§ Again considered in Committee.
§ Question again proposed, That amendment be made.
§ Mr. Hurd
We do not like the Referendum Bill, but if there is to be a referendum it is important that it should be conducted in circumstances of fairness.
I think that the Government foresaw the situation which is now arising. Those who are opposed to the Government's recommendation see the force of it, not to speak of the fact that most hon. Members on the Opposition side of the Committee also support it, and, running a little short of substantive argument on the substance of the question, they are concentrating overwhelmingly on the circumstances of the campaign and the belief that one side is attracting more money than the other and disposes of more muscle.
The Government foreseeing that, although I regret the necessity, were therefore right to say that each side should have equivalent broadcasting time—I understand that that has been negotiated without complaint—and a substantial, but not enormous, sum of money to ensure that a proper campaign could be waged on either side. [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite believe that a proper campaign is not being waged on either side, I must dissent from them. I think that in many ways it is a highly active and energetic campaign. However, the Government were right to take this view.
I do not agree that the larger sum proposed by the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) is right. It is an arbitrary sum, as he agreed, and so is the 1614 original one. But I should have thought, for the reasons that I have given, that it is sensible on this occasion to make sums available to both sides to forestall to some extent—as we have seen tonight, they can never be forestalled entirely—the accusations which are now being made. I should have thought—although this is bound to be a subjective judgment, and will displease the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing)—that the sum of £125,000 to each side was approximately just and correct.
Mr. Alan Lee Williams (Hornchurch)
You will have noticed, Mr. Thomas, that the debate has become slightly acrimonious. A number of us expected that on this item that would be the situation. That is why a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself tabled Amendment No. 57, which deals with the problem.
I think that I can speak for my right hon. and hon. Friends. We want this debate to be conducted in good temper and to see that both sides have adequate funds. That is why I shall address myself to that proposition. I do not wish to be drawn into the debate concerning where the European Movement gets its funds.
Amendment No. 57 calls for an increase in the amount in the Bill to £250,000 and for that to be spent by the two umbrella organisations.
I should like to point out to my hon. Friends who have already spoken that, contrary to Press accounts, the Labour Committee for Europe is not flush with money. I speak as treasurer of that body, this being my third year in that position. I have sent out an appeal for funds to all members of the Labour Committee for Europe. It will be no secret that we hope to get some money from the Government—the amount of money that we hope will be given to the two respective umbrella organisations—but what we do not want to see, and we feel strongly about this, is a debate just about the money. We want a debate about the issues, and that is why I hope the Government will accept Amendment No. 57 in the spirit in which it has been tabled.
§ Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I start from the same position as my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery), in that I am wholly opposed to the idea of any form of taxpayers' grant to any political organisation.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) has now parted company from my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton and myself. He based his case on the concept of fairness, but I think he was agreed when we were discussing the whole philosophy of grants to political parties that the essence of subscribing to or supporting a political party is that by one's efforts one makes its position unfair. Hopefully, one makes its position stronger than that of any other party. If we equalise the money that ordinary citizens are allowed to give to a political party, we ought in logic to equalise the amount of effort, passion and conviction that each side gives to any political debate.
The essence of fighting in a political situation is that one wishes to make one's side unfairly advantaged, and it is rubbish to say that because on this issue we who are pro-Marketeers believe that we have more money than the anti-Marketeers we should in some way give away our advantage so that this mythical concept of fairness can be adhered to.
I agreed with the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) when he attacked these two Market organisations for being undemocratic. They are quite unlike political parties, and therefore the case for not giving a grant to political parties is even stronger in respect of these two organisations. For political parties are, after all, democratic in the sense that they are organised in a democratic way in the constituencies. They are also democratic in the sense that they are based upon either representation, or the hope of representation, in the House of Commons, and neither of these two organisations is in any way democratic in those two senses.
But I am also opposed to this proposed grant because I believe that the essence of a political party or any political organisation is that in a sense it is a club. 1616 It is an exclusive organisation. It has the right as any club does, to exclude an individual or body, and here I make no criticism of the anti-Market organisation for excluding the National Front. If it is a club, it is entitled to exclude organisations if it does not like them. I dare say that those who campaign on this side of the Committee would wish, for instance, to exclude Sir Oswald Mosley or the Maoists. That is the privilege which attaches to our status as something like a club.
But surely that is a totally inappropriate organisation to be in receipt of taxpayers' money. For the essence of being in receipt of taxpayers' money is that every citizen is entitled to receive that money if he happens to conform to the particular conditions for the receipt of those funds. That surely is one of the basic concepts of equality under the law. We could not possibly have a situation where, for the sake of argument, only those who vote Communist should be in receipt of social security. Yet we are saying that those who share the views of the National Front may not benefit from the grant to be given to the anti-Market organisation.
On the other side—and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon may be able to help here—we may be saying that we do not like the Maoists or Sir Oswald Mosley. Thus, though the Maoists or Sir Oswald Mosley may be taxpayers in this country, they are not, for some exclusive reason attaching to these clubs, entitled to benefit from the taxpayers' largesse. This illustrates better than anything the ridiculous concept of giving handouts to any political party or organisation. I shall vote with enormous pleasure against the amendment and against the clause.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
I have not taken part in the referendum debate or, on a more general note, in the Common Market debate for some time. The arguments have been made over and over again. They have changed a little.
I wish to say a few words as a result of having listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) speak about the way in which the European Movement is organising its funds. It is able to do what it is doing in sending letters to various bodies, particularly big business, because, as the 1617 Prime Minister has said, this is a unique situation. But we are attempting to conduct it along the lines of the normal general or local election techniques, and, haphazard though it may be, the people will expect, and they have every right to expect, that all the devices and methods used in a General Election will be used in this campaign. Already we are witnessing, as evidenced by the letter to which my hon. Friend referred, the way in which corruption and bribery can take place on a pretty grand scale.
One could argue that for some time people have been flown to Brussels and Strasbourg to try to win favours and influence people. One could equally argue that that is not in an election situation and to that extent it matters little. However, my impression is that, because the procedures laid down are not clear or as fundamentally as clear as in a General Election, this kind of practice will take place even after the Bill becomes law.
Therefore, the kind of capers in which the last Prime Minister indulged when, in halcyon days, he trotted round the marginal seats will pale by comparison with the way in which the media—and I refer to television, apart from the large national daily and weekly newspapers, which are at one on this issue—will combine to ensure that, if there is any chance of the people looking as if they will take Britain out of the Common Market, every means is used to convince them that what they are doing is wrong.
That is why I support the amendment, though not in the most forthright fashion, as I usually do—not that I am enamoured by the prospect of using taxpayers' money for this purpose but because the campaign is so obviously unequal.
Some of the damage might be repaired if the amount granted to both sides were to be raised. However, no matter how much the taxpayer granted to the anti-Common Market side we could never match either in financial terms or in any other terms the amount of brainwashing and propaganda which are now taking place and which will continue to take place throughout the referendum campaign.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)
Will the hon. Gentleman deal with a suspicion that I have about the real reason why he is using such strong language? It seems that the anti-Europeans, who forced the device of the referendum on the country, now fear that they will be defeated by it and thereby hoist by their own petard. The more hard core of them are now preparing excuses for failure and are using words such as "corruption" and "bribery" and accusing the media of brainwashing the public and are laying the foundations or preparing the way for another unconstitutional device.
§ Mr. Skinner
I shall for my own perhaps eccentric and personal reasons continue to hold my views, whatever the result. They are not necessarily the reasons held by others on these benches. What concerns me is the point I am leading up to. In the course of the past couple of days I have had brought to my attention a letter which is somewhat dissimilar to that which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West but which provides clear evidence of the way in which the Commission will try to influence, bribe and corrupt not only the British people who will cast their votes but those within the media who have the opportunity, power and influence to get their message across to an even greater degree.
The letter is headedDiplomatic and Commonwealth Writers Association of Britain".It has been sent to members only, but some kind person from the Gallery sent it to me. The letter says:The Commission of the European Communities. A very attractive offer of a visit—all expenses paid—to the EEC in Brussels has been made by our friend and colleague, Michael Lake.It is open to all full members of the Diplomatic and Commonwealth Writers Association. The facility begins with Lunch on Wednesday, May 21, 1975.I would guess that by that time the Bill will have become law.
I know a little about illegal practice, not necessarily corruption. I have looked at the Representation of the People Act on many occasions, long before I came to Parliament. I know what it is like to he riding in a vehicle that has a PSV licence and to be hounded by the police and by the Opposition over a period of 1619 many months because of a very slight misdemeanour of which I was eventually proved to be innocent. I know what it is like.
In this referendum it is not a question of riding in a vehicle that has a PSV licence and taking part in a local election campaign. This is a matter which, according to some of my right hon. and hon. Friends and certainly according to hon. Members opposite, will settle the destiny of Britain, today's children and future generations for ever and a day. There is some difference of view about that matter, but I will not go into that now.
The lunch which is to take place at 20 Kensington Palace Gardens—the Communities' headquarters—will result in the party that takes part in this event being flown to Brussels followed by a discussion and a return on Friday, 23rd May. That is the kind of forum that is set for the people who will be writing all these glorious articles about why the British people should stay inside the Common Market. It is no different from the one that was organised by that company of which we used to hear so much, Clark-son's, before it went bankrupt. It had all the writers that it could get hold of flown out to its holiday resorts in order that they could come back and write their articles in the nation's Press and try to brainwash—
§ The Chairman
Does the hon. Member mind if I deal with my point of order first? I hope the hon. Member from Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will now relate his argument more to the question of the amount of money to be given in aid.
§ Mr. Skinner
I have been listening to what has taken place in this debate, Mr. Thomas, before you came into the Chair, and I am answering many of the points which have been made in the debate. What I was saying in the analogy that 1620 I was drawing recently was that this is a device by which the British Press managed to get their point of view across. I have no doubt that unless what is happening is brought to the attention not only of the House of Commons—that matters little—but of the British people generally, it will continue unabated and at a pace which we have never experienced before. This referendum campaign is so unique, and people will think that they have got the licence and the opportunity to do what they like. Coupled with the kind of references made by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West to the granting of tax relief—[Interruption.] Well, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has answered my hon. Friend, but I have the impression that the answer my hon. Friend read tonight, and which he showed to me earlier, is not as conclusive as some of us would like. Indeed, many of the Chancellor's answers on these tax matters cannot be accepted because he is not the man who in the end will deal with the points that have been raised.
§ Mr. Ridley
Why is the hon. Member complaining about one-sidedness in this matter? After all, the Trades Union C. Congress went to very great expense in inviting Mr. Shelepin here—
§ Mr. Skinner
I do not wish to comment on the hon. Gentleman's intervention except to say that there has been some talk of us doing our best not to get involved in personalities in this campaign but to concentrate on the policies which divide us. I believe that that is what we must attempt to do. These irrelevancies and red herrings which have been thrown about are not matters with which we should concern ourselves.
I wish to stress that in view of the sum of the disclosures we have heard, we are bordering very close to what could be described as standing four square against Sections 99 and 100 of the Representation of the People Act. Section 100 states, in respect of treating—and this refers to the letter which I read earlier—A person shall be guilty of treating if he corruptly, by himself or by any other person, either before, during or after an election"—1621 and we must assume that this relates to the campaign—directly or indirectly gives or provides, or pays wholly or in part the expense of giving or providing, any meat, drink, entertainment or provision to or for any person—
- (a) for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting; or
- (b)on account of that person …"—
§ The Chairman
Order. I was hoping that the hon. Gentleman had finished reading that. He must relate the argument more directly to the amount of aid to be given.
§ Mr. Skinner
On one side of the argument there is evidence to suggest that money is being used to try to influence people's votes in the referendum. I am describing the way in which, as set out in the Representation of the People Act, such infringements can result in corrupt practices being proved. In respect of treating, this is conclusive. Therefore, it directly relates to the question of how much money should be allocated by the taxpayer to see that it is a fair fight.
§ Mr. Robin Corbett (Hemel Hempstead)
Perhaps I may assist my hon. Friend on the matter of the letter inviting journalists and writers to Brussels. The European Commission may be wasting its money and ours. My hon. Friend will recall the well-known doggerel:You cannot hope to bribe or twist, Thank God, the British journalist. But seeing what he will do unbribed, There's no occasion to.
§ Mr. Skinner
My hon. Friend makes a better job of the argument than I do.
I was just concluding paragraph (b), which says—
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Gentleman need not continue to read it, because we are dealing not with how money is spent but with how much is to be contributed. The amendments are in clear language. Therefore, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will confine his argument to the contribution that shall be made.
§ Mr. Skinner
The people who sent out the letter to which I have referred may well consider that the £125,000 apiece is enough, on the basis that they have plenty more. With respect, that is relevant to this argument. Therefore, we 1622 must ensure, whatever happens throughout the rest of this week and when the Bill becomes law, that the referendum is fought along the lines of General Elections or local government elections. Otherwise, many people will feel considerable doubt about whether it was a fair and balanced fight, in which each side had an opportunity to express its views through the media and elsewhere.
We believe that already one side has tremendous amounts of money at its disposal, even to the extent of having money from the taxpayer through the various grants made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, and possibly in tax relief. We believe that the balance is tilted to one side and that the only reparation we can make is to ensure that we obtain more money for our side, to reduce the present vast gap.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. English
This started out as a nasty little bad-tempered debate and in many respects it has so remained. I except entirely the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Williams) who has his name attached to the second of the amendments. He hit the nail on the head precisely and I should like to take up the points he made.
The simple point is not something that can be discussed upon a subsequent amendment, namely whether there is an improper use of funds. My right hon. Friend the Lord President, and I give him full credit for it, originally suggested at the time of the publication of the White Paper that the grant of money to the two sides should be larger than it now is. His suggestion was reported in the Press and it was not denied. Some figures were denied but it is clear, particularly from advice given to Britain in Europe and the National Referendum Campaign that the money was originally intended to be larger. At some stage it was reduced to the ridiculous figure of £125,000.
I sympathise with Opposition Members. They have said that they do not like the principle of contributing taxpayers' money, but they did not put an amendment down, why I do not know. If money is to be contributed to both sides it would be much more sensible to make them sums of practical use. A poster campaign for a month, for example, would cost at least half the present sum specified in the 1623 Bill. A newspaper advertising campaign for three weeks would cost at least 10 times as much as a poster campaign.
If Opposition Members think that both sides are equally flush with funds they need their heads looked at. If the referendum is to be fair there must be contributions to enable reasonably adequate communication and advertising of the case to the public. That being the case my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made his original statement. He later said that it was difficult to limit expenditure on advertising and that idea was dropped. Instead the sums to be contributed were put into the White Paper. The sums then suggested were considerably greater than the amounts now before us. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) is seeking to reinstate the present sum to its original level.
§ Mr. William Price
Before I deal with the amendments I shall briefly explain the thinking behind the proposals in Clause 3. We recognise, as we said in paragraph 40 of the Referendum White Paper, that some assistance from public funds to the two sides is desirable if the campaign is to be fair and effective. There is little doubt that those arguing for a "Yes" vote start with an advantage in that all the Press, with one exception, is on their side. It is claimed that it will be quite impossible for those who oppose the Market to get a fair hearing.
That was the gist of the argument of my lion. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and it is a practical point. It is causing a great deal of concern and in many respects it is far more important than the amount of money being contributed by anonymous businessmen in Europe, Britain and elsewhere.
I suspect that what I have to say might not meet with unanimous approval below the Gangway. There is some truth in my hon. Friend's argument, but it can be over-estimated. I can say as an old newspaperman that it is very easy to grossly exaggerate the power of the Press in these matters. I happen to believe that having Fleet Street on one's side does not automatically ensure a place in Heaven.
It is true that the editorial writers will almost unanimously urge their readers to vote for continuing membership. However, the evidence available in the news- 1624 paper industry suggests that editorials are the least read sections of any publication. What is far more important is whether the newspapers which are pro-Europe are prepared to give reasonable coverage to those who take a different view. My case is that on past form it is likely that they will do so.
§ Mr. Price
I invite those who shout "nonsense" to join with me in the exercise of monitoring closely the case for and against in all the national Press over the next two or three weeks. I may be proven to be wrong but I am prepared to undertake that exercise with any of my hon. Friends who are shouting "none-sense".
§ Mr. Corbett
Has my hon. Friend seen the Evening Standard tonight? It reports the decision of the Trades Union Congress today to recommend that Britain withdraws from the Common Market. It reports that decision in three lines and one sentence in the "News in Brief" column in an inside page.
§ Mr. Price
I have not seen that, for the good reason that there is a rule that Members shall not read newspapers in the Chamber. I have been in the Chamber since 3.30 this afternoon. In any case, journalists should not fall out about these matters. None the less, I shall take up that matter and talk about it afterwards with my hon. Friend. More important than editorials and newspaper columnists are radio and television. They have an obligation to be objective. Many discussions have taken place, and we are certain that both sides will receive equal treatment.
It is easy to exaggerate the power of the Press to influence voting habits. Newspaper men do that themselves. I do not think that we should fall into that trap. If it were true that newspapers had such enormous power over their readers we would be entitled to wonder how the Labour Party managed to win four out of the last five General Elections. If it were left to the Press we would be lucky to win a parish council seat in Clay Cross. Once there is an imbalance which the Government recognise—and it is to be 1625 hoped that imbalances will not be as crippling to the anti-Marketeers as is sometimes imagined—we shall do whatever we can to ensure that people get both sides of the argument.
There is another reason for making money available and it is one that has been mentioned in some detail. It is believed that one side has potentially greater financial resources than the other. I must say that we are in muddy water. Neither my right hon. Friend nor I have the slightest idea of the money that is available to either side. We have heard some astonishing claims and counterclaims and some real hard-luck stories. If there is the disparity that we are led to believe, the sum of £125,000 for the two umbrella organisations will go at least some way to putting the matter right. We have been able to identify those organisations as the ones which, in the words of the White Paper,adequately represent those campaigning for and against continued membership of the Community".My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) wants the figure increased to half a million pounds. My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) and some of his colleagues propose, with characteristic moderation, a figure of a quarter of a million pounds. I cannot argue that our figure is uniquely right and that the other figures are wrong. However, there are arguments in favour of the smaller sum that I should put to the Committee. Even in these days £125,000 is not an unimportant sum. We have heard in the Chamber tonight that there are still people who argue that it is wrong to allocate any money at all.
We believe that with £125,000 it will be possible to have a reasonable display of leaflets, to hire halls, employ secretaries and pay for limited Press advertising. It must be remembered, and it is astonishing that this has not been mentioned, that it is intended only to supplement the resources which the organisations will rightly seek to raise from other sources. The grant will be more than quadrupled by our decision to print and circulate to every household, at public expense, a booklet setting out both sides of the case.
§ Mr. Price
For the moment I am talking about the "two". We can talk about the "one" if necessary. That will cost the Government more than £1 million, making a total of £1¼million which is equivalent to about £2,000 in each constituency, or approximately what the 2,000 candidates spent in the February General Election last year. Under the circumstances, we believe this to be the maximum amount of public money we can justify spending in this way, bearing in mind the need for curbs on public expenditure. I believe that we have found a balance between those who wanted no Government involvement and those who wanted to spend large sums of public money.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
If my hon. Friend is establishing a case for fairness, does he not think it would be seen to be much fairer if he cut out the Government "mini" White Paper and concentrated solely on the distribution of the case from each side, giving the resultant saving out by way of grant as is suggested?
§ Mr. Price
The Government's case is that they have a perfect right to put their view to the people and that is what they intend to do. The purpose of Amendment No. 58 tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central is to make it possible for the campaigning organisations to pass on the money not only to associations affiliated to the umbrella organisations but to those "associated with" them. He said that it was not entirely clear what the difference was. I must say that it is not entirely clear to me either, but affiliation would seem to require a positive link of some kind, whereas association might cover any loose working arrangement.
What would happen is that it would widen the field to include almost any organisation which claimed to be in any way associated with the campaign. Apart from spreading the available money too thinly it would undoubtedly let in one or two political organisations which I suspect my hon. Friend would regard as being somewhat dubious. We have, rightly in my view, left it to the two organisations to decide with whom they will affiliate or associate. That has led 1627 to some minor dispute but we feel it is best done that way.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for referring to the amendment standing in the name of myself and my hon. Friends as "moderate". Will he now address him-self to a new development following on the acceptance of the amendment requiring a county count? Will this not mean a substantial saving of money? This is not the time to ask for more public money in view of the economic situation. Can the Minister say how much money will be saved as a result of there being a county count rather than a national one? In the circumstances, would it not be reasonable to make this initial sum of £125,000 available?
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
The estimate which has already been given of the central count is that it would cost at least £8 million, whereas, if we do a fair sum and take, for example two extreme constituencies like Argyll with the biggest number of polling stations and a city constituency like Cathcart which has two, approximately—[Interruption.]—two or three—a very small number—and then take the modest cost of local counts, with the small cost of hired halls and the known amount we pay to people to count for one period of count only, and add up the cost and multiply by half the number of Members of the House one gets a figure of less than half £8 million?
§ Mr. Price
I have to move on. I wish to deal with three other points made during the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central, asked how we arrived at the figure of £125,000. That came about as the result of many discussions with the political parties and the campaigning organisations. We did not get agreement, but as near a consensus as we could get.
My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) made serious allegations which we shall look into.
The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) says that he is opposed to any form of expenditure whatever, and that the people would vote against allocating any public money at all, but I suspect, and it is true in my constituency, that many of those same people will tell us that it is difficult to make a decision on the Market because of lack of information. It is to provide that information that we are spending £l¼ million.
For the reasons I have given, I hope that my hon. Friends will withdraw their amendments. If they are not able to do so, I ask the Committee to reject them.
§ Mr. Walter Harrison (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made: —
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 60, Noes 195.1629
|Division No. 184.]||AYES||[10.50 p.m.|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Cryer, Bob||Flannery, Martin|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||English, Michael||George, Bruce|
|Buchan, Norman||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Hatton, Frank|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Henderson, Douglas|
|Canavan, Dennis||Evans, John (Newton)||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Fernybough, Rt Hon E.||Kerr, Russell|
|Lambie, David||Roderick, Caerwyn||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Thompson, George|
|Lee, John||Rooker, J. W.||Torney, Tom|
|Litterick, Tom||Ryman, John||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Loyden, Eddie||Sedgemore, Brian||Watt, Hamish|
|Madden, Max||Selby, Harry||Weetch, Ken|
|Marquand, David||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Skinner, Dennis||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Newens, Stanley||Spearing, Nigel||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Noble, Mike||Stallard, A. W.|
|Ovenden, John||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Parry, Robert||Swain, Thomas||Mr. Doug Hoyle and|
|Richardson. Miss Jo||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Mr. Roy Hughes.|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Anderson, Donald||Ginsburg, David||Oakes, Gordon|
|Archer, Peter||Golding, John||Ogden, Eric|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian|
|Ashton, Joe||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Osborn, John|
|Atkinson, Norman||Grant, John (Islington C)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Grocott, Bruce||Park, George|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Peart, Rt Hon Fred|
|Bates, Alf||Hardy, Peter||Penhaligon, David|
|Bean, R. E.||Harper, Joseph||Perry, Ernest|
|Beith, A. J.||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Blaker, Peter||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hooley, Frank||Radice, Giles|
|Boardman H.||Horam, John||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Booth, Albert||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Boltomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Hunter, Adam||Ross, Stephen (lsle of Wight)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Buck, Antony||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)|
|Budges, Nick||Janner, Greville||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)|
|Campbell, Ian||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Cant, R. B.||John, Brynmor||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Small, William|
|Cartwright, John||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Corbett, Robin||Judd, Frank||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Lamborn, Harry||Stoddart, David|
|Cronin, John||Lamond, James||Stott, Roger|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Strang, Gavin|
|Davidson, Arthur||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Lomas, Kenneth||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Luard, Evan||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Deakins, Eric||McCusker, H.||Tierney, Sydney|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||McElhone, Frank||Tinn, James|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Tomlinson, John|
|Delargy, Hugh||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Dell, Et Hon Edmund||Mackenzie, Gregor||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Dempsey, James||Maclennan Robert||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Magee, Bryan||Ward, Michael|
|Dunn, James A.||Mahon, Simon||Watkins, David|
|Dunnett, Jack||Marks, Kenneth||Weitzman, David|
|Dykes, Hugh||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Edge, Geoff||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Mates, Michael||White, James (Pollok)|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Mayhew, Patrick||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Emery, Peter||Meacher, Michael||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Ennals, David||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Ford, Den||Molyneaux, James||Woodall, Alec|
|Forrester, John||Moonman, Eric||Woof, Robert|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Freud, Clement||Mudd, David||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Miss Betty Boothroyd and|
|Gilbert, Dr John||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Mr. Laurie Pavitt.|
|Question accordingly negatived.|
§ Amendment proposed: No. 57, in page 3, line 6, leave out '£125,000' and insert '£250,000'.— [Mr. Alan Lee Williams.]1632
§ Question Put, That the amendement be made: —
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 81, Noes 161.1633
|Division No. 185.]||AYES||[11.00 p.m.|
|Archer, Peter||Hooley, Frank||Selby, Harry|
|Ashton, Joe||Hooson, Emlyn||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Silverman, Julius|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Beith, A. J.||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Spearing, Nigel|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Buchan, Norman||Kerr, Russell||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Lambie, David||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Lee, John||Swain, Thomas|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Litterick, Tom||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Loyden, Eddie||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Cronin, John||McNamara, Kevin||Thompson, George|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Madden, Max||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Marquand, David||Tinn, James|
|English, Michael||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Torney, Tom|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Newens, Stanley||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Evans, loan (Aberdare)||Noble, Mike||Watkins, David|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Ovenden, John||Watt, Hamish|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Parry, Robert||Weetch, Ken|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Radice, Giles||Welsh, Andrew|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Richardson. Miss Jo||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Flannery, Martin||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Forrester, John||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Freud, Clement||Rooker, J. W.||Mr. Alan Lee Williams and|
|George, Bruce||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Mr. Bob Cryer.|
|Hatton, Frank||Ryman, John|
|Henderson, Douglas||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Anderson, Donald||Emery, Peter||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Ennals, David||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||McCusker, H.|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Ford, Ben||McElhone, Frank|
|Bates, Alf||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Bean, R. E.||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Bishop, E. S.||Gilbert, Dr John||Maclennan Robert|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Ginsburg, David||Magee, Bryan|
|Boardman H.||Golding, John||Mahon, Simon|
|Booth, Albert||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Grant, John (Islington C)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Grocott, Bruce||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mates, Michael|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Hardy, Peter||Mawby, Ray|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Harper, Joseph||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Buchanan, Richard||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Meacher, Michael|
|Budgen, Nick||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Campbell, Ian||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Mitchell. R. C. (Soton, Itchen)|
|Cant, R. B.||Horam, John||Molyneaux, James|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Moonman, Eric|
|Cartwright, John||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hunter, Adam||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Corbett, Robin||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Ogden, Eric|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Janner, Greville||O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Osborn, John|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||John, Brynmor||Padley, Walter|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Deakins, Eric||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Park, George|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Peart, Rt Hon Fred|
|Delargy, Hugh||Judd, Frank||Penhaligon, David|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Perry, Ernest|
|Dempsey, James||Lamborn, Harry||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Dormand, J. D.||Lamond, James||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Dunn, James A.||Leadbitter, Ted||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Edge, Geoff||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Stott, Roger||White, James (Pollok)|
|Rowlands, Ted||Strang, Gavin||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)||Tierney, Sydney||Woodall, Alec|
|Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Tomlinson, John||Woof, Robert|
|Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Small, William||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Ward, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)||Wellbeloved, James||Miss Margaret Jackson and|
|Stoddart, David||White, Frank R. (Bury)||Mr. John Ellis.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ The Chairman
I should have explained that Amendment No. 127 was linked with Amendment No. 55, which was not called. Therefore, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Hoyle) has not had an opportunity to express his point of view and I thought it fair to call him.
§ Mr. Walter Harrison
On a point of order, Mr. Thomas. The hon. Gentle-man was not present at the time that Amendment No. 57 was called.
§ Mr. Hoyle
I beg to move Amendment. No. 127, in page 3, line 8, at end insert:'no other organisation specifically concerned with providing information about the EEC shall be supported by moneys provided by Parliament'.The amendment is directed against the special information unit which the Government have set up. Many of us considered that it was a mistaken policy because we believed that it would be, and would be seen to be, a propaganda machine for the Government. Our worst fears have been realised.
The London Letter in The Guardian of 19th April states:Remember the witty little paragraph on Thursday noting that the EEC had decided to give 490 tons of skimmed milk powder to the starving of Vietnam and adding that the EEC had a skimmed milk powder mountain of 400,000 tons which the Commissioners didn't know how to handle and some of which is said to be rotting? Well, yesterday, the government's national referendum unit phoned us pointing out a number of 'serious errors' in the story. Like what? Well, none of that 1634 mountain is rotting, 490 tons is quite a lot when you think about it, the Vietnamese have got a good deal of the stuff already, many Asians are allergic to skimmed milk powder and it is not very good for babies anyway.Now the national referendum unit is an information centre set up by the government and run by civil servants to answer 'questions of fact' posed by reporters of the public.I emphasise that because it goes on to say:The Commission has its own first rate and very active information unit in London headed by ex-Guardian man Mike Lake. Lake did not think it worth raising these 'serious errors' with us. So why, we asked Martin Morland, head of the national referendum unit, was his staff now doing Lake's job for him and was this to be a general policy?Morland tells us that the call from his office was 'a one off job' because he did not want Commission policies to appear 'lunatic'. And he certainly had not chosen London Letter for his one off job because twenty-four hours earlier we had carried another story raising doubts about the accuracy of answers given by his unit on EEC energy policy.Here is a departure from the White Paper. The Government said in the White Paper that it wasexpected that there will be a substantial additional flow of requests to the Government for factual information, interpretation of the re-negotiated terms and the like from the Press, radio, television and interested organisations and individuals,and that they would set up a special information unit to deal with such requests.
Here we have a report from which one gathers that although there were no such requests, because it was considered that the information was not very accurate, the Government information unit was volunteering information without being asked. What has it become but a propaganda machine not for the Government but for the Commission, which is even worse. The Government are putting the civil servants into an impossible position. The Government should now drop the idea. Having decided to give money to both sides, they should now allow the answers to the questions to be given by both sides.
1635 The special information unit is not only doing a factual job, in that its answers are being questioned; it is also interfering in matters which do not concern it. I am therefore asking that this matter be reconsidered and that the special information unit be suspended. It is not necessary. We should relieve the civil servants of this onerous duty and put them to more useful and fruitful tasks. Indeed, we should allow the two organisations to get on with answering genuine questions and give all the information that is required.
§ [Sir MYER GALPERN in the Chair]
§ Mr. English
My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Hoyle) has pointed out the existence of this special information unit. It really is the biggest single decline in public morality relating to elections since probably 1832. The Government have decided to conduct a voting process in the same manner in which 18th century Governments did.
I have mentioned the question of bias. Presumably the bias results from fear on the part of the little minority of 16 who constitute the Cabinet and currently call themselves the Government. Can one imagine such a situation in a General Election in which a little group of civil servants give not merely factual answers to requests but also, according to the White Paper, interpretations of Government policy? Just imagine.
Hon. Members opposite do not realise the precedent that they are accepting. On this basis we can set up a little unit of civil servants during the next election to give interpretations of our case when they are fighting the election against us. That is how Government fought elections in the 18th century, and in the 18th century no Government ever lost an election. No Government lost an election between 1715 and 1830, a period of office which was rather excessive by our modern standards.
During the latter half of the 19th century a different attitude arose—an attitude which replaced corruption with a sense of public morality. Bribery disappeared to a substantial extent from our Civil Service. The civil servants became the impartial supporters of whichever political 1636 party was in office. Now the Government tell them "We are appealing to the electorate and you must take part only on one side." The Minister, in replying to the last debate, said that Governments have a right to present their own case. He was talking about the pamphlets which are to be sent out. He forgets that we got that idea from the Australian Referendum Acts, and that there the Government put their own case. It is usually the "Yes" case, and the Opposition put the "No" case.
We have the only Government who have to put the case twice, because they are so frightened, a Government consisting of 16 men in the Cabinet who find that they do not even command a majority of Ministers under them, never mind the majority in their party. They are so frightened that they have to spend £1 million on biassing the case in one direction, and recruit the Civil Service for the first time into electoral politics. It is bad morality. It is based on fear, and it should not be.
§ Mr. William Price
Somebody must answer the questions. There are many coming in. We had more than a thousand questions in the first two weeks from the Press and the public. We set up the information unit because we felt that the task would best be carried out centrally. It was as simple as that.
The unit answers questions factually. It is supervised by senior Ministers.
§ Mr. Price
I understand that the terms of reference of the unit are to provide the facts, whether they support the Government's case or not. If hon. Members provide information on cases of deliberate distortion of the facts to suit the Government's case, we shall look into it closely.
I have the distinct impression that my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) would object very strongly if we told people the time of day.
1637 What we are saying is that this is not a propaganda unit, as has been alleged, and we ask the Committee to reject the amendment.
§ Mr. English
As my hon. Friend referred to me, I thought that he was allowing me to intervene. If he thinks that I invented the theory about the unit's giving out propaganda, how does he interpret the passage in the White Paper saying that it existed to respond to requests for "factual information" and to give "interpretations" of the Government's case. It is the Government who have said that it is to provide propaganda as well as facts.
§ Mr. Madden
Can my hon. Friend tell us how many officers have been seconded to the unit, and from which Departments they have been seconded? Are all the major Departments concerned with the renegotiated terms represented in the unit?
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Hands-worth)
Is this most convenient device to be repeated at a General Election, so that we can make certain that it is tilted in our favour? I am sure that Opposition Members will be interested in the answer to that.
§ Mr. Spearing
I do not follow the Minister's argument in reply to the question about interpretation put by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English). This relates to the passage in the White Paper which was objected to both formally and informally in many parts of this building because, although we look sometimes to the Government to provide factual information, it was clearly stated in the White Paper that the duty of this unit would be to interpret the Government's view.
Plainly, in the forthcoming arguments about this matter, on many questions of fact and policy interpretation will be crucial. I shall give the Committee two short examples.
The first relates to the extent to which the European Community is committed to economic and monetary union. We have the Foreign Secretary's version, yet in the Press today we read reports about progress being made towards that very end. I suppose that it would be in order for this unit, in answer to an inquiry on the matter, to give a handout of the Foreign Secretary's speeches on the subject, but whether it would also provide information about recent reports from the EEC is another question.
There is also the matter of interpretation, on which the Prime Minister has been challenged time and again by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) and myself, concerning direct elections to the European Assembly. It is clear by implication from the Paris communiquéé after the last summit that if the vote on Europe is "Yes" this country will be almost certainly committed to direct elections to the European Assembly. According to the White Paper, however, any genuine inquirer to the Government's unit would not necessarily receive that reply, because it cannot be categorically proved. Everyone knows that that is the political position, yet even the Prime Minister has not at the Dispatch Box when charged with it categorically stated it as a fact.
In my view, therefore, the inclusion of the word "interpretation" both in the White Paper and in the Minister's replies tonight bodes very ill not only for a referendum battle fought cleanly and properly but also for the reputation of those 1639 members of the Government supporting this part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
Although I listened carefully, I did not find in the Minister's remarks any real explanation for this unit. For my part, I welcome the bias which is coming out of it, but the Minister ought to realise that he has set a dangerous precedent, with the state that the Government and the Labour Party are in. It is grossly unfair to throw in civil servants to act as umpire in this battle. Why does he feel bound to support the setting up of the unit in this way?
§ Mr. Ron Thomas
On the question of interpretation, I refer again to the "London Letter" in The Guardian—the regular little piece on this debate which it publishes each day—and I take the issue of 16th April. A straightforward question was put to the information unit as follows:Will we be allowed to discriminate in favour of home-based industries by permitting them access to this oil "—that is, North Sea oil—at more favourable prices than we charge for exporting it?The reply given was:The Government intend to dispose of North Sea oil at the market price. Differential pricing would involve a significant departure from Government policy".That does not answer the straightforward question "Will we be allowed to discriminate"—this or any other Government? Like the White Paper, it gives a completely misleading answer. I do not know that the House has decided that the Government should dispose of North Sea oil at the market price. I do not know that we have ever made a decision on that, and we may want to make a different decision. Should we be allowed to do so as members of the Common Market?
Second, where do the information and interpretations which are being given fit in with my hon. Friend's scheme of things in relation to his belief that both radio and television will give equal time to both sides? Where do the information and interpretations that are given to the radio and television by this unit fit into the Minister's spectrum of objectivity? So far as I can judge, and I do not know how much information they have had 1640 from this unit, both radio and television devote far more time to the pro-Market view, but they do so by suggesting that it is unbiased information. No doubt it comes from a unit of this kind.
That sort of thing is contrary to the statement that we made in the Labour manifesto, which was that, irrespective of what was negotiated in Brussels, the British people would make the final choice, and I took that to mean that the Government would take a neutral and not this completely pro-Market stance.
§ Mr. Powell
The Minister's reply so far has not been in any way proportionate to the great seriousness of the matter that the amendment brings before the Committee. I do not think that it will be disputed by those on either side of the issue that the impartiality of civil servants on matters maintained by the expenditure of public money is of equal interest to all concerned and something that we must jealously protect.
Attention has been drawn to the fact that the remit of this unit is incapable of being factually discharged. It is not that we are accusing the civil servants of bending their remit. The fact is that the remit given to them is inherently subjective.
The words, which have not yet been precisely quoted, in the White Paper are:interpretation of the renegotiated terms and the like".Obviously, interpretation of the renegotiated terms must include an explanation of how those terms will work out as time goes on. There are many possible interpretations, all necessarily subjective, of the way in which the renegotiated terms will operate in the next three months and the next three years. Yet this unit is set up in order to give an interpretation.
By its nature, such an interpretation will be either more or less favourable to the case for Britain remaining in the Community; it cannot be otherwise. Those who are giving these interpretations will have a choice to make and its nature will be such that it should be taken only by Ministers and not shouldered on to civil servants, whether within those parameters they lean towards a more or less favourable "interpretation". "Interpretation" is the word but, of course, in essence it is 1641 an assessment of how the future will work out.
The Government have to address themselves to this issue much more seriously than the Minister seemed prepared to do.
There is a further suggestion that could be administratively fulfilled if we go on with this unit in any form. It is that the information supplied by the unit should be rendered available for scrutiny by hon. Members. I presume that a record of the replies is kept. It is only fair and right, and only fair and right to those who are operating the unit, that it should be possible to judge how the work is being discharged. I hope that the Government will at any rate confirm that there will be a record of the information that is given and that that information will he placed in the Library of the House so that hon. Members may form their own judgments.
§ Mr. Jay
I agree with those who have said that the Minister does not seem to be taking this issue seriously enough. He seemed almost flippant in his approach.
It is one thing for a Civil Service information unit to give genuinely factual answers to questions from the public, and that has always been done, and quite another to give interpretations of policy, and the word "interpretation" is used in the White Paper. It is different again not merely to give interpretations in answer to questions but to approach the Press or the public to volunteer interpretations, described in one instance as sheer propaganda.
Therefore, I think that the Minister ought to give us an answer. He should tell us whether it is right that this information unit has on one occasion approached a newspaper and volunteered a statement of this kind, or whether it has not. If it has, I think it is quite wrong, and the Minister should answer the questions that have been asked. I warn him that if the Government push these unfair practices much further many
§ people will not accept the result of the referendum as fair or binding.
§ Mr. Eric Moonman (Basildon)
I am sure that there is genuine concern about this matter, but perhaps it is rather a question of the competence of the people who are performing the task. Nothing that I have heard so far suggests that the main issue is one of bias. If any of us has to deal with constituents' complaints about the way in which individual Departments handle their inquiries it will be a far more important task to try to establish exactly how individual officers of Departments deal with them.
If the Minister has to answer any point it is not the point dealt with earlier by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I could not imagine how anyone could record all the answers to the theoretical requests which might be made. But it would be helpful if the Minister would give some indication of the level of grading and the position of the people concerned. Anyone who is genuinely concerned about the way in which answers are given will be more concerned with that than with imagining that some sort of bogy or bias will creep into this information.
§ Mr. William Price
I recognise that this is a serious matter and I wish to be as fair and objective as possible. I have already offered—I repeat that offer—to look closely into all the matters raised in the debate, and any matters of bias, alleged or otherwise, concerning Members in the future. At this stage it is difficult to go much further than that. I shall have each and every question investigated thoroughly.
§ Question put. That the amendment be made: —
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 63, Noes 164.1643
|Division No. 186.]||AYES||[11.38 p.m.|
|Atkinson, Norman||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||English, Michael||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Bennett. Andrew (Stockport N)||Evans, loan (Aberdare)||Kerr, Russell|
|Brotherton, Michael||Evans, John (Newton)||Lee, John|
|Buchan, Norman||Flannery, Martin||Litterick, Tom|
|Callaghan. Jim (Middleton & P)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Canavan, Dennis||George, Bruce||McCusker, H.|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Hatton, Frank||Marten, Neil|
|Cryer, Bob||Henderson, Douglas||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)|
|Molyneaux, James||Rooker, J. W.||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Newens, Stanley||Ryman, John||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Noble, Mike||Selby, Harry||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Ovenden, John||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Watt, Hamish|
|Parry, Robert||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Weetch, Ken|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Silverman, Julius||Welsh, Andrew|
|Reid, George||Skinner, Dennis||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Richardson. Miss Jo||Spearing, Nigel||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Spriggs, Leslie||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Swain, Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Roderick, Caerwyn||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Mr. Max Madden and|
|Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Thompson, George||Mr. Ron Thomas.|
|Anderson, Donald||Harper, Joseph||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Archer, Peter||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Oakes, Gordon|
|Ashley, Jack||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Ogden, Eric|
|Ashton, Joe||Hayman, Mrs Helene||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Hooson, Emlyn||O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian|
|Bates, Alf||Horam, John||Osborn, John|
|Beith, A. J.||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Huckfield, Les||Park, George|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Penhaligon, David|
|Boardman H.||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Perry, Ernest|
|Booth, Albert||Hunter, Adam||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Hurd, Douglas||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Radice, Giles|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Janner, Greville||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Campbell, Ian||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Cant, R. B.||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||John, Brynmor||Rowlands, Ted|
|Cartwright, John||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Silkin, RI Hon John (Deptford)|
|Corbett, Robin||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Judd, Frank||Small, William|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Lambie, David||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Cronin, John||Lamborn, Harry||Stallard, A. W.|
|Davidson, Arthur||Lamond, James||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Leadbitter, Ted||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Stott, Roger|
|Deakins, Eric||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Strang, Gavin|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Lomas, Kenneth||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Luard, Evan||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Dempsey, James||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Tinn, James|
|Dormand, J. D.||McElhone, Frank||Tomlinson, John|
|Dunn, James A.||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Dunnett, Jack||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Edge, Geoff||Mackenzie, Gregor||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Maclennan Robert||Ward, Michael|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Magee, Bryan||Wellbeloved, James|
|Ennals, David||Mahon, Simon||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Marks, Kenneth||White, James (Pollok)|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Marquand, David||William, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Ford, Ben||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Forrester, John||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Wilsson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Meacher, Michael||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Freud, Clement||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Woodall, Alec|
|Gilbert, Dr John||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Woof, Robert|
|Ginsburg, David||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Wriggiesworth, Ian|
|Golding, John||Moonman, Eric|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grocott, Bruce||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Mr. David Stoddart and|
|Hardy, Peter||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Mr. James Hamilton.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Beith
I beg to move Amendment No. 66, in page 3, line 16, at end add—'(3) The Lord President of the Council may, with the consent of the Treasury, make to each political party as defined in subsection (4) here- 1644 of a grant sufficient to meet the costs of printing publishing and posting to each qualifying voter in England or in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, where such party in the General Election of October 1974 polled more than five per cent. of the votes validly cast, a statement of not more than 1,000 words explaining that party's views on the question to be asked in the referendum.1645(4) For the purposes of this Act a political party is any party which in England, or in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland polled a total of more than five per cent. of the votes validly cast in the General Election of October 1974.'.The reason for the amendment is to draw attention to the important rôle which the political parties should be playing, and which they hope to play, in the referendum campaign. We have talked a great deal about the umbrella organisations but we should not overlook the fact that for a long time the political parties have shouldered the burden of political education and the forming of political ideas. The referendum, more than anything else, is an occasion when they will have to hear that burden.
It is an occasion when their supporters will look for guidance as to which way they should vote. The regular supporters in particular are entitled to expect this. The party influence is such that its views will be of some significance. The views of the umbrella organisations do not necessarily correspond to those of the political parties. There are a number of different cases which hon. Members should consider.
I quote our own case first, but it is the least complicated and difficult. The Liberal Party's views about the future of Europe are not identical to those of the Conservative Party. We would speak in rather stronger terms about the need, for example, for direct elections to the European Parliament than some Conservative Members. But there are more striking problems when we come to the Labour Party. Labour Members might like to consider, as they await Saturday's deliberations, the situation they face. The Labour Party is entitled not only to come to a view about British membership but to express that view and have the means of doing so. I would have thought that some Labour Members would want to differentiate their views from some of their hon. Friends.
Clearly the reasons why the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) might be opposed to Britain remaining in the EEC will differ from the reasons of some Labour Members. The Ulster Unionist Coalition is entitled to state its views, just as much as the Labour Party. The Scottish National Party has quite a different view about why Britain should 1646 not remain in the EEC. These are distinct from those of the umbrella organisations.
While I do not agree with all the criticism made of the umbrella organisations, the fact remains that they are not the same things as political parties. They do not have the same bases. They arrive at some sort of common view. In many parts of the Committee there are differences between the views of the parties and the umbrella organisations. It seems reasonable and necessary that the parties should have some means of conveying their distinctive views to the electorate.
That is the purpose of the amendment. It seeks to provide a means of delivering to the electorate a statement of the views of the parties. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary has looked into the practical implications and even the costs. It is because of the cost that I suggest a way in which he might meet the spirit of the amendment without being obliged to accept it in detail.
A simple way of enabling the political parties to send their views to the electorate is to include with the "pro" and "anti" statements that are to be sent to all households a statement of their views. Each party, as defined in the amendment. could have the opportunity to submit 500 or 1.000 words giving its views. The Government have already committed themselves to circularise every household.
§ Mr. Joseph Dean (Leeds, West)
How could this be done when there is a different opinion in every party on the issue?
§ Mr. Beith
I would have thought that the hon. Member would agree that when the Labour Party has arrived at its views, when it comes to a constitutional decision, it is entitled to state that view. There are differences within the party but that does not take away from its right to present a view. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider the case for allowing the parties to present their views to the electorate.
§ Mr. William Price
The drafting of the amendment is somewhat obscure. The intention appears to be to treat each of the countries of the United Kingdom separately and to extend the benefit to any political party which polled 5 per cent. of the votes cast in that country 1647 in the October 1974 General Election. As a corollary it seems that it is proposed only that the distribution should be to the voters in that part of the United Kingdom. Thus the Scottish National Party, which polled 30 per cent. of the votes cast in Scotland in October, would be entitled to distribute leaflets to all Scottish electors although its percentage of the total votes cast in the United Kingdom was just under 3 per cent.
As drafted, however, the amendment appears to extend only to parties which obtained 5 per cent. of the United Kingdom vote and to entitle them to issue a leaflet, at Government expense, to all United Kingdom electors. The difference between what is intended and what the amendment achieves can be seen from the voting figures from the last General Election. These show that, under the presumed intention of the amendment, the Scottish National Party would qualify in Scotland and Plaid Cymru in Wales. In Northern Ireland the position is more complicated. The United Ulster Unionist Coalition, the SDLP and Alliance would qualify but the rest would fail, including the Labour Party there. On the other hand, as the amendment is drafted, only the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Parties would qualify. The cost of preparing and issuing such statements to every voter would be likely to amount to several million pounds, and those opposed to the Market could well argue that this was yet another attempt to inflict one side of the fence on the people. That would be a legitimate argument.
The Government's proposed distribution of a popular version of the White Paper will cost over £1 million, and this will only be going to separate households. To issue a copy to every voter would not only involve multiplying the number of copies to be distributed considerably but would involve addressing them to each individual voter, and at considerable expense.
Already, with the printing under way, nearly 50 firms are involved. That is a major operation. It may be argued by some of my colleagues that we should not be doing it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear.] Fair enough. But the position 1648 is that we are doing it and that there are 50 printing firms already involved. To add to that would be practically an impossibility.
To provide these arrangements for the three main parties and the national parties in the separate parts of the United Kingdom would be prohibitively expensive, and on practical grounds it would be impossible to achieve such a circulation before polling day.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
The hon. Member mentioned the printing of a popular version of the White Paper In view of what has gone on tonight, would he like to say with whom this would be popular?
§ Mr. Price
My Alsatian would have done better than that.
I should add that the provision of grants to the two campaigning organisations is our first venture in giving assistance from public funds to organisations outside Parliament, and we want to move carefully until we have the report of the committee now being set up on that issue. That is another reason why the Liberal amendment is not appropriate and should be resisted on grounds of principle, finance and practicability.
§ Mr. Emery
The Minister said one thing which stirred me to my feet. For clarity, do I understand that he spoke of 50 firms being already committed to the work on the pocket edition of the White Paper? That was the impression I got and other hon. Members will have got. I hope that that matter can be corrected immediately.
§ Mr. Emery
Under what authority have the Government proceeded with this? It seems to me that the money to be provided by the Government to do this arises from this Bill. Until the Bill has received the assent of Parliament it would be constitutionally quite incorrect for the Government to be undertaking expenditure arising from the Bill. I hope that the Minister can explain this point.
§ 12 midnight.
§ Mr. Price
Certainly. It is a perfectly fair and proper point. What we have done is make advance plans. It is extremely difficult to get paper in the sort of quantity required. To get 25 million envelopes, which is what the amendment would require, is at present an impossibility. We have made our plans. There will be 50 printing firms involved. But, clearly, if the Bill falls we shall not go ahead with the printing.
§ Mr. Beith
The Minister seems obsessed with the drafting of the amendment. We employ civil servants to draft amendments, so the Government could table a similar amendment on Report. I have suggested a cheaper way of doing this which would meet the objection. In the very same envelope in which this impressive statement is to be sent out, or in whatever way it is to be sent out, there could be enclosed the statements from the parties to which I have referred. Instead of being so obsessed with our admitted limitations of drafting capability, the Minister should have addressed himself to the way in which effect could be given to the purpose of the amendment and said whether he disapproved of the intention and, if so, why.
§ Mr. Price
Yes, but the hon. Gentleman wants them to be sent to every voter. If that were to be done, one would have to put them in envelopes and address the envelopes. We have no intention of doing that. There is nothing new about what we are doing.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) asked on a previous occasion whether one could be certain that the material would be delivered. Clearly, one cannot be certain that every household will get a copy. But there have been two occasions recently when the Home Office has put out leaflets via the Post Office, door to door, and this proved very successful.
§ Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
Will my hon. Friend confirm that all the 50 firms which are printing these 1650 referendum kits are union members?
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Question proposed. That the clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Powell
The Committee should not part with the clause without at any rate a brief explanation from the Government of the way in which subsection (2) will operate.
It was clear from an earlier debate that there was some misunderstanding of this in the Committee, since at least one hon. Member claimed that this represented a control upon expenditure by the umbrella organisations. What does seem clear from the clause as to subsection (2) is that not only are the sums granted by this clause to be accounted for but also all the other expenditure of the umbrella bodies is to be accounted for and, as the curious phrase goes, "made available for publication."
I should be obliged if the Minister could explain to what use this information will be put. It clearly is not being used to limit the total of expenditure nor the sources from which the wherewithal is to be obtained. Equally clearly, it is not to be the basis of a judgment on the part of the Government how much of the £125,000 they will pay out, altogether or at any particular time, to either of these organisations, since clearly that payment will have to be made before the full accounts can be known, let alone published.
It is also not clear whether the Government intend to publish these accounts or only to hold over those who render them the threat that they may be published.
It would not be satisfactory for us to part with the clause until we have clear answers from the Government to those three questions.
§ Mr. English
he point to which I should like to refer is also related to subsection (2), which again seems to differ from and to be more limited than the statement made by the Prime Minister originally in the House of Commons, in which he said that he was determined to see that the amounts of money spent on this campaign were publicly declared. He said that it was difficult to limit expenditure on advertising or postal costs and hoped that such provision would be declared.
1651 The principle of such action is now different. It is now possible for either of the organisations not to declare the sums which they receive or spend if they decide not to take a grant. The grant is so ridiculously small that a wealthy organisation might be tempted to take that course, if only to protect its subscribers.
Let us suppose that both organisations take the £125,000. The conditions laid down in Clause 3 will then come into operation. The conditions relate to:the sums received or spent for the purpose of the referendum since 26th March 1975.Unfortunately, the conditions were not specified by 26th March, and it may be difficult for anyone to provide such particulars.
I am in favour of as much retrospection as possible in the clause. However, the situation is difficult because my right hon. Friend did not publish his specifications before the date to which they relate. It may be difficult to relate them backwards. I do not know whether provision will be made for that point.
The conditions clearly relate to the £125,000 and all sums received and spent, since the phrase used in Clause 3(2)(b) is:the persons from whom any such sums were received.However, the only body providing the £125,000 is the Exchequer. Presumably it relates to all sums received and to all persons to whom such sums were paid. I believe that the draftsmen should look again at this passage between now and Report because the subsection is badly drafted.
The National Referendum Campaign and Britain in Europe are supposed to account for sums received and spent for the purposes of the referendum. Presumably that refers by implication to the sums spent by any persons. Yet there is no provision saying that the people who spend money for the purposes of the referendum should inform those who must account for it. This is a technical matter. I feel that the clause should be redrafted since if it is ever taken to court it will make a lawyers' paradise.
The Prime Minister wanted the figures to be published so that people would know who was contributing to each side during the referendum campaign. If the 1652 National Front contributed to our funds the fact would be apparent and we should be justifiably criticised for that. If many large companies contributed to Britain in Europe the fact would become known. They might be criticised for having a vested interest. Since the details are not likely to be published until after the referendum, there is not much point in this proposal.
§ Mr. Edward Short
The subsection is perfectly well drafted. There is no need to refer it to the draftsmen. The draftsmen drafted it, and it serves its purpose adequately.
The Committee will know that I have already published the conditions in Hansard. I will explain what the conditions are. The first and most important condition is the requirement that the grants may be used only for purposes connected with the referendum, not with other political objectives. The reason is to prevent any money percolating into a political party from either of the two campaigning organisations.
Secondly, the organisations must keep accounts of all sums received or spent for the purposes of the referendum since 26th March. The accounts must show the persons from whom any such sums were received and the persons to whom any such sums were paid. I felt that it would be unreasonable to require the oranisations to show every small amount. Therefore, I decided to have a de minimis rule in, and we have excepted sums of less than £100.
The accounts for audit for the period must be made available within two months of the referendum. It was originally one month. At the request of one of the organisations, I extended the period to two months. I felt that it was in the public interest that all the income and expenditure of the campaigning organisations should be shown. Therefore, if they are prepared to accept the subvention from public funds, they must publish all their accounts, income and expenditure, since 26th March.
§ Mr. Marten
When the right hon. Gentleman refers to the campaigning organisations, do I take it that he is referring to the two umbrella organisations, not others around the country which may be affiliated, associated, or anything like that?
§ Mr. Short
I got into trouble in the House when I referred to umbrella organisations last time, so I referred to campaigning organisations this time.
The accounts, when submitted, will be subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. For this purpose, he must be given all reasonable access which he may require to the books of the organisations, and the accounts will be available for publication. It is my intention that they should be published. I shall publish them later this summer.
Both organisations have accepted these conditions. They have been told that their grants may now be drawn upon, as needed, as soon as Clause 3 has been approved in Committee. To draw upon the grants they will have to submit signed applications to the effect that they have got at least £X of bills or immediate commitments requiring payment. This is the normal procedure when money from public funds is being given to voluntary organisations. On receipt of applications, the money will be paid to the organisations within two days. Any unspent money, after the referendum, will have to be returned.
The Committee will see that these conditions are tight, but fair. I do not believe that there will be any breach of these conditions. But, in the last resort, Parliament will be able to bring to account not only me but the Chairman of the National Referendum Campaign and the Home Secretary in his capacity of President of Britain in Europe. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will agree that the clause should stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Short
I discussed the possibility of controlling expenditure with most of the people who came to see me about it, though perhaps not with my right hon. Friend. We looked at this point very carefully, but came to the conclusion that so many people are involved in the campaigns and so many organisations, not all under the umbrellas, that it would be 1654 impossible to devise a credible system to control expenditure.
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Emery
I accept the methods which the Leader of the House has set out for attempting to control expenditure, and I accept also that any Member of the House who is concerned has control in one of the umbrella organisations, but I do not believe that anybody in this House can suggest for a moment that, let us say, the Home Secretary can be expected to have detailed control over how the money is spent. I believe that much of this money may be put out through these organisations to other bodies, and even to political parties.
There is no penalty in the Bill, nor is there any sanction, other than to be summoned to this House. It seems to me, therefore, that if any sections of the umbrella organisation do not bother to keep accounts and do not accord with the conditions which the Home Secretary has set out there will be nothing that we can do to bring them to account. Indeed, the money will have been spent, the campaign will be over, and that will be that. I find that a rather unsatisfactory situation, and one which I must bring to the attention of the Committee.
The second matter is much more serious and concerns the whole principle of the clause that we are debating. We are here, at fifteen minutes past midnight, entering into a new principle in political campaigning in this country. We are allowing taxpayers' money to be spent by political parties and to be provided to them for a political campaign. I believe that that is not the wish of the majority of people in this country. I believe that if there were some way of expressing their opinion by a vote the majority of people would say "Bad enough the referendum, but three times worse that taxpayers' money is to be used for political purposes in this referendum".
The Minister agreed with that a short while ago. He thought I was right but, none the less, he said that many of those who would be condemning the expenditure would be those who were saying "We do not understand what the referendum is about". I do not believe that that, as the Minister implied, is the reason for providing the money. If people wish to be informed, there are a hundred and 1655 one ways of finding out without having to provide taxpayers' money to enable them to do so.
§ Mr. Marten
Did my hon. Friend object to the money that was paid by the previous Conservative Government for a thing called Festival of Europe, where we had concerts in churches and that sort of thing?
§ Mr. Emery
I was not under the impression at that time that it was a political campaign. [Interruption.] It is strange how certain Members attempt to draw conclusions. There was no political propaganda at that time to try to influence a vote. That is a fact, and nobody can deny it. What I am saying is that this is expenditure which is being given direct to political organisations to enable them to attempt to influence people in the way that they vote.
My hon. Friend will live to rue the day that he supported this proposal. I visualise hon. Members opposite and the Liberal Party urging the provision of more and more taxpayers' money for political parties. This is the foot in the door. I forecast that this is not the last that we shall have heard of political parties wanting contributions to be made to them so that their case can be better understood by the electorate.
It would be entirely incorrect that this clause should stand part of the Bill. I urge my supporters to vote against it. I am only sorry—[HON. MEMBERS: "So are we."] I could go on for a long time—
The Deputy Chairman
Order. As long as the Chair is looking at the hon. Gentleman he should carry on—and I can hear him quite clearly.
§ Mr. Emery
I am delighted, Sir Myer; but I would want everybody, not just you and me to have a private conversation.
I am sorry that my party is not officially objecting to the clause, because it should be. The majority of hon. Members are not in favour of it and I shall have great pleasure in opposing it.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
Any amount of money may be spent by any individual, any group of individuals, any political party or any other institution on promoting a cause in the referendum cam- 1656 paign. The only people subject to any control or supervision are the two organisations named in the clause. That means that there are tremendous opportunities for institutions and firms and others who do not enjoy the patronage of these two groups to indulge a campaign and spend much more money than is provided for under the Bill.
§ Mr. Budgen
As I have made clear, I wish to be associated most warmly with the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery).
The Lord President blandly said that my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) would be responsible to the House of Commons for the National Referendum Campaign and that the Home Secretary would be responsible to it for Britain in Europe. He made that assertion without backing it up. Is he saying that these organisations have the same constitutional relationship as a Ministry has to its Minister and that, therefore, the front man, if I may so call the president of such an organisation, is responsible to the House of Commons? Or is he saying that he understands and knows what the constitution of each of these umbrella organisations is and, therefore, the president has legal responsibility for each act which an individual member of these organisations has done? Or is he using that phrase in the loosest, most casual, way without saying what he means?
I cannot understand how the Home Secretary or my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury can in any meaningful sense be responsible for their respective organisations.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lomas (Huddersfield, West)
There is present only one representative of the Liberal Party, which is supposed to represent between 5 million and 6 million people. There is no Welsh Nationalist or SNP representative present.
1657 There is only one member of the Ulster Unionist Party present. The Government have made their case, and we should get on with the Bill.
§ Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill: —
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 195, Noes 9.1657
|Division No. 187.]||AYES||[12.25 a.m.|
|Archer, Peter||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Park, George|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Parry, Robert|
|Ashton, Joe||Hatton, Frank||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Penhaligon, David|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Hooson, Emlyn||Perry, Ernest|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Bates, Alf||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Bean, R. E.||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Radice, Giles|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Richardson. Miss Jo|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hunter, Adam||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Booth, Albert||Janner, Greville||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Proven)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||John, Brynmor||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Buchan, Norman||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Ryman, John|
|Campbell, Ian||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Canavan, Dennis||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Cant, R. B.||Judd, Frank||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Kerr, Russell||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Cartwright, John||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Lambie, David||Silverman, Julius|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Lamborn, Harry||Skinner, Dennis|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Lamond, James||Small, William|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Leadbitter, Ted||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Corbett, Robin||Lee, John||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Litterick, Tom||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Lomas, Kenneth||Stallard, A. W.|
|Cronin, John||Loyden, Eddie||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Cryer, Bob||Luard, Evan||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Stoddart, David|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||McElhone, Frank||Stott, Roger|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Strang, Gavin|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Deakins, Eric||Mackenzie, Gregor||Swain, Thomas|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Maclennan Robert||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||McNamara, Kevin||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Dempsey, James||Madden, Max||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Magee, Bryan||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Edge, Geoff||Mahon, Simon||Tinn, James|
|Ellis, John (Bring & Scun)||Marks, Kenneth||Tomlinson, John|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Marquand, David||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|English, Michael||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Ennals, David||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Meacher, Michael||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Ward, Michael|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Watt, Hamish|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Weetch, Ken|
|Flannery, Martin||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Forrester, John||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||White, James (Pollok)|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Freud, Clement||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|George, Bruce||Newens, Stanley||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Gilbert, Dr John||Noble, Mike||Woodall, Alec|
|Ginsburg, David||Hardy, Peter||Woof, Robert|
|Golding, John||Harper, Joseph||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Oakes, Gordon||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Ogden, Eric||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Ovenden, John||Mr. James A. Dunn and|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Palmer, Arthur||Mr. J. D. Dormand.|
|Brotherton, Michael||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Mates, Michael||Mr. Peter Emery and|
|Goodhart, Philip||Stanbrook, Ivor||Mr. Nick Budgen.|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Winterton, Nicholas|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Peyton
I beg to move,That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.I move the motion not out of a desire unduly to delay proceedings but simply to give the Leader of the House a chance to state the Government's intentions with regard to the Bill. He has made reasonable progress with a measure which is highly controversial. [HON. MEMBERS: "Finish it now."] The right hon. Gentleman's most serious handicap is his Friends. I could not be more sorry for him.
As you well recognise, Sir Myer, having been here rather longer than some of the hon. Members who are attempting —[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] It is now said, Sir Myer, that you have been here too long.
§ Mr. Peyton
I appreciate that, Sir Myer. I was endeavouring to point out that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway are not helping themselves, their Front Bench or anyone else by continuing to interrupt me. I have said that I intended to speak only briefly, but if they provoke me into going on a great deal longer—[Interruption.] Just so long as they wish to continue making an exhibition of themselves, I am quite prepared to stand here listening and watching to enjoy this revelation of the true character of the party below the Gangway.
§ Mr. Peyton
The fact is that there are more than half a dozen on the hon. Gentleman's side. If he wishes to rise and interrupt me, I shall give way.
I was urging upon the right hon. Gentleman that he has made good progress with a highly controversial Bill, and there is very little left to do now. Is it his intention to require the attendance of so many of his hon. Friends in order to push the rump of this measure through Committee at a late hour of the night? I imagine that he will concede that 1660 throughout the proceedings the Opposition have done nothing to impede the progress of the Bill. It is not our intention to do so because, although we deeply disapprove of the underlying principle of the Bill, we none the less believe that it is generally accepted throughout the world that there is to be a referendum and we should not wish unduly to delay that event.
I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to say that he accepts—
§ Mr. Peyton
If the hon. Gentleman wishes to interrupt me, I shall give way. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will, on reflection, think that it would not be unwise to accept the motion. However, I tell him at once that if he feels that he must press on, we on this side would not wish to give him undue difficulties. These will undoubtedly continue to come from the same quarter as hitherto, namely, from his own supporters.
§ Mr. Edward Short
The hour is late and we have made a fair amount of progress, but I am afraid that I must ask the Committee to continue with the Bill. We must get the Committee stage completed tonight. We finished at a reasonably early hour last night, but I said that we did so on condition that we finished the Committee stage tonight.
I am sorry. I do not like going to a late hour, especially with a Bill of this importance. I have explained the difficulties of the parliamentary timetable. It is an extremely tight timetable. I believe that it is in the interests of the country to have the referendum as quickly as possible. If we are to have it on 5th June, we must get the Bill through the Commons this week, and, therefore, it must have its Report stage and Third Reading tomorrow.
I am sorry about this, and I apologise to hon. Members for keeping them up. However, as the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) has said, there is not very much more. There is no important principle left. I think that if we all apply ourselves we can get through the remaining amendments and new clauses reasonably quickly and go home to bed.
The Deputy Chairman
Order. Hon. Members should realise that the debate would not be complete without the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery).
§ Mr. Emery
As I have attempted to do the whole day, I shall try to be helpful. I have not spoken for more than 11 minutes on any motion today, and frequently for very much less. A number of us feel strongly about some of the constitutional practices introduced by the Bill.
I appeal to the Leader of the House to reconsider his view. The timetable with which he is concerned can be met if hon. Members go on being as co-operative as they have been today. I should like to help him to obtain a reasonable discussion of these matters at a proper hour rather than as late as this. Those who feel as I do are willing to pursue these matters at this hour if that is necessary, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we shall be happy to sit tomorrow to consider these proposals moderately, shortly and concisely.
On that understanding, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his view in order that hon. Members, including his own supporters, whom I am trying to help—Heaven knows why—may discuss these matters at a more appropriate time. We still have all tomorrow. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, there are no more matters of major principle and the right hon. Gentleman will be able to achieve that he wants tomorrow without keeping the Committee very late tonight.
§ Mr. Peyton
I said when I moved the motion that it was not my intention unduly to delay the Committee. As hon. Members below the Gangway are now prepared in courtesy to give me the opportunity to do so, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.