§ The Postmaster-General (Mr. John Stonehouse)
I beg to move Amendment No. 22, in page 6, line 36, leave out from first 'The' to end of line 37 and insert—'Post Office shall have power, for the purpose of securing the effective exercise of any of the powers conferred on it by the foregoing subsection, or in connection with or in consequence of an exercise thereof, to do anything that it appears to it requisite, advantageous or convenient to do, including in particular (but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing words) power'.
§ Mr. Speaker
With this Amendment we can take the following Amendments:
No. 25, in page 7, line 9, at end add—(6) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section the postal and telecommunications services operated by the Post Office shall remain in what is commonly called public ownership.No. 33, in page 9, leave out lines 13 to 17 and insert:'and may turn its resources to account so far as not required for the purposes of its business'.No. 34, in line 13, leave out paragraph (t).
No. 35, in line 15, leave out 'in its opinion'.
No. 36, in line 16, leave out 'or expedient'.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Hon. Members who served on the Standing Committee will recall that during our discussions on this Clause I undertook to consider the relationship between subsection (1), which sets out the powers of the Post Office Corporation, and subsection (2), which concern the additional powers, which I said in our proceedings in Committee must be taken in the context of the powers provided in subsection (1).
984 Hon. Members opposite submitted an Amendment in Committee, but I could not accept it. I undertook, however, to consider whether another Amendment could be put down in Report substantially to meet the point put forward by the Opposition. I now bring forward that Amendment to meet the undertaking that I then gave. The intention of the Amendment is to make it clear that Post Office activities in relation to subsection (2) relate to the main purposes set out in subsection (1), and that it is not the intention that the Post Office should undertake activities broadly ranging outside the spheres set out in subsection (1).
I hope that what I have said will meet with the approval of the House.
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker (Acton)
This is an important Amendment in itself and it is even important because it has been linked with certain other Amendments—in particular, No. 25, which is a far-reaching one. I understand that as it has been selected it therefore receives the Government approval, since it is being taken with the Government Amendment.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It will be discussed with Amendment No. 22. Whether the Government approve of a back-bench Amendment is for the Government to say, not for the Chair.
§ Mr. Baker
It will not make entirely redundant the rest of my peech; none the less, it is encouraging.
I wish to produce some arguments which will perhaps steel the Government in their determination not to accept Amendment No. 25. I am at a loss to understand why that Amendment has been taken. We are discussing there a fundamental issue, namely, the partial or total denationalisation of the Post Office.
The history of this matter is very simple. On Second Reading, I suggested that under Clause 7(2)(g) the Post Office Corporation was empowered to sell off such parts of its undertakings as it wanted to. During the Committee stage this point was taken up, and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown), who is not in his place today—and I do not mean to be critical of 985 him, because he was a most assiduous member of the Committee—moved an Amendment similar to Amendment No. 25 which, in effect, sought to forbid the Post Office to denationalise either part of itself or its complete entirety.
The Postmaster-General, in rejecting that Amendment, said in column 406:The duty of the Post Office as set out in that Clause"—that is Clause 9—will not allow the Post Office Corporation to sell off the essential parts of its business …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 21st January, 1969; c. 406.]I was encouraged to note from the Postmaster-General that it is not his intention to accept Amendment No. 25. I think that Amendment as it is drafted would have been very much against the spirit of the other provisions in Clause 7. This series of Amendments which we are discussing reveals an important difference between the two sides of the House. Here we are discussing the reasons why the Conservative Party stands for certain things and the Socialist Party stands for other things. The philosophical difference which divides our two sides on this issue is that on this side of the House, on the whole, we are in favour of reducing the rôle of the State and reducing the powers which these provisions give to the Post Office, while hon Members opposite are in politics to increase the rôle of the State and to extend those powers.
In Committee, the Postmaster-General rejected these arguments on the grounds that the Post Office was a natural monopoly—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With respect, on this Amendment we cannot discuss the whole philosophy of the two parties, and whatever was in order in Committee and on the Second Reading of the Bill, the hon. Member must link what he has to say with these Amendments.
§ Mr. Baker
Of course, I accept your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I was trying to address my remarks to Amendment No. 25, which has been selected for discussion with Amendment No. 22. I am opposing Amendment No. 25, which says that… the postal and telecommunications services operated by the Post Office shall remain in … public ownership986 because I believe that it will be to the benefit of the Post Office if part of the telecommunications side is divorced from public ownership. I am trying to address my remarks to that point.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
Does my hon. Friend realise that he is addressing his remarks in the total absence of any back bench Member of the party who is responsible for this Amendment?
§ Mr. Baker
That does not surprise me at all. It is regrettable, but none the less those hon. Members will be able to read my remarks in HANSARD tomorrow—those who are lucky enough to get a copy—and they will be able to follow the main arguments adduced from this side of the House.
Those arguments are these. We should like to see a departure from the total public ownership of the Post Office because we do not believe that this Bill will make the Post Office as competitive as the Postmaster-General has said it will. The monopoly of the Post Office is being retained. It will also retain very special privileges. It will not have to compete with anybody with whom it does not want to compete. It will have special borrowing powers and special accountancy rules. That is not what we believe is true competition.
The reason that we want to see the public ownership of the Post Office reduced hinges upon investment and the investment programme of the Post Office. The Post Office's investment programme is absolutely vast. The Post Office capital expenditure amounts to about £1 million a day. The Postmaster-General and the Assistant Postmaster-General are modest men, but they are almost the last of the big spenders. This is an enormous investment programme, and it has to compete with other demands from other nationalised industries. The demands are so great that this level of investment cannot be maintained if it remains in public ownership.
To give some idea of the competing demands, over the next four years the capital expenditure of those industries which remain in public ownership are as follows—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not extend his argument—I seem to have heard it before—on the broad issues that divide the House. 987 The House is aware of them. The hon. Gentleman must concentrate on the Amendments.
§ Mr. Baker
I shall not delineate the separate items in the investment programme, Mr. Speaker, but may I just say that capital expenditure of the nationalised industries taken together in the next four years represents approximately £7,500 million. That is roughly £1,500 million a year. Of this, the Post Office will require some £400 million. When we are asked to provide this amount of money for the capital expenditure of the Post Office we, as Members of the House of Commons, have to weigh the relative virtues of that money being spent in the Post Office and being spent in the public sector. When there is such a demand for schools, roads and hospitals, can any Government, whether it be Conservative or Socialist, justify a capital expenditure programme of that magnitude? I do not believe it can.
Therefore, I believe that the Post Office has to tap other sources of capital for its investment programme. If it remains in public ownership it is unable to do this. At the moment, it provides about one-third of its investment programme from its own sources, and it hopes this year to raise that contribution to one-half, which means that if the Post Office remains in public ownership the House of Commons will be asked to provide about £400 million this year for the capital expenditure of the Post Office.
The dilemma is this. I am not arguing that this money is not needed. I would say that at least that amount of money, and probably even more, is needed to allow for the technological changes which are round the corner. We should be pressing ahead now with things like push-button telephones and telephones with television receivers attached to them. This would involve an enormous amount of capital expenditure, and the nub of the case on this side of the House is that if the Post Office remains a State-controlled industry, the State cannot be expected to provide that amount of capital expenditure because there are so many other competing forces.
Therefore, I hope that the Post Office will be able to examine other ways of 988 raising this money, for I do not see any way in which it can be raised while the Post Office remains in public ownership. That is why I am arguing that it is necessary to consider alternative ways of raising this money and at the same time reducing the extent of public ownership.
On the telecommunications side—and it is that side which is the big spender in the Post Office, spending £1 million a day—I should like the public to be given the opportunity to subscribe to that investment programme. I should like the public to have an opportunity of positively contributing to it by putting their hands into their pockets, taking out their cheque books and writing cheques. But so long as the Post Office remains in public ownership, this cannot happen. All that happens is that the Post Office is given another opportunity to float a loan in a foreign country, like the Gas Council has done. But I cannot see the logic in allowing the German public to subscribe to the expansion of our Post Office without first letting the British public subscribe. That is why I am against continuing the 100 per cent. public ownership of the Post Office.
In my view, a B.P.-type deal could be worked out in which the public were allowed to subscribe for a certain proportion of the shares. I estimate that, if this were done, between £500 and £700 million would probably be raised, and in that way, at one go, one would have the next two or three years' capital expenditure on the telecommunications side in one's pocket.
This is an important point, for it divides the House. I shall not revert to the issue which divides our two parties, Mr. Speaker, but there is an important philosophical difference here. At this stage, I argue the matter on technical grounds. Unless something is done, no future Government will be able to maintain the investment programme of the Post Office. If we could have some measure of partial denationalisation, then, if nothing else, we should be allowed to buy our own telephone equipment direct from manufacturers. This would save the Post Office about £300 million over the next five years in expenditure on capital equipment. If a scheme could be worked out—I hope that it can be done—we should have the unique 989 advantage of letting the public have responsibility for ownership, with employees building up a stake in the business, and the corporation itself having the cash it needs.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I do not suggest that the Poet Laureate should be invited to do the Parliamentary drafting, but whoever put the verbiage of Amendment No. 22 on the Notice Paper has no feel for words. A case could almost be made for arguing that the whole Amendment was out of order because of tedious repetition.
First, towards the beginning of the Amendment, the Post Office is given powerfor the purpose of securing the effective exercise of any of the powers conferred on it by the foregoing subsection"—and then we have the words—or in connection with or in consequence of an an exercise thereof …If I were sending a telegram, I should not feel that the meaning of my message had been weakened if I saved myself the expense of that last passage.
A little further on, we find more verbiage:to do anything that it appears to it requisite, advantageous or convenient to do …Again, I hope that the Postmaster-General will explain what is meant. What is envisaged as being advantageous which is not requisite, and what is envisaged as convenient which is not requisite? If there is some fine demarcation of meaning between those two pairs of words, I utterly fail to detect it.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I think that my hon. Friend has stumbled on a misprint in one of the passages to which he has referred. The first "it" should not be there. It ought to be notto do anything that it appears to it requisite"—but—to do anything that appears to it requisite".My hon. Friend has done the House a service in drawing attention to the mistake.
§ Mr. Onslow
Ever since the "it" family was allowed to procreate without restraint, "its" have been littering the Notice Paper like hamsters. Perhaps I 990 can leave it to the Poet Laureate or the Parliamentary draftsmen to sort out whether all these words are necessary.
Next—I am bound to put this to the Postmaster-General—what is the meaning ofthe generality of the foregoing words"?What is the "generality"? It seems to be offered to us in the guise of a great sweeper-up which comes after all that has gone before and confers powers which may by some oversight of the Poet Laureate have been omitted up to that point. It is the most dreadful piece of drafting—
§ Mr. Onslow
I apologise to my hon. Friend. It is not the most dreadful piece of drafting in the Bill, but it runs a close second to others that he has already so carefully drawn to our attention.
Perhaps the Postmaster-General will direct his mind to what is required in sending a telegram, and realise that economy does not necessarily frustrate clear expression. This Amendment could have been considerably simplified if it were expressed in fewer words. Had it been simplified in that way, my second point might, perhaps, have not been so important as it at present seems, for I detect in the intended substituted words a considerable widening of Post Office powers.
We see in the rest of the subsection as it stands—I shall not read it all out—that very wide powers are to be given to the Post Office, including almost everything except the manufacture of arms. If there are some powers which it is thought necessary to give to the Post Office, wider powers than were thought necessary when the Bill was in Committee, the right hon. Gentleman might usefully have explained what they were.
I do not know whether my hon. Friends on the Front Bench will invite the House to reject Amendment No. 22. If they do, I shall have considerable sympathy with them, first, because I regard it as a piece of grievous bodily harm to the English language and something to be deplored on that ground, and second, because I detect in it a considerable widening of the powers of the Post Office which the Postmaster-General, for some 991 inscrutable reason, did not think it right to spell out when he introduced the Amendment.
§ Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson (New Forest)
I direct attention to Amendment No. 33, and I shall not be as generous as my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) has been. That Amendment, which comes tucked away at the end of this long subsection (2), is an extraordinary piece of drafting. If it had been written in the Cyrillic alphabet, it would have been easier to understand. As it is, it is meaningless.
We are to take out the wordsto do all other things which, in its opinion, are requisite or expedient to facilitate the proper carrying on of its businessand are to replace them byand may turn its resources to account so far as not required for the purposes of its business".I cannot understand what that means. The English leads one astray, though I have an idea of what is really intended.
When moving his Amendment, a few minutes ago, the Postmaster-General made clear that, in his opinion, he was trying to introduce an Amendment which would sensibly limit the freedom given by this subsection in line with subsection (1). However, if Amendment No. 33 is to be accepted, appalling though the English may be, the gate will be opened all over again. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that his Amendment No. 22 limits the powers, but by his later Amendment No. 33, which comes at the end of the Clause, he opens the gate once again to every sort of activity in which the Post Office might wish to engage. It is not good enough.
It may be good politics for the right hon. Gentleman to tell us that he is listening to the debate and is anxious to meet everyone's point of view, but an Amendment of this kind, quite apart from its "Greek", will give him all those powers over again, throwing the net absolutely wide and making the Clause probably the biggest umbrella Clause of any Bill ever to come before the House, allowing a Government-sponsored body to enter into almost any field of activity it likes.
I hope that when he explains the Amendment to us the Postmaster-General 992 will first make the language clear. It leaves me in great doubt. I hope that he will also make clear what I think is in his mind—if it is not, he has the wrong form of words—to assure us that the limits he promises will appear somewhere in the Bill.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
In introducing the Amendments the Postmaster-General spoke of meeting an Opposition point made in Committee. I do not feel that the words of the Amendments meet the point we made then, and unless the right hon. Gentleman is much more forthcoming when he replies I would advice by right hon. and hon. Friends to divide the House.
The right hon. Gentleman promised in Committee to consider whether lines 35 and 36 on page 6 of the Bill might be reworded so that the Post Office's power of manufacture would be restricted. He made favourable noises without making a definite commitment. This is reported in columns 297–298 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee proceedings.
I am very unhappy with the wording of Amendment No. 22, which seems to go back on what the right hon. Gentleman said in Committee, and even to make the whole scope of the Clause wider than it was when we orginally considered it. I am very dissatisfied with this.
In moving the Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman said that the reason for it was to clarify the relationship between subsections (1) and (2). I do not think that the Amendment does the job, if that is what it is trying to do. The words in subsection (1) as to the kind of thing the Post Office is to do are in very wide terms. Subsection (2) contains the kind of specific things that are included in the objects clause and memorandum and articles of association of a company. It sets out in paragraphs (a) to (u) all the things, from running buses in the Highlands of Scotland to manufacturing, which the Post Office might attempt to do.
But now, by the words of Amendment No. 22, to the language of which my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) referred in picturesque but not unfair terms, it is to incorporate the points in subsection (1). The Amendment continues:… in connection with or in consequence of an exercise thereof, to do anything …"—993 I emphasise the word "anything"—that it appears to it requisite, advantageous or convenient to do,…I repeat the words:requisite, advantageous or convenient to do,…This is unreasonably wide. Surely it is a further extension of the powers of the Post Office?
I do not know the reason for this. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was to meet points raised by the Opposition in Committee. I have a suspicion that it is all part of the rather sordid story of the pressures put on the right hon. Gentleman by the trade union group of M.P.s to extend the manufacturing powers of the Post Office. The words can be used to extend its manufacturing and other powers in a way not originally agreed when the House gave the Bill an unopposed Second Reading.
In these circumstances, I must protest, first, against the wording; second, about the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, which was much too brief; and, third, against the whole principle behind the Amendment. Unless the right hon. Gentleman gives a much more useful reply, I would advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide the House.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Kenneth Baker) widened the debate a little, and I am sure that it would not meet with your approval, Mr. Speaker, if I tried to answer his philosophical exercise.
Then the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), in a very repetitive speech, complained about the excessive use of words in the Amendment. I made a note of some of the things he said "I am bound to say", "I repeat to the Postmaster-General". I do not think that those phrases are required. He acknowledged during his own speech that he was being repetitive, and it comes rather ill from the hon. Gentleman to complain of excessive words in the Amendment.
§ Mr. Onslow
I do not wish to enter into personalities, but, since the right hon. Gentleman has opened the door, may I point out to him that anybody who can put his name to the Amendment obviously needs to have everything explained 994 to him not once but two or three times if he is to have a glimmer of understanding of its meaning.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The hon. Gentleman is an expert in the excessive use of words, and, therefore, I am sure that the House values his entering into the debate.
I am bound to say—if I may adopt the hon. Gentleman's phrase—that the Amendment is just about right. What we have to do in it is to achieve clarity, so that the future lawyers who exercise their minds on this form of words will understand exactly what it means. I believe that clarity is preferable to economy in the use of words.
Reference was made to the use of the word "it". May I explain to hon. Members opposite, who did not have the advantage of being under your tutorship in English at school, Mr. Speaker, that the "it" in line 3 of the Amendment and the "it" in line 4 clearly refer to the Post Office itself—
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I think that that is quite clear. That is required to explain the meaning. The Amendment says:… it appears to it"—the Post Office—requisite, advantageous or convenient to do,…
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I do not agree. It is clear. I repeat:… to do anything that it appears to it"—the Post Office—requisite, advantageous or convenient to do,…This is a concession to hon. Members opposite, who raised the point in Committee. It seems that their eyesight is defective when they cannot see a concession of this character when it is presented to them in the willing form that it is this afternoon.
995 May I explain it further to hon. Members opposite, who simply fail to understand? The main powers of the Post Office are set out in subsection (1). The powers in subsection (2) are subservient in a sense to those in subsection (1). It is not the intention that the Post Office should set out to invest in activities in subsection (2) unless they are part of the activities in subsection (1). The primary investment must be in the activities in subsection (1), and all the others are related to those powers.
There may be occasions—there will probably be many—when investments are made in relation to the main activities of the Post Office that become surplus to its requirements, and where it may be advantageous, convenient or expedient to the Post Office to use those surplus activities in a way other than in relation to its main activities set out in subsection (1), so as to ensure an adequate return on the investment. That is the reason the Amendment is worded in this way and why Amendment No. 33 put down with it, so that the Post Office may have the power in the future, according to sensible management decisions, to turn its resources to account in the way which is set out.
Any business has this flexibility. It sets out to do a certain line of business and it acquires certain marginal activities which service that main business. When those marginal activities are not required for, some reason, to service the main business, then it is within the power of the management to turn the marginal activities to account in other ways so that there shall be no brake on the attainment of the financial objectives of the firm.
All that we are suggesting in the Clause and the Amendment is that the Post Office should have similar powers. The Post Office will have very strict financial objectives set upon it, and it is important that without too much hindrance the management of the Post Office should be able to turn its business to account in this way.
The answer to the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills), who raised objections to the words, is that it is essential that they be read in conjunction with the principal powers in subsection (1).
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker
As Amendment No. 25 has been selected, may we know the right hon. Gentleman's view on that Amendment and on the argument which I advanced?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I have already said that I am in no way in a position supporting Amendment No. 25, which is superfluous. If accepted, it would be misleading. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) for absenting himself this afternoon and not moving that Amendment.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour
Alan Herbert, in a book, once wrote that it was the job of the other place to correct grammar. Will the Postmaster-General undertake to look at this "it" again? It is plain that in that line "that" is a relative "that", which means "which".… to do anything which it appears to it requisiteis plainly illiterate. Will the right hon. Gentleman look at it again and at least make this Act of Parliament reasonably literate?
§ Mr. Peyton
May I support that plea? It is too bad that the Postmaster-General will not give that undertaking. It is quite a small point. It is the not-high-flown desire on this side of the House that we should remove ugliness from the Bill. We were aware of the heavy burdens of responsibility placed on the Chair, but until just now I had no idea that they had been added to in such a terrible way and that indirectly, Mr. Speaker, you have some responsibility for the English language as it is deployed by Ministers.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Mr. Speaker was once an English master, but he does not intervene in debates of any kind in the House. He cannot be prayed in aid either for or against the wording on the Notice Paper.
§ Mr. Peyton
I did not wish to solicit your aid, Mr. Speaker, but I was extending my respectful sympathy to you, because after what the Postmaster-General said a certain amount of blame might be taken by uncharitable persons to rest upon yourself, which none of us would wish to see. While extending my sympathy to you, I was asking that the right hon. Gentleman should think again about this horrid piece of English.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
As always on these occasions, the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) was charming and delightful, as was his hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour). I willingly respond. I will, of course, look at this "it" again, and if it is superfluous
§ it can be removed. But I am advised that it is an important "it".
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 197; Noes 134.999
|Division No. 206.]||AYES||[4.24 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Orme, Stanley|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Alldritt, Walter||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Ashley, Jack||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Padley, Walter|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Hannan, William||Palmer, Arthur|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Park, Trevor|
|Barnes, Michael||Hazell, Bert||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Barnett, Joel||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Beaney, Alan||Henig, Stanley||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Bence, Cyril||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Pentland, Norman|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Hooley, Frank||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hoy, James||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hunter, Adam||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Booth, Albert||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Boyden, James||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Janner, Sir Barnett||Probert, Arthur|
|Brooks, Edwin||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Rankin, John|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Richard, Ivor|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Buchan, Norman||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Judd, Frank||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Cant, R. B.||Kelley, Richard||Roebuck, Roy|
|Carmichael, Neil||Lawson, George||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Lestor, Miss Joan||Sheldon, Robert|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Lipton, Marcus||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Loughlin, Charles||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Luard, Evan||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Dell, Edmund||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Silverman, Julius|
|Dempsey, James||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Dewar, Donald||McBride, Neil||Slater, Joseph|
|Dickens, James||McCann, John||Small, William|
|Dunnett, Jack||MacColl, James||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Macdonald, A. H.||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||McGuire, Michael||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Eadie, Alex||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Ellis, John||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Taverne, Dick|
|English, Michael||Mackie, John||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Ennals, David||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Ensor, David||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mallalieu E. L. (Brigg)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Wallace, George|
|Finch, Harold||Mapp, Charles||Wellbeloved, James|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Marquand, David||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Ford, Ben||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Whitaker, Ben|
|Forrester, John||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Fowler, Gerry||Mendelson, John||Whitlock, William|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mikardo, Ian||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Freeson, Reginald||Millan, Bruce||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Gardner, Tony||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Garrett, W. E.||Molloy, William||Winnick, David|
|Ginsburg, David||Morgan, Elystan, (Cardiganshire)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Woof, Robert|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Murray, Albert|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Neal, Harold||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gregory, Arnold||Newens, Stan||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Ogden, Eric||Dr. M. S. Miller.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Oram, Albert E.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nott, John|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Balniel, Lord||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Biffen, John||Hay, John||Percival, Ian|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Peyton, John|
|Blaker, Peter||Higgins, Terence L.||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Hill, J. E. B.||Pounder, Rafton|
|Braine, Bernard||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Holland, Philip||Pym, Francis|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hooson, Emlyn||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hornby, Richard||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hunt, John||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jopling, Michael||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Clegg, Walter||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Cooke, Robert||Kershaw, Anthony||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Corfield, F. V.||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Costain, A. P.||Kitson, Timothy||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Speed, Keith|
|Crouch, David||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Stodart, Anthony|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Longden, Gilbert||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Dean, Paul||Lubbock, Eric||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||MacArthur, Ian||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Eden, Sir John||McMaster, Stanley||Tilney, John|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||McNair-Wilson, Michael||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Emery, Peter||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||Marten, Neil||Waddington, David|
|Farr, John||Maude, Angus||Wall, Patrick|
|Fisher, Nigel||Mawby, Ray||Walters, Dennis|
|Foster, Sir John||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Monro, Hector||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Goodhart, Philip||More, Jasper|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gower, Raymond||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Mr. Reginald Eyre and|
|Grant, Anthony||Murton, Oscar||Mr. Anthony Royle.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
§ Amendments made: No. 29, in page 8, leave out lines 5 to 11.
No. 33, in page 9, leave out lines 13 to 17 and insert:
'and may turn its resources to account so far as not required for the purposes of its business'.—[Mr. Stonehouse.]
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
On a point of order. Are you to put the Question on Amendment No. 25, Mr. Deputy Speaker? I think that it was the intention of the House and of the Minister that it should be resisted.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Amendment No. 25 was not selected by Mr. Speaker for a Division. The House has just agreed to two Government Amendments and we now come to another.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I beg to move Amendment No. 37, in page 9, line 22, at end insert: 1000( ) The Post Office shall not be regarded as a common carrier in respect of any of its activities.As the House knows, the Bill is intended to carry through to the Post Office Corporation the same powers and responsibilities which the Post Office, as a Department of State, now has. As a Department of State, the Post Office is not liable as a common carrier for all its activities. In other words, it cannot be sued for any loss arising out of its activities. Clause 29 specifically excludes this liability in relation to the corporation carrying out its primary responsibilities which are set out in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of that Clause.
However, a gap in the provision for the limitation of liability has come to light. That is when there are cases where the Post Office is obviously not at fault and where the loss is caused by an extraneous accident for which the Post Office is in no way responsible. I give as an illustration a plane crash when the 1001 mail bags are destroyed, or a train crash when the mails are affected. Without the Amendment, the corporation could be held to be liable.
The Amendment is to make it clear that the corporation is not liable in such a case. It does no more than carry through to the corporation the existing limitation of liability enjoyed by the Post Office as a Department of State, and I hope that the House will find it acceptable.
§ Mr. John Hay (Henley)
I should be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman if he would tell us what he did not tell us—on what statutory foundation rests his claim that the Post Office at present is not a common carrier? I thought for a moment that he intended to tell us that, but he did not do so. We ought to have that information. I have it at the back of my mind that in respect of some of its services the Post Office may be regarded as a common carrier. I may be wrong and, if I am, I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would correct me.
My second point is somewhat more important. The Amendment says that the Post Office is not to be regarded as a common carrier in respect of any of its services. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the carriage of parcels. He may not be aware that in the United States the definition of "common carrier" has been extended quite widely to telecommunications services, and a whole corpus of law has now arisen, with which the Federal Communications Commission and other bodies are very much concerned, as to the applicability of common carrier liabilities to the various services—operated in that country, of course, by private enterprise—for the transmission of data and information by wire.
The Amendment would exclude the Post Office completely from any liability not only in respect of the loss of packets, but, assuming that the right hon. Gentleman is right and that it simply carries into the new era the existing non-liability of the Post Office, any possibility of the corporation being liable to provide on demand telecommunications services of the character already existing in the United States.
I do not know whether the point has been brought to the right hon. Gentleman's 1002 attention. If not, perhaps he could look at it and consider whether some limitation of this very wide exemption is necessary in these circumstances.
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)
I had intended to ask a question similar to that asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay). Is it clear that with the addition of this Amendment the powers of the corporation will be no greater than the powers of the Post Office? Clause 29 makes the new corporation completely free from proceedings in tort in respect of its telecommunications services. The right hon. Gentleman has quite rightly spoken about the problems that can arise when a telephone service is disconnected, not as a result of any action by the Post Office, but by a third party. I am thinking of normal road operations, foundations being dug, etc. A person in business could be damaged to a large extent if he loses his telephone communication system.
We know that, like the old G.P.O., the new corporation will pull all the stops out to make certain that the service is resumed at the earliest possible moment. Under the Amendment, the person who had suffered through the loss of his telephone communications, and perhaps telex and data transmission, would be unable to sue the person responsible for the loss of his service because it is not possible to sue the corporation. It might be proved that the damage was caused by some third party, and that the corporation was in no way to blame, but by being able to be sued in the first place it would enable a person to obtain damages from a third party.
As I see it, there would be no possibility of this happening and the damaged person would be unable to recover one penny. Clause 29 virtually covers all telecommunications matters which could be considered to lie within the scope of the G.P.O. This Amendment deals with the occasions on which a service may be discontinued or interrupted through the action of a third party. Is it not possible to find a way in which an individual, perhaps a partner in a small company, who suffers from a loss of his communication services can recover damages?
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
The Postmaster-General's explanation, which lasted about 60 seconds, does not do justice to this Amendment. It gives very wide powers to the corporation, as compared with perhaps B.O.A.C., which is a carrier of Her Majesty's mail, but in that case there is an element of competition. Here there is no competition and we need a more detailed explanation about how the public will be protected. This is a monopoly situation which is different from that arising with one of the nationalised industries. I am not at all satisfied that the interests of the public are being served from what I have heard.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour
We realise that the obligations of a common carrier are not imposed upon a Government Department, although it does not necessarily follow that such an obligation should not be imposed upon the Post Office. It is worth pointing out that the right hon. Gentleman is always anxious to gain all the rights of a monopoly, but when it comes to the duties he is almost equally anxious to escape them. Because we are approaching this Amendment in the same large-minded spirit of generosity as we have approached other parts of the Bill we will not press this Amendment to a Division but we look forward to an additional explanation.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
If I may reply, by leave of the House, by the provisions of Clause 29 the Post Office has always been excluded from liability for proceedings in tort, as distinct from protecting itself by individual contracts with members of the public with whom it is contact. It is possible for private companies, when they engage in business, to enter into a contract limiting the extent of their liability. With the Post Office, as it is providing a whole range of activities to a wide range of customers, it is necessary to exclude the liability in tort in the way suggested.
The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) asked what was the basis of the Post Offices limitation of liability to which I referred. I am advised that it is based on a case decided in the courts, dating back to the 18th century, Whitfield v. Lord Le Despenser. There was also a recent case, Triefus v. Postmaster-General, decided by the Court of Appeal, 1004 when a B.O.A C. employee stole a packet of diamonds, and the owner sued the Postmaster-General unsuccessfully. Section 9 of the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, would also give the Post Office this exemption.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will go on to tell us what happened to the owner of the diamonds? Was he recompensed by B.O.A.C. or anyone else?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I do not have the details of this case at my fingertips. The Post Office was not held to be liable. It was given exemption from liability It is this exemption which is to be passed on to the Post Office Corporation.
The hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) raised a number of points which, strictly speaking, related to Amendment No. 98 to Clause 29. It would be more appropriate if we dealt with those points on that Amendment. I hope that the House will see fit to support the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
We can take, at the same time, Amendments No. 41, in page 9, line 43, leave out from 'Islands' to 'and' in line 44.
No. 42, in page 9, line 43, after 'Islands', insert:'and the social, industrial and civic needs of its employees'.and No. 43, in page 10, line 10, at end insert:(d) to the resources available to it and the existence of alternative facilities.
§ Mr. Ridley
I wish to move the Amendment very briefly and in an exploratory tone. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I am not able to stay for the whole of the debate, because I have a very important engagement shortly.
The Amendment deals with the general duty of the Post Office. It seeks to leave out the social needs of the British islands and to concentrate the duty of the Post Office on the industrial and commercial needs. It is not that I do not want the Post Office to discharge all sorts of useful social functions, but it should not be its general duty to discharge them. They 1005 should be the responsibility of the Government Department or other body which wishes these functions to be performed and they should be paid for by that other Department or body. It would be right to read the Amendment with other Amendments relating to the general financial duty of the Post Office.
It would make the lives of those who run the Post Office much simpler and more straightforward if they were told that they had to behave commercially and to make as much money as they could, against price regulation, and provide social facilities only when it was expressly required to do so and was adequately compensated for doing so.
The Postmaster-General was forth-coming about this matter on 5th May. He listed a number of uneconomic activities—the telegram service, the delivery of posts in remoter areas of Wales and Scotland, the provision of kiosks, the delivery of items for the blind and the 999 emergency service. I do not say that these services should not be performed, but the relevant question is whether it is the Post Office's duty to provide for them out of its own resources. They should all be provided by those who require them to be provided.
The telegram service should be paid for by the Government. It does not pay. Why should people who post letters and people who use the telephone have to pay for the telegram service? The delivery of letters to remoter areas is a true charge. The delivery of letters is probably a true charge. The delivery of items for the blind is certainly not a true charge on customers in general. This should be the responsibility of the Department of Health and Social Security, or whatever Ministry is responsible.
The same is true of the 999 service. As the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) suggested, it should be paid for by the police, fire or ambulance authorities, or all three in concert.
We have decided that customers for the supply of electricity and letters and matters of that sort should pay the same price. That is a correct economic decision. But I do not believe that the principle should go so far as to say that the generality of customers of the Post Office should pay for the uneconomic activities which the Government require it to perform.
1006 Amendment No. 42 suggests that the needs of the employees of the Post Office should form part of its general duties. I do not agree. We must clarify the objectives of the people running the Post Office. We should tell them that they must provide postal and telecommunications services as efficiently as they can and make as much money as they can and then all these difficult conflicts of interest will be brought into focus.
The speech of the Postmaster-General the other night was, broadly, sympathetic and helpful from the general point of view of payment. However, valid criticism was made of the Post Office's costings in the Economist, which said:… while there is no shortage of figures … most of them are meaningless. It calcultates the costs of its various activities, and subsequently sets its tariffs, using a system which allocates some of its overheads quite arbitrarily and, at the best, pro rata.We must have absolutely clear and concise costings of all these uneconomic activities, including its overheads, contributions to peak load, and so on, so that we know what they cost.
It would be wrong to include social needs in the general duty of the Post Office. They would be better reserved for later Clauses dealing with the Minister's power to ask it to undertake uneconomic activities. The main duties of the Post Office should be confined to commercial and industrial needs of the British islands, with the Minister having power to require it to deal with social considerations at a later stage.
§ Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
I am very pleased that the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) said that his Amendment was exploratory. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General will treat it in that fashion. If social needs were eliminated, a tremendous catastrophe would be created in many parts of the country in the delivery of very important mail. If the cost were charged to different Government Departments it would be catastrophic for the administrative machine in trying to allocate Departments which should pay the charge.
I ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind the serious problem of delivering mail in certain parts of the country and especially in the remoter areas. I have watched how the mail was delivered in 1007 parts of Scotland. The mail of the people who live there is every bit as important to them as the mail of those who live in the industrial belts or urban parts of the United Kingdom is to them. It is conceivable that if the Amendment were to go beyond the exploratory stage great confusion could result about whether mail would be delivered.
In the areas which I have in mind a postman delivers along a certain part of the route, a bus operator takes it for the remainder of the journey and the shopkeeper disposes of it thereafter. This is what is involved in delivering important letters to citizens who pay taxes and rates and make their contribution to the well-being of our society. I should be very concerned if any practice was introduced which inconvenienced people living in these remote areas in the delivery of their mail.
To allocate services to certain Government Departments would be tremendously difficult administratively. A tremendously costly administrative machine would be required to sort out the different categories of mail and services and to decide which Department should pay for them so as to ensure that the service was a viable economic unit.
I do not regard the Amendment as practical. It would certainly mean considerable delay in deliveries, because it would require the departmentalising of postal deliveries in such a fashion that all the economic services would require to be specially registered and documented to ensure that the appropriate items were charged to social security, the walfare services, the hospital services, the police and the fire services. This would create additional cost in managing an essential consumer service.
It would be bound to mean an increase in public expenditure—and that is something which the Opposition have all along criticised. They want a reduction in public expenditure. It would be bound to result in an increase in the number of civil servants—but for the past two years the Opposition have been calling for a reduction in their numbers. Therefore, in this respect, the Amendment is not a practical proposition.
1008 I should not like to try to guess what would happen if the Coal Board deficit, for example, had had to be charged to all the different Departments of Government which are responsible for the different aspects of citizenship. There would be bound to be extra cost, delay and impairment of essential services for the public. That is why I hope that my right hon. Friend will resist the Amendment
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)
I have so far refrained from intervening in the debate on Report or on Second Reading, but I wish particularly to make two points which hang on Amendments Nos. 40 and 43. Following the speech of the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), I should like to know whether the Minister can at this stage give any direct information on the cost of operating some—perhaps not all—of the social services which are run by the Post Office.
In any proper cost and works accountancy study, some of these costs would obviously have had to be broken down. In any correct management structure, it would be of importance for the Minister or his Department to be able to give the figures of the extent to which the Post Office helps to subsidise certain of the social costs which have been outlined in this debate. It would be of use to the House and to the country generally if the Minister could give some of those figures. I do not believe that anybody, whether or not he agreed with the Amendment, could claim other than that it was correct that we should have a proper costing of the social services which the Post Office provides.
To turn to the aspect of the duties, whether the social cost should or should not be deleted and the "alternative facilities" referred to in Amendment No. 43, it is important to stress to the Minister the need for providing commercial judgment in the services, particularly in the case of the more far-flung areas. I should like to discuss as an example the problems which parts of the South-West have to suffer. From personal experience, I find that even the Postmaster-General's new 5d. mail takes as much as three days to reach me here at the House of Commons. That cannot be good for any commercial approach. It is certainly no 1009 social service on the part of the Post Office.
The right hon. Gentleman has attempted to investigate a number of these problems about which I have been on to him time and time again concerning the absolute delays in the service of the Post Office. Certainly, from a management consultant point of view, it does not appear to provide the necessary efficiency when mail from Axminster has to be transported 33 miles to Exeter, the local mail sorted there and then sent back again. There has been no reduction of the sorting staff at Axminster. This would appear not to be the best element of management which many of us would like to see.
I cannot believe that it has anything to do with the social aspect. Indeed, people in my area complain that whereas formerly local mail which was posted in the morning would be delivered the same afternoon, a 4d. letter now takes as long as three days to go to the next village. This is a crazy aspect of the type of duty and service which the Post Office is now providing.
Another specific point to the Postmaster-General is whether, under the industrial structure, a service should not be provided by the Post Office, not at an exorbitant level, which would guarantee delivery within 24 hours. That is what industry wants and what commercial undertakings require. It has a particular social aspect. It seems to me to be something which the Postmaster-General should attempt to undertake among the general duties of the Post Office. It is important that he should apply his mind to this.
What I have to say applies not only to the postal services but relates also to the telephone service. There are a specific number of problems in connection with the social needs of the telephone service. In Exmouth, for example, where elderly, retired people, often live alone and can produce a doctor's certificate to show that they suffer from serious illness, people are unable to obtain the necessary telephone service which they require. In Exmouth, with its population of about 22,000 people, there are 100, including some major cases of illness, who are awaiting the telephone service.
1010 I should like to put it to the Postmaster-General as part of the aspect of Amendment No. 43 that it may well be that the Post Office should consider, as well as the social structure, the specific industrial and commercial problems of firms which are unable to get a telephone linked to their business. Under the Amendment—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member will probably have noticed my anxiety about his earlier remarks on the postal services. I think that he is now going out of order in his remarks on the telephone service. They are out of order even on Amendment No. 43.
§ Mr. Emery
As you will know only too well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the last thing I want to do is to be out of order.
The effect of Amendment No. 43 is thatIn discharging the duty imposed on it … the Post Office shall have regard … to the resources available to it and the existence of alternative facilities.My problem is that there are no alternative facilities to the telephone service. The Amendment covers both postal and telephone services.
It is because no alternative resources are available that I was trying to put to the Postmaster-General—and I hope that I am now in order in doing so—the thought that commercial firms are particularly perturbed if, when they move into an area, they are unable to have a telephone service for sometimes as long as a year.
Quite obviously, in running any type of business it is a major drawback not to have a telephone and a telephone number; it is not only difficult, but well-nigh impossible. The Department ought to consider that this service ought to be available at a specific premium, a specific charge, not at the ordinary connection rate. The point is to ensure that the resources which are available should go to the people who have considerable need of them. A waiting list does not necessarily ensure that the resources which are available are used in the proper manner.
It is for that reason specifically that I wanted to ask the Minister whether there is any possibility of his considering the priority aspect of the problem. What I have been trying to say in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester 1011 and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), who moved the Amendment so ably, is that with the factors of social cost there are a number of other problems as well, and that they are of major importance to individuals. These resources and facilities of the Post Office are of the type which are of importance to them in their everyday lives, and of importance, in some instances, to their business existence.
Therefore, it seems to me that, in answering the case for these Amendments, the Minister has a major task to make it absolutely clear that he has his priorities right, and it seems to me that it was a most sensible thing to have moved this Amendment.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) ought to be congratulated on his Amendment No. 40. He said it was a probing Amendment. I should like to expand on some of the things he said.
To start with, funnily enough Clause 9 setts out in the reverse alphabetical order the needs which the Post Office has to meet. It puts them as the "social, industrial and commercial" needs, whereas, bearing in mind the rôle of the Post Office, one would suppose they would be the "commercial, industrial and social" needs. As usual with this Bill, the wording seems to me to be the wrong way round.
The first question I want to deal with is that of telegrams. Telegrams have always been looked upon as things which people use in times of emergency, and the Postmaster-General from time to time comes to the Box and says that, although the telegram service loses a lot of money, it cannot be done away with, or cannot be put up in price, because telegrams are used in times of crisis. I have known that to happen many times, since I have been a Member, and we have debated this a number of times. It is always where we try to run such a service as a social and not as a commercial operation that we get into difficulties. I should like the Postmaster-General to deny the accuracy of what I am saying, but I understand that telegrams today cost much more than they bring in and that the telegram service is run at a great loss.
1012 Anybody who is in sudden difficulty, or suffers a loss in his family, and so on, wants to send a telegram, but almost invariably learns that it will not be delivered before first post next morning. It seems that deaths mostly occur at very awkward times of day; unless death occurs in the very early part of the day, in which case the telegrams may be delivered that afternoon, almost invariably the telegram will not be delivered before next morning. The great bulk of telegrams are not delivered till the next day. If, when one telephones a telegram, one asks the telephone operator when it will be delivered one will be told, "About first post tomorrow morning".
I am not criticising the Post Office for this, but now, because of the vast expansion of the S.T.D., most people in times of crisis use the telephone. If the matter is sufficiently urgent they will even ring up the local police station. They would rather do that because of the time it takes to deliver a telegram. The old argument that in times of crisis people use telegrams no longer really applies. S.T.D. serves the purpose much better than the telegram. The Post Office issues a vast number of greetings telegrams, and so itself demonstrates the fact that today it is for greetings telegrams are used.
I cannot for the life of me see why, if I am sending a greetings telegram to someone on his wedding anniversary or his birthday or because of the birth of a child, I should be subsidised by the rest of the community. I think I ought to pay the full market rate for that telegram.
There is a difficulty in charging for things like dialling 999. It might cost far more to administer a system of charges for 999 calls than to give the public that service without charge, and therefore I would not criticise that, but what I would criticise is the cost to the Post Office of carrying out services on behalf of other Government Departments. I ask the Postmaster-General to come much cleaner with the House than I have known him be so far about what is the actual cost of the services which the Post Office carries out on behalf of other Departments. I know that some ad hoc figures are given, but has the Post Office really costed out those services on a cost-effectiveness basis?
1013 If a post office were run purely for postal services, with none of the social activities attached, it would probably be able to handle the whole of the service at two pigeonholes—"stations" I think they are called. Perhaps the Postmaster-General could help me? Are they called "stations"—where a clerk stands behind the counter? I think they are called stations. Because of the amount of welfare and social work, a post office has to have perhaps four stations, and allowing for staff time off, perhaps five, whereas for ordinary postal activities only two would be necessary.
Before this part of our national life is handed over to a Corporation which will not be nearly so available for questioning in the House as it has been under the present dispensation I should like to have a real assurance from the Postmaster-General that this Corporation, in taking on the social activities—and I am not objecting to them in any way—will be paid commercial rates for the services it carries out, so that people sending letters or using the telephone or using other of the services are not subsidising other Government Departments, and so that the Government Departments are not getting these services on the cheap. We ought to have a much clearer picture from the Postmaster-General of what all these cost.
That is why I support my hon. Friend's probing Amendment, because it gives the Postmaster-General the opportunity to tell us something about these problems.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Hamilton)
All Government Departments should have regard to social needs, especially a Government Department which has a monopoly. This goes almost without saying. If the population of the United Kingdom were evenly distributed and were of a standard type, perhaps urban dwellers, it would not be necessary to have a lengthy debate on the use of these words.
Reference has been made to the remoter areas of Scotland, and I will illustrate my remarks by reference to Islay, an island which lies off the West Coast of Scotland. I congratulate the Post Office on being one Department in the structure of Government which has always said to remote dwellers, "Congratulations on living in a remote place; we will provide you with the same service at the same 1014 cost, even if the service costs more". This has always been done by the Post Office, and that is why the Post Office and its employees in remote areas are so popular. They fulfil an extraordinary variety of extramural activities, which the Postmaster-General's public relations office would be pleased to call a friendly service, even though it may get a little less friendly in the cities. If other Government Departments took the same attitude and did not punish people for choosing to live in remote areas, it may be that the depopulation problems of Scotland would not be so severe.
I should like to consider the word "social" in a slightly different way. I agree that the word should be retained but I question whether, although perhaps with the best motives—I am willing to be generous about motivation—centralised thinking and expenditure on possible improvements will result in satisfying social need.
I am sad that the Postmaster-General is bowing off the stage and that I shall not in future be able to ask him Parliamentary Questions, but I ask him to bear in mind the illustration which I give of the island of Islay. This is a charming island which likes to be visited, it is famous for its friendliness and is sometimes called the "Land of the Midnight Ceilidhs".
The telephone exchange in Islay provides the most friendly service of the United Kingdom. The inexorable march of centralised planning has interfered with this service and, instead of the charming white-fronted small telephone exchange, where Ishbel performs thousands of extramural acts of assistance to the people who live there and to the visitors, a hideous modern building is being erected behind the present telephone exchange at a cost which is likely to be many times that of the present one.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am finding difficulty in seeing how the hon. Lady is relating her remarks to any Amendment on the Paper.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I do not think you will have difficulty, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you will bear with me for a few further paragraphs.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order The hon. Lady has already put in a few shots that were not in the proper locker.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I am addressing myself specifically to the word "social" and the need for that word to remain in the Bill. I am giving an illustration of the best application of the word, an application which has not so far been heard in this debate. The fact that I am doing this by a helpful illustration does not, in my submission, make my remarks irrelevant.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have listened to the hon. Lady with great care. I hope that she will get on with her argument so that I shall be able to find out whether it is in order.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I am giving the illustration so that I may draw conclusions, and I feel confident that when you have heard the argument, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will see that it is absolutely relevant.
In spite of technological progress, there are still social needs, and I want to interpret social needs in the sense of serving the community. Clause 9(2) refers to the desirability of improving and developing the operating systems of the Post Office, and to developments in the field of communications. The development of communications in an island involves special problems not involved in a city. There are fringe benefits in Islay. If cows invade the garden one does not have to know the owner of them, one only has to ask Ishbel, and she will know the telephone number.
I will now turn to serious matters of emergency. The doctor in Islay is hard worked and indispensable and at present he can always be found. Doctors are entitled to time off and sometimes go fishing or out to dinner; but will a mechanised system understand this? Ishbel understands it and can always find the doctor without difficulty, even of he is on another island.
The aeroplane is the life-blood of the island and the operators are prepared to make extra journeys in emergencies. I am sorry that the Postmaster-General is not interested in Islay. I recommend it to him; it would do him good to go there to see it for himself; he might then appreciate some of the problems of remote areas. Ishbel can always find the plane operators, who are on duty 24 hours a day. Will the mechanised service which is to replace the friendly service do this?
1016 I am interested in social needs, but I question whether leaving the words "social needs" in the Bill will solve the problem, unless we understand that social needs have to be interpreted as referring to specific areas with special requirements. How will a mechanised service be a friend to old people in remote areas? I am making the point in all seriousness, although I may have brought in colourful examples. I am not attempting to be frivolous. I urge the Postmaster-General to bear in mind that the spending of more money on so-called improvements may not result in social needs being met.
The two-tier post has sometimes worked out with great absurdity. People in the islands are usually patient about the delivery of letters, and delays give rise to great good humour and many funny stories, but it is not sensible to apply the two-tier service to the islands of Scotland.
The Post Office has been brought into great good humoured ridicule, although the people's affection for the Post Office is no less great. I question whether the two-tier system has any application whatsoever to the social needs of the island.
I support the Postmaster-General in retaining the word "social" in the Clause, with these reservations as to its interpretation. When he has bowed off the stage and the Treasury is waiting in the wings as the power behind the scenes, I am concerned whether we shall be able to ask questions on the day-to-day interpretation of important words like "social".
§ Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (Walsall, South)
It is nearly three years since some of us began our studies of the Post Office Bill, and during the whole of that time the telegraph service has stuck out like a sore thumb.
During this agreeable debate we have had one or two enjoyable constituency speeches, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) on the ingenuity with which they have brought the needs of their constituents to the attention of the House without infringing the rules of order. This is, indeed, an achievement.
1017 I turn to the words of the Amendment and particularly to the connotation mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). It is perhaps no coincidence that he and I sat together on the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries and in Committee on this Bill, so the telegraph system means to us something different from what it means to those who have later come in on these matters.
The telegraph service is excused as meeting a social need, but one knows that the urgent, social-need telegram is free to the sender. Examples were given during the Committee stage. Urgent telegrams sent by the police are free to them. I doubt whether the telegraph service really meets an urgent social need.
The service exists primarily for the use of the Press and secondly for bookmakers. If one attacks in this House either the Press or the bookmakers, one takes one's life in one's hands. Therefore, I understand the Postmaster-General's reticence. Certainly the Press is the main user of the telegram service, with the bookmakers second, although bookmakers now use the telephone kiosk to a greater extent.
There is a lack of interest in the telegraph service, and when one see the word "social" in Clause 9 of the Bill, it leads one to ask whether there is any such requirement. It does not meet any commercial requirement at present, but it is excused as meeting a social requirement. Greetings telegrams which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) and which we so much enjoy, do not meet any particularly urgent social need.
If we delete the word "social", we shall have to look again at the whole matter of the telegraph service. We must ask ourselves whether the main users of it, the Press, would be prepared to pay the cost of retaining it. I believe that we shall receive varying answers.
In regard to the other matters which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, I remember from my stamp-collecting days that the penny post came in in 1840, with the principle of one rate for postage, whether a letter went from 1018 Lands End to John O'Groats or from the House of Commons to the Ministry of Health. It is a sensible principle for which we should be unwise to depart.
The provision of the telephone kiosk is a constant drain on the Post Office, and the policy as to the necessity for kiosks needs to be carefully examined area by area. I do not wish to make a constituency speech, but there are areas in my constituency where telephone kiosks are required because of shortage of private telephones. But I am also certain that vast numbers of kiosks are a liability on the Post Office and could be dispensed with.
One remembers the great indignation which was aroused when kiosk charges went up to 6d., but there has since been no backlash from that. The whole policy needs to be examined. Kiosks in other countries do not lose money as they do in this country. Perhaps telephone kiosks could be provided in some sort of premises so that there could be supervision of users.
The present practice is that bookmakers allow callers to reverse charges when placing their bets. The caller, who may be a collector of bets, may spend up to half an hour in a kiosk, as I have found to my cost on the occasions when I have waited for such a person to finish his call. Such a person will not be affected by any action we take today.
I wish to put two points to the Postmaster-General: first, that the telegraph service ought not to be continued on its present basis because the social need which it serves is minimal, if it has not disappeared altogether; secondly, that the policy on telephone kiosks is weak and it is high time that it was tightened up. For these reasons I am glad that this Amendment has been moved, and I should be interested to hear the Minister's reply.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I am grateful for the manner in which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) moved the Amendment. He indicated that it was a probing Amendment and that he did not intend to force a Division.
He referred to the proceedings in Standing Committee on 27th February, when I gave details of the uneconomic services for which the Post Office is now 1019 responsible. During this debate a number of hon. Members have argued for and against the Post Office undertaking these social and uneconomic services in the future.
Since the Post Office has public monopoly responsibilities, it must follow that there are some activities which are marginally uneconomic but which in the light of its monopoly responsibility it may wish to continue. What unites both sides of the House is that these activities should be identified, not only to members of the public, but also to Post Office executives, so that the activities do not creep in as a form of inefficient activity which is a brake on the achievement of a fully-effective efficiency in the operation of the main bulk of the business.
We have been conscious of the need to identify uneconomic services. Some publicity has been given to this matter, and I will give some details to the House. In the postal section, for instance, redirection of mail loses £0.6 million a year. The concession to newspapers posted by publishers, which receive first-class service at second-class rates, costs £1.1 million per year. The transmission of articles for the blind, for example, books in Braille, to which reference has already been made, costs the Post Office £0.7 million a year.
Delivery of mail to remoter areas of the country has been referred to by my hon. Friends the Members for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) and the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing). I was grateful to her for what she said, and I hope that I will have an opportunity to visit the delightful island to which she referred in her speech. The loss on the services on these remote deliveries is estimated to be £15 million a year.
It is a fine philosophical point as to who is subsidising this particular service. Since most of the mail originates in the towns and it is the poster who pays the postage, it could be considered that this is a subsidy to the poster in the towns rather than to the recipient in the village. I believe that the House generally does not wish the principle of a common postal charge, which was introduced by Rowland Hill in 1840, to be in any way invaded. We are jealous of that principle and we wish it to continue.
1020 Reference has been made to the uneconomic telegram service, which involves a loss of £2.6 million a year. I was grateful for the observations made by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) and the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid). I believe that they may have a valid point when they say that the telegram service does not perform the same sort of service which it performed years ago, in view of the other services which are now available, particularly the S.T.D. telephone service.
It is true that the majority of telegrams sent nowadays are of the greetings-type, and the number which is of a life-and-death variety is very small indeed in the total sent.
It may become necessary in time for us to examine the possibility of substituting a life and death service for urgent communications rather than to maintain the telegram service in its existing form at a cost of £2.6 million, which is a burden on the rest of the users of the Post Office services. We must also bear in mind the social services provided by the Post Office; for example, the free 999 service which costs £½ million and which is willingly accepted by the Post Office.
I understand that the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury has no intention of pressing the Amendment to a Division. It is important that the Post Office should have a discretion to continue certain uneconomic services as a social duty. However, it is the intention of the Post Office to identify the services which involve such a loss and, where appropriate, to arrange for other Government Departments to pay an economic cost when the Post Office is directed to carry on a service which other Departments require. For example, in the social security payments sphere the Post Office bears the cost of making payments but receives a payment back towards its overall financial objective. This is a comparatively new development which is fully in the context of the Post Office becoming a commercial organisation and meeting its financial objectives.
This has been a useful debate which has identified an important area of the social responsibility of the Post Office. Both sides of the House are united in wishing these activities to be identified 1021 so that they should not become a brake on the general commercial viability of the Post Office.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Peyton
I beg to move Amendment No. 44 in page 10, line 14, leave out subsection (4).
This subsection says:Nothing in this section shall be construed as imposing upon the Post Office, either directly or indirectly, any form of duty or liability enforceable by proceedings before any courtIn a country which is always preaching the rule of law to others, I do not like to see provisions of this kind, because a duty, not only on private citizens but on mammoth corporations, should be capable of enforcement in the courts. For this reason this provision goes intolerably wide and seems to cover any act or omission. It says:Nothing … shall be construed as imposing … either directly or indirectly, any form of duty or liability enforceable … before any court.The duties stated earlier in the Clause are cagily worded while the exclusions and safeguards are extremely wide. Indeed, the duties are hardly defined at all. In subsection (1) the Post Office is called on… so to exercise its powers as to meet the social, industrial and commercial needs of the British islands in regard to matters that are subserved by those powers and, in particular, to provide throughout those Islands (save in so far as the provision thereof is, in its opinion, impracticable or not reasonably practicable such services … as satisfy all reasonable demands for them.I do not know why the words "not reasonably practicable" have been added, because the phrase… (save in so far as the provision thereof is, in its opinion, impracticable …would seem sufficient. The Clause continues in equally vague terms when, in subsection (2), it is said:In discharging the duty imposed on it by the foregoing subsection, the Post Office shall have regard—I will not go in detail into the root cause of our objection to the Bill as a whole, but the Clause bears on our main objection, 1022 which is the wholesale control by one monopoly of this vastly important and significantly developing industry of communications.
- (a) to the desirability of improving and developing its operating systems;
- (b) to developments in the field of communications; and
- (c) to efficiency and economy."
It is in this connection that I am anxious about there being no reference to the Post Office having a specific duty to do research. There is simply the reference in subsection (2)(a) to… the desirability of improving and developing its operating systems …that is so vague as to be unenforceable.
Subsection (3) goes far too wide when it says:Subsection (1) above shall not be taken to preclude the Post Office from interrupting, suspending or restricting, in case of emergency, any service provided by it.Thus, we not only have vaguely stated duties set out in subsections (1) and (2) but, later, powerful safeguards which relieve the Post Office of any responsibility which is… in its opinion, impracticable or not reasonably practicable) …Subsection (4), following those vague duties and wide safeguards, is offensive because it goes far too wide.
Those safeguards, wide as they are, must be taken against the background of powers so wide and general as to make it very hard to contemplate circumstances in which anyone could bring an action. Imagine the difficulty in seeking a mandatory injunction against the Post Office to carry out its social duties. It would put a burden on the court of defining what was its social duty, let alone its commercial and industrial duty as well.
Subsection (4) is offensive. It will be taken as a valuable precedent for excluding the jurisdiction of the court from nationalised corporations of this kind. I do not like seeing such things lightly put into Statutes, because they are always taken as an excuse for repeating the offence on other occasions.
I do not want to prolong my argument. I hope that those of my hon. Friends adorning the Front Bench will recollect, when in the near future they are sitting on the Front Bench opposite, that provisions like this cannot be permitted indefinitely to remain on the Statute Book. I am sufficiently aware that opinions change when gallant and unsullied characters move over to the Treasury Bench, but I hope that they will realise that, to some 1023 of us at any rate, such provisions are objectionable and must be removed at the earliest possible opportunity.
It will not be adequate for them to state that they will not use those powers, because the duty imposed upon the Post Office by the Clause and by the Bill is one which has an exclusive effect. It gives wide monopoly powers and substitutes the dull lethargy of a single corporation for the widespread initiatives and endeavours of a highly competitive industry.
Because I have a high opinion of the intelligence and acumen of my hon. Friends I have no doubt that when they accept the sense of the Amendment they will probably advise that we should divide the House if the Government's reaction is unsatisfactory. That being the case, I hope it will be taken by my hon. Friends as a clear commitment on behalf of the Conservative Party, that, when it gets into office, it will remedy some at least of these abominations.
§ The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr. Joseph Slater)
I have a certain affection for the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). I have watched him over the years and observed him when in Government. He said that we are living in a free country and he does not like to see such words as these in a Bill. He suggests that the Clause is very wide and goes too far. He also mentioned monopoly.
I remember the hon. Gentleman, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power, speaking for a similar Clause on mining matters when I was on the other side of the House.
The hon. Gentleman says that subsection (4) is offensive, and he seeks to advise his hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench that when they move over to this side of the House, they should not do what we are seeking to do at this juncture. I have followed with interest what he said. But there is nothing unusual about the subsection. For example, it is similar to Section 3(4) of the Transport Act, 1962, which was passed by a Conservative Government.
It may help if I explain the thinking behind the Clause. The obligations in the Clause—
§ Mr. Peyton
I must take the opportunity to explain to the hon. Gentleman, 1024 as I have done to other Ministers, that I always regard the argument that such a thing was done once by a Tory Government as a bad one. I am conscious that Tory Governments have made mistakes. I wish that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues would be equally conscious of the Niagara of errors for which they are currently responsible.
§ Mr. Slater
It seems strange to me, knowing the hon. Gentleman as I do, that he should get up and begin to apologise for things done by the Government of which he was a member.
§ Mr. Peyton
The hon. Gentleman must not misconstrue what I am saying. I am conscious that all Governments make their share of errors—this one more than most. If a Conservative Government put into Acts things which I find offensive, which alas they did, I regret it. I only wish that Ministers would bring themselves to employ about their own errors that candour which was once extolled as a virtue by the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Slater
I said that I had affection for the hon. Gentleman and I should not like to upset him. I was reminding him of something that happened on an earlier occasion. What we are seeking to put into the Bill is not new, because there was a similar provision in the Transport Act, 1962.
The obligations in the Clause are intended as statements of general principle which are to guide the Post Office in the way that it exercises its powers. The Clause is an expression in general terms of the statutory duty which may be imposed by Parliament upon the Post Office, just as other nationalisation Acts lay statutory duties on other nationalised authorities.
This does not, of course, detract from the force of the Clause. The remedy against any breach of this duty are the powers of the Minister as set out in the Bill. In the unlikely event of a breach by the Post Office of its obligations under Clause 9, the remedy would not be for some member of the public to sue, but for the Minister to give it a direction under Clause 11.
This is fully in accord with the basic conception of the Bill, which is that the Post Office will have a large degree of freedom, but will be subject to general 1025 oversight by the Government. This is the pattern already followed in other nationalisation Acts. I cannot accept that Clause 9(4) is unreasonable. Therefore, having listened attentively to what the hon. Gentleman had to say—and I know how he feels about it—in view of what I have said, I ask him to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
I did not feel that the Minister's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) was fully satisfactory. I thought that his attempt to use the analogy of the Transport Act and the argument, "Do not forget what happened some years ago", when an entirely different sector of the economy was under discussion, was particularly weak.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) on an earlier Clause, said that this Government and the Post Office are always ready to take on the powers of monopoly, but are always reluctant to take on the responsibilities.
My hon. Friend has drawn attention to yet another point in respect of which this applies. Subsection (4) is objectionable in that it is unnecessarily wide. I shall not repeat the arguments put forward
§ by my hon. Friend, with which I agree, but at one point he asked whether a future Tory Government would remove this provision at the earliest possible opportunity. All I can say is that although I strongly support the Amendment, the wording of the Queen's Speech is not a matter for me. In our first year of government we shall have to do many things to put right what this lot have got wrong. This change will have to take its place in the queue.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
It would be possible for a future Tory Government to produce a very simple, one-Clause repeal Bill with a long Schedule.
§ Mr. Mills
That is an equally attractive thought, but we are now considering this Amendment to this Clause. We judge it on its merits. Is it right or wrong? Is it unnecessarily wide? I believe that we should join my hon. Friend in dividing the House and registering our objection to this subsection.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 159, Noes 215.1029
|Division No. 207.]||AYES||[6.2 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Eden, Sir John||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Balniel, Lord||Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||Jopling, Michael|
|Bell, Ronald||Eyre, Reginald||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Biffen, John||Farr, John||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Fisher, Nigel||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Foster, Sir John||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Blaker, Peter||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Lambton, Viscount|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Braine, Bernard||Glover, Sir Douglas||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Goodhart, Philip||Lubbock, Eric|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Gower, Raymond||MacArthur, Ian|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Grant, Anthony||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Gresham Cooke, R.||McMaster, Stanley|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Marten, Neil|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hay, John||Maude, Angus|
|Clegg, Walter||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Mawby, Ray|
|Cooke, Robert||Hill, J. E. B.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Costain, A. P.||Holland, Philip||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hooson, Emlyn||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Hordern, Peter||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Hornby, Richard||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hunt, John||Monro, Hector|
|Dean, Paul||Hutchison, Michael Clark||More, Jasper|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Iremonger, T. L.||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Pym, Francis||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Tilney, John|
|Murton, Oscar||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt Hn. Sir John|
|Nott, John||Ridsdale, Julian||Waddington, David|
|Onslow, Cranley||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Royle, Anthony||Walters, Dennis|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Russell, Sir Ronald||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Scott-Hopkins, James||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Sharples, Richard||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Silvester, Frederick||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Percival, Ian||Sinclair, Sir George||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Peyton, John||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Smith, John (London & W'minster)||Wright, Esmond|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Speed, Keith|
|Pounder, Rafton||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Stodart, Anthony||Mr. Timothy Kitson and|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||Mr. Humphrey Atkins.|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Albu, Austen||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mackie, John|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Ford, Ben||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Forrester, John||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Anderson, Donald||Fowler, Gerry||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Ashley, Jack||Fraser, John (Norwood)||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Freeson, Reginald||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Gardner, Tony||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Garrett, W. E.||Mapp, Charles|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Ginsburg, David||Marquand, David|
|Barnes, Michael||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Barnett, Joel||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Beaney, Alan||Gregory, Arnold||Mendelson, John|
|Bence, Cyril||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Millan, Bruce|
|Bishop, E. S.||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Blackburn, F.||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Molloy, William|
|Booth, Albert||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Boyden, James||Hamling, William||Murray, Albert|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hannan, William||Neal, Harold|
|Brooks, Edwin||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Newens, Stan|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Oakes, Gordon|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Hazell, Bert||Ogden, Eric|
|Buchan, Norman||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Oram, Albert E.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Orme, Stanley|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hooley, Frank||Oswald, Thomas|
|Cant, R. B.||Horner, John||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Padley, Walter|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hoy, James||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Paget, R. T.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hunter, Adam||Palmer, Arthur|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Park, Trevor|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pentland, Norman|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Judd, Frank||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Kelley, Richard||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Dell, Edmund||Lawson, George||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Dempsey, James||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Dewar, Donald||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Lee, John (Reading)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Dickens, James||Lestor, Miss Joan||Probert, Arthur|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Rankin, John|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Richard, Ivor|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Lipton, Marcus||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Eadie, Alex||Loughlin, Charles||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Ellis, John||Luard, Evan||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|English, Michael||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Ennals, David||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Roebuck, Roy|
|Ensor, David||McBride, Neil||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||MacColl, James||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||MacDermot, Niall||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Macdonald, A. H.||Sheldon, Robert|
|Fernyhough, E.||McGuire, Michael||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Finch, Harold||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)||Varley, Eric G.||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Silverman, Julius||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Skeffington, Arthur||Wallace, George||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Slater, Joseph||Watkins, David (Consett)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Small, William||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)||Winnick, David|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Wellbeloved, James||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Woof, Robert|
|Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Whitaker, Ben||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Taverne, Dick||Whitlock, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Thomas, Rt. Hn. George||Wilkins, W. A.||Mr. John McCann and|
|Tuck, Raphael||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Mr. Joseph Harper.|
|Urwin, T. W.|