§ 7.—(1) Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith the question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons
§ (2) A Committee appointed to draw up Reasons shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which it is appointed
§ 8.—(1) In this paragraph "the proceedings" means proceedings on Consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further Message from the Lords on either Bill, on the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and on the Report of such a Committee
§ (2) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings
§ (3) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, the proceedings shall be made except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall he put forthwith
§ (4) If the proceedings are interrupted by a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration), the time at which, under this Order, any proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion
§ 9.—(1) The proceedings on any Motion moved by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings
§ (2) If the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the time at which proceedings on either Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under this Order no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order
§ Last Thursday when I announced the business for this week I told the House that we would spend Monday and Tuesday considering the Local Government and Housing Bill and that today we would deal with the Employment Bill as amended in another place. I hope that the whole House—certainly a large part of it—will regret that it has not proved possible to keep to that arrangement, which was agreed through the usual channels as a sensible division of the time available
§ It became clear yesterday that we were not making progress at anything like the pace—a perfectly possible pace—implied by those arrangements. That is why last night I had to inform the House of this revision of the business.
§ I recently had cause to remind the House of the Government's entitlement to achieve—after due con-sideration and debate—the passage of its business. We are now at the last stages of that process for both Bills. Both 1003 are major parts of our programme on which both Houses have expended much thought and energy. We should not have introduced these Bills had we not been sure that they were necessary and valuable to the country. The House has confirmed that opinion at each stage. It would be a waste of the House's time and a failure in our duty to the electorate not to take sensible steps to safeguard both of the measures.
§ There are good, important measures in both of the Bills to increase democratic accountability and freedom. I shall, therefore, leave it to the Opposition to use dramatic and bloody metaphors about guillotines and slaughter. I shall continue to refer to this elegant motion correctly, as a timetable motion, which is absolutely necessary to dispose of the remaining business in a reasonable way
§ Let me at this point pre-empt another argument that may be heard from Opposition Members, who usually assure us at this stage of their willingness—indeed, incredibly, their enthusiasm—to stay up all night and half the following day to consider any and every Bill. We all accept that there are times when we have to sit through the night. But neither I nor the country at large think it the most sensible way to give proper consideration to legislation. I see no reason to sit all night for the sake of a few self-proclaimed enthusiasts on the Opposition Benches who feel that spinning out the proceedings instead of allowing the business to be completed in a practical way somehow proves—as they would love to believe—that they have the Government on the run
§ Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)
Will the Leader of the House accept that women who are being discriminated against and cannot obtain proper employment and young people who will be affected badly by the Bill will take exception to the way in which he trivialises their concerns and the concerns that some Opposition Members feel on their behalf?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I am not in the least trivialising real concerns about those real issues. The hon. Lady is right to point out that the second of the two Bills before us is intended to promote equality of opportunity in employment and vocational training and to repeal the discriminatory legislation that exists. There is no argument about the merit, purpose and quality of the Bill and it should be possible to discuss it sensibly along the lines originally agreed or those now foreshadowed.
I should like to remind the House that following the representations made on a similar occasion not long ago, I was able last night to ensure that we had both a debate on the Adjournment motion and an opportunity to ask questions on the business statement. Since Opposition Members have already had those two opportunities to express their indignation I venture to cherish the hope that we may be able to dispatch this timetable motion in less than the three hours potentially available for it and so get on to the substantive business.
We have been considering the Local Government and Housing Bill for the whole of the past two days and we should have completed consideration by now. We are not therefore curtailing debate on that Bill but, having reviewed progress made, have added two hours to the time already spent—and on to the more than 210 hours already spent on the Bill here and in another place.
1004 Of course, there have been a large number of amendments to the Bill. That is not surprising: it is a major piece of legislation which completes essential reforms to the framework within which local authorities operate. All our efforts in that area have been directed to ensure that every council meets the standards of efficiency, accountability and fairness to which the best councils already adhere. The Oposition have made clear their lack of enthusiasm for that. Even so, on Monday we managed to deal with more than 300 amendments on important subjects such as councillors' allowances and the community charge and still get home not much past midnight. Last night, in contrast, we dealt with less than half that number in five hours, with four and a half hours spent on the first group of amendments,
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
The Leader of the House has no defence on that. There was a clear understanding that it would be possible to complete the first day's consideration of the Local Government and Housing Bill by midnight because the amendments tabled were largely concessions or changes that we saw as moving in the right direction. The difference is—I pointed it out last week—that the clauses dealing with housing are infinitely more complex and disputed and the Government have not moved at all, and in some cases are trying to reverse the Lords' amendments.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his judgment on these matters just as I am entitled to offer mine. We had fair warning that the rate of progress was not likely to improve although Opposition Members assured us, when we moved to adjourn last night, that all the amendments that really interest them come at the end of the Bill.
We have not had the chance to hear the House's views on the Employment Bill since it returned from another place but we shall have three hours to do so tonight. I will not pre-empt my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State by detailing all its manifest merits. However, I will remind the House that the Bill contains important measures to promote equal opportunities, to remove restrictions on young people's employment and to reduce the burden of regulations on employers. Those are entirely beneficient propositions. The Bill has had 85 hours of parliamentary consideration and a further three should be sufficient because there are only two significant fresh propositions among the amendments. The first, relating to Sikhs and safety helmets in the construction industry, was introduced as a matter of urgency and great concern to the Sikh community. The second, relating to industrial training boards, has been discussed extensively with interested parties over the past few months and the general policy was announced as long ago as last December. It was not included in the Bill until the policy detail had been agreed.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)
Why, then, is the Employment Bill to be timetabled? There was no timetable on it in Committee or during its other proceedings in this House and the other place. The Leader of the House has stated that only two main items remain to be discussed. Those debates could be open ended so that all hon. Members who wish to do so can participate in them, and the Government's disastrous Employment Bill would still be able to progress through the House.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
It might once have been possible to take that charitable and optimistic view, but it is not a view that one could sensibly risk at this stage in the passage of these Bills through the House.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
Can the Leader of the House cite any precedent for a timetable motion being applied to a Bill on which there has never been any suggestion of filibustering or any timetables applied to its earlier stages, and being applied solely for the convenience of the business timetable as we approach the end of a Session?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
In all these matters precedents develop for the purpose identified by the hon. Gentleman to ensure the efficient management and dispatch of our business in the light of the state of the business timetable when the question arises.
I realise that we had initially planned three hours for debate on these amendments, but I must have regard to the business that was already laid out for the rest of the week. When I first introduced the motion, I had to have regard especially to the much-awaited and often, postponed debate on parliamentary pensions. That has yet again had to be moved because you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled that there is business of even greater importance for tomorrow. We have to manage these measures in a fashion that will dispatch them today.
Finally, I remind the House, if it needs reminding, that subject to the progress of business the House will prorogue on Thursday 16 November. Any alteration of that would, I am sure, be a great inconvenience to the House. As Leader, I feel a special responsibility for ensuring that hon. Members get a short but not entirely undeserved rest when we have completed another full and successful programme. As a member of the Government, I feel an equal responsibility for ensuring that we secure these two important reforming Bills. For both reasons, I commend this motion to the House.
§ 4.1 pm
§ Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)
When the Leader of the House was appointed to his new post, there were great hopes—I stress that they remain great hopes among Opposition Members—that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be a reforming Leader. However, if he does not mind my saying so, he has sounded more like a recidivist than a reformer this afternoon.
What the Leader of the House is asking us to accept is baldly and bluntly that a long, complicated and contentious Bill—the Local Government and Housing Bill —should be curtailed to no more than two hours' further discussion, and that the Employment Bill, which is equally contentious in some respects, should be curtailed to a maximum of a further three hours' discussion. We cannot accept that and there is no point in disguising our opposition to what the Leader of the House has suggested.
I was touched by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's desire to give us all a short autumn break. Coming so soon after a very long parliamentary recess and a relatively short working period of about four weeks, in which he has nevertheless felt obliged to introduce two motions encompassing four different timetables on four Bills, people outside the House—our constituents—will look a little askance at the apparent need for us to have yet another few days off work so soon. Of course, the real 1006 reason for the motion has nothing to do with the amount of time that has already elapsed in our discussion of these Bills; it is simply to ensure that the Government wrap up their business—whether or not there has been proper discussion of it—in time for the state opening of Parliament and the Queen's Speech. That is the driving force behind the motion and everybody knows it.
The Leader of the House will not be disappointed in at least one hope that he expressed as he will not get any foaming blood-red speeches from me about the need for the House to sit day and night to discuss legislation. In the almost 20 years that I have been a Member I have never thought it sensible to sit through the night. I do not believe that the overwhelming majority of our people think that that is sensible. Frankly, they think that it is barmy and I share their view. Although it is not possible to do so on this occasion, I hope that the Leader of the House will give practical effect to what he said about seriously considering a reform of our procedures. I assure him that he will have my support if he does so.
The Leader of the House has made some play, as he did in the early hours of this morning, about the difference in the rate of progress on the Local Government and Housing Bill between Monday and Tuesday. My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) has already pointed out that there were significant differences in the issues before the House on those days. At about I am today I gave a rather whimsical smile when the Leader of the House remonstrated with us all and said that on Monday we had managed to get through 300 amendments, as though there had to be some daily quota of amendments of which we should dispose.
It appeared that, because we had not got through another 300 on Tuesday, our behaviour was outrageous and that was an end to the matter.
§ Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton)
Is the hon. Gentleman arguing that the introduction of the community charge and the circumstances in which it will be introduced, which we debated at great length on Monday, is not a significant issue between the parties?
§ Dr. Cunningham
Of course not. Its more accurate name, however, is the poll tax—certainly that is how it is known outside the House and outside the Conservative party. If any Conservative Members believe that their constituents talk about something called the community charge they are deluding themselves. The poll tax is one of the most controversial issues in contemporary politics, but some of the aspects of the Local Government and Housing Bill which were before the House yesterday are also controversial.
I remind the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson) that 20 groups of amendments—not 20 amendments—remain to be considered on that Bill. That means that 10 groups must be discussed per hour given the timetable laid down by the Leader of the House, which is equivalent to six minutes per group. In total there are about 150 amendments still to be considered. I remind the Leader of the House that, in the main, those amendments are not Opposition ones. It was the Government who came back from the House of Lords with more than 600 amendments to their own legislation. For the Leader of the House to try to convey the impression that, somehow, all this extra parliamentary time is the fault of the Opposition is grossly misleading. We are talking about Government 1007 legislation that has been amended 600 times by Ministers, but we are expected simply to acquiesce to those changes. Apparently we are expected to speed the passage of the Bill. Whatever else the duties and responsibilities of the Opposition are, they are not to secure Government legislation—quite the reverse. The Leader of the House was on shaky ground when he advanced that argument.
The reason why we have had two timetable motions from the right hon. and learned Gentleman in four weeks and four timetables on four different Bills is that he has inherited a business timetable that is in a shambles. The Government's business programme has run——
§ The Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities (Mr. David Hunt)
The only shambles here is on the Opposition benches.
§ Dr. Cunningham
Well he would be wise not to make sedentary interventions or I might just take advantage of him and respond.
The Government's business programme is in difficulties because large numbers of important amendments have been made against the Government's wishes in the other place. I recognise and admit that we worked hard for and supported some of those amendments, and, therefore, some of them are welcome. However, it is also because the Government brought much of this legislation to the House in such a badly prepared state that it has been necessary over and over again, at every stage of proceedings, for Ministers, in Committee, the other place, and on the Floor of this House, to seek to change, correct and improve their own legislation.
Slowly but surely, the timetable of Government legislation has run into greater and greater difficulties. That is due to incompetent business management by Ministers as much as, if not more than, the Opposition or deliberate delaying tactics in this House. There has been no sign of any attempt to filibuster any of the legislation. That is why, until now, no timetable has been imposed on it. Therefore, from whichever angle we look at this matter, the Government's irresponsibility and incompetence have led us to this position today.
We have had 50 local government Bills during the Government's term of office. The one before us today is the fiftieth. Even after 50 attempts to get things right, the Government have come along at the 11th hour with more changes and corrections. They are in such a mess over local government policy because they have no underlying, cohesive principles about it. Therefore, they will never get it right and are unlikely to get much, if any, support from the Opposition on local government legislation.
As the House knows, I have, inevitably, had less to do with the second Bill affected by the timetable proposal: the Employment Bill. The Secretary of State for Employment. who is present, will know better than I what the major points of opposition to the Bill have been. It has not been thought necessary to curtail discussion on that Bill, which has been strongly opposed at various stages, but has nevertheless progressed. However, now, suddenly and 1008 abruptly, discussion of it is being curtailed simply for the convenience of the Government's legislative timetable, and no other legitimate reason.
If the positions of Government and Opposition were reversed—as certainly they soon will be—and nothing about parliamentary procedure had changed in the interim, Ministers and shadow Ministers would almost be making reverse speeches. An irony of this system is that it goes on and on. The next Government, a Labour Government. will almost certainly find it necessary, because of the arcane procedures of the House, to insist on timetable motions at some time. There is no point in disguising that. It is in the interests of all hon. Members, the Government and certainly our constituents, that we get together to do something about it. Sooner or later, people who, with the advent of television, will have more opportunity than ever before, thank goodness, to scrutinise the affairs of the House, will say that the system has been brought into disrepute.
I have no reservations about opposing the motion on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends. However, I hope that the new Leader of the House will look at the matter, his own position and difficulties, learn some of the lessons and seek to reform our procedures.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) refreshingly frankly said that if the roles were reversed the same speeches would have been made. There is something of a ritual about these debates——.
§ Mr. Wallace
Quite so. Perhaps it falls to me to call down a plague on both Houses—the Government and the Opposition are as bad as each other.
Although there has always and rightly been some outrage about guillotine motions, I notice that in a speech on such a motion in 1988—on the Education Reform Bill —the Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure, the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), said that about 20 years ago debates on timetable motions lasted a full day, the House was packed for them and relationships between the usual channels were strained to breaking point. It is a sign of the times that now, when guillotine motions come along, they produce an almost empty House. The ritual speeches of outrage are made, but the usual channels appear reasonably fluid.
Be that as it may. important issues are at stake. For a change, the Leader of the House did not cite the precedent of the occasion when the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) guillotined five Bills in one day—no doubt that will come up at some stage in the debate. However, the right hon. and learned Gentleman responded to my intervention by saying that precedents have developed. Today we are setting a precedent. The right hon. and learned Gentleman could not cite a previous occasion of a timetable motion being introduced on a Bill such as the Employment Bill on which there has been no time wasting or filibustering. I was a member of the Standing Committee on the Bill and spoke on Report and I know that the debates were constructive and, on the whole, good.
1009 The timetable motion has been brought in merely because of the deadline of the end of the Session and it will be used as a precedent for similar motions. Thus are the rights of Back Benchers and of the House eroded.
The motion provides that after certain Questions are put Mr. Speaker will take all the remaining Lords amendments together and ask the House whether it agrees with them. It is breathtaking to ask hon. Members to agree with everything when they might want to disagree with some amendments and agree with others. We will be asked to agree to them on the nod, with no attempt having been made to separate them.
I also note that the Question on the appointment of a quorum and the membership of a committee to draw up reasons why the House might disagree with a Lords amendment will he put forthwith. Nothing is said about an amendment to that motion being taken forthwith. These committees are usually devised by Front Benchers from both sides without consulting other parties. It is interesting to speculate on what might happen if my right hon. and hon. Friends and I or a member of the other minority parties tabled an amendment to change the composition of the committee. It appears that there is nothing to stop a lengthy debate on such an amendment. I should be grateful if the Leader of the House would confirm that.
Many of the amendments were tabled at a very late stage in the other place. I understand that the other place resumed business on the Local Government and Housing Bill on Monday 9 October. On 6 October, 192 new Government amendments had been tabled, one of them 17 pages long. Included in the batch were amendments to the poll tax legislation. Many of their Lordships complained bitterly about the lack of time that they had been given in which to consider important Government amendments.
Not only were amendments introduced on the Employment Bill to deal with the winding up of many of the industrial training boards, but the Bill's long title had to be changed to enable the Government to do that. So another Bill was tacked on at a late stage in the other place; it has been brought here; and it is now being nodded through in only three hours. Far from having the normal proceeding of three Readings plus Committee and Report in the House and a similar process in the other place, we are being asked to pass this important employment measure with the minimum of discussion in the House and in another place.
The measure deals with the winding up of industrial training boards and will involve consequences, not least about pensions, for the staff of the training boards. It does not enhance the reputation of parliamentary democracy when legislation can be dealt with in such a shorthand and off-hand manner. We are dealing with an unusual case because we are not being asked to deal with legislation that has been considered at great length in another place. There, it was virtually passed on the nod without close examination and we are being asked to do the same.
One of the most contentious points in the Local Government and Housing Bill relates to staircasing, and in that context the Government have tabled an amendment to disagree with the amendment tabled in another place. Some of today's newspapers have reported that the Government intend to respond to the Lords amendment with a package of measures. That is important, and if the House is asked to disagree with the Lords amendment on the basis of such a package I hope that in the remaining 1010 two hours of the debate the Minister or the Secretary of State will put the package on the record. I hope that we do not find that time has run out before we hear about that.
The amendments are tantamount to tacking a new Bill on to the Employment Bill and we should view that with some concern. Increasingly as Bills go through this House or the other place, some issue arises for which it is convenient to use the legislation that is going through. The result is that the nature of the legislation changes because of the addition of clauses. Insufficient time is then allowed when it comes back to the House for detailed scrutiny. Perhaps we can look at some ways in which such situations can be avoided. I should like to suggest a simple solution, although it is fundamentally different from our constitution. It is that the House should be relieved of all Scottish legislation through that legislation being referred to a Scottish Parliament. That would provide much more time for consideration of other measures in this Parliament.
Secondly, as the hon. Member for Copeland has suggested, perhaps we should start to look at proper timetabling from an early stage. There could be a legislative committee to do that. I understand the objections to it, not least the advantage that the Opposition could be said to be giving away because they could not exert pressure of time on the Government. However, given the way that the Government have acted, that does not amount to much of a weapon.
Thirdly, the Government could put their own house in order and not overload the legislative programme. We were always led to believe that the Conservative party came to power committed to reducing the burden of legislation and to rolling back the state. However, year after year more and more legislation seems to tumble out. We have passed legislation that allows Ministers to make orders and other secondary legislation. That must make life difficult for the ordinary citizen, not to mention accountants and lawyers, although in the case of lawyers it possibly also makes life profitable. That does not enhance our reputation. As I have said, it puts more burdens on the citizen who has to try to keep up. If the Government wish to avoid that they should calculate at the beginning of each Session how much legislation they wish to bring forward.
It is a matter of profound regret that we are being asked to railroad legislation. Again, that damages parliamentary democracy. Before the 1983 general election Lord Pvm said that a large majority often carried some large problems. It has caused a profound problem for parliamentary democracy because with their large majority the Government think that they can do what they like. When it appears that there might be some procedural inconvenience they bring forward a timetable motion and use their large majority to pass whatever they like. These things do not promote the idea or concept of parliamentary democracy. For those reasons, we shall have no hesitation in voting against the timetable motion. I hope that, in another Session, we can arrange our procedures in such a way that legislation is not passed on the hoof as it is now.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
I am not in favour of timetabling Bills from the beginning. Apart from the other arguments, it would deny the Opposition of the day 1011 opportunities that they should have. Being a generous sort of person, I have in mind the Tory Opposition that we shall have after the next general election. I would imagine that when the Tories are in opposition, as they will be, they will not be in favour of the kind of reform advocated by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace).
It is often argued that the anger on the Opposition side over a guillotine motion is artificial and does not amount to anything. I assure the House that there was nothing artificial about our anger last night. It was genuine, because we believed that we were debating Lords amendments and our own amendments to an important Bill. No Tory Member could surely deny the importance of the substantive matters that were either being debated, or would have been debated had we been allowed to do so. Instead, at 11.30, the Government decided that enough was enough.
Nobody has seriously suggested that there was any filibustering. I spent 10 minutes speaking about ring fencing and related housing matters. I have looked at what my hon. Friends have said, and all their speeches were brief and relevant. What is interesting is that not one Tory Back Bencher considered it appropriate to speak, even on these matters of substance such as ring fencing and the way in which council tenants will be faced with even more substantial rent increases on top of those of the past few years.
We were dealing with the housing crisis and the plight of people who cannot afford a mortgage and so are denied adequate accommodation because over the past 10 years, local authorities in the main have not been able to build. Are these matters that can be considered minor or trivial? Are they not matters that should concern not only the Opposition but the House as a whole?
What I find surprising is a factor that came up again in Question Time today—the lack of seriousness with which Tory Members regard the homeless. [Interruption.] Some Tory Members are having a laugh, but what is funny about being homeless? What is amusing about the continuous vigil, taking place opposite Downing street, organised on behalf of the homeless by Shelter? What is amusing about so many of our fellow citizens having to spend time, often with children, in bed-and-breakfast hostels? Is it amusing that many will be spending Christmas in such accommodation? Should we dismiss that and say that it is of no great interest? What is the House of Commons for if it is not willing to debate such serious matters as the plight of our fellow citizens, whether that is caused by lack of housing or lack of employment? Many people are denied adequate housing because they cannot now, and are not ever likely to be able to, afford a mortgage. These are serious issues, and that is why we believe that it is necessary to debate the other aspects of the Bill on planning, grants, repairs of council dwellings and houses in multiple occupation. We could not debate these issues last night, and we shall not be able to debate them at any length or at all today because of the timetable motion.
To us, if not to Tory Members, these are matters of great interest. We are not hypocrites. If we say to our constituents, when we respond to letters and to those who come to our surgeries, that these matters concern us, we mean it. When we say it during an election, we mean it.
1012 When we say that we shall raise certain issues if we are fortunate enough to be elected to the House of Commons, we mean it. If we did not mean it, there would be no reason and no justification for electing Labour party candidates to this place. We are genuine over these matters. Conservative Members may disagree with us as much as they like, but let them not deny our genuine commitment to housing, employment and other social and economic issues.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said from the Opposition Front Bench—I would not disagree with him for one moment—all Governments try to ensure that guillotine motions are carried. It would be kindergarten politics to pretend that when a Labour Government are in office they never try to carry guillotine motions. It would be wrong to say that a Labour Government would not try to do so in future. All Governments introduce and implement such motions, and they have done so for the past 100 years or so. I would not try to pretend otherwise. If I did, it would be easy enough to go to the Library and find the appropriate copies of Hansard.
We are arguing that guillotine motions should not be introduced in the way which the Government have adopted. The Government have an ample majority, but they should be more reluctant to act as they are acting. They should show respect for the Opposition's wish to discuss issues.
There is undoubtedly a difference, even if Conservative Members are not willing to concede it now, between a Government with a majority of five or even fewer be it Labour or Tory, and a Government with a majority of 100 or more. There is a feeling outside this place that this is a Government who have a strong authoritarian approach. It is considered that they are led by a Prime Minister who does not show much respect for democracy. Moreover, it is considered that the Prime Minister does not show much respect for her Cabinet colleagues. It is unfortunate that the Government are displaying those same attitudes when dealing with the House. They are riding roughshod over our rights and privileges.
I do not mess around with procedure, and last night was the first time that I used the "I spy strangers" device. I did so to ensure that the Government's supporters would remain in this place for another 15 minutes. I do not pretend otherwise. I had no wish that the motion should be carried. The Minister appears to be shocked. He should be shocked when he is confronted with genuine issues. I do not know what the Minister is muttering, but I make no apology for moving such a motion last night for the reasons I have stated.
I give a warning which follows the concern that I voiced last night to the Leader of the House. If a Government are to show such a dictatorial attitude to the House and show contempt for it, there are ways for Opposition Members —if not those on the Front Bench, certainly those on the Back Benches—to make life extremely difficult for the Government. We all know that Tory Back Benchers are eager to be home at 10 pm, 10.30 pm or midnight at the latest.
§ Mr. Winnick
My hon. Friend has made an irrelevant comment.
1013 I feel certain that many Tory Back Benchers, unlike many of my constituents, have adequate accommodation. They are not the sort of people for whom the vigil outside Downing street is being organised. Many Tories on the Treasury Front Bench and on the Back Benches have more than one home.
If the Government are to adopt a dictatorial attitude, Opposition Back Benchers will then find ways and means of making life difficult for the Government. The new Session will begin shortly, and my hon. Friends and I are determined, notwithstanding that the Government have an ample majority, to find ways, as far as we are able, to ensure that important issues are debated at reasonable length. We shall not filibuster. We shall engage in proper debate, as we did last night. If the Government seek to deny us the opportunity to do so, we shall find ways and means. It takes only 25 Members—30 at the most—continually to make life extremely difficult for the Government.
The Leader of the House is not here, but I hope that the Minister will ask him to make that point very clear to all Ministers. We will not be fooled around with or treated with contempt, day in and day out. We have our rights. We were elected to voice our concerns about housing, employment and many other issues and we shall find every opportunity to do so.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
The kindest comment that I can make on the speech of the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) is that he failed to deliver it with a straight face, and I can understand why. It is evident from the number of Opposition Members wishing to speak that they intend to prove the rule that speeches expand to fill the time available for their completion. I see no reason why I should not give them a hand in doing so. There is no reason why this debate should be a one-way process, and I very much hope that some of my hon. Friends will also intervene and put the other side of the coin.
It is clear from what the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said that he does not consider it to be any part of the Opposition's duty to help the Government get their legislation, and I would have been amazed had he said anything different. However, I am not sure whether he endorses the shrill threats of the hon. Member for Walsall, North to do everything possible to bring the proceedings of Parliament to a standstill. I do not think that that would raise the public's opinion of those on the Opposition Back Benches.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene so early in his speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) did not threaten to bring the proceedings of Parliament to a standstill. He said that this place works by consent, and that if the consensus breaks down, it is easy for a small group of hon. Members to make life very difficult for Ministers. The chairman of the 1922 Committee knows that, because of his long experience in the House. I refer him to my constituency neighbour, the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) who, as Conservative Chief Whip, often did that very successfully during the period of the last Labour Government.
§ Mr. Onslow
Some of us have long memories of other Labour Governments and what happened in those days. I 1014 do not know whether, ultimately, it did any good for those who set out to keep the House up all night. I first came to the House in 1964, when the Committee stage of the Finance Bill was still taken on the Floor of the House. As I left the House for a shave and a wash at 7 am, following one all-night sitting, I was greeted by one of my colleagues who said, "Well done, you will be glad to know that two of their side had heart attacks during the night." I did not think that that was the way to conduct parliamentary business.
If the hon. Member for Walsall, North reflects on that, I do not think that he will think it to be a good way to conduct parliamentary business. It is street hooliganism on a parliamentary level—but, of course, the hon. Gentleman is a street hooligan on a parliamentary level. I hope that he is not typical of the new, enlightened and ambitious Opposition leadership. Perhaps the same ritual and synthetic speeches that we hear on such occasions from Opposition Back Benches will be repeated again today——.
§ Mr. Winnick
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are told by the Chair that parliamentary language should be observed. I resent being described as a parliamentary street hooligan; I am nothing of the sort. I make no apology, and neither would my hon. Friends, for doing my job. I am not sure that the term "street hooligan" should be used or even whether it is in order. Perhaps you could guide us on that matter.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
I should certainly prefer not to hear that sort of expression, but I have no authority to ask for it to be withdrawn at this stage.
§ Mr. Onslow
I can assure you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I prefer not to be provoked into using such language —but if I am, I will.
The Opposition, having filibustered, have been caught out. Having sought to burn up time in a way that has had a predictable result, they are now complaining because their whiskers are being singed. There is nothing strange or new about that. As I do not wish to prolong the proceedings, I shall not make a long speech, and I shall not give way to the hon. Member for wherever it is again.
I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench will assure us that we have not had so many amendments to consider because of a defect in the draftsmanship of the Government's legislation. As an educated man, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will remember the quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan, which says:
That quotation goes back a bit, but I am not sure that things have changed. I do not wish to be unfair to the parliamentary draftsmen, but I wish to be assured that there are enough of them to discharge their duty to present legislation to the House in a form which does not require amendment. I hope that the House can be reassured on that matter by the Minister when he replies to the debate. It is an important issue for all right hon. and hon. Members. It is a great waste of our time to have to go over legislation because it has not been brought before us in a good enough form.
- "I'm the parliamentary draftsman,
- I draft the country's laws.
- And of half its litigation,
- I'm undoubtedly the cause."
1015 Opposition Members may be surprised, but I believe that we are more likely to move towards the timetabling of Bills in Committee than many of them believe. I was not a member of the Select Committee on Procedure that recommended that there should be a Committee timetable for many Bills. Therefore, I cannot claim to have gone through all the arguments which brought its members to that conclusion, and I shall not comment on the Government response to the arguments that were then presented.
However, the House should consider the likely effect of televising the proceedings of Standing Committees. I believe we will soon come to a point where it will no longer be accepted as the role of Government Back Benchers to sit quiet, while Opposition Back Benchers spin out time, however familiar with that we may have become. Government Back Benchers have also been elected to speak. The hon. Member for Walsall, North does not seem to understand that.
We shall enter into the debate. We have a precedent for doing that in the Self-Governing Schools etc. (Scotland) Bill. A number of my colleagues from south of the border were fortunate enough to be invited to serve on the Committee stage of that Bill. They felt that they might as well enter into the debate and they did. I am glad to say that they trounced the Opposition thoroughly. I heard that in Scotland, so it must be true. That will not be the only occasion when that happens.
The Opposition should understand that the cherished right to burn up time in Committee will not be theirs for ever. That will be a great disappointment for many Opposition Members whom I see on the Back Benches. We are about to enter a different dimension, and I think that it will be a better one.
The proposition that we have to endure a battering from the arguments, or non-arguments, of Opposition Back Benchers in Committee before a guillotine can be obtained seems likely to go by the board. In 10 years' time it will be an accepted part of proceedings in the House to ration and allocate time sensibly and to keep speeches short, and I do not suppose that we will get many more debates like this. It will be good riddance to synthetic rubbish.
§ Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)
I deeply resent the assumption that Opposition Members wasted time on the Employment Bill. As my right hon. and hon. Friends know, we wasted no time.
I was looking forward to a thorough debate on some of the Lords amendments. There are 33 amendments that we have not yet had a chance to debate in the House, and we oppose 23 of them. That is a considerable number. The amendments are concerned with issues which greatly divide the two sides of the House. For example, there are fundamental differences on questions of deregulating health and safety and exploiting young women and young people, and I do not agree with the definition of equality given by the Leader of the House. I am not impressed when a former Foreign Secretary tries to instruct me on equal rights. We have different opinions about that.
I wanted the House to be able to discuss further the underlying emotion that has been expressed constantly by 1016 the Government—the job-at-any-cost mentality. People should not have to settle for jobs regardless of pay, terms and conditions. We need to discuss the health and safety at work provisions for young people in some detail. A longer debate would have given us an opportunity to air that thoroughly and to let the nation know some of the shocking statistics for young people at work.
Young people are often inexperienced, and they are not fully mature. They receive lower wages than adults. However, the Government are repealing protection for young workers in the Employment Bill. It would end the maximum 48-hour week for young people in factories, abolish compulsory breaks and remove the limit on overtime. As a result of those changes, approximately two thirds of the 900,000 young people concerned will no longer be protected by legislation, despite the undisputed evidence that people under 25 have a greater chance of being injured at work.
The House could usefully spend time debating these amendments if we had a chance. We oppose many of them, but it is important to discuss them.
I particularly wanted to discuss our amendment to clause 9, as it would extend help to where it is needed—to many parents on incomes below the Department of Employment's estimate of a full-time employee's earnings for the first month of that financial year. I wanted a long debate on that because I hoped that I could change Conservative Members' minds. I know that that is difficult, because Conservative Members have closed minds, but one lives in hope and it is always worth having a go.
If we intend to be serious about training people to re-enter the labour market, and to make full use of their talents and abilities, it would have been useful to give that amendment an airing. We have a dearth of trained workers and if we are to respond, it is important to go into the details and to look at the evidence that suggests what a badly trained work force we have. A debate on our amendment would have given us that opportunity.
The Government have made a mess of both these Bills —although one is more disgraceful than the other. Because of the drafting of the Bill and the large number of amendments, we will not be able to discuss vital issues.
I do not want a large number of people to be forced into employment training, as it is a dreadful scheme. It is just over one year old and it was hyped up by the Government as a massive investment to train today's unemployed. I have had evidence in my surgeries of some of the distress the scheme has caused.
The evidence to date shows all too clearly that the employment training scheme has failed to achieve any of its objectives. We could appropriately have discussed that failure had we dealt with a lengthy amendment relating to training. We all know of the scheme's miserable failure to recruit the numbers predicted by the Government, and to provide adequate work experience placements. My hon. Friends and I had hoped to discuss all that in detail. I feel that we have a particular duty to debate the failure of the ET scheme to meet the needs of the unemployed, but clearly no such debate will be possible before the end of the current Session.
The Government probably slotted in the timetable motion on the Employment Bill with that on the Local Government and Housing Bill to lose us a major opportunity to discuss their disastrous training record. We 1017 should have liked to debate the implications for the single market in 1992, particularly those relating to manufacturing industry.
I also wanted to discuss the new clause dealing with the transfer of assets and staff to the industrial training boards, which has been touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott). The Lords new clause on the ITBs is simply another Bill tacked on to this one. It is disgusting; hut, if we are lucky enough to catch the eye of the Chair, we may have five minutes at the most in which to discuss it.
Many other important issues need to be brought into the glare of publicity, in the interests of democracy—not least the extra powers that yet another Tory Minister has given himself. In employment and training, as in so many other contexts, we are seeing a worrying centralisation of power. The guillotining of two such important Bills is outrageous. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) is right: the Government are holding the House and the rights of its Members in contempt, and I wish to add my disgust to that of other Opposition Members.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)
I wonder why the Opposition tried to delay discussion of the amendments yesterday. The Opposition, along with the House of Lords, have made a tremendously good job of looking after their friends throughout the country. Having lived in Yorkshire for many years, and having been involved in local government through liaison between my association and councillors there, I have had an opportunity to study the twin tracking and double tracking that went on there. The Lords amendments to the Local Government and Housing Bill, which this House has accepted, were clearly designed to ensure that those who currently earn large salaries while supposedly working for one authority can continue to work in another, as elected members. I find it rather upsetting that we allowed that concession.
I was amazed to hear what was said on Radio 4 by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett): I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber. He described as "minor" the work done by party officials who earned their living in a separate authority. The hon. Gentleman must know a good deal about that, having worked as a lecturer in Barnsley while working effectively full time as a council leader. He knows how the system works. He knows that Derek Hatton. that great militant who was employed for many years as a local government officer, did not attend to his duties—indeed, he hardly knew where his desk was —in the authority that was supposed to be employing him. While being paid by ratepayers in one area, he was engaged full-time in Militant activities in another.
§ Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)
The hon. Gentleman mentioned my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), who worked as a lecturer for my authority in Barnsley. As a member of the education committee, I was virtually one of his employers. What the hon. Gentleman evidently does not know is that his contract contained a minimum contact time and an arrangement for any money that he earned as a councillor to be paid back to the authority. My hon. Friend was not paid twice.
§ Mr. Bruce
I am grateful for that vague assurance. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has produced no figures in regard to the pay-back arrangement, nor has he mentioned the number of contact hours for which his hon. Friend was contracted to work.
If Opposition Members want to get on to names and personalities, there is a long list of them. If they want to play that game, we shall be happy to do so. We need only take the example of any Yorkshire council, particularly when there were both county and district councils. John Cornwall and Clive Betts are two interesting names from Sheffield district council and South Yorkshire county council. The hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay), speaking as the employer of his hon. Friend the Member for Brightside, has just told us how these things are done: the jobs are in the gift of local authority members, who are able to appoint people and then write contracts allowing them to do all sorts of things.
§ Mr. Bruce
No, I will not.
Well over 50 per cent. of Labour members of South Yorkshire county council were also employed either by other local authorities or in nationalised industries: that is a fact. I remember that the Labour leader of the Kirklees authority was supposedly a plasterer working for Leeds city council. Although he did not do a day's plastering in seven years, he retained his salary.
§ Mr. Soley
The hon. Gentleman is indulging in a smear campaign. If he made some of those comments outside the House, he could be taken to court on a libel charge. Let me ask him to respect the fact that people outside the House cannot answer: they cannot come in here and put forward a defence. To say that someone was "supposedly" a plasterer implies that he was deceiving people deliberately, and drawing money from his deceit. That is a serious allegation.
I also ask the hon. Gentleman to consider what some of his Conservative colleagues in local authorities have said. There is the case, in south London, of a Conservative council leader who offered a job to a Labour councillor because of the possibility that he would lose his job under this legislation. To his credit, that Conservative councillor recognised that what was afoot was a nasty attempt to get Labour councillors out when they were doing ordinary jobs for ordinary people in a perfectly legal and proper way.
§ Mr. Bruce
I was challenged to name names; now the hon. Gentleman takes me to task for having done so. I was also challenged to cite more examples. Examples are manifest. It is some years since I was in a position to observe such occurrences, but when they were going on I was not a Member of Parliament, and I spoke to the press outside the House.
§ Mr. Battle
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is in some difficulty. He is making allegations with the protection of the House. He has named people and their jobs—jobs which, for his 1019 information, they are still trying to do, although he claims that he speaks of the past. His comments are a slur on the professions of those people.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is attempting to use a point of order for the intervention that he wished to make. It is not a point of order. I remind all hon. Members that they have responsibilities when they speak in the House. We are dealing not with personalities but with a motion on whether there should be a time limit on the legislation that the House is about to enact.
§ Mr. Bruce
Thank you for your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker. When we talk about the time that we have to discuss the Bill, we should remember that many issues have not been properly considered, to the great disappointment of many of my hon. Friends on the Back Benches.
Abuses have occurred within the system, not only in Labour councils, but in Conservative and Liberal ones. One could cite examples—as Labour Members often do —of individuals who will be caught by the legislation. In recent times no one has challenged the fact that civil servants are required by their contracts of employment not to take part in party political activities. I am trying to set the record straight. Real problems occurred which caused real fraud—[Hon. Members: "Fraud?"]—on ratepayers, particularly in Yorkshire. Opposition Members attempted to delay the Bill so that they could make further inroads into the clause designed to deal with that problem.
§ Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has just made a serious allegation which casts a slur not only on Opposition Members but on the integrity of the Chair. He suggested that Opposition Members tried to delay the Bill. I am sure that you will not permit that, Madam Deputy Speaker, and nor would any other occupant of the Chair.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
I believe there is no slur on the Chair. I remind hon. Members that there must be tolerant language and common courtesy in exchanges during debates.
§ Mr. Bruce
It is common currency that we are here to discuss a guillotine motion because the agreement reached through the normal channels to take two days to discuss the Bill was not observed by Opposition Members. Hon. Gentlemen are entitled to take further time, but they should not complain about the guillotine, because they did not get on with the substance of what had been agreed.
I have made my point. Although the Bill has been amended, it attempts to show that it is wrong for people to engage in twin tracking.
§ Mr. Bruce
No. I am about to finish.
All parties should acknowledge that twin tracking is wrong. Someone who wishes to represent the community as a member of a local authority should not expect to earn his pay as a senior officer of another local authority, even more so when he or she is not turning up to do that job or, in the case of lecturers, are not in the timetable. I hope that that message will reach such people and that they will start to work in a more moral manner. However, I suspect that 1020 the legislation will not be tight enough and that the Government will have to return to the matter in another Bill.
§ 5.4 pm
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
The speech of the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Bruce) was both disgraceful and disreputable. I doubt that he would have the courage or, indeed, the purse to repeat those statements, appending those names to them, as he did, outside the House. If anyone abuses the rights and privileges of the House, it is not Opposition Members but Conservative Members like him, who do great disservice to the House by attacking decent, honest people outside the House who cannot defend themselves.
It ill behoves the hon. Gentleman and many other Conservative Members to attack local authority councillors who work for other local authorities when so many Conservative Members have directorships. I am surprised that they have the time to come to the House, never mind the nerve. There is more than a whiff of hypocrisy on Conservative Benches and it is whirling round the head of the hon. Member for Dorset, South. He should be ashamed of himself.
I am disappointed that the right hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) is no longer in his place. It was inappropriate for him to attack my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). I have always regarded the right hon. Gentleman as a fine example of a political thug. When a guillotine motion is moved, he plays his usual role as chairman of the 1922 Committee. He is a Uriah Heep in residence to the Conservative leadership.
The right hon. Gentleman took no part in the debate. I did not see him here during the debates on the Bill, yet as soon as the guillotine motion was moved he came here saying, "The Opposition waffled, spent their time abusing parliamentary privilege and tried to talk the Bill out." How the hell does he know? He was never here to listen. He just came to play the role given to him. I suppose that he does it fairly well, but his sincerity does not come over to me in great waves. He should have saved us his speech tonight. He did not bother to stick around to hear the rest of the debate on the guillotine motion.
§ Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale)
I heard what the hon. Gentleman said about my right hon. Friend's interest in the Bill. Although I cannot swear to it, my recollection is that my right hon. Friend expressed some interest in it. Has the hon. Gentleman checked Hansard to ensure that his remarks about my right hon. Friend are true?
§ Mr. Banks
I would not willingly do a disservice to any hon. Member, even a Conservative Member. I sat religiously through the debate yesterday and on Monday on the Local Government and Housing Bill. There were few Members here and I know who they were. It is no great feat of memory to remember which Conservative Members were present, because so few were here.
§ Mr. Jopling
I repeat my question: has the hon. Gentleman checked that my right hon. Friend did not take part in the earlier debates?
§ Mr. Banks
I know that he was not present, so I do not need to check. I know because I was here, so there is no need for me to waste my time reading Hansard. The right 1021 hon. Gentleman was not here. He may have wandered in and out, treating the debate as a buffet where he could pick up a little nibble here and there.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I reminded the House earlier that the motion does not relate to personalities. It is a serious motion and must be debated seriously. I am sure that the hon. Member will oblige me.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
It is enormously difficult to oblige me and it is extremely difficult to do so this afternoon.
§ Mr. Banks
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. People will start talking about us soon, I am sure. All I want to do is to reply to some of the points that have been made. If hon. Members make comments, I feel that it is incumbent on me to defend my hon. Friends who I believe have been unjustly and unfairly attacked both inside and outside the House.
I oppose the guillotine motion. I am not worried very much about contempt of the House. I accept that the Government need to get their business through. The position will be reversed very soon, I am glad to say, and then, no doubt, I shall support guillotine motions. I am not, therefore, opposed to guillotine motions as such, but I am worried about the contempt that this motion shows not for the House but for the homeless in London and the nation as a whole.
We dealt on Monday with a number of issues that did not relate to housing. We dealt with local government issues and the hon. Member for Dorset, South spent a lot of time talking about something that had already been dealt with. What we have not had a chance to debate properly and that we are now being prevented from debating properly are the housing aspects of the Bill, the Lords amendments and our amendments. Many Conservative Members are prepared to close their eyes to the reality of this enormous housing and homelessness crisis.
It was wrong for the hon. Member for Dorset, South and the right hon. Member for Woking to suggest that the Opposition were deliberately dragging their feet. I could talk with feeling for hours about the plight of the homeless, both in my constituency and in London as a whole. I do not need to feign anger about that. My sincerity is not synthetic. I do not need to drag out the proceedings just for the sake of doing so. I see homelessness on a daily basis and it angers me deeply. I wanted to carry on making my contribution last night.
I accept that the Government want to get their business through, but there was no need for them to step in as early as they did. We could have sat through the night or into the early hours—until 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning. It is a damned sight more comfortable to make speeches here at 4 o'clock in the morning rather than to sleep on the embankment at that time, so I do not consider that I would have been deprived or that my comfort would have been greatly endangered or impaired if I had had to be here then to debate these important issues. For some reason or another, however, the Government wanted to pull up stumps and get away as early as possible.
§ Mr. David Hunt
I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was here when his hon. Friend the Member for 1022 Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) spoke from the Opposition Front Bench, but he directly criticised the sort of conduct that the hon. Gentleman now advocates. Does he disagree fundamentally with his hon. Friend the Member for Copeland?
§ Mr. Banks
I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend on virtually everything that I hear him say. I have sat behind him during the proceedings on God knows how many Bills and I have watched him see off so many Ministers of State and Secretaries of State for the Environment that I have lost count. I am sure that my hon. Friend will continue to do that. He has already seen off five, and I am sure that he will see off a few Leaders of the House before the next election.
The Minister said that the time may well come when Bills have to be timetabled. I was not filibustering last night and I am not attempting to do so now. I do not believe that any Opposition Member was filibustering. How, therefore, were we abusing the procedures of the House last night?
§ Mr. Hunt
I do not want to make too much of this. I know that the hon. Gentleman could talk and talk. I am in no position to criticise him, because I made one of the longest speeches in the House since the last war. Therefore, I do not want to enter into competition with him. However, I recall that the hon. Member for Copeland directly criticised those hon. Members who felt that one of their duties was to take the House through the night.
§ Mr. Banks
But that was only if it was a deliberate ploy just to drag out the proceedings on the Bill. I said that that was not the case. If the Minister had approached us and said, "Let's finish at 4 o'clock in the morning," I feel sure that he would have had a reasonably sympathetic hearing. That would have provided us with an opportunity to discuss at some length and in some detail 650 amendments. It is very difficult to set them aside, just like that. One has to make an attempt to structure the debate around them so that we can understand what is going on and perhaps, even at this late stage, prevent the Government from committing a gross folly by the passing of ill-drafted legislation. It was not a question of talking through the night just for the sake of talking, but if we had had a few more hours we could have used them constructively.
Ministers, however, did not come forward with that proposal. They decided that things were looking a bit tough and that they were not sure how it was going to go, so they got in very quick last night. Consequently, there is a whole mass of amendments that we shall have to discuss in a miserly two hours. That does not do justice to the terrible housing crisis, nor does it do credit to the way that we conduct our business or to the way in which legislation reaches the statute book. The Minister knows that. I have said before that his is the most acceptable face of extremism that has surfaced in the environment team since 1983. I hope that I have done him no disservice by saying that.
The Minister was reasonably co-operative in the early stages. That is accepted. It is not that we want to connive with the Government. Wherever possible, however, we want to ensure that debates are held at a time when people outside can hear them. In many cases, what we say in this place falls on deaf ears on the Government side and is never heard outside the House. That is a great shame, not because of the value of what we say per se but because of 1023 the importance of these decisions to the homeless, to those who are waiting for a house and to those who are living in sub-standard accommodation. That is what this part of the Bill is all about.
It is an awful and apposite comment on the attitudes and standards of today's Tory party that virtually no Conservative Members were here last night. A few of them came into the Chamber when they thought that there was to be a Division. The rest of them kept away. I think that some of them kept away because their consciences were troubling them. They did not want to hear the arguments. The feeling abroad in the Conservative party is that, if Conservative Members do not listen to the arguments and if they try to sweep the evidence under the carpet, the problem will solve itself.
§ Mr. Holt
To pursue the hon. Gentleman's line of argument, if he is suggesting that the Labour Benches are more frequently occupied than those on this side of the House, and if we were to take a count during every hour that every Bill is discussed in this place, I can guarantee that, although he individually would come out very high on the list—because I, too, am an assiduous Member of Parliament and sit here for long hours—his party would lose handsomely.
§ Mr. Banks
I thank the hon. Gentleman for some of his remarks. There are many debates that I do not attend and I do not take part in the proceedings on many Bills, not because I am not interested in them but because they are not necessarily relevant to my constituency. However, on crucial issues such as social security, housing, education and the National Health Service that affect millions of people, including those who have been dispossessed and put in a much worse position, both economically and socially, by this Government's policies, he will find that these Benches are very well filled, because the Opposition concentrate on issues that affect working-class people most particularly. This is one of those issues. That is why, last night, the Labour Benches were well attended, but the Conservative Benches were green acres of emptiness.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce
I hate to take issue with the hon. Gentleman, but 10 Labour Members are present. The hon. Gentleman told us that the Bill is of much importance to the Labour party. Are we to believe that only 10 Labour Members are interested in it?
§ Mr. Banks
We are discussing not the Bill but the guillotine motion, which is intent on allowing only two hours for debate. I hope that when we debate the Bill the hon. Gentleman will make a speech.
It is noticeable that Conservative Members always debate guillotine motions because they want to use up time. Yesterday, we had an important debate on housing for four and a half hours, yet not one Conservative Member spoke. The Minister had the gall to complain that he had had to listen to Labour Members' speeches for four and a half hours, but that complaint should have been directed at Conservative Back Benchers and not at Labour 1024 Members. I was prepared to sit down in the hope that I could tempt the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) into saying something about homeless people in London. Conservative Members are ready to make speeches on the guillotine motion because they want to eat up the time.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes
My hon. Friend was challenged about whether he had checked Hansard to see whether the right hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) had spoken on the Bill. I have done some research on my hon. Friend's behalf, and I can tell him that until 10.45 pm yesterday —Hansard is not printed after that—he had not spoken, although he had voted in three of the four Divisons.
§ Mr. Banks
That is not very nice. My compliment deserved a better return than that. This is a cruel place, even on the Labour Benches.
I shall vote against the guillotine motion, and I hope that, if Conservative Members have no great interest in the Bill, they will do what they did last night—sit it out and let us speak for the homeless in this country, who are not represented here and who are not looked after by Conservative Members. We do not want Conservative Members to waste the precious two hours that we have, which will not be long enough to make the case that we want. We shall have years in the future to undo the damage that the Government and this wretched Bill will do to the homeless.
§ Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale)
I want to comment on the guillotine motion because I am in two minds about it. I have much sympathy with the Government moving the guillotine motion in view of last night's time-wasting. I spent four years in the House in enforced silence and developed acute sensitivity to time-wasting. Few hon. Members are more alert to it than I am.
I am sorry that the motion has been introduced because the Government are doing themselves a disservice by causing some Lords amendments not to be discussed and explained. I am thinking of Lords amendment No. 269, which, knowing the ways of the House, I expect will be cut out in the two-hour debate on the remaining Lords amendments, which will follow if the motion is agreed.
Lords amendment No. 269 deals with the vital matter —I know that this view is held by hon. Members on both sides of the House—of rural housing. It closely follows an amendment that I moved on Report, which caused me to do something that I had not done for many years—to vote with about 20 of my right hon. and hon. Friends against the Government. I was therefore most anxious to speak to Lords amendment No. 269, which is similar to the one that I failed to persuade the House to agree to in June.
Lords amendment No. 269 deals with the problems experienced by organisations that are anxious to maintain a stock of houses in rural areas for people of modest means who cannot afford to take on a mortgage for 100 per cent.
1025 home ownership. The intention of the moves in this House and in the other place was to ensure that such a stock of houses remains available to people of modest means as a first step on the ladder through shared ownership with a housing association or other body.
I have had a difference of opinion with the Government. At the suggestion of a number of organisations outside the House, I wanted to ban the staircasing of ownership to 100 per cent. We have had arguments across the Floor of the House about maintaining houses for shared ownership, and I have had arguments with the Government.
When I failed to get my way in June, I gave notice that the Government would hear more about the issue. I said that the battle would be taken up again in the other place, and it was. Three weeks ago, Lords amendment No. 269 was debated in the other place and the Government were defeated by 111 votes to 38—a heavy defeat; hence the Lords amendment.
If nothing had happened since that vote I should be taking a poor view of the timetable motion and should be encouraging my right hon. and hon. Friends once again to take on the Government and insist that something be done for rural housing. However, that is not necessary because the Government have taken some excellent and most welcome steps to help to ensure that a pool of housing will remain available for people of limited means as a first step to part ownership. The Government do not want to ban staircasing up to 100 per cent., as I do. They prefer that part owners who staircase ownership up to 100 per cent. and wish to sell their house must sell it back to the housing association from which they originally bought it. I found the Government's preference unattractive when it was announced by my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State because it was not properly backed by undertakings that sufficient and appropriate sums of money would be made available to organisations to use their pre-emptive right of repurchase rather than to allow the house, as currently happens, to be sold into the open market and therefore lost to the next generation of young couples in rural areas to start on the first step of home ownership. I am glad that the Government have given those clear undertakings that adequate funds will be available. My attitude has therefore changed.
I warmly welcome the Government's proposal. As I understand it, the cash will be available through a separate budget. I was pleased to hear that the Government have announced that they are inviting the Housing Corporation to propose a significant increase in its special rural programme for rented housing to allow 1,000 approvals next year, 1.200 in 1991–92 and 1,500 in 1992–93. The Housing Corporation is being invited to identify separately, for the first time, a rural element within its low-cost home ownership programme to allow 250 approvals next year, 300 in 1991–92 and 350 in 1992–93. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning said:This will be welcome news for young people in rural areas who want affordable housing without having to move away.I strongly endorse that comment.
§ Mr. David Nicholson
My right hon. Friend knows the strong support that I and other Conservative Members have given him during this period. What have the organisations concerned with rural housing said about the arrangements?
§ Mr. Jopling
I thank my hon. Friend and others for their support, and I shall come to that point.
In view of the Government's welcome change of mind, I have decided that I will not oppose their intention to remove Lords amendment No. 269 from the Bill. I do so on the basis that we try the Government's option for an experimental period of 18 months. I give notice that I shall expect the Government to carry out a review at the end of that period and that, if it has not worked out, I shall return to the matter.
§ Mr. Jopling
That is interesting, but given the hon. Gentleman's attack on my right hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) without checking the facts, it does not surprise me.
I come to the point about which my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson) asked. I am supported in my view by many of the organisations that first drew the problem of rural housing to my attention. I shall quote only the National Agricultural Centre's Rural Trust which, referring to the period since the Government's defeat in another place, said:In the short time available, we have achieved the maximum possible with regard to guarantees concerning the financing of repurchase. We have therefore agreed that an 18-month trial period will help to ascertain whether Planning Committees and landowners—or their legal advisers—will find these guarantees sufficient.I welcome the Government's action. It follows my efforts last year in the debate on the Local Government and Housing Bill to assist rural housing. On that occasion, I was backed by 65 of my right hon. and hon. Friends on an amendment to the right-to-buy provisions to ensure that council houses that had been sold to their tenants and had restrictive covenants placed upon them—whereby they remained occupied by local people—did not get out of that net through a loophole in the law, resulting in those houses being let as holiday homes. We closed that loophole. I am glad to say that this is the second year running when I have been able to do something to promote rural housing for local people.
Having been able to get off my chest a good many of the comments that I would have made had we not had the guillotine motion, I am glad to support the motion.
§ Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)
I shall try to observe your strictures, Madam Deputy Speaker, about not engaging in comments on personalities. I must remind hon. Members that the House began to engage in such matters when the right hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and suggested that he did not deliver his speech with a straight face. My hon. Friend is a naturally pleasant person and his pleasant demeanour should not be mistaken for joviality. At least my hon. Friends have only one face, which is more than can be said for many Conservative Members.
The hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Bruce), who has left the Chamber, referred to the Local Government and Housing Bill and the activities and employment of 1027 councillors. I do not know what other jobs the hon. Gentleman has, but he certainly displayed all the qualities necessary to become a journalist for the Sun.
The Local Government and Housing Bill is a controversial and massive Bill. It will affect the housing of people in our constituencies and the administration of local government. It will place restrictions on elected members of councils. It will attack democracy by limiting the number of people who hold elected offices and restricting the political affiliation and activities of people employed by local government.
The Bill is an important piece of legislation on which, as one who has had some experience in local government, I should like to have spoken at length. The Opposition Benches are awash with Members with considerable local government experience and many points on the Bill have already been made.
Not many hon. Members, even on the Opposition Benches, have experience on the shop floor. Even fewer have spent considerable time as shop stewards for trade unions. In that respect, I consider myself to be part of a small, exclusive group. I shall therefore limit my remaining remarks to the Employment Bill. I support the remarks of the shadow Leader of the House—my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham)—and the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). I was congratulating myself on remembering the hon. Gentleman's constituency of Orkney and Shetland when I realised that I could not remember the political party to which he belonged. However, that is by the by.
I served on the Standing Committee on the Employment Bill. I agree that the debates were constructive and were conducted efficiently and expeditiously. We covered all the clauses and schedules, and Report and Third Reading took place without any time restrictions. As far as I am aware, there were no time restrictions in the other place. It is therefore a bit galling that the passage of the Bill is to be marred by this guillotine motion when there is much more to discuss. It is disgraceful that the Government should seek to curtail debate on a Bill which the Leader of the House conceded was controversial and important. It affects workers' conditions and the welfare of millions of people. The Bill is a further example of the Government's antipathy towards working people in general and the trade union movement in particular. It further shifts the balance away from employees towards employers and is yet another example of the Tory party's master and servant mentality.
The Bill and many of the Lords amendments are riddled with cynicism. On the pretext of opening up new opportunities for women, for example, the Bill opens up the possibility of women working below ground in the coal mines. Some people might ask why I should criticise that because it is part of equality for women at work. However, the Government have not addressed the fact that conditions underground are not suitable for women and they have no intention of addressing that problem before bringing in this legislation. When taken in connection with the Social Security Act 1989, the Bill provides for women to have their unemployment benefit stopped if they refuse to take employment down the mines—although the conditions are not suitable for them—under the "actively seeking work" rule.
1028 On the pretext of opening up new opportunities for young people, the Bill opens up further opportunities for exploitation by employers, which has implications for the health and safety of young people in employment. On the pretext of opening up new opportunities for meaningful training, the Bill destroys the former tripartite arrangements for training and hands total power, and a considerable amount of taxpayers' money, to private employers who are elected by no one and responsible to no one and who represent no interests other than those of employers and business.
The final insult to add to injury is that it is claimed that the Bill will lift barriers to employment. In practice, it will make it easier for employers to sack workers without having to give them reasons and to avoid paying proper compensation when they are sacking them.
The Lords amendments, which we are now to consider in a restricted time, cover important issues which deserve more time than we are to be allowed. They include health and safety at work, the administration of safety procedures, and the welfare and conditions of women at work. The time set out in the motion to discuss those important issues is wholly inadequate, so the House should reject the motion.
§ Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton)
As I said at the time, I greatly welcomed the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) and the news he brought to the House. Apart from that speech, this afternoon and last night have been miserable occasions for the House and the conduct of our business.
I want to talk about the housing aspects of the Local Government and Housing Bill because, as the Opposition recognise, I am interested in these matters. However, as the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) promised us more "guillotines" if there were ever a Labour Government, I want to reflect on the origin of that word.
The British historian Thomas Carlyle described the originator of the term as a "respectable practitioner". If he had not been a Frenchman, I suspect that he might have been a member of the British Medical Association. Carlyle reports that Dr. Guillotin brought forward a proposal to improve the ventilation of the hall in which the National Assembly met. Perhaps we could do with his services sometimes in this Chamber. Carlyle continues:but greater far, he can produce his 'Report on the Penal Code', and reveal therein a cunningly devised Beheading Machine … which product popular gratitude or levity christens by a feminine derivative name, as if it were his daughter: La Guillotine!"Carlyle concludes:Unfortunate Doctor! For two-and-twenty years he. unguillotined, shall hear nothing but guillotine, see nothing but guillotine; then dying, shall through long centuries wander, as it were, a disconsolate ghost … his name like to outlive Caesar's.I fear that we may recall that in future timetable debates.
I sat through most of Monday's proceedings and spoke on Monday. I can confirm the judgment of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House that we debated the issues in an orderly and sensible way on Monday despite the fact that, as I reminded the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), one of the issues was the community charge, which I would have thought was a fairly major issue between the Government and the Opposition.
1029 I have shown a considerable interest in the housing aspects of the Bill. I spoke principally on housing on Second and Third Readings and two or three times in Committee. My right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale has dealt with one source of concern on housing. However, another important issue— which, I regret, we shall have a limited time to debate because of the Opposition's antics yesterday—is the preservation of council accommodation for old people in relation to giving them the right to buy.
I have somewhat conflicting views on that issue and I have had representations in opposite directions from my constituents. The Opposition made a legitimate point in the other place—no doubt it will be made again this afternoon—about the danger of limiting council accommodation by extending the right to buy to that accommodation, especially in areas where council accommodation is limited. I hope that the housing officer of my own local authority, Taunton Deane, will not mind me quoting from his letter. He says:To expose these properties to the Right to Buy would increase the risk of abuse, i.e. the real motivation for purchase may not come from the elderly secure tenant … but instead the prime mover may be a younger relative with an eye on the inheritance … The effect of these proposals will be particularly severe in certain rural locations where a small group of properties (normally bungalows) are specifically reserved for the elderly.From my constituency surgery experience, I can testify to the son-in-law situation. On two occasions, elderly constituents have come to me accompanied by their sons-in-law. In one case, an elderly constituent had a flat with stairs and because that person suffered badly from arthritis, it was unsuitable accommodation. The council was able to rehouse my constituent in a ground floor flat which was far more suitable to that person's condition. It was then discovered—I must confess that my authority was somewhat at fault for not having made it clear—that this accommodation was designed for old people and therefore was not subject to the right to buy. My constituent was angry, but the son-in-law was angrier. I am sure that the House will appreciate the concerns and issues involved. There is a danger of abuse if the earlier Lords amendment is sustained.
Others may ask why we should not extend the right to buy to elderly people. Again I must cite a constituency case. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is not here, because he would be interested in my next point. In my constituency and elsewhere in the south-west, including the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), the Secretary of State for Defence, there are a number of properties that were formerly Greater London council homes for retired people. When the GLC was abolished, there were discussions about what should be done with those homes. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West has rejoined us.
At first, the idea was—and this would seem logical—that the local district council should take over these GLC retirement homes. For some reason, which I have never been able to ascertain, the Association of District Councils turned that down. As a result, the homes went to one housing association, which recently sold them to another housing association. There are a number of issues involved.
A year ago, people asked me, "Why do we not have the right to buy?" I am afraid that even if we carried the earlier 1030 amendment passed in the other place, they would not have the right to buy because a housing association owns the properties. Perhaps the Minister will elucidate during our debate on the Lords amendments. It is an important point that I should have liked to have time to explore during our debates on the Bill.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I entirely accept that. The point that I am trying to make is that I am being pulled in different directions because of the housing situation in my constituency and others like it.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
Does the hon. Gentleman recall why those seaside and country homes were built or purchased by the London county council, and then the GLC? It was to give elderly Londoners the opportunity to move to more pleasant surroundings in their twilight years. All that has gone now, and the sale of the houses will ensure that there is no future possibility of nominating Londoners to enjoy the benefits of seaside and country air. Does the hon. Gentleman feel that that ought to be taken into account?
§ Mr. Nicholson
I do not wish to prolong my speech, although the hon. Gentleman has made a legitimate point. If we had been able to debate these matters properly yesterday, we should certainly have wanted to discuss this point.
I am in a dilemma, although, on the whole, I welcome the judgment of Solomon that my hon. Friend the Minister has made on the Opposition amendment carried in the other place, which he will put to the House shortly.
I understand that, as so often on these occasions, the practices in the House yesterday did not represent a sustained attempt by the official Opposition to delay business. When guillotine motions were introduced by the Labour Government of the 1970s, they were, I suspect, the result of sustained resistance by a united Conservative party to a number of controversial measures. Increasingly —we hear this from the more approachable Opposition Members—such occasions are maverick occasions and do not represent official resistance.
§ Mr. Battle
I sat through the whole debate on housing yesterday. The speeches are there in Hansard for all to read. We dealt with very few of the major issues because of the large number of Government amendments on the Amendment Paper.
Is the hon. Member now telling the House that the debates that we had on rents——
§ Mr. Battle
It is not a point of order; it is an intervention. Is the hon. Member for Taunton telling the House that the time that we spent on debates on rent levels, on the fact that housing benefit will now be paid out of the rents of other council tenants and on homelessness was not usefully spent? Conservative Members would not join in those debates, but the issues are of major concern 1031 and not a moment of that time was wasted. We, too, wanted to deal with the amendments to which the hon. Gentleman was referring.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I do not doubt for a moment that the hon. Member made a sensible speech yesterday, as I know of his interest in these matters. I am complaining in general about the actions of Opposition Members, and about maverick resistence.
I wonder what sort of time a Labour Government would have, if one ever acceded to power, when trying to introduce measures to implement, for example, the economic policies of the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) and other measures that would be extraordinarily divisive of their ranks. I wonder what sort of resistance they would encounter from those mavericks, who will no doubt have increased in number. I regret that they will probably not have the powerful figure of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) to deal with the matter. Fourteen years ago, he turned on the mavericks in his party and described them asout of their tiny Chinese minds".I have never been entirely sure of the etymology of that remark. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity of discussing it with Deng Xiaoping. On another occasion, the right hon. Gentleman described the mavericks in his party in more earthy Anglo-Saxon language. You, Madam Deputy Speaker, would not allow me to repeat what he is supposed to have said. Those mavericks have led us to this timetable motion and restricted debate on the important issues raised by the Bill. I regret the need for the motion, but I shall certainly support it.
§ Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower)
I shall confine my speech to the Local Government and Housing Bill as it relates to Wales. The right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) mentioned the importance of Lords amendment No. 269 on rural housing. I share his concern that that amendment will not now be debated. I was especially anxious that it should be debated because rural housing in Wales has been given a completely different flavour by the issue of Welsh Office circular 30/86, "Housing for Senior Management". There is no English equivalent and I want the House to know that I have raised the matter repeatedly and that I am still disturbed that, in general, people in rural areas in Wales must comply with local and structure plans but senior managers do not have to comply fully. An exception has been made in their case, and I feel that that is gross discrimination.
The Welsh Office issued a further circular, 44/87, which would have modified the original circular, but then claimed that it had not been issued. The original circular still exists. In my constituency of Gower and other Welsh constituencies local people living in rural areas cannot purchase houses because of high prices and cannot build them because of the adherence to local and structure plans while housing for senior management has been made an exception. That is an extremely distasteful and unnecessary intrusion. Young people in rural villages are prevented from building houses in the locality whereas people from outside can come in and do so.
1032 Lords amendment No. 291 is also extremely important. I know that the Leader of the House, with his deep Welsh roots—his roots are perhaps deeper than his accent—will consider carefully the separate provisions for Wales which that amendment would allow. It says:Where any provision of this Act which extends to England and Wales confers … a power on the Secretary of State to make regulations, orders, rules or determinations or to give directions or specify any matter, the power may be exercised differently for England and Wales, whether or not it is exercised separately.It is a superb amendment because it would allow Wales to be considered completely differently.
The people of Wales would be delighted if the amendment were carried since it would enable two matters to be excluded from the current provisions on home improvements. First, there is the standard of fitness in terms of home improvement grants. The proposed standard of fitness for mandatory grants is wholly inadequate and falls short of present standards of fitness. A standard of fitness should go beyond that aimed at preventing danger to health and safety. It should aim to ensure a minimum level of comfort and amenity, which all householders of all tenures should be entitled to enjoy before the next century. It is important for the Government to understand that in assessing whether a house is fit or unfit, it will always be necessary to consider whether it is reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition. Specific standards should be set for rewiring, lighting, heating and thermal insulation. The target standard should be at least that of the National House Building Council.
In Wales we feel strongly that works to the external curtilage of the property should be eligible for grant aid. The present system applies only to the dwelling. In districts such as the Rhondda repair work or renovation to retaining walls is urgently needed. To neglect the fabric of such structures could detract seriously from works carried out to the main structure of the building.
The second crucial area that we in Wales would like to see changed is the concept of means testing of improvement grants. In 1986 the Welsh Office published its Welsh house condition survey. It showed that in Wales 80 per cent. of grants went to people on low income. Seventy two per cent. of grant recipients had savings of less than £1,000 and 90 per cent. of grants went to dwellings that were unfit, lacked amenities or were in substantial disrepair. Therefore, it is nonsensical to argue that a means test with all the stigma attached to it and the bureaucracy required to implement and check it is needed in Wales. It is a great shame that the amendment cannot be debated.
In response to the Government's consultation paper on home improvement grants, Swansea city council said:The introduction of means testing will create a system which will involve both applicants, council officers and possibly other statutory agencies in considerable work which in many cases will have no beneficial effect in that grant will not be payable. Although this may appear to accord with ensuring that grant aid is properly targeted, it is of little help to the hapless applicant who will be required to get detailed estimates, provide details of his household financial circumstances and be subject to a financial assessment and then be told that grant aid is not available or only available at a very low rate.The means test will deter applications for assistance to the detriment of the long-term quality of the housing stock. Many people would prefer to let their properties deteriorate rather than submit to the examination that the Government envisage.
1033 That problem is likely to be evident particularly among older people who form one of the main groups to which grants should be directed. Old people usually prefer to stay put in their existing environment. That preference tends to he most strongly in favour of staying in their existing homes than objective consideration of the conditions of those homes might suggest. The proportion of old people living in under-occupied or otherwise unsatisfactory accommodation who wish to move is consistently, country by country, far below what expert or objective review of the position might suggest.
In a memorandum to the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs inquiry and report into the condition and disrepair of privately owned houses in Wales, page 286 of volume 2 of the minutes of evidence, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors states:Older generations generally do not regard property as an asset and therefore do not carry out repairs to maintain the value of the asset. Most poorly maintained property is occupied by elderly persons who do not have the will to carry out necessary repairs.An excellent example of the Welsh house condition survey's usefulness on detail is revealed by the apparent misconception of many householders about the actual state of their properties and especially the data not published in the report. It shows that 70 per cent. of those living in homes that could be classified by the technical appraisal as being in serious disrepair considered their homes to be in good repair or needing only minor repair. In view of such information, it is important that the Secretary of State for the Environment pays heed to the advice of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors when it says that an age limit of 65 should be set, above which people do not have to satisfy a means test. If the Secretary of State does not want to introduce that for England, we should be grateful if he would do it for Wales.
There are also serious objections to the details of the means-testing proposals. It is not acceptable that the calculation of available disposable income that determines the threshold does not deduct mortgage repayments. That would prejudice young owner-occupiers and first-time buyers.
Another crucial problem under the proposed system for mandatory grants is that two tests need to be satisfied. The first test relates to the condition of the property. The local authority would need to decide whether the property was fit or unfit, having regard to the proposed standard set down in the Housing Act 1988. The standard appears to be far more flexible than that in section 604 of the Housing Act 1985. On the Government's admission, that would make many more properties unfit. Assuming that a property is established as unfit, the second test is then applied—the resource test to the family. Although the family's resources may be by no means great, grant aid may not be available. The local authority's predicament is that as it is aware that the house is unfit, and irrespective of the availability of grant, there is a duty under the Housing Act 1988 to deal with that unfitness.
Therefore, the applicant for grant aid could, following a visit, be refused help but be presented with a Housing Act notice requiring him to carry out costly works at his own expense—the very works on which he had sought help in the first place. It will not take long for such circumstances to become known to grant applicants. That will act as a severe disincentive to people seeking help. I cannot but think that in this means-test procedure the 1034 Government's intention may be to reduce the total amount of money spent on grants by making it extremely difficult for people either to understand the system or go through the procedure.
The Institute of Housing summed up the argument in its memorandum to the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, stating on page 306 of the minutes of evidence:The means test concept envisaged by the Government, whilst clearly attracting resources towards those most in need, will not secure what the institute sees as a main objective of our older housing policy—improving poor housing conditions and arresting disrepair. There will he an acceleration of the rate of deterioration into disrepair for some of our older housing stock.I think that I have said enough to show the great concern in Wales about the fact that the Bill has not been debated properly. Several important amendments remain to be considered and I wish that amendment No. 291 in particular could have seen the light of day and have been examined closely.
There is alarm in Wales that, while Exchequer contributions to local authorities will remain, the rate for grants is to be reduced to 75 per cent. from the present level of 90 per cent. That change will increase the burden on the community charge payer of this new system which has a powerful potential to do enormous harm to the housing stock in Wales.
§ Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)
Thank you for allowing me to take part in this debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in which I rise wholly to support the Government's position on this matter.
A short time ago, the BBC invited me to take part in the programme "The Week in Westminster". During the interview, which was on the subject of community care and the proposal that local authorities should be given a new responsibility in that area, I was chided by the interviewer, who asked whether I was aware of comments made by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) who had ridiculed the Government's willingness to give local authorities that new responsibility, bearing in mind the Government's attitude—as perceived by the hon. Gentleman—towards local government. I responded by saying, "No, this Government have worked hard at reforming local government." Indeed, this Bill, which is the 50th measure that the Government have had to bring forward to try to bring to heel those parts of local government which are not performing as efficiently as they could, will successfully overhaul and bring up to date local government procedures. I said that, upon that basis, I felt that I understood why the Government were to entrust community care to local authorities in future.
The motion has led me to reflect on why we have needed to bring forward 50 measures on local government. I am minded to reflect on the fact that many local authorities seem to spend more time trying to circumnavigate the Government's attempts to make them efficient and responsive to their ratepayers—soon to he their community charge payers—than they do on concentrating on the delivery of the many services to which the Bill relates.
The Bill is also a reflection on the conduct of local government. The first part of the Bill deals with the Widdicombe proposals, which were the subject of independent assessments, consultation and vast public debate before coming before the House in the form of a 1035 Bill. Sitting through our deliberations on the Bill on Second Reading, in Committee and on Report, I have found it interesting to reflect on the amount of time that Opposition Members have spent trying to defend what I would term the indefensible—some of the practices highlighted by Widdicombe.
The root of the problems which have resulted in this motion is the way in which the Opposition conducted their assessment of the Bill in the first place. I could not believe the amount of time that they spent in Committee assessing the Widdicombe proposals. They spent day after day on that element of the Bill. If the Opposition had wanted to spend as much time as they now claim that they want to spend on discussing other aspects of the Bill, such as local government housing, and financial and capital arrangements, I ask whether they did not have the seeds of the solution to their problem in their own hands. They could have spent less time on the Widdicombe proposals in Standing Committee. Indeed, that was the weakest element of their case—and they knew it.
So why did they do it? Simply because they thought that there was mileage in it, because the county council elections were upon us. The Opposition were so deluded by the inadequacy of their own arguments that they found in Committee that they did not have enough time to debate in detail many of the Bill's other aspects.
I am also surprised by the uncharitable way in which the Opposition have treated these deliberations—especially what happened in the House last night—because I can remember the sympathetic way in which the ministerial team helped the Opposition. I can remember the time when, because of transport difficulties, Opposition spokesmen failed to make it to the 10.30 am start——
§ Mr. Jack
Yes, as my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson) so accurately reminds us, we made it. Who helped out the Opposition when they did not have their stream of yellow pieces of paper containing their various amendments from the lobbying bodies? Who came to their aid? The answer is, the Government. If I may say this against my hon. Friends on the Front Bench, there was a mini-filibuster of generosity from the Government, who tried to help the debate forward. The Government fed the Opposition information. I even remember seeing a Minister cross the Floor of the Committee Room to give succour, aid and comfort to the Opposition.
However, that generosity has not been repaid in the House. We saw that last night when we were kept up because of a discussion that showed that the Opposition had failed to weigh the balance of the needs to discuss different points in the Bill. Their concentration on the delights of procedural effects overwhelmed their previous professed wish to discuss certain measures.
§ Mr. Redmond
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the old saying, "Beware of the Greek bearing gifts"? One is always a little suspicious when Ministers give information because they obviously have an ulterior motive in seeking to allay the fears of the Opposition. Opposition Members seek information on various valid points and Ministers attend Committee sittings to give the Opposition information and to explain those points. The trouble with 1036 this Bill is that the Minister has clearly not been able to explain those points, judging by the number of amendments that have followed.
§ Mr. Jack
I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman intervened, because he referred to gifts and I think that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench have been over-generous. They listened most carefully to the Committee debates, which is why, in another place, many of the assurances that they had given in this House were then acted upon. Although we had won the argument about Widdicombe hands down on, for example, the question of salary levels for local government officers, in their new guises my hon. Friends listened to those points. and, even when Parliament was not sitting, presented provisions in another place to acknowledge some of the views—they were certainly not arguments—that had been advanced by Opposition Members.
Those concessions took up time in the other place and, yes, there was a need to table amendments to seek to enact them, but the charity with which those concessions were made has inevitably put pressure on the time available for our consideration of the amendments. Surely the Opposition could have reflected on that and said, "At least we've won a few points. We'll give ourselves a slight pat on the back"; but they have not done that. They have taken up the time of the House as they did last night. That has led to this situation and to the fact that we are spending three hours this afternoon debating general views about guillotines, instead of spending three hours considering the detail of the Bill.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley), the Opposition spokesman, was as guilty as anyone. In Committee, his local authority entertained us with some extremely devious financial practices, better known as "loan swapping". Those practices were quite beyond my simple mind. The action of that authority highlighted the reason why we need the Bill to control Labour-controlled local authorities which are trying to find ways around the Government's desire to improve the efficiency and financial accountability of local government.
There are many reasons why we need to get the Bill on to the statute book. I particularly welcome the amendments to the transitional arrangements for the community charge. I pay thanks to my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities for helping to bring those amendments before the House. It was a humane and compassionate act, and he listened carefully to the representations made. The sooner the Bill gets on to the statute book the better.
§ Mr. Michael Welsh (Doncaster, North)
I shall be brief, as I know that two of my hon. Friends want to participate before the Minister winds up. I shall speak against the guillotine, the timetable—the chopper—because it is undemocratic. As a Back Bencher, I am entitled to speak against the timetable.
Approximately 600 Government amendments have been tabled to the Local Government and Housing Bill. We have been unable to discuss them in any depth, and that must be a sign of inefficiency. The Government have a majority of more than 150, but they are inefficient. They have told local authorities to be efficient and have passed Bills to achieve that end. They have told industry to become efficient, to get off its backside and to make 1037 exports, but the most inefficient undertaking in the country is this House and the Government. The timetable is a sign of that inefficiency and there is no better word to describe it.
§ Mr. Welsh
It is about that as well.
There are two sorts of people in here—Front Benchers and Back Benchers. Usually, those sitting on the Front Benches are educated and those on the Back Benches are intelligent. That is the only difference. Sometimes, however, one questions educated people, but one does not usually question intelligence.
We are here to do things for our constituents. We let them know what we are doing by voting. I want the right to vote against any amendment I so desire, so that my constituents can see my vote recorded in Hansard. They are entitled to know what their Member does in the House. The only way in which our constituents know what we are doing is by voting against Government amendments. That shows our people that we are totally against Government policy and that things will be changed after the next election when Labour regains power. In all honesty I will not be stood here; another good lad from the working class will be standing where I am now.
We see the same inefficiency with the unemployment Bill. I do not claim that I want to stand here and speak about everything; I am not that sort of chap. There are lots of hon. Members who want to do that and the best of luck to them. To be fair, hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber do a good job of that. If I want the opportunity to speak, however, I should have that right. Because of the inefficiency of Government, I should not be robbed of that right. I do not always have a strong desire to speak, but every Back Bencher should have the right to do so. The timetable prevents individual Back Benchers from representing their people. That is not playing the game. The House was not meant for that purpose.
Labour Front-Bench spokesmen have said that, when we take power after the next election, there may come a time when we table timetable motions. I do not agree with that. If we have a majority of 150 and we revert to using timetable motions, it means that we are still being inefficient. It does not matter which party uses the timetable, it is a sign of inefficiency. If I could not run a Government with a 150 majority and get my Bills through I would stand the drop of York.
Such inefficiency is a disgrace. Fancy the Government having all the civil servants, who feed them all the information, in the palm of their hand. A Bill goes through Committee with that advantage, but 600 amendments are then tabled in the other place. It is impossible to see how that happens; it can be put down only to inefficiency.
I want the right to vote against amendments, and I ask for that on behalf of my constituents. For that reason and because of the Government's inefficiency, all Back Benchers should vote against the Government on this issue.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)
The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson) concentrated on a specific amendment and that illustrates the argument against the timetable. A number of hon. Members have spoken about specific items which were due to be debated 1038 later, but which have been timetabled. The hon. Member for Taunton and others should have the opportunity to make their detailed speeches. As my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Welsh) has said, they have the right to have their voices heard and their votes recorded. A section in the timetable appears to timetable not just the debate but the votes as it bundles a number of possible amendments together. That is disgraceful and worrying. It is most dangerous to attempt to stop hon. Members from voting on specific items.
The Leader of the House, when arguing for the timetable, said that the advantage to Back Benchers was that we could all go home for a couple more days. He said that that break would be of benefit to us. We have just been awarded a 10.76 per cent. wage increase, which is rather like being paid for overtime without doing it. A few night shifts now and again, when the Government are in difficulty with their Bills and when items ought to be debated, should not be beyond us. There are 650 hon. Members, but one does not expect all of them to be here all the time. A number could be present, however, to continue the debate and to scrutinise the issues before us.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) that timetabling, of itself, is not something to which anyone can be opposed. I accept that timetabling may be acceptable in certain circumstances, but the circumstances attached to this timetable are particularly worrying. A number of timetables have been introduced towards the end of this Session and they have been used excessively. Those timetables have been moved not to assist the procedure of the House so that business is conducted in an orderly manner, but for the Government's convenience. The Government have got themselves into a mess because of the number of Bills that have been presented. Timetable motions should not be used for that purpose.
It is disgraceful that we have this timetable and that there are two parts to it. We have had a lot of discussion on the part relating to the Local Government and Housing Bill, but the part relating to the Employment Bill has been stuck into the timetable without any serious reason given for its inclusion. In presenting these measures to us, the Government have not respected their nature. The timetable motion is a symptom of the Government's general undermining of parliamentary democracy.
We have seen a cut in the franchise due to the poll tax legislation. A voluntary franchise system extending the expatriate vote, about which we should think carefully, has enfranchised extra people who are not part of the political nation. Petitions which are signed by people who are opposed to poll tax measures have been threatened. I have introduced a Bill about petitioners' rights in an attempt to overcome that problem. There have been massive attacks on civil liberties, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North has often referred. Consultation with trade unions and others has been turned into a farce by the Government. Now, parliamentary procedures are being dealt with in a high-handed fashion. The Government have forced through measures without thinking about them or allowing them to be discussed. These are all serious attacks on democratic pluralism.
The Government insist that they can go gaily ahead and deal with a great number of issues which have some connection with the programme that they put to the electorate at the last election but which contravene traditional Conservative attitudes about the notion of the 1039 mandate. They claim that somehow, because they came to power with 42 per cent. of the vote, they have the right to operate a sort of electoral dictatorship over us.
The Leader of the House did not explain the timetable motion in detail. He did not explain provision 3(b)(iv) about the remaining stages of the Lords amendments being dealt with in a bundle or the problem which arose from the timetabling of the vote as well as the debate. That seems to edge us nearer to fully fledged enabling legislation. All democrats should be worried about the degree to which that legislation may be brought foward, whether it is used by Adolf Hitler or suggested by the Militant Tendency.
A host of measures have been dealt with in this way in the past few days. These include the Football Spectators Bill—which was subject to a guillotine and had the ways and means provisions stuck in front of it to prevent further discussion—the Children Bill, the Companies Bill, the Local Government and Housing Bill and the Employment Bill. There are also massive abuses in the operation of the private Bill procedure which allows Bills to be continued in the next Session. That affects the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill. Many of us believe that if the Government cannot get their business through by normal procedural methods in this parliamentary Session, they should drop the measures and bring them back to start again in the next Session.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
I shall not repeat the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) who opened this debate, although I very much agree with them. I wish to talk about the mess which the Government have got themselves into over this Bill and remind the House why we are debating this guillotine.
First, the guillotine is about a Government Bill which has no fewer than 606 amendments, the vast majority of which—all but a handful—came from the Government. Secondly, Ministers have used as a defence the fact that only about 70 are major amendments and the rest are technical ones. If we were to follow that argument through, we need not bother with Committees. All we would need to do would be to pick up as many amendments as we wanted and table them on the Floor of this House or the House of Lords. In that way, we could change Bills as much as we liked.
We have learned, not just during recent years but over the centuries, that a Government who claim that amendments are simply technical must be watched because one person's idea of a technical amendment is another person's idea of a major amendment. The Government also need to be reminded, if only for their own sake, that when they introduce legislation in such a cack-handed way they get themselves into trouble. Some hon. Members have criticised parliamentary draftsmen, but I exclude them from blame. The previous Secretary of State for the Environment proudly boasted that he had drafted the Housing Bill which is now an Act. I have no doubt that he drafted this legislation, because that would explain an awful lot. The Government have drafted this legislation and produced a mess which neither the Committee nor the House of Lords could properly sort out.
1040 The previous Secretary of State for the Environment, the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), has much to answer for. I should warn the Government that he was brought up before the courts four or five times, each time as a result of badly drafted Government legislation. He then returned to the House to change the law retrospectively to put himself in the right. As an ex-probation officer, I take a dim view of such procedure and warn the Government that it will have consequences for them in the future. Such action is unacceptable, but that is what they have done and that is why we are in this mess. The previous Secretary of State's drafting of the Bill was ill thought out. In the past that has led to the Government getting into difficulties with the courts and that will happen again, as some of my hon. Friends have said.
In Committee, I warned the Government that they were in a mess over this Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), who was acting as a Whip in Committee, and I said that we could manage with two days on the Floor of the House on Report, but only if there were not a significant number of Government amendments. We said that clearly. Following that, I told the Government that two days would not be long enough to deal with the amendments. The Minister will remember that I told him as recently as a week ago that we needed more time. However, that was never conceded.
Let us consider whether a filibuster took place. Without wishing to cast any reflection on the Speaker, let us consider the facts. The Leader of the House opened the debate and made great play of the fact that we finished at 12 o'clock on Monday. We did so because, although the poll tax was a highly contentious issue, we had already devoted a significant amount of time to debating it and the Government had made a move which, although not acceptable to us in full, was certainly helping out financially. The Government had moved dramatically on the subject of political restrictions and had accepted the Labour amendment.
However, it was a different business on Tuesday. I warned the Government that there would be no way of predicting when the vote would take place because the main issues of housing revenue accounts, rents and homelessness deserved and needed more time. Despite that fact, the vote on the main group of amendments was still taken earlier on Tuesday than on Monday. Therefore, we were doing well.
If any Conservative Member argues that five hours is enough time to debate issues such as homelessness, he or she should walk down the road to that group of demonstrators—organised by Shelter—who are protesting about homeless people who are sleeping out, and say to them that he or she believes that a five-hour debate on the issue is enough. It is not enough time, and to say so is an insult to those people. We know, and argued yesterday in great detail, that this Bill will increase homelessness. That is why we made so much of the debate yesterday and would have continued to do so.
Other issues which are of great significance to people include the emergency and civil disaster orders. A statement was made to the House yesterday about the rail disaster at Clapham. If we had had the time yesterday or today, what we would have said would have been of major importance. The Government are not moving significantly to allow us to give a proper response to emergencies and civil disasters.
1041 The Government have legislated in the Bill for Scotland in a way that has not given Scottish Members an opportunity to speak effectively about it. A Scottish Back Bencher did an excellent job in Committee, but in the House of Lords the Government introduced more amendments which affected Scotland and which will be passed without going through the proper Standing Committee procedure. The Government are treating Scottish Members and the Scottish people with contempt. They are taking the Bill through with a Committee stage on the Floor of the House but with none of the safeguards that we usually have when we vote to use that procedure.
We shall probably not get to the relevant amendment, but the Government are going to wind up local authorities' ability to help people buy houses. The Conservative party is supposed to help home owners; this amendment will receive scant consideration.
Amendments dealing with houses in multiple occupation are also important. I welcome the fact that the Government have moved on that issue, so we could have dealt with it briefly by picking out the areas on which they need to move further.
My hon. Friend the Member for Copeland said that all Governments use guillotines. I accept that, and I know that the arguments can be used from time to time by either party. However, this Bill contains no fewer than 606 amendments; the Committee stage was held on the Floor of the House of Lords, and to some extent the same applied here; and parliamentary procedures have been grossly abused in the structure and pursuit of the debate on the Bill.
The last Secretary of State appeared before the courts four or five times because of bad legislation and then had to change the law retrospectively, and the Government will live to regret their actions. They and others outside will have to pick up the pieces, and that is regrettable.
This guillotine was not necessary. It is an abuse of the House, and I hope that the way in which the Government have treated the Bill and the debates on it will never be repeated.
§ Mr. David Hunt
It is a reflection on the procedures of this House that the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) and several other Opposition Members spent a great deal of time during the three hours of debate expressing outrage that they did not have more time to consider the Bill, yet I am sure that people outside would recognise that we would have arranged our business much better if' the timetable motion had been taken on the nod and we had got down to the business of discussing the Local Government and Housing Bill for five hours—but never mind, let us deal with the debate that we have had.
It may be helpful if I remind hon. Members briefly of the purposes of these two Bills and of the urgency of putting both measures on the statute book without further delay. To reasonable people it would be plain common sense that we should proceed in that direction.
The Local Government and Housing Bill provides that senior local government officials should be politically restricted in broadly the same way as senior central Government officials have been for years. It provides that ratepayers who face large increases in their local bills next year because of the transfer to community charges should 1042 receive the additional transitional protection of £300 million next year on top of the £2.5 billion already provided in rebates and income support.
The Bill provides that capital allocation should be concentrated in the areas of greatest need, not in the areas in which council house sales happen to have raised the greatest amount in capital receipts. It provides that regeneration grants should be concentrated on those in greatest need of help with repairing their homes.
The Employment Bill also embraces a package of sensible and vitally needed reforms. It removes absurd, outdated and unjustifiable restrictions on the right of women and young people to work where and for how long they want. It exempts turban-wearing Sikhs on religious grounds from new regulations on the wearing of safety helmets, and reduces the administrative burden on small businesses. The Bill provides technical changes to the law which are necessary to clear the ground for the proper training of the British work force of the 1990s.
Both Bills have received detailed consideration here and in another place. The other place spent 25 hours on the Employment Bill and no fewer than 85 hours on the Local Government and Housing Bill. I should like to pay tribute to the proper revising role played by the other place in the consideration of both Bills.
The hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Welsh) was wrong to criticise the number of amendments if he wants to encourage Government continually to listen to arguments adduced on both sides of the House—some of the amendments were tabled by the Opposition and many of them resulted from concessions to them. I agree that the Local Government and Housing Bill was the subject of more than 600 amendments but 90 per cent. of them, as the hon. Member for Hammersmith acknowledged that I had said before, are of a technical and drafting nature.
We made good progress on Monday—more than half the Lords amendments were approved—but progress yesterday was very slow and there was considerable evidence of Opposition Members being unhelpful. For instance, the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth) had to be warned four times by the Chair to address himself to the terms of the Bill and we were given to understand that the Opposition intended to be equally obstructive during consideration of the Employment Bill.
The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) may be forgiven for having mentioned the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill in the context of this debate. When he did, there was a roaring crescendo from the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond).
§ Mr. Harry Barnes
The final clauses of the Employment Bill and the amendments to them deal with Northern Ireland. There was never any discussion in Committee or on the Floor of the House of those clauses and it now looks as though only the House of Lords will have debated them.
§ Mr. Redmond
Is the Minister telling the House that he has guillotined the Employment Bill because he assumed that someone might want to talk about it? As far as I am aware, until the debate takes place and progress is made one cannot make such assumptions.
§ Mr. Hunt
I have always had tremendous respect for the hon. Gentleman but he must give me credit for not having made false assumptions. On reflection, hon. Members should recognise that we heard a good speech from the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), who was anxious that we should debate staircasing. I know that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning will seek to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, to set out the full details of that.
We have had a good debate, but let us acknowledge how right my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House and the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) were to say that there must be a better way of dealing with our business than that on which we embarked yesterday. The hon. Member for Copeland said that it was barmy to sit up day and night, but sadly only nine Opposition Members were here to hear him say it. I should like him to write a letter to reach out to all Opposition Back Benchers expressing his point of view. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) is right that there must be a better way. We all want to say good riddance to synthetic indignation, the like of which we have heard in this debate.
We must acknowledge thatThe idea that Opposition Members can press their cause or win advantage or concession by elongating remarks, harrying Ministers and boring the pants off everybody, including themselves, thereby fulfilling the duty of a responsible, thoroughgoing and perceptive Opposition, is absolute nonsense."—[Official Report, 20 July 1976; Vol. 915, c. 1640.]
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Chistchurch)
My hon. Friend is an eloquent and inventive man and I have been listening carefully to him. I had the vague feeling that the words he used had been heard before in the House. Am I wrong?
§ Mr. Hunt
The words to which Opposition Members took such exception were used by the present Leader of the Opposition in the debate on 20 July 1976 when five timetable motions were moved in one day. What a load of hypocrisy we have heard from the Labour party.
The Bills will remove unnecessary burdens on employers and employees alike, safeguard local democracy against political abuse, and encourage councils to improve the level of service that they provide to their tenants. The country needs the Bills enacted as swiftly as possible and I urge the House to pass the timetable motion so that they can be put on the statute book immediately.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 272, Noes 201.1046
|Division No. 375]||[6.52 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Benyon, W.|
|Alexander, Richard||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Blackburn, Dr John G.|
|Amess, David||Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Amos, Alan||Body, Sir Richard|
|Arbuthnot, James||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Boscawen, Hon Robert|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Bottomley, Mrs Virginia|
|Ashby, David||Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)|
|Atkins, Robert||Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Bowis, John|
|Baldry, Tony||Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Brandon-Bravo, Martin|
|Batiste, Spencer||Brazier, Julian|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Bright, Graham|
|Bellingham, Henry||Brooke, Rt Hon Peter|
|Bendall, Vivian||Browne, John (Winchester)|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Hayward, Robert|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Heddle, John|
|Burns, Simon||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Butcher, John||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Butler, Chris||Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)|
|Butterfill, John||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Hill, James|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hind, Kenneth|
|Carrington, Matthew||Holt, Richard|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Howard, Michael|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Chope, Christopher||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hunter, Andrew|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Irvine, Michael|
|Colvin, Michael||Irving, Charles|
|Conway, Derek||Jack, Michael|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Jackson, Robert|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Janman, Tim|
|Couchman, James||Jessel, Toby|
|Cran, James||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Critchley, Julian||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Davis, David (Boothlerry)||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Day, Stephen||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Devlin, Tim||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Dicks, Terry||Key, Robert|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Kilfedder, James|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Dover, Den||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Dunn, Bob||Knapman, Roger|
|Durant, Tony||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Eggar, Tim||Knox, David|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Evennett, David||Lang, Ian|
|Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas||Latham, Michael|
|Fallon, Michael||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Favell, Tony||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Fishburn, John Dudley||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Lord, Michael|
|Forman, Nigel||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lyell, Sir Nicholas|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Franks, Cecil||Maclean, David|
|Freeman, Roger||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|French, Douglas||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Gale, Roger||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Malins, Humfrey|
|Gill, Christopher||Mans, Keith|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Maples, John|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Marland, Paul|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Marlow, Tony|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Gow, Ian||Mellor, David|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Mills, Iain|
|Gregory, Conal||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Grist, Ian||Mitchell, Sir David|
|Ground, Patrick||Moate, Roger|
|Grylls, Michael||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Hague, William||Moore, Rt Hon John|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)|
|Hannam, John||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Harris, David||Neubert, Michael|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Summerson, Hugo|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Paice, James||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Patten, John (Oxford W)||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Thorne, Neil|
|Pawsey, James||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Thurnham, Peter|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Tracey, Richard|
|Portillo, Michael||Tredinnick, David|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Trippier, David|
|Price, Sir David||Trotter, Neville|
|Rattan, Keith||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Redwood, John||Viggers, Peter|
|Renton, Tim||Walden, George|
|Riddick, Graham||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm||Waller, Gary|
|Rost, Peter||Ward, John|
|Rowe, Andrew||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Warren, Kenneth|
|Ryder, Richard||Watts, John|
|Sackville, Hon Tom||Wheeler, John|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Whitney, Ray|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Wilkinson, John|
|Shersby, Michael||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Sims, Roger||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)||Wood, Timothy|
|Squire, Robin||Yeo, Tim|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stevens, Lewis||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)||Mr. Sydney Chapman and Mr, David Lightbown.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Campbell-Savours, D. N.|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Canavan, Dennis|
|Allen, Graham||Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)|
|Alton, David||Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Clay, Bob|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Clelland, David|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Ashton, Joe||Cohen, Harry|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Coleman, Donald|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Cook, Frank (Stockton N)|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Cook, Robin (Livingston)|
|Barron, Kevin||Corbett, Robin|
|Battle, John||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Beckett, Margaret||Cousins, Jim|
|Beggs, Roy||Crowther, Stan|
|Beith, A. J.||Cryer, Bob|
|Bell, Stuart||Cummings, John|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Cunningham, Dr John|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Dalyell, Tam|
|Blair, Tony||Darling, Alistair|
|Bradley, Keith||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Dewar, Donald|
|Buchan, Norman||Dixon, Don|
|Buckley, George J.||Dobson, Frank|
|Caborn, Richard||Doran, Frank|
|Callaghan, Jim||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Dunnachle, Jimmy|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Eadie, Alexander|
|Eastham, Ken||Meale, Alan|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Michael, Alun|
|Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)||Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Fearn, Ronald||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Fisher, Mark||Morley, Elliot|
|Flannery, Martin||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Flynn, Paul||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Foster, Derek||Mullin, Chris|
|Fraser, John||Murphy, Paul|
|Fyfe, Maria||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Galloway, George||O'Brien, William|
|Garrett, John (Norwich South)||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)||Patchett, Terry|
|George, Bruce||Pendry, Tom|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Prescott, John|
|Gordon, Mildred||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Gould, Bryan||Radice, Giles|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Randall, Stuart|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Redmond, Martin|
|Grocott, Bruce||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Reid, Dr John|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Richardson, Jo|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Henderson, Doug||Rooker, Jeff|
|Hinchlitte, David||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Home Robertson, John||Ruddock, Joan|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Salmond, Alex|
|Howells, Geraint||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Hoyle, Doug||Short, Clare|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|lllsley, Eric||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Ingram, Adam||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|Janner, Greville||Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)|
|Johnston, Sir Russell||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Snape, Peter|
|Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)||Soley, Clive|
|Kennedy, Charles||Spearing, Nigel|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Stott, Roger|
|Lambie, David||Strang, Gavin|
|Lamond, James||Straw, Jack|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Leighton, Ron||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Lewis, Terry||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Litherland, Robert||Turner, Dennis|
|Livingstone, Ken||Vaz, Keith|
|Livsey, Richard||Wall, Pat|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Wallace, James|
|Loyden, Eddie||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|McCartney, Ian||Wareing, Robert N.|
|McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|McKelvey, William||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|McLeish, Henry||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Maclennan, Robert||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Wilson, Brian|
|McWilliam, John||Winnick, David|
|Madden, Max||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Worthington, Tony|
|Marek, Dr John||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Martlew, Eric||Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. Martyn Jones.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.