§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine (Henley)
I beg to move,That, in the event of an equality of votes in a division on the Motion in the name of Mrs. Margaret Thatcher for the re-committal of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill to a Select Committee, Mr. Speaker shall declare that the Question is agreed to.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
I understand that it will be for the convenience of the House to take at the same time the second motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and her hon. and right hon. Friends:That the Order for consideration of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, as amended in the Standing Committee, be discharged, and that the Bill be re-committed to a Select Committee.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is a re-run of an occasion on 27th May. You may recall that at the end of that day there were some terrible scenes involving the removal of the Mace. I wonder whether, in consequence, additional security provisions have been made to make sure that that does not occur again or whether the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) has taken some bromide in his water, so that if he again gets frustrated the awful scenes that we witnessed on that occasion will not be repeated.
§ Mr. Heseltine
Labour Members should get it out of their system.
There are two motions before the House today. The second proposes that the original instructions of his House in respect of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill be supplemented by the additional stage, the Select Committee stage, appropriate to a Hybrid Bill. As the House will know, those original instructions were in common form for a Government Bill, and they committed the Bill for consideration by a Standing Committee. That is proper, although unusual, for a Hybrid Bill.
Between completion of Standing Committee proceedings and Report stage, evidence was put before Mr. Speaker by my hon. Friend the Member for 219 Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) to suggest that the House had not been in full possession of all the relevant information when it gave those original instructions. Subsequently, on 27th May, Mr. Speaker's ruling on my hon. Friend's evidence confirmed that the Bill was prima facie a Hybrid Bill. It was prima facie a Bill which bestowed special, privileged treatment on Marathon Shipbuilders a particular group of people similar to the majority to whom no such privilege was offered or available.
For reasons to which I shall return, the Government immediately put down a motion to dispense with the Standing Orders that would otherwise have required the House to pass a motion submitting the Bill to a Select Committee, where the time-honoured rights of individuals who considered themselves aggrieved would be exercised by allowing them to appear before hon. Members and state their case, directly or by representation. It was the motion to set aside the practices of the House that became the centre of the controversy that divided the House before Whitsun.
On the evening of the first debate, the House was invited to vote not only on the Government's motion to suspend Standing Orders but on the Opposition's amendment which asked it to send the Bill to a Select Committee. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that on that Thursday night the Divisions would be critically close. Every Opposition party had intimated its intention to vote against the Government's motion.
My information very early that afternoon, taking into account all the evidence that was known at the time, none of which has been contradicted by hindsight, was that each side of the House would have 303 Members in its Lobby. Not only did we know of the likelihood that the Divisions would result in a tie, but we knew what would happen if precedent was followed. On the first vote Mr. Speaker was committed by precedent to give his casting vote against the Opposition's amendment because it sought to change the status quo. On the second, on the Government's motion, Mr. Speaker was similarly bound by precedent to vote against a motion which altered the existing situation by suspending the Standing Orders then in force.
220 This is a critical recital of facts which are central to this debate. On the occasion of the critical second vote on 27th May, it was known in advance that if Mr. Speaker was to be guided by precedent his casting vote would go against the Government's motion dispensing with Standing Orders. It is that fact that raises the need for the first motion before the House.
Mr. Speaker is largely guided by precedent. Should there be a dead heat in the Lobby tonight on the motion to commit the Bill to a Select Committee, precedent requires that Mr. Speaker gives his casting vote against the motion, and I understand that it is his intention so to vote. There are two reasons. The first is that the recommittal motion is in the form of an amendment to the Government's Notice of Motion, and if Mr. Speaker votes according to precedent he will vote against all amendments. Secondly, the situation is now, as a consequence of the disputed vote, that Standing Orders have been dispensed with as they affect this Bill. Mr. Speaker is therefore required by precedent to vote against any motions that change the existing position as it was brought about by the disputed vote.
It is our conviction that the technicalities of the procedures cannot be separated from the equity of the position. The practical effect of the form of our procedures today is that, on the critical issue whether the Bill is examined by a Select Committee, the casting vote should go tonight the opposite way to that in which it would have gone on the disputed vote on 27th May.
In his statement on 22nd June, the Prime Minister recognised the sense of grievance felt by all of us on this side of the House—
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West) rose—
§ Mr. Heseltine
This is a complicated argument, and I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would allow me to deploy it as fairly as I can.
The Prime Minister told hon. Members that it would be in the best interests of the House if the Government provided the opportunity for the issues on which the votes were taken on 27th May to be considered again and for the matter to be put to the vote in an appropriate way. 221 We share that view, but we are determined that if the Government genuinely wish to remove that grievance the crucial votes tonight shall be taken in circumstances which reflect the practical position on the original occasion. To achieve that, the House must give Mr. Speaker guidance, without which, on precedent, he would have no discretion. We must instruct Mr. Speaker that if tonight on the substantive motion there is a tie he should vote with the same effect as he would have voted four weeks ago if there had not been the dispute.
The first motion we debate today gives precisely such an instruction. It is designed simply to enable the Government to demonstrate the good faith that underlines the whole working of our parliamentary procedures.
§ Mr. Buchan
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that behind all this verbiage is the simple point that what angered him last time, when he picked up the Mace, he is now seeking to repeat? He cried "Foul" last time and spoke about changing the rules, but now he has moved a motion precisely to bring about a foul.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I understand that it is the Prime Minister's wish that the sense of grievance be removed. That can be done only by putting right that which is wrong. That which is wrong lies in the activities which caused the dispute about the second vote on 27th May. There is no way in which the hon. Gentleman can argue that because we have before us different technical motions we should achieve a different result although the votes cast would be the same. That we dispute. I understand how deeply Labour Members feel, but Opposition Members feel equally deeply.
It is very important that this issue, which the Prime Minister said he wished to see resolved, should be clearly understood. We are not asking for a different set of circumstances. We are merely asking that the circumstances which led to the dispute of 27th May be reproduced as accurately as is within our gift on the vote tonight.
§ Mr. Buchan
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there was no challenge by us to precedents on the last occasion, and no seeking to change the rules which Mr. Speaker followed? On this occasion it is the precedent and Mr. Speaker's action that are being challenged, and the 222 Opposition seek by their motion to change them.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I do not wish to take up the charge in the language which is just below the surface. The Government on 27th May did not expect that there would be a need to behave in the way in which they did in order to secure the result that they achieved in the second Division. They believed that the normal procedures of the House would give them a majority. It was only when they realised after the first vote that that majority would escape them that they indulged in the activities which led to the current dispute. There is no way round that.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Moray and Nairn)
The hon. Gentleman said that the Conservatives had done their homework and that he knew in advance that the voting would be 303 to 303. Bearing in mind that SNP Members had to miss the first day of their conference, must not the hon. Gentleman have known that one of his hon. Friends was in Corfu and that another was in South Africa?
§ Mr. Heseltine
I knew exactly what the hon. Lady said. I took those calculations into account when giving the figures to the House.
It is necessary for us to give guidance to Mr. Speaker so that he may with effect vote to achieve precisely what he would have voted for on the second Division on 27th May. That is the issue which is now the subject of the need for urgent clarification of the Government's intentions about the motion and about guidance to Mr. Speaker.
Our motion is designed simply to enable the Government to demonstrate the fundamental good faith which the Prime Minister expressed in his statement to the House on 22nd June. The Prime Minister rightly said that the matter should be considered again. That is precisely our view—no more, no less. There must be the same votes, with the same consequences, under the same conditions.
I ask the Secretary of State for Industry, who is to open the debate for the Government, for an assurance that the instruction to Mr. Speaker tonight will not be opposed by the Government in the Lobby at the earliest stage tonight. If that assurance is not forthcoming, if there is a tie on the substantive motion subsequently and if it is carried by the casting 223 vote of Mr. Speaker, the Government must understand that we should in no way regard today's events as a fair repeat of the previous debate involving the disputed vote.
The Government have advanced two broad lines of argument to justify the original decision of the Leader of the House to invite the House to suspend Standing Orders. First, they argue a combination of the views that either the hybridity procedures as set out in Standing Orders apply only provided that the hybridity is detected or recognised before Second Reading or, despite the prima facie hybridity, that it has arisen only from careless drafting of the definition clauses, which may easily be rectified on Report.
Secondly, the Government argue that the problems facing the two industries are so serious that the technical niceties of hybridity must not be allowed to stand in the way of substantial unemployment. I urge the House to reject all three arguments. I shall explain why.
The suggestion that hybridity must be proved at a particular stage in a Bill's proceedings is totally without foundation. It is obviously desirable that the information should be available upon which Mr. Speaker and the examiners must reach a judgment at the earliest moment. But that in no way leads to the argument that, as Mr. Speaker did not have all the relevant information, the constitutional rights of British subjects go by default. There is no statute of limitations on constitutional rights. Such rights exist precisely because over the centuries Parliament has properly imposed strict discipline upon itself when it came to deal with its ability to single out individuals for adverse or favourable treatment. Equity before the law is incompatible with arbitrary government.
The case of Marathon is exactly the sort of case which Parliament in its wisdom has designed procedures to avoid. As an inducement to bring that company to Britain for the politically desirable objective of protecting jobs on the Clyde, an assurance was given by the then Conservative Government, and backed by the Labour Opposition, that Marathon alone of all other companies in a similar line 224 of business would not be nationalised. That was the deal. That was a privilege which was arbitrarily bestowed on that one company.
The Conservative Party had no difficulty in giving an assurance that we should not do something that we had no intention of doing anyway. So that no one should believe that these matters do not create precedents and anomalies, however, let me remind the House of the position of Greenwell's on the Tyne today. That firm is owned by the State through the North-East Coast Ship Repairers. That company took the decision to close Greenwell's, with the loss of hundreds of jobs. For months Bristol Channel Ship Repairers Limited has been seeking a meeting to discuss the rescue of that company, as it had previously rescued a similar company in Swansea. What possible case is there for denying that company the same privilege as was given to Marathon? Why in 1972 should an American company be singled out for special immunity from nationalisation to secure jobs on the Clyde when in 1976 a Welsh company cannot obtain an identical privilege to save jobs on the Wear? Yet already that is the wholly indefensible position at which we have arrived.
I know that the Labour Party does not like a private company mobilising its workers to resist nationalisation. But that is quite irrelevant to the issue we are discussing. The issue is that the Government are denying that company and its workers their rights to put their case for parity of treatment with an American company to a Select Committee of this House. We find that precedent repugnant.
The Opposition do not wish to see this Bill proceed. We do not wish to see these industries nationalised. We shall use every constitutional means at our disposal to stop that. The Labour Party would do precisely the same in similar circumstances if it was in our position. Today the Government have a chance to reconsider the gaping precedent that they are in danger of creating. In the usual way of politics, the Labour Party will find itself again in Opposition. What would a Labour Opposition say if a Conservative Government used the precedent that a Labour Government are threatening to create to deal with one subject?
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that in every nationalisation measure that has been passed by the House some companies have been nationalised and some have not, and that in no single case has the Bill been treated as, or been, a Hybrid Bill? That was acceptable to the House on all occasions. Companies were not given the right to appear before a Committee in petition fashion. The suggestion that that is a normal part of the proceedings of Parliament does not bear examination.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman seeks to make. It was because this Bill did not appear to be a Hybrid Bill, and was, therefore, on all fours with earlier nationalisation measures, that it reached such a stage in the deliberations of the House. However, it turned out that the evidence upon which those earlier judgments had been made were ill founded.
There is no precedent for any previous nationalisation measure having been submitted to Mr. Speaker and being found to be prima facie a Hybrid Bill, or for a Government to say "We shall sweep away the proceedings under which we normally deal with Hybrid Bills". This makes for a unique situation. It is a precedent.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
I refer to the specific matter of Greenwell's and the Bristol Channel Ship Repairers Limited. As the hon. Gentleman is so well informed and so keen to attain what he calls parity with the treatment of an American company, will he say whether the Bristol Channel company went looking for Greenwell's before or after the proceedings on a Bill which caused so much concern on its Second Reading? Will he say whether the apparent hybridity and the discovery of the rig question was made before or after the Bristol Channel company went looking for Greenwell's? Does the hon. Gentleman think that these matters may be of great relevance when considering the question of parity with the American company, which is an entirely different case?
§ Mr. Heseltine
Although I may answer both questions factually, neither is in any way relevant to the constitutional pre- 226 cedent. The only relevant fact is that Mr. Speaker ruled that this was prima facie a Hybrid Bill. That is the only precedent that should concern us.
To answer the question, however, to the best of my knowledge Bristol Channel Ship Repairers Limited did not seek Greenwell's before Second Reading as at that time it was a continuing business and had not been put into liquidation. It was only after Greenwell's was put into liquidation, with the loss of hundreds of jobs, that the Bristol Channel company said "We are prepared to consider whether we may save the company". It took months for the owners to persuade the Minister to agree to a meeting. It is true that in the meantime the hybridity evidence emerged. I did not produce the evidence for the hybridity. I do not believe that there was a connection between the two events. I suspect that some hon. Members may have more detailed knowledge than I do on this matter. I rest on the point I first made—that the issue is wholly irrelevant to Mr. Speaker's ruling about prima facie hybridity.
§ Mr. Kinnock
Might it not be the case that, without any malevolence, the managing director of Bristol Channel Ship Repairers went looking for this yard in the sure knowledge that some nationalisation had taken place, that further nationalisation was to take place, and that there was no question of denationalisation taking place? Is it not relevant to say that, with the greatest respect to Mr. Bailey, he is, to say the least, a politically motivated man?
§ Mr. Heseltine
The hon. Gentleman raises a range of interesting and important questions in the context of the example that I have given. It is precisely because these questions exist that the hybridity procedures exist as well, so that the questions can be asked by hon. Members and answered by the people who alone can answer them. That is what the issue is all about it is simply because we are denying that company—and who knows who else—the right to have these cases ventilated, and it is a classic example of the problems that are encountered when the precedents of hybridity are breached. I think that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) has made my case for me in a most eloquent way.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Standing Order under which the hybridity rule is dealt with. He said that he would convince us by raising some other precedent, or some other Standing Order, that what the Government had said about the Second Reading under the relevant Standing Order was not acceptable, but he has not done so. I ask him whether he is suggesting that the hybridity demand can be used at any stage and whether it could even be raised after a Bill had become law. If so, what would the position be then?
§ Mr. Heseltine
The hon. Gentleman must understand that I am not the judge in answering these questions. The Speaker of the House of Commons judges these matters. Government supporters must understand that hon. Members on either side of the House would not be able to agree upon a whole range of issues if we did not trust the Speaker to arbitrate between us. That is the process which the application of Standing Orders brings about. It is because the Government, in an arbitrary way, have found the ruling of the Speaker unacceptable that they have swept the Standing Orders away from the precedents with which we are now dealing.
That is the dangerous situation that we have reached. It is not right or reasonable that Government supporters should ask me to answer questions when there is a proper procedure for seeking the answers in a wholly constitutional way.
The next argument put before us is that the drafting of the Bill is a mere technical matter, which is easily rectified on Report. I know that the Secretary of State for Industry will wish to advance that theory. However, that argument highlights the fact that it is the purpose of the Bill to contain provisions by which one company is deliberately excluded.
The fact is that this Bill is and always has been a Hybrid Bill. The draftsmen were instructed so to draft it that Marathon was left out. They acted on the best information available to them to hide the hybridity—[Interruption]. That is what they were told to do. They were told to draft the Bill so that Marathon was excluded from it.
228 The same industrial advisers who advised the draftsmen of this Bill also advised the Speaker in the early stages—
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) rose—
§ Mr. Heseltine
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) can make his own speech in due time. I have given way several time already.
§ Mr. Heffer rose—
§ Mr. Heffer rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. If the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) does not wish to give way, he must not be pressed.
§ Mr. Heffer rose—
§ Mr. Heffer
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) is deliberately trying to mislead the House, and I am entitled on that basis, as one of the Ministers responsible at that time, to reply to the point made by the hon. Gentleman. He is once again deliberately misleading—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), should he catch the eye of the occupant of the Chair, will have an opportunity to reply in due course.
§ Mr. Heseltine rose—
§ Mr. Ron Thomas
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understood the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) to say that either Ministers or civil servants had deliberately hidden the hybridity. If that is not a reflection upon my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), I do not know what is.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member for Henley must be allowed to continue with his speech. No doubt he will explain the position.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I do not wish to change the views that I have expressed. This Bill was deliberately drafted to exclude 229 Marathon, and, in that context, it w as a Hybrid Bill from start to finish.
The same industrial advisers who advised the legal draftsmen and who advised Mr. Speaker about the original possibility of hybridity actually got the advice which they gave totally wrong. That is in no way the responsibility of the legal draftsmen. It is in no way the responsibility of the Speaker, or of the Clerks of this House. It is wholly the responsibility of the industrial advisers in the Department of Industry and of the Secretary of State for that Department.
It was not until—
§ Mr. Buchan
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hesitate to raise a point of order, but I have been thinking deeply about it over the last few minutes. I think that we have a situation in which the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) should be asked by you to withdraw his previous remark that a deliberate attempt was made to hide the hybridity and that in this context Ministers, draftsmen and civil servants were involved. I ask you seriously to consider requesting the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his assertion.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
On a further point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Some of us on the Opposition side of the House who will be seeking to catch your eye in the debate are becoming extremely annoyed about the use of bogus points of order to make points of substance against my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) which could perfectly well be made if only the hon. Gentlemen concerned were prepared to wait and to seek to catch your eye later in the debate. Can you rule that points of order must be points of order?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Earlier in these exchanges, I suggested to the hon. Member for Walton that, should he succeed in catching the eye of the occupant of the Chair, he would be able to answer the points that were being made.
§ Mr. Buchan
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am not making this either as a bogus point of order or as an irrelevancy, nor can it be answered by hon. Members on either side of the House in their contributions to 230 the debate. My point of order is to ask you to give guidance to the hon. Member for Henley to withdraw his assertion, which amounted to accusing people of lying and of having deliberately—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I repeat what I said in reply to an earlier point of order. The hon. Member for Henley must be allowed to make his arguments in his own way.
§ Mr. John Watkinson (Gloucestershire, West)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not the case that the Speaker ruled that the Bill was prima facie hybrid and not that it was actually hybrid, which is the supposition being put forward by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine)?
§ Mr. Heseltine
This Bill was always recognised as, potentially, a Hybrid Bill. It was drafted in the Department of Industry, on the industrial advice of the expert, in such a way that the Department thought it could get round the problems of hybridity by leaving Marathon out. It was only after the diligent and patient researches of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton that the realities were unearthed and the hybridity, which it had been the Department's intention to remove, was shown still to exist in Mr. Speaker's prima facie ruling. That is the situation. It may be uncomfortable to Opposition Members to have it spelled out, but their discomfort does not change the realities of the attempt to try to honour the commitments to Marathon that it would be excluded from any nationalisation proposals.
§ Mr. Heseltine
No. I told the hon. Gentleman that we have already dealt with this point, and hon. Members can argue about it further when they make their own speeches.
It is our view that Governments should not be allowed to single out cases for special treatment to suit a particular political convenience by the party in power. This Government knew the rules. They broke the rules, they were caught, and they now seek to suspend the rules. That is a dangerous and unacceptable step to take.
231 The third argument, which the Government put forward to justify what they seek to do, is that so great now is the crisis facing these two industries that only nationalisation can save the jobs involved. The Minister of State never stops saying it. Let us examine the argument. Frankly, I have no criticism to make of those who, genuinely believing that nationalisation can save jobs, urge that political expedient on the politicians. My criticism is really reserved for those who are prepared to delude the workers in the industry into believing that this argument has any validity at all. Nationalisation has largely been an instrument for running down outdated industries more slowly than would otherwise have happened. The jobs in the mines, railways, and in steel, have gone but they have gone more slowly. In slowing down the rate of change, untold millions of the nation's assets have been diverted, for political reasons, into preserving lower-paid jobs in declining industries, and taxes have been levied on the strong, successful companies which would otherwise have absorbed far more people into higher-paid and more secure employment as Britain deluded itself that the world would support our economy at levels of efficiency now sadly trailing further and further behind the Western world.
The shipbuilding industry is being rationalised across the Western World. In no other country is nationalisation the remedy. In every other country the real wages of workers are rising faster than ours, and we are behaving as though we can break out of this spiral by cocooning the least productive parts of our industrial economy. Many of our shipbuilding companies are profitable, have long order books, and good industrial relations, and are even today securing orders competitively. Others have deep-seated problems. But on the statute book is every power that this Government need to deal with these problems. Indeed, they have had all the necessary powers to tackle the problems since the day they were first elected, as they have never ceased to point out as they have rescued company after company, usually in the least effective way possible.
The issues in the aircraft manufacturing industry centre on only two problems—the future projects that will determine 232 the workload and the international relationships that our companies can negotiate. There would be no difficulty in achieving a voluntary negotiated nationalisation of this industry at home, at trivial cost to the national taxpayer. As I have already told the House, I had virtually got such agreement as long ago as 1973. But if funds are available, and one is debating project alternatives, what conceivable excuse is left to a Government who possess all the powers that backed the BAC111, Trident and Concorde, among others, and yet, after two years of their administration, have no project in sight? The Minister of State says that he is talking to the French about the Airbus. That is better news. It would have been incomparably better still if his Government had not cancelled the Government's rôle in that project and left the free enterprise Hawker Siddeley to use its own money to back a project that the last Labour Government rejected. It is a curious sense of justice that the reward Hawkers get for its courage is to find the whole business taken off it; no special offer of arbitrary preference to Hawker Siddeley; just appropriation of one-third of its business. The only people who get special preferential offers from this Government are American multinationals.
It really is the saddest of experiences to listen to Ministers in this Government denigrating the efforts and successes of these two industries, pointing to the crisis that is about to overwhelm them, and then presenting a proposal to the House to spend £300 million of taxpayers' money buying up 43 companies so that they can run them down. The only significant nationalised body in the aircraft industry is to be found in France. Compare its record over the last four years, where it has accumulated losses of £160 million, with the ever-larger profits achieved by Hawkers and BAC!
That is the argument against the Nationalisation Bill itself. That argument is redoubled in intensity when the only way to get the Bill on the statute book is to undermine the fundamental constitutional rights of one of the greatest democracies in the world, and we shall vote to stop it.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Eric G. Varley)
I was hoping that 233 we could at least have had this debate on a much more even keel than the last debate, but I am afraid that the exaggerated language of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) makes that virtually impossible. In fact, his whole speech is a total, and wanton, distortion of the facts of the Government's case, and he knows it.
One of the most interesting things which have come out of this debate so far is that the Opposition have, for the first time, admitted that if the industry is not taken into public ownership the jobs will disapppear much more quickly. That is certainly what the hon. Gentleman said.
§ Mr. Varley
If the right. hon. Gentleman did not hear that, he was was not listening very closely. The hon. Member for Henley said that public money preserved jobs and he would rather prevent that and let the industry run down and use the money for other industries.
He also lectured this side of the House about procedures. I do not want to labour the point, but I think he is probably the last person in the House to lecture to us about the sanctity of parliamentary procedures.
There are other parts of his opening remarks on which I must touch now before I forget them. The hon. Gentleman rather suggested that we deceived Parliament by trying to construct the Bill and hide hybridity. That is the offence with which he charged us. The Government made it perfectly plain on numerous occasions that we had no intention of taking Marathon Shipbuilding (United Kingdom) into public ownership. The hon. Gentleman knows that because we said, as I explained at the time, that it was building a rig. I could distinguish a rig in 1974 and I can distinguish a rig now. I do not want to say more about that. The hon. Gentleman knows that the consultative document, proposed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy when he was Secretary of State for Industry, made it plain in July 1974 that we had no intention of taking Marathon into public ownership. For him now to suggest that we are deceiving the House is again a distortion and it is unworthy of the hon. Gentleman to suggest it.
234 On 26th May Mr. Speaker ruled that the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill was prima facie hybrid. The following day he indicated that it was an area of doubt that led him, following the ruling of Mr. Speaker Hylton-Foster some years ago, to decide that because of that doubt he must come down on that side.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)
On a point of order. Is it possible, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to arrange for a statement on the catering strike in the House of Commons?
§ Mr. Bottomley
Further to the point or order. I am not asking for an immediate reply. Can investigations be made so that the House can be informed at a later time if the situation calls for it?
§ Mr. Varley
We are debating a serious problem affecting two major industries, and the only thing that the hon. Gentleman is worried about is whether he will get a tea break.
The ruling by Mr. Speaker is that the House had to take a decision on how to proceed. No Standing Order governed the unique situation which had arisen, of a Bill being declared prima facie hybrid after it had received a Second Reading and completed its Committee stage after 58 sittings. The Government's view was that the Bill should continue to be treated as a Public Bill on the understanding that, on Report, we would introduce an amendment to remove any possible doubt. We remain convinced that our method of dealing with the situation created by Mr. Speaker's ruling was the correct one.
I entirely agree that the issue of hybridity itself is not a trivial one. On the contrary, the established procedure for dealing with Hybrid Bills is an essential safeguard for private interests who might otherwise have no redress against discriminatory treatment.
It is quite wrong to suggest that today's Opposition motion is somehow a more proper method than that proposed by the Government. Of course their proposal to commit the Bill to a Select Committee 235 does not represent some high standard of constitutional propriety. It is merely a device—I do not blame them for trying it—to frustrate the vote in favour of the Bill on Second Reading, which expressed the true will of the House.
This is demonstrated by so many of the petitions which have been tabled—petitions which are not, in any real sense, about the point on which the question of hybridity was raised, petitions which, to a remarkable extent, deal with ship repair, an activity not involved in the matters raised last month which led to Mr. Speaker's ruling. This platoon of petitioners are taking advantage of the circumstances—again, I do not blame them for trying to do so—to attack the principle of public ownership and the principle of this Bill and the essentially public policies on which it is based.
However, it is not my wish to dwell on the procedural aspects of this matter, except to answer one question put to me by the hon. Member for Henley. He asked whether we accepted the first motion on the Order Paper. I think that he knows that we do not accept it. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House made absolutely plain last week when he was asked a specific question by the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the House will go into more detail when he has listened to hon. Members during the course of the debate and when he winds up the debate. I want to deal with the damage that will occur to the aircraft and shipbuilding industries if the Bill is further delayed.
I hope that the House will decisively reject the Opposition motion tonight. Indeed, I ask for the rejection of both motions because the situation in both industries covered by this Bill is so crucial that any further delay in its passage could prove fatal to whole aircraft factories and whole shipbuilding regions. That is the fire the Tory Party is playing with, but it is the workers and the country who would get burned.
§ Mr. Ridley
When the right hon. Gentleman uses the argument about the potential damage, whether it is there or not, is he saying that the events of 27th May, which the Prime Minister has identified as not being strictly in accordance with what they should have been, 236 are justified simply by the damage which might have been caused? Is he advancing the constitutional doctrine that one can ignore the proprieties of parliamentary performance—the result of votes, the stages laid down for Bills—if, in the Government's opinion, the economic advantage of so doing is great enough? That is a wicked argument that he is setting out upon.
§ Mr. Varley
I am saying nothing of the kind and the hon. Gentleman knows it. There have been discussions about whether we should have this debate. Some have described it as a re-run debate. I have no objection to that, but the delay in proceeding with the Bill as a Public Bill, as we propose, is damaging to both these industries. That is my case.
At Question Time yesterday, hon. Members opposite were deploring the fact that the aircraft industry had not embarked on any major new projects since we took office. My hon. Friend the Minister of State made it clear, and I repeat now, that the industry under private enterprise has not come forward with one proposal for a major new project during that time. It has put a few proposals to us involving total underwriting by the Government. That is not much of an achievement for this country's privately-owned industry. It is no longer prepared to back projects with its own money, with its own judgment and with its own hard cash.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I wonder what the Secretary of State expected the private sector to do, knowing that the only policy that this Government have is to nationalise it.
§ Mr. Varley
There is nothing in the legislation to prevent projects from being processed while the legislation was going through during the whole of this Parliament. What is more, in many comparable situations, when industries have been taken into public ownership, managements have behaved responsibly and pursued projects.
Yet the time for decision on future aircraft projects, including collaboration with foreign partners, is fast approaching. Potential foreign partners are looking to the nationalised British Aerospace as a partner with which they are ready to negotiate. This has emerged quite clearly 237 from the discussions conducted by my hon. Friend the Minister of State. It is under the auspices of the Organising Committee for British Aerospace that significant progress has been made and the momentum of studies has been stepped up.
I say quite solemnly that unless we get on with nationalisation quickly the British aircraft industry may find itself excluded from major new developments which could bring jobs and ensure the continuation of an important technological capability. The very future of civil aircraft manufacture in this country is at stake.
That is the stark reality behind the Tory Party's attitude—jobs; jobs in the West Country, jobs in the Home Counties, jobs in North Wales, jobs in Scotland. I repeat—jobs in Scotland. Lord Beswick, the Chairman of the Organising Committee, has had considerable discussion with the work force at all levels in Scottish Aviation. They expressed the strong view that they would like to maintain the separate identity of Scottish Aviation. Lord Beswick informs me that it is the Organising Committee's intention to maintain the separate identity of Scottish Aviation, with a high degree of local autonomy as a separate profit centre within British Aerospace.
We and the Organising Committee see a continuing future for aircraft work at Prestwick. The Scottish Aviation work force is skilled and flexible, and is well equipped to play a vigorous and distinctive role in British Aerospace. I hope that what I have said will be reassuring to those who work at Prestwick—for it was the workers who sought the inclusion of Scottish Aviation in the Bill.
We must have effective action to create a unified national industry. Only public ownership through this Bill can bring that about. Continued delay and uncertainty cause nothing but damage.
We are anxious that the issue be settled and to let the people of good will in the industry get on with the job. The leading figures in the shipbuilding industry plead to be allowed to get to work in a nationalised framework, too, and I suspect that the Tories know that. Leading figures in the industry have told me how they deplore the Tory opposition to the Bill. I am talking about 238 private owners—men who, I am certain, have made the same point to Opposition hon. Members who allow their own blind dogmatism to stand in the way of a planned future for shipbuilding.
I have repeatedly made clear that this industry is the most serious industrial problem facing the Government. The stark fact is that the problems of shipbuilding are now urgent. Time is not on our side. We must have a competitive shipbuilding industry in this country. Some 70,000 jobs in assisted areas depend on the industry. The world-wide order crisis is by now well known, and we cannot escape from it.
In the past 18 months or so our yards have taken orders for only 320,000 tons, or an average of about 230,000 tons a year, which is about 20 per cent. of our normal annual output. World orders for new ships in 1975 were under half those placed in 1974, and in the first half of this year they have been running at an even lower rate. The present world order rate is about 14 million gross tons per annum. It is estimated that by 1978 world shipbuilding capacity will amount to 50 million gross tons. More than half of that capacity is specially designed to build the large tankers which are no longer in demand. There have been recent signs that tanker facilities are being switched to production of other types of vessels on which our own industry depends.
What we are witnessing now is not a short-term cyclical recession it is far more serious than that. The Booz-Allen Report, commissioned by the Conservative Party when it made a gift to the industry of £50 million in construction grants under the Industry Act 1972, pointed out that our shipyards are less efficient than our overseas competitors. But no action was taken at that time.
What is the policy of the Opposition now? We do not even know—but perhaps we do know. The Opposition's policy is to let the industry go completely. Those who work in the industry will be interested in the Tories' tactics on the Bill.
On the other hand, our policy is clear. We are convinced that the essential improvements in productivity and in industrial relations can be obtained only through public ownership. We make no secret of that. On the radio this morning, 239 Colin Morrison, the deputy-editor of Marine Week, said:Many of the life-long shipbuilders in the industry now see nationalisation as the only way their industry can have an overall national plan for the first time.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Does the Secretary of State agree that half of the shipyards in this country are already nationalised? Can he say whether the nationalised half has been more or less successful in obtaining new orders and becoming profitable?
§ Mr. Varley
If it were not for the nationalisation of some of the shipyards, they would have gone under a long time ago, and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) knows that. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) should take the hon. Member for Cathcart aside, because he will know the difficulty he had with Upper Clyde and the establishment of Govan as a nationalised shipyard. He knows that the only way to save those jobs was to take it into public ownership. We want a national strategy for the industry.
§ Mr. John Davies (Knutsford)
I had no intention of speaking in the debate, but as the Secretary of State cites me I must recall that the requirements which were placed upon the Conservative Government existed because of the total dereliction of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders caused by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Varley
The name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) is always guaranteed to get a cheer. No one can dispute that the Conservative Government were in a different situation after Selsdon and their U-turn, and they came to the conclusion that that yard had to come under public ownership. We are convinced that the only way that we can achieve a national strategy is by public ownership. Public ownership will permit us for the first time to apply a coherent strategy instead of waiting for each successive crisis to be met with panic measures as they arise. That is the only way to avoid paying out Industry Act money to meet each crisis.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant and Waterloo)
The Secretary of State made an important point—that public ownership is the only vehicle by which an increase in productivity and an improvement in method can be made. There are significant examples of public ownership, but all the evidence suggests that there has been no improvement in productivity or methods in those industries.
§ Mr. Varley
There is evidence of improvements, for example, in Govan—the Tory nationalised shipyard. I am not saying that we are satisfied. I am not satisfied that the degree of productivity is as high as it should be, but that is not necessarily the fault of the workers. It has to do with many matters, including market techniques.
We are absolutely convinced that we must go ahead with the Bill and have a national strategy. It is more relevant than ever now that our shipbuilding industry faces the worst crisis for 40 years. The survival of the industry is now at stake. The outlook for shipbuilding on a world scale is gloomy and we are bound to be affected by that. As a major maritime nation, however, we must have a healthy and competitive shipbuilding industry. That is our objective, and it is all the more vital because shipbuilding provides essential employment in Scotland, the North-East and the North-West. That is why we want public ownership. Without it, there is little hope of applying an effective strategy.
§ Mr. Varley
I have given way enough. Many hon. Members want to speak in the debate and it is best that I now get on.
We are convinced that public ownership is the only way. I have always made clear that nationalisation is not a soft option. I made it clear during the Second Reading debate on the Bill, when I used those very words. In that debate I said that we were facing a crisis and that it was a question of whether we could save the industry.
But that took place in the past. We must take the position very seriously now. I repeat the assurance that I have consistently given—that the Government intend to maintain a healthy, efficient shipbuilding industry. The Government 241 are not going to shrug their shoulders and allow the industry to disappear in order to say that they have upheld the principles of free competition. The tragedy of the delay to the Bill is that vesting day for the industry will inevitably be delayed, and British Shipbuilders will not be able to get on with the urgent planning that is desperately needed and which the previous Government totally failed to initiate. They simply handed out individual sums in response to short-term crises. We cannot wait until vesting day to set that work in hand.
§ Mr. Heseltine
The Secretary of State has given way several times. I am grateful to him for giving way to me. If he now says that the crisis is generally recognised and that management in the industry is looking forward to nationalisation, why is it necessary compulsorily to acquire the companies? Surely it could all be done voluntarily and quickly through the National Enterprise Board.
§ Mr. Varley
It cannot if we are to have the national strategy that we require. I remember a question similar to that of the hon. Gentleman's when we had the Second Reading, or some entirely similar point being made from the opposntion Front Bench. The only way is to have an organised structure for the industry under British Shipbuilders. The Organising Committee has made a good start. I dare say that the hon. Gentleman has taken steps to ask the Organising Committee exactly how it has gone about its work. I am starting a new phase this week with tripartite discussions with the trade unions and the Organising Committee in my Department. This is the next stage of the process of detailed consideration of the industry's problems, which has been going on for a long time. I do not want to conceal from them or from anyone else the fact that we shall have to have frank discussions and we shall have to make the situation and what is involved absolutely clear.
Comment has been made on the organisation of the industry and the work that has been done by the Organising Committee. I think that this was mentioned at great length in Committee. Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of taking part in the Committee's work. However, I should like to say something 242 about British Shipbuilders. It is not our intention to create in British Shipbuilders a monolithic, centralised body overriding the individual character of the shipbuilding areas of Britain. We are certain that nationalisation is now the only way of preserving the essential core of our shipbuilding industry over the difficult years ahead. The initial work and success of the Organising Committee for British Shipbuilders confirms us in the belief that only under public ownership shall we be able for the first time to apply an effective overall strategy to the problems of this industry.
An essential element of this strategy will be the need to maintain maximum practicable employment in certain parts of Britain, such as Scotland, the North-East and the North-West. The Government will not ignore the fact that whole communities are almost entirely dependent on shipbuilding and its ancillary industries. Indeed the Bill. as amended in Committee, now spells this out explicitly by laying a duty on the Secretary of State to give general directions to British Shipbuilders to take account of considerations related to regional areas and, in particular, employment considerations within those areas. The question is how to implement this strategy most effectively.
To take one example, under successive Governments Scottish shipyards have benefited from a high proportion of the special assistance given to British yards—some £100 million out of some £190 million in the last 10 years. In spite of this, the problems are still great. The only way forward now is this new approach through British Shipbuilders. Many Scottish yards in the private sector badly need modernisation.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrewshire, East)
Concerning the history of the Scottish yards, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is a fact that when one outstandingly successful yard was amalgamated with others, it, too, was dragged down? There may be a very good reason for allowing nationalisation to take place where necessary, perhaps, and in some form, but not over the whole industry, as is suggested.
§ Mr. Varley
The right hon. Lady is referring to Yarrow's. It is not true to say that Yarrow's has not received Government assistance. Yarrow's has 243 received Government assistance. It is my considered view that if we are to make effective use of all resources, Yarrow's will have to be included, as stated in the Bill, within the framework of the shipbuilding industry.
Some companies have significantly failed to take advantage of opportunities to modernise and use the assistance under the Shipbuilding Industry Act 1967 or the Industry Act 1972. For these yards, under public ownership—as they will be; it is their last hope—British Shipbuilders, in developing its corporate plans with the funds available to it, will provide the modern equipment that is so badly needed for them to be competitive.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down then."]—in his Fourth Reading speech on the Bill, but I am puzzled as to which of the motions on the Order Paper he is speaking to. It might be for the convenience of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you would consider ruling now, in order to avoid the possibility of other hon. Members straying out of order, as to the nature of this debate. [Interruption.] If I may continue to have your ear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, without the junior Minister interjecting into the argument from a sedentary position, perhaps I may put it to you that there is nothing in the motions as printed on the Order Paper concerning the merits of the Bill. The merits of the Bill have been discussed at great length in the House on numerous occasions.
The subjects for debate are, first, the motion concerning the casting of Mr. Speaker's vote in the event of an equality of votes in the Division, and, secondly,That the Order for consideration of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill … be discharged, and that the Bill be re-committed to a Select Committee.That cannot really have anything to do with the merits of the Bill, which have been discussed on Second Reading. Perhaps you will be kind enough to offer some guidance on the matter.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The guidance that I can give to the hon. Gentleman is, first, that it was agreed that both motions should be taken together. I 244 think that it is essentially in order, to debate the principles which are involved, that some detail should be employed by all hon. Members who speak in the debate on the wider aspects.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Of course some detail should be deployed, but what should be deployed is detail about the matter on the Order Paper and not detail about matters which have been discussed previously, if not ad nauseam at least at considerable length, both in the House and in Committee.
§ Mr. Deputy Spaeker
I think that the Secretary of State must be allowed to develop his argument in his own way.
§ Mr. Varley
It is very typical of the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), when we are debating serious issues, to raise a petty procedural point.
We are talking about the serious position in Scotland. Does anyone seriously believe that all the yards in Scotland would survive in private ownership? Of course they would not. Most would go under. Some £300 million is being made available to British Shipbuilders under Clause 11 of the Bill. That is a substantial sum of money, and, of course, it does not include regional assistance. That would be additional. But new investment on its own is not enough. It must be accompanied by a fundamental improvement in productivity, marketing, financial control and industrial relations, which British Shipbuilders is determined to achieve while at the same time avoiding unnecessary centralisation.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that it was the Government's aim to retain the essential core of the shipbuilding industry and to obtain the maximum practicable employment in Scotland and in other regions. Is this aim in line with the OECD recommendation that capacity be reduced by between 30 per cent. and 50 per cent. in the member countries of the OECD? Do the Government accept that policy? If they do not accept such a policy, will the Secretary of State give some form of affirmation that there wil be no yard closures or redundancies in Scotland, in view of the replies given to certain Questions yesterday?
§ Mr. Varley
On the question of the OECD, the hon. Gentleman recognises, quite properly, that this is an international problem. In this country we shall do what we think right for British Shipbuilders and British shipbuilding. We want to preserve jobs. That is how we shall approach the matter.
The assistance which has already been given to the British shipbuilding industry in Scotland is well known. We are determined to maintain assistance to shipbuilding in Scotland because we know how important that is. Nobody can give an absolute guarantee. If the hon. Gentleman were in this position, he could not give an absolute guarantee that every job will be preserved. But we want to ensure that we have a credible shipbuilding industry in this country. That is what we are setting out to do under the terms of the Bill.
§ Mr. Varley
The hon. Gentleman knows quite well that we cannot give a specific guarantee about yards. I would be very foolish to say that every specific yard throughout the whole of the United Kingdom will be maintained. I would not say that, because at the end of the day we have to make sure that the industry has a coherent strategy. But, on the basis of what we have heard this afternoon, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that if the Conservative Party was in power there would be very little future for shipbuilding in Scotland.
The problems facing these two industries are too serious to admit further delay. I urge the House to vote against both motions, because they are wrecking motions. These industries need a chance to win their future. It is only by allowing the Bill to proceed that these industries will get a chance.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
At the beginning of his speech the Secretary of State said that he hoped this debate would take place on a more even keel than the previous one. It was an agreeable use of nautical metaphor, to which, I suppose, his present preoccupations have addicted him. If I may make a very slight expansion of the nautical 246 metaphor, it certainly was not long before he got into deep water, and he has floundered fairly consistently in it ever since.
We are told that this debate is intended to be what lawyers call a rehearing. It is not, I hope, what in theatrical circles is called a revival. We do not want to have precisely the same debate again. It follows what the Prime Minister, with understandable delicacy, referred to as a misunderstanding about pairing and voting.
I am not concerned with the nature of that misunderstanding. Let me suggest—I hope with equal delicacy—that the misunderstanding was fortunate for the Government and resulted in their advantage. If there had been no misunderstanding—if some sudden and unexplained point of intellectual doubt or ratiocinative incomprehension had not invaded the minds of the Government Whips, we know not which—the Government's motion to suspend Standing Orders and to deny the proper processes of a Hybrid Bill would have been defeated on Mr. Speaker's casting vote.
In that case, the decision would have followed the balance of the argument. For there can be no doubt that on the merits of the case, as against the mechanics of the Division Lobby, on an objective assessment of the argument the Opposition's case—in that instance a case supported by all elements of the Opposition, united in intellectual conviction and defence of principle—was clearly made out.
Against that background, I should like shortly to refer to two matters today. First, I should like to give some analysis of the Government's case as then presented, to see whether such analysis confirms or calls for modification of my submission that the Government's case was not made out. Secondly, I should like to give some analysis of the matters emerging, the representations made, and the arguments presented since the debate of 27th May.
On the first of those matters, the interval of time has allowed a closer analysis to be made of the speech of the Secretary of State in opening the Government's case on the last occasion. His speech then was like Caesar's Gaul, divided into three parts, though not, I 247 fear, with the precision of that great man. I shall comment briefly, if I may, on them all.
First, the right hon. Gentleman said that the matter had been raised only after the Second Reading of the Bill and after 58 sittings of the Committee and, therefore, could not properly be raised. He suggested that in some curious way the matter had become time-barred or subject to limitation. He seemed to suggest that some onus rested on the Opposition to raise the matter at an early date and that, if such onus were not discharged, by some equally curious application of the principle of estoppel it could not be raised now.
I challenged the right hon. Gentleman directly on that point in the course of his speech. He was kind enough to allow me to intervene. I asked him:Does he accept that the onus is on the Government to establish to the satisfaction of Mr. Speaker the facts of the case for him to be able to arrive at a correct judgment about hybridity, or does he assert that there is some duty on the Opposition to establish the exact state of the Bill? Does he accept that the onus on the Government is not reduced or discharged by what happened in the Standing Committee?The right hon. Gentleman replied:I shall have something more to say about that point".
§ Mr. Varley
That was a very selective quotation, because I had something to say immediately on that point. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has quoted—perhaps not deliberately—out of context. I said:All I am saying is that the Bill was submitted on two occasions, in the formal processes, to the authorities of the House, and was cleared as a Bill which was not a hybrid Bill. That is all I am saying. It is not that your Department, Mr. Speaker, is in commission to any Department of State."—[Official Report, 27th May 1976; Vol. 912, c. 634.]I stand by that.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
There is not really any great virtue in standing by replies that are irrelevant and do not answer the point made. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman said a great deal in that speech. Nobody doubts that for a moment. What I am saying is that he did not reply to the point specifically raised. But, of course, he could not reply 248 to it, because the fact is that there is no such onus on the Opposition. It is the duty of Ministers to present the facts at the proper time to enable Mr. Speaker to make a correct appraisal. If they fail in that duty—which they did—the matter remains open for a correct interpretation if and when, as is obviously desirable, the failure of the Ministers is made good.
The second section of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was devoted to a fascinating dissertation on the question, "When is a ship not a ship?" I make two brief comments on this. First, I refer to the naivety, with great respect, of the right hon. Gentleman's presentation. He tried to construe the matter by reference to a definition in another statute, with which this Bill is not expressed to be read as one, whereas the question is clearly to be determined by the wording of the Bill itself, since the Bill contains a definition specifically introduced for this particular purpose.
The House will recall the dramatic moment in the right hon. Gentleman's speech when he triumphantly produced his trump card. It was rather like an inferior imitation of Mr. Gladstone producing the ace of trumps from his sleeve, though lacking the boldness of Mr. Gladstone in actually claiming that the Almighty had put it there. His sleight of hand lacked Mr. Gladstone's skill, and the right hon. Gentleman's trump card—the dubious and selective introduction of his single photograph—conspicuously failed to win him the trick.
The right hon. Gentleman's photograph showed the drilling legs of the ship ashore, when it does not look like a ship, but he produced no corresponding photograph to show the ship afloat on the water, when clearly it looks like a ship. In fact the right hon. Gentleman could have saved himself all this illogicality, because that part of his speech was irrelevant. Time and again Mr. Speaker had to intervene to point out that the debate could not be concerned with the question whether or not this was a ship, since that would have called in question his ruling. For example, Mr. Speaker said:I must say this, and I hope that it will be hearkened to: anything that seeks to discuss the merits of whether the ship was a ship 249 is a challenge to what I said yesterday."—[Official Report, 27th May 1976; Vol. 912. c. 646.]The third and last section of the speech was devoted to observations about the precarious and difficult position of the aircraft and shipbuilding industries, followed by a general and unsubstantiated—indeed, improbable—affirmation that the position would be improve by nationalisation. This section of the right hon. Gentleman's speech has been reinforced today by further large doses of similar inspissated gloom. At best, that part of his speech, then and again today, was a striking example of the false syllogism—something must be done, this is something, therefore let us do it.
It is worse than that. Even on the extravagant assumption, made in spite of every experience and economic fact, that nationalisation is a good thing, to deprive the citizen of his undoubted rights in pursuit of a proclaimed and allegedly beneficent Government action is to adopt the principle that the end justifies the means—the very doctrine on which, throughout history, autocratic régimes have sought to justify their violation of fundamental and human rights.
§ Mr. Heffer
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. As usual, he is courteous in the House, unlike some of his right hon. Friends. Is it not clear that, at the time, Ministers went out of their way to ensure that the Bill was drafted in such a way that there would be no question of hybridity, and that this was not done to deceive anyone but to ensure that there could not be hybridity? Hybridity arose afterwards, because of a technicality. I have listened carefully to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and he has made a first-class lawyer's case, but I come back to the point that those who work in the shipyards are fully aware that an oil rig is an oil rig and a ship is a ship, despite the technicalities. Anyone can be mislead on that basis, and we are arguing about a technicality.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. He was a Minister at the time, and I certainly do not impugn his good fath. I do not impugn anyone's good faith. All I am saying is that we must accept the natural consequences of the act. A Bill which is prima facie hybrid has been introduced 250 under wrong procedures, and it is our duty to set matters aright as best we can. We must concentrate on that aspect. We cannot justify taking wrong procedures involving a denial of rights to the citizen by praying in aid good intentions.
I come to the second main aspect to which I referred, the developments since the original hearing—the debate of 27th May—and the questionable decision that followed it. On the positive side, in the interval no fewer than 19 petitions have been lodged in due form and await hearing. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) will correct me later if I am wrong. That disposes of any contention that there are not citizens—ordinary citizens—aggrieved by the content, or some of the content, of the Hybrid Bill. It shows beyond peradventure that there are matters requiring examination and issues awaiting trial. To the benefit of these procedures the citizen is entitled. If the Government are right in their contention, they have nothing to fear. Their unseemly anxiety to stifle these processes puts in doubt both their confidence in their own case and their regard for the rule of law.
Action by the Government in the interval has been mainly by way of effort to show that their suppression of the Standing Orders and the rights conferred thereby was not the shabby unconstitutional measure which, ex facie, it appears to be. They sought to discharge that difficult task by suggesting that Standing Order No. 38 applies only to proceedings before Second Reading and, therefore, does not apply to this situation.
So desperate was the Government's intellectual plight that the "old guard" was called up and committed to the fray. The great man himself, the Leader of the House, reverted to his ancient trade and contributed a long and polemical letter to The Times.
The argument amounts, in substance, to this: that where the Speaker has not, prior to Second Reading, been in a position to make a correct prima facie ruling because Ministers have failed sufficiently to inform him of the relevant facts, and those facts are subsequently brought to light by the commendable conscientiousness of others—in this case of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton—it was 251 said by the right hon. Gentleman that the Standing Orders cannot operate and, thus, a Bill, which on a correct understanding of the facts was undoubtedly prima facie hybrid on presentation last November, changes its nature and must now be regarded as something that it is not—an ordinary Public Bill.
I dealt—or sought to deal—with this argument in extenso in a letter to The Times of 5th June, when I charitably classified the right hon. Gentleman's position as ingenious but incorrect. If there had been substance in the right hon. Gentleman's point, and if my dissection of it had been open to doubt or challenge, we can be certain that among that intellectual coterie of readers and potential contributors to the correspondence columns of The Times some would have hastened into print to say so. Did they? No, not a squeak, not a squawk, not a chirrup, not a plaintive note.
The conclusion is clear. The last argument dredged up by the Government to support their shabby manoeuvre—the argument that the Standing Orders cannot or should not be applied, because it is too late—crumbles into dust with the rest.
I refer to one further matter—the changed composition of the House. When today's business was announced last Thursday, a comment was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party—and the respect which we habitually have for his utterances is reinforced at present with the premonition of nostalgic regret at his quitting his great position. He pointed out with that acuteness of observation common to the Parliamentary Liberal Party—at any rate on this matter—that there will be—one major alteration, in that there will be a new Member in the House,"—[Official Report, 24th June 1976; Vol. 913, c. 1824.][HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members are as quick as ever to take a point. They realise that I am referring to the recent Rotherham by-election, the result of which can only have brought cold comfort to the Prime Minister.
Curiously enough, Rotherham was the occasion of another famous by-election in the 1920s, which also brought cold comfort at the time. Mr. Baldwin was Prime Minister, and when he was told 252 the bad news of the loss of that critical by-election at Rotherham lie observed "Rotherham. I have been there only once. In the railway station there I had occasion to visit the conveniences and found that the seats were of a rather idiosyncratic square shape." Somebody had written graffiti on the walls which said:They must have rum bums in Rotherham if these strange seats don't bother 'em.I do not know whether the present Prime Minister can emulate Mr. Baldwin's admirable sang-froid at this striking evidence of the erosion of public confidence in his Administration. But I warn him that the previous Rotherham by-election was a prelude to the defeat of the Government at the ensuing General Election. No doubt history will repeat itself in that respect.
At the moment, I am more concerned with the voting intentions of the new hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) than with the future implications for a General Election. I have not had the pleasure of making his acquaintance, and I know only what the newspapers tell me. They say, first of all, that he is well known and very well liked in Rotherham. That is wholly gratifying and to his credit. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is a pity he did not get more votes."] That is as may be. The newspapers also tell us that the hon. Member has extreme Left-wing views. Naturally, I regret this. Neverthelesss, as I was fortunate enough to enjoy the personal friendship of Aneurin Bevan for 30 years and was agreeably acquainted with Jimmy Maxton, I do not expect that this circumstance, of itself, will be a bar to a friendly personal relationship.
Thirdly, the newspapers say that the hon. Member promised in his election campaign that he would not behave like Lobby fodder once in this House. That is promising. What better and speedier opportunity to make good this undertaking than by showing this evening, at the outset of his parliamentary career, that he will honour it by refusing to be treated like Lobby fodder, dragooned by the Party Whips into a course of action which is repellent to conscience, and judgment alike?
The cynics in the media assume that the hon. Member's vote can be predetermined and counted in terms of 253 Lobby fodder. What an opportunity to prove them wrong and to prove wrong also all those cynics who allege that the status and standards of politicians and public men have fallen. By voting in the Opposition Lobby tonight in defence of political probity and the rights of citizens, the hon. Gentleman will have a chance to do more for the high standing of this House than perhaps in the rest of his parliamentary career. I congratulate him on his opportunity, and I have no doubt he will seize it eagerly.
The hon. Member for Rotherham also could do something to restore the fallen reputation of the Leader of the House by helping to deny him the fruits of his wrongful acts. The right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister, particularly, have made some show of sorrow about the facts that attended the purported decision of the House on 27th May. But if they persist with the error of trying to suppress Standing Orders and the procedures for Hybrid Bills, they arouse suspicion that they are not sorry for what they have done; they are sorry only because they were found out and they did not get away with it. Genuine repentance we are told by the highest authority, is coupled with the duty of total restitution—by putting those one has wronged back in the position in which they were in before one wronged them. In this case, it means giving to the petitioners the rights that have always properly belonged to them.
If Ministers persist with their assault on the rule of law to the end, criticisms and castigations of their conduct must be repeated and reinforced. Unfortunately, the Leader of the House bears a special responsibility. He must do so, by reason both of his high office and of the way in which he has personally associated himself with this matter. Of him one must speak in sorrow rather than in anger. So much could have been hoped for from him as the Leader of the House from one bearing the reputation of a champion of freedom and a devotee of parliamentary practice. Sadly, the outcome has confounded the expectation, and promise has been denied its fulfilment. Here I recall an ancient precedent—
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
Before the right hon. 254 and learned Gentleman recalls his ancient analogy may I point out that he said earlier that when I wrote a letter to The Times I did not receive any support—"not one squeak or squawk"; I think those were his words. Somehow, he must have missed the letter from the eminent parliamentary draftsman, who said that, while he held no brief for me, he considered everything in my letter to be justified.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Uncharacteristically, the right hon. Gentleman has misdirected himself. I said that there was no correction to my letter. [Interruption.] Of course I did. The right hon. Gentleman is slow today; it must be the hot weather, the long nights or his arguments with his hon. Friends behind him. His letter was published before my letter. His letter was published on Friday and mine on Saturday, and there was no refutation of any kind at any date on any points made in my letter. Never mind; the right hon. Gentleman has some time this afternoon, and he has had three weeks to think about it. Perhaps he has had some better thoughts about it than he had before.
Let me proceed to my conclusion. I shall not deny the right hon. Gentleman, who is an ardent classicist, the benefits of the ancient precedent that I was about to quote. When Servius Galba followed success as a general with failure as an emperor, Tacitus wrote his memorable epitaph:Omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperassetwhich I will translate with appropriate apologies to the shades of Tacitus:Everybody would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would make a good Leader of the House if in fact he had never been Leader of the House.Having listened, as we have in the past, to his eloquent exhortations on the themes of parliamentary propriety and respect for human rights, we have sadly to ask ourselves the question: "He has persuaded others; how comes it that he has not persuaded himself?"
We on the Opposition side of the House remain true to our convictions about the enduring importance of these great principles and responsibilites. We believe that the rights of these citizens to petition should be safeguarded, and that the rule of law should be maintained.
255 Only last week the President of France paid a tribute in fitting language to the contribution of our Parliament to the workings of parliamentary democracy and a free society. I ask the House, by its action tonight, to show itself worthy of that tribute. I ask the House, by its vote, to defend those great principles of the rule of law and the rights of the citizen for which our Parliament has traditionally stood and should stand today.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. David Lambie (Central Ayrshire)
I make no apology for intervening briefly in this debate tonight. Neither do I apologise for not following the procedural arguments put forward by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and by the Tory spokesman at the beginning of the debate.
I was a member of the Standing Committee which dealt with the Bill for nationalising the shipbuilding and aircraft industry. I took part in most of the 58 sittings in Committee on that Bill. Therefore, I say that the sooner we can get the Bill through the Commons and enacted the better it will be for Parliament and for the workers in these industries.
I take part in the debate because many of the 2,000 workers at Scottish Aviation at Prestwick—a firm which is to be nationalised under the Bill—are my constituents. My main reason for speaking tonight, however, is my interest in the thousands of shipbuilding jobs, as well as those of the Scottish Aviation workers, which have been put at risk by the Tory tactics in delaying the Bill.
At the time of our last debate on this subject Scottish Members of Parliament, in particular, received many telegrams from those concerned with these industries. The telegrams were sent by the STUC and from mass meetings of shipbuilding and aircraft workers. There was a telegram from the shop stewards' action committee at Prestwick, telling us not to support the Tory Opposition but to give the Government full support in the best interests of the working people of Scotland, especially the West of Scotland.
That debate witnessed an unprecedented discourtesy by one of the SNP 256 Members—I regret that neither that hon. Member nor any of the SNP Members is interested enough in the subject to attend the debate tonight. The Member concerned was the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt), who tore up telegrams from those representing workers in the shipbuilding and aircraft industries. In addition, the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing), who is not present tonight—perhaps she is in Europe—said that the telegrams were bogus, even though they were from representatives of people working in the two industries. I am pleased to see that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) has now come in.
I hope that tonight the SNP Members will either abstain or vote in support of the Government. If they persist with their previous policies the Bill may be defeated. I hope that Mrs. Margo Mac-Donald, who is Vice-Chairman of the SNP and who tells us that her party is a Socialist party, has sent telegrams to the 11 SNP Members telling them to support the Labour Government.
Scottish Aviation is a small firm, which represents roughly 5 per cent. of the total aerospace industry. During the last 18 months the work force has been run down from 2,500 to its present figure of 1,700, a fall of more than 30 per cent. The future of that work force depends on the Bill's becoming law. If the rundown continues, Scottish Aviation will soon not be a viable proposition. That is why it is vitally important for us to get the Bill through tonight.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson
Which party has been in Government during the period of that rundown? Will the hon. Member say how much Government work has been steered by the Government to Scottish Aviation to sustain that work force in the way that the hon. Member has been requesting?
§ Mr. Lambie
The Labour Government have been in power for the last 18 months and they have tried their best to direct work to Prestwick. The management and workers at Prestwick asked that eight Jetstreams should be handed back to Prestwick by the RAF for refurbishing. Unfortunately the company has not taken up the offer. If it had been taken up the work force would have 257 been increasing, not decreasing. Therefore, if the hon. Member for Dundee East wants to criticise someone about the present position of Scottish Aviation he should turn his attention to the management there, not to the Government and the workers. To be fair, I do not criticise the management. It would have taken the aeroplanes back, but Scottish Aviation is neither an independent company nor even a Scottish company; it is an integral part of the Laird Group, which is the financial holding company, based in London. It is surprising to me that Scottish MPs representing Scottish industries should think that Scottish Aviation would be more secure under London control than as an integral part of British Aerospace.
The statement today by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about the future of the company and the activities of the Government and Lord Beswick carries for Scottish Aviation the assurance that it will have an autonomous position within British Aerospace, which is something that the Scottish Aviation workers and management have been demanding over the last six months. That statement will be welcomed in Scotland, and I hope that it will be supported by the SNP in the Lobby tonight.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch and Lymington)
Was the hon. Member present at Question Time yesterday? If he was, did he hear the Minister of State, Department of Industry, admit that the Government have, and have had for many years, as much power as they could want to fund research, development and production of new aircraft, including for example, the production of Concorde in 1962? What new powers does he think the Bill will give the Government to fund new aircraft? What evidence does he have, for his constituents who work at Scottish Aviation, that the attitude of his party towards aircraft production—epitomised by the TSR2—has in any way changed?
§ Mr. Lambie
That has nothing to do with the point that I was making. I was saying that we have been trying, by various means at present open to us, to get help for Prestwick, but we have been unsuccessful. We shall be successful as an integral and autonomous part of British Aerospace. That is the assurance that we have had today from my right hon. Friend.
258 If the Government lose the vote tonight the jobs of thousands of shipyard workers and of the 2,000 workers at Scottish Aviation will be at stake. I hope that the minority opposition parties will remember that they are here not to make political capital out of a situation but to represent the interests of the people of Scotland, especially the industrial workers.
At the end of the last debate the Government had a majority of one. But for that one vote we could have been faced with a General Election. The present climate of opinion in Britain, as demonstrated by the Rotherham by-election, shows that a Conservative Government would be returned with a massive majority. What would that mean for the shipbuilding and aircraft workers in Scotland? It would mean poverty, starvation and closures. I suggest to the hon. Member for Dundee, East that a Conservative Government would kill the devolution Bill which is to be presented by this Government, and that there would be no chance of getting a directly-elected legislative assembly for Scotland.
Do the SNP want that? Do they want nothing but closures among the shipyards and aircraft factories in Scotland? Do they want a constitutional crisis? Perhaps they want a revolutionary situation in which they could gain complete independence for Scotland? If they support the Opposition again tonight, they will be voting for all those consequences.
I am speaking on behalf of the shipbuilding workers in Scotland. I shall support the Government, and I hope we get a majority, because the industrial future of the west of Scotland depends on it.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wainwright (Colne Valley)
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) has just announced in the most resounding way that defeat for the Government tonight would be heartily endorsed by the country as a whole. That might strike home rather harder than the hon. Member intended. It is the opinion of my colleagues and myself that, in view of the Government's standing in public opinion, this measure should never have been brought before the House at all.
259 Very little has changed since our original debate on 27th May except for the filling of a lamented parliamentary vacancy, but reference has already been made to the recent correspondence columns of The Times and, since our original debate, there has been time for deeper reflection on the involved question of hybridity. My hon. Friends and I think that hybridity in a Bill to nationalise manufacturing industry is no sudden hazard or abnormal risk, but is inherent in measures dealing with complex modern industries.
Perhaps most of us are too facile in talking about, for instance, the textile industry, the construction industry or the electronic communications industry. When we get down to the substance of industries, it is almost impossible to categorise the firms which engage in them to a greater or lesser extent. If the country is subjected to the misfortune of further nationalisation Bills for manufacturing industry, it will be almost impossible to avoid hybridity. I am the last to underrate the importance of this measure, but we are considering not only a case which is extremely important in its own right, but a situation which might recur on future occasions. We ought to learn one or two lessons.
It has been clearly and rightly established that the responsibility for producing all the facts necessary so that judgments can be formed about hybridity rests entirely with those bringing in a Bill. Observations made in a rather glib way at the end of last month and in recent discussions that it was up to the Opposition to challenge the possible hybridity of a Bill are beside the point. We are all immensely obliged to the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) for his industry and skill in detecting the prima facie hybridity in this Bill, but that was a case of supererogation on his part and was not the responsibility of the Opposition. Responsibility for not having provided all the facts, however pardonable the mistake may have been, rests with the Government.
It ill becomes the Government to say that because they did not advise Mr. Speaker properly at the time, but let the matter go by for many months, they should now be let off. That is a most dangerous argument, which will not dis- 260 courage either the making of mistakes, or easy judgments, or failure to go to the roots of the matter and investigate all possible firms which should be embraced within a Bill. It would be a charter for easy living in Government Departments, particularly those that construct Bills of nationalisation for manufacturing industry. We ought not, by our votes, to make life easier for those carrying such heavy responsibilities.
We are not dealing with a Bill to nationalise a self-contained, obvious, almost self-described category such as coal, gas, electricity or the railways. Those Bills had an easy passage technically because the risk of hybridity was, due to their nature, manifestly so small. For the first time, we are now venturing into genuine nuts and bolts manufacturing industry.
It is important that the House should pause to consider whether it is not in danger of setting an unfortunate precedent by treating hybridity far too lightly and depriving individual citizens, who are always important, and also depriving bodies of enormous economic and industrial importance to the welfare of great regions of the country, of their rights of petition. This matter is not only important because of the many thousands of people who will be caught up in the Bill's provisions and because of the right of petition against a particular Bill, but also because it is something which may, if politics takes a certain course which I would find regrettable, come before the House many times again.
The Liberal Party will vote against the Government tonight with even more confidence than at the end of May.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
The debate is intended by both sides of the House to be, as near as may be, a replay or repetition of the debate on 27th May. It is because the second of the two motions before the House is designed as nearly as possible to reproduce the substance of the second Division which took place on that date that my colleagues and I, seeing no reason to change the mind we were then of, will be supporting the Opposition on the second motion.
However, being put in a classical mood by the speech with which the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, 261 East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) entertained the House earlier, I am reminded of the saying of the philosopher Heraclitus:No man goes down into the same river twice".Nor it is possible ever to have exactly the same debate again. The very moment the Tellers have reported at the Table, it would be impossible to repeat exactly the same debate or to reproduce precisely the same circumstances; but after the lapse of a whole month there have been a number of alterations. It is therefore vain for us to suppose, as it is for the official Opposition, that by any contrivance they can artificially recreate exactly the circumstances of the debate and Division of 27th May.
For example, there have been certain changes of personnel in the House itself. I was a little anxious when I listened to the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East addressing himself, I think in the hon. Gentleman's absence, to the new representative of the Rotherham constituency. Indeed, I looked at the Order Paper to make sure that there was not a third motion by the Leader of the Opposition and other right hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench, ordering the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther), in order as near as possible to reproduce the circumstances of 27th May, to refrain from voting.
§ Mr. Powell
That takes one into deep speculation. Fortunately, it is speculation upon which none of the motions on the Order Paper obliges us to enter.
However, from somewhat lightheartedly contemplating this change that has occurred since 27th May, our attention is directed to another alteration that the Opposition are inviting the House to endeavour, by passing a certain motion, to reverse and put back in statu quo ante divisionem—
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith rose—
§ Mr. Powell
I am well aware of the difficult ground on which I may have ventured by that last Latin vocable that I used.
It is well understood that the consequence of the traditional rule, the prescription of precedent, by which you are fortunately and properly bound, Mr. Speaker, in exercising your casting vote, 262 would have obliged you to vote against the Government on the second Division on 27th May, whereas by virtue of the very fact that that Division is now in the past, your situation tonight as regards the second vote would be the opposite: precedent would similarly constrain you to vote with the Government. So the Opposition say: "We shall therefore invite the House to pass a motion—only for tonight, of course—which will put things back in that respect as they were on 27th May."
Already there is a considerable intellectual difficulty there. If we are to attempt by passing resolutions to reproduce the situation on 27th May, then in all fairness and justice we must reproduce it in all respects; and that we recognise our inability to do. However, so far as you are concerned, Mr. Speaker, the Opposition say that artificially we should re-create your situation when approaching the second Division on 27th May.
I believe that in placing the motion on the Order Paper the Opposition are inviting the House to do something that it should not do. I do not believe that, even if the action were justifiable in the narrowest possible context, we can claim that in passing such a motion we are not creating a precedent, or that in no conceivable future situation could such a motion, if passed tonight, not be prayed in aid and held either to alter the precedents which you are at present obliged to follow, Mr. Speaker, or at any rate to justify or even necessitate the passing of a similar motion. In fact, it is a precedent that we are creating, a major intervention in the relations of the Chair with the House upon which we are entering, if we pass the motion which is on the Order Paper.
If it were considered right that the precedents by which you are bound, Mr. Speaker, should no longer be binding, I believe that the House should not attempt to interfere in the matter by a simple motion in a single case. The precedents and their effect upon the relations of the Chair with the House are so serious and important a matter that it is an alteration upon which the House should not enter without its usual procedures for due consideration and advice from its own Members, as far removed as possible from the necessities of any particular situation.
263 So I say that this is a motion which the House should not pass, because it attempts to alter binding precedent in the wrong way, even if that it what it is desired to do. But then I do not believe that this is a precedent which we should seek to alter either in a particular case or generally; for I do not believe we can find any more satisfactory foundation for the action of the Chair in the case of equality of votes than that which has commended itself and been followed over a considerable number of years—I believe something between one and two centuries. What we should certainly not do is to make such an alteration when it gives an important advantage to one party or the other, when even an important political event may hang upon the outcome.
§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
Will the right hon. Gentleman address his mind to the first consideration that the 19th edition of "Erskine May" gives at page 403 to Mr. Speaker in casting a casting vote—namely, that Mr. Speaker should always vote for further discussion where that is possible? Could that not apply here, I ask the right hon. Gentleman? If he votes with the Noes in a tie on the second motion, the petitions and the effect of them will never be determined by the House again. If he votes with the Ayes, the House will have an opportunity of deciding on Report whether it should embody permanently in the Bill the recommendation of the Select Committee, thereby giving the House a further opportunity for decision.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Gentleman appears to be asking me to divert my attention from the motion on the Order Paper, which is a binding instruction to Mr. Speaker, to a quite different proposition, namely, the expression of an opinion as to how Mr. Speaker on his personal responsibility should interpret the precedents by which he is bound. No doubt Mr. Speaker has heard what the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) has said: and, provided we do it respectfully enough, there is no reason for any of us not to express an opinion upon the problem which he confronts in applying the precedents. That, however, is not the motion before the House. The 264 effect of the motion is to remove the precedents from Mr. Speaker's consideration and to impose an order upon him instead.
I want to adduce an analogy, which is not far-fetched, in regard to what we would be doing if we were to bind the Chair in this matter—in other words, if we were to bind the Chair as against precedent on an occasion where the political importance and practical effects are so serious.
At present in a number of Standing Committees of this House the Government are liable to find themselves dependent on the casting vote of the Chair at the time, which casting vote by precedent is cast on the same principles as those by which Mr. Speaker is guided in his decisions when the Mace is on the Table in this Chamber. If we pass this motion tonight, what is the protection against a party which has the majority in this House arguing that it is only right and proper for the will of the House not to be frustrated in Standing Committee by the Chair following precedent in the case of equality of votes but for a motion to be passed that in such cases the Chair shall vote with the Government—or however the case may be?
If we pass this motion, we shall enter on a course that will not stop with tonight. It is a course that removes one of the ultimate sources of independence in this Chamber. It lays hands on one of the elements in this Chamber which we all, by common consent, keep free from the power of the majority, for if this motion is passed it will be a majority of this House directing you, Mr. Speaker, what you are to do.
The minority parties in this House, indeed the parties which are in a permanent minority in this House—I hope that the Liberal Party will not take that too seriously—are most particularly interested in a motion of that kind not passing. That is the reason why my hon. Friends and I tonight will join what we hope will be the majority in rejecting the former of the two motions.
§ 6.43 pm.
§ Mr. Bryan Gould (Southampton, Test)
I have two main reasons for wishing to speak in this debate. First, many of my constituents who work in the shipbuilding and ship repair industries will be 265 vitally affected by the outcome of this debate. Secondly, I was a member of the now famous, or perhaps notorious, Standing Committee which took a record 58 sittings to consider the Bill.
In regard to the second motion—and I am content to leave the first motion because it has been more than adequately dealt with by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)—there are two touchstones. They are comprised in your rulings, Mr. Speaker, on the two points of order raised by the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). Your first ruling was that, by virtue of the fact that an oil rig being built by Marathon at the relevant date fell within the definition of "ship", the Bill was prima facie hybrid.
That ruling cannot be challenged, and there is no disposition to do so. That was your ruling, and it is undoubtedly correct, but there are a number of features of the ruling to which I should like to draw attention. Your ruling specified that the Bill was prima facie hybrid Your ruling had to take that form because the only provision made in the Standing Orders or elsewhere for a conclusive determination of hybridity is for an occasion when a Bill is referred to the examiners and when they so report.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the situation in which you gave that ruling was unprecedented, as you acknowledged. Indeed it was more than that: if was unforeseen. If one looks at "Erskine May", Standing Orders, and the Select Committee on Hybrid Bills, one sees that they all discuss the subject of hybridity on the assumption that the question will be raised before Second Reading. No provision has been made anywhere for the situation with which we are confronted.
The third point that follows as a consequence from the second is that you expressly limited your ruling, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the Bill was prima facie hybrid. You made no ruling or recommendation as to what should happen then. You made no ruling about referring the Bill to the examiners, still less to a Select Committee. You specifically said that the House was master of its own procedures and that it was for the House to decide what it should do. The conclusion to be drawn from your first ruling is that while almost certainly 266 the Bill would have been decided to have been hybrid if it had been referred to the examiners, since it had not been referred to the examiners we were confronted with an unprecedented situation to which no answers could be found in the Standing Orders. That conclusion is reinforced by a simple examination of the Standing Orders, and in particular by looking at Standing Order 38. That Standing Order presupposes that the whole question of hybridity will be raised before Second Reading. Therefore, there is no help to be gained there.
Your second ruling dealt with the possibility that if the Standing Orders were of no assistance, the Report of the Select Committee on Hybrid Bills and resolutions of the House to adapt recommendations of that Committee might help in some respect. Your ruling was to the effect that there was no help to be sought there since the Select Committee was concerned exclusively with the situation that would arise once the Examiners had reported the Bill to be hybrid.
Therefore, we face a situation that is quite unprecedented and unforeseen and in relation to which nothing in the Standing Orders, or in any resolution of the House, or anywhere else, can provide us with an easy and foreseeable answer to the problem. What therefore is to be done?
The House, in my view, has two choices presented to it. It can follow the solution suggested by the Government, or it can adapt the proposal made by the Opposition. The Government propose that the Bill should continue to be considered as a public Bill and that any element of hybridity should be removed by an appropriate amendment. The House, in effect, adopted that solution by voting on the Government resolution of 27th May.
I wish to say a few words about that resolution. Its terms have been subjected to much ill-informed, wild and even irresponsible comment. The commentators, including many Members of this House, seem to have been mesmerised by the fact that the Government resolution contained the words "Standing Orders" and "dispensed with". They seem to have forgotten the rest of the resolution. As a result the Government have been accused of bending and changing the rules and of overruling your decision, 267 Mr. Speaker, or of trying to challenge it. The Government have even been accused of trying to use this House as an instrument of Government. I confess that when that suggestion was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition some of my Back Bench colleagues and I were almost overcome with shock.
The Standing Orders which were dispensed with in this resolution were not any Standing Orders appropriate to this Bill, because there was none. The resolution said that the Standing Orders appropriate to the legislation should be dispensed with for the very good reason that this procedure could only be followed once the examiners had reported the Bill to be hybrid.
In case it is still thought that there was something improper about the resolution proposed by the Government and adopted by the House, let us bear in mind that if the examiners had reported that the Bill was hybrid, the Bill would then have gone to a Standing Orders Committee, which would have been bound to consider the question of dispensing with the Standing Orders which the House itself had considered. Therefore, since we have many precedents to turn to of the Standing Orders Committee deciding that very point both ways, it is absolute nonsense and humbug to argue that what the Standing Orders Committee can do as a matter of course this House cannot, without constitutional outrage, do by itself. I hope the authors of those hysterical and ignorant comments and criticisms will apologise, not least to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.
The second solution with which we are confronted is that suggested by the Opposition, who propose in their motion that we should proceed immediately to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. Let it be noted that that solution also accepts that we are confronted with an unprecedented dilemma, because in their motion the Opposition are not proposing that we should apply the Standing Orders appropriate to private legislation. There is no suggestion that we should refer the Bill, under Standing Order 38, to the examiners and thence to the Standing Orders Committee. They propose, as innovatory to what the Government are 268 proposing, that we should proceed immediately to refer the Bill to the Select Committee.
§ Mr. Maxwell.Hyslop rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not want to give away any secrets but the hon. Member is likely to catch my eye in the near future and many hon. Members want to speak.
§ Mr. Gould
How is the House to decide between these two courses, one proposed by the Government, the other proposed by the Opposition? For the Opposition it is argued—and I am trying to do my best to be fair to them—that the Select Committee procedure where a Bill is in effect hybrid is of the utmost importance in allowing petitioners to present their view and defend themselves. That is a very weighty consideration, at least in principle if not in fact.
It is also argued, as has been pointed out by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), that it would be wrong for the Government to benefit from their own mistake, if it is a mistake by the Government, and that if anyone should suffer it should be the authors of the mistake. The force of that argument depends very much on the view one takes of the gravity of the mistake and the nature of the injury, and I shall speak on both points.
That point would have considerably more force if it could be shown that the Government had, either deliberately or habitually, refused to supply information as a means of avoiding the ordinary rules appropriate to hybrid Bills. No such suggestion can be or has been made, save this afternoon by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who quite ungraciously chose to bluster his way into a denial.
On the other hand, to set against those arguments, we in this House should pay some attention to the real issues which underline the procedural difficulty confronting us. What has really happened is that through a minor technical failure in drafting, a mistake in drafting, the Bill fails to carry through the purpose which 269 it sought to achieve and which everybody understood, at least until 27th May, it would achieve.
The only person or body whose position has been possibly prejudiced by that failure is Marathon, which wishes to have no recourse to a Select Committee. Marathon is content for the Bill to proceed with the necessary amendment. Its sole interest is to see that the mistake is rectified in the way proposed by the Government.
Of course, it is true that if the Government's solution is adopted there will be other firms whose position will also be affected; but let us be clear how their position will be affected. These firms were potentially beneficiaries, not victims, of the Government's mistake. They stood to gain a quite unforeseen and fortuitous benefit when the mistake was discovered. It was not the mistake itself which prejudiced their position. It was the discovery of the mistake which offered them the prospect of an unconvenanted benefit, a benefit to be obtained as a result of a mistake which was so technical in nature that it had survived all the examinations by the Public Bill Office and others, a full Second Reading debate and 58 record-breaking sittings of the Standing Committee. It was not until the whole procedure had been completed that the mistake was discovered.
If it is to be rectified in the way proposed by the Government, no one will be prejudiced by such rectification in the sense of suffering an ultimate disadvantage. All that will happen is that the situation will have been restored to what the firms concerned, and everybody else, understood it to be before the mistake was discovered.
There are others apart from the firms, their boards and shareholders, who are affected by the decision we take. Those are the people who work in the industries concerned. Many of them may have views on nationalisation one way or the other. I do not think anyone would pretend there is unanimity among the respective work forces, but they have an interest, and I suggest they have a unanimous interest, in having some certainty in their industries, and some sign of a readiness to grapple with the overwhelming problems facing the industries. They will have little patience with us if 270 they see a highly technical and entirely fortuitous accident blinding us to our wider responsibilities.
In the end, rules exist to serve us and, through us, the people of this country; and where there are no rules which are directly applicable we have an obligation to proceed by common sense. There can be no serious case for applying to this important Bill rules which are inappropriate and whose only effect would be to delay the Bill and introduce uncertainty into the industries concerned; rules whose only approximation to relevance arises by virtue of a mistake which could be rectified tonight without prejudice to anybody.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr, Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
We are having this debate tonight purely and solely for one reason, that the Government, in circumstances which do them no credit whatsoever, put through the Division Lobby on the second vote on the evening of Thursday 27th May a Member whom they had pledged would not go through the Division Lobby. Had that not been done, Mr. Speaker, by your casting vote governed by precedent the Government motion would have been defeated, and by now, probably, the petitioners would have completed the process of presenting their petitions to a Select Committee of the House. So that act of sending through the Division Lobby a Member of whom the Government had previously pledged that he would not vote has not even saved the Government any time, very possibly, because in the weeks that have gone by since then the petitioners could have exercised their right and the Select Committee could have reported to the House. Never was a contrivance less successful in expediting a Bill.
The only other conclusion at which the House can arrive, therefore, is that what the Government dreaded was not the passage of time—because that time has passed—but that the petitioners, and particularly trade unionists engaged in the ship repairing industry, should have the opportunity of presenting their case before a Select Committee of the House. That was what the Government dreaded. They dreaded having members of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, the Boilermakers Union, the 271 Transport and General Workers' Union and the Electrical Trades Union appearing before a Select Committee of this House to substantiate the prayer in their petition. That is what the Government were determined to deny to them. No time has been saved.
What have the Government, admitting their error in the matter of the vote, done in recompense? What they have done is not to allow the House to vote again, because it was not within their power to refuse that. This is not universally recognised. A recommittal motion attaches itself to the Order of the Day to proceed to the further consideration of the Bill by form, not by the gift of the Government. Unlike other motions put on the Order Paper by the Opposition, it does not depend upon the good will or benevolence of the Government in according it time. It is not the Government who decide whether such a motion appears above or below the line in the Orders of the Day. It is entirely a matter for Mr. Speaker whether he does or does not select a recommittal motion.
All that the Government have done is to put forward a motion, which I also signed last night, in the name of the Prime Minister, suspending the operation of Standing Order No. 53, which would have curtailed the debate. It was clear to anyone who was in the Chamber at Business Question Time last Thursday that the Leader of the House was not even aware then of what Standing Order No. 53 was or what its effect would be, to judge from the confusion into which he was thrown by a reasonable question on that subject.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
The Leader of the House has revealed the truth of what I said: had that Standing Order been applied, as the right hon. Gentleman has just asserted the Government intended, there would have been only one 10-minute speech on each side. It was to suspend the Standing Order, not to 272 apply it, that was essential if we were to have this debate.
The first of the two motions before the House refers to your action, Mr. Speaker, should there be an equality of votes on the second. I want to put as succinctly as I can the case for the first motion. The right hon. Gentleman has very reasonably asked himself and the House "Are we setting a precedent which we should come to regret?" On any motion of this kind I should ask myself the same question.
I hope—and I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman does too—that the circumstances are unique in which a Government secured the passage of a highly contentious motion by putting through the Division Lobby a Member of who they had pledged he would not vote. I also hope that it is the wish of all hon. Members that that situation will never recur. It would be utterly discreditable were it ever to do so. Therefore, I think we can say with more than hope—with confidence—that we are dealing with a unique situation.
The Government, aware of their own misconduct, rightly take the view that the vote should be taken again. But for procedural reasons, on which we are putting the case that they snatched an unnatural advantages in that precedent binds you, Mr. Speaker, to vote with the opposite effect to that to which precedent guided you on the night of 27th May, they have not restored the stolen goods but have restored only the sack in which they were stolen.
It will come as no surprise to many hon. Members to know that the Clerks are firmly of the opinion, after weighty researches, that if there were to be a tie on the second motion, you should, by precedent, Mr. Speaker, vote with the Noes. I accept that that is their unanimous advice.
Nevertheless, there are weighty reasons why precedent should guide you to the opposite course, Mr. Speaker. Let us take the authoritative work by Philip Laundy, "The Office of Speaker". In the third paragraph on page 90 there is the record of how your predecessor, Mr. Speaker Abbott, acted in such a situation. We read:Voting in favour of the appointment of a committee to enquire into delays in the Court 273 of Chancery on 5th June 1811, he explained that 'upon a question, whether this House should or should not exercise its own powers of enquiry into the causes of an existing grievance, he should give his vote with the Yeas'.There is an existing grievance, the grievance against which at least 21 petitioners have lodged petitions which are certified by the Journal Office as being in due form. There is a machinery by which the House can examine those grievances, the Select Committee.
On page 96, in the same chapter, which is on the casting vote, we read that Mr. Speakerwill avoid using it to effect a change in the law, or in such a way as to deny the House a further opportunity of considering an issue.If Mr. Speaker's casting vote were used tonight to prevent the Bill from being sent to a Select Committee the House would have no further occasion to consider the merit of the petitioners' petitions and any redress that the Select Committee might recommend. When the Select Committee reported, it would be open to the House to reject its recommendations, to reject amendments made by it.
Therefore, a massive case can be made for saying that were there a tie tonight and you, Mr. Speaker, were to vote with the Ayes, as we term it in our modern parlance, you would be giving the House a future opportunity to take a decision on the merit of the petitions which would be denied for all time if you voted iwth the Noes.
On page 403 of the 19th edition of "Erskine May", on the principles on which Mr. Speaker gives his casting vote, we are told:Although the decisions of successive Speakers have not invariably been consistent, two main, and one subsidiary, principles emerge:(1) that the Speaker should always vote for further discussion, where this is possible, e.g. Mr. Speaker Addington's decision of 1796".The only course which would permit the House further to discuss the complaints and grievances of the petitioners would be for Mr. Speaker to vote for the Bill to go to a Select Committee.
Therefore, the first of two questions to which I address myself is as follows. Is it the case, Mr. Speaker, that precedent binds you to vote with the Noes? I put it to you, on excellent authority, that 274 the answer is "No". Precedent does not so bind you.
The second question is, in circumstances in which Mr. Speaker is not bound to vote "No" and in which there are other precedents on which he might well vote "Aye", is it fair to leave Mr. Speaker in the position in which he must take this uneviable choice, one into which he has been thrown by the defaulting action of the Government in not withholding from the Division Lobby an hon. Member of whom they had pledged that he would not go through that Lobby?
It is those circumstances which make it an obligation of honour on the Government that there should be a vote on a motion tabled by them—an obligation on which they reneged—or at least one supported by them. It is not too late for that, or to relieve you, Mr. Speaker, of that agonising choice in this situation by advising their supporters and by themselves voting for the first of these two motions which will have the effect of placing you in the same position you were in on the second vote of the night of Thursday 27th May. None of us knows whether there will be a tied vote tonight on the second motion. Here we are dealing with a point of principle. This is the touchstone of the Government's good faith—if they want to be honest with the House of Commons.
If the Leader of the House does not feel an obligation to be honest to the House of Commons, he betrays an old office. He will also betray the whole of his distinguished parliamentary career in days gone by. He should grasp that nettle, instead of leaving, in a manner which does credit neither to him nor to the House that he should serve, that unenviable decision to Mr. Speaker, knowing that whichever way Mr. Speaker casts the casting vote there will be criticism from outside the House, although, I hope, not from inside. The Leader of the House owes that duty to the Chair, the House of Commons, himself, the Prime Minister and to his hon. Friend who went through the Division Lobby when his Chief Whip had pledged him not to do so. That is a multiple and consistent duty.
I now turn to the second of the two motions under debate. I do not wish 275 to run through all the merits as were debated on 27th May.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) asked why the third motion to set up a Select Committee—it is Order of the Day No. 47—does not bring itself within the Standing Orders. That is a fair question. The answer is technical. The motion would have been out of order if it assumed that the Standing Orders which had been dispensed with by a resolution of the House, how-over mischievously and unhappily obtained, were nevertheless still in force. That would be reversing a decision of the House. The learned Clerks advise me that Motion No. 47 is workable. That is why it appears in its present form rather than pursuant to the Private Business Standing Orders which were dispensed with by the second vote on the night of 27th May.
This is the reason for the second motion. It was drawn up so that petitioners might have their rights, the procedure for examining petitions and deciding whether or not they merit action to redress grievances, and whether redress should or should not be embodied in the Bill, whether such amendments should be embodied in the Bill.
The decision of such a Select Committee is not final. On Report—which would by now probably be in process, following the Select Committee, had it not been for the lamentable events following the second division on 27th May—the House would have the opportunity to decide whether to agree with that Select Committee, or with any amendments that it recommended. It might recommend none at all, but if it recommended or put in amendments, the House could remove those amendments on Report.
What has happened since 27th May? The petitioners have been denied their rights. The House has been denied the advice of a Select Committee inquiry into those petitions. The Bill has in no way been expedited in its passage by denying those petitioners their rights. That has not been achieved. The hyperbole about the necessity to expedite the passage of the Bill to save jobs is revealed for what it is—hyperbole—as it has not speeded the passage of the Bill.
276 In inviting members of the Government's standing in public opinion, this motions I do not ask them to do anything that I have not done in the House. I must have voted against approximately 20 three-line Whips during the time that I have been in this House—in one of which the Government majority of the then Conservative Government was reduced from 100 to one. In other words, there was every opportunity that my party would have been defeated. On none of those occasions had my party done violence to the traditions of the House. Nor had it broken a pledge not to put any of its Members through the Division Lobby. In every case my decision was based on merit which, rightly or wrongly, I considered should override the strong request—but never an order—of a throe-Line Whip. I ask right hon. and hon. Members to do what I have done. I do not invite them to do something that I have never done.
If the first motion is passed, the House will have relieved you, Mr. Speaker, of a duty it has no right to ask of you in these circumstances. The second motion, if passed, will give belated justice to the petitioners.
I therefore ask the Members of the House of Commons—not as members of the Labour, Conservative, Liberal, United Ulster Unionist, Plaid Cymru and other parties—to vote for both these motions so that the House of Commons may do justice both to itself and to the citizens for whom it is legislating.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)
I shall seek to be briefer than the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). The hon. Gentleman made an astonishing speech. I do not think that it helped his case. It reminds me of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), who referred to a Roman general, who everyone thought would have been successful if they had not first seen him in action. I thought the same about the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech. I should have thought that he would have ripped up the Government's case if I had not heard him attempt to do so. I feel very much the same about the hon. Member for Tiverton. The situation has crumbled away in his hands, and he has been left with very little to say.
277 I want to pick up the point made by the hon. Member for Tiverton about the first motion. It always sounds very strong and authoritative in this House to say across the Floor "Let us not think of our parties. We should all vote together." Opposition Members never say it about themselves. They never say "We put the House first, so we shall come and vote with you". It always works the other way round. It is a strange habit into which the hon. Member for Tiverton, for all his individual attitudes, seems to have fallen.
The hon. Member made a case for the changing of the rules in this instance. It is a curious argument for those who say that they have brought forward a motion because the rules have been bent then to seek to bend the rules to bring about another situation. It is a very dangerous line of argument.
Secondly, the hon. Member for Tiverton argued, as did the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), along lines urging the Government to take the initiative in supporting the first motion. Having spent most of his speech telling the referee what to do, he was not content with that, because he wanted to lock up the other team in the dressing room as well. It is an extraordinary proposition to bring forward.
The hon. Member for Henley always reminds me of Zuleika Dobson. Hon. Members will recall that every time she arrived at Henley all the men jumped from their punts for safety. I think that a good many Opposition Members today felt that they would like to do the same. The speech of the hon. Member for Henley was unwarranted, and he did not have the grace to withdraw his charge. Earlier, I raised this matter as a point of order and I was told that I should raise it in my speech if I succeeded in catching the eye of the occupant of the Chair. I assume, therefore, that I am in order in doing so now.
The speech of the hon. Member for Henley was misleading to the point of being a lie. The charge was that the Government, the draftsmen and the civil servants combined to hide the hybridity of the Bill. As I understand it, no other Opposition Member has made such a charge. Only the hon. Member for Henley has made it, and only today—[Interruption.] If he has made it before, his crime is compounded. It warrants a 278 withdrawal, and I hope that he will withdraw it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) was among those who were involved in the early discussions on the Bill. He said on 26th May:The Ministers who were responsible went out of their way to ask advice from ministerial lawyers because we wanted it made clear that we should, in all circumstances, avoid any hybridity."—[Official Report, 26th May 1976; Vol. 912, c. 456.]That is very different from saying "hide any hybridity." The hon. Member for Henley is saying precisely the opposite of what the Government did. My hon. Friend the Member for Walton said that Ministers made every effort to ensure that this question would not be involved in the Bill. There was no question of deliberately hiding it, as the hon. Member for Henley now suggests.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of state made precisely the same point in the debate on 27th May. He said:drafting took full account of the need to avoid hybridity.That is very different.And it appeared to have been drafted successfully from that point of view, since it was cleared with the House authorities as not being hybrid."—.[Official Report, 27th May 1976; Vol. 912, c. 632.]In his charge, as well as draftsmen, civil servants and Ministers, the hon. Member for Henley is coming very close to suggesting that the House authorities and presumably Mr. Speaker's Department were parties to this decit.
§ Mr. Buchan
It is implicit in the hon. Gentleman's earlier charge. If he wants to clear the decks of that, he will have to withdraw the earlier one, too.
§ Mr. Heseltine
Obviously this is very important. In no way is it implicit, because the evidence put before the Clerks of the House was based on the advice from the Department of Industry, and in my view the Clerks of the House are entitled to reply on the expert evidence available to them from the only Government Department which has that information in its possession.
§ Mr. Buchan
The charge remains that the hon. Gentleman was saying that deceit was involved, that an attempt was made to hide it, and either he is accusing Mr. Speaker's Department of stupidity because those in the department did not see it or he is accusing them of duplicity because they went along with it. I hope that before the end of this debate the hon. Gentleman will recognise that he has put his foot in it enough in the past few weeks without doing it again today.
§ Mr. Heseltine
The hon. Gentleman must not put into my mouth words which I deliberately and consciously avoided using in my speech. I say to him in all good faith that I was involved in several discussions with many of the people concerned leading up to the debate on 27th February. I know exactly what was being said to the officials of the House and who was saying it. In no way were the officials of the House able to make a judgment other than a judgment on the evidence produced for them by the Department of Industry.
This is critically important. By all means let the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) attack me for the references which I made to the political input from the Department of Industry. I am happy that the hon. Gentleman should attack me on those grounds. But I beg the hon. Gentleman not to suggest that I involved the officials of the House, the Clerks of the House or Mr. Speaker, because I expressly excluded them from any responsibility.
§ Mr. Buchan
The hon. Member for Henley is now withdrawing the lesser charge in order to avoid the greater one. It is rather like a man being charged with murder and pleading guilty to housebreaking in the hope of avoiding the graver charge. I ask the hon. Gentleman outright whether he still says that there was a deliberate attempt by draftsmen, by civil servants and by Ministers to deceive this House and the people of this country. Is that his charge?
§ Mr. Heseltine
I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman has sought to raise this matter again. I shall try to put to— him—
The hon. Gentleman knows full well that he cannot put a question to me in those terms and expect me to answer "Yes" or "No" about a complicated matter of this kind. I have no wish that anyone should have any doubts about what I said, and I shall clarify it.
There was no doubt in the minds of those who gave the instructions for the drafting of this legislation that Marathon was within the broad definition of the shipbuilding industry of this country. They also knew that, if the Bill was drafted in a way which embraced the whole of the industry, Marathon would be included, and they also knew that express undertakings had been given by the Government of the day and by the Opposition of the day that it should not be included. In those circumstances, the drafting had to be such that the hybridity, which in equity we knew to exist, was in theory removed from the Bill. As it turned out, the draftsmen failed. That was what I was saying.
Those words that I have used now totally describe the position that I was expressing earlier—
§ Mr. Heseltine
I never used the word "deceit". The Secretary of State is pursuing the matter from a sedentary position. He has used the word "deceit" in an attempt to clarify the situation. But my recollection is that I never used the word.
I have explained, I hope fairly, to the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West precisely what I meant when I used the words that I did. I have explained the position fully, clearly and accurately. In those circumstances, I do not think we need pursue what in fact is a diversion from the aspects of a debate which all of us know to be of critical importance.
§ Mr. Buchan
The hon. Member for Henley knows that he used the term "hide the hybridity". He has neither the grace to withdraw nor the courage to clarify. That is the charge. The House will judge him accordingly. Two reputations have gone today, and the hon. Gentleman's is one of them.
281 I want to deal with one or two other matters. I am afraid that I have been delayed on this one. At the outset I said that I should be brief. However, it was important to spend time on this. The hon. Member for Henley spent a considerable amount of time trying to confuse the issue. I have spent some time trying to clarify it. I hope that I shall be forgiven for doing that.
When one is putting a case in one's own interest, one has to be careful. I am pleading a case in my own interest. In my constituency—I share this with my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Mabon)—there are about 8,000 workers whose livelihood is at stake in respect of the Bill. I met some of them and the management on Friday, and I have to speak in the interests of those workers. While we have been arguing technicalities today, it is the condition of life of those workers that I am concerned about, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) in respect of Scottish Aviation. It is no hyperbole to say that most people in the shipbuilding industry require, first, quick governmental policy decisions. That is the first priority of all, whether they are in favour of public ownership or not.
Secondly, the vast bulk of the workers in the shipyards want the Bill to go through as the only means of safeguarding their livelihood. I was going to spend some time on this. I was going to deal with investment and many other things, but I leave it at that point since we are today talking about technicalities.
It therefore behoves hon. Members representing areas in Britain, and particularly Scotland, which depend so much on the shipbuilding industry to consider carefully what they will do this evening.
I would address my closing remarks to the Scottish National Party. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould), in a brilliant speech, completely demolished the Opposition's case, and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), in his rejecttion of the first motion, demolished that. I therefore want to speak to my compatriots in the SNP. During the discussions on the Bill they have put forward various reasons why, in the past, they could not support it.
282 On 2nd December the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) said that he was opposed to the Bill because of the lack of an element for taking a considerable amount of decision-making to Scotland. He said:Indeed, it deals with the question of industrial democracy, which is welcome, but it does not deal with decentralisation, which is equally important. On these grounds my hon. Friends and I have no alternative but to oppose the Bill."—[Official Report, 2nd December 1975: Vol. 901, c. 1509.]That rejection was based on the lack of decentralisation involved in the Bill.
Later, on 27th May, the Leader of the Scottish National Party, the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), said:We would much prefer to be working in a Scottish Parliament … but while we are here let us try to have some concern that the democratic processes and procedures of the House should not be diminished in any way. That is why my hon. Friends and I will vote against the motion tonight."—[Official Report, 27th May, 1976; Vol. 912, c. 711.]Their second reason for opposing it was the processes and procedures in this House.
They have now come up with a third reason—the question of unemployment. They say that unless there is a guarantee in respect of employment they cannot support the Bill. On each occasion when the Scottish National Party has said that it opposes the Bill, it has given as its reasons decentralisation and the processes and procedures of this House.
On the question of decentralisation, or devolution, the Bill goes a very long way. What it does—[Interruption.] I wish that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) would make up his mind whether he is a Scot Nat or a Unionist, because—[Interruption.] For heaven's sake, he should deal with something he understands.
As far as devolution, or decentralisation, is concerned, the Bill goes very much farther than simply decentralisation to a single Scottish authority. It envisages the bringing of decision-making down to localised areas. It would bring it down to workers in yards or factories. That is what it envisages. If the Scottish National Party believes in decentralisation it must support the Bill, because decentralisation which limits itself to a single Scottish authority has 283 very little to do with decentralisation but a great deal to do with statist and centralised attitudes. I do not want a centralised Scotland. I do not want statist concepts. I want genuine decentralisation and devolution going down to the people working in the factories.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, particularly at the end of such a brief speech. Is he aware that many of the shipyards—not all of them—wish for a Scottish structure for the industry? Would he not agree that we cannot have full decentralisation in an industry of this sort if we put in a firm like British Shipbuilders whose intention is to administer and guide the activities within the shipyards?
§ Mr. Buchan
That is what I mean by saying that the Scottish National Party is a centralist party. It is not a decentralist party. It is a statist party. It says that it is sufficient to have a Scottish authority. I want to bring it down very much further than that. I want to bring power down from the management to the workers on the shop floor. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question.
It is true that Scottish National Party Members have been getting thumped by the shop stewards over the last few weeks. They know the reason for it. May I appeal to the Scottish National Party to listen to the shop stewards? The shop stewards are in favour of this proposal because of the question of unemployment.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East put a question to the Secretary of State. He wanted a guarantee that there would be no unemployment as a result of the Bill. Of course, no Government of any kind can ever guarantee that in the future there will never be any unemployment. We can certainly fight on single issues, on the question of no unemployment, but no one can give any such general guarantee.
§ Mr. Buchan
The steel workers in Scotland recognise how serious the unemployment situation would have been if there had not been nationalisation of 284 the steel industry. I wish that the hon. Member would sometimes listen to them.
If the hon. Member for Dundee, East wants to give a guarantee for support for an independent Scotland, will he guarantee that in an independent Scotland there will be no single redundancy? It is the same argument. If it is sufficient to reject the Bill because it might lead to one person unemployed, surely it would be a sufficient argument to reject an independent Scotland, if it leads to one person being unemployed.
The truth is that this measure will maximise employment. Are the 8,000 workers in my constituency who are at risk of losing their jobs entirely to be told that the reason why the SNP rejects the Bill is that it could not save one job and that, therefore, the other 7,999 have to go? I would urge the Scottish National Party to think carefully about the interests of the Scottish people. [Interruption.] If the Leader of the SNP has something to say, I wish he would say it.
§ Mr. Buchan
I am giving way now. I always give way to the Scottish National Party, as its Members should know, but they do not usually welcome it. The appeal I make is that the Scottish National Party should put the needs and interests of the Scottish people before its own genuinely held views about the need for a Scottish State. Will not SNP Members put the economic needs and livelihood and well-being of the Scottish people first? That is the only thing on which I take issue with them. My interests are the interests and the wellbeing of the Scottish people.
The workers have asked for the Bill to be supported, the shop stewards have asked for it and the STUC has asked for it. We know and they recognise the difficulties into which SNP Members put themselves through their own genuine convictions. I am asking them for once to go past that, as we have often had to do in different situations. I am an expert on the occasions when we have not carried out some of our ideology. I beg the SNP to listen to the people of Scotland and to those who have spoken on their behalf.
285 Members of the SNP said that they objected to the previous action because it was against the procedures and processes of the House.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart
The hon. Member has read only a small part of my speech if he is concentrating on what I said about processes. I referred to the decentralisation aspect and to the jobs which were lost after steel nationalisation.
§ Mr. Buchan
I agree that the hon. Gentleman referred to unemployment and decentralisation. I deliberately used his reference to concern for the democratic processes and procedures as being the reason why he and his hon. Friends would vote against the motion. He explicitly linked the two. He also used the argument put forward in the media as a reason for rejecting the Bill that night. Those were the reasons which he put forward. Only tonight has the major argument of employment come up.
The hon. Gentleman can join us on the side of the right because the processes and procedures of the House are challenged in these motions. In the first, the Opposition seek to dictate to Mr. Speaker on a single issue how he should behave—a highly dangerous precedent and one which bends the rules and procedures to which the SNP Members adhered in their previous vote. The second motion goes against Standing Order 38, the existing rules of the House.
On all these grounds I expect to see SNP Members in the Lobby with us tonight, and I shall welcome them there.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrewshire, East)
Many hon. Members still wish to speak and I shall be brief. I shall not therefore seek to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). As neighbours in Renfrew, we have opportunities nearer home to continue the argument. At least we have one thing in common—our belief in full employment.
I am glad of the opportunity to speak in this debate, not because it is concerned with nationalisation as such but because I believe it to be concerned with two other things of greater fundamental importance to the House.
286 I am opposed to the measure to nationalise the aircraft and shipbuilding industries because it will weaken the strong who today provide good and expanding employment, and it will not in so doing help the weak who may well need help but can be given help through measures already on the statute book. But that matter is scarcely relevant, except as background to this debate, which concerns the rules of conduct of this House and the rights of minorities throughout our democracy.
We make our own rules, under a continuing process that has gone on for centuries. Of course there will always be need for change from time to time, but if that change is made by a majority—in this case a narrow majority—to suit the doctrinaire determination of a Government, any Government, that can only lead to a dictatorship as objectionable as any. Rules should be changed only after due consideration of their purpose and their scope in the interests of Parliament and of democracy itself.
The procedure that some propose to abandon is one designed to protect citizens, even if minorities. In our democracy there is, happily, the probability of the majority of today becoming the minority of tomorrow. Firmly built into our democratic system are the rights of minorities and their entitlement to opportunity and freedom to express their views. At a time when millions, and many individuals known to us all—I should have thought this would appeal to Labour Members—are denied that right, we here should take double care to sustain the rights of minorities. That right is at the heart of the procedure proposed by my right hon. Friend today.
The second fundamental consideration lies in the motion concerning Mr. Speaker. It is perhaps right to put on record today the words of one of our great Speakers, Mr. Speaker Lenthall, who said, on 4th January 1642, during his Speakership:I have neither eye to see; nor tongue to speak here, but as the House is pleased to direct me".Those words are never far from the mind of he or she who occupies that Chair. But in the knowledge that the House so directs, the House itself has a great responsibility.
287 The Prime Minister said, on 22nd June, that after the vote on 27th May it had been allegedthat the Government's majority had been achieved by questionable means and since then there has been a sense of grievance."—[Official Report, 22nd June 1976; Vol. 913, c. 1361.]Yet unless the motion regarding the equality of votes, standing in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends, is passed tonight, the House, in the event of a tie, will in fact have directed Mr. Speaker, through the accustomed pattern of precedent, to support the very result conceded by the Prime Minister to have been achieved by actions far less than in the best traditions of this House. It seems a thousand pities that the Government did not themselves put down the procedure motion.
For these reasons—reasons far wider than the Bill itself—I hope that those who value this place and who seek to restore its reputation as the forum for all the people will vote with their consciences, albeit not with their party, tonight.
§ 7.47 pm.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) made a characteristically entertaining speech, bordering occasionally on the frivolous, but I doubt whether it would have entertained the workers on the shop floor in Hawker Siddeley, in my constituency. He referred particularly to the rule of law. I should have thought that the rule of law meant, first, the supremacy of Parliament and, secondly, the independence of Mr. Speaker, which is in jeopardy under the first of the motions against which I shall vote. Thirdly, those of us who read our law were always told that legal rigidity should be tempered by equity. A classical note was introduced by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who will have remembered his Aristotle in that regard.
The equity of this situation is that we are discussing the future lives and employment prospects of thousands of workers in two major industries. They would give little ear to the sort of debate that we have had about procedural niceties such as hybridity or non-hybri- 288 dity. These past few weeks have done little to enhance the reputation of this House or of democracy itself.
Not only those who work in these two great industries but the public at large will hardly have been impressed— I do not apportion blame—by the scuffles on the Floor of the House and the use of technicalities like hybridity or prima facie rulings about hybridity employed by the Opposition at a late hour, after a mammoth Committee stage, to block the public ownership of these two major industries. I want to address myself to only one of them tonight—aviation.
Above all, aviation depends on forward planning. Unfortunately, the issue of Marathon and the issue of hybridity has adversely affected the industry, because every day that we go on talking in this way and putting back the vesting day for these publicly-owned industries, our competitors are stealing a march on us. The design stage, the drawing-board stage, the injection of capital and the production of our aircraft are such that one cannot afford the time that the House has been wasting. There is a need for a national strategy for aviation.
Not long ago, during an Adjournment debate, I strenuously argued the case for accepting the HS146 project. I did so particularly on the ground of the threatened dismantling of skills and technical know-how that we have accumulated in Britain. So far at least it has not been dismantled, but the scheme, like so many things this week, has been put on ice. I argued—in terms of the market for short-haul feeder aircraft and the danger of 20,000 redundancies that may well result—that it would be unreasonable to leave that matter to a private concern whose main preoccupation is the risk that it takes in the aviation field against the profitability that it undoubtedly has in other fields. We need a whole series of new civil projects if we are to establish ourselves in the world aircraft markets during the 1980s and if we are not to allow the airframe industry to be totally destroyed. The project for a short-haul feeder aircraft may yet come about if the industry is nationalised. I cannot see it coming about without it.
The tragedy of the debate today and of what has happened over the weeks is that, day by day, new competitors are 289 entering the market and existing competitors are getting on with the job of producing aircraft, while we fall behind. We should seriously consider collaboration with other countries for large, sophisticated projects. The House should be deciding on the structure of the industry instead of discusssing technical niceties. I trust that the Minister will stand by his predecessor's original sentiments expressed about the short-haul feeder aircraft. He said:Clearly, no Government could view cancellation without serious concern if this country is to remain a leading aircraft manufacturer in the future and meet a world market which, whatever its short-term difficulties may be, is likely to continue to grow".The debate should be the launching pad —certainly the runway—for taking public control over the aviation industry, and I hope that it will open the way to a number of civil and military projects, both on a national scale and in co-operation with other European countries. Whatever our ideological commitment to or against public ownership, in favour of the motion or against it, it is essential that we eliminate uncertainty in the industry, because the plague of uncertainty is worse than any other.
In Britain we have a number of advantages in the industry. We have lower labour costs than our competitors, the necessary capacity and skills, technology and equipment, and an adequate domestic market—if one includes Europe, NATO and the Third World. They do represent the home market when one is dealing with competitors such as the United States and the Soviet Union.
In 1965 the Plowden Report favoured a majority shareholding in BAC and in the airframe and guided missile section of Hawker Siddeley. The Government have poured vast sums of money into those industries. That is why I fail to understand the speech by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), because he talked about the sum of £300 million being put into the shipbuilding industry because of nationalisation. By nationalisation one is taking over assets for the nation. In the past, all that we did was to pour money in. Since 1966, the Government have spent £300 million to support the airframe industry, £350 million on military research and development, and £800 million on purchases. We have not been taking over assets; we have 290 simply been pouring money in. I do not see how the Opposition can possibly oppose nationalisartion on the grounds that they have put forward. I do not see why we should not pursue a purchasing policy for our airlines and military projects that brings into play an integrated strategy for the various public corporations and Government Departments.
The industry is overwhelmingly dependent upon the Government and, therefore, upon taxpayers' support, and it behoves the industry to be accountable. It cannot be accountable when it is divided into a number of private sections. Public ownership for the aviation industry will provide an unprecedented opportunity, not only for project research, design and development but for the location of much of the work.
Unemployment in the North-West is marginally higher than in Scotland, and I would like to see the new corporation based in Manchester, where, at Woodford and Chadderton, we have one of the greatest collections of aircraft workers in the country.
Public ownership opens up a new area of democratic control and accountability. I was glad to see the measures described in an article by the Minister of State in last week's Labour Weekly, injecting an element of participation in decision-making to those whose futures are directly affected in the industry. Those of us who constantly meet the representatives of Hawker Siddeley, BAC, ASTMS or the AEUW are impressed by the knowledge that those people have of their industry, by their personal involvement in the industry and in the future of aerospace. They believe, as I do, that it is an exciting industry. They believe in the need for industrial democracy within that industry, enlisting the accumulated experience, knowledge and wisdom of the men who have the skills to produce the Harrier, the Concorde, the MRCA, the Nimrod and the Trident.
If the debate ends in a defeat for the Government, once again we shall see delay and procrastination, and once again see our competitors stealing the market. I issue a word of warning to the Government. Not a single new project is in the pipeline in the civil field and there is little in the military field. Here, I echo one note from the Opposition Benches, which is that we do not want 291 to see a repetition of a situation in which a Labour Government take over a derelict industry—as happened with the coal mines or the railways—and then have to bear the odium of the cost of modernisation of that industry and the cost of retrenchment, and all that that involves.
If we are to obtain the most efficient use of our resources, certainly the two main groups that have made a significant and creditable contribution to Britain's technology, export effort and military strength must be unified under public control, with public accountability. I do not believe in a "lame duck", piecemeal strategy for propping up individual concerns—the sort of thing that we have seen under various Governments in the recent past.
This is an industry which, if public money had been rewarded by the transfer of the equity in it over a period of time, would not have needed a Bill to bring it under public ownership; it would have been owned by the public already. There would have been no need for Opposition Members to table procedural motions, to make points of order, to raise voting disputes, or to bring in the question of hybridity with regard to oil rigs. There would have been no need for that to have happened, because this industry, by dint of the injection of public money up to this date, would already have been under public control.
Ten years after Plowden, public accountability in the industry, which peculiarly and unusually, relies to such a high degree on Government support, must be susceptible to one answer, and one answer only: public ownership. That proposition is based upon the realities of the industry and not purely on ideology. I do not believe that there is room in today's world for the kind of internal competition that we have seen in the industry. Rather, the future involves cooperation across State boundaries on the more sophisticated projects and a national industry in Britain.
We have taken the plunge in matters such as the MRCA. The Minister of State for Defence was able to say recently that it had been a remarkable success story in terms of collaboration so far. By the same token, we ought to take the 292 plunge in the civil field. We want to see not only the HS748 and the BAC 111 a number of possible projects that could be powered by our own Rolls-Royce M45 or RB401 engines, such as the Trident, the Trident 4 and the European A300B—again, one of the many planes that have, to use the current term, stretchable—as civil projects on which we can concentrate. I should like us to take the plunge particularly with regard to the A300B and its future derivitives far more strongly than we have done at present.
Above all, we have a negligible stake at present in the potentially lucrative market of involvement in the business of feeder line light aircraft and short-haul aircraft. This country should not have to rely on wholesale purchases of American aircraft if we are to maintain our industrial and technological independence and to preserve the airframe industry into the 1980s.
Similarly, in the military field there are great opportunities. Those who have seen the remarkable performance of the Harrier, the Strikemaster, the Nimrod and the Nimrod Mark 2 will know that with all those planes, which pay tribute to our industry, there is a future for our industry under public control. There is a whole range of military and civil aircraft which may be viable, and which are capable of being initiated by an integrated publically-owned industry.
I do not believe that we can afford the fragmentation of our industry and outmoded industrial structures for one day longer. That is why I repeat that it is particularly unfortunate that we should be wasting yet another day on a procedural wrangle about two industries that are so vital to the well-being of this nation—industries, particularly the aviation industry, in which our British technological "know-how" gives us an advantage over the developing countries which so often compete through lower labour costs in so many other fields. To get into a situation in which we have to import our aeroplanes will not only undermine the excellent export record that we have seen —subsidised always by Public money, year after year; a factor that is always overlooked by the Opposition—it will also mean a vast burden on our balance of payments.
293 Every new project includes not only the work force of the project itself but the work force for the spares and the equipment for a decade following it. That means that we should support our own projects and have confidence in our own industry, in projects such as the maritime Harrier, for example, because that in turn creates the basis for exports. I see no reason whatsoever why we should be going in for, say, the derivatives of Boeings rather than our own planes. I want to see positive policies in the British aviation industry in support of these projects, and in support of those that are produced by combined European technology. Only with a national industry that is accountable to this nation as a whole, with industrial relations and a democratic structure within it enlisting the support and enthusiasm that undoubtedly exists on the shop floor, can we take this prerequisite step. Every day or month of uncertainty favours our potential competitors and is certainly favouring our real competitors in a number of fields.
Today the Opposition have done no service whatsoever to British industry, public or private, by putting down these motions, nor, indeed, have they done any service to the House or to the people of Britain, merely by underlying the uncertainty that surrounds these industries or by their veiled threats of unscrambling future publicly-owned concerns. I wonder whether there is any possibility that, as with steel, coal, atomic energy, rail transport, or any such industries, the Opposition really intend to unscramble a nationalised aircraft industry. They know that it is not on.
What the Opposition are doing at present by these procedural motions, by introducing diversionary tactics at a particularly late stage in the debate, is to delay the vesting dates for two major industries. These debates may be very entertaining to Opposition Members, but I am sure that if the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) were to accept my invitation to meet shop stewards and workers on the shop floor at Hawker Siddeley at Chadderton, he would not find it so amusing. He would not find it so amusing to know that their jobs are in jeopardy and to know that their livelihoods depend on that industry and the steps that the present Government intend 294 to take. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will regard this as a serious and not a frivolous debate.
§ Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)
The point that the hon. Gentleman is trying to make is that it is only through nationalisation that these people have any future livelihood. That is the basic tenet of the Bill, and the whole proposition we totally reject. It happens to be untrue. It is also untrue for those many people, already referred to by the Secretary of State, at present working in the shipyards, who are now facing the loss of their jobs following nationalisation.
§ Mr. Rose
The fundamental fallacy of the hon. Gentleman's argument—had he been listening to my argument a little earlier, lie would realise this—is that it is only by dint of public money for the airframe industry and in research, particularly military research, and by public money going into the purchase of those planes, that that industry is viable in the first place. If public money is propping up an industry and the equity remains in private hands, there is not the public accountability that we believe necessary, and it is only by—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman asked a question. At least he should do me the courtesy of listening to the reply. If it is only by the injection of that money that the industry is made viable, there are those who believe—the hon. Gentleman is not among them—that public money involves public accountability, and accountability to those who provide the money rather than to those who reap the dividends.
Hawker Siddeley was unable to go ahead with a project because it felt there was greater profitability in other sections of the industry. It is only because of public money being invested that it will be possible to go ahead with the HS146 project—if we ever do. It is only public money that makes such projects possible. It is for that reason that public ownership, and public ownership alone, is the solution to the problem.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
Re-runs of events are rarely as exciting as the first showing. This debate is no exception. Nevertheless, the discussions are equally as important as they were on many other occasions when the Bill has been discussed.
295 My party—the matter has been raised by hon. Members—does not take an ideological standpoint on nationalisation. Its policy is to subject past examples of nationalisation to critical study. That study has shown that there have been many weaknesses which have hit Scotland particularly adversely.
The criterion we adopt is what is best for Scotland and for the people of Scotland. In that I do not dissent from the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), although it is only on the very odd occasion that I do not dissent from him.
I was rather shocked by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who at the end of his speech let the Conservative cat out of the bag. He indicated that the Conservative Party was quite prepared to lose jobs swiftly, if I may take up the construction put on it by the Government Front Bench. Certainly that is an attitude that I do not share, nor does the Scottish National Party.
It is all very well forecasting and saying that in theory jobs should be transferred from the industries in difficulty into newer and other industries, but if we do not have those jobs where are the men to go? That is one of the very great problems confronting us.
The only part of the Secretary of State's speech that was optimistic was that concerning Scottish Aviation. He made reference to the need for Scottish Aviation to have its own separate identity and, one would hope, along with that to have a great deal of autonomy. Certainly the Secretary of State has referred to a high degree of local autonomy. But that is a phrase which begs some questioning, because what is a high degree and what is local autonomy? There can be autonomy and non-autonomy. It is difficult to draw the line.
I hope that, in relation to Scottish Aviation, it will be the profit-making part of whatever organisation it is—the Laird Group or British Aerospace—and that it will have the maximum autonomy.
The Government have an obligation to show, in their dealings with the Bill and with the two industries—particularly in relation to shipbuilding—that when they propose nationalisation they are not 296 simply putting this forward as part of a Socialist litany which they have to carry out without regard to the consequences.
There is no doubt that the shipbuilding industry in Scotland, as in other parts of the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, is in very great difficulty. That difficulty is due to over-capacity. It is an over-capacity which, unfortunately, in some ways has not been engendered from within Scotland. The industry there has been declining over the years and has not contributed to the world-wide over-capacity which has developed. Nevertheless, that being said, the Government are under the obligation to show that, when they talk about this measure being useful in regard to jobs, it is not an empty promise.
It is very significant that, if I were to sum up many of the arguments against the Morrisonian type of nationalisation imposed by Labour Governments over the last 30 years and criticise it, I could not do better than to follow the arguments adopted in Early-Day Motion No. 475, headedSteel closures and redundancies in Scotland".It is signed so far by 13 Scottish Labour Members. They have doubts about the effects of nationalisation.
Since some hon. Gentlemen on the Government side have obviously taken very great trouble over its draftsmanship, it is worth while reading the motion and picking out the kernel of it. It says:That this House is seriously alarmed by reports of impending large-scale redundancy and closures of steelworks within the steel industry in Scotland; rejects these decisions by the British Steel Corporation as arbitrary and socially unjust and calls for a moratorium upon them; recognising the steady decline in the proportion of steel production by Scottish plants, calls upon the Government to give guarantees that Scottish steel production will be sustained, and that in the meantime no orders should be transferred to steelworks outwith Scotland; calls for a complete renewal and modernisation of the industry in Scotland with a planned phasing-out of obsolete plant and the creation of jobs for those workers who are displaced; urges that during the temporary fall in the demand for steel the main burden should not fall on Scottish steelworks; considers that there can be no good reason for the importation of large quantities of steel from Common Market and other countries; and calls upon the Government to find urgent solutions to this extremely serious problem which is causing anxiety not only for 297 steel workers and their families but for everyone in Scotland.I think that many other hon. Members would agree with that.
§ Mr. Wilson
I notice a "Hear, hear" from the hon. Member.
I am particularly interested in the call for steel production to be sustained, and thatin the meantime no orders should be transferred to steelworks outwith Scotland.It suggests that the British Steel Corporation is steering orders away from Scottish steelworks, if my reading of the motion is correct.
This is one of the main objections which my party has to nationalisation. It will involve monolithic operations where control over industries passes out of our economy, and not merely out of the country but away from people.
I know very well that the Government say there will be no monolithic corporation dealing with shipbuilding and that it will be a form of holding company which will be engaged in the guidance of the industry. But there is very little in the Bill to indicate that decentralisation will occur on that scale. There is to be a Government amendment, but that amendment is deplorably weak.
Suppose that the Organising Committee says that there will be decentralisation. Suppose that this is agreed and that the board of British Shipbuilders says that it will rubber-stamp the plans of the Organising Committee because the same people are involved. At the end of the day, five years later—after, say, the Conservatives have replaced a number of the gentlemen on the board of British Shipbuilders—what guarantee will there be that the normal processes of centralisation will not occur? That is a fault of the Bill. I shall not go into that any further, but it is an essential part of the type of nationalisation that we have had in the past.
§ Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy)
If the hon. Member would prefer that the shipbuilding industry should remain in private hands, to whom would he then appeal? If the industry is in public ownership, at least this House and its Members have somewhere to which to appeal in order to get something done. That is my first 298 point. Secondly, does the hon. Gentleman repudiate what the Vice-Chairman of the Scottish National Party is reported as saying—that she supports the nationalisation of the shipbuilding and aircraft industries? Thirdly, is the hon. Gentleman aware that when it was stated yesterday that the Government were expected to win the vote in the Division tonight, the shares of Robb Caledon —a shipyard in the hon. Gentleman's constituency—went up?
§ Mr. Wilson
The compensation paid to Robb Caledon is generous, but the Government have been mean in respect of some other companies which have been nationalised. It is because of the way in which the Government have set their compensation terms. If the hon. Gentleman dislikes them, he should take up the matter with his own Front Bench.
I would much have preferred the Government to take the compensation money paid over to the shareholders and to allow them to go out with their pockets jingling with silver, and put it into an investment fund available to the yards which were willing to take Government investment by way of equity shareholding. That is the best way of tackling it, but, unfortunately, we are not faced with that choice.
§ Mr. Tebbit
When the hon. Gentle. man is thinking about the structure of the industry, which means so much to him, I hope he will consider what has happened in other industries, not least the way in which British European Airways, British South American Airways and British Overseas Airways Corporation have inevitably coalesced under all Governments in one centralised, London-based organisation.
§ Mr. Wilson
If I may interrupt this aviation debate, special fears exist in Scotland about the organisation of these industries. I had a meeting yesterday with shop stewards representing all the yards, and I expected to be given a rough going-over on the question of the vote. The shop stewards pressed us to vote in favour of the Bill, but their main worry was that under nationalisation they would lose their jobs. They feared this because of leaks of speeches made by the Secretary of State.
299 Will the Government take into account the jobs in this industry and give assurances to the workers that by engaging in the proposed development under the Bill they will not lose their jobs? The fears are there, and they have to be allayed in a way which the workers find credible. With unemployment as it is in Scotland, it would be a tragedy were any additional male unemployment to be created.
If we are to judge the Government's sincerity in the devolution programme or in programmes about structures and jobs, we come back at the end of the day to Scottish control. I agree with the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West that it is necessary to have decentralisation of the yards, but if we are to have a body to look after the industry in Scotland it must be a Scottish body and not a British body. Many shipyards have brought that to my attention. My own yard has sent telegrams to the Secretary of State and the Minister of State saying that it wants a Scottish structure.
§ Mr. Buchan
I accept that the shipyards are pressing on unemployment, but do they not also make the simple point—as did the Scottish TUC—that they want the Scottish National Party to vote for the Bill?
§ Mr. Wilson
All sorts of people make representataions to us. We have to judge the issues on what is said and the intentions. We have a Bill which on the face of it is a centralising Bill. It may be intended to be decentralising, but on the face of it there is no Scottish control. We have to judge in the light of the speeches made and the hard facts about shipbuilding world-wide. The workers are seriously worried about their future in a nationalised industry. If the Government wish to persuade anyone, they have to answer those questions in a hard-and-fast fashion.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
The right to petition the House is a very ancient right, but that right is empty unless the petitions can at least be examined. In purely public affairs the right to petition has become almost a farce, because it has been overtaken by the expression of views, particularly at Ques- 300 tion Time. Question Time has become, for the person or group who would petition on purely public and disinterested matters, the way in which the citizens has his grievances considered. The right of petition, going back into the very origins of Parliament, remains as the citizens' privilege where there is a private interest, but the right of petition without having the petition examined is no right at all.
On 26th May Mr. Speaker declared that there was a prima facie right of petition and for that petition to be examined and probably heard. That right at that moment had become vested in the petitioners and potential petitioners. That is a vested right, which is equivalent to a right of audience in a court, almost to a right of property. That right was sought to be taken away by the motion passed by the House 30 hours after Mr. Speaker had given it. The petitioners and potential petitioners had their foot already in the door, but, by a simple resolution of the House, the door was sought to be slammed in their faces.
Many of the speeches made in the debate on the following day, if I may say so with diffidence and humility, struck me as splendid rotund oratory, but is rather beside the point. With diffidence, I refer to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), who, in a tremendous discharge of oratory, spoke of the supremacy of Parliament. I warned him that I should refer to him. He said:Though Parliament is constitutionally sovereign as a law making body, its supremacy in our unwritten constitution does not stand alone. Dicey, in his monumental work, defined the two elements in our constitution that he referred to as its pillars—namely, the sovereignty of Parliament and the rule of law. Strike away one, and the other cannot maintain unaided the fabric of a democratic constitution…. The exercise of the sovereignty of Parliament is dependent on a respect for the fundamental rights."—[Official Report, 27th May 1976; Vol. 912, c. 701.]Parliament is not involved, neither is its sovereignty involved, in the fact that on 27th May this resolution of the House of Commons was passed, which is a totally different matter. If a resolution of the House of Commons is to take away a vested right of the citizen it is a very strong matter indeed, if it is, in fact, legal. Statutes can do anything. They can take away any right, vested or not, with or 301 without compensation, but if a mere resolution of this House can do it as well, under the guise of a purely procedural matter, because the House is master of its own procedure and can do anything it likes procedurally, this is jump in thought, and I ask the Leader of the House to consider whether it is right.
It is true that this is a procedural matter, but it is more than that. It is a matter that takes away a right already vested, and to that extent it is, in a sense, illegal, because only Parliament, by statute, can do that.
What can the petitioner do about it? The truth is that there is very little, if anything that can be done. But because there is no remedy, that does not mean to say that in the theory of law and constitution, there is no right. The Government should consider very carefully whether the removal of a vested right by a simple resolution of one House of Parliament is not, in a very deep sense, unconstitutional. If the petitioners went to the High Court, sought a mandamus, and ordered this House to hear and examine the petition, they would be rejected, and rightly so. The judge would say that this was a discretionary remedy and that he did not want to get involved in disputes between the Houses of Parliament and the courts, which exacerbated the history of these two great institutions between the 18th and 19th centuries.
The fact that there is no remedy is surely no reason for proceeding roughshod over what is a right. When my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East refers to the sovereignty of Parliament, he is right in saying that Parliament should use its powers sparingly, and with regard. But how much more should one House of Parliament, by a mere procedural resolution, use these powers sparingly and with regard to a vested right?
I must join with my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) in this confusion of thought, because he said, on that occasion on 27th May, about my right hon. and learned Friend's speech:The House must clearly understand the purpose of hybridity. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), put it clearly in his speech, we must recognise there is no limit to the power of this House."—[Official Report, 27th May 1976; Vol. 912, c. 743.]302 Of course there is a limit to the power of this House. When I read that sentence, I thought that there was a misprint or that a negative had been inserted which should not have been there. It is not that there is no limit to the power of the House; the whole of my contention is that where a vested right is concerned, there is a limit. It may be a limit of constitutional propriety, or even a limit of legality. The fact that Parliament itself is sovereign and has no limits on its decisions is nothing to do with the powers of the House of Commons, which are purely and merely procedural in terms of its resolutions.
If the House of Commons takes away, by mere resolution, a vested right to have a petition examined by what Hatsell called "the examiners", and then tried and heard by the what Hatsell called "tryers", there are two processes.
This is to my mind a very sad occasion. I shall not develop it further than to plead with the Leader of the House to wonder whether he has been constitutionally properly advised and whether, if he must proceed on the removal of private rights from outside the House, he should not have done it by statute, if, indeed, it should have been done at all. After all, these are rights that are very ancient.
As we proceed in our unwritten constitution we do so gradually and sometimes imperceptibly by the whittling away of rights, by what seem to be small precedents created by the urgency of the case—an argument pressed upon us repeatedly by the Government both today and a month ago. This is an urgent case. It is only a lately-discovered right. The right was in existence for only 30 hours. The argument goes that since it is only a small baby we should smother it. That is just the sort of argument that will, in the end, smother all the big rights and all the minority rights, and which will, particularly in the guise of a mere procedural resolution—because procedures are in a curious and unique way tied up with substantive rights—smother them so that those outside whom we seek to represent and whose grievances we seek to present will in the end find no redress available to them at all.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Garscadden)
I have listened with interest 303 to the classicists dealing with individual rights. I believe, however, that my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) has advanced the most logical, clear and concise case yet put forward. I always enjoy listening to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke). If I were to go back into history as they did, however, I would refer to the Phoenicians. They were the people who turned hieroglyphics into the alphabet.
It was the Greeks who turned the alphabet into the law. They enunciated the principle of the right of the citizen to appear before the Assembly. It was applied to a constituency about the size of Derby. That right was implemented on the lines of the Select Committee principle and, to avoid elitism and discrimination between the aristocrats, the peasants and the corn pickers, the members were selected by lot. The number so selected was 511. That principle has come down through history in the right of citizens to appear before the Assembly.
I listened with interest to what I might call the town crier from Tiverton, who presented the petitions. I do not know whether they were induced by demand or by knowledge of the law. The first petition came from Mr. I. A. D. Mann, a director of Yarrow's. It appears, therefore, that the town crier has a long voice which reaches to many people whom I know personally but who never sought my assistance over the exercise of their so-called rights. I am not denying their rights; I am trying to explain the delegation of them that the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) has in mind.
On 27th June there appeared on the Notice Paper a motion setting out the details of a Select Committee as envisaged by the hon. Member for Tiverton. It sought to provide that the Select Committee should consist of seven members and that three should be the quorum. That is the sort of delegation of rights that the hon. Member had in mind. These, then, were to be the code breakers. The hon. Member be- 304 lieves that three members should be able to decide on the degree of hybridity. They are to be his chosen instrument. I find it difficult to analyse the value of that exercise. This whole decision would be delegated to just three members. Who would head the three? What would be their qualifications for delving into this cryptic matter of hybridity? I personally would find it difficult to hand over responsibility for that decision to three members of a Select Committee.
"Erskine May," the great "bible" of this place, is a historical conversation between hon. Members. There are often revisions. It is not a static list of rules and guidance. The Greek word "nomos" may mean law or, when narrowly defined, can just as commonly mean custom or institution. "Erskine May" is in this category. It lays down guidelines for the House on procedures, custom and practice.
In all the time that I was a shop steward, I never read "Erskine May". I knew about many things, but I never knew about "Erskine May" and its effect on the House. I am suggesting that it is a conversation piece and is subject to adjustment.
The idea in the first motion that Mr. Speaker should be instructed how to vote is an amazing slight on the culture and nationhood we have built up in this country. I remember arguments in the past about whether hon. Members should be instructed how to vote by their constituency parties or whether they were delegates. A motion telling Mr. Speaker how to vote at the end of a debate goes far beyond that.
I look at the face of Japanese shipbuilding and compare it with the face of our own industry. I see the need for nationalisation and a strategy for shipbuilding. A great Japanese admiral once cried "Toro, toro, toro", which, for hon. Members who do not know Japanese, means "We have taken the enemy by surprise". After 58 sittings of the Committee on the Bill, the hon. Member for Tiverton took the House by surprise. That is the only reason for this vote tonight.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker (St. Marylebone)
It is exceedingly difficult to have a clear-cut debate on clear-cut issues in this 305 House. Various threads have wandered through our proceedings today, and at times I felt that I was in the Scottish Grand Committee. Only the most insensitive English Member would fail to appreciate that the way in which the SNP votes tonight is of more than passing interest to the Government.
Basically, this debate and the most interesting speeches have been on procedural matters and their constitutional implications. One of the most interesting speeches was made by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould), who made a much better constitutional case for the Government than anybody on the Front Bench has thought of so far. The hon. Member is clearly trying for the Tiverton crown.
No one would have believed an hon. Member who said at the beginning of this Session that by the summer we would be debating such arcane constitutional measures as reversing Mr. Speaker's decision within 24 hours of its being made, and re-running debates and instructing Mr. Speaker how to vote on a particular matter. Yet I suspect that we shall have many more debates like this in the next two years. The authority of the Government, as shown in the majority they can command, is tentative. Much depends on the sick list, and whether, for instance, someone had a heart attack yesterday, or, when those on the Government Benches are divided, as they were last night, on their courageous capacity to abstain. But whatever it depends upon, it is clear that the constitutional matters that have arisen in the course of the past six to eight weeks in the House will come up again and again in the next two years.
There is one simple and clear lesson that we all have to learn, and especially the Government—namely, that when they do not have the absolute authority that a clear majority gives they should not act as if they had it. The mess that we have got into with this Bill, and with the whole business of the House, is due to the appalling intransigence of the Leader of the House. The right hon. Gentleman acted as if he had had a complete and utter majority and the power to push through business. He must appreciate that one cannot bully the House to get business through as he has tried to do in the past six to eight weeks.
306 As a result of the right hon. Gentleman's attitude, progress on the Bill has been delayed. The Prime Minister, the Leader of the House, and the Secretary of State for Industry in his opening speech this afternoon, have chosen as the nub of their argument—this applies to nearly every Labour Member who has spoken, including the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Small)—that the Bill is so important that it must go through. It could have enjoyed much more progress if the motion on 27th May had been passed. By this stage the examiners could have examined the petitions and returned to the House; indeed, we may well have been half way through Report. But blame is being thrown around as to who is delaying the procedures and progress of the House. The truth is that the Leader of the House has to accept a great deal of the blame.
I wish to concentrate on what I consider to be the main constitutional issues involved. The House of Commons, as Mr. Speaker has said, and as Labour Members have frequently said, is in charge of its own procedure. We are the masters here. That has been the position that has enshrined the development of the House for the past 200 or 300 years. The rules of the House become even more important in the absence of a written constitution. However, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) said, we are faced with difficulties when the rules of the House are used, as they were on 27th May, to deprive certain citizens of their right to objection. I believe that we have to question—and I approach these matters of procedure in an innately conservative way—the absolute supremacy of the House over the control of its own business. That supremacy means, in terms, the supremacy of the Whips' Office.
When the Leader of the House speaks of parliamentary sovereignty—it is different when he speaks from behind the Dispatch Box, as opposed to below the Gangway—he means the sovereignty of the Whips' Office. Is that entirely satisfactory in the situation that we are moving into, with a large number of minority parties in the House?
307 A small example is the strange business motion that appeared on the Order Paper last Thursday, which the Government wisely saw fit not to move. The effect of the motion was to introduce a guillotine to fall half-way through a Bill. It sought to deem that a Bill should have a Third Reading at 7 o'clock. It was in order. It would have been in order for the House to pass it, but I ask the House to consider the reductio ad absurdum of that motion.
I understand from the Clerks that the Government could table a motion to the effect that all Bills, whether they be in Committee or on Report, should be deemed to have a Third Reading at 10 o'clock this Thursday night. Members may say that it would be absurd for any Government to do that, but would they have said a year ago that it would have been absurd to think that the House of Commons would change its rules overnight, reversing Mr. Speaker's decision, instructing Mr. Speaker how to vote, and taking away the rights of a petitioner to petition? All I am saying is that in this situation we are moving in uncharted constitutional seas. It is my growing conviction in constitutional matters that a majority of one is not enough.
I ask Labour Members to reflect on the consequences of this matter when the political wheel, sooner or later, turns and when they one day find themselves on the Opposition Benches. Let them consider what weapons they will be able to lay their hands on against a Government determined to carry out procedures to the limit to get their way. The only option open to an Opposition in those circumstances is that of obstruction. That is why the reaction of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in the last few weeks has been correct. Indeed, the Prime Minister had to recognise this in offering the olive branch.
I believe that this House can proceed —I would go so far as to say can survive —only if the Government of the day behave in a way that accords with the general convention built up by the House quite outside Standing Orders. Those conventions are derived from precedent; their foundations are laid in forbearance and maintained by common sense. There is a network of convention that guides us all. It is fragile, and in the last few 308 weeks it has been tested, it has taken the strain, and in certain respects has snapped and broken.
If the normality of parliamentary procedure and Government is to be resumed in this country, the Government must recognise that the nexus of convention must be re-established. Without it, the only policy for the Opposition is that of obstruction.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)
Let me begin by making two assertions which I hope will not be challenged. First, there is no Standing Order which specifically deals with a situation of a prima facie hybrid Bill after the beginning of a debate on Second Reading. Secondly, there are no precedents for the question of hybridity being raised after the beginning of Second Reading. Those two assertions cannot be denied on either side of the House. Nor can it be denied, as the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Baker) said, that we are in uncharted waters. Therefore, assertions involving the Government bending the rules are ill founded.
The question of possible hybridity was raised by the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) on 25th May, and Mr. Speaker ruled on 26th May that in his opinion the Bill was prima facie hybrid. The question of the extent and seriousness of the hybridity was raised, as was the question whether some authority should be designated to deal with such matters. Indeed, Mr. Speaker made it clear in reply to my point of order that he had not given any instructions about what should happen, and, indeed, had given no instructions that the Bill should be referred to the examiners. Therefore, the question of the correct and orderly way in which to proceed was, and is, a matter for the House to decide.
The hon. Member for Tiverton turned his attention to the report of the Select Committee on Hybrid Bills and the Resolution of the House of 14th February 1949. He attempted to argue that various petitions presented against the Bill could be heard by the House as a whole. Mr. Speaker ruled that the hon. Member was trying to build a house on sand and that the Committee was solely concerned with procedure within Select Committees once Standing Order 32 had been complied with.
309 The suggestion has been made that Standing Order 38 should apply to this situation, notwithstanding that we have had Second Reading and the rest. I do not want to spend long on this and I merely reiterate that Standing Order 38 deals only with the situation before Second Reading and is clearly not designed to deal with any other situation. I repeat what I said in a previous debate: that the fact that the Standing Order deals only with the pre-Second Reading situation shows that our predecessors were either very lacking in foresight or intended that the question of hybridity should be raised and dealt with only before the Second Reading started.
For the sake of argument, however, let us suppose that Standing Order 38 were to apply to this situation, all those arguments notwithstanding. What would happen? The Bill would have to be referred to the examiners of petitions for Private Bills, and they would say whether or not in their opinion the Standing Orders were applicable. The examiners might or might not decide that they were applicable. If they so decided, they would so report; the Bill would go on to a Select Committee, and the Second Reading would have taken place.
The proposal before the House today, however, is very different from that because it proposes quite simply that we as a House should submit the Bill to a Select Committee. In other words, it proposes to short-circuit the whole procedure laid down in Standing Order 38. It cannot in any meaningful sense be held to be an application of Standing Order 38 to this situation. Yet this is the same Opposition as were charging the Government with the foulest of crimes for proposing to suspend Standing Orders in relation to the business on this Bill. In other words, the Opposition are proposing that we should remove all these stages laid down in Standing Order 38 and, above all, remove the vital matter of the examiners deciding whether the Bill was hybrid. They are either misinterpreting Mr. Speaker's ruling by, in effect, seeking to delete the words "prima facie" in front of "hybrid" or they are saying that it is for the House to decide the question of hybridity and that if the answer is "Yes, the Bill is hybrid", it should go to the Select Committee.
The Opposition are seeking to remove the judgment of the examiners and replace 310 it by the judgment of this House. Once they have done that, they have conceded much of the argument which we have been putting forward from this side of the House. They have said that Standing Order 38 is not applicable, which is the point we have been arguing all along. I submit that it is for this House to decide, not only in the light of the narrow technicalities of the issue involved but also in the light of the Bill as it has already been exhaustively debated, as we well know, and also in the light of the bad effects that continuing uncertainty will have on the industries involved.
None of those factors applied before Second Reading, when the question of hybridity should have been raised. There has been ample opportunity for the facts to come to light. By clear implications, the rules put a time limit upon when such matters can be raised.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) has attempted to refute that argument and to put the full onus of responsibility on Ministers for raising matters of fact about hybridity before Second Reading. It has even been suggested that Ministers attempted to hide the fact; that was the word used by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine).
The relevant fact about the vessel was known—though evidently not by Ministers, because if they knew it they honestly believed that it did not make it a vessel. However, it was known by people who were and are affected by the Bill. Yet we are now asked to show great sympathy and compassion for supposely aggrieved parties.
Leaving that on one side, we have a new piece of evidence which must be dealt with by the House, not the examiners or the Select Committee, because the Select Committee's job is not to determine the question of hybridity. It is to deal with petitions against a Bill.
I do not want to go over the arguments about whether the three-legged construction in question is or is not a ship within the meaning of the Bill. Even if we concede that the vessel is indeed a ship and that the Bill is therefore hybrid, it is still up to us to decide what to do with the Bill. We must weigh the seriousness or otherwise of the hybridity against all the other factors which I have mentioned.
311 It is the judgment of this side of the House, and my own judgment, that the argument about the vessel is so marginal and small, considered in its full context, that the best way for us to proceed is to go ahead with the remaining stages of the Bill, making any amendment necessary to remove any possible doubt on the question of hybridity. It is a matter of judgment, of balancing the rights of citizens, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is so concerned to protect.
There are many citizens involved, including the many thousands who have their livelihoods in the industries concerned. It is a question of balancing those interests against the interests of certain companies whose basic objections to the Bill are not in substance changed one jot or tittle by the discovery of the building of the "Key Victoria" on the date in question in that yard.
What we see, in effect, is an attempt to enable certain interests to have a second bite at the cherry. The issue has now been exhaustively debated in two debates and on two points of order and two rulings by Mr. Speaker. Ingenuity in the defence of vested interests has been stretched to the bounds of credulity and beyond the bounds of the rules of the House.
The Opposition have made at least three suggestions about what we should do, suggestions which are contradictory and yet, with total illogical abandon, have been successively supported by the same right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. At least their third suggestion, which we are now considering, concedes that it is here that we should decide the question of hybridity and what to do, whether or not the Bill is hybrid. The Opposition have come half way. Perhaps it is too much to ask that they should follow the dictates of logic and go the whole way by helping us get on with the job of putting the Bill on the statute book.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
I have been sitting in the House all day for one purpose only—to make a dramatic appeal to Scottish National Party Members to vote for our motion. Regrettably, when I am called to speak they are outside, deciding how they will vote, without hearing my arguments.
312 As someone who worked in the Clyde shipyards all his working life, who represents a shipbuilding area and who is still the adviser to the Shipbuilders and Repairers National Association, I must say that shipbuilding is in a serious situation. But the Government have made no case that nationalisation will solve its problems. All our experience of nationalisation is that it does not make job security any better for the workers, that it adds extra burdens to the taxpayer, and that it makes life more difficult for the consumer.
The Government advanced reasons, as they said, to remove uncertainty. I agree that uncertainty damaged the industry, but the main damage was done by the two years of uncertainty caused by the Government proceeding with nationalisation proposals. The Government say that nationalisation is needed so that they may draw up a plan to reorganise the industry. The Minister knows that that is not true. The shipbuilding industry approached the Government two years ago and suggested that there should be discussions about rationalisation and planning, if that was needed. That came to nothing.
The Government say that nationalisation is needed to safeguard jobs. Coming from Glasgow, as you do, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will know what hollow nonsense that is. Nationalisation does not secure jobs. The workers of Greenwell's are a living testimony to what nationalisation means to the first shiprepairing yard to be nationalised.
The Government say that they want to introduce nationalisation so that there may be investment to improve the situation. From where will the cash come? The Government have announced, and are discussing, spending cuts amounting to £1,000 million. As the Government are even cutting down on the employment of home helps and school-crossing patrol attendants, from where will come the hundreds of millions of pounds that are needed if the Government go ahead with their plans to nationalise these industries?
This debate is about the battle for the soul of the Scottish National Party. The Secretary of State endeavours, with his silvery tongue, to persuade the members of the Scottish National Party that nationalisation will be good for Scotland. 313 The Scottish National Party has asked for three assurances. It has asked for a better assurance on jobs in Scotland. I hope the Secretary of State will be frank about that. The Secretary of State for Industry made a broadcast recently, during which he stated that some yards would certainly close after nationalisation. I hope that the Secretary of State will be frank and admit the truth of what the Secretary of State for Industry said —that yards will close. If he intends to seek the votes of the members of the Scottish National Party by pretending that the English or Welsh yards will close, but the Scottish yards will not, I hope that he will say so. I hope that the Scottish National Party will not be fooled by that kind of talk from the silvery tongue of the Secretary of State.
The Government admitted that yards will close. But they say that the Scottish yards will remain open, it must mean that they are deliberately discriminating against the English and Welsh yards. Bearing in mind that every shipyard except Vosper Thornycroft Limited is in a development district, how will it be legally possible to discriminate, so as to obtain the votes of the Scottish National Party, by promising preference for Scotland? That is against not only the Common Market objectives—which in any case I deplore—but those of the OECD.
I should like the Minister to say something more about the centralisation problem. I was astonished when he spoke about the local autonomy of Scottish aviation and gave Lord Beswick as the source of his assurance. Lord Beswick is the last person whom he should try to use as a means of giving assurances to the Scottish people or the Scottish National Party. Lord Beswick was the hatchet man who carved up the Scottish steel industry after nationalisation. The Minister may look to Lord Beswick for an assurance in relation to securing jobs in Scotland, but he should look elsewhere. If the Government say that the nationalisation of the shipbuilding and aircraft industries will not be centralised —that they will favour Scotland, and that there will be autonomy in Scotland—why do they not start off with the industries that are nationalised at present? Why not start off with steel, in respect of which there is a concentration of administration in Grosvenor Square, 314 London, instead of in Scotland, where it used to be? Why do not the Government try to make the changes that they now promise for aviation and shipbuilding, in the industries that are nationalised at present?
I believe that this is essentially a question of priorities, and I hope that the nationalists will remember that. What the Government propose is to take over the remaining part of an industry that is already half nationalised. In Britain, we have half our shipbuilding industry nationalised already. It has used up almost all the Government grants that have gone to shipbuilding, it has generated almost all the losses involved in shipbuilding, and it has created most of the problems involved in the industry. Now the Government propose to nationalise the other half, most of which makes profits, is efficient and is competing with the world.
If there is to be any question of the Scottish National Party saying that £300 million should be given to shareholders so that this industry can change hands, instead of the money being used, as it should, to provide jobs in Scotland either by cutting taxes or by making jobs more secure, I am afraid that the nationalists will be condemned.
Tonight will be a real test of the SNP. For the first time, it is being attacked vigorously for supporting a policy that is unpopular with the Scottish TUC. I believe that this is why we have seen so much scurrying around. I have enough respect for the honour of some members of the SNP to know that they will fight hard for the best interests of Scotland and will not be intimidated by the pressurising that we have had from the Government, the Labour Party, the Scottish TUC, the extreme Left and the Scottish Communist Party.
Let us do what is right for the country, which is to stop squandering money on nationalisation and to make sure that our country can provide job security in the long term. The one fact that stands out a mile is that there will be no job security with nationalisation—there never is. Nationalisation will simply mean more and more money going down the drain and the destruction of more and more jobs in both the private and the public sectors.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)
I only wish that more of the hon. Members who belong to the Scottish National Party had heard that appeal to common sense and to experience by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor).
This debate is about the rule of law. The story of this evening really starts at the point where Mr. Speaker himself pronounced that there was a prima facie case of hybridity in connection with the aircraft and shipbuilding nationalisation Bill.
I admired very much the speeches by the hon. Members for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) and Luton, East (Mr. Clemiston), both of whom, within their own frame of reference, sought to argue away the importance of hybridity. I thought that they made a very good fist of what they were trying to do. They were really saying what is represented by the classic remark, "It is only a little pregnancy".
The fact is that Mr. Speaker found this Bill to be prima facie hybrid. Now the equality before the law which this House puts at the centre of the rule of law is violated by hybridity. Hybridity means that identical people or organisations are treated differently by a single piece of legislation. Because of that violation of the rule of law, we have a special procedure where a Bill is identified as prima facie hybrid and is so found by the examiners.
If the normal procedure had been followed, a Select Committee would have been free, during these past few weeks, to hear the petitioners, many of whom, it appears, would have been directors, managers, and perhaps investors, but others of whom would have been members of trade unions and others, perhaps, craftsmen and wage earners who do not happen to be members of trade unions but whose voices are none the less important. Having heard the evidence, the Select Committee perhaps would have been persuaded to use the powers that such a Committee has to amend the Bill.
We cannot tell what would have happened. We cannot tell whether the Committee would have amended the Bill. We cannot tell what the reaction of the Government and this House would have been 316 if it had amended the Bill. However, we cannot ignore the possibility that hon. Members from both sides of the House would have been persuaded that some of the firms included in this legislation should not have been so included and that perhaps, for all we know, some firms not included in this legislation should have been included.
We are told by the Government that there are two reasons against allowing the normal procedure of a Select Committee to deal with a Hybrid Bill. To do them justice, I do not think that the Government are arguing that a finding of a prima facie hybridity can come too late in the proceedings for the Select Committee to be the normal reaction. They are saying that it is very inconvenient, but they are not saying that it is unconstitutional for a finding of prima facie hybridity, coming after Second Reading, to lead to the normal examiner and Select Committee procedure.
What are the reasons that lead the Government to try to persuade the House that we should not follow the normal procedure? There are two arguments—first, the urgency of this legislation and, secondly, that the House can always decide to overrule its own rules of procedure. Although this debate is not primarily concerned about nationalisation it has cropped up as a panacea. I shall, therefore, refer briefly to the nationalisation argument and then turn to the question of the House's freedom to override its own rules of procedure.
The argument that nationalisation is so urgent a cure for the problems of the aircraft and shipbuilding industries really does deserve to be treated with a little gentle scepticism. The Government have ample powers, if they wish, to spend money on aircraft, or shipbuilding, or ship repair. Whether they have got the money is a different matter, but they have the power to spend the money. Of course, the House meets at a time when we can all imagine the pressures being exercised from inside and outside the Government, from inside and outside Whitehall, from inside and outside Great Britian for them to cut, and not increase, public spending. We are all well aware, particularly after last evening, of the sheer difficulty that Ministers will face in accommodating their existing commitments, let alone carrying out what they know they have 317 to do if there is any chance of abating inflation.
The Government have powers to spend the money, although many of us think they are already spending far too much money. I remind Ministers that if they are going to splash money about that money has to come from somewhere. Often, the money they are splashing about, as they say, to rescue shipyards will come from wage earners with far less income than those the Government are seeking to rescue. People now pay direct and indirect taxation just above the poverty level. One pops one's nose above the poverty income of supplementary benefit and one is hit with 41½ per cent. combined direct taxation and national insurance contributions. Do not let any hon. Member opposite suppose that the rich will find the money. The rich have already been squeezed to the limit by this Government, and the evidence—evidence that even hon. Members on the Government side must appreciate—is that otherwise there would not be 41½ per cent. direct taxation on people £1 a week above supplementary benefit levels.
Nationalisation—State Socialism is the real name for it—is not such a roaring success that it will infallibly put everything right. Even the Secretary of State does not pretend that it will. I have some sympathy with the Secretary of State for Industry. It is a difficult task that this Government are undertaking. To increase productivity and to improve marketing ability in shipbuilding companies under nationalisation are almost impossible tasks, and yet the Government are voluntarily setting themselves to them.
State Socialism—nationalisation—imposes great handicaps on an industry. It politicises almost every decision—and far too many industrial decisions are already politicised. But if any are not politicised, an act of nationalisation ensures that they will become politicised.
State Socialism is bad enough when the customers are the poor British people. As with the Post Office or British Rail, we must take it and lump it; we are given no alternative. But these two industries, which the Government are so intent on nationalising, serve world markets and world customers who do not have to come to Britain. The danger of nationalisation is precisely that it will 318 reduce the orders on which these industries depend. They cannot survive, and the present jobs cannot be saved, simply on British orders—although I suspect that there will be a great deal of arm-twisting of British shippers to turn their orders, at whatever cost to them and their customers, into British shipbuilding yards.
These are world traders. Aircraft, shipbuilding and ship repairing companies establish relationships of confidence with their customers. It is not that a foreign owner wants to build a ship in Britain; he wants a ship built or repaired, or an aircraft built, by a particular British company with whose managements and workers he has established trust. But when the industries are nationalised, there is no guarantee that that foreign customer will be able to place an order with Vosper or Yarrow or Bristol Channel Ship Repairers.
The Secretary of State has refused to give a guarantee that a customer will be able to place an order with a specified yard. We are warned by him that the job of the nationalised British Shipbuilders will be to switch orders to those yards which most need them—that is, the yards which have least established confidence with foreign customers.
I ask members of the Scottish National Party to recognise the grave disabilities that nationalisation will bring to these industries. Some firms will prosper without nationalisation far better than with it. These are shipbuilding and aircraft firms which are doing well now and would have done much better but for the uncertainty cast by nationalisation. In fact, nationalisation will weaken the aircraft industry and the strong shipbuilding and ship repairing firms, and may not strengthen the weak firms. So there may be no benefit at all.
I say to the House, and particularly to those who are desperately and earnestly trying to assess the national interest in tonight's vote—distrust the panacea of nationalisation, remember that the Government have powers to spend money, if they can find the money, without the Bill.
I fear that all these arguments will be ignored by the Leader of the House. I think that he will go as far as he dares to convert hon. Members, particularly those who represent Scottish constituencies, but I would ask them to remember what has happened to Scottish Aviation. 319 I ask them to remember, when the right hon. Gentleman's soft words are pouring out towards them, their experience with Scottish Steel, to remember that State Socialism is not the way to win or hold world markets, and to remember also that if any firm is skilled enough to win an order from the world market it may be switched to one of the bust shipyards in England.
The Secretary of State has issued honest warnings outside the House that he cannot avoid closures. Are we to believe that all the closures will be in the North-East and North-West of England and none outside? Let those who doubt remember the powerful arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart, that this Government are now the prisoners of financial pressure— the pressure to cut what they are already spending so as not to bankrupt this country and make inflation and unemployment even worse.
The second reason why the Government are urging that the Select Committee procedure be not used is that—we are told—the House can decide to override its own rules of procedure. That is true, to a limited extent, but the story of this evening starts with the Prime Minister's recognition that the vote on 27th May left my right hon. and hon. Friends and hon. Members of the minority parties with a grievance which the Prime Minister suggested should be met by having another opportunity to vote on the question.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) reminded us of Heraclitus and his ever-changing river. He will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and, indeed, all the parties opposed to the Government, are not seeking to arrest the metabolism of the House. We are not suggesting that my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) should go back to wherever he was then. We are not suggesting the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) should go back to wherever he was then. We are interested to see how the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) will exercise his declared intention not to be Lobby fodder this evening, but we do not grudge him his vote, however he exercises it.
320 A re-run was offered by the Prime Minister, and we assumed—we still assume—that it was an offer in good faith. If it was an offer in good faith, surely it must involve the same framework as that on 27th May. That framework inevitably involves the use of your discretion, Mr. Speaker—guided by precedent or otherwise—when and if we come to a tied vote.
I am not as far-sighted as my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who told us that he was aware on that date of what was going to happen. I am not aware of what will happen this evening, and I do not believe that anybody is. It may or may not be a close-run thing, but if it is, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I have put on the Order Paper the first motion to cover the event of a tied vote. We understand that you, Mr. Speaker, would have felt guided by precedent to vote against suspending Standing Orders on 27th May, which would be precisely equivalent, on this occasion, with your vote with the Opposition on the second motion tonight.
If I have to meet the challenge of the right hon. Member for Down, South that the first motion, if passed, sets a precedent, so be it. Perhaps it does set a precedent. If there is ever another occasion on which the Government cause a legitimate grievance by changing a pair, and if, as a result, there is a tie and Mr. Speaker casts his vote in a particular way, perhaps that first motion, if passed, will be a precedent. What is wrong with that?
It is true that the House can decide. Undoubtedly the Leader of the House will tell us that the House can decide, but if we decide to overthrow our rules of procedure in such a way as to defeat established rights, we must recognise that we are violating the expectations upon which the rule of law is based. Denying the rights of individuals and firms is not a formality. If I am told that we would perhaps be denying the rights of wage earners to seek help I would say that that was rubbish, because the Government already have plenty of power to give money.
The rules of procedure protect against tyranny and arbitrary government. That is why my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was right in 321 regarding the two debates as ones of principle. That is why my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) were right to speak of the Government's action as an assault on the rule of law.
I now turn to the letter that the Leader of the House wrote to The Times on 1st June. That letter strengthens my argument. Signed "Michael Foot", it appeared in The Times on 3rd June. Part of it read:It is my conviction that if the procedures of the House are found to be so cumbersome and convoluted that major economic transformations cannot be made with reasonable speed and after reasonable periods of debate, then indeed Parliament will cease to be the place to which the people look for political and economic redress, and if that development deepens and spreads, then truly our parliamentary democracy will be in peril.But Parliament is not an instrument of economic transformation; nor is it an instrument of educational transformation; nor is it an instrument of ethnic transformation. Those who want Parliament to be such an instrument are not just a minority but a small minority of a minority. The Leader of the House writes as if the rules of procedure are acceptable only if they enable his side to win. If procedure can be shrugged off by a vote, however narrow or shaky, Parliament becomes an instrument of Government, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition warned.
Parliament is not an instrument of Government. Parliament is the source of Government, and should be the restraint of Government; but it is not an instrument of Government. Most people look to Parliament not for economic transformation but to safeguard the rule of law, to safeguard stable money, to safeguard the Queen's peace and to safeguard honest government. We have not done so well at all those objectives that we can lightly engage ourselves in violating the expectations of the rule of law.
§ Sir K. Joseph
No. I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, but I have to sit down in three minutes' time. We are expected to avoid—
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
If we do not change things in Parliament, we shall see them changed on the streets.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I think that the hon. Gentleman is misunderstanding the transformations that a small minority of a minority wishes to impose upon this country, in industry, in the economy—[Interruption.]
§ Sir K. Joseph
No. We are expected to avoid arbitrary action and to operate by clear and known procedures. Procedure is the frame of civilisation within which we conduct our arguments and which offers some protection to those affected by us, as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Baker) so rightly said.
Let me ask hon. Members who have been interrupting me to suppose that it were the other way around and that a denationalising Conservative Government, intent upon breaking up State Socialism, were to win a vote by breaking a pair, and suppose the result were to lead to a breach in normal procedural rules: can the House remember long enough back to remind itself of what the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), the present Leader of the House, would have said? Can one remind oneself of the outrage that he would have genuinely felt and powerfully expressed?
Let the House distrust the plea of urgency. There are powers to spend money if that is what the Government want—and if the Government can find the money. State Socialism may not be medicine for aircraft or shipbuilding; it may be poison. There is no reason to pass the Bill to rescue either industry.
Let the House distrust the plea that we can ignore the petitioners. So we can—but only by ourselves violating the rule of law. Scottish National Party Members should beware the soft words that they are now about to hear from the Leader of the House; they shottid trust their instincts and their experience of State Socialism and remember the cash shortage within which the present Government are now forced to operate by their own profligate improvidence.
I ask the House to vote for both motions.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
A considerable part of the debate today, if not the majority of it, has naturally turned on the extremely important procedural questions. I shall do my best to devote most of my remarks to an attempt to reply to the criticisms and attacks made by the Opposition spokesmen on these aspects of the debate.
I should like at the beginning, however, to make further reference to some of the industrial and economic aspects of the matter to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred at the beginning of his speech, because, although we are discussing important procedural matters, we are also discussing an extremely important Public Bill which we on this side of the House wish to see upon the statute book. It raises very important economic questions for many people in many different parts of the country.
With the disastrous situation facing world shipbuilders, the question of job security is central to the debate. The history of the industry under private ownership is one of a continuing decline and diminishing competitiveness, relieved by large-scale Government support.
No worker in the industry can have any confidence in the future under private ownership. Only try taking a grip on the situation through national leadership can we hope to emerge from this crisis with a substantial shipbuilding industry and one that is viable. We cannot escape from the results of past mismanagement.
Our policy is to maintain a major shipbuilding industry providing large-scale employment in all the traditional shipbuilding areas—Scotland, the North-East and the North-West. Speaking as a member for a Welsh constituency, I am only too well aware of the concern of Welsh Members for the future of Bristol Channel Ship Repairers. A ship repair capability will be retained on all the major estuaries, including the Severn.
Concern has been expressed that, notwithstanding the Government's good intentions, the restructuring of the two industries resulting directly from the act of nationalisation—
§ Mr. Peter Tapsell (Horncastle)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for a Minister, in a debate of this kind, blatantly to read from a brief?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is a very old custom for the use of copious notes to be made by those on the Front Bench.
§ Mr. Foot
I think that there are some Members of the House who are extremely interested in the economic prospects of the industry. Concern has been expressed that, notwithstanding the Government's good intentions, the restructuring of the two industries resulting directly from the act of nationalisation will lead to losses of jobs—for example, at Broughton and at Bristol Channel Ship Repairers. I can give the assurance that this will not be so. [Interruption.]
The Organising Committee for British Shipbuilders has already made it clear that it will seek to have as much decentralisation as possible. [Interruption]. This will mean, in particular, for successful companies such as Austin and Pickersgill—and, to take another example, Bristol Channel Ship Repairers—that existing companies will continue after nationalisation to operate as Companies Act companies, keeping their own names. [Interruption.] The responsibility for the continuing success of such companies will depend in large measure, as it does now, on the local management, which has day-to-day managerial freedom and responsibility for the profitability of its yards. [Interruption.] British Shipbuilders will build on the strength of such companies, and—[Interruption].
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The Minister should be heard while he is making his speech. [Interruption.] Order. We pride ourselves on freedom of speech in this place.
§ Mr. Foot
I am sorry that the Opposition do not wish to hear some of the economic matters underlying the debate, but I am sure that there are hon. Members in some parts of the House who are eager to ensure the future of these industries.
The fears of people in small, successful companies that they will be lost in a large organisation are groundless. Rather will they get the best of both worlds by maintaining most of their present autonomy with the added benefit 325 of the backing of the corporation. I know that it is the aim of the Organising Committee to achieve that.
Tonight's vote is about this Public Bill and how we are to proceed with it. The Government will, of course, be ready at any stage to discuss possible amendments to achieve the improvements that I have mentioned, and we shall be willing to discuss them with hon. Members and groups of hon. Members.
The representatives of the Scottish National Party—[Hon. MEMBERS: "Ah."]. Plenty of crocodile tears were shed for minorities earlier in the debate, but when someone wishes to speak on the matter hon. Members do not seem to be willing to listen. The representatives of the Scottish National Party have put down a number of amendments the purpose of which is to provide a recognised Scottish entity with British Shipbuilders. There is a powerful argument for the devolution of authority within the industry, and that is already recognised in a Government Report stage amendment to Clause 5 of the Bill, which requires British Shipbuilders to take account of promoting the largest degree of decentralisation of management consistent with the proper discharge of its functions.
I give an undertaking that the Government will review, with the Organising Committee, carefully and constructively, the wording of their own amendment and the amendments of the SNP in the context of the creation of a recognised Scottish entity within the industry, and the Government will announce their conclusions in time for the Report stage debate.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson
There is a welcome from the SNP Benches for the first statement on the part of the Government on economic devolution to Scotland. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if such an entity for shipbuilding in Scotland comes into existence it must be a meaningful one? Is he aware that if my hon. Friends and I tonight consider abstaining, and if the Government do not bring in the goods by providing for a shipbuilding organisation in Scotland, we shall unhesitatingly vote against the Bill on Third Reading?
§ Mr. Foot
These are matters for the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends and all the rest of us in the House to judge. We are proposing what we believe is a proper recognition of the rights and claims which some hon. Members made during the debates on the Bill. We propose to continue proceedings on the Bill and as soon as we get the chance to put it on the statute book, taking into account the representations made by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) and his hon. Friends and by others.
The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) made two charges against the Government, and in the time that is available I propose to deal with all the accusations that have been made against us. The hon. Gentleman made the charge that we attempted to cover up what was probably a Hybrid Bill and that we sought to hide the hybridity of the Bill. That was the original charge he made in his letter to The Times, and that was the charge he started to make at the beginning of his speech today. But the hon. Gentleman, under pressure, was pushed away from that accusation, and it would have been much more to his credit if he had withdrawn the charge altogether.
There is no suggestion, and no one in his senses would suggest, that the Government set out to hide the hybridity of the Bill. The Government set out to ensure that the Bill was not a hybrid Bill. We introduced it on that basis, and that accords with common sense.
The next charge that is made against the Government—it was renewed by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph)—is that on 27th May it was wrong for us to suggest that Standing Order 38 did not apply. All hon. Members who listened to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) will agree that it was a remarkable speech, which, together with that of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson), completely demolished the case made by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). The right hon. and learned Gentleman also claimed that he had not been answered even in The Times. In both places he was answered. Had he followed more closely the correspondence in The Times to which he 327 contributed, he would have seen that, far from it being the case that his argument was not refuted, Mr. Francis Bennion, the eminent parliamentary draftsman, stated that he agreed entirely with the case I had made, and he also agreed that the course the Government took on 27th May was, far from being improper in any way, the natural and appropriate course for the Government to take in the circumstances.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the letter from the parliamentary draftsman was written before my letter was published, and without seeing my arguments. Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that, having thought it consistent with his ministerial position to open the correspondence in The Times, he would have been perfectly at liberty to answer my letter? He did not do so, because he knew that he had no answer.
§ Mr. Foot
It was not necessary for me to reply to the right hon. and learned Member's letter because his case had been demolished. Also, he had his dates all wrong, as well as his facts on that subject.
The third accusation made against the Government, which contributed to the difficulties in the House, was that in some way or other in the second vote on 27th May a questionable means was used. In the days which followed that accusation it became apparent that there was a sense of grievance on the Opposition Benches, and in many other places as well. It was certainly necessary that steps should be taken to remove that sense of grievance.
I was in favour of taking steps to ensure that the sense of grievance was removed. [Interruption.] Yes, indeed, I was. Because of that, I thought that the natural way to remove it was to have an independent investigation of the matter. That is a natural way to remove a sense of grievance when there is a difference between two sections of the House. This process which I proposed had the full concurrence of my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary. It was then proposed to the Prime Minister, and he immediately accepted the proposition that we should have an independent in- 328 vestigation by eminent Members of the House drawn from both sides. As a result of that initiative, a different way of dealing with the matter, possibly a superior way, was acted upon, and a report was produced which led to the statement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
In the face of those facts, it is quite improper to suggest that we on this side of the House behaved dishonourably in any sense. We proposed a way of solving the problem, and as a result of that proposition, which was accepted by the other side of the House, we were able to proceed with our proposals.
I turn to the Opposition's motion which deals with what would happen in the event of a tie. When the proposal was originally made by the Leader of the Opposition after my announcement of forthcoming business last week, my immediate reaction was that this was a most unwise way in which to deal with the matter. I said at once that I thought that on grounds of principle it would be wrong for the House to act in that way. We believe that there are strong grounds why the motion is not acceptable. However astutely it may have been drafted— I compliment whoever devised it—its effect is to disfranchise Mr. Speaker in the Division at the end of the debate.
You will recall, Mr. Speaker, only a week ago telling the House that if you tried to stop any elected Member from voting you thought you would be the first Speaker in history to do so. We believe that it would be equally unconstitutional for the House to change the rules so as to deny you the right to vote or to destroy your independence.
Can the House really contemplate a situation in which Mr. Speaker's decision is in the hands of a majority? That was the case put with overwhelming force by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) earlier today. If we were to incorporate in the procedures of Parliament the proposition that the majority should decree how other Members should vote, in particular if we were to incorporate the principle that the House of Commons by a majority should order Mr. Speaker to vote in a particular way or order him not to vote we would have set a precedent which would have far-reaching consequences.
329 The Conservatives quite falsely accused me of challenging the referee's decision. Their remedy is to send the referee off the field altogether. They have slapped down a motion on the Order Paper with no apparent understanding of its consequences. We owe a great debt not only to the right hon. Member for Down, South but to others who have pointed out the difficulties.
Now that the Opposition must understand the difficulties, and now that they see that their action would be truly to change the rules in the middle of the game, I hope that whatever happens at the end of the debate they will not press this matter to a Division. It would be much better to let the matter proceed on the basis that there should be no interference with the rights of Mr. Speaker.
The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) almost argued against himself. He said that in "Erskine May", among the rules which govern the casting of Mr. Speaker's vote in the event of a tie, there were many provisions which might persuade you, Mr. Speaker, to vote with the Opposition in this case. In particular, he argued on the grounds of of the second principle which is defined there. I believe that there are further principles laid out in that volume which would encourage Mr. Speaker, in the recognition of precedents, to vote in a different way. In any case, however, this is a matter for Mr. Speaker to decide.
The hon. Member for Tiverton has over-reached himself. He is saying that the House should recommend you, Mr. Speaker, to vote in a certain way and that if you do not wish to do so the House should pass a resolution forcing you to follow our instructions. The House would be very wise to draw back from any such arrangement.
The Government decided, in view of the strong feelings in many quarters, that we should have this debate again. The more we examine these matters, the more the House is forced to the conclusion put earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test. If we adopted the Opposition's recommendations, we should be interfering with the possibility that this House could be used to transform society on a major scale.
330 The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East said that this was not supposed to be the business of Parliament. He said that Parliament should be concerned solely with the maintenance of the rule of law. I believe the rule of law to be an important principle, but this debate has nothing to do with it. The procedures we are discussing have nothing to do with the rule of law, because we are carrying out procedures which apply in this case but do not apply at all in some other cases. There is no breach of the rule of law in anything we are proposing.
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East for bringing the debate back to the central question of what the House of Commons is for. We are certainly here to protect individual rights.
Whatever jeers and sneers there may be from the Opposition, I have fought for those rights more than most Opposition Members have done. I do not need lectures from them. They were prepared to ride roughshod over trade unionists. They did not care about taking away the rights of those people. If we were to accept the principle of the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East that this House should abandon its determination to try to bring relief to our people in economic affairs and abandon our capacity to transform society, we should be betraying the real Parliament.
Some of us know how rights had to be fought for in this Parliament. People had to fight to establish a Parliament, and they then fought for the rights of people outside Parliament—the economic rights and individual liberties. That is what Parliament stands for.
That is why the Bill should proceed as a Public Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheat, cheat."] Let those who wish it to succeed, those who do not want to risk the jobs of our people, vote with the Government tonight.
That, in the event of an equality of votes in a division on the Motion in the name of Mrs. Margaret Thatcher for the re-committal of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill to a Select Committee, Mr. Speaker shall declare that the Question is agreed to:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 293, Noes 320.335
|Division No. 203.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Fry, Peter||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||MacGregor, John|
|Alison, Michael||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)|
|Arnold, Tom||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Madel, David|
|Awdry, Daniel||Glyn, Dr Alan||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Baker, Kenneth||Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Marten, Neil|
|Banks, Robert||Goodhart, Philip||Mates, Michael|
|Beith, A. J.||Goodhew, Victor||Mather, Carol|
|Bell, Ronald||Goodlad, Alastair||Maude, Angus|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Gorst, John||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Mawby, Ray|
|Benyon, W.||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Biffen, John||Gray, Hamish||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Grieve, Percy||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)|
|Blaker, Peter||Griffiths, Eldon||Mills, Peter|
|Body, Richard||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Grist, Ian||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Grylls, Michael||Moate, Roger|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Hall, Sir John||Monro, Hector|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Moore, John (Croydon C)|
|Brittan, Leon||Hampson, Dr Keith||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Hannam, John||Morgan, Geraint|
|Brotherton, Michael||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hastings, Stephen||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Havers, Sir Michael||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|Buck, Antony||Hawkins, Paul||Mudd, David|
|Budgen, Nick||Hayhoe, Barney||Neave, Airey|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Nelson, Anthony|
|Burden, F. A.||Heseltine, Michael||Neubert, Michael|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hicks, Robert||Newton, Tony|
|Carlisle, Mark||Higgins, Terence L.||Normanton, Tom|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Holland, Philip||Nott, John|
|Channon, Paul||Hooson, Emlyn||Onslow, Cranley|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hordern, Peter||Oppenhelm, Mrs Sally|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Osborn, John|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Clegg, Walter||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Cockcroft, John||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Hunt, John||Pardoe, John|
|Cope, John||Hurd, Douglas||Pattle, Geoffrey|
|Cordle, John H.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Penhallgon, David|
|Cormack, Patrick||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Percival, Ian|
|Corrie, John||James, David||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Costain, A. P.||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)||Jessel, Toby||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Crawford, Douglas||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Critchley, Julian||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Crouch, David||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Raison, Timothy|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jopling, Michael||Rathbone, Tim|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Kershaw, Anthony||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Kilfedder, James||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Kimball, Marcus||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Durant, Tony||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Dykes, Hugh||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Kirk, Sir Peter||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Rippon, Rt. Hon Geoffrey|
|Elliott, Sir William||Knight, Mrs Jill||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Knox, David||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Lamont, Norman||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Lane, David||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Farr, John||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Fell, Anthony||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Lawrence, Ivan||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Lawson, Nigel||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lloyd, Ian||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Forman, Nigel||Loveridge, John||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Luce, Richard||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Fox, Marcus||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||MacCormick, Iain||Shepherd, Colin|
|Fraud, Clement||McCrindle, Robert||Shersby, Michael|
|Silvester, Fred||Stradilng Thomas, J.||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Sims, Roger||Tapsell, Peter||Wall, Patrick|
|Sinclair, Sir George||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)||Walters, Dennis|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Tebbit, Norman||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Smith, Dudley (Warwick)||Temple-Morris, Peter||Wells, John|
|Speed, Keith||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret||Welsh, Andrew|
|Spence, John||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)||Townsend, Cyril D.||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Sproat, Iain||Trotter, Neville||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Stainton, Keith||Tugendhat, Christopher||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Younger, Hon George|
|Stanley, John||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Viggers, Peter||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||Wakeham, John||Mr. Cecil Parkinson.|
|Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Stokes, John||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Abse, Leo||Davidson, Arthur||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Allaun, Frank||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Hooley, Frank|
|Anderson, Donald||Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Horam, John|
|Archer, Peter||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Howell, Rt Hon Denis|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)|
|Ashley, Jack||Deakins, Eric||Huckfield, Les|
|Ashton, Joe||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Dempsey, James||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Doig, Peter||Hunter, Adam|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Dormand, J. D.||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)|
|Bates, Alf||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)|
|Bean, R. E.||Duffy, A. E. P.||Jaskson, Colin (Brighouse)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Dunlop, John||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Dunn, James A.||Janner, Greville|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Dunnett, Jack||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Bishop, E. S.||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Jeger, Mrs Lena|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Eadie, Alex||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Boardman, H.||Edge, Geoff||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||John, Brynmor|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||English, Michael||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Ennals, David||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Bradley, Tom||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Judd, Frank|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Kelley, Richard|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Evans, John (Newton)||Kerr, Russell|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Faulds, Andrew||Kinnock, Neil|
|Buchan, Norman||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Lambie, David|
|Buchanan, Richard||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lamborn, Harry|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)||Lamond, James|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Flannery, Martin||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Campbell, Ian||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lee, John|
|Canavan, Dennis||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Cant, R. B.||Ford, Ben||Lever, Rt Hon Harold|
|Carmichael, Neil||Forrester, John||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Carson, John||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Carter, Ray||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Litterick, Tom|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Freeson, Reginald||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Cartwright, John||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Luard, Evan|
|Clemitson, Ivor||George, Bruce||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Gilbert, Dr John||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson|
|Cohen, Stanley||Ginsburg, David||McCartney, Hugh|
|Coleman, Donald||Golding, John||McCusker, H.|
|Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Gould, Bryan||McElhone, Frank|
|Concannon, J. D.||Gourlay, Harry||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Conlan, Bernard||Graham, Ted||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Corbett, Robin||Grant, John (Islington C)||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Grocott, Bruce||Maclennan, Robert|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)|
|Cronin, John||Hardy, Peter||McNamara, Kevin|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Madden, Max|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Magee, Bryan|
|Cryer, Bob||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Hatton, Frank||Mahon, Simon|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Mallalleu, J. P. W.|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Marks, Kenneth|
|Marquand, David||Price, William (Rugby)||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Radice, Giles||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Richardson, Miss Jo||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Meacher, Michael||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Tierney, Sydney|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Tinn, James|
|Mendelson, John||Robinson, Geoffrey||Tomlinson, John|
|Mikardo, Ian||Roderick, Caerwyn||Tomney, Frank|
|Millan, Bruce||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Torney, Tom|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Rooker, J. W.||Urwin, T. W.|
|Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Roper, John||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Molloy, William||Rose, Paul B.||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Molyneaux, James||Ross, Rt. Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Moonman, Eric||Ross, William (Londonderry)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenehawe)||Rowlands, Ted||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Sandelson, Neville||Ward, Michael|
|Morris, Rt Hon J.(Aberavon)||Sedgemore, Brian||Watkins, David|
|Moyle, Roland||Selby, Harry||Watkinson, John|
|Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Weetch, Ken|
|Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Weltzman, David|
|Newens, Stanley||Shore, Rt Hon Peter||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Noble, Mike||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)||White, James (Pollok)|
|Oakes, Gordon||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Ogden, Eric||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Whitlock, William|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Orbach, Maurice||Sillars, James||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Silverman, Julius||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Ovenden, John||Skinner, Dennis||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Owen, Dr David||Small, William||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Padley, Walter||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Williams, Sir Thomas|
|Palmer, Arthur||Snape, Peter||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Park, George||Spearing, Nigel||Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)|
|Parker, John||Spriggs, Leslie||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Parry, Robert||Stallard, A. W.||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)||Woodall, Alec|
|Peart, Rt Hon Fred||Stoddart, David||Woof, Robert|
|Pendry, Tom||Stonehouse, Rt Hon John||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Perry, Ernest||Stott, Roger||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Phipps, Dr Colin||Strang, Gavin|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Prescott, John||Swain, Thomas||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.