sir Peter
Bermingham, Gerald Evans, John (St Helens N)
Bevan, David Gilroy Fallon, Michael
Bidwell, Sydney Fatchett, Derek
Biffen, Rt Hon John Favell, Tony
Blair, Tony Fearn, Ronald
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Blunkett, David Flannery, Martin
Boateng, Paul Flynn, Paul
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fookes, Dame Janet
Boswell, Tim Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Bottomley, Peter Forman, Nigel
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Forth, Eric
Boyes, Roland Foster, Derek
Bradley, Keith Fox, Sir Marcus
Brazier, Julian Franks, Cecil
Browne, John (Winchester) Fraser, John
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Freeman, Roger
Buchan, Norman Fry, Peter
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Fyfe, Maria
Buck, Sir Antony Galbraith, Sam
Buckley, George J. Galloway, George
Budgen, Nicholas Garel-Jones, Tristan
Burns, Simon Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Burt, Alistair Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Butler, Chris Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Butterfill, John Godman, Dr Norman A.
Caborn, Richard Goodhart, Sir Philip
Callaghan, Jim Gould, Bryan
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Gow, Ian
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Gower, Sir Raymond
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Graham, Thomas
Canavan, Dennis Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Carrington, Matthew Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Cash, William Gregory, Conal
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Chapman, Sydney Grist, Ian
Chope, Christopher Grocott, Bruce
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Ground, Patrick
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hampson, Dr Keith
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Harris, David
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Haselhurst, Alan
Clay, Bob Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Clelland, David Hayes, Jerry
Cohen, Harry Haynes, Frank
Colvin, Michael Hayward, Robert
Conway, Derek Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Heddle, John
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Heffer, Eric S.
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Cope, Rt Hon John Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Corbett, Robin Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Corbyn, Jeremy Home Robertson, John
Cousins, Jim Hood, Jimmy
Crowther, Stan Howard, Michael
Cryer, Bob Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Cummings, John Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cunningham, Dr John Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Curry, David Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Dalyell, Tam Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Darling, Alistair Hunter, Andrew
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Irvine, Michael
Day, Stephen Irving, Charles
Dewar, Donald Jack, Michael
Dicks, Terry Janman, Tim
Dixon, Don Janner, Greville
Dobson, Frank Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Doran, Frank Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Dorrell, Stephen Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dover, Den Kennedy, Charles
Duffy, A. E. P. Key, Robert
Dunnachie, Jimmy King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Powell, William (Corby)
Kirkhope, Timothy Prescott, John
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Price, Sir David
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Primarolo, Dawn
Knowles, Michael Quin, Ms Joyce
Knox, David Radice, Giles
Lamond, James Raffan, Keith
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Lawrence, Ivan Redwood, John
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Reid, Dr John
Leighton, Ron Rhodes James, Robert
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lightbown, David Robertson, George
Livingstone, Ken Robinson, Geoffrey
Livsey, Richard Roe, Mrs Marion
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Rooker, Jeff
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Rossi, Sir Hugh
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Ryder, Richard
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Sackville, Hon Tom
McAllion, John Salmond, Alex
McAvoy, Thomas Scott, Nicholas
McCrindle, Robert Sedgemore, Brian
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Shaw, David (Dover)
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Maclean, David Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Maclennan, Robert Sheerman, Barry
McLoughlin, Patrick Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McTaggart, Bob Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Madden, Max Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Madel, David Shersby, Michael
Mahon, Mrs Alice Short, Clare
Marek, Dr John Skinner, Dennis
Marland, Paul Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maude, Hon Francis Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Maxton, John Soley, Clive
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Spearing, Nigel
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Speller, Tony
Meale, Alan Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Michael, Alun Squire, Robin
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Stanbrook, Ivor
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Miller, Sir Hal Steel, Rt Hon David
Mills, Iain Steinberg, Gerry
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Stern, Michael
Monro, Sir Hector Stevens, Lewis
Moore, Rt Hon John Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Morgan, Rhodri Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Morley, Elliott Sumberg, David
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Morrison, Sir Charles Temple-Morris, Peter
Mudd, David Thurnham, Peter
Mullin, Chris Townend, John (Bridlington)
Murphy, Paul Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Neale, Gerrard Trippier, David
Neubert, Michael Turner, Dennis
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Nicholls, Patrick Vaz, Keith
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Norris, Steve Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wall, Pat
Paice, James Walters, Sir Dennis
Patchett, Terry Ward, John
Pawsey, James Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Pike, Peter L. Wareing, Robert N.
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Warren, Kenneth
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Wheeler, John Wood, Timothy
Widdecombe, Ann Woodcock, Mike
Wiggin, Jerry Worthington, Tony
Williams, Rt Hon Alan Wray, Jimmy
Winnick, David Young, David (Bolton SE)
Winterton, Mrs Ann
Winterton, Nicholas Tellers for the Ayes:
Wise, Mrs Audrey Mrs. Ann Clwyd and
Wolfson, Mark Mr. Ted Rowlands.
Blackburn, Dr John G. Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Carttiss, Michael Tellers for the Noes:
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Mr. Neil Hamilton and
Marlow, Tony Mr. Michael Brown.

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 Richmond, Yorks in the room of the right hon. Sir Leon Brittan, QC, who, since his election for the said county constituency, hath accepted the Office of Steward or Bailiff of Her Majesty's Manor of Northstead in the County of York.

4.52 pm
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The closure of the previous debate was moved after one hour and nine minutes which is an extremely short period after which a closure motion is accepted. May I take it that, in accepting the closure, you were taking into account our five-hour debate on this subject the Friday before last? If that is so, may I take it that, when we debate the Pontypridd writ, which has not previously been debated, you will bear in mind the wishes of hon. Members who want to speak on the subject?

Mr. Speaker

I take account of all kinds of matters in accepting a closure motion to be put to the House. Thereafter, I am bound to abide by the House's decision.

Mr. Holt

With respect, Mr. Speaker, I must draw your attention to Madam Deputy Speaker's ruling on this subject a week last Friday. She said—I believe that I quote her almost exactly—that she would not allow a closure motion to be put until there were fewer Members rising in their places to speak. I made a challenge on a point of order at that time and she told me that, in her opinion, as too many Members were still rising to speak, a closure motion could not be allowed. In other words, the Chair's decision was based on the number of Members rising to speak.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is correct to say that it is the Chair's decision whether to accept the closure, but it is then up to the House to decide whether it wishes the debate to continue.

Mr. Holt

With respect, I must point out that we were not allowed to vote on whether the House wanted a closure on that occasion. Surely that precedent could have been followed today.

Mr. Speaker

No. No occupant of the Chair gives his reasons for accepting the closure.