Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House, at its rising on Friday 25th July, do adjourn until Tuesday 21st October and that the House shall not adjourn on Friday 25th July until Mr. Speaker shall have reported the Royal Assent to any Acts which have been agreed upon by both Houses.—[Mr. Neubert.]
§ Mr. Speaker
No fewer than 35 right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part in this debate. I hope that contributions will be brief in what is, after all, only a three-hour debate. I have selected the first two amendments on the Order Paper in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)
I beg to move, as an amendment to the Question, to leave out the first "Friday 25th" and insert "Monday 28th".
§ Mr. Speaker
With this we shall discuss the amendment to leave out the second "Friday 25th" and insert "Monday 28th".
§ Mr. Shore
We want the House to adjourn, not tomorrow, but on Monday 28 July, so that a debate can be held on the report on the Westland affair by the Select Committee on Defence.
It is six months since the House debated the extraordinary circumstances that attended the resignation of the then Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). That debate, on 15 January, was on an Opposition motion calling for a Committee of the House to be set up to investigate all aspects of the Westland affair. The debate concluded with a vote on the Prime Minister's motion which was carried and which included the following words:the House … recognises the competence of departmental Select Committees of the House of Commons to consider the issues raised by these developments."—[Official Report, 15 January 1986; Vol. 89, c. 1090.]The Select Committee on Defence took evidence at once and, indeed, two of the key witnesses, the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong, who carried out the so-called leak inquiry, gave their testimony before the Select Committee as long ago as 30 January and 5 February respectively. Clearly there were contentious and difficult matters for the Committee to consider in drawing up its very careful report, including the fact that it was denied access to the five civil servants directly involved in the most notorious incident—the leak of the Solicitor-General's letter to the Press Association. I refer to Mr. Bernard Ingham, the Prime Minister's press secretary, Mr. Charles Powell, one of the principal private secretaries at No. 10, Miss Colette Bowe, Mr. Mogg and Mr. Mitchell, senior officials at the Department of Trade and Industry.
Only today, at 11 am, was the Committee's report published. The timing is important and unfortunate, but it makes it certain that if the House adjourns this Friday we shall have no time to debate the report until the House resumes in October—three months ahead. I have no doubt that the Government hope that during that time the impact of the report will be blunted and its contents buried beneath the weight of other and subsequent events. I suggest strongly that the House should not allow that to happen and that the report be debated before we adjourn for the summer recess.
642 Major issues were left unresolved in the earlier debates in the House. I am referring, not to the honest differences of policy choices between Cabinet Ministers over the future of Westland — such differences certainly existed, as have similar differences in Cabinet over many other issues. Left unanswered was whether the Government had been proclaiming one policy in public—neutrality about the future ownership of the company—and another in private, backing a takeover by the American Sikorski firm. In other words, left unanswered was the question whether the Government were deceiving the country and the House about their real policy. That central question of deceit and partisanship arose on several occasions and in a number of extraordinary contexts. It gave rise to a series of further questions which needed urgent answers.
That brings me to today's publication of the Select Commitee on Defence report which cries out for discussion and debate.
Apart from a detailed description of the part played by the key figures in the drama, the story describes a major effort by the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Prime Minister to discredit the then Secretary of State for Defence and the deliberate and unconstitutional leaking of the Solicitor-General's letter to that end.
The rest of the story deals with the attempts to cover up ministerial involvement in the leak by initiating an inquiry into the actions of officials, when all the principal people involved knew from the start what had happened and who was responsible.
I begin with the discrediting of the former Secretary of State for Defence. Paragraph 105 of the report states:The view seems to have been that as long as he remained in office and promoted the cause of the European Consortium, the activities of the Ministry of Defence could be countered by steps taken elsewhere in Government.Those steps included the instigating of the famous letter written by the Solicitor-General, at the Prime Minister's suggestion, and its deliberate leaking into the public domain.
The Prime Minister's excuse throughout has been that it was essential, in the interests of shareholders, to correct so-called material inaccuracies in a letter written by the then Secretary of State for Defence to Lloyds merchant bank. This had to be done—and done quickly, so it was said — so that it could be in the hands of Sir John Cuckney before his press conference on 6 January.
The Select Committee, however, is quite clear. In paragraph 160 it states:Since the information was passed by telephone to Westland in any event, the reason given by the Prime Minister for releasing the information to the Press Association begins to look flimsy, to say the least. Sir John Cuckney told us that the information made no difference to his policy at the press conference.What, then, was the real reason for making the Solicitor-General's letter public? The Select Committee is categoric. It states in paragraph 162:It is clear that the passages chosen for selective disclosure from the Solicitor-General's letter were calculated to do the maximum damage to Mr. Heseltine's case and to his personal credibility.The Select Committee further reveals from an examination of the Press Association tapes on 6 January and the reports carried by newspapers on 7 January thatfurther parts of the letter were disclosed after the original call from Miss Bowe to the Press Association. The urgency argument cannot apply to these disclosures. Their only 643 purpose can have been to further discredit Mr. Heseltine. The fact that additional disclosures appear to have been made has not been acknowledged by the Government.The deliberate leak was open, outrageous and unconstitutional. The Solicitor-General then demanded that an official inquiry be set up. For similar, and perhaps less serious, breaches of the Official Secrets Act, Clive Ponting and other officials have been prosecuted in the past. But here we come to another extraordinary fact. On 16 January the Attorney-General guaranteed immunity from prosecution to Miss Colette Bowe of the DTI who had read sections of the Solicitor-General's letter over the telephone to the Press Association. According to paragraph 195 of the Select Committee's report,the Attorney-General said that when he was asked to grant immunity he was also told enough 'to make it clear to me that under no circumstances would I have prosecuted her in any event.' These statements are unequivocal.The report continues:Unauthorised disclosure Would have been an offence. If 'under no circumstances' would the Attorney have prosecuted Miss Bowe, then he must have known that the disclosure had been authorised. He must also have received this information from Sir Robert Armstrong.Prior to the Select Committee's report there could have been only two explanations for the Attorney-General's conduct — that he was deliberately misled by senior colleagues who asked for Miss Bowe's immunity while withholding from him the fact that the disclosure in question had been authorised, or that the Attorney-General himself had participated in the charade of putting the spotlight on officials by being a party to concealing the roles played in leaking the letter by the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
It is astonishing that in the debates on the Westland affair, which focused mainly on the leak of the Solicitor-General's letter, no Law Officer has been allowed to participate. The Attorney-General certainly has a lot to explain. I am sure that an early opportunity should be allowed for him to do so. His written answer to a question today does not fully explain why he gave immunity to Miss Colette Bowe. He says that she acted "in complete good faith". But how can a breach of the Official Secrets Act be in complete good faith unless it was sanctioned by a Minister?
What about No. 10's role? Of course, we have to distinguish between the chief officials—in this case Mr. Bernard Ingham, the chief press officer, and Mr. Powell, one of the principal private secretaries — and their political mistress, the Prime Minister. As we all know, while they are in frequent personal touch, they do not necessarily tell each other what they are doing. They just commune. As we heard from the Prime Minister earlier today, she has total confidence in their intuitive judgment.
We all know that Miss Bowe and Mr. Mogg of the DTI, on the instructions of the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, were required, to get clearance from No. 10 before authorising the leak, and preferably that No. 10 itself should release the Solicitor-General's letter. No. 10 passed the buck back to the DTI. But, as the Committee points out in paragraph 155:As far as the disclosure of the Solicitor-General's letter was concerned … Mr. Ingham undoubtedly realised the implication of what was about to take place and wished to distance No. 10 and the Prime Minister from the consequences.As the Committee says on the still more important point: 644it is quite extraordinary that five senior officials accepted apparently without demur that giving extracts from the Solicitor-General's letter to the Press Association was 'the only way to do it in the time'.Even more surprising is the fact that Mr. Bernard Ingham, the chief press officer, did not veto the release of the letter and report the request at once to the Prime Minister. As for Sir Robert Armstrong, the Cabinet Secretary and head of the Home Civil Service, it is clear that he allowed himself to be used for the unsavoury purpose of an attempted cover-up. As the Select Committee put it in paragraph 196:the inquiry's principal finding was that the disclosure had been authorised by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. This must have been known before the inquiry began to, among others, Mr. Brittan, Sir Robert Armstrong, Mr. Ingham and Powell.Yet Sir Robert proceeded. Not surprisingly, he failed in the most routine function of directing any of his inquiries to the Ministers concerned. It was only the civil servants who were called in for explanation. Even more surprisingly, to quote from paragraph 213:The disclosure of the Solicitor-General's letter without his permission was an improper act",and that the officials concerned,were wrong to disclose it or to connive at its disclosure. Yet … no disciplinary action is to be taken against any of the officials concerned.As the report adds:We find this extraordinary. In commenting upon these matters, Sir Robert could bring himself to say only the disclosure was 'very regrettable' … 'I think it would have been much better not to have disclosed the information that way'. Asked how he would behave had such a disclosure been suggested to him, Sir Robert thought that it was an impossible question to answer. He could not say what he would have done in the circumstances.As the Select Committee rightly says in paragraph 214:It is to the Head of the Home Civil Service that all civil servants have to look for example and a clear lead in such things. In this case that lead has not been given.Now for the Prime Minister. She will no doubt take some comfort from the Select Committee's statement in paragraph 183:The evidence is that the action of the Prime Minister's office on 6 January in relation to the disclosure was without her direct authority. She has stated that she had no knowledge on 6 January of what was taking place. We accept this".However, that does not answer the question about when she was in fact informed. In paragraph 197 it is recorded:The Prime Minister told the House that she did not know about Mr. Brittan's 'own role in the matter of disclosure until the inquiry had reported'.That was on 22 January. But, unlike the statement that it made about accepting the Prime Minister's word that she did not know of the events of 6 January, the Select Committee offers no comment on this important matter, except to recite a series of questions asked in the House of Commons during the 23 January statement. Then the Prime Minister's reply to direct questions was simply evasive. Further, when the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) was interrogated by the Select Committee, the report states in paragraph 204:We asked Mr. Brittan whether or not he had any conversation with the Prime Minister, about the fact that he had authorised disclosure of part of the Solicitor-General's letter, before the Prime Minister received the report of the inquiry. He refused to tell us. When it was put to him that there was a period of time after the inquiry had been set up during which he knew what his role had been but chose not to inform the Prime Minister, he would not comment.As the questions are so clear and relevant, why did the Prime Minister evade on 23 January and why did the 645 former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry refuse to answer the Select Committee's questions? Once again, they should at least be given the opportunity of an early debate and to give their own explanations.
This report deals with very serious matters affecting the reputation of senior Ministers, the Law Officers and very senior civil servants. It is a unanimous and scrupulous report. Undoubtedly an early debate is needed, yet if present arrangements stand there will be no opportunity for at least three months for the House to hear the explanations of the principal Ministers concerned. The fact that we do not have the opportunity to debate in the House of Commons does not mean that debate—and it is much less likely to be well informed—will not take place elsewhere, and much of it will be done, as the report itself demonstrated, by unattributable briefing, press guidance, telephone calls and so on.
This is no way to discuss a major issue that affects the conduct of Government and the credibility of senior Ministers, including the Prime Minister herself. That is why we shall vote for our amendment tonight.
§ Mr. Reg Prentice (Daventry)
I do not intend to follow the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), and I do not see why anyone else should. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that in many ways his speech was an abuse of the House.
The motion before us affects the dates of the recess. The short debate that we traditonally have on this occasion is used by Back Benchers to express briefly their concern that certain matters that they think are important should have further debate. It is essentially a Back Benchers' occasion. The right hon. Gentleman did not simply tell us why he thought that there should be a debate on the Westland affair but made the speech that he would have made in opening a debate on the subject. In doing so he took far too much time.
This is an issue which the minority of our constituents who were interested a few months ago have forgotten. Again it merely shows how far the Labour party is out of touch with the real concerns of people and how obsessed it is with fighting yesterday's battle.
I want to refer to one aspect of the timing of the summer recess. We go into recess just as Ministers have begun the annual process of the public expenditure review. We do that at about this stage every year. We shall come back from the recess when the review is either completed or nearing completion. That also repeats the pattern of previous years.
I wish to put a general proposition and a specific point. My general proposition is that the public expenditure review is among the most important decision-making processes that affect any Government in any year. It determines the shape and size of all our main spending programmes. It affects our national economy and to a large extent determines the shape of the Chancellor's Budget.
Because of our timetable, the public expenditure review is largely immune from parliamentary reaction. It is immune from any process of debate by which Members of Parliament can voice their views on expenditure priorities while the discussions on public expenditure take place.
646 A radical review of the timetable of the House during the 12-month period is required. The public expenditure review and the priorities contained within it demand far more of our parliamentary time. Having made that general point, I wish to make a specific plea to the Government to pay close attention, in the coming months and in the context of public expenditure, to the overseas aid programme.
The programme is much too small, has been too small under successive Governments and ought to be increased. The irony is that last year and the year before we had debates on the overseas aid programme, as outlined in the public expenditure review. On 22 November 1984, we had a day's debate on the subject when the House commented on the aid programme for the coming year. That programme was criticised on both sides of the House because it was inadequate. Last year we had a foreign affairs debate during the debate on the Loyal Address in which we largely concentrated on the overseas aid programme. Similar criticisms of the inadequacy of the programme were made but, at that time, the expenditure figures had not been announced—they were announced three days later. However, they were generally known. The criticisms were retrospective criticisms of the policies made by Government.
I had hoped that, somehow, we could have adjourned a little later this year in order to have a full scale debate on overseas aid. In that way the views of hon. Members on both sides could concentrate on the need for a larger programme. I do not wish to repeat the traditional arguments for the overseas aid programme but I believe there are overriding moral arguments and arguments of enlightened self-interest. Most hon. Members who speak on this matter agree with the general argument—there is no difference between political parties. There is the simple recognition that successive Governments have not measured up to their promises.
I shall make four points for increasing aid this year, and my arguments are especially applicable this year. First, the crisis in sub-Saharan Africa has not gone away and will not go away. Only last week, the Overseas Development Administration announced a new initiative to help with an airlift to people in the Sekota region of Ethiopia. People are starving there because of what has become the all-too-familiar sequence. Earlier poor levels of rainfall led to a low yield of crops. This was followed by flash floods which led to the interruption of transport facilities. Therefore, an airlift had to be mounted —this time by the Belgian air force and supported by contributions from this country and other donor countries. That case is typical of the announcements which have been made by the ODA and its sister organisations in the western world. Such announcements have been made week by week over the past two years and they will continue to be made. We are giving help but what is wrong — many other hon. Members agree—is that the help we are giving is within the scope of a small aid programme and is therefore at the expense of other recipients. We have not recognised that this crisis in Africa presents a new dimension to the problem and it demands extra resources from all the major donors.
Secondly, public opinion is readier to support a greater aid effort from this country. The success of Live Aid, Band Aid and Sports Aid and the success of hundreds of local initiatives demonstrates people's concern. People are prepared to give and are prepared to work for fund-raising 647 activities and they want the Government to do more. It is pure coincidence that, today, Her Majesty the Queen has knighted Mr. Geldof, but the fact that she has done so underlines the message that I am trying to convey.
My third point is something of a paradox. We could do substantially more for the aid programme at the cost of a tiny amount in relation to general public spending. At the moment, the net aid programme is costing something less than £1.25 billion a year, while total public spending is £140 billion a year. We are talking about less than 1 per cent. of the total expenditure. About a year ago, I wrote to the Prime Minister about this and pointed out that a 50 per cent. increase in the aid programme would mean an increase in public spending of less than 0.5 per cent. However, the Prime Minister said that this would mean an extra £500 million and was an unthinkable amount. I do not believe that that is an unthinkable amount. If the political will were there it would and should have been done then, and it can be this year.
My final point is that it is time our actions lived up to our words. This Government, like previous Governments, have supported, at special assemblies of the United Nations and numerous other international conferences, the case for a larger transfer of resources from the developed countries. The summit meetings of the seven leading economic powers have made that appeal. We were part of that when the summit met in London, two years ago, in June 1984. Paragraph 15 of its communique states:Ministers urged all donors to make determined efforts to increase aid flows in line with agreed targets".If we are committed, on paper, to making increased efforts, I suggest to the Government it is time we increased it. We could do so this year and we could accompany it with an appeal to other developed countries, not only in the west but in the Soviet bloc, to do more. We could give a bold and imaginative lead to the world in the most important question now facing people.
§ Mrs. Llin Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
As I only took my seat in this House on Tuesday of this week it would he regrettable for me not to voice the concerns of my constituents before this House adjourns.
It is 47 years ago to this very month that my father, Ness Edwards, made his maiden speech as Member of Parliament for Caerphilly. I am proud to be here following in his footsteps. He taught me respect and admiration for this House and for that, as for many things, I have always been grateful.
I understand it is the custom to say something pleasant about the former Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. His name escapes me at the moment; however, I should make it clear that I have known him intimately for some years. He has assured me that I will not be allowed enough time in this House to mention all his virtues. I will confine myself to saying that I have been deeply touched by the tributes that people have paid to him—from all sides of the House. I am sure he was a respected Member and I am sure that he will be deeply missed by everyone.
John and I have a lot in common, not least our deep regard for the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme and its people. I am proud that I have been elected to speak for its people, its independence and its interests. Even if I had not been elected, I would have wanted to remain resident in Newcastle-under-Lyme. It was therefore distressing to us both that part of the malicious whispering and leafleting 648 campaigns of the Liberals in the by-election was that we intended to move our home from Newcastle-under-Lyme. There was never any truth in that allegation.
I cannot help referring to the by-election, and in doing so I may be slightly controversial. It was entirely untrue that the former Member and myself had all along planned that the seat should be handed over to me. I can assure hon. Members that both he and I approached a number of people offering our support if they wished to stand. The allegation perpetrated by the Liberals that there was irregularity in the procedure to select a Labour candidate for Newcastle-under-Lyme—even the smallest irregularity—was not true. The Liberals did not and could not produce anything that would justify that smear.
The Liberals committed a gross misrepresentation on the issue of salaries, including the implication that the secretarial salary was somehow to be added to my allowance. It was suggested that we had completely free transport, free post and a free telephone regardless of the circumstances. That was disgraceful. In no election campaign have I ever known a wife's earnings to be added to that of her husband's. That part of the Liberal party's campaign was sexist in the extreme.
It is untrue also, as the Liberals claimed in a leaflet, that when eggs were thrown at our opponents we both stood yards away and appeared to do nothing to stop the egg throwing. That is so untrue. We were never present when eggs were thrown. That is typical of the smear campaign in which the Liberals indulged.
By their campaign the Liberals have damaged the good name of the office of Member of Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme and they have smeared the people and their party's reputation in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The Liberals' disgraceful campaign, only part of which I have mentioned, damaged the reputation of all political parties and all politicians. I hope that that message will reach Liberal Members and their supporters.
That is enough of the squalid approach to politics that the Liberals perpetrate in by-elections. They were important messages for us all from the electors of Newcastle-under-Lyme. It is clear that they want more jobs and that they are deeply concerned about the plight of young people. It is obvious that they are concerned at the lack of resources for nurses, schools, colleges, polytechnics and universities. They are disturbed by the crisis in the National Health Service and by the long waiting lists. The old age pensioners express their great anger and bitterness at the entirely inadequate 40p increase in the pension. I have been sent to Parliament by the people of Newcastle-under-Lyme to voice their concerns, and this I shall continue to do.
§ Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)
In all the years that I have been a Member of this place I have never before been called by the Chair immediately after a maiden speaker. I congratulate the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding). I think that we are all aware that it is a tremendously nerve-wracking experience to speak in the House at any time, and especially on the first occasion. I think that the hon. Lady delivered her maiden speech with great humour and charm.
The hon. Lady did not tell us anything new about the Liberals. We have all had experience of the same sort of tactics from Liberals in our time. I am sorry that the only 649 Liberal Member present to hear the hon. Lady was the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon). I hope that he will carry back to his leader what the hon. Lady said. I am sorry that he found it so humorous. If I were a Member representing a party who had indulged in those tactics, I would have wriggled in my seat with shame.
I have great admiration for the hon. Lady's husband. He and I were quite interested in horse racing and we used to have modest bets. I think that he always won more than I did, and I was not very happy about that. I admire him also because he was the hammer of the extreme Left wing of the Labour party, which has done so much harm to the Labour party. He showed enormous courage. I hope that we shall hear from the hon. Lady again in the not too distant future.
I wish to raise two issues which I think are of importance. The first one is set out in early-day motion 1140, which has all-party support. By the reintroduction of trucking charges, the British Airports Authority will be able to act in a monopolistic fashion and discriminate against non-British Airports Authority airports such as Manchester. Many of us have fought valiantly for Manchester airport over the years. The authority will be able also to discriminate against certain international airlines, which I believe is contrary to the spirit of the Government's White Paper and the Airports Act 1986.
On 1 May, the British Airports Authority reintroduced charges for airline operators or their agents to truck cargo to and from Heathrow airport. The charges on trucking movements will not apply to operators whose cargo has an inward or outward bound air leg at Heathrow or any other authority airport. In other words, the charges discriminate in favour of authority airports and against others.
I shall give some examples of discrimination. British Airways and British Caledonian use Heathrow and Gatwick as their gateways and are exempt from movement charges. Airlines such as KLM, Lufthansa and Air France, which use Heathrow to assemble cargo for trucking to their European airport hubs, such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris, are charged fees and movement charges. This is despite IATA resolution 597B, which allows carriers to substitute trucking movement for air carriage.
British Caledonian does not fly from Heathrow but because its cargoes enter and exit from Gatwick, trucking charges are not levied. KLM, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines all have services from Heathrow but they are charged for moving certain cargo from Heathrow to Manchester. The discrimination between airlines contradicts the White Paper entitled "Airlines Competition Policy", which pledged the Government to promote competition in all markets. Airlines such as KLM, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines need to truck from Heathrow to Manchester excess freight, special cargoes or urgent goods for which a London service is unavailable. As Manchester is a non-authority airport, full charges apply. If the cargoes were trucked to Stansted, which is an authority airport, for outbound air carriage, the charges would not apply.
Such discrimination is entirely contrary to the undertaking that was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer), the Under-Secretary of State for Transport during the Committee proceedings on the Airports Bill. He said: 650It is totally accepted by the Government that none of the three London airports should be able to develop or trade unfairly against other United Kingdom airports."—[Official Report, Standing Committee J, 20 February 1986, c. 204.]Although the charges are levied only on movements between Heathrow and non-British Airports Authority airports, the fact that Heathrow remains part of the BAA structure provides an opportunity to use income generated by trucking charges to subsidise other BAA airports such as Stansted. The discrimination between BAA and non-BAA airports in levying those charges is a positive benefit to Stansted. That is contrary to undertakings given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment who said, when he was Secretary of State for Transport:I now give the House the assurance that it has sought that there will be no subsidies from the other London airports to Stansted."—[Official Report, 9 April 1986; Vol. 95, c. 265.]I feel that we have reached a serious position whereby things are happening contrary to pledges given by Ministers. I point out the difficulties for an airline such as Singapore Airlines. Singapore Airlines uses Air Canada as its cargo agent. Singapore Airlines runs a daily service to Singapore from Heathrow. Since 1 April 1986, it has run a twice-weekly flight, a mixed passenger freight service, from Manchester. Those who battled for Manchester over the years were thrilled when Singapore Airlines was given permission to operate that route.
Trucking takes place from Heathrow because incoming cargo at Manchester is trucked to Heathrow for distribution. Secondly, five out of the seven weekly flights from Heathrow to Singapore are non-stop, thus reducing the scope for cargo carriage to points en route. Some of the cargoes must be sent from Manchester. Passenger load factors at Heathrow are so high that the capacity for cargo is limited. Rather than add to the congestion and delay at Heathrow, some of the excess cargo goes to Manchester, where capacity is available. Air Canada, as the handling agent pays trucking charges, which in turn are passed on to Singapore Airlines.
Singapore Airlines estimates a weekly charge of £1,200, or in excess of £60,000 a year. That is a heavy additional burden to bear in the first year of a new Manchester service. I wonder whether it is a coincidence that the charges were introduced one month after the start of the new Manchester service. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House can give some guidance tonight.
The reintroduction of trucking charges is incompatible with the Government's airline competetion policy and their Airports Act. It discriminates between airports and between airlines. I think that it runs the risk of retaliation from continental airport authorities which may seek similar means of protecting their operations and penalising United Kingdom carriers.
Even if trucking charges can be justified as a means of balancing the British Airports Authority's books, they should be levied on all operators—not just those who were far-sighted enough to negotiate long leases in 1969. They should not discriminate beween British Airports Authority airports and other airports. They should be related to true costs, and not levied at penal rates. The same amount of income can be generated by charging more operators less money.
The second point I wish to raise concerns one of my constituents, Mr. John Stalker, who is the deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester police. My right hon. Friend is aware that the problem has caused concern to all 651 hon. Members. When it was suggested initially that perhaps there was an Irish connection, I pooh-poohed that suggestion. I am afraid that the more I read and hear, the more I have become suspicious about the so-called Irish connection. Mr. Stalker, investigating certain complaints against the Royal Ulster Constabulary, seems to have been determined to get to the whole truth. As a consequence, I think that he has antagonised certain people in the Province.
It has been claimed that Mr. Stalker carried out independent forensic tests in Ireland that proved that the Royal Ulster Constabulary evidence was false in the controversial cases where it had shot and killed suspects. In the case of 17-year-old Michael Tighe, Mr. Stalker's team concluded that an ambush set up by an agent provocateur led to the cold-blooded murder of the wrong man.
It is claimed that, just before Mr. Stalker was taken off the inquiry, he was planning to interview the Chief Constable and the deputy chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and he intended to recommend that the RUC was badly officered and needed sweeping reforms. Suddenly, at the end of May, Mr. Stalker was removed from duty and replaced by Mr. Sampson, the chief constable of West Yorkshire.
Mr. Sampson was appointed not just to take over the investigation into the RUC but to head an investigation on Mr. John Stalker. It was strange to have the same man heading two intertwined inquiries. I can only describe that decision as a piece of bad judgment by somebody in authority.
It is sufficient to say that, since the end of May, John Stalker and his family have had the most awful time and have lived under a terrible cloud. Mr. Stalker has been subjected to trial by innuendo and gossip. It is about time that this sorry business was brought to an end.
John Stalker must have been pleased that he received so many tributes from members of the Greater Manchester police force. My wife was a member of the Greater Manchester police committee until April this year, when the Greater Manchester council was abolished. She said that, the more she saw of John Stalker, the higher he went in her estimation. She said that he conveyed the impression that he was not just a good policeman but a completely honest and incorruptible man.
I should like to know from my right hon. Friend why the investigation has gone on for two months. Very little seems to have happened. Somebody, somewhere, must have some responsibility. It is about time that we knew the full facts of the case. We pride ourselves on claiming that British justice is the best in the world, but I have seen little sign of justice in the case of Mr. John Stalker. I hope that, before the House rises, my right hon. Friend can give me some information on the two issues I have raised tonight.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)
I am happy to be the first Labour Member to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) both on her victory and on the speech that she has just made, and look forward to the many speeches that I am sure she will make in future. I am one of the few Members of the House of Commons who were Members when her father was a Member. Some hon. Members received their earliest instruction in trade union history from him. In my constituency, his name is honoured, especially on that 652 account. My hon. Friend's husband sustained that tradition in the House. I am sure that he will do so in his future appointments. He could not have been luckier in having his wife as his successor in that constituency.
The most avid observers noted a difference between my hon. Friend's speech and some of her husband's speeches. Her speech was briefer. When he spoke at greater length, it was always done in the interests of greater humanity at large, and deliberately, and we all knew exactly what he was doing. We are glad to see my hon. Friend here. I am sure that she will make a great contribution to future Parliaments. I thank her for her maiden speech.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) outlined why Labour Members feel that our motion should be carried and why the Leader of the House should not be a party to rejecting it. I shall couple that matter with one that I raised a week ago. I believe that it is intertwined with the question of confidence in the Government and what this Government get up to when Parliament turns its hack.
The Commonwealth conference will he held within a matter of days. Everyone knows that it is likely to be the most critical Commonwealth conference for generations. Everyone knows that there is a possibility of such strains being placed on the Commonwealth that some members may wish to depart from it. It would be an utter disgrace if the Commonwealth, or parts of it, were allowed to be shed in such circumstances without the House of Commons having a chance to give its view.
I ask the Leader of the House to give me an assurance in slightly more forthcoming terms than when he merely referred me to the ordinary provision under which Parliament can be recalled. We want something better. If there is a crisis at the Commonwealth conference and a danger of member countries leaving the Commonwealth. I hope that the Government will take the initiative in recalling the House. That may happen in a couple of weeks, but it would be a disgrace if, after so many warnings had been given and when such grave issues are at stake, ruptures of the Commonwealth occurred after that meeting and the House were denied the right to have a proper report and debate on it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give that assurance.
These matters are connected with the confidence, or lack of confidence, we may feel in the way in which the Government conduct their affairs. Winston Churchill once said that we use recriminations about the past to enforce effective action in the present and future. Recriminations about the Westland affair ensure that nothing of that sort recurs. To ensure that there is no recurrence, we have to remodel the way in which the Government conduct their affairs. It is difficult to do that, because the Prime Minister is headstrong and seeks to impose her will on the Cabinet and the House of Commons in a way that few Prime Ministers have sought to do. In many instances, she has done that with disastrous consequences.
We recall the Prime Minister's rejection before the Falklands war of proper discussion in Cabinet in time. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office demanded discussions in Cabinet, but the right hon. Lady pushed it aside. Several instances could be cited, from the Falklands war to the Westland affair and on issues even more important than Westland — for example, British Leyland — when the Prime Minister has deliberately sought to ensure that the Cabinet does not have a proper chance to discuss what is involved and has thereby deprived the House of Commons 653 of the chance to influence events. The Prime Minister's method of conducting this country's affairs—by running the Cabinet and by trying to enlist the few people on her side whom she can mobilise at essential moments or even by making the decisions and demanding that the rest follow and that the House dance to her tune—has been damaging in respect of employment, our relations with the Commonwealth and many other matters.
The Westland affair illustrates this in a glaring manner. Impartial Members on both sides of the House have been able to bring their influence to bear to discuss the matters in detail. All the members of the Select Committee on Defence deserve congratulations for their presentation of the report. Hon. Members, including the Chairman—the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins)—have done a considerable service to democracy by presenting a report of this nature. The Government's brushing it aside, as the Leader of the House sought to do and as the Prime Minister did today, is not the proper way to proceed. The right hon. Lady will live to regret it greatly. I do not believe that any previous Prime Minister would have pushed aside such an issue and sought to sweep it under the carpet without further debate in the hope that it would subside altogether. It will not.
It has been suggested that the Committee's report exonerated the Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney has referred effectively to that point and I shall not cover it. I believe that the House will insist on having a full debate on this subject.
It has been said that paragraph 183 exonerates the Prime Minister, but paragraph 184, referring to the Prime Minister's account, states:We asked Sir Robert Armstrong about this; and he thought it 'strange, but I believe that to be the case'.It becomes "curiouser and curiouser", as Alice in Wonderland said, in paragraph 185:The Secretary of the Cabinet's descripion of this as `strange' is something of an understatement.What if his statement were accurate? What would that mean? In other words, the Committee said that what it had been asked to believe was barely credible. The Prime Minister and the head of the Civil Service sought to persuade the Committee to believe them, but it did not.
§ Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)
The right hon. Gentleman has quoted from paragraph 184. Will he read the latter part of paragraph 183 in which the Committee made it clear that it accepted, in respect of the disclosure on 6 January, that there was no evidence that suggested that the Prime Minister knew of the disclosure?
§ Mr. Foot
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has not been following me. Perhaps he has been following the report as carefully as he normally does, but he has not followed it properly. That passage was read by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney. If the hon. Gentleman reads the subsequent paragraphs, he will see that they undermine any belief that the Prime Minister is exonerated. I shall leave aside the Attorney-General's part, although many questions must be answered, but the House has a special duty to know about the "collusion" that took place. I referred to that during 654 business questions when I said that collusion is guilty association. Guilty association between the Prime Minister and the head of the Civil Service is revealed in the report.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney underlined what the report says—that the House of Commons and everyone else should have the right to look to the head of the Civil Service in these matters. The Committee looked to him as it was entitled to do, but he failed the Committee. His explanations cannot be believed. It is very serious when the head of the Civil Service has such charges made against him by a House of Commons Committee. It is a serious matter when hon. Members are sent away without having a full chance to examine the report.
It is a serious matter also when, a few days before the event—I suppose that the Prime Minister knew exactly what was in the report — the right hon. Lady took exceptional measures to reappoint that head of the Civil Service. Either she knew what was in the report and acted in that way in defiance of what would happen later, or she thought that, if the report was to be critical of the head of the Civil Service, she had better get the blow in first. Either way, that is discreditable. I do not believe that any previous head of the Civil Service confronted with such a unanimous report by a House of Commons Committee would have wished to stay in his post.
The only reason the head of the Civil Service stays in his post is to protect the Prime Minister. He thinks that that will be the last service that he can perform. The Prime Minister has no right to require civil servants to behave in that way. She had no right to deny the minions in her office the possibility of giving evidence before the Committee. She had no right to give instructions and to use them. She has even less right to use the head of the Civil Service in the way that she has. She has fatally undermined their capacity to act in future cases. What is to happen in future cases if the head of the Civil Service and the Prime Minister receive messages from the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General? Will they think themselves entitled to follow the model of publication that was followed in this case? It was a model of publication where no action was taken against those who committed the offence. All those issues are very grave for the future. If the head of the Civil Service is to perform his functions properly for the House and the country, he should offer his resignation to the House of Commons and to the Prime Minister. I believe that the Prime Minister should come to the House and explain the matter.
I congratulate the Committee on its report. The concluding remark—I do not think it is normal for such Committees to suggest, but I think that it is right—says that if anybody thinks that any of the accusations against the head of the Civil Service and the Prime Minister are unfair they should come before the Committee again and state their case. That is the offer. Therefore, nobody can say that I or my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney have been unfair because the Committee has guarded against it. Of course, the only proper place for the Prime Minister to state her case is in the House of Commons. One day she will, have to pay for having misled the Committee, misled the head of the Civil Service, and misled the House.
I am sorry that the Leader of the House should also be a party to the matter. He once spoke about a balanced ticket. He is a kind of balanced ticket all on his own. Perhaps that was his idea. However, if there is to be any 655 balance left in the Government, the right hon. Gentleman and those like him who believe in honour in our politics should exert themselves before it is too late.
§ Mr. Michael Hirst (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)
I appreciate that I am hardly likely to endear myself to my colleagues by urging my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to postpone the adjournment for the Summer recess. However, I wish to raise an urgent matter which is important, not just to Scottish Members but which has a direct bearing upon the responsibility of Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry. That matter relates to the status to be accorded to undertakings given in offer documents during takeover bids. I specifically refer to the takeover bid by Guinness for Distillers.
It may be helpful if I give hon. Members a brief history of the way in which the takeover bid unfolded. I am sure that the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) will assist me if I have a lapse of memory. The Argyll group launched a takeover bid for Distillers, a large Scottish drinks business, which was popularly thought to have lost its way. Throughout the takeover battle, the Argyll group constantly reminded people of its absolute commitment to locate its corporate headquarters in Scotland should the takeover be successful. I do not believe that anyone in the House has cause to believe that Mr. James Gulliver and his board, which includes one of our colleagues in the House, would not have honoured to the letter obligations it made in the course of that bid.
The Distillers board was hostile to the takeover from Argyll and it found a white knight in Guinness, which the previous year had taken over the Bell's whisky group, one of the independent Scottish whisky distillers. Distillers Company Ltd., which had argued that there was no commercial logic in the Argyll group's bid and had vigorously asserted its determination to stay independent, suddenly raised the white flag and recommended the Guinness offer to its shareholders.
In fairness, Guinness acknowledged the Scottish dimension throughout its takeover efforts. Anything that Argyll had offered, Guinness offered more. The board's structure was to be a joint board, a holding company to have as its non-executive chairman Sir Thomas Risk, a corporate lawyer who is as influential as he is respected. It was to have a group corporate headquarters in Scotland.
At the press briefings Guinness waxed lyrical about all the things it would do for Scotland. We were told that the chief executive was house-hunting in Edinburgh and around that part of Scotland. I understand that more recently he has been house-hunting in Oxfordshire. Any Guinness or Distillers employee who had a job in London would have to justify that job to Ernest Saunders and explain why it should stay in London rather than be relocated to Edinburgh.
I believe that the Scottish business, industrial and political community were left with the thought that the effective day-to-day control of an amalgamated combine, including Distillers, would remain in Scotland after the takeover. However, there were problems for Guinness. The Director General of Fair Trading recommended that the Argyll bid should not be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission because there was no prima facie evidence that competition would be endangered by the merger. Guinness, with Bell's already under its belt, would, with DCL, have a sizeable proportion of the 656 domestic Scotch whisky industry. Presumably, that was the reason for the Office of Fair Trading recommending to the Department of Trade and Industry that there should be a reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission of the Guinness/Distillers bid.
One way or another Guinness successfully avoided a reference by agreeing to dispose of a number of the brands of Distillers to Whyte and Mackay, another Scottish whisky distiller. We do not know what additional assurances may have been given by Guinness to the Office of Fair Trading in order to avoid a reference. However, we know that the second Guinness bid was not referred. We were then left with the position where Argyll and Distillers slogged it out in the market. I believe that the involvement of Sir Thomas Risk was a crucial factor in delivering victory to Guinness.
The offer document dated 3 March said:Following the merger, Sir Thomas Risk, Governor of the Bank of Scotland, will be appointed non-executive chairman of the combined group … Mr. Ernest Saunders will be appointed as vice-chairman … Mr. Ernest Saunders will also be appointed as group chief executive.The other vital clause in the offer document was Guinness's reaffirmation:We shall take the necessary steps to make the holding company a Scottish registered company and will move the group headquarters to Edinburgh, where the group chief executive's office will be located.
§ Mr. Alexander Pollock (Moray)
I wonder whether my hon. Friend had an experience similar to mine, whereby Mr. Ernest Saunders sought to have a meeting during the takeover battle and made those assurances in person, underlining his commitment to the offer he was putting to the shareholders.
§ Mr. Hirst
Yes, indeed. More than that, I believe that those undertakings, which were categorically understood as such, were also made in a room in the House of Commons.
The small shareholders of Distillers and a number of the important Scottish financial institutions that were significant shareholders in Distillers accepted the Guinness offer. Guinness duly won the hand of Distillers. In the three months since then it has seemed less of a marriage and more of a rape. Sir Thomas Risk was publicly spurned as the chairman of the combined group. We understand that Mr. Saunders is now to take that slot.
Sir Thomas Risk is a highly experienced company director and a man with an extremely distinguished pedigree as a corporate lawyer. He is the former chairman of one of the largest mutal insurance companies and the Governor of the Bank of Scotland. It is unthinkable that, at any stage, he did not know what was expected of him as the non-executive chairman of the combined group. Apparently, there is no longer to be a joint board and the name of the new group, which had been left in limbo, remains Guinness plc.
The corporate headquarters are not yet sited in Scotland. We are told that Guinness is appraising the position, but since it had the active co-operation of the Distillers board during the vital weeks of the takeover bid one must assume that it was in a far better position to appraise the position of the Distillers group than was Argyll — the non-preferred bidder which nevertheless could make a commitment about the location of the head office.
657 Since then Guinness has declined to give assurances that it intends to honour its obligations, and we do not know what decision it may make in the future. The issues are far greater than simply the financial wheeling and dealing that may go on during a takeover bid. In the past fortnight the Bank of England, the Takeover Panel, the Stock Exchange, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and a wide range of City institutions have publicly expressed their concern about the development. Undertakings were given and statements made in the offer that Guinness made, and if similar statements had been made in a prospectus and subsequently breached, one might reasonably have expected to see criminal charges preferred under companies legislation.
The Government have clearly signalled their preference for self-regulation rather than the establishment of a Securities and Exchange Commission with statutory powers of regulation. To retain confidence in self-regulation, self-regulation must be based on the highest standards of professional and commercial integrity. It cannot be right that undertakings given during the heat of a takeover bid can be lightly tossed aside if they are subsequently found to be inconvenient. A measure of that City concern must be the unprecedented public criticism by the Bank of England at the way in which the proposed new board changes ignore material statements made during the bid battle, which undoubtedly influenced its outcome. The Governor of the Bank of England underlined the importance that he attached to the Scottish dimension, given that Distillers is the largest industrial company based in Scotland.
The Takeover Panel, whose involvement in a takeover bid normally ends at the conclusion of a bid, has also, in an unprecedented way, expressed concern about how undertakings have been disregarded. The concern expressed by financial institutions has spread much further than Edinburgh. That deep anxiety is felt across the political, social and business spectrum in Scotland.
People are entitled to feel anxious about the other declared intention of Guinness to set up its corporate headquarters in Scotland. If it has welshed—if that is not an unfair word to use—on other commitments, is it unreasonable to think that it may do so on that remaining vital commitment on its corporate headquarters?
The site of that headquarters matters. The constant drift of decision-making in Scottish companies to headquarters in the south has been a strong factor in enfeebling the Scottish economy. I do not make that comment from the standpoint of narrow nationalism. Without a suitable range of corporate headquarters in Scotland there will not be the professional support and other services which are essential to sustain the business community.
I want Guinness to honour its obligations and to play its part in Scotland. It must understand that it must act to restore the public confidence that has been endangered by the developments of the past few weeks. It is an important company. It earns substantial profits and employs thousands of people in Scotland, including some of my constituents. As a substantial public limited company it has obligations which the public must see being honoured.
Because the matter is sufficiently urgent and important to merit a discussion of its wider ramifications in the 658 House, I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to set time aside for such a debate, and to ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to take the closest interest in developments, lest there be any unfavourable developments in this saga while the House is adjourned for the summer.
§ Mr. David Penhaligon (Truro)
In the circumstances, it is appropriate for me to add my genuine congratulations to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) on the lucid and articulate way in which she made her maiden speech. No one could be under any illusions about how she felt, what she meant to say or the message she wished to give to the House. There is a certain precedent which suggests that one should be uncontroversial in one's maiden speech, but I can assure the hon. Lady that attacking the Liberal party in the House is regarded as uncontroversial. It has sustained many a political career in the House and I suspect we shall have a great deal more of it.
The campaign was certainly vigorous and the area is yet another island of Britain which I have come to know through a by-election. The by-election was called deliberately and in extraordinary circumstances. It is difficult to believe that the great plotter, whom we all came to admire when he was an hon. Member, had nothing to do with it. It was called in the shortest time possible, when most of the electorate were on holiday for at least a fortnight. That was how the campaign started, although I am not sure that it improved as it went on. I congratulate the hon. Lady and I am sure that she will make a vital contribution to the House. Indeed, as a women she is doubly welcome.
The subject that I wish to raise will come as no surprise to the Leader of the House because I have raised it at nearly every opportunity since the fatal day in October 1985. I raise it again today because, as the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) explained, this is our last opportunity to do so. I wish to speak about the tin crisis which is affecting my county.
The one good bit of news I have had today is that Rio Tinto-Zinc which owns the mines has announced that its plans to close the mines have been postponed by a fortnight, thus giving us until mid-August to resolve the matter. Sometimes, when one is passionately involved in an issue, one begins to believe that everyone else must know the arguments surrounding it. Sadly, despite efforts, that is not true in this case.
The initial part of the story is well known. The tin market collapsed in October 1985 and overnight the price of tin fell from £8,000 to less than £4,000 a tonne. Overnight, that turned a prosperous, growing, vigorous mining industry, on which a substantial section of my county's economy had for a long time been based, with a bright future into one with immediate, and perhaps even terminal, difficulties.
We noted the Government's enthusiasm to try to rescue the tin market and I have no criticism of them for their efforts in that direction. My area might nave been better off if they had succeeded. We look to the Government to assist us in this moment of great trial and tribulation. Our argument is strong. With the present international price for tin, no more than 5 per cent. of the tin mines in the world can be breaking even, let alone making a profit. Therefore, it is inevitable that some time the price must 659 increase. If it increases to the break-even point at world demand level, it will produce a price of about £6,500 a tonne. At that price, the mines in my constituency, including Wheal Jane and o South Crofty, would undoubtedly be viable. That has been our argument and that is what all the discussions and speeches have been about.
However, we need some assistance to see us through the period of recovery. Without it, the mines will close. We have apparently made some progress. I pay credit to the Department of Trade and Industry which must have heard this speech more often than the Leader of the House, but having heard it before, hear it again they undoubtedly will. The Department of Trade and Industry has apparently told the Treasury that the original definition for assisting the mines is fulfilled. It is that the mines must show a sign of robust viability. I confess that I have never quite discovered what that means, but those were the words used.
We are led to believe, and my miners understand, from leaks from the Department of Trade and Industry that the application by Carnon Consolidated for the mines nearest my constituency fulfils whatever the criteria were. Having been greatly involved since last October, I can tell the House that that is a massive hurdle to have cleared. Apparently, we have the Department of Trade and Industry on our side.
However, the good news terminates there. It seems that the Department of Trade and Industry is not trusted, to the tune of £15 million, to make a decision. It has to submit its recommendation to the Treasury, and we are told that the Treasury is, some say blocking it, some say looking at it in depth. What is certain is that it has not provided the cash.
I want to tell the Treasury, through the Leader of the House, why it should back this deal. If these mines are shut, 1,000 jobs will be lost. In areas like mine, where unemployment is literally endemic and the prospects of people finding alternative employment within 40 or 50 miles of where they live is dozens if not hundreds to one against, it is well known that the 1,000 people involved will be unemployed.
We hear lovely arguments in the House as to how much it actually costs for the state to maintain an unemployed person. One suspects that it is about £6,000 per person.
§ Mr. Penhaligon
Certainly £6,000 per person — I do not believe that one often improves one's argument by overstating it. For 1,000 people, that is £6 million a year. The irony is that that sum, over three years, is about the same sort of sum that has been considered to give the mines the prospect of a future.
If the Government back this rescue—I recognise that that is what it is—there is a real possibility that at the end of three years there will be a viable, credible tin mining industry in my county able to provide well-paid jobs without subsidy, thus continuing the growth pattern that was established until the market changed. That is, if the Government say yes.
If the Government say no, at the end of the three years they will have spent about the same sum and then, as we know, there will be no possibility of any industry in the county at all. I say to the Leader of the House, and I hope that he will say to the Treasury, that such a decision for those involved would be beyond all rational belief.
660 The only decision made so far in this saga that seems to approach such a decision in asininity is what I understand to be the final decision by the Government not even to give Geevor mine £150,000 so that, in partnership with the new owners of the mine, it can keep the mine dry for a couple of years to see what the market looks like then. The Government have already offered £1 million to West Penwith for a package deal. I have no doubt that there would be a willingness to give up £150,000 of that £1 million deal to give this mine a chance.
§ Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that, as I understand it, a decision on the Carnon Consolidated application is almost certain to be taken early next week?
With regard to Geevor, does he also appreciate that, although the Government turned down the application for £150,000 for care and maintenance, a sum that I described as a piffling amount, ways are still being considered to give some indirect help to Geevor?
Is not the message that hon. Members on both sides of the House must get across to the Leader of the House, to the Government and to whomever will take the decision on Carnon, that a whole industry— one of the oldest industries in the land — is at stake? People will not forgive those who take the decision if that industry collapses for the sake of what in the end will seem a very small sum.
Will the hon. Gentleman therefore agree that we must join forces and impress on the Leader of the House and on those Cabinet Ministers who will take the decision that we must have the right decision for Cornwall?
§ Mr. Penhaligon
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. I believe that we worked hard together on this.
The Minister has been well aware of the interest of the west country in this case. The decision is to be made next week, and I desperately hope that it is a good one. Believing as I do in democracy and the power of this Chamber to discuss and examine, and given that the crisis has existed since last October, if the final decision to put at end to an industry vital to the communities and families in the area was made in the first few hours of a week in which the Government could not be called to public account, I believe that would do Parliament and democracy a great deal of harm.
Knowing that the Leader of the House has some sensitivity in regard to these problems, I urge him to convey to the Treasury that the Government's own Department of Trade and Industry has examined this matter for weeks, for months and, it seems to those of us involved, for years, and apparently now accepts that Carnon Consolidated fulfils the criteria laid down. At this late hour to haul away the plank when so much effort has been made in the House would be an obscenity and an outrage, and it would be remembered at least by Cornish people a great deal longer even, I suspect, than the Westland crisis, the opening subject matter of the debate.
Mr. Michael NcNair-Wilson (Newbury)
When I first saw that the Opposition wanted to delay the recess by a further 24 hours, I found myself inclined to support their suggestion because I assumed that they wanted the additional time to raise a matter of real importance to the nation. When I heard the windy rhetoric of the right hon. 661 Members for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), I could not help wondering to myself why they thought that making party political points was so much more important than looking at some of the real issues facing the nation and its people. Indeed, I go further and suggest to both right hon. Gentlemen that they will not find the 10,000 people working at Westland anxious to read their speeches or to hear their nit picking. They will be grateful to have jobs in a company that now has a new and brighter future than any that could have been envisaged some months ago. That was the real issue. That issue has been resolved, thank goodness, in their terms.
§ Mr. Shore
The hon. Gentleman is criticising not my right hon. Friend and me but the report of an all-party Select Committee chaired by one of his right hon. Friends and dominated by Conservative Members of Parliament. I do not think that the report is frivolous, party political and partisan. I think that it is a serious report making fundamental political and constitutional points.
I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that. Nevertheless, I am equally sure that he was seeking to make as much party political capital as he could. I do not criticise him for that—no doubt that is what he thinks he has to do.
If he really wants the House to delay its recess, I suggest to him that the House should give its thoughts to a subject perhaps rather more important than a Select Committee report. That is, unemployment. Curiously enough, although the Opposition often tell us about their views on unemployment, they have managed to avoid seeking a full day's debate on the subject for several months. Only last week the most recent unemployment figure was published showing that 3,220,000 were out of work in the United Kingdom or were drawing unemployment benefit.
On the face of it, that appears to be a huge pool of unused labour, which could be making a positive contribution to the economy. It is also a massive drain on the nation's resources, estimated by Professor Adrian Sinfield of Edinburgh university as being about £20 billion a year. Thus, if any aspect of public expenditure should be exercising the mind of the House and requiring us perhaps to find an additional day before the recess upon which to have a debate, it seems to me that unemployment is paramount.
As we all know, unemployment is at varying levels in the country. As an hon. Member sitting for a prosperous southern seat, I have to admit to being concerned by a recent "Panorama" programme showing the situation in the north-east. In particular, I was struck by the young men, many of them married, who were prepared to leave their wives and children to find work in the south because there was no demand for their labour in their home towns. I salute their courage and determination to make something of their lives, and I salute their anxiety to provide for their families, although they know that their absence in the south must create huge strains on their marriages. Some, as I know from my constituency, have even uprooted their families from the communities in which they have grown up, and brought them to the south hoping to find a council house, or, if they can afford it, a house that they can buy.
662 I wonder sometimes what those people make of the south; of the wide spectrum of job opportunities and of the new industries that they find in places such as Berkshire. I wonder whether they ask themselves, as I ask myself, why the new jobs created in the new southern industries could not have been started as well in the midlands or the north. I hope that the new Government initiative, announced in The Times earlier this week, to create development corporations in derelict areas, will mean that that exodus from the north and the north-east will soon dry up.
If I give way, others will not be able to speak. It would be only fair for me to get on with my speech and give them a chance.
From what I have said, it might seem that unemployment is almost unknown in Newbury and west Berkshire, but sadly the latest figures do not bear that out. In the Newbury travel-to-work area, over 2,000 people are out of work, or at least claiming benefit. In Reading, the figure in the travel-to-work area is over 10,000. In Berkshire overall, almost 7 per cent. of the working population is drawing benefit, the figure for Newbury being 7.4 per cent. However, I have to admit to the House and to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that those figures are anything but precise. While 2,000 people are drawing unemployment benefit in Newbury, at Newbury jobcentre there are no fewer than 500 vacancies, and at Reading jobcentre a further 1,300. Yet of the unemployed in Newbury only 9.4 per cent. have registered at the jobcentre—that is, 217 of the 2,000. In national terms, only 12.8 per cent. of those drawing unemployment benefit have chosen to register at their jobcentres. In Newbury, of those registered as unemployed, 20 per cent. or thereabouts have been unemployed for a year or more, some because they are in the over-50s category, others because they are handicapped. Therefore, of the 2,292 approximately 1,800 are available for work, of which 60 per cent. are women.
As I have already said, the jobcentre has over 500 vacancies on its books. The local newspaper, the Newbury Weekly News, is currently carrying four or five pages of job advertisements every week, which means dozens of vacancies in all types of employment, while the Reading Evening Post on average carries 150 full-time and part-time jobs each evening. No wonder a Reading business man said a few days ago that he, who has vacancies at all levels in his company, has come to the conclusion that too many of those drawing benefit are work-shy. Then there are the various private employment agencies that manage to make a fairly good living.
So with such a wide spread of jobs on offer, one is bound to ask how it is possible for Newbury to have 7.4 per cent. unemployment. I can conclude only that the answer lies in three directions. First, I suggest that there is a mismatch between the unemployed and the jobs available—in other words, a lack of skills. Secondly, perhaps 50 per cent of the women may be expecting babies and are drawing unemployment benefit in the last 11 weeks of their pregnancy. Thirdly, some of those drawing unemployment benefit are not looking for work, hence the low percentage registering at the jobcentre. Those are guesstimates, but because compulsory registration at 663 jobcentres as a condition for drawing unemployment benefit is no longer mandatory, the precise information about Britain's jobless, such as those in Newbury, does not exist.
I am not trying to suggest that the current total is necessarily inaccurate. What I am arguing is that we do not know, and that the Rayner economy in 1982 of doing away with compulsory registration to save £10 million a year on administrative costs may prove to have been a costly saving. Certainly, the present Secretary of State for Employment told me that he believed that hundreds of millions of pounds were being claimed in unemployment benefit by some people who had no intention of looking for work or who had joined the black economy. As we also know, over 2,000 persons were prosecuted last year for claiming benefit falsely.
If all that is so, surely a rethink about compulsory job registration at jobcentres is required, together with regular interviewing of those who are unemployed along the lines of the re-start scheme, introduced a few weeks ago to match capabilities to opportunities among the long-term unemployed. After all, we are spending £112 million a year on jobcentres, and there seems little point in that expenditure if we do not utilise the centres to the maximum. Of course, I recognise that one does not have to register at a jobcentre to use it, but it seems to me that those who register are registering their earnestness to find work whereas those who prefer not to seem to lack that same drive.
I recognise that jobcentres, however well they are organised and used, do not create employment if the jobs are not there in the first place. I recognise that the abundance of opportunities in Berkshire is not paralleled in the counties north of Birmingham, yet I believe that all those areas have certain things in common. The first is that nobody is really sure of the size of the unemployment problem. Secondly, certain skills are in desperately short supply. In Berkshire, the skillcentre in Reading has suspended recruitment for its courses on bricklaying, industrial electrics and plumbing because they are hopelessly oversubscribed. There is a two to three-month waiting list for courses in electro-mechanical draughts-manship, electric are welding, heavy vehicle repair and maintenance and storekeeping.
I also suggest that in north or south there is an abundance of community jobs that need doing—clearing the flotsam from our beaches and the litter in our streets and countryside, improving derelict sites, tidying up the countryside, and helping the community. I recognise the valuable work being performed within the community programmes, but I suggest that we should take the matter one step further. Community programmes are looked upon as something to do between jobs— they are not dignified as real employment. But I suggest that they are and have a long-term future.
Further, it seems to me that if the state is to spend £20 billion a year on unemployment, which, in effect, is a state wage, it has 'the right, after a given time, to ask unemployed people to join the community programme as full-time employees recompensed with a proper living wage. At present it is argued that a married man with two children who is out of work costs the state about £177 a week, or £9,200 per annum. It is also a fact that some commentators claim that a family needs an income which is 140 per cent. of the supplementary benefit rate. That would mean, net, about £5,300 per annum, or £102.27 a 664 week. If the latter were the community programme wage, the savings to the Exchequer would be considerably over what it is paying out as unemployment benefit. But, much more important than that, any unemployed person could take up such a job as real employment, although he would be free to leave, of course, if something better turned up.
Some people call this type of scheme workfare. No matter what it is called, it seems to be one way of ending the sense of waster and depression which affects those who are genuinely anxious to work, but who can find nothing to do. I commend it to my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)
I congratulate the new hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding). She follows two men — her husband, to whom she referred delightfully, and Stephen Swingler who, in their different ways, contributed to the work of the House of Commons. I knew her father. He came from the same part of the world as me. He was of the generation who attended the old labour colleges. Higher education was not freely available. In the 1920s those colleges contributed to much original thought. It was of the kind that some of the colleges of higher education, on the moving staircase, do not provide in quite the same way.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) referred to unemployment. However, I intend to refer to the most valuable report that has been published today on Westland. I congratulate the Select Committee's chairman and its members upon the lucidity of the report and upon some of the matters that they have devilled through and thought out. They will be important to us all in the months ahead. I look forward to the Government's replies. Indeed, the Government will have given so much thought to these matters in recent months that their replies could almost be written tonight. A great deal of detailed passing around Departments which happens to most Select Committee reports, will not be required. But that is not to be.
However, there is one aspect of the report to which I wish to refer that will not wait, in my view, until November. I refer to paragraph 240 of the report, upon which I shall hinge my remarks. It says:As far as individuals are concerned, we have made our best judgments on the evidence before us. If anyone feels himself or herself to have been traduced by our findings, we are prepared at any stage"—what does that mean, I wonder?—to take oral or written evidence, in public or in private, from anyone involved in the events we have examined. If that evidence leads us to modify our conclusions, we will of course make a further report to the House.Remarks have been made not only about hon. Members but about civil servants at No. 10, the Attorney-General and the Secretary to the Cabinet that will cause concern. We should not have to wait until November for a reply to be made to those allegations or accusations, or whatever may be the correct word.
We have gone into leaking of the Law Officer's letter on previous occasions. That is not new. The leaking of the Law Officer's letter is against the conventions. Law Officers are not members of the Cabinet. They perform a particular task. Yet members of the Government and civil servants went around one lunchtime trying to find means of leaking and passing information to the Press Assocation.
665 I became involved in the Ponting case. It was not because I am enamoured of people who leak documents, particularly those who leak serious documents. But there is the allied matter, which is more important, of the Government, or the state. My strong view was that the man should not have had criminal charges brought against him under part II of the Official Secrets Act 1911. In the current case Ministers were aiding civil servants to do what Ponting had done, for which he had been taken to the High Court. That is strange.
I do not wish to offend those who feel that it is wrong to raise these matters on the last evening before the recess, but this is not a party political issue. It is a question of how Government should operate. If we go on in this way, there will be a new phrase about civil servants. We will say that a man is "doing a Ponting". Of others we will say, "Oh, he's doing an official Ponting." The position needs to be clarified.
A delightful story is told about Prime Minister Attlee. He did not read the newspapers, so it was said; he looked at The Times only to read the cricket scores and do the crossword. He was not very interested in what the journalists had to say. His officials tried to get him to install one of the machines that we have in the corridor outside the Chamber, but he did not want that new fangled type of stuff. Eventually they persuaded him to have it outside the Cabinet room because they were able to convince him that he could get the cricket scores from it, and it was said that he always referred to it as the "cricketing machine".
We have come a long way since then. Every morning the media go traipsing across to a most important meeting where all the briefing is done. That briefing should of course be done by a civil servant, but the time has come when he should pass on Government information in the same way as information officers in other Government Departments pass on information. Where political implications are involved, the briefing should be done by an employee of whichever political party is in power.
I shall leave on one side for a moment the fact that the Prime Minister said that she had no knowledge of this matter on 6 January. Instead I wish to deal with paragraphs 187 and 188 of the Select Committee's report. Paragraph 187 says:It must therefore be the case that Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell were in a position to tell the Prime Minister on 7 January what turned out to be the principal findings of Sir Robert Armstrong's inquiry more than a fortnight later.But they did not do so, says the report. Should they not have a chance during the recess to put their views to the Select Committee? In the last paragraph of its report, paragraph 240, the Committee said that it was prepared to take oral evidence, either in public or in private. Paragraph 188 says:Yet on 7 January Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell did not share their knowledge — not with Mr. Nigel Wicks, the Prime Minister's Principal Private Secretary, not with Sir Robert Armstrong and not with the Prime Minister.That is another serious allegation to make about two civil servants, one of whom, one would have thought, has a long way to go in the Foreign Office. This allegation or criticism will hang over him for a long time.
It was made by a Select Committee of the House of Commons, chaired by an eminent former Secretary of State in a Conservative Government who does not lightly 666 put his signature to such a thing. This is not a party political issue in the narrow sense of the term. It is important that the Leader of the House should explain immediately the report's last section. The matter should not be allowed to hang over the Department.
Will those civil servants be given a chance to clear their names? If the allegations are true, they are a damning indictment on how civil servants operate, but I believe that those civil servants are being traduced.
The allegation made against the Attorney-General, whom I respect, in paragraph 195 of the report is damning. During a previous debate on the Law Officers, I said that neither of them could be faulted for the way in which they had behaved. Now there is this damning indictment of the Attorney-General. I have tried to express my opinion on how leak inquiries are set up. They are few. I believe there is another side to the approach taken against the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General is responsible for the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is appointed by the Home Secretary under legislation of about 1909. The Director of Public Prosecutions is, however, appointed on the advice of the Attorney-General. He is never again involved with the Home Secretary and works very closely with the Attorney-General.
If there had not been an internal inquiry into the Attorney-General's conduct, Scotland Yard would have been involved straight away. It could not have been done in any other way. I have read the report and I have heard the allegations made against the Attorney-General. I would not say such things about him because I respect him.
The Committee that has made the allegations about him should give him the chance to clear his name. The Secretary to the Cabinet was a deputy under-secretary when I was Home Secretary, and then became a permanent under-secretary. I know and respect him but have hon. Members read what is said about him? Those allegations must be considered before the matter is discussed in the House again. We must be fair to civil servants, let alone to a politician who is also the Attorney-General.
That is the reason for my speech tonight. The Government must tell us straight away what they will do about the last recommendation in the report. The Chairman and the members of the Committee are ready to take evidence. We should not wait until November to discover what will be done. The Government must contact the people involved and ask them if they want to give further evidence to the Select Committee. That is the only way in which their names will be cleared.
§ 8.3 pm
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South)
I am especially pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) because, in his remarks about the Select Committee's report, he has put his finger on some key points which must be answered. In some ways the report is profound. It raises questions that must be answered on some occasion other than a summer Adjournment debate. I agree with his profound point that Government information, how it is handled and whether the Lobby system can still survive must be re-examined. We should move to a more open system in which a Government press spokesman gives briefings on the record. It is demeaning for journalists, who should be the detectors of democracy, to behave under the Lobby system 667 as if they were office boys in on some school secret and not be able to attribute to anyone any remarks they hear. The sooner that we alter the nature of the way in which Government information is handed out, the better.
I do not entirely share the praise that Opposition Members have showered on the report and its quality, or at least parts of it. I take up the point that the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South made about the Attorney-General, who I believe to have been traduced by the report in a very unfair and unjust way.
I quote from paragraph 195 to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, the last statements of which are emphasised by heavy print. It states:If 'under no circumstances' would the Attorney have prosecuted Miss Bowe, then he must have known that the disclosure had been authorised.It is difficult to imagine a more damaging charge against the Attorney-General. I concur with the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South that the way the sentence is phrased is a damning indictment.
To judge by the comments of several members of the Select Committee in the media this morning, they simply do not seem to have understood the implications of the paragraph as it is drafted. They believe that it in no way brings into question the integrity and honour of the Attorney-General. However, one member of the Select Committee understood how damaging the statement was and that was the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) who has been vocal in his criticism of the Attorney-General. He seems to have launched an unjust and unjustifiable one-man crusade against him.
I have two serious criticisms of the way in which the Select Committee has gone about its business in the paragraph containing the accusation against the Attorney-General. First, as a matter of natural justice, the Committee was wrong to assert that the Attorney-General must have known that the leak was authorised, unless it had first put that question to him and asked him for his explanation of the allegation. Secondly, the Committee has drawn the wrong conclusion about the Attorney-General's action and his thinking from the evidence in the report. If the Committee had only thought a little more carefully before it leapt into print with that contentious paragraph, it might have realised that its astonishing conclusion is only one of several possible conclusions that could be drawn from the evidence submitted to it.
Attorneys-General, like anyone else, are entitled to a fair hearing and treatment before a Select Committee before it passes a censorious judgment or writes words which could be, and which have been, interpreted as a censorious judgment. Fair treatment, at the very least, means that the Attorney-General should have been asked about the matter for which he has been criticised. He should have been invited to give oral evidence, or, like the Solicitor-General, he should at least have been invited to submit answers to written questions. However, that did not happen. The Attorney-General was condemned in his absence and the paragraph in the report appeared with total and involuntary silence on his part. I am reliably informed that paragraph 195 came as a complete surprise to him.
The House should recall that, in the past, Select Committees have been severely criticised by the House for censuring people on grounds on which they have never been properly questioned. I remind the House of the Select Committee report on the conduct of hon. Members in the 668 Poulson affair. When we debated that report in 1977, the House clearly believed that the late Mr. Reginald Maudling had been unfairly treated because questions had not been put to him and the grounds on which he was criticised were grounds on which he had never been questioned. For that reason, as much as any other, the House refused to go along with some of the recommendations of that Select Committee.
From the natural justice point of view, the Committee handled paragraph 195 badly. I hope that the Attorney-General will take up the invitation in paragraph 240 to answer that point. I have no doubt that the unfair inferences drawn would have been differently answered had the Attorney-General had the opportunity to do so.
More important than the point about natural justice is the fact that the Select Committee has drawn the wrong conclusion in paragraph 195. The House knows that I have some experience of being a central figure in a leak inquiry which involves the Official Secrets Act. Perhaps because of that, I understand that, when an Attorney-General has to decide whom to prosecute and to whom to give immunity, there are certain considerations on his mind which are not always obvious to the outside world. The main consideration on any prosecutor's mind, when deciding whether to grant immunity, is whether he is likely to get a conviction.
I suggest that the Attorney-General said that in no circumstances would he prosecute Miss Bowe, not because he knew all along that this was an authorised disclosure, but because he realised that he would not get a conviction. I think that because the evidence is set out in the Committee's report. Paragraph 158 makes it quite clear that Miss Bowe believed that she had been instructed by Mr. Ingham to take the action that she did, even though she had grave reservations about it.
In paragraph 174, there is further corroboration of the fact that Miss Bowe did not want to do what she did but that she felt that she had to take orders from two higher civil servants. If the Attorney-General had known that, the doctrine of mens rea being what it is, there was no possibility of his getting a conviction on behalf of the Crown under the Official Secrets Act. It is not that he knew all along that this was an authorised leak, but the simple legal fact that he would not get a conviction. He obviously discussed with the Secretary to the Cabinet the possibility of bringing in the police. That is not the action of an Attorney-General who is part of a cover-up. It is the action of an Attorney-General who is genuinely seeking the truth about who did what, and taking a perfectly realistic decision that there was not a chance of Miss Bowe being convicted. His actions were justified on that basis alone.
I have highlighted two fundamental flaws in the report. I dare say that others may have been traduced in it. I believe that the Attorney-General most certainly has been, and the report is badly flawed for that reason.
§ Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley, East)
I shall deal later with the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken). First, however, I should like to pay tribute to my colleagues on the Select Committee for the extremely amiable atmosphere in which our proceedings were conducted. I congratulate Conservative members of the Committee, for whom certain passages in the proceedings must have been extremely difficult. They 669 maintained a magnificent spirit of independence, which is a great tribute to them and this place. I also want to pay tribute to our Chairman, the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins).
The House will know that the report is unanimous. More than that, every line, adjective and comma was agreed without division. I intend to concentrate on only two issues. The first is that which the hon. Member for Thanet, South mentioned. One of the crucial questions which we had to consider was who knew that the selective disclosure of part of the Solicitor-General's letter was authorised. Paragraph 196 says quite unambiguously that that must have been known before the inquiry began by, among others, the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan), Sir Robert Armstrong, Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell. The Committee's judgment is unambiguous in that respect.
Hon. Members will want to know that, last night, I gave the Attorney-General notice that I would raise the subjct of his involvement and paragraph 195 in today's debate. Paragraph 195 deals solely with the Attorney-General's role in this affair. It does not say that he knew that the disclosure had been authorised by the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, but it says that he must have known that the disclosure was authorised.
There was a short list of people who would have been able to authorise the disclosure. There was the person who sent the letter, the person who received it and those to whom it was copied. That is a class of six. I think that we can take it for granted that the Solicitor-General, who wrote the letter, did not leak it. I think that we can take it for granted that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who received it, did not leak it. We are now down to four. Of them, I have yet to hear anybody suggest that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury leaked it. I have yet to hear anybody suggest that the Foreign Secretary leaked it.
We are now down to a class of two. The other two recipients were the Prime Minister and the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The Committee is saying that the Attorney-General knew that the disclosure was authorised, and that he must have been a blithering fool if he did not know that it was one of those two who authorised it. That is the sense of paragraph 195.
The hon. Member for Thanet, South has tried to erect a defence for the Attorney-General. I prefer the Attorney-General's own defence. He was good enough to tell me yesterday that he would today answer a written question tabled by the hon. and learned Member for Fylde (Sir E. Gardner). The hon. and learned Gentlemanasked Mr. Attorney-General if he will make a statement on those aspects of the Fourth Report from the Defence Committee on Westland plc, the Government's decision-making, which fall within his responsibilities.The Attorney-General answered:The Select Committee state that if, when I authorised an offer of immunity from prosecution to one of the officials concerned in the Head of the Home Civil Service's inquiry into the circumstances of the disclosure of the Solicitor-General's letter of 6 January, I was able at that stage to say that under no circumstances would I have prosecuted the official concerned, I must have known, and must have learned from the Head of the Home Civil Service, that the disclosure had been authorised.I wish to make it absolutely clear that at the time when I advised that an inquiry be instituted, I did not know by whom 670 the disclosure had been made or that it had been authorised by the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry or at all.At the time when I granted immunity to the official concerned, while I had reason to believe that the disclosure had been made by the official concerned and that the official concerned had acted in complete good faith, I was not aware of the full circumstances. It was important that the inquiry should discover as fully as possible the circumstances in which the disclosure came to be made, and should provide those concerned with the opportunity of giving their accounts of their part in the affair. It was clear that the testimony of the official in question would be vital to the inquiry, and I judged it right that possible impediment to full co-operation in the inquiry should be removed. I was and am satisfied that that in no way interfered with the course of justice: the facts as disclosed in the inquiry confirmed my judgment that there would have been no question of proceeding against the official concerned.As the Select Committee recognise, I was not told of the direct involvement of the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry until 22 January.That was the Attorney-General's opportunity to defend himself. Not one word in the parliamentary reply from the Attorney-General contradicts a syllable in paragraph 195 of our report. I shall demonstrate that later.
We accuse the Attorney-General of knowing that the disclosure had been authorised at the time that he was asked to grant immunity to Miss Bowe. He said that he did not know,at the time when I advised that an inquiry be instituted".That is a very different matter indeed, with a vital time lapse in between.
The Attorney-General is a very able man, but I am beginning to wonder whether one should accuse him of trying to throw sand into the eyes of the House. Naturally, I believe every word that he says, but I think that his answer will bear very close examination. I shall repeat the words of paragraph 240 of the report: if the Attorney-General does not like the judgment—if he feels traduced —let him come along and give evidence to us, in public or in private, orally or in writing. If he does not, it is up to him, but the offer is there. The Committee is willing to have hearings — that is a unanimous view — and, if necessary, issue a further report.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
May I give notice, so important have been the comments of my right hon. Friend, that in tomorrow's Adjournment debate I shall repeat what he said by referring to Hansard, and shall expect the Minister who is replying to the Adjournment debate to respond to the very important statement made by my right hon. Friend.
§ Dr. Gilbert
The question remains, why is it important that the Attorney-General might have known that the disclosure was authorised? It is important, because if the conclusion was known in advance, the inquiry was a charade. If it did not relate to such a serious matter, one might be tempted to say that the inquiry was a farce. However, it was serious because five named officials went through an ordeal in which, as the head of the Civil Service said, their careers, their reputations and their lives were involved. That is not my language, it is the language of the head of the British Civil Service. He knew, and paragraph 195 says that the Attorney-General knew, that the ordeal of those officials was unnecessary. Our report also shows that the Attorney-General urged that the inquiry be prosecuted and the head of the Civil Service carried it out.
Incidentally, those are the words of the head of the Civil Service, who should have been protecting his officials, and 671 who compounded his hypocrisy—there is no other word for it—by praying in aid his inquiry as the reason why his officials should not appear before our Committee. That is a piece of cheek which takes some beating.
Finally, in parts of the report, the Committee has used some fairly forceful language about the conduct of the officials who did not appear before us. It is not our fault that they did not do so. We called it discreditable, improper, disreputable and outrageous. Four times today, the Prime Minister endorsed the activities and attitudes of those individuals. That tells me all that I need to know about the atmosphere at No. 10 Downing street which lies behind this sorry tale.
This is not the end of the matter. The Government are under an obligation to reply to the Select Committee. We shall consider that reply and may have further hearings. We may issue a further report and there will be a debate in this House. It will he a long time before this sleazy ghost is finally laid to rest.
Sir Ian Pervical (Southport)
I am glad to have the opportunity of following what I regard as one of the most deplorable speeches that I have heard in this House, which would do well to remind itself that one of its proudest traditions is that the Law Officers of all parties pride their integrity, independence and honour above everthing.
§ Sir Ian Percival
I shall ignore that.
It is regrettable that the Committee was not more careful in the language that it used. It is deplorable that the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) has abused this occasion. I shall support those comments quite shortly. The right hon. Gentleman's whole argument is based on the false premise that it can be assumed that "authorisation" means authorisation by a Minister. It means no such thing.
Suppose that, in accordance with all the best traditions, the Attorney-General — I am glad that the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) recognised that to be the case—was considering whether there should be an inquiry and suppose that he was told by the Cabinet Secretary: "I need immunity for Miss Bowe because it is clear to me that she was told to do what she did. I need to find out who told her to do it, and she will not tell me unless she is assured that she will not be prosecuted." Let us suppose that this is what happened —and it is a scenario that I have seen myself as a Law Officer. There is nothing in the evidence to suggest that the scenario was any different from that.
The House must remember that immunity means only an assurance that she will not be prosecuted — [Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members will listen to the argument. I am putting it briefly and treating it very seriously because this is a serious point. Immunity means an assurance that there will be no prosecution. Sometimes that is a very difficult assurance to give, because sometimes it means that one is agreeing not to prosecute somebody who is guilty of a very serious offence. In such a case, as in the Blunt case, it is a serious step to take to give an assurance that one will not prosecute somebody who has been guilty of a very serious offence—[Interruption.] I 672 wish that hon. Members would stop muttering and listen; they might conceivably learn something from someone who has been in that position.
Supposing the scenario is as I have described. The Attorney-General's position was not difficult in this case because in any event he could not prosecute. If the evidence was that the lady had been told by her superiors to do what she did, then there was no question—
§ Sir Ian Percival
It is no good the right hon. Gentleman shaking his head. He should accept what I say just for the moment, because I have been in such positions. The assumption that "authorised" means authorised by a Minister has no substance whatsoever in law; I have checked that today. The right hon. Member for Dudley, East is proceeding to make the most appalling accusations based on a false assumption.
§ Dr. Gilbert
Nothing would make me happier than if the Attorney-General would come along and tell us that that is precisely what he meant. However, the consequences of that would be very damning indeed for the officials who forced Miss Bowe, if that is the scenario erected by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, to do something thoroughly improper and against her better judgment. In that case, there would be no need for an inquiry.
§ Sir Ian Percival
The right hon. Gentleman is now trying to escape the point. I am dealing with the right hon. Gentleman's direct accusation of the Attorney-General of disgraceful conduct. He has no grounds on which to make that accusation. He knows perfectly well that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has no opportunity today to defend himself. What he will do later, I do not know. [Interruption.] Labour Members do not like what I am saying and I am not surprised because it knocks the bottom out of their case.
The assumption that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General must have known that the leak was authorised by a Minister is wholly without foundation. I wish that hon. Members would stop muttering. I am saying that as a matter of law there is no basis for that assumption. "Authorised" does not mean necessarily authorised by a Minister.
§ Mr. Williams
I am afraid that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong. Armstrong's revised rules, which he circulated to civil servants recently, make it clear that authorisation of this type of activity needs the approval of a Minister, not of another civil servant. There is an appeal procedure to a senior civil servant if a civil servant thinks she has been wrongly instructed by a Minister, but only a Minister can give the initial approval.
§ Sir Ian Percival
The right hon. Gentleman is forgetting that what is talked about in paragraph 195 is unauthorised disclosure which amounts to a criminal offence. Those rules about which the right hon. Gentleman is speaking have nothing whatever to do with criminal offences. I am talking about whether it is right to assume that there was a criminal offence here.
Authorisation by a Minister is not necessary to provide the accused with a defence in law. It is sufficient if a person is accused of an offence under the Official Secrets Act 1911 to show that they were authorised by a superior. I have no hesitation in saying that and no fear of anybody being able 673 to contradict that in law. That is the law and that is why I say that those who, like the right hon. Member for Dudley, East, read more into paragraph 195 than I thought was meant in it by the Committee, are doing so on a completely false hypothesis, and that is a disgraceful thing to do.
On the hypothesis that I have put to the House, and looking at paragraph 195, everything that the Attorney-General said, as quoted there, was perfectly proper, in order, and in accordance with the best traditions of his office, if what he was told was that the lady was authorised by somebody else to do what she did. The right hon. Gentleman is wrong to jump over a gap there and say that that means that she was authorised by a Minister.
§ Dr. Gilbert
In that case, why did not the Attorney-General avail himself of this opportunity to deny the language of paragraph 195?
§ Sir Ian Percival
My right hon. and learned Friend will speak for himself. [HON. MEMBERS: "We wish he would."] It is always the last resort of a person who does not want to hear the argument to giggle about it. I hope Labour Members do not think that that casts any doubt on the argument. My right hon. Friend will speak for himself.
In a cooler mood, everybody here, including the right hon. Gentleman, would know that my right hon. and learned Friend has not as yet had the opportunity—
§ Sir Ian Percival
That is for my right hon. and learned Friend. What is deplorable is the apparent complete unwillingness of Labour Members to consider that they might have made a false assumption even though I have put before them a scenario that is not only possible and which they should have thought of, but so probable that most people here would put more money than they can afford to lose on the proposition that that is in fact what happened.
Whether that is or is not right, what is so wrong here is that some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have put the worst possible interpretation on what my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General did in order to launch a disgraceful personal criticism of him, and that is deplorable.
§ Mr. Terry Fields (Liverpool, Broadgreen)
This place will close down tomorrow for three months, but thousands of ordinary people including Members of the House, will be affected by the growing crisis brought about by the Government's policies within the National Health Service.
In my Liverpool district health authority, we face the prospect of cuts of £2. million over the next two years. That will amount to the loss of a further 120 jobs in an already stretched service in our area and a 12.5 per cent. reduction in the hours and pay of those working in the industry.
Redundancy payments for those job losses must come out of the overall budget. That budget should be there to provide nurses, ancillary staff and decent conditions for those in the hospitals dependent on services. Instead, they are using that budget to pay for the redundancy of other workers. In turn, that will mean further cuts in services and 674 the loss of more jobs. Patient care will be affected because of the growing inability to finance the NHS. That is a vicious circle which has been created by the Government, aided and abetted by their placemen, the managers, whose only concept is of cuts. Those cuts, in the name of so-called efficiency, mean that the care of ordinary people is affected.
The conditions prevailing as a result of the cuts are already been seen in the Liverpool area. [Intervention.] In the Olive Mount psychiatric hospital, I have spoken to cooks and ancillary staff, some of whom are female and are the sole breadwinners of their families, who are suffering a £32 a week reduction in their wages plus a cut in the hours that they work within that industry. [Interruption.] That means that mentally handicapped people reliant on those cooks and ancillary staff—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. I am trying very hard to listen to the hon. Gentleman and I hope that the House will give him a proper hearing.
§ Mr. Fields
Thank your for your protection, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mentally handicapped patients dependent on ancillary staff and cooks are geting their meals half an hour late and a reduced range of meals available. Equipment is not being replaced and that further reduces the range of meals that can be provided for these people in need.
In the Fazakerley hospital, ancillary staff fell for the con of the in-house tender. In effect, they cut their own jobs, reduced their hours of work, and consequently, their take-home pay. They put the lowest bid in but the contract was given to one of cleansing firms which are now so prevalent within the NHS.
It is little wonder that the Government are so supportive of contract cleaning firms in hospitals. The report of the trade union co-ordinating committee says that 15 Conservative Members of Parliament have a declared direct interest in firms hunting for contracts in areas privatised in the NHS — cosmetic, laundry and catering services. Three of those Members are named, and another four act as consultants in the NHS. It is little wonder that they are the dailies on the Conservative Benches out to make a quick buck from the cleansing services, ancillary staff and the decimation of the NHS.
The job descriptions that have been drawn up and the rotas that have been issued are an insult to decent people seeking work in the NHS. On one questionnaire, potential workers were asked whether they were capable of carrying a two gallon bucket of water without straining themselves. For those who do not know, one gallon of water weighs 101b, so two gallons weigh 20 lb. A further question asked whether the applicant could work four hours without becoming unduly fatigued. It would be little wonder if someone who carried around one and a half stones in weight for four hours was affected.
A more sinister questionnaire was one which has been withdrawn because it asked women if they were on the pill and if they suffered from period pains. That is the length to which these gangster firms supported by Government Members are prepared to go in recruiting staff to work in areas that were previously staffed by the National Health Service. The tasks being given to these people are impossible, and that is creating low morale which affects patient care. They have no time to spend with patients. In the past they have been used as barrier nurses between 675 overstretched medical staff and patients. They are now skivvies if not navvies in the hospitals. Their numbers have been reduced and they have been given additional work, and the effect on patients and on standards of cleanliness are there for all to see.
Addenbrooke's hospital has had experience of blood and bones being left in the theatre, and it is no exception. Two years ago Fazakerley hospital lost three cleaners and now its operating theatres have been closed because of steam flies. That is a scandal. In that hospital in-patients who are in need of care and medical attention after treatment are having their recuperative period interferred with because clinics are being opened up, having been transferred from other parts of the hospital because of lack of space. That is having a deleterious effect on the patients.
Sefton general hospital in Liverpool increasingly has to rely on agency nurses. There are reported cases of people doing day staff duties in one hospital and reporting as agency nurses in other hospitals to do night shifts. That means they are working virtually 24 hours a day and that is because of the low pay and poor conditions offered by the agencies. The Government pays a great deal of attention to the Royal teaching hospital. It offers low pay and has cut its staff, and those things have a demoralising effect on staff and on the care of patients. People are leaving their jobs and are not being replaced and the health of patients is suffering.
The scandal of our waiting lists needs to be exposed. The College of Health inter-area comparisons show that in 1985 the Liverpool area health authority had on its waiting list for over 12 months 1,822 people. That means 23 per cent. of people treated in hospital have been on a waiting list for over 12 months. In south Sefton where I live, 800 people waited for more than a year, that is 12 per cent., and on the outskirts of Liverpool one health authority reported that it had a 72 per cent. patient waiting list for over a year.
As if that is not bad enough, to compound the crime the Tories and their henchmen are fiddling the figures of people on waiting lists. When a patient goes for his first interview and even before he has any in-patient treatment, his name is removed from the list of those needing hospital treatment. We know that the Tories massage the unemployment figures and now we know that they also massage the figures for hospital waiting lists while patients, many of them in pain, wait for operations and treatment.
We constantly hear from the Prime Minister and from the Ministers in the Department of Health and Social Services the myth that they are spending more "in real terms". That has been exposed by the experiences of those patients and workers at the sharp end of things. I do not know what other people will be doing during the recess, but I shall be campaigning with those hospital workers, introducing them to shop stewards in private industry and acquainting them with the real horrors and the prospects for the future of our National Health Service. We shall campaign for more resources for the Health Service. We will seek to get the Government to change their mind and will fight the proposals by the Government to cut finance to the Health Service.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
I am listening to this nonsensical diatribe by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields). He may disagree with the priorities decided by the district and regional health 676 authorities, but it is quite undeniable that more funds are being provided by the Government for the Health Service. In the seven years that the Government have been in office a 20 per cent. increase in real terms has been achieved for the Health Service. Perhaps more is required, but the hon. Gentleman should direct more of his criticism to his own regional and district health authorities and give credit to the Government for the additional resources that they have provided.
§ Mr. Fields
It is fairly obvious that the resources in the constituency of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) are not too good because he should have treatment for his ears. I have spelt out why the finance that the Government gloat about is not finding its way into the Health Service, and I have detailed the effect of cuts on people in the NHS.
The Opposition and the national executive of the Labour party do not hand down tablets of stone. At last year's annual conference, the Confederation of Health Service Employees tabled a resolution which did not get support and was remitted to the national executive. For my part and on behalf of those who are active and worried about the Health Service, I can only put forward as a solution to the problems of people in need of hospital treatment part of that resolution, which we will fight democratically to have included in Labour's programme. The resolution called for the deprivatisation of all privatised services in the National Health Service and for all lost jobs to be replaced. It also called for the abolition of all charges for health care, the abolition of the private health sector and the nationalisation of the pharmaceutical industry, placing it under democratic control and management with compensation to be paid only on the basis of proven need. Those things are the only solution to the problems of the Health Service, and I shall be campaigning for them while Tory Members will be sunning themselves all over the globe.
§ Mr. Patrick Ground (Feltham and Heston)
Before the House adjourns, attention should be focused on the threat to the environment of west London contained in the utterances during the last few days of the newly appointed chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority. Previous Governments have sought to strike a balance between the interests of the aviation industry and the comfort of people living in west London. They have sought to achieve that balance by limiting expansion at Heathrow airport.
When planning permission was given for construction of the fourth terminal, the Government gave two pledges. First, they pledged that when it opened, air transport movements would be limited to 275,000 a year, and secondly that there would be no fifth terminal. When the fourth terminal opened earlier this year the position had changed. The Government had had the benefit of the Eyre report and decided that in place of the balance provided by the limit of 275,000 movements and the pledge about the fifth terminal, there should be a completely new package of protection for people living in west London against the nuisance of noise.
One of the fundamental parts of the package set out in the inspector's report was a recommendation that there should be a complete ban on night movements of aircraft at Heathrow. The Government followed that report by accepting the benefit of additional air movements beyond 677 the limit that had been fixed. They followed the report by recognising the possibility of further expansion by way of a fifth terminal and set in train studies to implement in the best way possible the protection against noise that was recommended in the inspector's report.
Within the last few days the newly elected chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority has recommended that there should be an increase in night movements at Heathrow. He said that it did not matter if there are more movements if there is what he describes as quieter aeroplanes. These recommendations are completely at variance with the Eyre report. They are completely unacceptable to people in west London whose sleep is being disturbed by night flights. It is not too much for people to ask that they should be able to sleep between 11 pm and 6 am without being disturbed by aircraft noise. The new chairman has made a bad start by threatening to shake and disturb the balance which has been recommended between the interests of the air transport industry and those living in the neighbourhood of Heathrow. I hope that someone will explain to him during the recess that that is completely at variance with the spirit in which the Government have acted so far on the basis of the Eyre report.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)
There are many issues which we should be addressing on behalf of our constituents. Some of us were in the Chamber at 5 o'clock this morning addressing such issues, including Conservative Members.
§ Mr. Douglas
I accept that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There are many issues to be addressed and, with the leave of the House, I shall be speaking in an Adjournment debate tomorrow on an issue that affects my constituency.
There is a link between the important report of the Select Committee on Defence and that which my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) said in her excellent maiden speech. It is the responsibility of us all on both sides of the House to raise the tone of politics and political behaviour. The searchlight of the Select Committee's report casts light on the behaviour of No. 10 downhill street from 3 to 7 January.
I regret that the former Law Officer, the right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival), is not in his place. He constructed a scenario of the Attorney-General's behaviour which suited his argument, but that is not what is addressed in paragraph 195 of the Select Committee's report. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman's scenario is correct, it is possible that another official was culpable. Therefore, the Attorney-General would have had to address his mind to what action, if any, should be taken in relation to that official, but I do not want to enter into that argument now.
The Select Committee on Defence has been tested, the House, in its wisdom, having tested its competence. There are pluses and minuses in the report and there are pluses and minuses also in Select Committee procedure. It is not possible to understand the tone or the feel of this from the 678 Select Committee's report, but in my view Sir Robert Armstrong quickly grasped how to manoeuvre a Select Committee.
A Select Committee is not a court and when a witness is before one he is not necessarily subjected to intensive cross-examination. The members of a Select Committee —I have much respect for the able and fair chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins)—try to elicit views and evidence from a witness which they think will aid the inquiry, and Sir Robert appeared to be a competent witness.
I recall the press report that appeared in The Guardian, which suggested that the Select Committee had not done its job. Bearing in mind what it was trying to do and the report that appeared before the House, I suggest that it did its job. If nothing else emerges from the report other than the views that are set out in paragraph 214 on the head of the Civil Service, I think it can be said that the Committee has done its job. The paragraph states:It is to the Head of the Home Civil Service that all civil servants have to look for example and for a clear lead".In the Westland instance, that lead was not given.
I am concerned—I trust that this is the concern of the whole House—that if Sir Robert Armstrong remains in his place, supported by the Prime Minister, the morale of the Civil Service will suffer. I know that it is difficult for Conservative Members to grasp. The major reason, however, for debating the Westland issue is to get to the roots of the interrelationship between the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Civil Service. A man who has allowed himself to be used in such a fashion and who has abused his position should not remain in office. If he were a Scot and had a Scottish background — for example, an Armstrong or a Douglas and a man of honour — he would resign.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) has referred to abuse. Has not this debate been an abuse of the House?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot advance an argument when he is raising a point of order.
§ Mr. Winterton
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is this debate not an opportunity for Back Benchers to raise matters which they consider to be of importance prior to the House rising? It is a debate in which they can advance reasons why—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have been in the Chair for one hour and 55 minutes and I have not heard anything said during that period that has been out of order.
§ Mr. Winterton
This debate has been used as a rehearsal for a debate on the report of the Select Committee on Defence.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) on her excellent and succinct maiden speech. I look forward to hearing her when she feels even less constrained than today to be noncontroversial. To respond to the point of order for the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), in answering the debate it would be difficult to do anything other than talk about Westland. The debate had been dominated by contributions from Back-Bench Members about Westland.
On that day after the leak, I went to No. 10 Downing street and handed in a letter demanding an inquiry into it. In that letter I congratulated the Prime Minister on turning an industrial relations problem into a constitutional crisis. The Select Committee's report has vindicated that assessment. It is a great pity that during our proceedings this evening we have not had the response of the main parties to the Select Committee's report.
It is a scandal to think that we have to wait three months before we have an opportunity to debate this subject. The Attorney-General should have been here today. In answer to my question he said that the first time he knew of the involvement of the then Secretary of State for Trade of Industry was 22 January. I accepted that. I am still inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt as I do not believe he would give an answer of that sort if he did not believe it to be true. However, I find that hard to reconcile with other things that have been pointed out.
The Attorney-General granted immunity, but he has never told us why. It is not as though the granting of immunity is normal in such a situation. Armstrong said that the only precedent—he has had a lifetime in the Civil Service—that he could recollect was in the case of Blunt. That is the only example which has arisen. In a written answer on 27 January—the Attorney-General had had time to consider it—he said:I was"—not "I am", subsequently—also satisfied that there was in any event no possibility that proceedings would be instituted". — [Official Report, 27 January 1986; Vol. 90, c. 357.]The Attorney-General has not changed his position—he said the same thing in the answer that he released today:I had reason to believe that the … official concerned had acted in complete good faith,What does that mean? After all, this was not an ordinary leak and it was no ordinary letter—it was the Solicitor-General's letter. Law Officers' letters hold a unique position and only a Cabinet Minister could have given the authorisation to enable the official to say that she acted in complete good faith. At the very least, we would say that this peculiar judgment and the absence of a linking piece of evidence means that the Attorney-General should be here to explain his position. Otherwise we will be convinced that the whole leak inquiry was a time-wasting charade.
The former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry should have been here. After all, he knew that the leak inquiry was requested on 7 January, he knew that it was set up a week later and yet 15 days later he still had not owned up. Why did the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) not do the honourable 680 thing? He is an eminent barrister and he should have confessed at that stage and thus avoided all the difficulties which he built up for himself and the Prime Minister.
Today, the Prime Minister has behaved in a typical fashion. She has been faced with questions which she has refused to answer and indeed she has answered in parallel. She has set up blocking positions to enable her to refuse to answer future questions in the House as she did for five months concerning Oman. When the right hon. Lady met her son in Oman she did not ask him why he happened to be there and it seems it never occurred to her to ask her own staff about the leak even though the press was full of stories about it emanating from the press office of the Department of Trade and industry. The senior press officer of Government is a member of her office staff but it never occurred to her to ask him. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) said that they live in commune, but it seems that they live in commune but not in communication. We have been left with a situation wherein we are bound to conclude that what we have had is a conspiracy of silence: Bernard Ingham knowing better than to tell the Prime Minister anti she knowing better than to ask. That is the essence of what went on.
The questions still outnumber the answers and the probabilities discredit the protestations. We should not be leaving for three months without this issue being fully debated. Propriety requires explanation and integrity requires a candour that so far has been glaringly absent.
§ 9.1 pm
§ The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
I have but a handful or minutes in which to reply to this debate, thanks to characteristic charity on my part of the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas). Therefore, I cannot deal with all the points as adequately and comprehensively as I would have wished.
However, there is one overwhelming responsibility which has been laid upon me by this debate and which I shall discharge at once.
I wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) on her excellent maiden speech. Like many others, I am privileged to have known her father and her husband. Indeed, I was hut a Tory apprentice in the miners room which has now been desecrated into the families room. There, in the early 1960s, Tom Swain and the hon. Lady's father gave me many insights into the practices of Parliament. Above all, I enjoyed the hon. Lady's reminiscence of the by-election. I am sure that there are few in this House who did not feel for her when confronted by those who strike the high moral tone whilst employing techniques which trivialise and demean. We come into this place believing that there is more to public life than that — indeed, the House should be an elevation of debate.
I noted the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) about overseas aid. I appreciate the anxiety felt by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) regarding trucking charges at Heathrow and the threat to Manchester airport. He will also have heard my reply to the Leader of the Opposition regarding the Stalker affair.
I take note of what my hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) said about the 681 recent acquisition of Distillers Company Limited by Guinness. He will be aware that the matter is now being considered within the context of self-regulation.
The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon), aided by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris), asserted the common Cornwall front. They are concerned about how matters will proceed in Cornwall and I am aware that all the hon. Members concerned have made representations to my hon. Friends in Government. I will certainly make sure that this evening's debate is drawn to their attention.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) made a thoughtful speech about unemployment and especially the problems which are implicit in the imbalance in our economy and the unreliability of unemployment statistics in revealing the true nature of the economy.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) gave us a view of the condition of the Health Service in Liverpool, but my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) reminded us that that was a controversial subject.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground) has explained the understandable anxieties about aircraft movements in the south-east. All those points will be referred to my hon. Friends in government, as appropriate.
However, this debate was opened by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), who suggested in an amendment that we should perhaps defer the proposed recess arrangements to all intents and purposes to enable an instant debate on the fourth report of the Select Committee on Defence. I note the right hon. Gentleman's speech. It seemed to me that his anxiety was that if we went away this topic would wither— [Laughter.] I felt like laughing, but I was not so hostile as the hon. Member whose scornful and derisive comments put the matter exactly in this context. This issue will not wither.
The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), said that it would be with us in the autumn, and when joined by the hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Right hon. Member."] I apologise. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is very keen for status in the autumn of his life, and will get that way. However, there is no remote prospect of this issue sliding into obscurity. Therefore, the question is how we now best proceed to have it properly discussed and considered in a way that is appropriate to the work that has been undertaken by the Select Committee and the customary procedures of this House.
The first challenge must be the Government response when that has been received. The matter can then be further considered, and at questions this afternoon I indicated to the Leader of the Opposition that we would have all the facilities of the usual channels to reflect on how best the House can consider these things in a mature way rather than in that sleazy sense of gimmick whereby the Opposition hope to go off on a reasonably high note to their buckets and spades.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 135, Noes 230.684
|Division No. 280]||[9.07 pm|
|Anderson, Donald||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Lamond, James|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Leighton, Ronald|
|Barnett, Guy||Litherland, Robert|
|Barron, Kevin||Livsey, Richard|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Bell, Stuart||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Blair, Anthony||McTaggart, Robert|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Madden, Max|
|Boyes, Roland||Marek, Dr John|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Martin, Michael|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Buchan, Norman||Meacher, Michael|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Michie, William|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Mikardo, Ian|
|Clarke, Thomas||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Clay, Robert||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)||Nellist, David|
|Cohen, Harry||O'Brien, William|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Corbett, Robin||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Dalyell, Tam||Penhaligon, David|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||Pike, Peter|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Powell, Rt Hon J. E.|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I)||Randall, Stuart|
|Deakins, Eric||Raynsford, Nick|
|Dixon, Donald||Redmond, Martin|
|Dobson, Frank||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Dormand, Jack||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Douglas, Dick||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Dubs, Alfred||Rooker, J. W.|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Eadie, Alex||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Ewing, Harry||Shields, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Fatchett, Derek||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Flannery, Martin||Skinner, Dennis|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)|
|Forrester, John||Snape, Peter|
|Foster, Derek||Soley, Clive|
|George, Bruce||Spearing, Nigel|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Straw, Jack|
|Godman, Dr Norman||Taylor, Rt Hon John David|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Gould, Bryan||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)||Tinn, James|
|Hardy, Peter||Wainwright, R.|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Wareing, Robert|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Weetch, Ken|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Winnick, David|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Woodall, Alec|
|Home Robertson, John||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Mr. John McWilliam and|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Mr. Chris Smith.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)|
|Ancram, Michael||Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)|
|Ashby, David||Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Hayes, J.|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Hayward, Robert|
|Blackburn, John||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Heddle, John|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hickmet, Richard|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Hicks, Robert|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Brinton, Tim||Hind, Kenneth|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Hirst, Michael|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Holt, Richard|
|Budgen, Nick||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Burt, Alistair||Howard, Michael|
|Butterfill, John||Howarth, Alan (Strati'd-on-A)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Chope, Christopher||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Hunter, Andrew|
|Colvin, Michael||Jessel, Toby|
|Coombs, Simon||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Cope, John||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Corrie, John||Jones, Robert (Herts W)|
|Couchman, James||Kershaw, Sir Anthony|
|Crouch, David||Key, Robert|
|Dorrell, Stephen||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Dover, Den||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Durant, Tony||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knowles, Michael|
|Eggar, Tim||Lang, Ian|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Favell, Anthony||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Lester, Jim|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Forth, Eric||Lightbown, David|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Lilley, Peter|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Freeman, Roger||Lord, Michael|
|Fry, Peter||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Gale, Roger||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Galley, Roy||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Goodlad, Alastair||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Greenway, Harry||Major, John|
|Gregory, Conal||Maples, John|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm 'th N)||Marlow, Antony|
|Ground, Patrick||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Mates, Michael|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Mather, Carol|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Harris, David||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Merchant, Piers|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Hawksley, Warren||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Moate, Roger||Speed, Keith|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Speller, Tony|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton S)||Spencer, Derek|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Squire, Robin|
|Needham, Richard||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Neubert, Michael||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Newton, Tony||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)|
|Norris, Steven||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Onslow, Cranley||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Osborn, Sir John||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Ottaway, Richard||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Page, Sir John (Harrow W)||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)||Thome, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Thurnham, Peter|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Pollock, Alexander||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Portillo, Michael||Viggers, Peter|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Waddington, David|
|Powley, John||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Price, Sir David||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Waller, Gary|
|Raffan, Keith||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Warren, Kenneth|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Watson, John|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Watts, John|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Robinson, Mark (N'port W)||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Wheeler, John|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Whitfield, John|
|Rowe, Andrew||Whitney, Raymond|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Ryder, Richard||Wilkinson, John|
|Sackville, Hon Thomas||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Wolfson, Mark|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Wood, Timothy|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Yeo, Tim|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Silvester, Fred||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Sims, Roger||Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd and|
|Skeet. Sir Trevor||Mr. Gerald Malone.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
That this House, at its rising on Friday 25th July, do adjourn until Tuesday 21st October and that the House shall not adjourn on Friday 25th July until Mr. Speaker shall have reported the Royal Assent to any Acts which have been agreed upon by both Houses.