Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House, at its rising on Friday, do adjourn till Monday 9th June.—[Mr. Peart.]
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)
Mr. Speaker, I move that we do not adjourn until 9th June so that the House may discuss a very urgent, though it may appear to be rather small, matter, namely, the creamery strike in South-West Scotland which is spreading to other creameries throughout Scotland.
Already, farmers are having to milk their cows and pour milk down the drains because it cannot go to the creamery. This strike is quite liable to spread, and unless action is taken urgently there will be a shortage of milk in large towns like Glasgow.
Another matter which we should also discuss urgently before we adjourn is the Government's proposals for dealing with labour relations and unofficial strikes. This strike is unofficial and it is surely a case—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to help him, although he may not need any help. We cannot debate, on this Motion, the subjects that the hon. Gentleman would like to debate. He must advance reasons why we should not have a holiday at Whitsun. The hon. Gentleman must link his remarks to the subject of the debate.
§ Mr. Brewis
I thank you for your assistance, Mr. Speaker. I feel that we should not adjourn for Whitsun so long as the Government's compulsory powers under the Prices and Incomes Act still remain in force. They are being allowed to lapse later this year, but this strike is involved with a wage claim by workers—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With respect, no matter how sympathetic I am with the hon. Gentleman's point, we cannot discuss the strike on the Motion. The hon. Gentleman must advance reasons why we should not have a holiday at Whitsun.
§ Mr. Brewis
I feel that we should not have our holiday at Whitsun because 36 we should take a day to discuss the Government's compulsory powers under the Prices and Incomes Act as this particular strike could be settled at once but for compulsory powers which are preventing a settlement being reached. For these reasons, I am against the House adjourning for such a long Recess.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I am concerned at the House rising for the Whitsun Recess at a time when our economic future is in such considerable doubt as a result of negotiations at present going on with the International Monetary Fund.
Frankly, I am not so concerned about what is or is not in the Letter of Intent. I am concerned that we should not come back and find ourselves committed to an international financial policy which has proved singularly disastrous, because if we accept the loan we are committed to the policy. Therefore, what is put in the Letter of Intent seems singularly unimportant. The important thing is whether we are committed to a policy which involves our maintaining sterling as a convertible currency for the convenience of the International Monetary Fund and countries wishing to deal in sterling. It seems wrong that a decision of such vital importance and such a heavy commitment should take place while Parliament is in recess.
I have taken a very strong view on this matter from an early date. Indeed, as long ago as 1965 I raised the question—and got into very considerable trouble—whether, as a member of the Labour Party, I should continue to support a Labour Government who were committed to a policy which would bring about the kind of disasters which have happened—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman is drifting into the merits and political history. He must keep to the Motion.
§ Mr. Speaker
That is a difficulty which has confronted every hon. Member in history who has ever spoken on this debate.
§ Mr. Paget
I shall do my utmost to keep myself on the right side of the knifeedge.
The sources of our troubles over these years, which leads me to say "I told you so", I have toreseen for a long time. At this point we are taking a fundamental decision. Are we to cut ourselves free as recommended so strongly and in such powerful articles in the Economist last week, or are we to continue on this miserable course which leads from one disaster to another because we can no longer control our policy, or our production, or our expansion? All this has to go on being adjusted to maintain an untenable banking position for the convenience of people outside this country.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. That is what the hon. and learned Member will be able to discuss if he prevents us from having our Whitsun holiday.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. and learned Member is probably not aware that the Government Chief Whip has infiltrated the ranks behind him and is busy talking to those who might be prepared to follow him. I wonder whether—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Perhaps we might now get back to the debate, which is whether we should have a Whitsun holiday on the dates set out in the Motion.
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Sharples (Sutton and Cheam)
I am glad that the Patronage Secretary is in the Chamber, if not exactly in his place, because it is particularly to the right hon. Gentleman that I wish to refer.
I wish to oppose the Motion because of the interests of the electors of Swindon. I do not believe that the House should adjourn for the Whitsun Recess until the Patronage Secretary has told the House that it is his intention to move the writ for the by-election in the constituency of Swindon.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
Is not this an example of Tory Party selectivity that the hon. Gentleman is interested in the electors of Swindon and not those of Birmingham, Ladywood?
§ Mr. Sharples
I am interested in the electors of all constituencies, but there are particular reasons why the electors of Swindon should receive consideration from this House before we adjourn for the Whitsun Recess.
It was on 9th February, 1968, that Mr. Francis Noel-Baker, then the Member for Parliament for the Swindon constituency, announced that he intended to resign from the House of Commons. He said at that time:I shall try to time my actual resignation to suit the general convenience of"—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are drifting into merits. That is what the hon. Member will be able to discuss if he manages to postpone our holiday. The hon. Member can say that he does not want the House to adjourn until this matter has been raised, but he cannot argue the merits of the matter.
§ Mr. Sharples
Of course, I accept your Ruling, Mr. Speaker.
It was on 7th March, 1969, over a year later, that Mr. Francis Noel-Baker resigned from this House. A considerable time has elapsed since then, and that is why I am suggesting to the Patronage Secretary, who is about to resume his correct place, that before the House goes away for the Recess he should announce to the House, to the country, and especially to the electors of 39 Swindon, that it is the Government's intention that the by-election for this constituency should take place before the House adjourns for the Summer Recess.
If the by-election is to take place before the Summer Recess, I believe—and the Patronage Secretary can correct me if I am wrong—that it is necessary for the writ to be moved before the Whitsun Recess, otherwise we come into the summer holiday period, when it will be very difficult, and not in the interests of the electors, irrespective of party, for the by-election to take place when nearly everybody is on holiday.
I cannot see any reason why this announcement should not be made within the next day or so. After all, the candidates who are to take part in the by-election were selected some time ago. It is known in the constituency that the by-election must take place fairly soon, and that the constituency must be represented in Parliament. It is difficult to see why the Government, who had a majority at Swindon of 10,443 at the General Election, should be reluctant—
§ Mr. Sharples
I am trying not to trespass on your kindness, Mr. Speaker.
It is very difficult to see why, when it has been known for a long time that this by-election must take place, the Patronage Secretary should not give an undertaking to the House before we agree to the passing of this Motion that he will move this writ before the House adjourns for the Whitsun Recess.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Mr. James Dickens (Lewisham, West)
Encouraged as I was by the close presence of my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary recently, a move which I can only think betokens a change of Government policy in the direction that many of us have been advocating for so long, I am forced to rise this afternoon to express my strong dissatisfaction with the fact that the House has not found time either last week or this week, and apparently it will not find time until we resume after the Whitsun Recess, to debate a matter which vitally concerns the livelihood of the great majority of the British people.
40 I am referring, of course, to the negotiations now known to be in progress between the Treasury and the Bank of England in London and the I.M.F. in Washington.
I think that it is of the most profound concern that we here in Parliament, held accountable at intervals of not more than five years at any one time to the electorate for our stewardship of the nation's affairs, have no say whatsoever in the pattern or the policy being made in the course of these negotiations. It is intolerable that in this modern age this House should be treated in this way.
We should learn from what happened in 1967, and from the effects of that. In 1967, thanks to French Press reports in Paris, the House learned of the existence of the Letter of Intent to the I.M.F. following devaluation in November, 1967. It was only as a result of the pressures brought to bear in this Chamber by my hon. Friends the Members for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) and Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) that the House of Commons was able to debate the Letter after it had gone.
I say that the House should have a right to debate the general policy surrounding such important international negotiations before final decisions are made. I say that it would raise the standing of the House in the eyes of the country—especially the young electorate—if we were seen to be playing a more positive part in the background of these negotiations. I can see no reason why, this week, we should not have a free-ranging debate, with both Front Benches out of it, for the good reason that many of us feel that the agreements on broad issues of policy between the Front Benches are already too close.
The matter should be left to back benchers who hold views on the economic strategy of the Government. We would ask for nothing more than that the Government should listen to what we have to say about the matter. That is a quite reasonable request. The fact that we have not succeeded in having a debate on this matter before these negotiations are finalised further lowers the standing of the House in the eyes of the country.
It is because I am so concerned about this matter that I have sought to speak in this short Adjournment debate. The 41 lessons that we must learn are that in future, when important negotiations are taking place, we, as Members of the House, on whatever side we sit—and especially back benchers—should again assert the supremacy of Parliament. I am not asking that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, or any other Cabinet Minister, should be held accountable to the House while negotiations are in progress, but I submit that it would be entirely beneficial to the Government, in their conduct of these negotiations, if they had the benefit of the views of back benches on both sides of the House.
We have been told that the Government cannot conduct negotiations through the House of Commons. If we reflect upon the history of the 20th century we may come to the conclusion that it would not have been a bad thing if, in the summer of 1919, the House had expressed its view on the draft Treaty of Versailles, or if, in the autumn of 1938, it had expressed its view about a proposed Munich Agreement. It would be quite in keeping with changing public attitudes and the growing determination on the part of our people—whether they be students or working people—to participate more fully in the affairs of the nation.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
I can think of one good reason why the House of Commons should agree to the Motion to adjourn for the Whitsun Recess at the end of this week. It is a purely selfish one, namely, that we should then be spared the painful sight of this awful and crumbling Administration, who are doing so much harm to our country. I describe it as selfish only to dismiss it; there are, unfortunately, other and better reasons why we should continue to subject ourselves to this painful ordeal.
I agree with hon. Members on both sides who have said that we ought to remain here and attempt to exercise some surveillance over what is being done in our name. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury—usually quite selfpossessed—looked deeply worried last week when dealing with this subject. He had the air of a man who had to play out time until Whitsun, and who was attempting to get away with the argument that he could not tell the House 42 of Commons what was happening during the course of the negotiations, and that this was the wrong place in which to carry out negotiations.
That may be so, but I still feel, as do the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens), that before we rise we have a right to be told what is being done in our name. We are painfully conscious of the fact that previous negotiations have landed us with a load of debt—very heavy debt—which we have no means of knowing how to discharge. When we return from the Whitsun Recess are we to be told that yet another economic and financial millstone has been tied around our necks? If that is to be the case we shall have the bitter satisfaction of knowing only that that is the price that we have been called upon, in our absence, to pay for a further period of misery under this Administration.
In the light of the report of the Secretary of State for the Department of Economic Affairs, and of the Chancellor's Budget speech, we are faced with the ruin of the Government's economic strategy—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are drifting into a speech which would be in order on Whit Monday, if we came back then.
§ Mr. Peyton
I humbly and respectfully congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on the tremendous cunning with which you have avoided using the word "merits" in that context.
Faced as we are with this ruin, we have some ground for complaint that we are not being told, before Whitsun, whether it is the Government's intention to continue wallowing in the mire which they have produced, or whether, alternatively, they will look for salvation elsewhere.
There are many other reasons why the Motion should not be passed. It would be very unfair if we were to complain that the House of Commons had no information about the Industrial Relations Bill; we have a plethora of information. The unfortunate thing is that we do not know how much is reliable—and we should like to know the Government's intentions about the Bill. We should like to know which of the various versions—
§ Mr. Mendelson
Yes. I remember the time when the hon. Gentleman took a rather different view of constitutional doctrine—when the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Conservative Party, had sacked eight Cabinet Ministers shortly before a Recess, and when important international negotiations were going on.
§ Mr. Mendelson
He did not. Many of us were pressing the Government not to adjourn. The hon. Member walked into the Lobby in support of the Government.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We had better get back to the question whether we should have a Whitsun holiday.
§ Mr. Peyton
That was an astonishingly interesting intervention. The hon. Member was good enough to mention me. However lucky I may have been, I had had only 13 weeks in office during which to perpetrate offences. Mr. Harold Macmillan thought that even a junior Minister should be given a further opportunity to—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Whether the hon. Member was dismissed or not, or whether he should have been dismissed or not, has nothing to do with the Motion.
§ Mr. Peyton
What it was bringing me to was this: I was hoping that we might have some foreknowledge of a similar "Night of the Long Knives", when hundreds of heads might roll off that Front Bench over Whitsun. It would be nice if the House of Commons were here at an early date after Whitsun, to take an appreciative look—perhaps that is the wrong adjective—at the successors whom the Prime Minister has found to do his will, in so far as he knows what that is.
When I was interrupted I was saying that it would be very nice and acceptable if we had some knowledge of which version of the dialogue now going on between the T.U.C. and the Government is correct. We would very much like to know which of the two participants in the dialogue has the upper hand in the nation's affairs.
44 I agree very warmly with my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples), who drew attention to the interests of the electors of Birmingham, Ladywood and Swindon. Since we have the pleasure of the presence of the Leader of the House, I hope that he will be able to tell us that he or his right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary, who has just left the Chamber, obviously for this very purpose, will move for the writs for those two by-elections before Whitsun.
For too long the Government have been reluctant to take the step which honour dictates and demands.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
My hon. Friend is too modest. There are three constituencies concerned. He has forgotten Newcastle-under-Lyme.
§ Mr. Peyton
I am a very modest man, and I am always grateful for help, particularly from my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). I am grateful to him for reminding me of a constituency which I had carelessly omitted to mention.
But the same arguments apply. Even that diminished sense of shame possessed by the Leader of the House should lead him to remedy the deprivations suffered by the electors of those constituencies before we rise. If he cannot, it would be a proper act of penance if the Government said that the House should stay until next week, or come back earlier, so that he can take an opportunity which, in view of the coming summer holidays, is beginning to look more unlikely.
There is another matter about which I hope to hear from the Home Secretary before we agree to the Motion, namely, the report from the Boundary Commission. We are in a state of uncertainty. Those in the Government who can still calculate think that the report must be put under the carpet for as long as possible. On the other hand, we are told, the Home Secretary has suddenly perceived the virtue of candour and courage and is counselling his colleagues that there can be no delay of this important matter. If that is so, for once I find myself warmly on the side of the Home 45 Secretary and hope very much that he will be given an opportunity to introduce the necessary recommendations in the near future.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must ask for it to be either this week or in the period of the proposed holiday.
§ Mr. Peyton
You cut me off short, Mr. Speaker. I was about to say that if, to do so, it is necessary to curtail the Whitsun Recess, or abolish it altogether, I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends would countenance that awful prospect with equanimity, since that would be in accord with the demands of justice.
There is another matter to which I would like to call the attention of the House—steel prices. Not long ago we were told that it was really necessary, if we were to have at least one nationalised industry which did not lose large sums of money—
§ Mr. Peyton
I would be very deaf if, by now, I had not appreciated the general tenor of your remarks, Mr. Speaker. I realise that you wish to keep me within the rules of order, and I am trying to keep within them.
It is necessary that the Government should make a statement on steel prices before we rise for Whitsun or during what would have been the Whitsun Recess, so as to avert what looked like catastrophic losses for the industry. But, as it is, the Government and Mr. Aubrey Jones are making one of their accustomed muddles, which looks impressive but has no results except losses.
My last point is the strange versions we are hearing of affairs inside and outside No. 10 Downing Street. I would welcome, and would be very willing to stay behind to hear, a lucid explanation of exactly what is occurring. I do not want to trespass beyond the rules of order, but we were told that some junior Ministers had a very mortifying experience the other day. May not I ask the Leader of the House whether the Prime Minister would not welcome the opportunity to explain to the House what his relations with his Ministers are, and particularly 46 to tell us when Cabinet proceedings are secret and when they are not?
My last point is very simple. We wish, above all, to be told, so that we may have some prospect of enjoying the Whitsun Recess, that a term is and can be set upon the life of the present rotting Administration.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)
I find it difficult to accept the Motion for several reasons. First, in present circumstances, to go off for a holiday at Whit-sun is, in the terminology of the time, either an unofficial strike, or, as I prefer to call it, a Government-imposed illegitimate lock-out, because there is important business which should be discussed before Whitsun.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
Do not the Government intend it as a cooling-off period for the Labour Party?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I cannot say that I am grateful for that intervention, because I am well-known on this side of the House as a living cooling-off period.
A few days ago my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs announced that special areas were to receive special grants as a result of the recommendations of the Hunt Committee. The precise boundaries of the areas were not defined. The House was then told, and this has subsequently been said in print, that the definition of the boundaries must await consultation with the regional planning councils. I have no objection whatever to consultation with them.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I know the hon. Gentleman's keen interest in the Hunt Committee, which affects his constituents and many others. But he cannot argue about it now. He must ask for time to discuss it during Whitsun.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I merely argue that before consultations take place with the councils, which are undoubtedly expert, the collective wisdom of the House should be brought to bear. That demand has been made not only from this side of the House, but was made at the time of the announcement by hon. Members opposite. This may be a minor matter, but if the House is devalued in even a minor matter like this, which affects very 47 few hon. Members, it is something that one should protest about, and protest I do.
My second point is perhaps related. It deals with a familiar theme. I and many other hon. Members are becoming fed up with the well-known ignorance of experts. In the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens), the House and country face a series of recommendations by experts from the International Monetary Fund, whereas many hon. Members do not accept all the qualifications of those so-called experts. There is a conflict of opinion among expert witnesses and it is right and proper that that conflict should be debated urgently in Parliament.
Perhaps hon. Members who take a different view from that of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer have no merit in our argument. We may be excessively stupid. But as there is a conflict of opinion among the experts—I will not go into the merits of the matter, except to mention that Elliot Janeway can be regarded as an expert in this context—we should deliberate the possible consequence of that conflict before the Government plunge the country into another round of disastrous deflation.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
I support the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens) in saying that before any negotiations take place with the I.M.F. the matter should be debated in the House.
Normally, from the constitutional point of view, we allow the Government of the day to get on with negotiations of this kind and then, if we feel so inclined, kick them afterwards. But the present Government have, by any standard, lost control to such an extent and seem so intent on charging down hill like a herd of Gadarene piglets that we should discuss the matter before we rise for Whitsun.
I wish to concentrate on the question of Anguilla. Without drifting into the merits of the case, I will merely deploy some facts which are criticisms of the Government's handling of the Anguillan situation. There is no merit whatever in their handling of—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot debate the Government's handling of Anguilla on this Motion. We are debating whether or not to rise on Friday for Whitsun. He must link his remarks about Anguilla to that Motion.
§ Mr. Marten
In saying that I did not intend to drift into the merits of the case, I thought that I had foreseen your calling me to order, Mr. Speaker, particularly as I was about to say that there are no merits in their handling of the situation.
We should not adjourn for Whitsun without a firm undertaking from the Leader of the House that the Government will hold a full, frank and searching inquiry into the whole conduct of the Government and into their reasons for the invasion of Anguilla. If the right hon. Gentleman will give me that assurance, I will be prepared to go away on holiday. I fear that the House has been grossly misled by the Government over Anguilla. I would not like that remark to appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT without its being justified. I hope, therefore, that I will be allowed to—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I allowed the hon. Gentleman to make that comment because I was unable to stop him from doing so, but he cannot justify it in this debate. Perhaps he will be able to do so in the debate on Whit Monday.
§ Mr. Marten
My only claim is that we should not rise for Whitsun until the Leader of the House has given a firm undertaking. I demand such an undertaking in view of the reasons given by the Government for the invasion of Anguilla. They said that we could not fully discharge our responsibilities for external relations unless we took action—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I seem to remember the hon. Gentleman having spoken on this issue before. I again remind him that we are not debating Anguilla today. He must advance reasons why we should or should not adjourn on Friday.
§ Mr. Marten
The Government have grossly misled the House, and they continue to do so, over Anguilla. For this reason we should not adjourn until the 49 Government have made a clean breast of the whole business. I therefore would not feel justified in resuming my seat without saying why.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Every hon. Member who takes part in this debate is in exactly the difficulty in which the hon. Gentleman finds himself. He may say that certain things are so important that they should be discussed before we rise on Friday, or that we should return during Whitsun to discuss them, but he cannot debate those matters now.
§ Mr. Marten
These are indeed important matters, Mr. Speaker, but since you do not wish to hear good reasons why the Government are discrediting this House by their behaviour, I conclude by reminding hon. Members that if politics in Britain are not to be debased in the way they have been by the behaviour of Foreign Office Ministers over the question of Anguilla, then the only way in which the good name of Britain can be cleared is for a full, frank and searching inquiry to be established into the Anguilla situation. I trust that the Leader of the House will assure us that that will be done.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
I wish to raise a serious constitutional point to explain why the present situation surrounding certain important international negotiations is different from that last occasion when similar negotiations took place, and I trust that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens) will bear this in mind.
In advancing this point, I do not take kindly to the argument of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), who referred at the outset of his remarks to what he described as special reasons why these negotiations should be debated in the House before they are concluded. As a participant in a former Administration, he must know that any Government normally resist holding a debate while negotiations of this kind are continuing. He supported that concept in the past, when the Conservatives were in office. He now wishes, for obvious propagandist, shabby reasons, to abandon that position. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
I am choosing my words carefully. Because the Labour Party is in power he is searching for reasons to have a 50 debate prior to the negotiations being completed, and one such reason is a damaging and unworthy declaration on his part that the Government have lost control, so that the matter must be debated before the negotiations are concluded. He knows as well as any other hon. Member that it is not his job, while negotiations of this kind are proceeding, to talk in such terms about the present administration of Her Majesty's affairs.
§ Mr. Marten
The hon. Gentleman has accused me of talking in certain terms. Is not he aware that the terms I used are absolutely true?
§ Mr. Marten
If the hon. Gentleman had read the weekend newspapers and the Press all last week he would know—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are drifting into the merits of the remark that the hon. Gentleman made. I would not allow him to do that and I allowed only a brief comment on it from the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson).
§ Mr. Mendelson
The serious constitutional point I wish to put to the Leader of the House concerns these international negotiations. In 1967, when these negotiations were pending, I submitted to you, Mr. Speaker, an application for them to be debated. You ruled on that occasion that a Ministerial statement had not yet been made about a Letter of Intent—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is important that I remind the hon. Gentleman that he must not interpret why I ruled as I did on that occasion. I ruled then, as I always do on these matters, without giving an explanation.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I accept that, Mr. Speaker. I was merely using that point to prefix what occurred in a subsequent debate, but I will leave the matter there.
The position today is different, because we are debating a Motion to adjourn for 16 days. This is a fairly long period: the Easter Recess was much shorter.
In 1967, whilst the international negotiations were taking place, the House was meeting every day. That meant that by our procedure at 3.30, or in other ways, the House could to some extent make known, by Private Notice Question, or through you, Mr. Speaker, reasons why 51 the matter had suddenly acquired such urgency as to make a debate desirable, and enabling you to agree to a debate.
During the next 16 days the House will not be in that position. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on behalf of the Government last week, when there were still six Parliamentary days ahead, that he will not be in a position to make an announcement about the Letter of Intent and the negotiations until after the Whitsun Recess. My right hon. Friend has not tied himself to any particular date but, taking it at the earliest, it means that the negotiations may be concluded two or three days after the House adjourns.
I take it that holidays do not matter when such important negotiations are taking place, so that it is quite realistic to assume that the Letter of Intent may be agreed on and, indeed, be signed and sent by my right hon. Friend only two or three days after the House adjourns. There will then be an interval of, perhaps, 10 days during which this House cannot express any opinion.
Moreover, in a few more days there may be further phases in the negotiations. More officers of the Department may go to Washington for further negotiations. I submit that it was healthy for the democratic process that last week some information came through from Washington about the character of the negotiations. The fact that, however imperfectly, some of my hon. Friends who wanted a full debate were able to say something on the subject meant that the House was to some limited degree expressing its opinion.
During the proposed Whitsun Recess no such opportunity will be given to any hon. Member. If my right hon. Friend sees merit in the point I am making, will he not convey to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the need to take notice of this constitutional position, and ask him whether on Thursday or Friday he could make a statement, even if it only a preliminary statement, because of the long interval that would otherwise occur? There is great concern about these matters, and a very important constitutional point is involved.
As I pointed out in 1967, one of the main reasons why it is urgent for the 52 House to have a debate while the negotiations are going on is that things in the Letter of Intent committing the Government may preclude, or greatly influence, further legislation. The Government control the negotiations, they also control the business of the House, and they control the nature of our legislation.
The Letter of Intent may be signed and sent off committing us, and it is, therefore, of the greatest importance that there should be an opportunity for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take the House into his confidence, even though only in a preliminary statement, before the House adjourns. I submit that there are excellent political reasons and equally good constitutional reasons for that to be done.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
Though I listened very carefully last week to the Leader of the House announcing the business for this week, I did not hear him state that we were to have this debate now. I only happened to hear it on the 8 o'clock news broadcast this morning. The Leader of the House has a new technique and a technique which is better than that of his predecessor. He tells us about our holidays, and what is to happen about debates, and so on. But in answer to almost every question put to him, he replies "Not next week". Sometimes he varies it by saying, "It is a very important issue that ought to be debated"—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This character study of the Leader of the House is interesting, but the hon. Lady must come to the Motion.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I was feeling in a rather benevolent mood, Mr. Speaker. I thought that if we did not adjourn for Whitsun it would relieve the right hon. Gentleman from his difficulty of always having to tell the House that there was no time for a debate, however important the subject.
The right hon. Gentleman knows that I am very interested in the parliamentary machine. There are a lot of things which back benchers ought to discuss which, presumably, would not be acceptable to the Executive. For instance, if 53 I may put it in these terms, I would be very willing to give up my Whitsun weekend if I could meet the "Gnomes of Zurich." I would enjoy that meeting very much and, perhaps, in some sense, I would be able to tell them a great deal more than could the Treasury Bench about what the country wants. It would, therefore, be a rather good idea not to adjourn for the Whitsun Recess.
I agree with hon. Members opposite that this is a matter on which Parliament should express views, particularly as there is not one Minister whom I would trust to deal with matters in which my constituency, the country or I myself is interested. That is a very important reason for our not adjourning on Friday, or Thursday, or whenever it is—that is one of the difficulties with this Government; we never know whether we are standing, sitting or moving.
I have asked the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, who has now become Secretary of State for Social Services, when we are to get the question of nurses properly and adequately dealt with. This is a tremendously important matter for the nursing profession, for the sick and for the old. I asked the right hon. Gentleman when the Whitley Council was to meet again to discuss the issue. When the issue is discussed—and I hope that it will be discussed this week, because it is a matter of great urgency—the House will want to know what decisions had been taken by the Whitley Council, and debate them.
The Secretary of State refused to give me an answer. I therefore think that it is very unwise, having regard to the general interest and the general anxiety of the country in what is to happen within the National Health Service, and in the hospital service and among the nurses, for the House to adjourn for Whitsun without knowing accurately what the position is and what the timetable is.
The Secretary of State is not the least interested in back benchers. Indeed he is not really interested in Parliament. We knew that before, and I was delighted that the whole of the Finance Bill has not gone to a Standing Committee—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We must leave the second character study that the hon. Lady is giving us and the question of the 54 Finance Bill being divided into two, and come back to whether we have a Whitsun holiday or not.
§ Dame Irene Ward
If the Finance Bill had not been divided into two we might not have had a chance of a Whitsun Recess. This Treasury Bench is so unpredictable that we do not know where we are.
I do not think that it is business-like—and I am very business-like—to adjourn for the Recess without knowing absolutely and accurately what the timetable is on certain issues. If we are not to have a time-table before we go away and to know what we are to do when we come back, it will be very disturbing for the country as a whole, and I am particularly interested in the country.
It is very difficult ever to follow the mind of the Secretary of State for the Social Services. We do not know how his mind will move about the pensions provisions, which is a matter of great interest to this House. Perhaps when he replies to the debate the Leader of the House will be able to answer the question which his colleague refused to answer when it was put to him this afternoon.
That is something I want to know before I make up my mind on this Motion. It is very difficult to know what people are to pay for their increased pensions; Ministers are so out of touch with the country, except that they know they would be hoofed out if a General Election were announced before the Recess. I would be willing to forgo the Recess if that were done.
This Whitsun holiday does not go down well with the people because—this applies to politicians on both sides—the country does not like politicians, but we would do better with a different Treasury Bench. It is intolerable that we should go away for a long period without the country knowing what fresh contributions will have to be paid when the new pensions scheme comes into operation. It is all very well for those with reasonable incomes and a fairly good stand of life—[An HON. MEMBER: "Those on the Treasury Bench."]—but it is very bad for those in lower income groups and those on small fixed incomes. They are worried to death.
55 It is quite wrong for the Leader of the House to press the Motion unless he is able to say that during this week—I am being much fairer than I usually am, for he has the whole week to do it—he will give an assurance that the Secretary of State will let us know before next Friday about this decision. Then we can tell our constituents exactly what their commitments will be. I hope that when the Leader of the House replies he will be able to say that he has persuaded whichever Minister is concerned—it may be Tweedledum, or Tweedledee, or neither of them, but Alice, or the Cheshire Cat, someone on the Treasury Bench—what the contributions are to be. I do not believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reference to the £420 million, did not know at the time of the Budget what is to happen when the scheme is introduced.
It is not right that the House should adjourn for Whitsun without being told the truth. This afternoon we are busy playing the "Truth Game". I do not know whether the Treasury Bench has ever played that game. It is a difficult game; sometimes when asked to tell the truth one would rather not do so. I think that this is what has happened to the Treasury Bench. Ministers want to get rid of us for this period because they do not want to tell the truth. That is not fair to the country. So I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman replies, instead of saying "Not next week", or "When we come back", he will have an answer ready. Then the House of Commons might feel that it has served the interests of the country much better than it has recently been able to do because the Treasury Bench has not been able to play the "Truth Game".
Many of us on this side, and I believe, some hon. Members opposite, want to know what is to happen about the container ships which are supposed to sail from ports in this country but are now to sail from Rotterdam. I do not think that it is in the interests of the economy, of international trade, of the people concerned, nor of the large amount of money and resources put by the shipping industry into the building of container ships, that we should go away for three weeks, or whatever time it is, not knowing what is to happen to our container 56 ships and whether they will be able to sail from ports in this country instead of from Rotterdam.
Those of us interested in shipping have tried very hard to give the Treasury Bench an opportunity to score a point about this. So that we could inform all interested in international trade, in invisible exports and balance of payments, we asked the Prime Minister to receive a deputation. The Prime Minister said that we could have a deputation to a very charming but completely junior Minister. I do not want to get at junior Ministers, but they cannot do anything. They always say politely that they will hand on the information and that the Prime Minister will get a report.
It is no good the Prime Minister getting a report; that is not like meeting a Minister face-to-face. I should be sorry to part with the face of the Leader of the House for three weeks. I enjoy looking at his face and I hope that he will produce answers for us this afternoon which are not dusty.
The Prime Minister turned this deputation, which affected vital interests in Great Britain, over to a junior Minister. The junior Minister was very nice, but all that he could do was to talk about the position in the docks and to say, "For goodness' sake don't muddy the waters". He knows very well that the Conservative Party is very much better at not muddying the waters than those on the Front Bench opposite. We did not get any further because he thought that the container ship should sail from the Port of Rotterdam, much to the adverse comment by foreign commercial interests who think that this country is going barmy. That is quite right so long as we have the present occupants of the Treasury Bench. We put forward our point of view—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. The hon. Lady has indicated very effectively the importance of this subject, but she cannot debate it now on this Motion.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I do not want to debate it, but I would rather stand on my feet for the whole of the week, and I might do so if I were challenged, if I thought that I could get an answer. The Prime Minister is to answer a very important Question tomorrow by one of my hon. Friends. I want an assurance that the 57 Prime Minister will give us an answer which is an answer. It is not right, in the country's interests, that we should go away for the Recess without knowing what will happen about our container ships.
There is no end to any of these paths, because the Government can give no satisfactory answers about anything. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give me some specific answers. I am not a politician. I am only a realistic person and I want to know the answer. It is easy to wrap things up. I know how wonderful it is for the Treasury Bench to get us all away—this is part of the exercise—but back benchers must resist the Treasury Bench. I am all for the back benchers getting control of the Executive. I do not mind whether it is my executive or anyone elses, but I want my say on subjects when people's interests are affected.
I never mind people disagreeing with me, because they have been doing so all my life, but it is very important that Parliament should be able to have its say when it wants to. For a lovely three weeks, we could have our say on our pet subjects, in the hope that we could get our answers. Therefore, at the moment, I oppose the Motion.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
I am reluctant to agree to this Motion. I shall try not to comment on the merits of the case which I am seeking to put, but I should like the Leader of the House to take note of it.
On 23rd April, I asked the Home Secretary whether… he will make a statement on the circumstances of the recent police raid on a house in Purley.My right hon. Friend answered:The statement and the results of the searches are now being assessed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23 April, 1969; Vol. 782, c. 93.]With unusual patience, I waited until 8th May before asking the Home Secretary… whether he has now finally assessed the statement … and the results of the searches…He replied:I hope to be able to make a statement soon."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1969; Vol. 783, C. 118.]58 On 12th May, I asked my right hon. FriendWhether he will give an undertaking that the forthcoming official statement on the case of Dr. A. E. Laurence will be made orally on the floor of the House.My right hon Friend answered:Yes. I shall, of course, be ready to answer any Question that is put down, in the normal way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1969; Vol. 783, c. 164]That was a somewhat ambiguous and evasive reply, but let us pass over that for the time being.
On 15th May, I asked my right hon. Friend whether… he will now make a statement on the case of Dr. A. E. Laurence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1969; Vol. 783, c. 1629.]The Under-Secretary of State said that he was at present unable to add anything to what had already been said by the Home Secretary in reply to my previous Questions.
This case raises a number of serious issues and is surrounded by many dubious circumstances, as a result of which it is vital, in the public interest, that the Home Secretary should make a statement to the House. Dr. Laurence's solicitor rightly complained on 5th May thatThe answers given by the Home Secretary to the questions that I have raised did little to clarify the affair of Dr. Laurence.I understand, too, that on two separate occasions, 19th April and 7th May, the police handling the case told Dr. Laurence that he was in the clear. I do not know whether that is so, but, if it is, it is all the more surprising that the Home Secretary has not yet made a statement on the issue to the House.
I am not concerned with the merits of the case, either for or against Dr. Laurence. That is a matter on which the Home Secretary must make a decision, but I hope that it will be made or announced before the House rises for the Whitsun Recess.
The solicitor acting for Dr. Laurence has spoken of the "intolerable flood of suspicion" which followed the publicity given to the raid. Indeed, in a very short time after the first search warrant was issued—these warrants are issued only in closed court—the Press got to know about it, which strikes me as rather curious. If one is out to catch a spy, one does not inform the Press or have large numbers of people milling around the house for 59 a week before the man whom one is seeking to question arrives. The house began to look like Hampstead Heath on a bank holiday, with all the crowds of Pressmen and secret service agents and what-not trying to operate for whatever purposes they had in mind.
In these circumstances, I ask the Leader of the House to bring to the notice of the Home Secretary his own pledge that he will make an oral statement in the House in the very near future. It is over a month since the raid, and all the various factors in the case have now been examined. A bottle of aspirin and a tube of toothpaste which were taken from the house for examination have been returned to Dr. Laurence, as have all the other goods which ware taken from the house. So what we are waiting for is the promised statement by the Home Secretary.
I hope that my hon. Friend, whom I hold in the highest possible esteem, will bring to the Home Secretary's notice the urgent necessity of an oral statement, which should not be postponed until after the Christmas—the Whitsun Recess—[Laughter.] It might be postponed until after the Christmas Recess, for all I know. However, I hope that, before the House rises, the Home Secretary will be persuaded to keep his promise and make a statement on what is by all accounts, and in the general opinion of the public, a most disturbing state of affairs.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
There are hardly any reasons given by hon. Members from both sides for our not rising next Friday for as long as is proposed with which I disagree. I merely wish to add one more. We should not rise before the Government have told the House when they will implement the recommendations of the Littlewood Report on experiments on live animals. This has been outstanding for four years last month, when the Report was published.
The Leader of the House takes a great interest in this problem, as a former Minister of Agriculture, who was directly connected with it. Will he make representations to his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary—if the latter is not too busy with other matters—to see whether, at long last, a statement cannot be made 60 about when we will have legislation on this very important topic?
The only other point I make—I hope to be able to keep within order—is for the assistance of my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). My hon. Friend said that she would like to see the "Gnomes of Zurich". One Whitsun Recess, some years ago, on my way back from the Council of Europe, I visited Zurich. I wandered about the floor of the Zurich Stock Exchange. No one stopped me or took any notice of me. I presume that the gentlemen who were there were the "Gnomes of Zurich", or some of them. They looked like respectable Swiss citizens, not at all the gnomes I expected. If we are to have a Whitsun Recess, perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth could pay a similar visit.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham. North)
I have not yet made up my mind whether to support the Motion. To some extent, my view will depend on the reply which we all hope to have from the Leader of the House.
Each week, the Leader of the House is asked for time to debate this or that Motion or subject which hon. Members regard as important, and each week he says, "Not this week", or, "Not next week"—or "Some time, never". If we were to persuade my right hon. Friend to cut short the Whitsun Adjournment, either by going away a little later or by coming back a little earlier, a number of Members on both sides might have opportunity to raise some of the points which they regard as of importance for both the House and the country. I shall now put certain of these items which I regard as of great interest.
First, I take the I.M.F. negotiations. These are an important subject for debate in themselves, but more important is the fact that on Tuesday, 13th May, the Chancellor said—it is on record in HANSARD—that no official approach had been made to the I.M.F. That seemed definite enough, but on the very same day an official statement was issued from our embassy in Washington saying that official approaches had been made. That raises a question which deserves an answer. Someone, somewhere, is not telling the whole truth.
61 I immediately absolve the Chancellor of the Exchequer from attempting to mislead the House. Neither he nor any other Minister deceives or has ever deceived the House at any time. [HON. MEMBERS "HON."] It is true. We know that no occupant of the Treasury Bench has ever misled the House. But a serious situation vis-à-vis our embassy in Washington is revealed. The ambassador must take responsibility for his staff, and he, by the way, is an ex-Treasury Minister, so we know that he cannot tell falsehoods, and never does. It means that someone on the embassy staff in Washington, however, may not be telling the truth.
There is a matter here which ought to be debated in the House. If we adjourn next week, the chances are that we shall not be able to debate it at all. But it should be debated soon, and a good occasion would be next week, or the week after. Perhaps we might shorten the Recess by a week to give that opportunity.
Tied up with the question of the I.M.F. negotiations is the question of our economic situation and the possibility of introducing import quotas and restrictions. Whether such a system is right or wrong is a matter of opinion. We cannot debate it on this Motion, but I submit that we ought to have a debate next week to ascertain whether one of the reasons why we are not having import quotas and restrictions is that, under the Brussels Treaty, such restrictive practices are not allowed, and the Government are anxious not to introduce import quotas and restrictions because they are trying to get into the Common Market. This is another matter which could be debated next week, to ascertain to what extent our economic difficulties are being exacerbated by the Government's wish to get on good terms with the Common Market countries.
Now, another important subject. It is already 12 months' old, and it affects many of our citizens, particularly people with limited incomes who live in the overcrowded areas. I refer to the trouble there has been in tall blocks of flats, the so-called tower blocks. Twelve months ago last week, there was a terrible disaster at Ronan Point, in West Ham, although, fortunately, the loss of life was 62 not as great as it might have been. The Government promised that a statement would be made setting out their intentions. They have said that these tower blocks must be strengthened in accordance with a proper system of safety precautions so that such disasters will not happen again.
That I welcome, but I have consistently been asking ever since where the money is to come from to pay for the necessary extra work. It is estimated that the total cost will be £3 or £3½ million throughout the country. That is a lot of money. Perhaps the £3½ million which the Secretary of State for Social Services is raising could be used for this purpose. If the House were to meet next week, I might have an opportunity to raise the matter in debate. The Government must say how the finance is to be found to strengthen these tower blocks, and Ronan Point, in particular, because the need is urgent.
I have mentioned the Secretary of State for Social Services. I am sure that hon. Members of both sides would welcome an opportunity next week for the Secretary of State to make more of his statements to the House. Always, he is clear and concise in what he says. Always he puts forward his ideas with such lucidity that we have to put down Questions immediately to ask what he means. First, he told us of the increase in charges for teeth and spectacles, and the £3½ million thus raised was to go to the mental hospitals.
I supported that. I had on many occasions asked Questions about the lack of finance for mental hospitals. But, lo and behold, within a few hours he said that it was not for hospitals; it was for schools. Today, however, I heard him say that he did not say that it was for schools. We do not know what it is for. A sitting next week would give my right hon. Friend an opportunity to make a statement. It is an important matter. I see that the Leader of the House shakes his head as though he does not agree. But it is important.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)
I meant not next week.
§ Mr. Lewis
Not next week? That is why I am attempting to oppose the Motion. Every week, my right hon. 63 Friend says, "Not next week". If we were to sit next week, we could have a good bit of time to discuss these various subjects, and it would give the Leader of the House a chance of saying, for once, "Yes, next week"
§ Mr. Peyton
Should not the hon. Gentleman include in his catalogue of the virtues of the Secretary of State for Social Services the painstaking way in which he consults his colleagues beforehand?
§ Mr. Lewis
The hon. Gentleman must not steal my thunder. That was at the back of my mind. Probably, before I had finished, it would have come to the front.
My right hon. Friend made a serious statement today. He said that he could not agree that the £3½ million should be given for this or that purpose because his Permanent Secretary would not permit him to do so. Perhaps the Leader of the House will find out whether any Permanent Secretary can tell a Minister what he must or must not do.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is in order in indicating what subjects he wants to raise. He is now in danger of debating it.
§ Mr. Lewis
That was not my intention, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was merely suggesting that perhaps next Monday or Tuesday the Secretary of State for Social Services could tell the House that he never intended to say that his Permanent Secretary could give him instructions about what he could or could not do. I always understood that it was the Minister who took these decisions.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. If the Motion is not carried, the hon. Gentleman may be able to put that to the Minister. But he cannot do it now.
§ Mr. Lewis
I will leave the point, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I wish to deal with the remedy which the Government propose to adopt to stop these faux pas being made from week to week. If we go into recess for 16 days, I am not sure what the position will be. In those circumstances, it will not be possible for Ministers to make statements in the House. We may then get Press leaks—and we get them whether the 64 House is sitting or not. We may get even more Press leaks if we are in recess.
I understand that to stop Ministers continually make these mistakes the Paymaster-General is to vet the statements to see whether it is proposed to make them at the right time and in the right way. Can my right hon. Friend do that if the House is not sitting? There may be statements next week or the week after. If there are, I should have thought that the Paymaster-General would like to have the opportunity of making a statement to the House. If we are in recess, she will not be able to do that. This is another reason we should carefully consider whether we should go into recess.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), who spoke of Dr. Laurence, who, I think, is in East Grinstead, or somewhere like that, referred to the possibility of the Home Secretary making a statement. I am concerned that next week the Home Secretary should make a statement on the serious information disclosed to the country and the world that a man called Frank Mitchell, known notoriously as "the Mad Axeman", was able to use Dartmoor Prison as a hotel-cum-holiday camp and to live a miniature life of luxury. Whether that is true, I do not know. But if only half of what was said in court was true my right hon. Friend should explain next week what is happening in Dartmoor.
This is a serious matter. We send our worst criminals to Dartmoor. Apparently, no arrangement has been made for a statement to be made this week. We should not adjourn for 16 days on Friday, because if we do the Home Secretary will not be able to make a statement, even if he wishes to do so. A more important question is what is happening about Frank Mitchell. Where is he? I understand that the authorities are still looking for him. I should like to ask a question on this matter. I want a debate to be held next week to discover what action has been taken by the Home Secretary to trace this man. No one seems to know where he is.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is coming close to the point at which he enumerates more subjects than can be discussed in the two weeks 65 which are the subject of the Motion. I must, therefore, rule him out of order.
§ Mr. Lewis
If we were sitting, we could suspend the rule each day. But the half dozen subjects which I have mentioned could be discussed within the 16 days even without the suspension of the rule.
Another important matter which could be discussed is the negotiations going on between the Prime Minister and the T.U.C.—"In Place of Strife" and all that. Will a statement be made next week on this matter? No doubt my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House could get the Prime Minister to make a statement this week. If he says that he can, I will not need to oppose the Motion. It would help other hon. Members and myself in coming to a decision if we could be assured that a statement will be made.
The hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward)—and I am sorry that she left as soon as she had made her speech—referred to nurses' salaries and meals. I have been interested in this question—long before the hon. Lady, incidentally, but that does not matter. Next week would be an admirable time to discuss this subject. I understand that some Ministers are to use part of the holiday, if the Motion is carried, in visiting hospitals in their constituencies. That is a very laudable undertaking, and I am pleased to hear about it. When they go, they might be offered a cup of tea or a sandwich, or even a meal.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman can say that that is an issue on which he would like a debate, but he cannot debate it now.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is debating the issue. He cannot do that on this Motion.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is doing in another form what I ruled was out of order.
§ Mr. Lewis
I am saying that I am not debating the issue, but am suggesting that this is one of the subjects which might be debated. I have not gone into detail. If I did, I could make a strong case. But I mention this subject, as I have a number of others. There are and could be a number I could mention as well. While it may be regrettable from the Chair's point of view that I am going on to mention a number of subjects—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not reflect on the actions of the Chair. The Chair has a responsibility to apply the Standing Orders and it is doing just that.
§ Mr. Lewis
I agree. I was going to explain that there are a number of subjects I would like to discuss if we were not to be in recess next week and the week after. I was pointing out, provided that I did not go into detail and discuss the merits of these subjects, that these are some of the subjects I would like to discuss.
There is another subject I would like to raise if the House were not in recess, and that concerns housing. We had a debate on housing recently, but it was not long enough for more than a few back benchers to take part. It is another subject which, if the Leader of the House were able to agree either to shortening the Recess or not having one at all, we could have an opportunity of discussing.
67 I see, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you have expressed a desire that I should draw my remarks to a close. I will do so, but I say, in sitting down, that I know the attitude of Mr. Deputy Speaker from past experience and—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not reflect on the conduct of the Chair. He has sought to raise a large number of subjects. Other hon. Members are waiting to speak. He was getting out of order.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Hon. Members have raised a number of subjects as suitable for discussion if the House did not go into recess on Friday. We know that, at every opportunity on such a Motion, hon. Members put such points to the Leader of the House and that sometimes they have their tongues in their cheeks to some extent. On this occasion, however, there are a number of subjects which hon. Members sincerely feel we should debate rather than have two weeks' Recess.
While there may be conflicting views about how serious our economic situation is—and that is a matter of opinion—it is generally accepted that one thing we should be doing in this House is showing a sense of urgency about it. In these circumstances, it may be highly inappropriate to have a two-week Recess. During every debate of this sort I have ever listened to, hon. Members have suggested that we should not have a Recess because of the economic situation. This is not something which changes dramatically from time to time, but it is fair to say that we now have a rather unique situation in that it may not be a question of changing economic policy but of handing over the management of our economy to an outside organisation, the International Monetary Fund.
Faced with a major constitutional change which could take place during the next two weeks it is surely wrong for the House to go into recess for two weeks. There was, perhaps, a time when, irrespective of which party was in power, we could go away for a short Recess in the knowledge that there was a group of expert people who could steer the ship of 68 state, but our present experience is not the case.
Unfortunately, during the two weeks of Recess, there seems to be the possibility of a further major constitutional change concerning the policy of secrecy of Cabinet and Government meetings. It seems astonishing that, while the Government say that we cannot discuss this week, next week or the week after the question of the I.M.F. negotiations, confidentiality seems to have been thrown to the winds as far as Cabinet meetings are concerned. We have had from time to time leaks of one sort or another from the Cabinet, but at present we are getting them from the outer Cabinet, the inner Cabinet, the clique and the junta—all at the same time and giving different points of view. It is not in the interests of this country or of Parliamentary government to have a two-week Recess when there seems to be taking place a major constitutional change.
There are many other subjects we would like to discuss during the recess but I shall mention only one. The Leader of the House has been extremely helpful to me and other hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies when, on Thursdays, we have raised the question of the critical situation in the Clyde shipyards. He has been most courteous and helpful in agreeing to take every possible step to ensure that a statement would be made before the Recess.
At present, the Minister of Technology is in Russia and I understand that he arrives back tomorrow. I do not imply that he is neglecting his job by going abroad because we all know that he, above everyone else, has taken a direct personal interest in this matter. But we are being asked to go away for two weeks on Friday and we feel considerable concern that we may be doing so without a clear indication of the Government's policy towards the jobs of 14,000 men directly employed in the yards and another 50,000 men who depend indirectly on the yards for their employment.
I appreciate the difficulties and uncertainty, but I hope that the Leader of the House can tell us that a statement will be possible and that we may have some discussion on the matter before the House rises on Friday. We know the difficulties and problems, but I hope that the Government appreciate that, among thousands 69 of men on Clydeside, there is serious and continuing anxiety about their security. Before we agree to the Motion, the Government should clearly say when a statement will be made and in what form.
There are Questions down on the subject for tomorrow but last Wednesday, in answer to Questions, the Minister of Technology said he hoped to have a report from U.C.S. within a week or two. This, for the first time, brought up the possibility of not having a statement before the Recess. If, for some reason—and we understand the complexities—it is not possible to make a statement before the Recess, or indicate the Government's direction of policy, perhaps the Leader of the House, for the sake of the men of Clydeside, will at least keep an open mind towards the possibility of recalling the House during the Recess for half a day, say, should the occasion demand, or an emergency arise.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)
I hope that my colleagues on both sides of the House will not mind my intervening at this stage. I do not wish to close the debate, but I must attend the Committee of Privileges, as Chairman. Although I shall not be back before the debate closes, my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio will be here and will reply to any point which may arise.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Does that mean that the Minister without Portfolio will reply to subsequent points raised by hon. Members?
My right hon. Friend will reply and will inform me of what is said and convey the views expressed to the Ministers concerned.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) for what he has said. I believe that hon. Members who have spoken have done so sincerely. They have put their points in the traditional way on this Motion and I make no complaint. I have been in the House for a long time and have done it myself. This enables the individual hon. Member to challenge the Executive and argue that the Motion should be opposed.
70 I am informed that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology will on Wednesday be answering Questions. I hope that he will by then be back from Moscow. His office has undertaken to raise with him as soon as possible the question of a further statement on the Upper Clyde shipyards. The hon. Gentleman put his point fairly, and I will keep in touch with him. I try to help, although there are times when it is not possible to do so.
The hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) spoke of the creamery strike in South-West Scotland and the possibility of a shortage. I understand that he has today had a reply to a written Question on this subject, and that there will be no difficulties about liquid supplies. I accept that if the strike continues this will be a matter of importance to the agricultural industry.
Many hon. Members have raised individual matters quite shortly, but, generally, the main point that has been put forward is the desire of hon. Members on both sides to deal specifically with the negotiations now going on in Washington. I am sure that the House will accept the Chancellor's judgment that it would not be in the public interest to go further than his assurance that a full statement will be made to the House as soon as the current negotiations are completed. I cannot go beyond that.
Hon. Members will accept that such international negotiations cannot be conducted in public or by a debate, although they feel that there must be an opportunity for their views to be expressed at a time and in a manner which allows them to be taken into account before final decisions which will affect us all are taken.
I agree with this, but I would stress what I have said. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens) and my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) stressed that this is an important matter which underlies our economic and financial strategy, but my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has made it plain that there will be nothing contrary to the policy outlined in his Budget speech.
Only four weeks ago we had the best part of a week's debate on these matters 71 and, more recently, the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, and, while skilfully managing to remain in order, many hon. Members have made their views perfectly plain. Another such debate would neither enlighten the House further nor add to the Government's information about views of hon. Members.
The Government have taken note of the views which have been expressed, and I hope that the House will accept the assurance that the Letter of Intent will be published, as in 1967. The Government must do the negotiating and take responsibility for the result, and the interests of hon. Members will best be served by deferring debate until the full facts are available.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
Does not the Leader of the House recognise that there has been a considerable change in the situation since we last debated the Budget Statement and the economic situation? Only last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer made an extraordinary change in his attitude about the substantial surplus which he expects. Instead of the substantial surplus being at the end of the calendar year, he now expects it to be at the end of the financial year, thus deferring for another four months the day when we can expect to see a surplus. This is a very important difference.
§ Mr. Peart
I do not want to get involved in an argument about this, as it would be out of order. I have noted carefully what the hon. Member has said and, to use the traditional formula, I will convey his views to the Chancellor, but, for the reasons I have given, I hope that the Motion will not be opposed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) rightly raised the case of Dr. Laurence. I know the problems here. I understand that a statement may be made this week. I will do what I can in this matter.
The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) raised the whole question of announcing writs for the by-elections, stressing Swindon. An hon. Member who represents the Liberal interests added Birmingham, Ladywood, and I suspect that I know the reason. This is a matter for the Patronage Secretary, 72 not for me. No doubt he will have have heard what has been said. Although he was not on the Front Bench, he was in the Chamber. I was asked about this last week, and I am aware of the views of hon. Members. A time lag of this kind is not unusual; it has happened during the reign of many other Administrations. I do not want to argue the merits—
§ Mr. Sharples
Does the Leader of the House realise that there is a special situation in Swindon? This constituency has been virtually without a Member since February, 1968—and I attach no blame for this to Mr. Francis Noel-Baker.
§ Mr. Peart
My right hon. Friend the Chief Patronage Secretary and I are aware of the problems which arise from the illness of the hon. Member who represented this constituency.
The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) made a characteristically forceful contribution about the Industrial Relations Bill. He wanted to know about a dialogue between the Government and the Trades Union Congress. He must wait for the Bill. Negotiations are going on. I had hoped that the Bill would be produced before Whitsun, but, as I said at Question Time last week, this is not possible. The Bill will now be produced after Whitsun, but in the meantime negotiations will take place between my right hon. Friend and the T.U.C.
Steel prices have been under consideration by the National Board for Prices and Incomes, and an announcement will be made as soon as possible.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) wanted a debate on the Hunt Report, so that our collective wisdom could be expressed before discussions took place with the regional planning councils. The Government's view, now that the Report has been published, is that the people in the regions who are responsible for regional planning and who know the area should be allowed to express their views on the proposals. We could probably have a debate after that, but not during the Whitsun period. The discussions will take much longer.
The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) raised the matter of Anguilla. I have a long list of occasions on which 73 the Anguilla situation has been raised in the House, and the House has had a good deal of information. The House debated Anguilla on 26th March and 23rd April. Numerous Questions on the subject have been answered by Ministers, including Questions asked today.
I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has already told the House. I understand that the hon. Member for Banbury made certain assertions because he hoped that I would respond to him and give information. However, if I were to do that I would be debating the matter and would be out of order. For that reason it is not a strong argument that, because of the situation in Anguilla, we should delay our Recess.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Has any statement been made or Question been answered since the visit of Mr. Bradshaw?
§ Mr. Peart
There was a Question down today. I am saying that the matter has been raised very effectively, as I am sure hon. Members will agree.
The hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward), who, like myself, represents a northern constituency, dealt in her characteristic way with the personality of myself and that of my predecessor. It is true that on many occasions, and in different ways, I say "Not next week". It is concise, people know what it means, and it is effective. Why elaborate?
I am sorry that the hon. Lady has not as yet met the gnomes of Zurich. If she is willing to give up her weekend, she could easily meet them. She could go to Geneva if she wished. The fortnight Recess may be effective for many hon. Members to travel abroad.
The hon. Lady raised an important point in relation to the National Health Service. When I convey strongly her point of view, which was emphasised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), I will say that it is time we had a statement on this matter, even though I know there has been resistance. We all agree that the individual nurse plays an important part in the National Health Service.
§ Dame Irene Ward
What did the right hon. Gentleman mean when he spoke of 74 resistance? I shall be interested to hear whether he is going to resist his own Minister.
§ Mr. Peart
I was not saying that. I thought the hon. Lady said that there had been resistance. I was assuming what she said to be right. I said I would convey strongly her point of view to colleagues who are concerned. I cannot go beyond that.
I was amused when the hon. Lady said that she was not a politician. I have always thought her to be a most effective politician.
The hon. Lady also mentioned container ships. There is likely to be a Question to the Minister concerned.
I will not go into the details of the matters raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North. He raised many matters among the reasons for wanting a shorter Recess. He mentioned tall flats, social services, Press co-ordination, and the case of Mr. Mitchell, and demanded a statement from the Home Secretary. He also pleaded with me to get the Prime Minister to make a statement on discussions on "In Place of Strife", and he dealt with nurses' pay and housing. He rightly raised those most important issues, but I am sure that there will be many opportunities to raise them, after he has returned from his holiday—and I hope that he has a good one.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Will my right hon. Friend look into the vital matter of the Ronan Point disaster? We were promised a statement some 12 months ago and are still waiting.
§ Mr. Peart
My memory may be wrong on that matter, so I will not be dogmatic. I will accept the point of my hon. Friend, and will raise the matter with the Housing Minister.
The hon. Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) mentioned the implementation of the Littlewood Report. From my past experience in the agricultural Ministry, I have great sympathy with his point of view. I know that the matter has been raised by the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) on many occasions. I will have a word with the Minister concerned and with the Home Secretary. It is not an easy matter, but I will take it up.
75 I have tried to answer quickly some of the points which have been raised. I will now leave the debate to my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving replies to certain questions before dashing away to the Committee of Privileges. We are also grateful that his right hon. Friend will remain to deal with questions which we now wish to raise.
A number of questions worry me in view of the possibility of our adjourning for 16 days. The first, and most important, is that I do not trust this Government to govern the country effectively.
I am not alone in that feeling. The gnomes of Zurich and the members of the I.M.F., the bailiff's men, come over here from time to time to see how the Government are doing. The electorate have made their view clear. In by-elections and local elections it has been shown that voters share my anxiety and distrust for this Government. It is bad enough that they express distrust when the Government are governing the country with the House of Commons sitting at Westminster watching them. But I am sure they feel even more, as I do, the danger of allowing this lot to continue for 16 days without the House of Commons here to keep an eye on them. I have expressed this anxiety on other occasions, and it comes before all others in my mind.
We have heard a good deal about the Letter of Intent. The Leader of the House said that we have had a debate on the Budget speech. But when we had that debate we thought that only £340 million in taxation was sought in a full year. We have since learned that there is an additional £430 million on top of that to be found from direct taxation of the people of this country. It makes it one of the heaviest Budgets in history. It is not a good enough reason to say that because we have had a debate on the Budget there is no need to debate the economic situation.
We have heard a great deal about the Letter of Intent. But when it does arrive what will it amount to? I suspect that it will be a cover-up for something else. 76 Indeed, I feel that there will be some secret or, as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would say, unannounced understanding behind the scenes which is even more restrictive than the Letter of Intent.
In view of the fact that the Government in the last 4½ years have landed the country in external debt exceeding £3,000 million, which amounts to over £50 of additional debt for every man woman and child in the country, and they are now talking about negotiating a further £400 million of debt—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Gentleman is going into the merits of the matter rather than dealing with the Motion before the House.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I would not wish to go too wide. I was pointing out that there is particular cause for worry about our running into a further £400 million debt when we are already £3,000 million in debt. I will leave the matter there.
There is then the question of how the charges to pay for the new increased pensions which are to be paid in the autumn are to be met. All we know so far is that these will cost another £430 million. That includes not only the increases but the deficit which already exists on the account. We do not know how the £430 million will be spread over employers and employees.
Industry is in the situation that, just as it is getting used to the 50 per cent. increase in S.E.T. imposed last autumn, it now has to adjust its arrangements to meet a further 28 per cent. increase in S.E.T. Furthermore, industry does not know what charges are to be imposed as between employers and employees. This is a reason that we should debate this matter so that we may have a statement to enable people to arrange their budgets accordingly.
Mention has been made today of trade union reform. We understand that there is to be no announcement until after the Recess. We understand also that there is to be an attempt by the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity to come to some "copper-bottomed compromise", whatever that is. What we fear is that she may come to some compromise which we do not regard as being as "copper-bottomed" as she does. We 77 have in mind the fact that her speech during the debate on the Budget accounted for only five of the 24 points in the White Paper "In Place of Strife", and we see the proposed legislation being watered down before we have a chance of seeing what is proposed. We feel strongly that this, too, is another reason for not adjourning for 16 days.
Then there is the general subject of the responsibility of the Paymaster-General. When a member of the Government comes out publicly and says that things have gone very badly but that from now on she will ensure that the public are misled about what the Government are doing by making sure that the timing of any announcement sees to it that people do not understand what is going on, that seems to be a matter which should be debated in the House.
Even more important is the subject of Rhodesia. We know that events are reaching a very dangerous point in Rhodesia and that there is every possibility before we return after our Recess of a referendum being held there at which Rhodesians will decide whether to become a republic. Once that referendum is held, the chance of coming to an honourable settlement will have been thrown out of the window. I understand that proposals have been sent to Her Majesty's Government by Mr. Ian Smith, and it would seem to me that we should debate the matter before we go into the recess rather than risk the Government throwing away the chance of a settlement. I say that particularly because of the publicity given in our newspapers to the Centre Party and knowing the Prime Minister's reputation as a wishful thinker who always assumes that what he would like to happen will happen.
Then there is the visit of the Minister of Technology to Moscow. I think the House would have liked an opportunity to discover whether he was to ask about Mr. Gerald Brooke. I do not consider that he should have gone to Moscow to discuss exchanges of technological information. I should have thought that the Government would want assurances about Mr. Brooke before they discussed anything with the Russian Government, and I should have liked a debate on the matter.
Then there is an urgent need for a debate on Private Members' Bills and the so-called neutrality of the Government 78 on certain great moral issues. There are reports that after Whitsun Government time will be given late at night, after the normal ending of the Business of the House, to debate the Divorce Reform Bill. I was taken to task when I said that it was humbug of the Solicitor-General to talk about the Government's neutrality on the Bill, and I referred to previous cases, such as the abolition of capital punishment, abortion law reform and homosexual law reform, where this Government provided time for the debating of these matters. Before we give any further consideration to the Divorce Reform Bill, I am certain that we should debate whether any Government have the right to remove the only safeguard of hon. Members who oppose legislation, which is delay. If the Government bend the rules, they take away that right from any opposition. They take away the delaying weapon by rigging the rules and providing additional time at night for the discussion of great moral issues. This is a disgraceful state of affairs, and it should be debated before we go into Recess.
I come finally to the question of nurses' pay. This is yet another matter upon which we should have a statement. It becomes even more important when one remembers that the Minister of Defence said in his recent White Paper and in the debate on the Defence Estimates that the National Board for Prices and Incomes is busy preparing a report on Service pay in which there is the possibility of a suggestion about military salaries and deductions in respect of food, accommodation and so on. With the chaos in the nursing profession as an example, I hope we can have a debate, even if it serves only to persuade the Minister of Defence not to make the same mistake in the Services, which have such a serious recruiting problem.
I hope that I have made enough points to impress upon the House that there are many important matter which should be debated rather than that this House should go into recess for 16 days. Above all, I do not trust this Government to govern the country effectively when we are here. When we are not here, heaven help us.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I am sorry to have to intervene, 79 but several points have been made and I think that I should put my views on some of them on the record.
The only part of the speech of the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Good-hew) with which I agree was that in which he dealt with the provision of time by the Government to those who stand for the extension of permissiveness and who wish to introduce a Measure with which the vast majority of people do not agree.
As an engineer, I think of the ways in which, technically and scientifically, we can produce ever higher material standards for every individual, and I am certain that we also need higher moral standards. The more wealthy one becomes, the more one needs culture and morality. I shall always oppose abortion, easy divorce and all the other matters that go with permissiveness. It has been a matter of regret to me that on two occasions Government time has been provided for the examination of these problems. However, I always get my opportunity to oppose them, and I rest content with that. There are opportunities, too, to campaign against them in my constituency, and those opportunities come in every recess. It is for that reason that I would like to see longer recesses. There should be sufficient time for hon. Members to warn their constituents against these extensions of permissiveness.
It does not matter which Government are in power. The individual lives of our citizens are more and more affected by legislation which is administered by the bureaucracy. Ever since becoming a Member of this House, I have considered it one of my primary duties to protect the individual citizen from the possible result of the bureaucracy administering laws presented to any eventually approved by this Chamber.
There is an idea in this country that the main work of a Member of Parliament is done in this Chamber. However, if we pretend that this Chamber is what matters and that it should always be open, visitors to the public gallery seeing 20 or 30 of us sitting here will think that it is a pretty soft job.
The main function of a Member of Parliament very often is performed when Parliament is in recess and he is in his 80 constituency. Recesses should be longer, because there is so much intervention by the State in people's day to day affairs that they need the protection of their Members of Parliament. The difficulty is that we cannot get to our constituencies often enough. We have to be here on three-line whips. The position is becoming intolerable. Readers of political history will know that in the nineteenth century Members of Parliament spent far more time in their constituencies than we do. One cannot learn what is happening in the country by taking part in an intellectual exercise in this Chamber.
The government of this country is something more than an intellectual pastime. With the degree of State intervention that we have, a Member of Parliament can be of far more use getting around and seeing his constituents. When this place is shut up it is still very easy to get in contact with, for instance, the Department of Education and Science or the Foreign Office. As a Member of Parliament one can always contact the heads of Departments or Ministers of the Crown because members of the Government do not go into recess; only this Chamber goes into recess.
§ Mr. Bence
They have a week's holiday or a few days. A Member of Parliament can go from this place and spend 16 days in his constituency. I think it should be three weeks so that he can get around to every village in a county constituency or every street in a borough to find out what is happening. He ought to be able to get around to the old-age pensioners and the business community to find out what is happening. He can then get in touch with the Board of Trade, the Home Office, and so on. A Member of Parliament can work twice as hard in those 16 days than if he has to come here.
Let us be frank. Many of us here this afternoon would be far more usefully employed in our constituencies. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) mentioned the Upper Clyde shipbuilders. The Leader of the House has, quite rightly, promised that we shall be having some information about this development. This is a very important issue for the Clyde. My hon. 81 Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) has worked like a slave in the last six weeks—not in this House—trying to solve the Upper Clyde shipbuilders' problem. He has been around the shipyards on the Clyde meeting management and men. He has been doing everything that he possibly can. Hon. Members have not heard him here, but they have heard him on the Clyde. This is important. My hon. Friend is fortunate in being able to get away, but this recess will give him greater opportunities. Hon. Members with interests in the Clyde area will also have greater opportunities to get around the Clyde to examine the situation.
We should spend more of our time out in the country. We spend far too much time here. This is a debating chamber for intellectual exercises. Many hon. Members enjoy the cut and thrust of debate, like the old Oxford Union. It is great stuff and I enjoy it, but an essential of democracy is that we should have not only a free Press but Members of Parliament free to get around their constituencies, free to contact anybody and everybody, and then come back and put Questions on the Order Paper. This is all part of the process. The trouble is that the recesses are not long enough. If I were to put a Motion on the Order Paper it would be to extend them. I could watch what the Government are doing better from out in the country than from here. My constituents give me their reactions—[Interruption.]—I did not catch that. I wish I had.
I am glad that the recess is to be for 16 days, but I wish it were for 26 days. We must not kid the people of this country that because this Chamber is sitting the essentials of democracy are functioning. Democracy spreads much further than this Chamber.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence). I suppose he will either be seeking leave to amend the Motion before the House because he wants the recess to be longer or he will vote against it because he considers the length of the recess proposed by Her Majesty's Government entirely inadequate.
I should like to support most strongly what he said following my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. 82 Goodhew) about the strange matter of the Divorce Reform Bill. It is astonishing that Members of Parliament should have to learn from the Press what are the Government's intentions. It seems that we are to go away for this Recess without the Government telling us what is intended about this Bill, which many of us bitterly oppose and which we believe the majority of people in this country bitterly oppose. If this Measure is wanted by the Government as a matter of social reform and public policy, they should have the guts to adopt it. They should not shelter behind private Members so that they can have it both ways: the want to put through this unwanted permissive legislation and then pretend it was nothing to do with them. They have had the experience of the Abortion Act. The Secretary of State responsible is now deeply anxious about that.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
If the right hon. Gentleman will be patient, I will try to indicate what it has to do with it. I am asking for a clear statement from the Government whether they intend to give their support to this Measure, which we understand, if the rumours and Press reports are correct, is to come up shortly after the recess. Therefore, it is only fair that the House should be informed, before it rises for the Recess, what is intended. I do not wish to go further—
§ Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
Perhaps it would be better to extend the recess and come back at the end of June, so that this obnoxious Bill should not get through the House.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
That is a very interesting, constructive and ingenious suggestion. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should consult his hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East and try to seek leave to amend the Motion—a manuscript Amendment might be submitted—to extend the Recess.
On other grounds I am reluctant to go away without assurances on various matters. I do not think the situation of this country justifies us in having a holiday of this length.
I do not wish to go further into the matter of permissive legislation, which the 83 Socialist Government supports without having the courage to admit it, because, as has been made clear from the Chair, this is a narrow debate. We are circumscribed in what we say. We are not allowed to discuss the merits of Government policy, even if there were any merits in Government policy.
I was a little encouraged by what Mr. Speaker said when my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) was raising the topic of Anguilla. Mr. Speaker suggested that my hon. Friend should not enter into the merits of the subject of Anguilla as there might conceivably be a debate on that subject on Whit Monday if my hon. Friend got his way. I am not sure whether Mr. Speaker was entirely serious about that.
I thought the Leader of the House gave a curious reason why we should not press Anguilla. He said there had been so many Questions about it in the House. Exactly. There are so many Questions asked because the answers which we get are either unsatisfactory or uninformative. I asked the Leader of the House whether any Questions had been answered or any statement made subsequent to the important visit to this country of Mr. Bradshaw. Perhaps the Minister without Portfolio, who is very much conversant with Commonwealth matters, will be able to give a clear answer about that.
There are other Commonwealth matters which weigh very heavily on the minds and consciences of hon. Members and are of deep concern to our constituents. The horror of Biafra goes on. There seems no end to it. This is a matter which deeply touches the feelings, particularly those of our younger constituents. The "quick kill" in Biafra seems about as quick as the overcoming of the resistance of Mr. Ian Smith—the weeks, not months, of which the Prime Minister spoke. Anyway, the carnage goes on. There is no end in sight.
Nothing has been said about Malaysia, a Commonwealth country in respect of which we have vast investments, historic friendship and deep concern. There are many British subjects there. Her Majesty's Forces are there. The situation seems to get a bit better one day, and then we are not so sure. But I shall not press this matter, because I have 84 Questions down for Written Answer on the position in Malaysia, and I know that if the Minister without Portfolio has anything to do with it he will do his best to see that the House is kept informed on this subject.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans said that it was unsatisfactory for us to go away without our being told anything about the Rhodesia situation. I do not want to enter into the merits of this. I do not wish to raise the temperature of this very businesslike debate, but the Prime Minister's answer to my Question last week was really not enough. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to use the opportunity of raising great excitement without dealing with the important matter of what the Government are doing to avert the drift into a republic and the separation from Britain of Rhodesia.
We understand that certain proposals have been made by Mr. Ian Smith to Her Majesty's Government. We also understand that no reply has been given by the Prime Minister to Mr. Ian Smith. Meanwhile, the situation is going from bad to worse. Britain and Rhodesia are drifting farther apart. The Minister without Portfoilo knows as much about this matter as anyone, and I hope that he can give us some reassurance about it.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans mentioned the visit of the Minister of Technology to the U.S.S.R. We are not clear whether the Minister will be back in this country before we rise for the Recess, assuming that the Motion is passed. My hon. Friend also asked whether the Minister of Technology had seen fit to raise the question of Gerald Brooke. I have not seen a full report, but I noticed a very disturbing speech which the Minister made in Moscow, Part of the speech may have been very good—I do not know—but the part which was briefly reported in this country was to the effect that everything that had been done by our ancestors in the British Empire was harmful not only to the peoples of the British Empire, but to the people of this island. This seems a curious speech to be made by a British Minister when visiting the U.S.S.R. Perhaps the Minister without Portfolio can assure me that his right hon. Friend was misreported.
When I go overseas I try to be meticulous not to attack my Government and 85 not to attack the record of my country, and it is a bit much to hear of this being done by a Minister of the Crown. If there had been no British Empire, there would be no Commonwealth today. Without going any further into the merits of that, it is a bit much for a British Minister—if his speech has been correctly reported—to go to Moscow, the capital of the greatest colonial empire of our time, and a very oppressive colonial empire at that, and then decry what has been done in the British Empire. I hope that we can have a clear statement or refutation before we rise, and that, if possible, we can have that from the Minister without Portfolio when he replies to the debate.
I agree with the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) and with my hon. Friends the Members for St. Albans, and Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) that the position about the I.M.F. and the Letter of Intent is not satisfactory. We understand, of course, that under our constitution Ministers enter into agreements with foreign powers and international institutions and it is then for Parliament to pronounce upon them. But we are in a different situation nowadays. We are in a situation where no one trusts Her Majesty's Government to defend the British interests. This mistrust is not confined to Her Majesty's Opposition. It is keenly felt on the other side of the House as well. It is not enough for us to be told that when the Letter of Intent has been published, when the matter is completed, we shall be able to pronounce upon it. That will be too late. We ought to be able to have our say and make our voices heard on behalf of our constituents before the Whitsun Recess.
Again, there is the curious situation about the contributions to pay for the increased pensions. This muddle appears to have arisen because of the opportunism of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who wanted to soften the shock of his Budget, the too clever incompetence of the Secretary of State, and the chaos in a discredited Cabinet presided over by a Prime Minister who has been found out.
But there is a practical matter involved, and it was referred to at Question Time today. Employers of labour want to know how to plan the future of their businesses. They cannot do that unless they know what is to be the employer's 86 contribution. We should therefore like from the Government before we go away for the Recess a clear statement on how the increased pensions are to be paid for. The Leader of the House made a very courteous and helpful intervention. As usual, he said that he would convey our views to those responsible in the Government. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is wonderful at this "conveyancing" job. The trouble is that when our views have been conveyed that seems to be the end of it.
This debate has shown, and the speeches on both sides have shown—this is not just an Opposition manoeuvre—that hon. Members resent not being taken into the confidence of the Executive. The Prime Minister says he knows what is going on. He may, but I sometimes doubt it. We, however, do not know what is going on, and that is really the burden of our complaint. The Prime Minister says that he is going on and on. On and on and up and up! I recall Ramsay Macdonald who landed this country in rather a similar plight to the plight in which we find ourselves today. We do not want to hear that the Prime Minister is going on. We want to hear that he is going to the country and going out.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Bruce-Gardyne (South Angus)
There are two matters about which I should like reassurance before we agree to the Motion. The first is one which has been discussed by a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House, the question of the Letter of Intent. I listened carefully to what the Leader of the House said about why we should not have a debate on the Letter of Intent before we rise for the Whitsun Recess, or, alternatively, why we should not shorten the Whitsun Recess to enable such a debate to take place before the Letter of Intent was signed, sealed, and delivered, after which we could debate it.
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the arguments which have been pressed upon him, the essence of which is not that the Government should be required to state what their policies are in the midst of a negotiation, but that hon. Members on both sides of the House should have an opportunity to express their views about what the outcome of the negotiations should be. This seems to 87 be a correct constitutional doctrine, and to argue, as the Leader of the House did, and as has been argued before by the Chancellor and other Ministers, that we should not have a debate on this matter before the Whitsun Recess, or during what should have been the Whitsun Recess, because the Letter of Intent is in the nature of an international treaty seems to overlook two points.
First, we have precedents for discussing international treaties which are in the process of negotiation. I recall to the Minister the example of the Common Market negotiations. Many of us would argue that the concessions to sovereignty contemplated in the Letter of Intent are likely to be infinitely more far-reaching than anything—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member is now debating the merits of the matter that he presents. He cannot do that on this Motion.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
I should have said that many of us would like to have the opportunity to argue that the concessions of sovereignty involved in the Letter of Intent will be infinitely more far-reaching than anything that has gone before.
I want to put to the Minister the argument that we should have the debate either before we rise for the recess or at the end of a foreshortened recess from a point of view diametrically opposite to that advanced by hon. Members opposite. I argue that we must have the most stringent control imposed on the Government by the I.M.F. through the Letter of Intent. The difficulty about this argument is that whereas hon. Members opposite who might want to complain that the Letter of Intent is too stringent will have an opportunity of voting against it—if they dare—those who feel that the Letter is likely to be much too lenient will not have the opportunity to vote against it, because the negotiations by then will have been completed and any possibility of making the Letter more stringent will have passed away. That is my argument for saying that those who are in favour of a more stringent Letter of Intent than might otherwise be forthcoming have a stronger case for demanding a debate before we rise or after a foreshortened Whit-sun Recess.
88 My second point concerns an entirely different matter but one that may be within the cognisance of the Minister without Portfolio. I refer to the crisis that has arisen in Scotland over the decision of between 9,000 and 10,000 teachers not to re-register, since 1st April, with the General Teaching Council, and hence to face immediate dismissal. These are qualified and experienced teachers. If the Government carried out the letter of the law by dismissing those teachers the education system in Scotland would collapse.
The urgent need of having a full statement on this matter before we rise for the Whitsun Recess arises from the fact that we face the problem either of the collapse of the schooling system in Scotland or a very grave miscarriage of justice. Approximately 20 of these qualified and experienced teachers have already been sacked for failing to register last year. If the rest of the teachers are not sacked for failing to register by 1st May, when the date for re-registration is up, a positively intolerable situation will be created for the 20 teachers who have already been sacked. I submit that this is a matter of considerable urgency, about which we must have a statement before the Houses rises for Whitsun.
I raised this matter in a business Question last week and asked the Leader of the House to provide us with an urgent statement from the Secretary of State for Scotland before we rose. The Leader of the House said:Since the hon. Member raised this matter, I have looked carefully into it and conveyed his views to my right hon. Friend. I see that there is a Written Question down for answer tomorrow and I believe that the hon. Member himself has a Question down for oral answer on Wednesday. Let us wait for the Answers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1969; Vol. 783, c. 1652]It will surprise the Minister without Portfolio to know that the Answer received to the Written Question on Friday was that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Scottish Office had nothing to add to the answer given to me three weeks before. That carries us no further.
It is true that I have an oral Question down for Wednesday, but it is unlikely that it will be reached in the normal course of events. I therefore ask the 89 Minister to impress upon the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Leader of the House the necessity for the Secretary of State, if need be, to take the Question out of order and give us a full statement at the end of Questions on Wednesday. We cannot go into recess while a situation exists in which the whole teaching profession in Scotland is in total confusion and has no idea of Government policy in a situation which is entirely of the Government's own contriving.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
I apologise to the House for having left it for a short time. Unfortunately, I had an important Committee of the House upstairs.
It is incredible that the House should be thinking of going away for 16 days at Whitsun. The public will believe that we do not understand their reactions. They are aware that this country is going through one of the most serious financial crises that it has ever experienced. They know that this is not the first crisis, but one of about four or five in recent years. They know that we have borrowed up to the hilt overseas, and that at present discussions and arguments are going on about a further loan. For the House to go away for 16 days' holiday while that situation exists is incredible. No wonder the public think so little of Members of Parliament today. Our duty is to be here, finding out from the Government what is going on.
As my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) said, although we do not want to enter into the pros and cons of this Letter of Intent, the House has a right to demand from the Government that we shall have a debate so that the views of my hon. Friend can be put forward; namely, that the Letters of Intent should be much stronger. Other hon. Members—probably this applies to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens), who spoke earlier—think that the Letter should be weaker. At least the House should be told what is happening, and the Government and other people should know the views of Members of Parliament on a situation that will affect every man, woman and child. We should not be going away for a holiday until we have made our position clear. So far, we have been unable 90 to do this owing to the rules of the House.
It is incredible that the Government have not devoted one day in this week to explaining their financial and economic policy to the House once more, and explaining what they propose to do to make the Budget more relevant to the new situation that has developed and to let the public know how they propose to deal with it. We should not give the Government permission to adjourn the House until we have had a statement or a debate on this important subject. If the Motion goes to a Division I shall have no difficulty in voting against it.
Another matter on which the House should demand a statement from the Government, or on which the Government should have a debate in order to let the House know what they are proposing to do, is the question of the Boundary Commission. That Commission has now reported. The facts are in the Government's hands; so far they have made no declaration to the House. But this is exactly the time of year when those Members whose constituencies will be affected by boundary changes will have an opportunity of talking to many of their constituents and the time when they should be able to announce whether or not the boundaries of their constituencies are going to be changed for the next election. The Government have a duty to make an announcement before the House rises for the recess. If we are not to have that statement we should be here next week debating the matter and finding out why the Government are so loth to bring forward their proposals in this matter.
This also applies to the three pending by-elections. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) said, if the dates of these elections are not announced this week—it does not look as though they will be—they will not be announced until after 9th June and the elections will not be held, because of the summer holidays, until the autumn. Hon. Members opposite are great people for talking about "one man, one vote", and saying that people should be represented in Parliament, yet they are deliberately depriving about 200,000 electors of representation for an unduly long time. Before we give 91 the Government this Motion, we should have a statement about when these by-elections are to take place. If we do not get that statement, the Government should not get their Motion.
Another matter is the pensions increase and the statement last week about what the individual will have to pay. Our constituents will ask us about this, and we shall not be able to give them any information. So hon. Members would be better employed in pressing the Government for this information rather than being in their constituencies. However much we like the idea of increased pensions, what little has been said suggests that the operation of these increases will cause the I.M.F. to take umbrage—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We cannot debate the increase now. The hon. Gentleman can make these points in his speech if he gets his wish and the House does not rise for Whitsun.
§ Sir D. Glover
This division of view is another reason for a debate on the economic situation and on how the raising of this money will fit in with the Government's present depressive policy. Otherwise we shall go away without knowing the Government's intentions.
The Government want 16 days' respite to get their nerve and some clear thinking back. The age of miracles is not yet past, but that miracle will not happen, any more than the economic miracle did. They will not get their morale or their wisdom back. This Government are discredited in the House and the country, and the sooner they go, the better for all concerned.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. That matter, too, can be debated if, by dividing the House successfully, the hon. Gentleman brings us back next week.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Tim Fortescue (Liverpool, Garston)
I wish to oppose the Motion, by supporting most of what has already been said, but also by raising two other comparatively minor points on which I should like statements before the Recess.
First, what is happening at Her Majesty's Stationery Office? For some weeks now we have been deprived of our daily HANSARD, delivered to our homes through the miracle workings of the 92 Official Reporters upstairs. Now, when I want a copy of the Report of the Edwards Committee on the aircraft industry, for which we have been waiting for 18 months, I cannot get one.
The Government should tell us what is preventing the distribution of these important documents and say when we can hope for the previous miracles of distribution to be resumed, and what exactly is holding up the resumption of full-time work at that Office. This is of great interest to all hon. Members, including, I venture to suggest, you yourself, Mr. Speaker, and the Government have told us nothing in recent days. May we have a statement on the position before the Recess?
The second item is, perhaps, a little more esoteric. I object to a Recess beginning at the end of this week because of the refusal of the Secretary of State for Social Services to amend the National Health Service (General Medical and Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations. 1966—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot debate now a matter which he would like to debate if we came back on Whit Monday.
§ Mr. Fortescue
I had no intention of doing so, Mr. Speaker.
I suggest that we should have a statement on this matter before the Recess, because it has introduced a new constitutional principle into our affairs which should be objected to. I will not drift into the merits, but should like, if I may, to outline the facts. The fact is that Regulation No. 27 provides that anyone who lives more than one mile from a chemist can have his prescription medicines dispensed by his doctor. This Regulation dates from 1911—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With respect, the hon. Member is doing what I asked him not to do. He is debating what he is eager to debate when we have abolished the Whitsun holiday.
§ Mr. Fortescue
With far greater respect, Mr. Speaker, I am stating facts, not debating merits. I am stating the facts of the situation, on which I want a statement from the Government if I am to support their Motion. As I say, the Regulation dates from 1911 and it was very important at a time—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Even facts are parts of some debates, even if debates do not always contain facts, but the hon. Member cannot debate this Regulation tonight.
§ Mr. Fortescue
If I may not state facts or merits, it is very difficult for me to say anything at all, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps that would be your wish. But perhaps I may rapidly come to the point, which might be incomprehensible to the Minister without Portfolio without the background facts.
A decision had been reached by the present Secretary of State's predecessor that this Regulation should be amended, but, when the new Minister came to office, he consulted the medical profession, which was opposed to this Amendment, and rescinded that decision. This was done when all the medical profession and the whole of the judgment—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is going into the merits of the subject which the hon. Gentleman wishes to debate. He should have listened to what has taken place already. This is a narrow debate. We are debating whether to break up on Friday for a Whitsun holiday and he must advance reasons for not doing so. He may not debate what he would like to debate if we came back.
§ Mr. Fortescue
With the very greatest respect, Mr. Speaker, I have been sitting here since 3.30 p.m. and I have listened to all your Rulings with great attention and respect and have noted how every hon. Member has contrived to make his point. I am trying to emulate my more experienced colleagues in this respect. I shall be brief.
In reaching this decision, the Secretary of State should have made a statement to the House. He has not done so, and before we go into Recess—if we do—he should come here and make a statement on this difficult and pressing matter.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)
I press the Government to announce a date for the Swindon by-election before the Whitsun Recess. Fifteen months have elapsed since Mr. Francis Noel-Baker announced his intention to resign from the House and, although only two months have passed since he actually resigned, the electorate of Swindon will 94 be unrepresented in Parliament for a considerable time unless the Government announce the date of the by-election. I appreciate that Mr. Noel-Baker made interim arrangements for—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot debate the reasons for the forthcoming by-election on this Motion.
§ Mr. Morrison
I grant that two months is not a long time for a constituency to be without an hon. Member, but if the Government do not announce the date of the by-election before the Whitsun Recess it will mean that the last possible date for that announcement to be made before the Summer Recess will be 9th June. Thursday, 26th June, will be the last possible date for a by-election to take place in Swindon before the Summer Recess, because the Swindon factory holidays begin on 3rd July. Thus, a by-election will be precluded from taking place until October unless the Government announce the date either within the next few days or on 9th June.
I am sure that the Government have no wish to disfranchise the electors of Swindon from, say, March until October. That would be an inordinate length of time for any constituency to be without an hon. Member. I hope, therefore, that the Government will realise the strength of the argument in favour of making an early announcement of this date so that once again Swindon may be represented in this House.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. G. B. Drayson (Skipton)
I would be reluctant to support the Motion without an assurance that the Secretary of State for Social Services will make a statement on the conditions of pay and service in the nursing profession. We should also be told what is finally to happen to the additional £3½ million to be raised from spectacles and false teeth charges.
We were told originally that this money would be used for mental hospitals. We were then told that it would be devoted to comprehensive schools. The nurses in my constituency feel that this money should be devoted to improving their pay and allowances. Indeed, we should be told that the Government have plans to conduct a complete review of the pay scales applicable to the nursing profession. I refer not only to student nurses, 95 but to the scales paid to those in posts both at the top and bottom of the profession.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. All hon. Members share the hon. Gentleman's sympathy with the nursing profession, but he cannot debate the issue now.
§ Mr. Drayson
I will not debate the merits of the case on this occasion, but confine my remarks simply to saying that before we adjourn for Whitsun we should be given an assurance that a statement will be made to allay the anxieties of the nursing profession, and that something will be done to alleviate the difficulties that now exist.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. George Thomson)
A number of the matters raised in the latter part of the debate—the I.M.F., pensions, by-election writs, and so on—were dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who will wish to study the further arguments that have been adduced. I assure the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison) that my right hon. Friend the Chief Patronage Secretary will carefully bear in mind the comments he made. To save the time of the House, therefore, I will concentrate on the new points that have been raised.
A number of hon. Members, notably the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) and the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), referred to Rhodesia and spoke of certain views which they understood were being expressed in that country. I will abide by your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, and not go into the merits of the matter. Suffice to say, therefore, that the exchanges between the Rhodesian régime and Her Majesty's Government are confidential.
There is, however, no reason for us to rely on the sort of rumours that arise, since Mr. Smith has, sadly, put his present position publicly in recent days. For example, he told a meeting on 7th May that the latest proposals which he was putting before the Rhodesian electorate would sound the death-knell to the principle of majority rule.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. Gentleman cannot debate Rhodesia on this Motion. He might care to argue 96 that we should return next week for that purpose.
§ Mr. Thomson
The Recess might be useful to hon. Members on both sides of the House in that, without the presence of the Government Front Bench, they might care to use whatever influence they have in Rhodesia to try to secure a reversal of the present tendencies there.
The hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) spoke about Scottish teachers. Without commitment, I assure him that I will draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Leader of the House to the request he made for his Question on Wednesday to be dealt with in the House, even if not reached in the normal way.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman cannot commit himself here and now to assuring me that I will receive art Answer to my Question at the end of Question Time. Does he appreciate, however, that the Leader of the House gave me an undertaking that I would be given an Answer and that I have not yet received one?
§ Mr. Thomson
I assure the hon. Gentleman, who is a geographical if not a political neighbour of mine, that I appreciate the feeling in Scotland on this issue.
A number of hon. Members, not only hon. Gentlemen opposite but my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), referred to the Private Bill procedure. I assure them that I will draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the views they expressed.
The hon. Member for St. Albans and the hon. Member for Chigwell referred to the case of Mr. Gerald Brooke. I need not tell them that the whole House shares their concern over this case. I cannot add to what was said recently by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Indeed, it would not be helpful if I were to add anything in the present circumstances, and I hope that the House will be willing to accept that reply.
I had some sympathy with the efforts of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Fortescue) to stay within the rules of order. I assure him that I will draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social 97 Services to the view he expressed and to his request for information on the constitutional issue which he sought to put before the House.
A number of hon. Gentlemen opposite raised somewhat polemical questions over their anxiety at leaving the Government for 16 days without having to face a parliamentary Opposition in the House. Perhaps a 16-day Recess will be useful for the Opposition as well as for the Government. It may give hon. Gentlemen opposite an opportunity to make up their minds on the policies which they wish to press on the Government after the Recess. For example, they may care to decide whether the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition last November, in Swansea, in which he asked us to introduce a labour relations Bill, has their support, and if the speech made last weekend in Glasgow—
§ Mr. Thomson
The length of Recess which we are proposing is normal. I have looked up the records and found that in a number of somewhat difficult years when the Conservatives were in power this length of Recess was proposed. I have no doubt that during our years in opposition we made the same sort of points as hon. Gentlemen opposite have made today. I believe that the Recess being proposed is of the right length and I hope that hon. Members enjoy their holiday and return benefited by it.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House, at its rising on Friday, do adjourn till Monday 9th June.