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Aircraft And Shipbuilding Industries Bill

Volume 927: debated on Monday 7 March 1977

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I call the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley to raise his point of order.

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for giving you little or no notice of my point of order. It relates to a letter that was placed on the Letter Board by the Lord Chancellor just before Questions started this afternoon, and it deals with the handling by the Government in another place of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill.

In the light of the Government's decision to withdraw most of the ship-repairing companies from the Bill, you will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that circumstances have changed substantially. I should like to register the strongest protest at the indecent haste with which the Government are proceeding and Further—

If the hon. Member is raising a point of order he must not make a speech but come directly to it.

My point of order concerns the following phrase in the letter:

"It has been agreed that the Bill, as amended by the deletion of the shiprepairing companies, will go through unopposed."
First, I do not know what knowledge the Lord Chancellor has about what happens in another place. I realise, Mr. Speaker, that you have no jurisdiction over this matter, but, with the present state of the Bill, what happens in another place determines what happens in this House. If the Bill goes through unopposed, as the Lord Chancellor seems to be suggesting, or if there is no time for representations to be made to their Lordships for amendments to be placed before the other place, this House will find itself in the position of being able to do nothing further with the Bill.

For the 2,000 people employed at Vosper Thornycroft's ship repairing company in Southampton, whose livelihood and future are at stake, it is wholly inadequate for the usual channels—I do not except my own Front Bench—to get together and for the Lord Chancellor to write as he did, and for the Secretary of State for Industry to refer to the cosy arrangement mentioned in his supplementary answer earlier this afternoon, saying that the matter has all been agreed.

Would you, Mr. Speaker, therefore make representations to the Lord Chancellor to see that the proceedings in another place tomorrow are not concluded tomorrow but are continued on at least one more day this week, so that there will be time for outside bodies to consult the workers and the representatives of the workers concerned and, if necessary, for amendments to be produced in another place, which, if passed, would come back here?

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is a matter of great concern for the Portsmouth and Southampton areas, where Vosper Thomycroft's ship repairing section operates. The arrangement which we Back Benchers read in the newspapers has been made—that certain ship repairing companies will be exempted from the aircraft and shipbuilding nationalisation proposals—did not include the ship repairing division of Vosper Thornycroft.

The letter from the Lord Chancellor, which I have had only a brief opportunity of seeing, refers to the Bill going through "unopposed". That presumably means unopposed by the major parties. But I cannot see how it can possibly be said by any individual that the Bill will pass through both Houses unopposed by every Member of Parliament. Who made this arrangement and on whose behalf? Therefore, in view of the great urgency of this matter to a number of people in the area where Vosper Thornycroft employees work, would you be prepared, despite the complete absence of notice, to accept an application under Standing Order No. 9 for an emergency debate on the subject?

I have listened with care, out of courtesy, to both hon. Members. However, what happens in another place is not my concern. If I started making representations about what happens there, they would start making representations about what happens here, and we should not like that. It is none of my concern.


On a point of order. I am sorry to pursue this point, Mr. Speaker, but the letter from the Lord Chancellor which I read clearly indicates that an arrangement has been made between the Government and the Opposition which is affecting another place. I raised my original point of order with you because the state of this Bill is such that the only items which can return to this House from the other place are Lords amendments. 11;the Bill were at any other stage, I would understand that there was no reason for you to intervene in what the other place does. However, in the circumstances, unless some representations are made to another place, there is no way in which this House can express its views on matters relevant to that Bill and to the changed circumstances since the Government's announcement of their preparedness to delete the ship repairing companies.

I can understand the hon. Member's feelings, but I can only reiterate that the business of another place is their concern. I am concerned with what comes before us in this place.