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Commons Chamber

Volume 887: debated on Tuesday 4 March 1975

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 4th March 1975

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

British Railways Bill

Order read for consideration of Lords amendments.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Lords amendments be now considered.

On a point of order Mr. Speaker. May I, through you, inquire whether the promoter of the Bill is present and can give the House the assurance, for which I asked verbally on a previous occasion, that the offensive Clause 6 of the previous Bill has been withdrawn?

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Speaker, in Clause 6 one new work, Canvey Island, in subsection (1) is abandoned.

Lords amendments considered and agreed to.

Merseyside Metropolitan Railway Bill (By Order)

Order for consideration, as amended, read.

To be considered upon Tuesday next.

British Railways (No 2) Bill (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Tuesday next.

London Transport Bill (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Tuesday next.

Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Thursday next.

Oral Answers To Questions

Education And Science

School Building Programme

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to be able to announce the allocations for the school building programme for 1975–76 for the Yorkshire and Humberside Region.

My Department wrote to local education authorities on 27th January informing them of their lump sum authorisations for school building in 1975–76.

Is my hon. Friend aware that no region has more pupils per teacher in secondary schools than Yorkshire and Humberside? Although there are doubtless many factors involved, and therefore many explanations, is he quite sure that one explanation is not the amount and quality of accommodation at secondary school level in Yorkshire and Humberside?

Yes, I am aware of the problems. The building allocations are very largely related to basic need—that is, for children who would otherwise have no school to attend. Of this year's allocations Yorkshire and Humberside, although it has only 8·9 per cent. of the population, has 9·5 per cent. of the overall building allocation.

Is my hon. Friend aware that whereas in South Yorkshire and Humberside the problem may be one of pupil-teacher ratio, in North Derbyshire and in my constituency in particular it is a question of having a large number of pre-1903 slum infant and junior schools? Is he aware that in Whitwell in particular, which was subject to cuts as a result of the intervention by the present Leader of the Opposition in her former guise as Secretary of State for Education and Science in November 1973, pupils are still having to walk many miles every week in order to get their meals and to go to the sports hall? We have a name on the school building but we have no school. Will my hon. Friend get the matter restored as quickly as possible?

Yes, I am aware of the acute difficulties to which my hon. Friend has drawn my attention previously. He has highlighted the problem that no two authorities are the same. They all have their different problems. That is why the building allocation is now a lump sum allocation so that priorities can be decided at local level instead of in Whitehall.

School Transport

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will publish an analysis of the views of the local authorities which have now made their representations to him on the matter of school transport; and if he will make a statement.

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he hopes to announce his decision in respect of the recommendations of the interdepartmental inquiry on school transport; and if he will make a statement.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received on the non-implementation of the working party's report on school transport.

My right hon. Friend will take full account of the views expressed by local authorities about school transport, which I know is a subject of concern in many quarters. The problems are complex and I am not yet able to say when it will be possible to make a statement. I do not think that publication of an analysis of the views submitted by the various bodies would be helpful.

Is my hon. Friend aware that we have now been waiting since the previous Conservative administration were in office for a decision on this matter? Is he further aware that particularly in rural areas with low family incomes the ever-increasing impact of school bus fares is having a very deleterious effect? We have been patient, but will my hon. Friend now assure us that we are soon to have a decision on this subject?

Yes, I recognise the concern of the House and I regret that we have not yet come to a final decision. That is because we are trying to find the right answer. Only last week I visited a local authority where there are small rural schools. I found that the authority was spending £1½ million a year on transport. That is an indication of the serious concern that is felt in the country and of our desire to get things done properly.

Will not the Minister show more urgency about the situation? Does he not agree that the circumstances and conditions that were relevant at the time the existing regulations involving the present statutory limits came into being are now totally out of date? Further, in the case of rural areas in particular does he not agree that a more flexible and wider system involving meaningful parental contribution should be introduced urgently?

Yes, I am well aware of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Gentleman. Over the past five years the expenditure by local authorities on school transport has increased from £20 million to no less than £45 million. If the hon. Gentleman adds to that the substantial amount now being paid by parents, he will get an understanding of the serious problem that we face. We are treating the matter urgently, but there is no easy answer. The money has to be found. We want to protect parents and to ensure that parental contributions are not a deterrent in getting their children to school.

While I understand the pressure on public expenditure, may I ask whether my hon. Friend accepts that the present arrangements are setting neighbour against neighbour and community against community and that something serious has to be done? I believe that there should be urgent consideration of a systematic and uniform entitlement to transport for all schoolchildren.

I would not disagree with anything that my hon. Friend has said on this matter. The solution proposed by the working party—namely, that the same amount should be paid by all parents whether they live half a mile, five miles or seven miles from school—would also set neighbour against neighbour. There is no easy answer. We are trying to find the right answer. I hope to make a statement to the House in the near future.

Has the Minister accepted the principle of the working party's report that the existing two- or three-mile limit system should be replaced by a system of flat-rate charges? Will he bear in mind that a flat-rate charge would not set neighbour against neighbour and that, unlike the present means of financial support, it could be rebated in the case of less-well-off families?

No, we have not yet accepted the recommendations made by the working party. We are still discussing the matter with the local authorities. There is a great deal of controversy about the particular recommendation to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

In view of the prolonged delay in these matters, will the Minister encourage local education authorities to follow the example of Humberside County Council? Is he aware that that council has used its present discretionary powers in respect of school transport to provide special transport for secondary school children from Old Goole in my constituency from 1st January this year?

Indeed, we are collecting evidence of good practice in various parts of the country. Local authorities have wide discretion. I remind the House that local authorities are also strained in their resources. There is no simple answer. In fact, every answer is a very expensive answer.

Is not the Minister weary of sitting on this report for a whole year? Does he not realise that this delay is causing hardship both for local authorities and for parents and that that will continue to be the position until he can lay down the principles on which the Government set out to improve bus services for schoolchildren? In particular, will he hasten to help the rural areas, where this problem is often the most serious?

There are plenty of urban areas that have serious complaints about the impact of transport costs. Of course I am weary. I would like to find the answer but there is no quick, slick solution. We are searching for the right answer.

Public Expenditure

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the substantial reduction in expenditure promised in the current expenditure White Paper compared with the 1973 White Paper.

No, Sir. Pages 94–97 of the White Paper "Public Expenditure to 1978–79" provide ample comment on the Government's plans for education expenditure.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree, particularly in the light of research that has appeared in The Times Higher Education Supplement, that of all spending Departments Education is to gain the least from the present Government? Further, does he not agree that there has been a collapse in growth in real terms, as forecast, which is related in no way to the cuts of December 1973 or to the fall in the birth rate but to a change of Government priorities? Does not that show up as a total cover-up the Prime Minister's speech in Newcastle on 21st February? What is the right hon. Gentleman's strategy for distributing the cuts?

The White Paper that we have recently published provides for a growth rate in real terms of about 2¾ per cent. a year over a five-year period. If the hon. Gentleman compares that White Paper with the White Paper issued by the previous Government in 1973, he should bear in mind that on the very day that the December 1973 White Paper appeared the then Chancellor of the Exchequer announced substantial cuts. The result was that that White Paper was strangled at birth. In the sense that our White Paper represents lower figures, this is partly due to those cuts and partly due to a new demographic trend which has become apparent since then.

May I ask my right hon. Friend to disregard the hypoc-p risy that comes from the Opposition? Is he aware that while continually emphasising the need for reduction in public expenditure they continually seek to identify programmes that involve such expenditure for the Government? Does my right hon. Friend recognise that many of his right hon. and hon. Friends are extremely concerned by the implications of the public expenditure programme? Is he aware that it appears as if the Government may be in danger not so much of pigeon-holing but of burying the Russell Report on adult education?

All of us share a common desire to see faster progress towards our education objectives. I repeat that the White Paper we have recently published represents a growth rate in real terms. That is not as fast a rate as any of us would wish, but it is not true to describe it as cutting education expenditure. It is a programme for slow but steady growth.

Speaking as one economic illiterate to another, would I be wrong in assuming that there would be much more cash available for education if less money had been wasted on the municipalising of housing and if there had been a more faithful observance of the social contract?

It is of vital importance that we should have a coherent housing programme as well as a coherent education programme. Therefore, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's first point. As for adherence to the social contract, I believe strongly in that and in recent days I have made my views on that matter very clear.

Has my right hon. Friend made any calculation of the effect on the social contract of the recently announced 25 per cent. increase in the cost of school meals?

The increase that will take place later in the price of school meals will add a very small part of 1 per cent. to the cost of living. Of course I regret doing that, but in a time of rapid inflation I do not think we can expect the price of school meals or anything else to remain at precisely the same level year after year.

Schools (Reorganisation And Closure)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what weight he attaches, when considering schemes for the reorganisation of secondary education and proposals for the closure of village primary schools, to any consequent additional costs for the transport of children.

My right hon. Friend takes into account all relevant factors, of which additional transport costs may be one, in his consideration of proposals under Section 13 of the Education Act 1944, as amended, and gives them due weight.

Does the Minister recognise that in areas such as Northumberland the reorganisation and closure of village schools tends to lead to bussing on a grand scale, with children travelling 15, 20 or 25 miles a day? Does he recognise that as well as the social disadvantages of such a system the cost should be weighed in the balance when the economics of village schools and small local schools are being considered?

Yes, I recognise the factors that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. I remind him that the initiative for the reorganisation or the closure of any school comes from the local authority and that my right hon. Friend takes into consideration all matters. Of course, the overriding consideration is the educational well-being of the children in the area.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in many areas, and certainly in my constituency of Chorley, the bus companies have refused to harmonise their concessionary fares to scholars with the raising of the school leaving age? As there has recently been an increase of 30 per cent. in the cost of public transport, does not my hon. Friend think that remedies should be applied in this direction?

This is a matter we have in mind when discussing the wide issues of transport policy which were raised in a previous Question.

Reading Ability (Bullock Report)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action he intends to take to secure the implementation of the recommendations of the Bullock Report on the reading ability of children.

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has made a study of the Bullock Report on the reading ability of children; and whether he will make a statement.

I would refer to the reply I gave to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) on 18th February 1975.—[Vol. 886, c. 356–7.]

Does not the Secretary of State agree that among the 332 recommendations, 17 of which concern the primary sector, there is no emphasis on the return of the infant school in particular to the teaching of literacy as its primary purpose, which is a view that is held by many of us on this side and by hon. Members on the Government side too?

This very distinguished report, which deserves to be read widely and closely and to be discussed throughout the whole teaching profession, placed emphasis on the need for improved training in language ability at all levels of education, including the infant stage.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that very few of the 332 recommendations of the Bullock Report bear out the assertions of the Opposition that standards are substantially declining in primary schools? Does he accept, however, that what the Bullock Report identifies is the necessity for a greater concentration of resources in schools and areas where the children are most socially disadvantaged?

On the latter part of my hon. Friend's question, the Government have taken many steps to remedy matters. On the former part, I agree that the Bullock Report demolished many of the scare stories which had been current about the declining standards, but it went on to say—I agree with it strongly—that standards are not good enough and never have been, and therefore a concerted effort must be made to improve them.

What steps does the Minister intend to take to improve the training of teachers, since the Bullock Report states that the good teacher is the most important single factor?

This Government have done many things to improve the status and morale of the teaching profession, including the highest pay increase in the history of the profession. There are many recommendations of the Bullock Report which will apply to the curriculum and the content of training courses for new teachers and I am sure that they will be closely studied in colleges of education.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this report will do an immense amount for the morale of the teaching profession and is the key to restoring confidence in our educational system amongst the public in general, particularly amongst parents? Is he aware also that the report, if it is to be implemented,—I believe it to be one of high priority—will involve the expenditure of money so that the monitoring and screening proposals can be implemented? What has he to say about that?

There are many aspects of the report and many of the 332 recommendations which can be implemented without extra expenditure. There are others which can be implemented with very modest expenditure. All the recommendations need to be studied carefully by the teaching profession, by local authorities and by my Department, and this process is going ahead rapidly.

I welcome the report, which confirms so much of what the Opposition have been saying about standards over the past 12 months, but may I join in the plea made by the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) that the Secretary of State should give priority to the monitoring system? May I ask him to go further and introduce national standards of reading, writing and mathematics so that we can know exactly what are the achievements in a school and what are the shortcomings?

I certainly would not accept the latter proposition without much more consultation with everyone concerned. On the question of monitoring, the assessment of performance unit which I have established within the Department is urgently studying the recommendations of the Bullock Report on this point. I hope to receive the unit's advice shortly.

School Leaving Date

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress he is making in his consultations about introducing greater flexibility into the school leaving age.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he is now able to make a statement on his policy on the school leaving age.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is now in a position to make a statement about legislation on a common summer leaving date for school leavers.

I stand firmly by the raising of the school leaving age to 16 and have no plans to alter this. As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) on 4th February—[Vol. 885, c. 450.]—there is no prospect of legislation in the current Session affecting the summer leaving date this year. I am still studying the question in relation to future years and will make an announcement in due course.

Is the Secretary of State aware that there are thousands of teachers who have borne the difficulties arising from the raising of the leaving age—I think that the Secretary of State concedes this—and who are very anxious for an early announcement indicating that at the very least it will become possible in 1976 for 15-year-olds to leave school immediately after taking the examinations? Is there any prospect of the Secretary of State making an announcement to that effect in the near future?

I am considering all the advice I have on this from teachers' organisations and many other quarters. The advice does not all point the same way. It is a complex question. I shall make an announcement as soon as possible.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the position in regard to the raising of the leaving age will stabilise itself and be accepted as time passes? Does he agree also that it is characteristic of Tory Members that, although they would never dream of lowering the school leaving age for their own children, they are constantly trying to lower it for the mass of the people?

I agree with my hon. Friend that already this year the raised leaving age is more acceptable to the age group concerned than it was 12 months ago, and in successive years the raised age will become accepted as a matter of course. I believe that the lesson of the first year that the majority of children benefited from the extra year at school, but in so far as mistakes are made in some areas experience will teach the schools how to recover from those mistakes and we shall see an improving result from this long overdue reform in the future.

Does not the Secretary of State agree that since economic conditions and Government policy together are calling for a massive reduction in the rate of increase of public expenditure—local authority expenditure particularly, and notably on education, from which my county of Leicestershire is suffering—economies have to be made? Would it not be sensible to look again at the question of the raising of the school leaving age, which I accept is a commitment but which is a mixed blessing? If the Secretary of State goes back on this commitment in the light of economic conditions, will he accept an assurance that this will not be regarded as welshing?

I believe that all the parties were right to enter into the commitment. It is a great pity that we had to wait so long before that commitment was implemented. It would be a very retrograde step ever to go back on it, and it is no part of my policy to consider doing so.

I entirely support my right hon. Friend's stand against any fiddling about with the school leaving age. Does he agree that there might be more flexibility between schools and further education colleges in teaching children of the age of 15 or 16?

Yes. There has been some welcome progress in this direction in recent years, and I hope that it will increase. I strongly agree that there is great scope in many areas for greater co-operation between the further education system and the schools.

Is the Secretary of State aware that at a recent consultation between the secretaries of schools and headmasters in my county of Buckinghamshire the growing truancy in schools was attributed largely to the increase in the leaving age? Although the headmasters concerned would not wish the leaving age to be reduced—here I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—they nevertheless thought that the times at which 16-year-olds can leave should be reduced from twice a year to once a year—namely, in May of each year—which would ease the problem.

I do not exactly regard Buckinghamshire as the major source of enlightenment on education matters. Nevertheless, I take the point that teachers all over the country are discussing the practical implications of possible flexibility in the school leaving date within the summer term. In reply to earlier supplementary questions I said that I was giving urgent consideration to this matter.

Rainow Church Of England Junior School

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will take exceptional steps to include the proposed Rainow County Junior School and Infants School in an early building programme on account of the overcrowding, fire hazards and highway dangers of the existing Rainbow Churh of England Junior School.

No, Sir. Under the terms of my Department's Circular 13/74, it is for the local education authority in the first instance to decide which projects should be started within its lump sum building authorisations.

I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he agree that a village which is expanding very fast and into which many new families with young children are moving should be considered as a priority? Does he consider that a totally inadequate school which opens on to a dangerous road with a very narrow pavement should justify a priority too? Does he consider that a school with no playing facilities puts children moving on to the secondary sector at a severe disadvantage?

Yes, this is a school I want to see replaced as quickly as possible. The Cheshire authority has been allocated £3,712,000 in the 1975–76 building year. That is mostly for basic needs, but it is for the authority to decide the relative merits of this school and others within its area.

Further Education

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will take special steps, in view of the intention of local authorities to reduce their further education expenditure, to ensure that any progress made in extending day release for young workers can be met by the resources available in the colleges of further education which such young workers would attend.

I am not aware that local authorities generally have decided to reduce their expenditure on further education. The rate support grant settlement for 1975–76 allows provision for the expected increase in the number of students in maintained colleges of further education in the coming year. I am anxious that opportunities for the continued education of young people in employment should be improved, and I am discussing with interested bodies possible ways of making practical progress in difficult economic circumstances.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the local authorities can meet all the needs of the further education sector in view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's call for a reduction in revenue expenditure and the restrictions placed on capital projects? Does he consider that lower expenditure on education is part of the social contract?

As I explained earlier, there is rising expenditure on education, and the education element in the rate support grant for 1975–76 allowed both for an increased number of students in further education and for some modest improvement in non-teaching costs. It is therefore not true to say what my hon. Friend said. I think we can see some progress here. In some areas, though not all, there are empty seats in classrooms in further education colleges and I would like to see these filled with extra students since that could be done without extra cost.

Since the Government have asked local authorities to cut back on expenditure, and since education is now at the bottom of the Government's priority list of expenditure forecasts, how does the right hon. Gentleman justify asking local authorities to make reorganisation of secondary education their number one education priority? This lack of strategy and lack of guidelines will cause indiscriminate cuts and great damage to the system.

I tried to explain earlier that education was not at the bottom of the Government's priorities. If the Conservatives had won the last election, however, it would have been at the bottom of theirs. It was a very important part of the Conservative election campaign to call for cuts in public expenditure with the exception of housing, pensions and agriculture. So education clearly was due for considerable cuts, and the country has been saved from that by the continuation in office of a Labour Government.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in spite of the welcome increase in education expenditure in polytechnics and technical colleges there is a distinct danger of valuable courses which cost very little being cut in order to maintain other more prestigious courses which appeal to the nominally better-qualified teachers? Will my right hon. Friend look at this as it affects the efficacy of the school leaving age programme and those not going for the more scholastic certificates and degrees?

Both in our capital allocations and in all our policies we are tending to favour the local authority sector of higher education rather than universities and, within that, to give all possible priority to non-advanced work such as that provided for those on day release and further education courses.

Is the Secretary of State aware that, if the local authorities are to meet the Government's request that rate increases in the coming year should be restricted to no more than 25 per cent., there will inevitably be a cut in education expenditure in real terms? The target cannot be achieved in any other way. How does the right hon. Gentleman answer that point?

No, Sir. The rate support grant settlement was negotiated between the Government and the local authority associations on the basis that rate increases should be confined within the limits laid down and that expenditure increases should be confined to inescapable commitments. The education component of that envisaged growth in real terms of 4 per cent. and the further education component, which is the subject of the Question, envisages increased student numbers and some modest improvement in standards.

I accept most of the things my right hon. Friend has said, but is he aware that there is very real concern among people who are involved in these matters that cuts are taking place in post-16 education in general? Does he accept that post-16 education is particularly vulnerable in times of economic stringency compared with the mandatory pre-16 sector?

I accept that it is a particularly vulnerable sector because it is not mandatory. I would like to put on record that I would greatly regret the policy of any local education authority which involved economies at the expense of those in the 16 to 19-year age group in employment who still have educational needs as important to them as the needs of those who go on to full-time higher education.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the needs of this age group were amongst the top four priorities in two successive Labour manifestos last year? So far the Government have not brought forward any specific proposals to fulfil either manifesto pledge. When are we going to do so?

I have made it clear that within the framework of the rate support grant we have made a better provision than many hon. Members realise. I am consulting a number of bodies about long-term changes. They include the TUC education committee, the ATTI, the City and Guilds of London Institute, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and others. I am exchanging views with them about the future pattern of provision for this important age group.

Secondary Education (Trafford)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had with representatives of Trafford in regard to the implementation of a comprehensive system of secondary education; what is the capital cost involved in achieving this changeover; and how soon its share of the necessary resources will be made available by central Government.

My right hon. Friend has had no such discussions with representatives of the authority. He expects to receive shortly the authority's response to Circular 4/74 which called for information about the measures to be taken for comprehensive reorganisation. That circular stressed the importance of making the maximum use of existing buildings and available resources. I cannot yet say what resources will be available for school building in 1976–77 and later years.

Is the Minister aware that the estimated cost of imposing a comprehensive scheme in the Trafford district of Manchester is no less than £4 million, which will fall squarely upon the ratepayers? Is he aware that this is more than eight times as much as the total available for all capital expenditure on education in the coming year? In the circumstances, is he satisfied that the Government have their priorities right in pursuing this element of doctrinaire Socialism when in the case of the Trafford district—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—one-fortieth of this expenditure would provide a replacement school for St. Bride's Primary School, which is 100 years old and which has already been condemned as structurally unsound?

I am not aware of the cost of the proposals from the Trafford authority because as yet we have not received the proposals from the authority. As for our priorities, for far too long most of our resources have gone to the gifted and privileged children at the expense of those who are disadvantaged and less gifted. Because we want to get rid of the unfair and wasteful system of selecting children, this is our highest priority—

—and we are expecting a quick response from the hon. Member's authority.

Some of the authorities which have submitted their plans hope to go comprehensive in September next year. Will my hon. Friend's investigations be complete in time for them to do so?

Yes, Sir. We have in mind the desire of most authorities to abolish selection as quickly as possible. We shall deal with all Section 13 proposals as expeditiously as possible.

May I repeat the Opposition's plea to the Minister for a moratorium on the policy of compulsory comprehensivisation of schools? Does he not realise that by insisting on reorganisation and providing no money to do it he is not only lowering standards but bringing the whole idea of the comprehensive school into disrepute?

I reject the hon. Gentleman's suggestion outright, I remind him of a distinguished predecessor of my right hon. Friend, Lord Boyle, who said that the greatest fact in British education was the waste of talent. Waste of talent occurs because we label and segregate our children.

Nursery Education (Hampshire)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action he is proposing to take in respect of Hampshire County Council's grant for nursery school building in the light of its intention to cut back its programme for 1975–76.

My Department authorises capital building for nursery education provision in local authority areas and the rate support grant takes account of the costs incurred. The Hampshire County Council has informed my Department that it does not intend to carry out any nursery education building in 1974–75 or 1975–76 although its allocation from the resources available over the two years totalled £1,105,000. As I have already made clear, these resources will be made available to other authorities able and willing to use them for nursery education building.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in Hampshire only one child out of 40 attends nursery school, compared with the national figure of one in nine? Does he agree that Hampshire County Council's refusal to accept its allocation for nursery school building will further prejudice Hampshire schoolchildren in this respect and that if that is to be avoided in the light of the priority the Government give to nursery education, further Government action is needed?

Yes, Sir. It is difficult for the Department to intervene. I agree with my hon. Friend that hundreds of thousands of children are born to fail. To compensate for that we must have more pre-school education. I very much deplore Hampshire's attitude. I am glad to say that 57 other authorities have willingly applied for the resources that Hampshire does not want to use.

Clasp-Built Schools

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if, in the light of recent evidence, he will issue fresh guidance to local authorities about fire hazards associated with CLASP-built schools.

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether, in view of further instances of serious fires in schools built on the CLASP system, he will now take specific action to ensure greater safety of existing schools built under this system and to ensure that future methods of school construction ensure maximum safety.

My Department's current requirements for fire precautions, framed in consultation with other Government Departments, set high standards for new schools of all kinds. Decisions to improve the fire resistance of existing schools require local knowledge and are for local determination. My Department wrote to all local education authorities on 9th January to remind them of basic fire precautions in schools.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, which will go a long way towards allaying public anxiety. Is he aware, however, that some existing schools built on the CLASP system have a gap between the roof and the ceiling which can be a fire hazard? What advice is he giving to local authorities about the problem and about the prevention of arson?

In Building Bulletin No. 7 we have referred to the urgent need for fire-stopping in floor and roof cavities. The CLASP buildings are a major concern of ours. Local authorities are responding and are spending money to remedy pre-1971 schools. Of the 32 school fires that have occurred in the North-East recently, seven were in CLASP buildings.

Will my hon. Friend accept my assurance that I and many of my colleagues from the North-East are very satisfied with the work that has been done to ensure that satisfactory reply?

Social Contract

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Employment on 14th February at Ebbw Vale on the subject of the social contract represents Government policy.

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister whether the Secretary of State for Employment's public speech at Ebbw Vale on the social contract on Friday 14th February represents Government policy.

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Employment on the social contract at Ebbw Vale on 14th February represented Government policy.

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Secretary of State for Employment has since developed his theme. As the Prime Minister, by virtue of his own frequent appeals for restraint in pay claims within the social contract, must be classed as an economic illiterate in his right hon. Friend's eyes, will he take this opportunity to express his full support for those of his Cabinet colleagues, such as the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who seek in their speeches to underline the wage responsibilities of the social contract, or will the Prime Minister, too, welsh on those responsibilities?

While the matter does not technically arise on this Question, as the speech referred to was about the miners' settlement, I am happy to say, on the point raised by the hon. Gentleman so touchingly and movingly, that the House can leave it to me to ensure that the normal rules in these matters are observed. [An HON. MEMBER: "What rules?"] The rules of every Government in this country. But while my colleagues and I have been urging for months, before both trade union and other audiences, compliance with the social contract guidelines, I must tell the House—and I want this to be understood—that no Minister has at any time over those months proposed any alternative policy to the social contract. [Interruption.] Certainly no Minister has proposed a return to the disastrous policies of a year ago this week, based on statutory controls and the three-day week. I thought that what I said would be cheered by Opposition Members, because I am glad to feel that on this matter there is total bipartisanship in the House. I understand that the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition has now forsworn the statutory pay policy of her predecessor which she supported when in government.

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that no useful advice is to be gained on policy of any kind from the economic sub-literates on the Opposition benches, and that far from unemployment, as offered by them, and statutory incomes policy, as undertaken by them, being the cure for our economic problem, that problem and the problems of our democracy can be overcome[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—only by means of persuasion and example, which are the basis of the social contract?

I must say with regret that I disagreed with what my hon. Friend said at the beginning of his question. It is wrong to say that we cannot learn from the Opposition. We can learn from their experience, as they have now done. But I join my hon. Friend in expressing great anxiety about what have clearly become the Conservatives' policies, although they have not yet been made articulate—monetarist policies which can lead only to unemployment.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Secretary of State's speech was also about the social contract? Is he or is he not satisfied that the convention of collective Cabinet responsibility still exists in regard to the social contract?

Certainly. Many of my right hon. Friends and I have been urging compliance with the social contract over many months. But if I want to study collective responsibility I will not look at the Opposition benches—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—because for precisely three weeks the Opposition Front Bench has been dissociating itself from everything it did under the previous Prime Minister.

Will my right hon. Friend put a guillotine on his answers to the silly questions asked by the Opposition? I should like to know whether my right hon. Friend will be visiting Beckermet.

I know that my hon. Friend, with his long experience and wisdom in these matters, can put a correct evaluation on the quality and motives of the questions of hon. Members opposite. I shall get to Beckermet when the relevant Question is asked.

Is it not just possible that the Secretary of State for Education and Science is right? Why is it that after one year of the social contract as administered by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Employment we have in this country a rate of inflation which is far higher than that of any of our competitors—twice that of the United States and three times that of Germany?

In so far as my hon. Friend was following the speeches which I made, from the TUC onwards last September, urging compliance with the contract, he was expressing the view of all of us and, I should hope, of the whole House since the Opposition have rejected any alternative policy.

The figures which were published last month were inflated by the Tory Government's thresholds—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—which throughout the election I said I supported; they are a very considerable proportion of this. Secondly, the figures include long overdue settlements, which I have not heard criticised by any right hon. or hon. Gentlemen, for people such as nurses and teachers who had been left behind and who received back pay for anything from eight to 10 months. The hon. Gentleman must study the figures before he asks questions about them.

Will my right hon. Friend cut down his replies to the Opposition's ridiculous supplementary questions? Does he realise that they do not want the social contract to succeed? Therefore, will he bear in mind that if any disagreement arises between my right hon. Friends he must advise them not to express it in public?

My hon. Friend is right in what he says about the Opposition's motives. But they have no alternative policy. As there have been suggestions this afternoon of a certain marginal crossing of ministerial lines, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to engage in some educational help for Opposition Members.

Bearing in mind that in answer to a Question in November the Prime Minister said that all his Ministers were responsible for the social contract, may I ask whether the Friday speech of the Secretary of State for Education and Science represented Government policy?

So far as it involves support for the social contract, yes. So far as it has been interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as proposing other alternative policies, I am happy to say that my right hon. Friend at no point, in public or elsewhere, has advocated an alternative policy.

As no one suggests that the Secretary of State for Education and Science was proposing an alternative policy but was merely suggesting that the present policy was not working, and as the Secretary of State for Employment said that the social contract was the best shield against worsening inflation and rising unemployment, and as many of his colleagues have said that it is not working, what measures does the right hon. Gentleman propose to back up his Ministers who are trying to make it work?

The social contract is the right policy. I have not heard an alternative policy from the official Opposition, and I am glad that they have repudiated the policy which they were following a year ago. I pay this tribute to the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe). He at least has produced an alternative policy. He supports a statutory policy. The Opposition have thrown over what they supported in office. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman. I think he is wrong, but at least he is showing more honesty than the official Opposition.

National Economic Development Council

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to take the chair at a meeting of the NEDC.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is chairman of the council. I have said previously that I hope to take the chair about once a quarter, but I have no specific date in mind at present.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the worsening outlook for capital investment confirmed by yesterday's CBI Industrial Trends Survey can only prolong the recent fall in industrial production and thus add to unemployment? Will he therefore take an early opportunity, such as chairing the NEDC can provide, to put some backbone into business men, pointing out to them that theirs is the responsibility for the present lack of investment because theirs is the crucial rôle, impressing on them that no one, including themselves, can benefit from this state of affairs, and asking them whether they will start trying to believe once more in themselves?

As I have told the House, the NEDC—both sides of industry and the Government—at its last two meetings, and it will happen again tomorrow, has been working on the problem of investment and increased industrial capacity to meet the requirements of world markets in the oil States, in the Soviet Union and elsewhere.

My hon. Friend, and I hope right hon. and hon. Members opposite, will have been encouraged to see the figures published this morning showing that, despite earlier forecasts, industrial investment in manufacturing rose in the fourth quarter of last year. It was 5·4 per cent. up on the fourth quarter of 1973, when the Opposition were responsible for these matters, and 19·9 per cent. up on the fourth quarter of 1972. [Interruption.] In reply to the illiterate muttered supplementary question about prices, may I say that the hon. Member knows that these figures are at constant prices.

If the Prime Minister takes the chair at the NEDC, will he be repeating his speech outlining the Government's achievements, and does he consider the present rate of inflation to be an achievement or a failure?

All my speeches from the moment we came to office have dealt with the problem of inflation. Nothing happening today is different from what we were told a year ago—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—since we were told a year ago today about the likelihood for inflation and for unemployment, except that all of us—I should like the Opposition's support—are struggling to stop the increase in unemployment then forecast which is occurring in most other industrial countries. We have also made more impact on the balance of payments problem.

When the Prime Minister meets trade union leaders at NEDC or elsewhere, will he listen carefully to what they have to say about import controls? Will he note that these are a means of improving the balance of payments and preventing unemployment from increasing, particularly in such industries as textiles and footwear?

There is a special textile and footwear problem. Hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about it, and I have suggested that they should meet my right hon. Friend. I have been in touch with the industry and certain action has been taken, but I know of the anxiety.

I take the view that import controls as a general policy would be bad for Britain from the point of view of dealing with the balance of payments, because they would help to get world trade spiralling further downwards. I point out to my hon. Friend and to those who support him that if we impose physical controls to restrict imports it will not be an alternative to deflation. We reject both policies. We should have to have deflation in order to prevent a big increase in consumption which would frustrate our exports.

Does not the Prime Minister agree that investment intentions are declining to the worst level ever and that, until we see a new confidence in industry, forward investment will not increase? Does he agree that the terms of the letter which I wrote to him on Friday setting out the instructions that would have to be given to bring the Industry Bill into the terms of the White Paper—as he has promised to do—are the basis of the instructions which he will be giving to parliamentary draftsmen for preparing Government amendments to the Industry Bill?

I do not accept any of the points made by the hon. Gentleman. As to the effect of business confidence on investment, the figures have been showing a decline for a very long period. The figure for the fourth quarter is actually up, and I hoped that the hon. Gentleman would say how delighted he was, but that is not in his nature. The intentions for the fourth quarter were worse, but they have improved in reality and I hoped that the hon. Gentleman would be pleased.

The hon. Gentleman will be receiving a reply to the letter he so kindly sent to me, and he will know that I am currently discussing these matters with the CBI and the TUC. I thought I might perhaps send him a detailed reply because it is plain from his letter that he has totally falsified the position in relation to the Bill. The hon. Gentleman in his speeches and letters should stop thinking in slogans and apply himself to the problems. He will get the reply to his letter, and I hope that he will be a much humbler man when he has read it.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, worrying as inflation is, the villain of the piece has been the failure of those with the ability to invest to do so or their preference to invest overseas? Does he agree that, in spite of what he said, this is a continuing worry? Does he think that the policies are sufficient to arrest the tendency and drastically to improve investment?

Yes, Sir. I answered that question a week ago, and I dealt with it at some length when discussing these matters with the Scottish TUC last week and on television in Scotland. I said then, and I must repeat, that, as we have said for 12 months and more, the immediate problem of inflation can arise from self-generated income demands—wages, salaries and other incomes outside the employment field. The long-term problem we face is the totally inadequate investment—under successive Governments; I concede that—for about 20 years. That is the basic problem. Had business invested when it should and could have done and had every chance of doing, we should not be as vulnerable as we are to short-term factors.

When the Prime Minister takes the chair will be explain to the council why his Government are steamrollering through the House an iniquitous tax which is ill-understood and which has far-reaching economic consequences, without adequate debate because of the timetable motion?

I do not agree with the hon. Member's premise. There have already been about 170 hours of debate. I understand that the House is being asked today to approve other arrangements which will provide adequate time for considering all the nonsense of hon. Gentlemen opposite for another four days.

Finance Bill (Points Of Order)

I wish to say something to the House about what happened when I was in the Chair late last night. I allowed the Leader of the House to make a statement about the business for today, the Finance Bill (Allocation of Time) motion. I thought that that was for the convenience of the House.

An analogy is when the Government of the day are defeated in a Division. On such occasions the Leader of the Opposition sometimes rises on a point of order to ask what are the Government's intentions. That is not really a point of order at all, as I have stated more than once, I think. My practice has been to allow a statement by the Government spokesman and one further question. That is what I did last night. I called the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) after the Lord President. I refused to take points of order on the statement because, in my view, there could not possibly be a valid point of order. The Lord President had used parliamentary language, the course which he proposed was in accordance with Standing Orders and no valid question of order could arise.

I must remind the House that the use of points of order to advance arguments or to comment unfavourably or favourably on Government actions is an abuse which is growing in frequency, and it occurs on both sides of the House.

If the House wishes a change of business to be announced in some other way, the Procedure Committee could be asked to examine the matter. That Committee might also consider how the Chair might be helped to deal with points of order.

May I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for clarifying the position? We were a little worried lest a new precedent should have been created. I understand that it has not, and I am grateful to you.

I wonder whether the point could be referred to the Procedure Committee, Mr. Speaker? The matters which you have indicated to the House are with precedent, as you rightly said. What the House finds difficult—and it may be a matter for the Procedure Com- mittee to consider—is that the House is invited to vote on a matter and a Minister afterwards gives his reasons why it is right that we should have done so. It would be nice if we could reverse the process, as has always been the tradition of the House.

Thank you for your statement, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you about one aspect of it? Erskine May, on page 430, reads as follows:

"it is also the right of any Member who conceives that a breach of order has been committed … to rise in his place, interrupting any Member who may be speaking, and direct the attention of the Chair to the matter, provided he does so the moment the alleged breach of order occurs."
I wish to refer to three remarks which you made last night, Mr. Speaker. For the sake of accuracy I have consulted the report of the proceedings, which is not yet published. You are reported as saying, on three occasions:
"I may perhaps take points of order afterwards."
"I might perhaps take a point of order after that."
'If I think it appropriate, I will take the point of order after I have heard the right hon. Gentleman."
I ask you to rule, Sir, that an hon. Member has a right to raise a point of order. It was quite obvious last night that several hon. Members wished to raise points of order. I wished to refer not to the statement that had been made but to what had happened previously, and that was the first opportunity I had to do so. It is important that the Chair should not be seen in any way to restrict the right of hon. Members which is so clearly stated in Erskine May.

The Chair has no such desire. The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) was called last night on a point of order, so he does not have much about which to complain.

The Chair is in great difficulty with points of order. Until it has heard the points of order it cannot always say whether it is a good one. For example, the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) yesterday was indignant and said he wished to raise a new point of order. It turned out not to be a point of order but to refer to something which the Lord President had said on the length of time to be given to the Report stages of Finance Bills. That is not a matter of order and not a matter for the Chair. If on occasion the Chair thinks thmat a point of order cannot be a valid one it must allow the House to get on with its business. It can be seen from the number of points of order that are raised that I have no desire to restrict hon. Members' rights.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the explanation and the statement that you have made, which are entirely satisfactory as no precedent has been set. May I just explain the point of order which I intended to raise? I was intending to make a point of order not on the matter which was currently under discussion but on the Division which had just taken place. In view of your satisfactory explanation, Mr. Speaker, may I take this opportunity to give public notice that I shall withdraw my motion of censure.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In your remarks just now, you pointed out that you did not see how a point of order could arise and, of course, the Chair must have discretion in such matters. Like my hon. Friends the Members for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) and Honiton (Mr. Emery), I wished to raise a point of order, not on your ruling about the statement of the Leader of the House but about what had immediately gone before. Unless you were willing to listen to the first few words, you could have had no idea of what I was intending to say.

I suspected that it might be that, because the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) had already raised that point of order. That business had been concluded. The hon. Member was too late to raise a point of order about the Division. I had announced the result of the Division. However, we will not go into that now.

Question Of Privilege

I will now rule on the complaint of breach of privilege raised by the hon. Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dunwoody).

I have considered the matter of the complaint made yesterday by the hon. Member of certain passages in the Travel Trade Gazette newspaper. I am satisfied that this is a proper case for me to allow a motion with precedence over the Orders of the Day.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Edward Short)

In view of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I beg to move,

That the matter of the complaint be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
It would, I think, be in the interests of the House as a whole now if it were to decide that no further debate should take place at this stage.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That the matter of the complaint be referred to the Committee of Privileges.

Norton Villiers Triumph Ltd Order (Business Statement)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last night we had a Business Statement from the Leader of the House announcing a guillotine on the Finance Bill and informing the House that the Norton Villiers Triumph Order was to be taken late on Wednesday night. My right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) asked why, since the order had been on the Notice Paper for four months, it was necessary to give such extraordinarily short notice of the decision to bring it forward to a debate. The Leader of the House replied to my right hon. Friend by saying that it was

"because the Chairman of Norton Villiers Triumph has informed us today that this money must be forthcoming this week, otherwise there will be redundancies. This is the first that the Government have heard of the urgency of the matter."
I have this morning spoken to the Chairman of NVT, who tells me that he has had no conversations with Ministers since last Thursday—[Hon. Members: "Oh."]—that no meeting took place with civil servants except for one last Friday with Treasury civil servants. The Chairman tells me that the position about redundancies in the company has been known, on an increasingly serious basis, to Ministers in the Department of Industry for the past two to three months. I understand, although I am not able to get this information in writing because the Chairman is not in London, that that is the gist of the information that has been made available to the national Press.

There are two points on which I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. The first is whether you feel it would be appropriate, since we can no longer question the Business Statement made last night, for the Leader of the House now to add to the statement he made then. Second, if on reflection it turns out that the information given by the Leader of the House to justify bringing forward the NVT order at such short notice was based on false information given to the right hon. Gentleman then, what possible ground is there for proceeding with the order at such peremptory speed?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to reply. [Hon. Members: "No. The Leader of the House."] As the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) quite properly said, the order in question has been upon the Notice Paper for some time. It followed from discussions with the company that there was a degree of urgency in the matter—

—which led me to communicate with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House about this and to ask that the debate take place this week. There will be an opportunity during the debate, if it follows in accordance with the Business Statement made by my right hon. Friend last night, to explain the circumstances in which it was necessary to bring it forward. I believe that that will be for the convenience of the House.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, the Secretary of State for Industry was in Bristol yesterday. The Leader of the House came to the House at midnight last night with this extraordinary statement about the urgency of this matter. Could we please know from the Secretary of State when he informed his right hon. Friend of the sudden urgency of this business?

I spoke to my right hon. Friend on the telephone from Bristol yesterday, before he made the Business Statement. My right hon. Friend—

I spoke to my right hon. Friend from Bristol late yesterday morning. He was very anxious not to interfere with the pattern of business this week—[Hon. Members: "Oh."]—unless it was necessary so to do. I underlined in my conversation with the Leader of the House the importance of getting the order this week for the reason I gave.

With respect, this is an important point. [An hon. Member: "It is not a point of order."] I am not certain. I think that the Secretary of State in replying to the point of order was using the same discretion as you mentioned has existed on previous occasions, Mr. Speaker. Therefore it is in order, that discretion having been exercised, to ask a question. Is the Seccretary of State aware that no one doubts for a moment that he spoke to his right hon. Friend along the lines he has indicated? Is he aware that what the House will be interested to know is at what stage in the past four months did the sudden urgency arise which was transmitted to the Leader of the House yesterday?

I would have hoped that the House would have taken the normal procedure of listening to the argument on the order and not seek to anticipate the debate by means of points of order.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House will be at a loss to understand how a question to the Leader of the House can be answered by the Secretary of State for Industry.

Further to that point point of order, Mr. Speaker. In my original request to you, I sought guidance upon two points. The first point depended on whether—

Order. The content of an answer is not a matter for the Chair. It cannot be a matter of order. We will go on. Mr. Hamilton.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It really is not fair to my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and to the House. My hon. Friend asked two questions seeking guidance from you. We have not had an answer from the Leader of the House. We have not been told why the Leader of the House had to announce this business last night as a matter of urgency. That is what we are entitled to know, and it is what we are entitled to know from the Leader of the House.

Order. This is all coming out of the time to be devoted to the Finance Bill. The matters which have been raised are not matters for the Chair. I so rule.

I gave notice at the earliest possible moment that I wished to make an application under Standing Order No. 9. May I now please do so, Mr. Speaker?

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration: namely,

"The untrue statement by the Leader of the House in the early hours of this morning when he said, 'It is because the Chairman of Norton Villiers Triumph has informed us today'—I underline the word 'today'—'that this money must be forthcoming this week otherwise there will be redundancies.'"
My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) has just told the House that, despite the assurance given to the House by the Lord President shortly after midnight this morning, no such information had been given to the Government.

I submit that this is a specific matter. I also submit that it is an important matter. What could be more important than the assurance of the Leader of the House, one of the most senior members of the Government and himself the guardian and custodian of the rights of back benchers?

I turn now to the third aspect, that of urgency. What could be more urgent than the honour, truthfulness and integrity of the Government—

The hon. Gentleman must not make the sort of speech he would make if I were to grant his application. He has to satisfy me that there should be a debate on this matter either today or tomorrow.

I hope that I have demonstrated that this matter is specific and important and that on the matter of urgency the whole credibility of the Government Front Bench is at stake.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) has made an application under Standing Order No. 9 asking me to allow a debate either today or tomorrow on the matter which he raised.

I am not prepared to grant that request.

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), I believe that the House is entitled to an answer to one simple question: when the Leader of the House made that statement last night, was it or was it not true? If it was not true, the order should be withdrawn and taken later. If it was true, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House should get up and say so. Was it true or was it not?

The sitting is suspended until 4.15 p.m.

Grave disorder having arisen, Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to Standing Order No. 26 (Power of Mr. Speaker to adjourn the House or suspend the sitting), suspended the Sitting of the House.

Sitting suspended at five minutes to Four o'clock and resumed at a quarter, past Four o'clock.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Edward Short)

During the adjournment I have made further inquiries into this matter.

I made a short Business Statement last night. In reply to the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), I gave an explanation in perfectly good faith believing that all that I said was absolutely accurate.

I have now found that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry met Mr. Poore, the Chairman of Norton Villiers Triumph Ltd., on Thursday of last week. My right hon. Friend telephoned me yesterday from Bristol, and said that this matter must be dealt with this week, otherwise there would be great difficulties in the firm. I pointed out to him the great inconvenience to the House in debating the matter this week. However, he insisted that the matter must be dealt with this week, otherwise there was a danger of redundancies. Therefore, I announced the matter last night.

There was no intention of misleading the House—none whatever—and my statement was made in perfectly good faith.

We are grateful to the Leader of the House for making that statement. Do we understand that the order is still to stay on the Order Paper?

I know that this is extremely inconvenient, but I am told that there would be great difficulties in the firm if the guarantees to the bank were not not made available by Thursday morning.

I apologise to the House for this.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not understand how it was possible for the Government to guarantee £50 million to British Leyland, whereas they appear to be totally incapable of making this guarantee without—

That illustrates the difficulty of the Chair over points of order. That is a very relevant point for the debate, but it is not a point of order for me today.

Crown Department

4.17 p.m.

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish a Crown Department of State.
I do this as a man of peace.

This is not an original idea. There was a debate on this proposition on 14th December 1971, and it had extremely respectable—one might almost say "conservative"—protagonists. Its supporters were not what I would call radicals and certainly not anti-monarchists. They included the present Lord Houghton, then the right hon. Member for Sowerby and a devout defender of the institution of the Monarchy.

Perhaps I might quote what he said on that occasion. The scheme which he was putting forward and which I am now putting forward
"… is not primarily devoted to money. It is more to do with the method of providing money."
He went on to expound the purpose of his proposal which had been before a Select Committee on which both he and I sat, and it was a proposition which had been defeated by only one vote in that all-party Committee.

The purpose was to pay
"… the cost of the upkeep of the Monarchy … out of moneys provided by Parliament instead of it being a permanent charge by Act of Parliament on the Consolidated Fund."
My right hon. Friend went on to point out that the scheme would make
"… the main expenses of the Monarch open to scrutiny and … to debate in this House."—[Official Report, 14th December 1975; Vol. 828, c. 293.]
He asserted, as has been asserted again by the recent report of the Trustees, that in any event there is a good deal of expenditure on this institution already dealt with on departmental Votes. My right hon. Friend quoted the Royal Yacht, the Queen's Flight, the Royal Palaces, and so on. In fact, about £3 million expenditure on the Monarchy is already borne by departmental Votes.

The object of my exercise this afternoon is to carry that further by bringing all the expenses of the upkeep of this institution, now scattered around in various forms, under one head. The body responsible, as my right hon Friend suggested four years ago, would be the Commissioners of the Crown with, although I think that my right hon. Friend retreated from this proposal, a Department and a Minister responsible for answering Questions and debates in this House. That Department would clearly by the Treasury. However, there would be Commissioners of the Crown in the same way as we have Commissioners of the House of Commons to look into the expenditure of this House which is produced on a departmental Vote.

Under my proposals the expenses of the staff and officials of the Crown would be taken off the Civil List and put on the Vote of the Commissioners of the Crown. That would mean that the inflationary problems which we all face today could be dealt with on an annual basis within the terms of the social contract.

Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went very far along this line when he made his statement on 12th February, because he said:
"The Government therefore propose, with the Queen's agreement, to seek the authority of Parliament to finance future increases in the provision for the Civil List and in the other payments authoriesd by Civil List Acts from 1976 onwards by means of a grant-in-aid made to the Royal Trustees by the Treasury out of moneys provided by Parliament. Grants-in-aid made in accordance with this arrangement would be included in Estimates and voted by Parliament in accordance with the normal procedure of Supply."—[Official Report, 12th February 1975; Vol. 886, c. 375.]
My Bill would not carry that much further than that which the Prime Minister recommended a few weeks ago, but it would bring us nearer to what every hon. Member wants—open and honest democratic government.

It seems to many hon. Members that the Monarch cannot have it both ways as is the case now. It cannot be argued that there is a private Household and all that taxpayers have to do is foot the bill. It is either private or public. It cannot be private and yet be financed by the taxpayer.

The principles enunciated by my right hon. Friend the then Member for Sowerby, now Lord Houghton, were supported by the Leader of the Liberal Party. One of his arguments was that the creation of a Crown Department of State would
"relieve the Monarch and the Royal Family of the enormous amount of very unfair publicity which they have to suffer at the moment."—[Official Report, 14th December 1971; Vol. 828, c. 327.]
My right hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett), now a brilliant jewel on the Treasury Bench, referred in scathing terms to the tax-free income of well over £100,000 for Prince Charles. We are waiting impatiently for him to remedy those abuses in the tax system. But that has nothing to do with my Bill. That is for the Treasury.

I refer now to the closing speech in the debate in December 1971 made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. That was a forthright speech in which he accepted the proposition put forward by my right hon. Friend the then Member for Sowerby, now Lord Houghton. In the vote that ensued the present Prime Minister, with the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, the Secretary of State for Employment, the Secretary of State for Social Services, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Chief Whip voted for the proposition. In fact, that Lobby on that day reeked of respectability and deference. Therefore, there can be no question but that this Bill has very respectable antecedents.

I feel that the fears expressed in that debate—namely, that if annual Votes were presented to this House on the cost of the Monarchy they might lead to unseemly and perhaps embarrassing party wrangling—are unjustified. Having witnessed the scenes of the last few minutes, I do not think that we need to be afraid or ashamed of scenes of that kind. I understand the hysteria of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. They know that there is an unpleasant tax on its way for them, but we shall be debating that in due course. What I am proposing will happen anyway under the limited proposals announced by the Prime Minister on 12th February. The prospect is now offered of getting the institution of the Monarchy and its costs on to a more comprehensible and democratic footing.

It is in that spirit that I hope that the House will give me leave to introduce the Bill.

4.25 p.m.

I shall not detain the House long. I do not think that the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) should be allowed to get away with this Bill. Although the hon. Gentleman sought leave in terms rather more moderate than he adopts when talking in somewhat bilious rhetoric about the Royal Family, I think that it could be said that he seeks leave to introduce the Bill because, as a passionate believer in republicanism, he sees this as a step on the road towards republicanism.

I do not believe that the House should countenance this kind of suggestion and should not allow the Bill to be introduced, let alone have a Second Reading. To have a Minister of the Crown answerable for the affairs of the Monarchy at the Dispatch Box could serve only to weaken the democracy in which we all believe and for which we all struggle.

Anyone who witnessed the events of the last hour and of last night—the hon. Gentleman quite fairly referred to that matter—cannot for a moment think that to have the Crown represented by a partisan Minister at the Dispatch Box could serve the purposes of democracy and of the British constitution. I suggest that if hon. Members opposite allow the hon. Gentleman to introduce his Bill and consider giving it a Second Reading at a later date, they will be dealing a very real blow against the constitution which we all seek to uphold and at the Monarchy in which most people in this country—

Not all, I am reminded. I think that 91 hon. Members indicated last week that they did not support it. However, I suggest that most people in this country would view with considerable—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen may make impolite interjections from a sedentary position, but most people in this country wish to uphold the Monarchy. Most people believe that it is the most priceless asset that this country has and that it is the most important guardian of the liberties of the individual.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is raising an issue that was not dealt with by my hon. Friend in seeking leave to introduce his Bill. I appeal to you to bring some order to the House.

I regret that it is a common experience for hon. Members to refer to issues that have not been raised. I suggest that the House hears the hon. Gentleman and reaches a decision rather quickly.

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your protection. I was seeking to argue that anybody who heard the sepech by the hon. Member for Fife, Central could not deny that he was suggesting that there should be a Department of the Crown with a Minister answerable to this House. I suggest that that would weaken the Monarchy and our constitution. Furthermore, I suggest that

Division No. 119.]

AYES

[4.30 p.m.

Allaun, FrankEvans, John (Newton)McElhone, Frank
Anderson, DonaldEwing, Harry (Stirling)MacFarquhar, Roderick
Armstrong, ErnestFaulds, AndrewMackenzie, Gregor
Ashley, JackFernyhough, Rt Hon E.McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Ashton, JoeFlannery, MartinMcNamara, Kevin
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Madden, Max
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Fraser John (Lambeth, N'w'd)Marks, Kenneth
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Freeson, ReginaldMarquand, David
Bates, AlfGarrett, John (Norwich S)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Meacher, Michael
Booth, AlbertGinsburg, DavidMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Boothroyd, Miss BettyGolding, JohnMiller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)
Bradley, TomGould, BryanMolloy, William
Bray, Dr JeremyGrocott, BruceNewens, Stanley
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Noble, Mike
Buchan, NormanHardy, PeterOrbach, Maurice
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)Hatton, FrankOvenden, John
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Hayman, Mrs HelenePalmer, Arthur
Campbell, IanHeffer, Eric S.Pardoe, John
Canavan, DennisHooley, FrankPark, George
Carmichael, NeilHoyle, Doug (Nelson)Parry, Robert
Carter, RayHuckfield, LesPavitt, Laurie
Clemitson, IvorHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Penhaligon, David
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)Hughes, Roy (Newport)Perry, Ernest
Cohen, StanleyHunter, AdamPrescott, John
Colquhoun, Mrs MaureenJackson, Colin (Brighouse)Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)Janner, GrevillePrice, William (Rugby)
Corbett, RobinJeger, Mrs LenaRadice, Giles
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Johnston, Russell (Inverness)Richardson, Miss Jo
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)Jones, Alec (Rhondda)Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Witeh)Jones, Barry (East Flint)Roderick, Caerwyn
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)Judd, FrankRodgers, William (Stockton)
Deakins, EricKaufman, GeraldRooker, J. W.
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Kelley RichardRoper, John
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyKerr, RussellRose, Paul B.
Dempsey, JamesKilroy-Silk, RobertRowlands, Ted
Doig, PeterKinnock, NeilSedgemore, Brian
Dormand, J. D.Lambie, DavidSelby, Harry
Douglas-Mann, BruceLamborn, HarryShaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Eadie, AlexLamond, JamesSheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Edelman, MauriceLatham, Arthur (Paddington)Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Edge, GeoffLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Silverman, Julius
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)Lipton, MarcusSkinner, Dennis
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)Litterick, TomSnape, Peter
English, MichaelLomas, KennethSpearing, Nigel
Ennals, DavidLoyden, EddieSpriggs, Leslie
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)Mabon, Dr J. DicksonStallard, A. W.
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)McCartney, HughSteel, David (Roxburgh)

the hon. Gentleman was merely moving that motion because it was inappropriate to move a motion for the abolition of royalty—or royalties—or anything like that.

I put it to the House that the greatest symbol of unity that this country has is the Monarchy and that anybody who accepts the suggestions of the hon. Member and brings into the political arena, with all the problems that that involves, the Monarchy of this country is doing a great disservice to our democracy. With those words I forthrightly oppose the Bill that the hon. Gentleman seeks to introduce.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 ( Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 174, Noes 207.

Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)Torney, TomWhitlock, William
Stoddart, DavidWainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Stott, RogerWalker, Terry (Kingswood)Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)Ward, MichaelWilson, William (Coventry SE)
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)Watkins, DavidWise, Mrs Audrey
Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)Watkinson, JohnWrigglesworth, Ian
Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)Wellbeloved, JamesYoung, David (Bolton E)
Thorne, Stan (Preston South)White, Frank R. (Bury)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Tierney, SydneyWhite, James (Pollok)Mr. Bob Cryer and
Tomlinson, JohnWhitehead, PhillipMr. James Johnson.

NOES

Adley, RobertGrant, Anthony (Harrow C)Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Alison, MichaelGray, HamishMorrison, Charles (Devizes)
Amery, Rt Hon JulianGrieve, PercyMorrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Griffiths, EldonMudd, David
Awdry, DanielGrimond, Rt Hon J.Neave, Airey
Baker, KennethGrist, IanNott, John
Banks, RobertGrylls, MichaelOnslow, Cranley
Beith, A. J.Hall, Sir JohnOsborn, John
Bell, RonaldHall-Davis, A. G. F.Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)Hampson, Dr KeithPaisley, Rev Ian
Benyon, W.Hannam, JohnParkinson, Cecil
Berry, Hon AnthonyHarrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)Pattie, Geoffrey
Biffen, JohnHarvie Anderson, Rt Hon MissPercival, Ian
Biggs-Davison, JohnHavers, Sir MichaelPeyton, Rt Hon John
Blaker, PeterHayhoe BarneyPowell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Boscawen, Hon RobertHenderson DouglasPrior, Rt Hon James
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)Heseltine, MichaelPym, Rt Hon Francis
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)Higgins, Terence L.Raison, Timothy
Braine, Sir BernardHolland, PhilipRathbone, Tim
Brotherton, MichaelHooson, EmlynRenton, Rt Hon Sir D.(Hunts)
Buchanan-Smith, AlickHordern, PeterRenton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Bulmer, EsmondHowe Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Burden, F. A.Howell, David (Guildford)Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Butler, Adam (Bosworth)Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Rifkind, Malcolm
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHowells, Geraint (Cardigan)Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Channon, PaulIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Churchill, W. S.Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)James, DavidRoss, William (Londonderry)
Clark, William (Croydon S)Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Jessel, TobySainsbury, Tim
Clegg, WalterJones, Arthur (Daventry)St. John-Stevas, Norman
Cockcroft, JohnJopling, MichaelShaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineShelton, William (Streatham)
Cope, JohnKershaw, AnthonyShepherd, Colin
Cormack, PatrickKilfedder, JamesSilvester, Fred
Corrie, JohnKing, Tom (Bridgwater)Sims, Roger
Costain, A. P.Knight, Mrs JillSinclair, Sir George
Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)Lane, DavidSmith, Dudley (Warwick)
Crawford, DouglasLangford-Holt, Sir JohnSpence, John
Crouch, DavidLatham, Michael (Melton)Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)Lawrence, IvanSproat, Iain
Dean, Paul (N Somerset)Lawson, NigelStainton, Keith
Dodsworth, GeoffreyLe Marchant, SpencerStanley, John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLester, Jim (Beeston)Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLuce, RichardStokes, John
Dunlop, JohnMacCormick, IainStradling Thomas, J.
Durant, TonyMcCrindle, RobertTapsell, Peter
Dykes, HughMcCusker, H.Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnMacfarlane, NeilTaylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)Tebbit, Norman
Emery, PeterMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)Madel, DavidThompson, George
Eyre, ReginaldMarshall, Michael (Arundel)Townsend, Cyril D.
Fairbairn, NicholasMarten, NeilTugendhat, Christopher
Fairgrieve, RussellMather, Carolvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Fell, AnthonyMaudling, Rt Hon ReginaldVaughan, Dr Gerard
Finsberg GeoffreyMawby, RayWainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Fisher, Sir NigelMaxwell-Hyslop, RobinWalters, Dennis
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMayhew, PatrickWarren, Kenneth
Fowler Norman (Sutton C'f'd)Meyer, Sir AnthonyWatt, Hamish
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)Weatherill, Bernard
Freud, ClementMills, PeterWelsh, Andrew
Fry, PeterMitchell, David (Basingstoke)Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Gardiner George (Reigate)Moate, RogerWinterton, Nicholas
Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)Molyneaux, JamesYoung, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)Monro, HectorYounger, Hon George
Goodhew, VictorMontgomery, Fergus
Gorst, JohnMoore, John (Croydon C)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)More, Jasper (Ludlow)Mr. Peter Rost and
Gower Sir Raymond (Barry)Morgan-Giles, Rear-AdmiralMr. Michael Mates.

Question accordingly negatived.

Finance Bill (Allocation Of Time)

4.41 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Edward Short)

I beg to move, That the

Proceedings

Time for conclusion or interruption

New Clauses not relating to capital transfer tax or estate duty, and Amendments relating to Clauses 1 to 18 and 50 to 56 and to Schedules 1 to 3 and 12.To be brought to a conclusion at midnight on the first allotted day.
New Clauses relating to capital transfer tax or estate duty.To be brought to a conclusion at midnight on the second allotted day.
Amendments relating to Clauses 19 to 49, new Schedules.(a) To be interrupted at midnight on the third allotted day;
Amendments relating to Schedules 4 to 11, and Third Reading.(b) to be brought to a conclusion at midnight on the fourth allotted day.

(2) Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) shall not apply to this Order.

(3) The Third Reading of the Bill may be taken immediately after the Consideration of the Bill, notwithstanding the practice of the House as to the interval between the stages of a Finance Bill.

Dilatory motions

2. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, Proceedings on the Bill shall be made on an allotted day except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Standing Order No. 13

3. Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business) shall not apply on an allotted day.

Private Business

4. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by the Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill or, if those Proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the completion of those Proceedings.

Conclusion of Proceedings

5.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which are to be

following provisions shall apply to the remaining Proceedings on the Bill:

Report and Third Reading

1.—(1) The remaining Proceedings on Consideration and the Proceedings on Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in four allotted days and (subject to paragraph 5(2) of this Order) shall be brought to a conclusion or interrupted, as the case may be, at the times shown in the following Table:

brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, Mr. Speaker shall forthwith proceed to put the following Questions (but no others) that is to say—

  • (a) the Question or Questions already proposed from the Chair, or necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including, in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);
  • (b) the Question on any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that amendment or Motion is moved by a Member of the Government;
  • (c) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;
  • and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

    (2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph shall not be interrupted under paragraph 1(1) of this Order.

    (3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion or interruption of any Proceedings which under this Order are to be brought to a conclusion at a stated time on that day shall be deferred for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on the Motion under Standing Order No. 9.

    (4) If a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over to Seven o'clock on an allotted day, the bringing to a conclusion or interruption, as the case may be, of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order, are to be brought to a conclusion or interrupted on that day at any hour falling after the beginning of the Proceedings on that Motion shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on that Motion.

    Supplemental orders

    6.—(1) The Proceedings on any Motion moved in the House 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 the last foregoing paragraph shall apply as if the Proceedings were Proceedings on the Bill on an allotted day.

    (2) If on an allotted day on which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion at the next sitting by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

    Saving

    7. Nothing in this Order shall—

  • (a) prevent any Proceedings to which the Order applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order, or
  • (b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such Proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.
  • Interpretation

    8. In this Order—

    'allotted day' means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the Proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;
    'the Bill' means the Finance Bill.

    It is with great regret that I move this motion. There are, of course, many precedents for timetable motions under Governments of both parties. One of my predecessors, the late Mr. Iain Macleod, introduced four guillotine motions in one Session. This is the first that I have moved in a year. As for the record of the two parties, since the Second World War, Conservative Governments have introduced 21 timetable motions and Labour Governments have introduced eight.

    Mr. Macleod said that no Leader of the House had to argue that there might be occasions on which a guillotine was justified. He went on to say that what he always had to argue was that the particular motion before the House was justified. That I now seek to do.

    The right hon. Gentleman has given the House information about the number of times on which guillotine motions have been moved. How many times have they been moved to closure a Finance Bill?

    I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will make his own speech and my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary will answer all these points. I think that the last occasion was in 1968.

    I hope that the Opposition will spare us any ritual objections to timetable motions as such, when we recall the guillotines which they imposed on the Industrial Relations Act, the Housing Finance Act, the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act, the European Communities Act and the Counter-Inflation (Temporary Provisions) Act.

    I should have preferred that we completed our proceedings on the Finance Bill with no need for a timetable motion. I wish that the two sides of the House could have agreed on sensible arrangements for allocating what is by any standard a generous amount of time for the remaining stages of the Bill. That would have allowed us to complete our consideration of it in a sensible manner. Unfortunately, such an agreement proved to be unobtainable. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary sought such an understanding last week in discussion with the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) but could not obtain it.

    The reason why he could not do so became only too clear yesterday morning, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman was heard saying on the BBC "Today" programme:
    "Oh, it isn't a question of extra time to debate in the House. We shall be using our time in the House to use every legitimate parliamentary means to secure the withdrawal of this tax and that's the object of our debate this week…. And we are entitled to use every legitimate parliamentary means to stop this tax and we intend to try and do just that."
    This intention by the Opposition to use every device, every stratagem, to block the Bill's progress was only too clearly confirmed yesterday when there were large numbers of Opposition points of order—or I should say, as Mr. Speaker said, the same point of order made over and over again—and when the House was required to spend over three hours discussing a procedural motion, the terms of which had already been agreed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman and which were intended to honour the promise that I made to the House last Thursday. Yet the Opposition felt it necessary to debate the motion for three hours.

    I make no complaint whatever about all this. The Opposition are entitled to proceed in any way they wish, so long as they remain within the rules of order—which is entirely a matter for the Chair. Whether the public outside are impressed with all this is another matter altogether. Our system of parliamentary democracy requires that Oppositions shall be allowed to do everything in their power to prevent a Bill with which they profoundly disagree from reaching the Statute Book. On the other hand, our system requires that a Government with a majority in this House should be entitled to ask the House at the end of the day to pass the legislation for which they have a mandate from the electorate—

    We had a million more votes than the hon. and learned Member's party.

    Every reasonable opportunity must be provided for discussion of the Bill and amendments to it. But when that has been done, the Government are entitled to ask for its enactment. That is what has happened in this case.

    However much the Opposition may dislike the capital transfer tax, there can be no doubt that we have a mandate to introduce it—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It was included in our election manifesto last February, it was repeated in October, we published a White Paper about it in August and we fought the last election on it.

    As soon as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer opened his Budget on 12th November, it was known to all hon. Members that the Finance Bill must receive the Royal Assent within four months of the passing of the Budget Resolutions—that is, by 14th March—

    in accordance with the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968. In that broad sense, the timetable for all Finance Bills is laid down from the start.

    The Government have certainly wasted no time. The Bill had its Second Reading on 17th December, and its Committee stage on the Floor started on 15th January and finished on 22nd January. It entered Standing Committee the following day and the Committee reported on 19th February. Allowing 15 hours for dinner breaks, the Bill was in Committee, in the House and upstairs, for about 160 hours. By any recent standards that is a generous allowance of time, even for a highly controversial Bill. It would be appropriate indeed to pay tribute to the energy, stamina and determination of the Standing Committee—both sides. I do not know how they stood it.

    I think that the House will also acknowledge the patient, resilient and reasonable manner in which the Chancellor, the Chief Secretary and the Financial Secretary responded to the points put to them. When serious points were made, they did not just brush them aside but responded seriously and helpfully to them. Indeed, that willingness to meet the points made in Committee is one of the reasons for the sizeable number of Government amendments on Report.

    Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise the distinction between applying a timetable motion on Finance Bills and doing so on other legislation? Does he recognise that, on the only other occasion since the war when there was a guillotine motion on a Finance Bill, time was allotted for 11 further sittings for discussion after the guillotine had been applied? Does he not now recognise that the very amendments of which he speaks, for which the Government are entirely responsible, require far more time than is allotted in the motion?

    My right hon. Friend will deal with that point when he replies. Whether the vast number of Opposition amendments now flooding the order paper are all points of substance is not for me to say. No doubt the Chief Secretary will comment on that, too. All that I would say is that it is clear from the sheer volume of those amendments and from the very slow progress made yesterday that the Opposition are seeking to prolong proceedings on the Bill to the point at which it cannot be completed in the time laid down by statute. There is no doubt about that whatever.

    I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. There is a most relevant point with which he has not dealt in his speech. Will he tell the House how many new Government amendments—not Opposition amendments—have to be considered during the Report stage, with the same consideration as would be given in Committee? I believe that there is a large number. The House should know how many there are.

    I do not know how many, but a very large number.

    No one can argue that insufficient time has been allowed for the remaining stages. Since 1909 there has been only one Finance Bill for which more time has been allowed for Report and Third Reading. What we have now to decide is a sensible way of allocating the very reasonable amount of time available.

    The motion before the House would provide for us to complete, as follows, first, all the non-capital transfer tax clauses and schedules by tonight; second, the new clauses on capital transfer tax or estate duty by tomorrow night; and all the remaining amendments, new schedules and the Third Reading by Monday night—that is, we would have both Thursday and Monday for these. I would draw the particular attention of the House to this last point, as the way in which this part of the order has been printed may give rise to some doubt about it.

    Of course, if the Opposition would prefer some different arrangement for allocating the time or some supplementary arrangement for the proceedings on any of the allotted days, I should be only to glad to consider this. Paragraph 6(1) of the motion provides for any necessary supplemental orders.

    At the end of the proceedings tonight, tomorrow night or on Monday night, paragraph 5(1) of the motion provides that any amendments or new clauses not moved by a member of the Government and relating to those parts of the Bill to be completed on that day, should fall. The Question would then be put without further debate on amendments or new clauses moved by a member of the Govment. The reason for this provision is that, as I have just said, virtually all the Government amendments are in fact concessions. Clearly the House would wish such amendments to be taken.

    On Thursday night the motion simply provides for the proceedings to be interrupted at midnight, and nothing more. They would then continue on Monday at the point at which they were left over. The remaining provisions are common form, but my right hon. Friend will gladly deal with any points made in the debate about them when he winds up the debate.

    The right hon. Gentleman has said very kindly that he is prepared to entertain suggestions from the Opposition side of the House as to changes in the timetable. Why is it that the debates have to stop at midnight and not at a later hour? The right hon. Gentleman could still have his days and get the Pill through Report by the day he wishes, but he could allow more time for the discussion of this very important tax.

    The finishing time each day is the part of the motion which is not negotiable, but the allocation of the time is. We believe that the debates will be all the better for finishing at a reasonable hour.

    I would say once again that if the Opposition want to use the available time differently, this could easily be arranged. In particular, if they would prefer to dispense with a Third Reading so as to give more time for the Report stage, that is entirely open to them.

    This motion is needed to enable the proceedings on the Finance Bill, for which we have a mandate front the electorate, to be completed in a fair and reasonable way by the date prescribed by law.

    4.55 p.m.

    I have never believed that guillotine debates have been made any more interesting by the number of precedents that the introductory speeches have contained. I am bound to say that I have not bothered myself with them. I should like to assure the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House that I have no ritual objections to timetable motions as such. I think that we should do much better on some occasions to limit our debates to reasonable lengths. [Interruption.] It would be very helpful indeed if Oppositions could make their perfectly reasonable points without a long stream, a Niagara, of tiresome interruptions by people who are determined to ruin discussion and not to contribute to it. I refer specifically to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner).

    I have always been among the most charitable of men. I wish to see the best in everyone.

    I almost wish that I could look in a mirror rather than face hon. Members on the Government side of the House.

    As I was saying, I try to take the most favourable view, even of right hon. and hon. Members on the Government side. But I was a little surprised this afternoon when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House suddenly said, quite baldly, "I make no complaint". We were not waiting for any complaints from him. We have some complaints to make. It is entirely from the Opposition side of the House that the complaints will come. We hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman will listen to them.

    I should like to take the opportunity—rare in these days—of agreeing with the Leader of the House on one point, and that is saluting the stamina of the Standing Committee. One can only hope that Government Members got some satisfaction out of it. My right hon. and hon. Friends got none at all; of that I am sure. Nevertheless, they gallantly did their duty in attempting to secure improvements to a very nasty measure.

    I am concerned—because I think that this goes to the right hon. Gentleman's good faith—to know whether the Leader of the House is really satisfied that his undertakings to give five days on Report have been discharged by the arrangements now made. I must tell him that I am not. If the right hon. Gentleman will consider the statements that he has made on a number of occasions, together with the questions that I have asked in reply, I think that he will find—or at least, any independent judge would conclude this—that he was bound in honour to give five full days on Report.

    The Government's handling of the measure has not been received with wild acclamation in the Press. Perhaps the best comment was:
    "A lesson in how not to legislate."
    But there was one more to which I particularly call the attention of the Government. It appeared in the Financial Times of 1st March:
    "The more one looks at this Bill, the more one finds in it to criticise. It is by far the most incompetently drafted and ill-conceived legislation since 1965, and the sooner the Government drops the whole scheme for a year's proper consideration the better."
    My suggestion to the House is that there should be two main aims of legislation, particularly where tax is concerned. It should be fair. I am not quite certain whether the Government really aim to be fair; but that would certainly be the aim of my right hon. and hon. Friends. The second main purpose is that it should be clear and certain. Not even the most enthusiastic supporters of this wretched measure could possibly claim that it was clear.

    I wonder very much what in the long run will be the effect of a measure such as this on the already stretched relations which exist between the Inland Revenue and the public. I know that some Labour Members and some members of the Government have rather fanciful ideas about the Inland Revenue. The other day the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Social Services compared the Inland Revenue with Robin Hood. That seemed to be a slight flight of fantasy. I am not quite sure whether we are now to be told that she is Maid Marion.

    To impose this kind of legislation upon the public when it is so ill-digested, ill-designed and ill-thought-out will dangerously worsen the relations between the Government machine and the public.

    Mr. John Gorst
    (Hendon, North)