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Commons Chamber

Volume 950: debated on Wednesday 24 May 1978

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House Of Commons

Wednesday 24th May 1978

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Gilbert Islands (Independence)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether a date has been fixed for talks with the Gilbertese Ministers regarding their independence constitution.

No, Sir.

Will my hon. Friend make it clear to Gilbertese Ministers that the right of self-determination of the Banaban community cannot be ignored or set aside? Is he aware that the Banabans will fight just as fiercely for their political independence as they fought for their financial rights in the High Court of England? Is he further aware that such a fight will receive support from all sides of this House?

Questions of self-determination are always difficult. We believe that it is the Gilbertese as a whole who have the right to self-determination, and for the past 60 or 70 years Banaba has been considered as part of the Gilbert Islands. I shall certainly take account of the view that my hon. Friend put forward. We put forward what we believe is a reasonable compromise proposal, under which Banaba would enjoy autonomy within the Gilbert Islands.

When the negotiations do come round, will my hon. Friend take steps to try to ensure that the situation that we were debating at 1 o'clock this morning relating to the Solomon Islands and dual citizenship—whereby half the population receive citizenship automatically and the other half have to apply—does not occur again?

As I told the House last night, we do not anticipate that problem arising again in this case or in any other.

Buenos Aires

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will seek to pay an official visit to Buenos Aires.

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so.

As the eyes of the world will be on Buenos Aires for the forthcoming World Cup Final, will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to wish the Scottish football team every success?

Does he agree that the spectacle of the best sport in the world should not obscure the facts of one of the worst Fascist dictatorships in the world, under which many people are imprisoned, tortured and murdered? This occurs to such an extent that there are now about 15,000 people in Argentina who have little chance of liberty, never mind seeing the World Cup Final.

I certainly take the opportunity, on behalf of Welshmen and Englishmen, of supporting the Scots in their World Cup efforts. We wish them well.

Of course the problem of human rights in Argentina will not be obscured by the World Cup; in fact it could well be heightened by it. The action taken by EEC members, in which Britain took a full part, in a demarche to the Argentinian Government about disappearances and detentions, was an effective form of protest.

If Scottish fans get into difficulties in Argentina, what advice does the Foreign Office have for them?

We are today publishing in the Official Report the detailed advice that we are giving to every football fan who is travelling to Argentina. We have arranged special consular facilities in every town where matches are being played, as well as strengthening our own consular section in Buenos Aires. There is also quite a lot of detailed advice—we have done extremely detailed work in conjunction with the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Office—to try to ensure that Scottish fans do not get into too much trouble.

Banaba (Phosphate Mining)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he anticipates that phosphate mining of Banaba will be completed and the operation of the British Phosphate Commission terminated.

It is expected that phosphate mining on Banaba will be complete in 1979 and that the British Phosphate Commission's operations on the island will be wound up in 1980.

In view of the fact that the Banabans are determined to resettle their homeland and that this point of view was accepted by the Gilbertese Government in the recent Bairiki resolutions, what steps are being taken by participant Governments in the British Phosphate Commission to ensure that Ocean Island becomes a flourishing homeland for a thriving Banaban community and not simply a sterile monument to British financial greed?

The right of the Banabans to return to Ocean Island and resume their occupations has never been contested. The question of the replanting of the island was one of the subjects of the recent legal action on which an award was made. We have offered to undertake a resources survey to enable the Banabans to resume their occupations there.

Falkland Islands

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the Argentines have yet brought an end to their illicit establishment of a base on one of the islands within the Falkland Islands Dependencies; and, if not, when their departure will take place.

An Argentine statement on 11th May indicated that they had not done so. The Argentine scientific station is on British territory. We have protested about this and are pressing the matter.

Is it true that the Foreign Office was informed of the situation relating to the illegal occupancy 18 months ago? If that is so, why was instantaneous action not taken, such as the physical removal of those concerned? Did the Minister ever consider suspending diplomatic relations?

The matter first came to light in December 1976. We protested forcefully and had reason to believe that the activities would be terminated. However, the activities were renewed in the present Antarctic season and, therefore, we have renewed our protest and are pressing the matter.

Does my hon. Friend take the view, as I do, that the word in the Question should be not "illicit" but "illegal"? If this were to happen again and nothing much further ensued, what measures would my hon. Friend be likely to take? We fear that, as in the old saying, an inch can become an ell.

We are pressing the matter. We hope to get the matter resolved through diplomatic exchanges between the two Governments. I believe that that is the best way of proceeding. It is premature to speculate on what further action is required if we fail in our present efforts.

Let us not get too excited about this. Is it not a fact that we have never used the island in any way? Are we not in the position of an absentee landlord who finds squatters on his premises?

It is a piece of British sovereign territory and that is why we treat the matter seriously. It is also true that the island is 1,200 miles south of the Falkland Islands and is totally uninhabited. The present activities on the island by the Argentinians are purely scientific.

Although economic co-operation between the Argentine and the Falkland Islands might make eminent sense, is it not serious that since 1976 an infringement of British sovereignty has taken place and that the Government have known about it since December 1976? Why has the Minister failed to tell us of this infringement of British sovereignty? What positive action is he taking to deal with it?

We have sought to resolve the issue through diplomatic exchanges between the two Governments. That is infinitely preferable to public denunciations and public statements when we are trying to achieve a practical result to the problem that has arisen.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply. I beg to give notice that I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Banaba (Aid)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what response the Government are making to the Banaban Council of Leaders' acceptance of his ex gratia offer of $A10 million subject to its condition that the capital sum should be paid directly to it and be under its control and when the money will be paid.

We have proposed that the modalities of payment be discussed through legal channels, and the Banabans have welcomed the suggestion. No payment can in any case be made until it is confirmed unconditionally that there will be no appeal in the legal action against the Crown.

That sounds suspiciously like blackmail to me. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Government no longer intend to withhold from the Banabans the right to administer the fund themselves? Will he confirm that the accumulated interest on this sum will be paid over to them and will be under their control? Finally, as the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has said that the sum is not compensation for the grievous wrongs done to the Banabans over a long time, what response are the Government making to the High Court of Chancery's invitation, in December 1976, to make reparation for the continued breach of trust by the Government in terms of this small community?

On the question of the administration of the fund, we are taking note of the request that was made by the former Council of Elders. The new Council of Elders has recently been elected, with a completely different composition from the previous council. Therefore, we wish to explore its views before we reach a final decision. As for accumulated interest, I require notice of that question.

It is true that my right hon. Friend said that the offer was not intended as compensation. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the legal action found there was no direct responsibility on the British Government. My right hon. Friend was making it clear that we have offered an ex gratia payment to take account of the difficulties and disturbances of the Banabans over previous years.

To what extent is the company concerned with the exploitation and the ravages that took place on the island making its contribution to the so-called compensation?

The final distribution of the surplus of the British Phosphate Commission, to which I imagine my hon. Friend is referring, is still to be decided. We are only one among three Governments who are responsible. We have to discuss the matter with the other two Governments.

As there is widespread feeling that the Banabans have had a raw deal over a long period, will the Minister at least assure the House that the elected representatives of the Banabans will have a major share in the administration of the trust fund that is to be established?

It was because we recognised that many people felt that the Banabans had received a raw deal over some years that the offer—it was generally regarded as a generous offer—of $A10 million was made to the Banabans. Whatever some Opposition Members may think about it, the Banabans have recognised it as a generous offer and have accepted it in principle. As for the administration of the fund, there would be close consultation with elected representatives of the Banabans—in other words, the Council of Elders. As I have said, a new council has been elected and we shall want to know its views before we reach a final decision.

Will my hon. Friend explain why it is that because the composition of the Council of Elders has changed there is an alteration to the principle concerning the administration of the fund, which was agreed by the British Government before the change was made? The statement made in another place is leading to a great deal of suspicion and speculation among the Banabans.

I think that my hon. Friend is mistaken. The British Government have not agreed to the original proposal that the money should be administered directly by the Council of Elders. We have always said that that should be done by way of a trust fund. We have said that for a good reason. Many people believe that in the past funds have not been as well administered by the Council of Elders as they might have been. We want to ensure that the funds go genuinely to the purposes for which they are intended, namely, to help the people of Banaba as a whole.

Will the hon. Gentleman now make it abundantly clear whether the Banabans will control the capital sum, whatever form it takes?

We have proposed that a trust fund should be established, with which the representatives of the Banabans would be closely associated. We are now considering their proposal that the money should be paid direct to the Council of Elders.

Belize

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest position regarding the negotiations with Guatemala on the territorial integrity of Belize.

Our policy is to bring Belize to early and secure independence as soon as possible. Any proposals for a settlement will be put to the Government and people of Belize.

In view of the resolution passed at the National Convention of the People's United Party on 16th April, which seeks independence but maintains that it wishes to keep its integrity and give no part of its nation away, what are the Government doing about establishing some form of defence force among the Belizians? Is the hon. Gentleman exploring the possibility of a defence pact among the Caribbean nations to defend the integrity of Belize?

We believe that the best way to bring Belize to early and secure independence is by negotiation. The concept of an international defence force has been considered and is being discussed by many Commonwealth countries and in the Caribbean. We still believe that the real path to an early and secure independence for Belize is by negotiation with the Belizian Government.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm the view expressed by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary that there can be no independence without the wholehearted consent of the people and Government of Belize? Will he also confirm that it is their current view, which is unlikely to change, that the question of sovereignty over existing Belizian territory is not negotiable?

That is the view of Mr. Price's party, as declared in a resolution. We do not believe that we should slam doors on any possible negotiated settlement. We hope very soon to have a meeting with the Premier, Mr. Price, and other Belizian politicians to discuss the way forward.

In view of the sympathetic attitude that in the past has been adopted by the United States to Guatemalan claims, will my hon. Friend say what progress has been made in persuading the present United States Administration to give full backing to the policy of Her Majesty's Government in maintaining the demand for full territorial integrity on the part of the people of Belize? Has he drawn to the attention of the United States Administration the poor record that the Guatemalan Government have on human rights?

The United States Government have been extremely helpful and co-operative with us in endeavouring to get a negotiated settlement with the Guatemalan Government and have supported the principle of early and secure independence for Belize. That is an important and significant development in the historic position, which has been a positive force for a negotiable settlement.

It is to be hoped that a new understanding will be reached between Belize and the new Guatemalan regime which takes over shortly, but will the Minister make it absolutely plain—I think that he has not made it plain—that any proposition for the secession of any strip of land whatsoever will not be accepted without the full consent of the people of Belize?

I repeat the assurance that I gave in my first answer to the Question. Any proposals that emerge from the negotiations will be put to the Government and people of Belize. It is for them to decide whether they wish to accept a particular course or negotiated settlement at which we arrive.

Diplomatic Service (Structure)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he plans any changes in the structure of the overseas representation of the United Kingdom.

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he now expects to complete consideration of the Central Policy Review Staff report on the Diplomatic Service.

The Government are considering the structure of our representation overseas in the light of the CPRS review and the recent report by the Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee. As my hon. Friend told my hon. Friend the Member for Woverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) on 11th May, the Government expect to present their conclusions to the House before the Summer Recess.

I welcome that reply. Does my hon. Friend agree that Britain's overseas representation is more extensive and expensive than that of almost any other country of comparable size and that, indeed, it has hardly changed since Imperial times? Does he further agree that our status in international affairs will be measured not by the plumage or titles of our ambassadors but by the extent to which our foreign policy is consistent, is truly our own, and has a clear underlying morality?

I certainly agree that cost-effectiveness in our overseas representation is most important, but I should add that my first-hand experience is that in many parts of the world we have an unrivalled and outstanding service and quality of personnel at our disposal. My hon. Friend is right to underline the importance of the policy. In our age of post-imperialism, foreign policy and its effective implementation for a nation such as ours become more, not less, important.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is some urgency in the implementation of the report on the background and training of the commercial departments of some of our overseas embassies? Is it not high time that we took some of our commercial work overseas out of the hands of the pinstripe brigade and put it in the hands of people who have some understanding of the problems of industry and business?

Our commercial work has to be second to nobody else's if Britain is to survive. In all seriousness, I wish that my hon. Friend had been with me last week in various parts of North America when I was meeting people involved in this work in the Foreign Service. Their professionalism and sense of commitment were outstanding.

Is the Minister of State aware that his remarks to his hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) will be wholeheartedly supported by Opposition Members? Is he also aware that there is some concern that the Government are not taking steps early enough to consult our friends in the Community with a view to the possible setting up of a co-operative diplomatic venture in certain parts of the world?

On an ad hoc basis, where co-operation makes sense, we are prepared and ready to undertake it, but we are concerned that in multilateral institutions, no less than bilaterally, we are able to play a full and effective part. If we are to play a full and effective part in multilateral institutions, our direct overseas representation is most important, in order to ensure that we are well enough informed to do so.

Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to reject the CPRS policy on the British Council? Will he also make it clear that Britain's influence in Southern Africa would be very much heightened if military attaches were not photographed and seen to be grinning at South African military exercises which, in fact, took place only days before the recent invasion of Angola?

The function of all those working in diplomatic missions overseas is to further the foreign policy enunciated by the Government of the day. On the point made by my hon. Friend about the British Council, I should simply say that when we have completed the intensive review of our overseas representation which we are now undertaking, our objective will be to make all our services more, not less, effective.

Bearing in mind the resounding vote of confidence in the Foreign Service given by the House of Commons Sub-Committee and the unsettling effect on the morale of the service after two years of critical investigation, will the Minister give an assurance that the service will now be left alone to plan its own future? Also, as the salaries of the senior members of the service have been allowed to get absurdly into arrears, will he tell us when the Boyle Report will be published and implemented?

On the main thrust of the hon. Gentleman's question, I repeat that for this Government the effective conduct of foreign policy has never been more important than it is today. Britain's survival depends upon it. In that context, I believe that we in this House owe it to those who are working on our behalf to make it clear that we want to support, not to undermine, what they are trying to do. What I find refreshing is their own desire at all times to examine the way in which the job is being undertaken and to see for themselves how it can be improved.

Bearing in mind the obvious dangers—by background and training, and many years spent abroad—of ambassadors and their staff being somewhat remote from contemporary British industrial and economic life, how many ambassadors spend any part of their time getting close to British industry when they are at home, in order to understand our problems and how to present the issues abroad?

I should not want to reject the point implicit in my hon. Friend's question, which is that it is important—

—that our overseas representatives should be in touch with the character and nature of life and, indeed, industry in Britain today. But I must tell my hon. Friend that my experience is that ambassadors, high commissioners and their staff are anxious, when on leave or when in Britain, to keep closely in touch with what is going on.

Is the Minister aware that some of us find rather more realism about life in the Foreign Service than in the CPRS? Does he recall that the CPRS report stated that either BBC external services should be reduced or that the means of transmission should be strengthened? Will he confirm that the Government have rightly come down against reducing the services? What are they doing to strengthen or replace the necessary transmitters?

As I have said, we shall be making our policy clear before the Summer Recess. I assure the hon. Gentleman, as I said about the British Council, that our intention in all that we are now undertaking is to make our overseas representational tasks in the Foreign Service more, not less, effective.

Is not the verdict of business men engaged in export business overwhelmingly favourable to the work of the Diplomatic Service? Will my hon. Friend confirm a recent calculation—that the Diplomatic Service costs rather less than the Swansea driving licence centre?

I am sure that my right hon. Friend appreciates that I should need notice of the second part of his question.

On the first part, I endorse the point that he made, because in my job it has been my pleasure to read a great number of testimonies from business men and others which underline how effective they have found the support given by British representatives abroad to the work that those business men are trying to do.

Misha Voikhansky

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will ask the Soviet authorities to review the case of Misha Voikhansky, in the light of the Helsinki Agreement.

The long separation of Misha Voikhansky from his mother gives cause for concern, and Dr. Marina Voikhanskaya is aware that Ministers share the anxiety of a great many people in Britain about it. The Government have raised this case with the Soviet authorities on a number of occasions, in the context of the family reunification provisions of the Helsinki Final Act, and will continue to do so.

I am grateful that the Government have raised this case on a number of occasions. But will the Minister ensure that the Deputy Prime Minister of the Soviet Union, who is now in the United Kingdom, is made fully aware during the trade negotiations that thousands of people here regard cases such as those involving the separation of an 11-year-old boy from his mother, as a means of punishing the mother for speaking out courageously at the abuse of psychiatry in Soviet hospitals, as a detestable and barbarous act, which is against the meaning of the Helsinki agreement?

Most hon. Members will endorse that view. I shall try to ensure that the hon. Member's views and those of the House generally are made known to Mr. Kirillin, who is in this country.

Is my hon. Friend aware that at this morning's meeting of the national executive committee of the Labour Party there was unanimous opposition to what has happened to Mr. Orlov and others like him? [HON. MEMBERS: "So what?"] If hon. Members would keep quiet they would realise that we are fighting against injustices in all parts of the world, including the Soviet Union. Is my hon. Friend aware that we feel that the Government could be a little more forthright on the question of those who are monitoring the Helsinki agreement in the Soviet Union?

We understand that the British Government do not want to endanger our relationships with the Soviet Union. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because we have to live with the Soviet Union. But it is vital that as a country and as a Labour movement we make our position absolutely clear, namely, that we are totally opposed to the methods adopted by the Soviet Union towards its dissidents.

I am pleased to hear what happened at the NEC this morning. I am perplexed by the reaction of many Opposition Members. I am sure that the Soviet Government will regard this morning's decision as more representative of the views of the mass of the people than some other expressions of opinion.

I cannot accept what my hon. Friend said about the Government not being forthright about Mr. Orlov's case. The Prime Minister made the Government's views clear on 18th May. The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary issued a statement on the same day expressing his concern at the harsh and unjustified treatment of Professor Orlov, which might make constructive relations between East and West more difficult.

Does the Minister agree that it is helpful at all levels to bring to the attention of the Soviet Union the disgust that we feel at the continuing breaches of the Helsinki agreement? Does he agree that it would be helpful if youth organisations, such as those of the National Council of Churches, Methodist churches and other organisations, which have accepted an invitation to go to the World Festival of Youth in Cuba in July, were allowed to carry out that intention?

Is the Minister aware that these organisations are facing difficulties because the £5,000 Foreign Office grant has been withdrawn simply because the Young Conservatives movement, having accepted the invitation, for reasons best known to itself has now declined it?

I agree that the more forcefully organisations and the House of Commons express their views on this matter the better it is and the more clearly the Soviet Government will be aware of the strength of feeling.

The right hon. Member is mistaken about the World Festival of Youth. The British Government give substantial assistance to the British Youth Council. That organisation is grateful for that help. We decided that we could not assist in sending a delegation to the Havana festival because that is not part of our function. We remain totally neutral on the question whether they attend that festival. It is up to them to spend their own funds if they wish to go.

Does my hon. Friend accept that on questions of human liberty and freedom of movement we cannot afford to be selective in any way? Does he agree that those voices in the Opposition which are trying to make this issue an attack on the Soviet Union are not helping Mr. Orlov or Mr. Voikhansky? Does he further agree that wherever human liberties are at risk, whether in Chile or the Soviet Union, we should stand up in defence of them and not use them as a vehicle for partisan assaults on a particular regime?

I agree that there is a danger that legitimate and deeply felt concern might be depreciated because it is felt that it is expressed for party political purposes. For that reason I believe that the expression of opinion by the national executive committee of the Labour Party, which cannot be suspected, might have greater weight than the opinion of some other organisations.

I was surprised to hear the Minister's comment when he referred to attitudes on the Opposition side of the House apparently not entirely conforming with our abhorrence of the abuse of human dignity wherever it takes place. That is not so, and it has been made abundantly clear on many occasions.

Does the Minister realise that at this time, with the accumulation of threats from the Soviet Union to the whole way of life that we favour, there is special anxiety about further abuse of the kind referred to in the Question?

I totally reject the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question. I have made clear several times in the last few minutes that I was talking about the views of the whole House. I hope that they will be carefully noted by the Soviet Government.

We must continue to make clear our views and we must emphasise to the Soviet Government that actions of this kind are clearly in conflict with the terms of the Helsinki agreement, which specifically refers to family reunification. We shall emphasise that over and over again.

Cyprus

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement setting out his views in regard to the latest Turkish proposals for a settlement of the Cyprus issue, now that the Secretary-General of the United Nations has made his views known.

The proposals, of which only a synopsis has been published, were presented to the United Nations Secretary-General, who has said that he will continue consultations about a resumption of the intercommunal negotiating process. As my right hon. Friend told the House on 26th April, he does not believe that as yet we are approaching an eventual Cyprus settlement. But we continue to urge the parties to come to the negotiating table.

Has not Mr. Ecevit said that there can be no progress until the Turkish Government have been assured about the supply of American military equipment and about the whole question of international credit being made available to Turkey? Neither side in the intercommunal talks is competent to discuss those matters with the Turkish Government. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is now time for an initiative to be taken for direct consultation about the way in which the Turkish Prime Minister can overcome the impasse and thereby start proceedings for a phased withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus and so bring an end to the process of annexation which is Turkish policy at present?

I assure my hon. Friend that we take every opportunity to put before the Turkish and Greek Cypriot Governments the need for a constructive approach to negotiations. This was last done when the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr. Ecevit, was in London on 15th May. As things stand, the matter is in the hands of the United Nations Secretary-General. The most constructive thing that we can do at this stage is not to complicate his task but to support him in every way possible.

Is the Minister aware that the Secretary-General of the United Nations has repeatedly emphasised that the United Nations force in Cyprus cannot be regarded as permanent and that there are increasing pressures from member countries to end the force, the sole purpose of which is to prolong negotiations and to avoid reaching a settlement?

During my recent visit to North America I had talks with both the United Nations Secretariat and Mr. Jamieson, in Canada, about the problems. It is right to recognise that the force cannot be regarded as permanent. It is important to recognise the cost to participating countries of sustaining it. But we should pay tribute to what it has achieved in keeping the peace in that troubled island. As far as we are concerned this is a means only of holding the situation. It cannot provide a solution. That can be found only by the people of Cyprus and their leaders.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Turkish proposals, as they have been published, by proposing a concession involving only 1 per cent. of Turkish territory, do not form a prima facie basis for successful negotiations? Will my hon. Friend confirm that it is not part of the British Government's policy to include the Eastern Sovereign Base in Cyprus as part of a settlement to increase that 1 per cent. to a greater proportion? Does he agree that we now need a wider international approach in order to solve this problem?

Candidly, I do not believe that the international community, acting on behalf of the people of Cyprus, can impose a solution. A lasting and viable solution can be found only with the commitment of all the people of Cyprus. It is therefore towards the objective of getting them to negotiate seriously together that we, with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, must direct our attention.

European Community

Political Co-Operation

45.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with the development of political co-operation in the Council of Ministers and amongst the permanent representatives.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Members for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) and Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on 22nd March.

Is the Minister aware that the United States Administration now seems rather chary about giving the sort of competent political leadership that the West so badly needs? Will the Government therefore take the opportunity of the prospect of enlargement of the EEC to work in every possible way for a stronger European voice in world affairs, whether through the strengthening of the permanent representatives or perhaps through the introduction of a special political secretariat and, most important of all, through a diminution of the rather arbitrary distinction between EEC meetings and so-called political co-operation meetings?

I do not agree with the hon. Member in his assessment of the United States Administration. I believe that that Administration are giving outstanding leadership in many crucial areas in world affairs. But in the Community, where we can constructively work together and bring our united voice to bear in the cause of world stability, peace and economic stability in international affairs, we are determined to do so. I can assure the hon. Member that the methods that are operating at the moment are proving completely satisfactory. In political co-operation, however, they are voluntary and, therefore, they are different from the other main activities of the EEC which are of a legal character.

Does my hon. Friend think that political co-operation can be extended to non-members of the Community or non-applicants, or does he feel that it would be better to have discussions with them within the framework of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe?

I am grateful for that question. Obviously, the practice of increasing the close communication and co-operation, where results can be achieved in a political sphere, is an important part of the life of the Community. But this must not be at the expense of effective collaboration with those outside the Community. Therefore, it is most important that we seek a means of continuing to make still more effective our relationship with other Western European countries which are not members of the Community. I think that the Council of Europe has an important contribution to make in that respect.

Do not recent events in Zaire confirm in dramatic fashion the imperative need for the Community to work out a concerted foreign policy towards the various problems of Africa?

One of the areas of policy in which political co-operation is working most successfully is that concerning the continent of Africa. There is a great deal of evaluation and discussion between us on that matter.

What steps are being taken by the Government to make sure that these discussions are held more openly so that the people of the United Kingdom may know what is being said and what commitments are being entered into in their name?

I can assure my hon. Friend that one of the things that preoccupies the Government about the life of the Community is the need for more open government about what the Community is undertaking. It is not for want of effort on our part that we have not made more progress in this respect. We have to get collective support for any changes. We do not yet have that kind of undertaking from other members of the Community, but we intend to persevere.

In view of the Minister's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker), will the Government emulate the steps taken by our partners in Europe, particularly France and Germany, by sending British troops to protect the interests of British citizens, including schoolchildren, in Zambia? Is the Minister aware that almost the entire Zambian army is located on the Rhodesian frontier and that if the rebels passed through Zambia that could create havoc if British Army personnel were not present?

As the hon. Member will be aware, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister dealt with these matters at Question Time yesterday.

Will my hon. Friend reject not only the anti-Russian expressions from the Conservative Party but the anti-American sentiments that it has been expressing recently? Will he seek to ensure that political co-operation in Europe will be conveyed to the United Nations disarmament conference so that the Russians, the Americans and Europe can agree to reduce the massive waste in the arms race?

I agree that on the general posture in foreign policy the starting point for all that is relevant and realistic is the recognition of the strategic and economic interdependence of the world community, and the need not to indulge in xenophobic nationalism but to work effectively and positively on an international basis. A number of European countries are making a most important contribution to the Special Session on Disarmament. I am glad to say that we are adopting a high profile in that conference.

Does not the weakness lie in the very answer that the Minister of State gave—that the Community is only a voice and that collaborative activity is to be seen and heard only in terms of exhortation? Is not the time coming when the European Community must match its enormous international economic impact with a much greater and more positive political position? Has not that become abundantly clear in the last week or 10 days, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) said?

The right hon. Gentleman is correct in underlining that anything that we can do in this respect is on a basis of voluntary co-operation. The political role of the Community is not, as is the economic role, defined in the Treaty of Rome. But it is wrong to suggest that the Community's influence lies only in exhortation and that there is no effective action. For example, take the code of conduct which applies to South Africa. That is a practical policy that has been worked out. Take the Community's role in the CSCE. There is no doubt that by working together the Nine made an important contribution to the stand of the West as a whole.

Council Of Ministers

47.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what he proposes to put on the agenda of the next EEC Council of Foreign Ministers.

50.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what are the principal subjects he expects to discuss at the next meeting of Foreign Ministers of the European Community.

The usual written forecast of Council business was deposited on 23rd May and I except to make an oral statement tomorrow.

Will the Minister of State raise with his European colleagues the subject of the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy? Will he emphasise to them that on this occasion Britain is not being difficult but that the House and the nation are anxious to see the establishment of a viable and effective United Kingdom fishery industry? Will he explain to them that this means obtaining an exclusive 12-mile zone for coastal States and national control of the fishing effort up to 50 miles?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that no one who participates in meetings of the Council of Ministers is unaware of the strength of feeling on this issue in all parts of the House. Ministers frequently represent this as graphically as possible to their colleagues. As I and my right hon. Friends have said more than once, we are determined that in any common fisheries policy that emerges the special needs of the British fishing industry shall be recognised. These needs cover items such as conservation, preference within a 50-mile zone, the need for recognition of our losses in distant waters and the fact that we contribute more than 60 per cent. of the fish stocks to what is known as the common fish pool.

When my hon. Friend meets the other Foreign Ministers, will he take up with them the way in which the Commission has reneged on the Multi-Fibre Arrangement and the way in which it proposes to allow additional low-cost imports from Portugal? Will he take up this point from the aspect that this matter is being carried through unconstitutionally and say that if these imports are not prevented the already shaky faith still held by a small minority of my constituents and other textile workers in the Common Market will disappear completely?

The Government are well aware of the human problems in many parts of the country associated with the textile industry. When the Council of Ministers works out the stand to be taken on multifibres or any other issue, we expect the Commission to fulfil the terms of its mandate and not to depart from it.

Will the Minister ensure that Africa is on the next agenda of the Council of Ministers so that African interests may be defended? We have just experienced a situation in which a so-called rebel force has driven Europeans out and succeeded in wrecking an African economy, at any rate temporarily. May it be clearly understood that Europe will clearly ensure that African interests are preserved by protecting European safety in Africa against anybody who attempts to attack it?

It is right to argue that the more effective we can become in working together with our friends and neighbours in protecting our legitimate interests and the well-being of our people, the better this will be. But I repeat that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister dealt with this matter fully at Question Time yesterday.

Is my hon. Friend aware that anybody who has been to Portugal recently will know that that fragile democracy is facing acute problems? Will he raise this matter with the Foreign Ministers and try to ensure that every possible assistance is given to that country, even if it means assisting its inhabitants on textiles?

I believe that in all parts of the House there is a deep commitment to preserving democracy and stability in Portugal. It is no good simply talking about the matter. If we are to achieve that aim, it is important to match our words with economic support. That in no way alters the fact that, after careful and detailed deliberation in the Council of Ministers, when a mandate is agreed for particular negotiations we expect the Commission to abide by its terms.

Do not recent events in several parts of the world, not only Africa, show that the Community now takes decisions on trade and finance which are of great political importance for Turkey, Portugal and Australasia but that it has not yet learnt how to use that economic strength to promote the broader interests of the West as a whole? Is not a concerted European policy in all areas of stress a matter not for the luxury of a leisurely debate but of urgent and absolute need?

If we can tackle political questions effectively in our mutual interests within the context of the political co-operation of the Nine, we must learn to do so, and we will want to do so. But we must not forget that the Treaty of Rome does not apply any disciplines or legal ramifications in this respect. Therefore, all that we can achieve has to be achieved on the basis of voluntary co-operation. The Government are determined to work at the problem.

Enlargement

48.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the latest state of the EEC negotiations on the admission of Greece, Spain and Portugal as full members.

49.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he remains satisfied with the progress being made towards the enlargement of the EEC.

51.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on enlargement of the Common Market.

Negotiations with Greece are continuing. The Community still hopes that these can be substantially completed by the end of this year. The Council is expected to have a first discussion of the Commission's opinion on Portugal in June. The opinion on Spain is expected at the end of this year or the beginning of next.

The Government's view continues to be that, as well as maintaining the momentum in the negotiations with Greece, the Community should make more rapid progress in its preparations for negotiations with Portugal and Spain.

In those negotiations will my hon. Friend press the case of the British textile and footwear workers in order to ensure that low-cost imports do not flood into the country by the admission of these members to the EEC?

We recognise the problems that exist for many people in this country, and we shall be looking to their interests in negotiations about enlargement or anything else.

What view has the Minister now formed about the necessary transitional period for Greece?

We have not yet reached the stage of reaching a transitional period. This will come at a later stage in the negotiations. But whether we are talking about Greece, Portugal or Spain, we do not feel bound by any particular pattern established in the past. We believe that it is important to find the solution that makes sense in the context of the country concerned.

Will the Government make the opening of the Gibraltar-Spanish frontier a precondition to the opening of negotiations with Spain? Is he aware that the people of Gibraltar have suffered long enough from this Spanish stupidity? If the Spaniards are to negotiate to come into the Community, they should show a bit of good will right now.

I have made plain to the House on previous occasions that we do not attach this as a precondition for our support of Spanish membership. What we find inconceivable is that once Spain became a member of the Community she would continue to behave towards Gibraltar in the way that she has behaved so far.

Does my hon. Friend accept that hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome the strong words of support that he has given to the enlargement of the Community by the addition of these three countries? Is he further aware that we regard this process as a strengthening of democracy in those countries and as an important contribution by the richer countries of Northern Europe in seeking to end what will otherwise become a North-South conflict between the poorer and the richer countries?

I am grateful for that question. The position of Her Majesty's Government, and, indeed, the position of every Government in the Community, is that we have a heavy responsibility to support the cause of democracy in the three applicant States and that enlargement will be an important way of achieving this end.

Does the Minister realise that the cause of democracy in Great Britain is not advanced by avoidable unemployment? Will he ensure that the other Ministers in the Council of Ministers are supplied with a copy of the report issued by the Trade and Industry Committee on the subject of fisheries? Will he see to it that we do not make any sacrifices of our interests in the textile industry when admitting further countries to the EEC? Lastly, does he believe that admitting Greece to the Community without Turkey will make the situation in Cyprus better rather than worse?

There are a number of points to answer in that supplementary question. Greece is an applicant for membership of the Community; Turkey is not. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman is not reflecting the reality of the situation.

On the point related to the social implications for Britain and industries that find themselves in difficulty, I assure the hon. Gentleman that all Ministers with responsibility in these areas are determined to leave the Community partners in no doubt about what needs to be done.

As for the general importance of economic affairs, I emphasise that it is because of British insistence, under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that in the next meeting of the European Council the need for the right economic policies for growth and for battling effectively against unemployment is at the top of the agenda.

Community Institutions

53.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many different European Community institutions he has visited since assuming his present office.

During the British Presidency in 1977 my right hon. Friend visited the European Assembly. He regularly takes part in meetings of the Council of Ministers and is in frequent contact with members of the Commission.

In view of the commercial contribution which this country is now making to the EEC, does the Minister feel that it is now time for the Government to press for at least one institution of the EEC to be based in London? If he agrees with that suggestion, which institution would he advocate?

I do not know about London, but we have secured JET for Culham. That is a significant development.

When my hon. Friend has the opportunity to meet members of the Commission, will he raise the question of the bad effects which hidden subsidies have on industry in Europe and unemployment in this country? Many people who have submitted contracts for shipbuilding and ship repairing are being undercut by European countries. Does this not mean that those European countries are receiving heavy subsidies from their Governments?

The sensible way for the Community to tackle these problems of industry under stress and associated unemployment matters is to work out rational solutions to maximise the opportunities in employment, not only in the short term but in the long term, in all member countries.

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied, from his contacts with the Council of Ministers, that it is an effective instrument for safeguarding the interests of the EEC nations on a world scale? Is he satisfied that in Africa, in the Middle East and in defence matters the Council of Ministers of the EEC has genuinely done a job that required to be done to safeguard the security and the interests of our various nationals outside the EEC territories?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, with his particular knowledge of foreign affairs, will understand that there are different multilateral institutions with different priority tasks. For world security there is the United Nations, and for more immediate defence we are deeply committed to NATO. The purpose of the European Economic Community was originally economic and social collaboration, but on this has been built the aim of political co-operation. We argue that the development of voluntary political co-operation within the Community is of the highest priority for us, but we cannot change history. The Treaty of Rome places no obligations on our fellow members in this respect. We have to win them into voluntary co-operation.

Ten-Minute Bill

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you can help me in relation to the Ten-Minute Bill on televising the proceedings of the House, which I was to seek leave to introduce at this time. I understand that in accordance with normal custom the debate on the motion for the Adjournment of the House for the Spring Recess should take precedence. I also understand that that debate might go on until 7 o'clock, when the Government business down from 7 o'clock until 10 o'clock will take precedence. If that is so, the motion on my Ten-Minute Bill, that I have had down for some weeks now, will lapse, and the debate on it will not take place.

I should like to raise two points with you, Mr. Speaker. First, can you protect the interests of hon. Members who put in for a Ten-Minute Bill on any subject to enable them to receive their normal and accustomed rights—namely, to have their Bills debated briefly at or about 3.30 p.m., or at any rate after the end of Question Time?

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I should like you to say whether you agree that it is probably the wish of most hon. Members present that we should bring an up-to-date process of thought on television—

I believe that most hon. Members present would like to see cameras come into the Chamber.

I believe that it is right that we should have an opportunity of expressing our up-to-date opinion, as is laid down on the Order Paper by virtue of the Ten-Minute Bill, leave to introduce which I want to move in a few minutes.

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of the point of order. I call the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) further to that point of order.

May I add to what my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) has said, Mr. Speaker, that not only is it of great importance to many Back Benchers but it is of critical importance to many people in the country that the Bill be debated at this time?

We are beginning to have expressions of opinion. I believe that the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) was a little optimistic in some of his observations. If he is not, the debate on the motion for the Spring Recess Adjournment will collapse quickly and his Bill will be discussed; if the debate on that motion does not last until 7 o'clock, his Bill will duly be discussed.

My sole responsibility is to guard the rules of the House in this matter. The order of business is plainly laid down in "Erskine May". If the hon. Gentleman succeeds in reaching his Ten-Minute Bill before 7 o'clock, and finishes it before 7 o'clock, there will be an opportunity for the House to express an opinion. Otherwise, the hon. Gentleman will have to cast his bread upon the waters another day.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am very disturbed to hear your ruling, quoting "Erskine May" in this matter. Notwithstanding what may be said by "Erskine May", there is an understanding in the House that we can expect to debate a Ten-Minute Bill. That is one of the special privileges of Back Benchers, which are daily being eroded. My feeling is that the privileges of Back Benchers, which are so few, have been considerably eroded by this decision, albeit backed by the great wisdom of "Erskine May" which I do not think is law.

This afternoon we have seen a Back Bencher's attempt to bring to the attention of the House and the public a matter which is, whether they like it or not, of great importance. It is of great importance that the proceedings of the House should be communicated by means of television. The attempt is to be denied and put into a backwater. I am very sorry about this ruling, Mr. Speaker.

You will recollect, Mr. Speaker, that I had given you notice of an intention—

If that is an accusation that I am illegitimate, I can assure my hon. Friend that I am not.

I had given notice of my intention to oppose the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), because no Bill is necessary to televise the House, and it is rather an abuse to propose a Bill.

If the hon. Gentleman is able to move his motion less than 10 minutes before 7 o'clock, will there be an opportunity for opposition under the Ten-Minute Rule?

I can answer that at once. If the hon. Member for Harborough spoke for less than five minutes and the House wished to move to a decision, it would have the opportunity so to do. That is dependent upon the debate on the motion concerning the Adjournment finishing in a short while.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that within the past decade the House clearly voted that Ten-Minute Bills should be taken at 3.30 p.m. and not at 10 p.m. The present arrangement, although certainly following the precedents of "Erskine May", appears to many of us to go against the spirit, though of course not the letter, of the arrangements of the House.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, would it be possible for you to raise with those who arrange the business of the House whether this sort of thing can be avoided by phasing a Ten-Minute Bill away from the day upon which the debate upon the motion for the Adjournment for the Recess is taken, so that the Bill may be raised again at 3.30 p.m., which was always the intention of the House?

I shall listen to all these points of order and answer them collectively.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely the complaint of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), which I think is well justified, is not against the rules of the House but against the Prime Minister's action. It was open to the Prime Minister to put down his motion as a debatable motion for the first Order of the Day. It is not because of the rules of the House but because the Prime Minister has elected to put down his motion in such a way as to cut out my hon. Friend that the House is deprived of its Private Members' rights.

As the Prime Minister has not thought it right to be present, Mr. Speaker, would you feel able to ask the Leader of the House, as the senior Government Minister who has the right to alter the Government's Orders of the Day, to withdraw from the "Notices of Motions" under the heading
"At the Commencement of Public Business",
and substitute as the first Order of the Day his motion, which would then be taken immediately after my hon. Friend's Ten-Minute Bill? The motion would then be dealt with in such a way that it was bound to come to a resolution, without depriving a Back Bencher of his Ten-Minute Bill rights.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. After the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) I am almost inclined to say "Well done, Prime Minister"—if I ever thought that the right hon. Gentleman did well. Should not the House be grateful that, as a result of this procedure, my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) has enabled us to register our views on this despicable matter without the nausea of the debate?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. When you reply to the several points of order that have been raised, will you bear in mind that I have always claimed to have the most articulate constituency in the country and that so far I can say without hesitation that I have not had a single letter asking for the proceedings of this House to be broadcast or televised? May I express the hope that the feelings of my constituents in Jarrow will be borne in mind when you reply to the various points that have been raised?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is obviously great interest in the subject with which my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) seeks to deal in his Ten-Minute Bill, particularly since the proceedings of the House are now broadcast. There is a good deal of interest outside about televising our proceedings. May I put it to the Leader of the House, who is in his place, that it would be perfectly possible for him to put today's business on tomorrow and allow the Ten-Minute Bill to come forward today? Alternatively, the right hon. Member could arrange a debate at another time, soon after we return, so that we can have a vote on the issue of televising our proceedings.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As we have had rather more than ten minutes' debate may we now proceed to a vote?

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I have listened with great care to every observation that has been made. There is nothing that I can add to what I said earlier. I am bound by the Orders of the Day.

Questions To Ministers

On a fresh point of order. Mr. Speaker. The Order Paper today states that Questions marked in a certain way, referring to EEC matters, will start not later than 3.10 p.m. I had tabled Question No. 18 which was not marked in any fashion but which was pertinent to EEC matters since it referred to a member of the European Community. I was surprised that this Question was put in the first part and not in that area dealing with EEC matters to be dealt with at 3.10 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman, who has been in the House for a long time, knows that I do not arrange the order of the Questions. His point of view will have been noted.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have noticed that approximately one-third of the Questions for answer by the Foreign Office today were about Africa, dealing with one part or another of that continent. Not one such Question dealing with the African scene was reached. It must have been obvious to anyone that, certainly since a few days ago, the most burning questions affecting foreign affairs would relate to Africa. It is unfortunate that things should have turned out this way. Is there any way in which you can use your influence to ensure that there is a better arrangement of Questions?

I tell the hon. Member and the House that these days—we might as well face the facts of life—I get far more hon. Members from both sides of the House wanting to ask supplementary questions. Whenever I move on to a fresh Question, I am conscious of looks of disappointment from both sides. That has slowed down our progress. That is why we do not reach these Questions.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely it is possible, in the arrangement of these matters, to ensure that on an occasion such as to-day higher priority is given to Questions of the type that I have referred to. I know the difficulty. Nevertheless, the situation has been known for some days. We have a situation today in which no Question dealing with the continent of Africa has been reached. This is a serious matter.

I understand the hon. Gentleman's feelings. There were supplementary questions addressed to the subject. It would be a dangerous business to start tinkering with the order of Questions on the Order Paper.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to rise a second time on a point of order but this issue arises out of what you replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). I would greatly appreciate your clarification. Is it for the hon. Member handing in a Question to specify whether it should appear as one of those Questions marked with a section mark to indicate that it relates to EEC matters? Is that a task for the Table Office, which comes under you, or is that something for the Department concerned to decide? It is because I do not know that I seek guidance from you, since I interpreted, or misinterpreted, your reply to my hon. Friend as meaning that he should have specified that his Question should have been in the EEC grouping.

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. The situation is that hon. Members address their Questions to the Department concerned and it is the Department concerned, in this case the Foreign Office, which would decide which Questions are put into the EEC section and which are put into the first section.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it not be far more sensible, since the EEC is clearly a foreign organisation, to have Questions concerning the EEC under the heading of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the same way as the other Questions, so that hon. Members cannot jump the gun with EEC matters but must take their place along with the other Questions?

I remind the hon. Gentleman—it is a matter of indifference to me—that there is great pressure in the House for there to be a Question Time devoted to EEC matters. If the House wishes to change its mind I have no doubt but that the Leader of the House would be amenable.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to prolong this interlude, but on Monday I had Question No. 33 to the Secretary of State for Industry. When I received my Answer, which I did not receive from the Floor of the House, I found that I was referred to the Answer which the right hon. Gentleman had given to Question No. 1. I could not understand why I had not been grouped with Question No. 1 at the time since I was in the Chamber. Do you think that that point and the others that we have discussed are matters for the Select Committee on Procedure?

These points have been heard by the Leader of the House. I hope that that sort of matter can be looked into.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I refer to the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery)? Is it not recognised that, while we should give adequate time to dealing with EEC Questions, there is now inadequate time available for Questions concerning the rest of the world? While it might be felt that some consideration should be given to ensuring that there is an adequate period of time available for EEC Questions, should not some further consideration be given to providing more time to raise other foreign affairs matters?

The point of view of the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) has been heard and will be registered. It could only mean that there would be less time for some other subject in which other hon. Members have particular interests in questioning Ministers. May we continue?

Bill Presented

Compensation For Local Maladministration

Mr. Fred Silvester, supported by Mr. Tony Durant, Mr. Tom Arnold, and Mr. Ivan Lawrence, presented a Bill to require in certain circumstances the enforcement of compensation recommended by the Commission for Local Administration and to enable legal aid to be given in respect of any referral to a court to determine an appropriate level of compensation: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 14th July and to be printed [Bill 139].

Adjournment (Spring)

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That this House at its rising on Friday do adjourn till Tuesday 6th June.—[Mr. Foot.]

3.51 p.m.

I am delighted that I have been called, Mr. Speaker, because we have already had a considerable discussion about the televising of the proceedings of the House, which I would regard as utterly disastrous. It is my considered view—and I had these thoughts before today—that this House should not adjourn until we have debated and re-considered the whole question of the effect of sound broadcasting on our proceedings here.

This is a matter which affects every hon. Member in this House. You will know, Mr. Speaker, that I have always been strongly opposed to our proceedings being broadcast, and I am bound to say, in all honesty, that recent experience only confirms me in the original view that I held. Indeed, I can go further and say that, as far as I can see, the only good thing which has come out of the proceedings of Parliament being broadcast is the striking success of broadcasts from the other place. The measured tone of their Lordships, the clarity and the intelligence of their speeches, and the absence of the awful background noise which obtains here make listening to their Lordships quite a delight. In castigating the procedure here, I expressly omit any criticism of broadcasting of the other place.

My main objection to broadcasting our proceedings here, Mr. Speaker, was that I thought it would ruin the atmosphere of debate among ourselves in this Chamber and would quickly transform this ancient and honourable House into what I may call a mere branch of show business. This is exactly what is happening.

That is exactly what the hon. Gentleman is doing now.

The over-emphasis on Prime Minister's Questions has resulted, I believe, in one-third more Questions being tabled, so that I fear that those of our colleagues who want to show off can do so all the more. Prime Minister's Questions are not, I believe, by any means a vital part of our proceedings here, and they are rapidly degenerating into a farce. Yesterday, I suggest, was a particularly bad example.

We know that the news media love excitement, conflict, trivialities and personalities, and that is what the broadcasting of our proceedings, particularly of Prime Minister's Questions, is leading our affairs into.

This Chamber—which, after all, is the greatest debating Chamber in the world—is becoming a talking shop of the worst order—without, unfortunately, a Charles Dickens in the Press Gallery to chastise hon. Members as he did in the last century. There is, I believe, a total lack of dignity now. Noises off and catcalls are louder than ever. We do not set a good example of behaviour to the nation; in fact, we shock a great many people. Those of us who know that that is only our way of harmlessly letting off steam realise that it is not as bad as it sounds. Certainly a few Labour Members are possibly far better off making a noise here than doing it on the street corners.

Has my hon. Friend noticed that during the broadcasting of the proceedings in the "Today in Parliament" or the "Yesterday in Parliament" programmes, the BBC always manages to select the most annoying or disagreeable insult which is hurled across the Chamber? This confirms my hon. Friend's point. The BBC always manages to pick up the point, Mr. Speaker, at which you invite the hon. Member concerned to withdraw, from whichever side of the House the remark has come. All this takes up an inordinate amount of time and would appear to confirm the fears that some of us had that the broadcasting of Parliament would result in this sort of procedure.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention, which exactly confirms the point that I am making. The Lord President, who is listening to me, has, I understand, expressed himself as being entirely satisfied with the broadcasting of the proceedings of this place, but, of course, he does not exactly dislike the sound of his own voice. Mr. Speaker recently referred to a new dimension as a result of broadcasting, and this, sadly, is true. But, of course, the position is not irrevocable. We can stop the broadcasts at any time if we have the will to do so. I consider that the whole question should at least be reconsidered by formal debate and be voted upon, otherwise I fear that we shall sink deeper and deeper into the mire, the public will come to despise us, and we shall in the end come to despise ourselves.

The hon. Gentleman will know that there is a Select Committee of this House on Sound Broadcasting. It was appointed by the whole House and I have the privilege to be its Chairman. I asked hon. Members to write to the Select Committee if they had any views. The Select Committee is composed of Members of all parties. We have had no letters from individual Members, and the letters we have received from the public have mostly been in favour of sound broadcasting.

Time is short, Mr. Speaker, but I believe that it is most important that a Back Bencher, who has the right to raise any subject which he considers to be of importance should raise this matter now. That is why I have done it. As the right hon. Gentleman will agree, it is a matter for the whole House and not in the least a party matter.

Finally, to touch the most serious note, at a time of the steady decline of the nation's fortunes—which, alas, we see only too clearly with the events in Africa, over which we seem to be unable to have any power or influence whatever—we in this Chamber are, I believe, helping neither ourselves nor our country in the sort of display that we provide. The situation in the country calls for nothing less than heroic measures, but we sit too long here and say too much. In the end, it is deeds and not words which count, and broadcasting cannot measure that.

3.59 p.m.

I rise with pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) because I wish to speak very briefly on the same subject. I am partly inspired to do so by the fate of the Ten-Minute Bill which the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) wished to move at 3.30 p.m.

I think that this is an appropriate occasion on which to consider the first weeks of radio broadcasting and to draw some conclusions from it. Indeed, I draw the very opposite conclusions to those of the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge. We have the opportunity to consider how best we should use the electronic media in this place.

We should not adjourn for Whitsun before these matters are discussed because there may be a failure of nerve on the part of the BBC, as the principal broadcasting agency, as well as on the part of some hon. Members if the reaction to the broadcasts is critical and hysterical. That is why we should consider today how the broadcasts have been carried out and whether they could be made more successful.

The BBC has power to monitor the number of people who listen to various programmes. Would this not be a good time for the BBC to give some indication, from its monitoring, of the number of people who listened when the broadcasting started and the number who are listening now?

That is precisely the kind of evidence that the Select Committee should be asking for. We must look back to the figures in the experimental broadcasting of the House on radio, which showed that there was a large increase in the number of people who listened to the edited version of "Today in Parliament" and "Yesterday in Parliament" when live extracts were broadcast. The figure increased to well in excess of a million people listening daily as a result of the extra liveliness which came about in the live extracts.

Like the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), I sit on the Select Committee on Broadcasting. We have met on several occasions. While some of us may have some sympathy with the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) or some sympathy with the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), it is surely by letters to the Select Committee informing us of the views of right hon. and hon. Members on either side of the House that we can put right any complaints about the broadcasting or find out what right hon. and hon. Members feel about it. We are sitting in Committee. We are waiting for complaints, comments and queries from right hon. and hon. Members.

Order. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) must at least say a few words before I can call the right hon. Gentleman.

We have already published in the all-party "Whip" an invitation to all Members to do exactly what the hon. Member for Richmond, Surrey (Sir A. Royle) has just said and there has been no response. We would ask for the sincere comments of Members of the House.

I very much desired to be a member of that Select Committee. Unfortunately, for mysterious reasons, it was not possible. I am glad that the Select Committee has come here to join me on the Floor of the House. At least two distinguished members of the Select Committee are here to listen to the response of the House on this question.

I make a point about the atmosphere in the House. The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge would like the House of Commons to be like the House of Lords and become an unelected oligarchy. He would like the House of Commons to be like the House of Lords, which is a reverential mausoleum. Many of us do not wish to have that. Many of us feel that the cut and thrust of debate and argument in this place and the interjections, even in the somewhat artificial atmosphere of Prime Minister's Question Time, are the essence of parliamentary democracy and should be preserved. Such gibes and insults as are thrown across the Floor were thrown in just the same way in the time of Fox and Pitt and many of the other great parliamentary giants and were recorded as such.

We are the same nation. The only difference is that now all the people of the nation have some control over the power within it. That is what the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge and some of his hon. Friends do not like. The essence of parliamentary democracy is that the mass of the commoners should be able to see as clearly as possible, in the spirit of open government, what those whom they elect are doing. At the moment a few people can sit in the public gallery day by day—we know the pressure that we come under for tickets—and listen to what is going on. Those people have said that Question Time is a bear garden and have asked why Members shout so much. We have not minded about that because the general public have not known about it. The general public now know that Question Time is a noisy affair.

This great cry of pain from the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge is no more than the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in the glass. Any of us who listens to the broadcasts says what a noisy business it is, but forgets that he was shouting, too, not just the other fellow. I have heard the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge shouting out in his patriotic way many times. We should accept that radio is taking us—warts and all—to the people of this country. Therefore, the only question that we should be considering today and upon which I should like to hear the views of the Lord President is whether sound broadcasting is taking this over in the right way. I believe that there are problems.

Order. May I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are discussing whether the House should adjourn for the Whitsun holiday? We are having a debate on radio broadcasting.

The essence of my proposition is that the House should not adjourn for the Whitsun Recess before we have discussed these matters because of the widespread comment and concern which has been raised upon them.

I began my remarks—I think before you took the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker —by saying that the problem was twofold. First, the broadcasting media have been shaken by the hostile response to the interpolation of live broadcasts upon the medium wave transmission. Secondly, many people in this place have been shaken because they feel that now the public outside perceive the House as a bear garden and not as the kind of honourable institution which it is believed to be by most people here.

Now that the public have heard this House on the radio, is it not a fact that they have got only a halfway picture? We need to go forward into television so that they see what they hear.

The hon. Gentleman leads me to my next point. The picture that is being presented now is only a partial one. It may well be that we should be suggesting, in terms of the relaying of our proceedings to the people of the country, that there should be less emphasis on snippets of Prime Minister's Question Time. The number of Questions tabled for answer at Prime Minister's Question Time has increased threefold. We have seen some of the great characters of parliamentary Questions, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), adulterated by a number of people coming into these proceedings. As long as people feel that Prime Minister's Question Time is the only thing that matters and that all they are concerned with is getting into that snippet of time and trading a few blows, there is bound to be an imbalance in coverage which will lead to a distortion of our proceedings.

We need not simply the transmission of Prime Minister's Question Time at 3.15 in the afternoon—cutting short even when the most important statements are made at about 3.30 and going away. The hostile response of many medium-wave listeners—some have written to me—comes because their programmes have been interrupted for this ill-explained, ill-thought out interpolation lasting only 15 minutes.

I suggest to the Government, particularly as negotiations about the licence fee are due to take place soon, that they should tell the BBC and the IRN authorities that we want longer extracts on VHF, the transmission of whole debates on VHF and the first part of the working proceedings of Parliament taken not just from 2.30 to 3.30 or from 3.15 to 3.30, but a much longer time. There is the time and the space on the air waves to do that without the offence which is now caused to many listeners on medium wave and without the feeling that there is an imbalance in the way in which the coverage takes place.

I just wish to query my hon. Friend's appeal to the Government. Surely he should make his appeal to the Select Committee. We do not want the Government deciding what should be broadcast and what should not.

This is a matter where the Select Committee proposeth and the Government disposeth. The Government are in perpetual negotiation with the broadcasting authorities.

Another matter that irritates people greatly when they listen to Question Time is that the commentary has to be overlaid. Someone has to get in and say which hon. Member is asking the Question and thereby further obstruct these rather obscure proceedings.

I think that one of the reasons for the hon. Member for Harborough seeking to bring in his Bill earlier was that it seems to many of us that with the sort of television technology that has been developed, under proper control of the sort that is being introduced in Canada, there is a much better case for televising the Chamber, and that has been strengthened by the imperfections and inevitable inadequacy of having sound radio coverage only. As long as there is a commentary which is trying to explain something that, in the nature of things, is rather archiac, a good deal of the impact is lost—not just the visual impact, but the placing and the sense of occasion that the audience would otherwise have.

The House should consider again at an early date the question of televising Parliament, and I should like the Lord President to tell us whether he feels that there will be an opportunity for these matters to be discussed and for the question of televising our proceedings, which is not technically one for the Select Committee but one for the House, to be raised again before the conclusion of this Parliament.

4.11 p.m.

I should like to comment briefly on what has been said about the broadcasting of the House. There are some hon. Members who feel that Britain has had a wasted day unless it hears their voice, but this has been a worth while experiment and it is too soon for us to make up our minds about how it should continue.

I hope that it will continue. In the long run it is inevitable that we shall be televised—just as inevitable as it was that we brought in Hansard. However, that is, no doubt, in the far future.

I wish to dispute one claim of the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), namely, that the House is now notoriously badly behaved. I have not been here as long as some hon. Members but even in my time the House has been much more badly behaved. Anyone who sat through the Suez debates will be aware of that.

When I first became an hon. Member, I sat among the Conservative Party. There was one distinguished Member sitting near me who, when a Labour Minister said almost anything—even quite innocent things—raised his head like a hound baying the moon and emitted howls for the next two or three minutes. That custom has decreased.

It must also be put on record that the only Prime Minister who has ever been howled down and prevented from speaking in the House is Mr. Asquith, who was howled down by the Conservative Party, led by what is now regarded as the respectable House of Cecil. That was in the great imperial days of the nation. I do not think that we should attach too much importance to the amount of back chat that goes on in the House today.

I am only too pleased to be talked down to by such a distinguished parliamentarian as the right hon. Gentleman, but I support what he says. I recollect that between 1970 and 1974 there were numerous occasions when the House had to be suspended because of the riotous behaviour of Members of the Labour Party. We have not had such suspensions in recent times. Although there has been excitement from time to time, there has been nothing quite as bad as those scenes of disorder. We are getting better.

I am glad to have had that powerful intervention from an hon. Member who plays an important part in the House and speaks with experience on these matters.

Many hon. Members wish to see the broadcasting continue, but many other people in many other spheres of life would like to see the broadcasting of work in which they are involved. Is it not a question whether the public wishes to listen to us and see us on television?

That is probably so, but we shall only find out by trying it on the dog, and if the dog—in this case the public—shows that it does not wish to hear Parliament any more, no doubt we can give up broadcasting our proceedings.

The experiment has not been a complete success, but it has not been tried for very long and it should be allowed to continue until we get some figures about whether the public like it and whether it is serving any useful purpose.

I am one of those who are irritated from time to time to find the Order Paper full of Questions to the Prime Minister asking about his engagements for the day, whether he will visit Little Tooting in the Marsh, and so on. We know full well that the supplementary questions will be about something quite different. I do not entirely agree that this is the only way that one can put down Questions to the Prime Minister, but I agree that it is possibly the only way to get immediate Questions on the Order Paper about matters of important current impact. Otherwise, they have to be put down a fortnight or more in advance.

I think that the public, let alone this House, might be interested to know the views of the Government about something that happened the day before and was clearly an important matter. I have come round to the view that this is not as entirely bad a system as I thought at first, but I accept that it is a great departure from the traditional view of Question Time.

Might we not consider two sorts of Questions? We could have the serious Questions for those who wanted to know the current rate of unemployment pay, or whatever, which is not immediate, and a certain number of immediate Questions. In this latter category, people should not be expected to go through the rigmarole of asking about the Prime Minister's engagements for the day but should ballot for a number, with the hon. Member who draws No. 1 having the right to ask the first Question. It could be a Question out of the blue or notice could be given. It might put the Prime Minister in a difficult position, but he is well able to look after himself. He has immense experience of genial buccaneering at Question Time and, every now and then, he says something about immediate events which the public are entitled to know. We should get rid of this rather bogus system of asking about his engagements for the day or whether he will visit Ebbw Vale, or wherever.

Would the right hon. Gentleman go as far as the Canadian Parliament where the Prime Minister has to field Questions on any subject, which do not have to be tabled at all, for one hour a week? This leads him to make entirely spontaneous replies on a wide range of matters.

That is something that the Committee on Procedure might consider in due course.

I now wish to pass on to some matters concerning my constituency that should be drawn to the attention of the Government before we agree to the Adjournment motion.

The first matter concerns freight charges. This is a perennial sore subject in my constituency. We suffer very heavily from extremely high freight charges. London and the Western Isles get large subsidies, not from local authorities but out of the Exchequer. I have asked Questions to demonstrate time and again how unfairly we are treated.

We have been promised by the Secretary of State for Scotland that he will make some proposals, but it is coming to the time of the year when it is important that something should be done. We have very heavy shipments of stock in the autumn. Freight charges are increasing and the situation is becoming extremely serious.

I shall not go over the matter in detail because I have often done so before. Broadly speaking, we claim that either the sea services should be treated as trunk roads and supported by the Exchequer or, as at the start of the last war, there should be a subsidy on freights on various commodities.

The second matter that I wish to raise is the danger of oil pollution. My constituents and I were naturally extremely worried by the wrecks of the "Amoco Cadiz" and the "Eleni V". If anything like that happened in the Pentland Firth or around us it would devastate our fishing, apart from other disasters that it might bring in its trail.

A recent Question of mine to the Department of Trade elicited the information, given fairly and frankly, that the Department was not satisfied that there is an adequate number of tugs throughout the North of Scotland to deal with a disaster involving big tankers.

I also received a letter from the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), when he was Prime Minister, outlining the method by which oil pollution would be handled. It seems that four Departments would be concerned and that when the pollution drifted inshore, it would become the responsibility of the district or regional council. I do not believe that that will do. I do not believe that this divided responsibility is adequate for the sort of disasters that we have seen in the Channel or off the East Coast. There must be one command. I would be interested to know what is being done about tugs and other equipment.

It is not only a question of what will happen if a disaster took place in enclosed waters off Sullom Voe or Scapa Flow. Let us suppose that a tanker gets into difficulties anywhere off the North Coast of Scotland. It is not good enough to say that when the oil drifts inshore all the district councils will be responsible. As the Department of Trade admits it might take a very long time before any tug reached the scene of the accident. I hope that will be given urgent consideration.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the problems of spillage from inshore explorations could be equally dangerous? A lot of those explorations no doubt take place around the coast, and such spillages could be traumatic to those many colonies of wild life which are of international consequence and which breed around the right hon. Gentleman's islands. Is he satisfied that there are arrangements to deal with local spillages from explorations, quite apart from a disaster?

Of course there can be many sources of pollution. I cannot go into the whole matter on the motion for the Adjournment but, of course, I am in correspondence with the Ministries concerned about these other matters. But this disaster in the Channel drew attention to particular dangers. There are all sorts of other dangers. I admit that they are serious and I have been taking them up. However, the Channel disaster was a recent danger. In a frank statement the Government have said that they do not have tugs at present available off Scotland which could deal with a very large tanker in difficulties.

The third matter I should like to mention is fishing. We know that in June there will be an important meeting in Brussels about the common fisheries policy. Therefore, this is possibly the last opportunity that we may have to emphasise the importance of coming to some arrangement very soon with regard to the conservation of stocks. Off my constituency there has been a disastrous falling off in the numbers of fish caught in recent weeks. It seems that at last what we have all foretold is happening. The waters are being seriously over-fished. This is not to be wondered at, because trawlers which used to fish in other parts of the ocean are now driven into our home waters and the number of boats fishing is extremely large.

The particular point about which I should like the Government to give some indication, before the meeting in Brussels, is the question of licences. This may be a very reasonable method of trying to control the amount of fish taken out of the North Sea, but I am not at all clear how the Government envisage it being worked. Will they simply license only a certain number of foreign boats to fish in British waters? If so, that would be acceptable. Do they intend to license all the British boats so long as they abide by the quotas? If so, will there be any restriction on when they fish—that is, will local boats have priority? That might also be acceptable. In that case the withdrawal of the licence would come about only if a boat exceeded its quota.

At present the only quotas in operation, as far as I know, are monitored by the fishermen themselves. That is not a satisfactory position. Of course, if licensing means that there will be a reduction in the number of British boats, that would be a serious matter for the smaller ports. It would then seem to me illogical to encourage new fishing enterprises, say, in the Western Isles. I hope that the Government will at some point give us their views about what the licensing system would entail.

I also believe that we should have a statement as soon as possible with regard to what compensation will be given to sheep farmers who suffered very large losses last winter. We know that the Government are examining this matter. As the lambing season is now far advanced or over, I hope that the Government will be in a position very soon to announce what help they will be able to give to these farmers and crofters.

4.24 p.m.

I, too, think it a pity that we are not having a formal debate on broadcasting before the Whitsun Recess. However, it seems as though we are getting half a debate now.

The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) talked about letting off steam. My reply to the hon. Gentleman, and to any other member of the public, is that it is much better to let off steam in this House of Commons than to let off bombs and bullets, because that is the alternative.

It may well be that 90 per cent. of what is said, 90 per cent. of Prime Minister's Question Time, 90 per cent. of the Divisions, or whatever, are meaningless to some people. I do not think that is true, but it may be. Even if it were, the other 10 per cent. is worth it. That is the point which should be made about matters in this House.

With regard to broadcasting, surely one of our problems is that broadcasting extracts or resumés of our debates are the only outside broadcasts which are not designed or selected for the purpose of broadcasting. We are here doing an unusual and privileged job. We are not here primarily for the purpose of making a broadcast and we are not here, or should not be, as a sort of radio bran tub from which matters can be fished out and used for good broadcasting.

That is another problem which was not foreseen earlier. I do not believe that television would solve that problem, because one of the great difficulties is that so many things which are assumed to be background between those with a particular subject interest cannot, by their nature, be shared by the listeners. Indeed, they sometimes cannot be shared by some hon. Members who come in and listen. Such debates are meaningless, because the background knowledge is not there. I do not think that television will solve that problem. Perhaps more debates, broadcast much later with selections and commentary on the whole debate, rather than contemporary broadcasting, might be the best way of dealing with the matter.

I was mystified when I looked at the Order Paper today. I regret the way in which the Lord President has arranged the business. I seem to recall—he will correct me if I am wrong—that usually the motion for the Adjournment is put down on the Order Paper as first business. I could not understand today's Notice of Motion, because I thought it meant that we could not speak. It has obviously been tabled in such a way, and for such a purpose, of which I believe many hon. Members would not approve.

I do not happen to believe in the cause of the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) or in the cause of television, for some of the reasons that I have just outlined. However, the hon. Gentleman has every right to introduce a Ten-Minute Bill at the usual and proper time. That is the right of Private Members. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman, but I agree with his right to do it. It ill behoves the Lord President, in his position, to authorise such a proceeding which might make some people accuse him of underhand business and skulduggery. That is what some people will say. I am not making that accusation, but some people will say that. Therefore, the Lord President owes it to the House—he said nothing during the points of order—to explain why today's business was arranged in this particular way.

That brings me to the point that I should like to put. I do not believe that we should adjourn the House until we have had an explanation from the Lord President about the difficulties last night over documents and the business relating to the ratification of the treaty making this House adhere to direct elections for the EEC. Again, I do not think that the Lord President's handling of this matter gives cause for confidence.

Several matters have emerged since that debate which must be put on record. First, during last Thursday's Business Statement the Lord President simply said:
"Motion on the European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (No. 4) Order."—[Official Report, 18th May 1978; Vol. 950, c. 775.]
I do not believe that the Lord President did not know what was in that order. He must have known that it was about direct elections. He must have known that it ratified a treaty which was the subject of a Command paper brought before this House in 1971. He did not tell the House what the business was. He did not tell us in such a way that those printing the business of the House would print what it was about. It was left to my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) to ask whether this meant ratification of the treaty on direct elections. Then my right hon. Friend said "Yes, it is".

I do not believe that he was serving either the House or the nation well by not stating explicitly what that business was. It may be that the wretched European Communities Act, which the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) whipped through this House, was bad in this respect. It was a disgraceful Act and Section 1(3), which makes the ratification procedure subterranean, is one of the worst aspects of it. But that is no excuse for my right hon. Friend not stating the business properly. It was extremely difficult for hon. Members or, indeed, the Press or public, to know what was coming. Even worse was to follow, because the explanatory note to that order did not say what it was about either. It is not an explanatory note, despite the open government professed by the Government on this issue.

To do him credit, my right hon. Friend the Lord President admitted this in answer to a question following Thursday's Business Statement. He said that the explanatory note was rather less than some would have wished, but he went on to say that he would arrange for a further explanatory memorandum to be placed in the Library. It was available in the Library, and it was available in the Vote Office. In fact, it was submitted to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

But I am sorry to have to say that this memorandum, signed by no one and simply labelled "Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 11th May 1978," was not a complete document. Although it purported to summarise the nature of this treaty, which is an Act of the European Communities, Cmnd Paper No. 6623, it described only some of the provisions of this treaty. It was said in that memorandum:
"Articles 6 to 13 provide for disqualification, procedural and supplementary matters."
It did not say that Article 7 and Article 11 of that treaty covered the obligations of this House to a future common system of election. I confirmed with my right hon. Friend last night that that is indeed the effect of passing that treaty. We are now in principle committed to that common system of election for the future. However, the explanatory memorandum made no mention of that and, of course, the treaty itself was not available.

My right hon. Friend will know that when hon. Members go to the Vote Office asking for papers on any matter, they are handed a bunch of papers and they expect them to be complete. The same is true of members of the Press Gallery and the Lobby. Even if they had known what it was all about—which of course they would not if they had merely listened to my right hon. Friend, and gone and got those documents—they would not have had any real knowledge of that aspect of the treaty, either. Nor would they have been handed the treaty.

I do not say that this was deliberate subterfuge on the part of a wicked Foreign Office or an obtuse Government. I do not think that that is necessarily correct. But it means that the effect of this was that, but for certain hon. Members, the nature of the treaty would have been less well-known than it was, and the fact that the House was ratifying perhaps the most important foreign treaty of the century—it may well turn out to be that, though I hope not—was unknown to the House itself.

I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will explain how this happened and why there was no list in the Library—merely this memorandum, which got there only last Friday, despite Mr. Speaker's ruling of 21st February 1966—and that he will make sure in future that this does not happen. We are already asking him to present a motion to this House which he promised last November defining the powers of this House in respect of Ministers in Brussels. We are still waiting for that motion.

Last Thursday, my right hon. Friend did not state the nature of this very important business when he made his weekly Business Statement. We had an explanatory note on the Order in Council which even he admits gave no explanation. We had an explanatory memorandum which clearly was not complete and which was not a proper substitute for the treaty itself. That treaty was not available in the Vote Office and, therefore, not available to members of the Press.

I put it to my right hon. Friend the Lord President that this is not good management of our democratic systems. Nor is it good management of the House of Commons. There are those who say that the whole of this EEC business is undermining our democracy and that it produces procedural rabies and problems of this kind. I think that they are probably right. It has been shown to be in this instance.

I do not believe that the Foreign Office is wicked or is trying to proceed by underhand methods. It simply happened that way, and we all understand that sometimes these matters go wrong. I do not think that my right hon. Friend wishes to conceal from this House and the public the real nature of the business that he puts before us. But that is what he will be accused of unless he changes the methods of working, the methods of documentation and the methods by which he announces business, especially in terms of definition of treaties orders.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will make a statement and give assurances to the House that this will not happen again. If it should happen again, not only hon. Members here but other people outside will be justifiably cynical and justified in saying that the Government and the people who work with it are trying not to help the House but to deny both the House and the British public facts which should be theirs and without which democracy cannot operate.

4.36 p.m.

There are two matters which I wish to raise before this motion is passed and we agree to adjourn. The first is one which affects mainly my own constituents but also those of a number of other hon. Members in North-East London.

My constituents are puzzled by a couple of problems which have arisen. They relate primarily to the plight of commuters generally around London. My constituents, in common with those of most other London Members, find it hard to understand why so little attention is given by this House to their plight and that we go off on our holidays leaving them to soldier on in the most appalling conditions and paying the most appalling fares to get to their places of work.

In Chingford we have a railway line which runs to Liverpool Street. Complaints about this line recently have been running at a very high level. Indeed, I found myself becoming a little bored with the correspondence reaching me telling me the same story over and over again.

Suffice it to say that, in a recent six-week period, some 51½ per cent. of the morning peak trains and 10 per cent. of the evening peak trains were cancelled. The odd explanation given for those cancellations was that they were due to staff sickness and staff shortages. That is odd, bearing in mind that we are in the position of having to dispose of this motion before we can consider the second item of business for today which the Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill, in which the Greater London Council is seeking additional powers to create more employment in London at a time when British Rail cannot employ sufficient staff.

We all sympathise with British Rail, of course. We know how much it has done to improve the Inter-City services. So I think that my constituents and I were prepared to put up with many of these problems. However, a week ago matters were made very much worse by a landslip on an embankment resulting in train services being cut to only two an hour. Even worse, whereas the trains were formerly of nine coaches, they are now frequently of only six coaches. So, instead of having a 12-minute service, there is now a half-hour service, and frequently the trains are only two-thirds of their normal length.

What is more, British Rail has told my constituents that it will take three months to repair the embankment and that nothing can be done to avoid single-line working during that time. If the main line to, say, Cardiff had suffered a landslip, I cannot imagine that it would have taken three months to resolve the problem.

My constituents, rightly or wrongly, think that Parliament should have some power to redress their grievances. They do not think that it is reasonable for me to tell them that there is almost nothing that Parliament can do about the day-to-day running of a nationalised industry. They are under the impression that publicly-owned industries are supposed to be responsive to the public through Parliament, and they will be extremely puzzled if we go off for our holidays leaving them to sweat on in these cattle truck conditions of shortened trains and cut services.

I hope that the Lord President will at least draw the attention of his colleagues in the Cabinet to the conditions under which my constituents and others from Walthamstow and Leyton are travelling and perhaps suggest that, if we have this Adjournment, some of his colleagues might like to try travelling at peak hours between Liverpool Street Station and Chingford to see what it is like to live in the real world instead of the world of chauffeur-driven limousines to which they have become accustomed.

My second point is that the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) has been sufficiently fortunate to secure a debate on Friday on the future of the British aerospace industry. I hope to hear that debate. Before we have it, we must pass this motion because the debate is conditional upon the House assenting to the motion. I do not anticipate that debate—no doubt many views will be expressed—but I hope that all those who take part will be as well informed as possible, and I hope that there will be no division on party lines, because I do not see any party divisions between us on this matter.

I have sought to confer as widely as possible with people in the industry who can tell me all the options, possibilities and dangers. In the pursuit of those consultations I was approached by a number of shop stewards from ASTMS—Mr. Clive Jenkins's union—who wanted to visit me as chairman of the Conservative Party aviation committee. I will not refer to the factory from which they came because I do not want to embarrass them. I was only too pleased to meet them.

However, in the recent past, Mr. Jenkins has said very unkind things about Conservative Members who get involved in the affairs of his union. I thought it right to let him know that these shop stewards had asked to see the Conservative committee. In doing so I had in mind my own correspondence with Mr. Jenkins in the past. That correspondence arose from a circular issued by his union which says:
"In ASTMS only a small part of the political levy is used for party political purposes. By far the largest part is used in achieving, through Parliamentary means, the aims and aspirations of its members."
Bully for Clive Jenkins. I wanted to know what I could do to help so I wrote to him and asked him to tell me how the largest part of the political fund was used to achieve the aims and aspirations of its members. I was a little surprised when I received his reply, which said:
"You are not a member of the association and I cannot answer your questions."
I am not a member of the Association but I am a member of Parliament. If the Association is working through parliamentary means, I should know what it is doing. But Mr. Jenkins told me in effect to mind my own business, and in pretty clear terms.

Now I am a conciliatory kind of man and when the shop stewards asked to see me I thought it right to hold out an olive branch to Mr. Jenkins so I wrote:
"A number of your members…have asked to meet me and other members of the Conservative Party Parliamentary Aviation Committee formally to discuss matters concerning their employment and prospects for their employer.
In view of your letter of 4th October 1976 and your recent statement about interference by Conservatives in the affairs of your members' union I would be obliged if you would let me know if such contacts have your approval …."
I received a reply dated 22nd May in which Mr. Jenkins said:
"I would prefer you not to do this as we have a highly developed structure of internal consultation embracing both this company, British Aerospace and the Aerospace Industry. Any parallel action would be unhelpful …."
In other words, only a couple of days before we discuss these matters formally in the House we receive a warning off from Mr. Jenkins who tells me not to talk to his members on this subject.

That is bad enough. But I am not too worried about Mr. Jenkins. I am worried about the effect on his members. We all know how many work in closed shops and what happens to those who upset Mr. Jenkins. He is currently trying to close down a whole branch because its members have been critical of him. What will happen to his members who try to talk to me about a non-partisan matter in the national interest? Are they to be persecuted and disciplined, brought to book and expelled from the union if they do not desist from that foul crime of talking to Tory Members? If, at the end of the day, they persist in doing that, will Mr. Jenkins persist and expel them from the union? If he does, their fate would be dismissal from their employment.

Before we pass this motion we should have a clear statement from the Leader of the House, who has experience in these matters, that the attitude taken by Mr. Jenkins and ASTMS is completely and totally unacceptable and that the Lord President and the Government deplore any efforts to stop members of trade unions from speaking freely to Members of Parliament on matters of common interest. I think that even the Lord President can say that. Nothing less will satisfy the House and the public outside.

4.48 p.m.

I have no intention of following the last speaker but I do intend to return to the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing)—the Ten-Minute Rule Bill. It is very unfortunate that the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) should have been deprived of the opportunity to have his Ten-Minute Rule Bill at 3.30 p.m. On the day when the hon. Member for Harborough was queuing up in order to get his Bill I went up to check whether there was still a slot left for the Ten-Minute Rule Bill. He must have waited in the queue for at least five hours for the express purpose of getting his name down for the opportunity of addressing the House at 3.30 p.m., and having a vote of the House on his Bill. Even if we manage to finish this debate a little early and get him a slot at 6.50 p.m., his opportunities for putting across his view and for getting a clear decision are greatly reduced.

I appreciate very much the points that the hon. Member is making, and the fact that a vote at 6.30 p.m. or 6.45 p.m. would not be meaningful. Therefore, I have withdrawn my Bill. I intend to submit it to the House at a time when there is a really good turnout after we return from the Spring Recess.

That is a good idea, but it is regrettable that the hon. Member, in order to get his Ten-Minute Rule Bill, had to queue up for such a long time. It is sad that we cannot protect the rights of back benchers on the Ten-Minute Rule procedure.

I do not want to delay our Adjournment in order to discuss the sound broadcasting of Parliament. One of the most important things that we must do in this House is to give the broadcasting long enough to settle down. Clearly, the broadcasting since Easter has distorted some of our procedures. However, it would be much better to wait until nine or 10 months have elapsed to ascertain whether it continues to do so rather than to start to jump to hasty conclusions.

The reason that I am concerned to persuade the House not to adjourn for the Spring Recess is to give a little more opportunity for Back Benchers to question Ministers and to raise issues that concern their contituents. I regret that we are returning not on the Monday but on the Tuesday. The Monday would have given us an opportunity usefully to discuss some of the less controversial issues not on party lines but issues that are especially important to the country.

I ask my right hon. Friend to reflect on the growing number of Select Committee reports that have piled up. There appears to be no opportunity for the House to debate them. I draw his attention to the Select Committee report on violence in the family. The Government have produced their response to the report, but there has been no opportunity in the House to debate either the report or the response. In view of the Prime Minister's announcement of his concern about the family, surely there should be an opportunity for a full debate to consider child abuse and how we can strengthen and improve families and reduce abuse of children, especially those who are killed and maimed. If we cannot return from the recess a little earlier, at least soon after the recess my right hon. Friend could find time to debate rather more Select Committee reports, especially the one on violence in the family.

I have one reservation about the televising of our proceedings. It seems that the cameras would be concentrated in the Chamber. It would be useful if the cameras could scan the Committee Rooms to show the public some of the work that is carried on in Select Committees—for example, some of the questioning of witnesses—which in my view is as important a part of Parliament as the main debates in the Chamber.

I am also concerned that, possibly because of the broadcasting of Parliament, the opportunities for hon. Members to raise issues on the Adjournment of the House seem to have been reduced. I have had considerable difficulty in getting a slot for an Adjournment debate.

We should have more opportunity to discuss certain television programmes. For example, the "Tonight" programme last week dealt with some of the rather disturbing issues concerning housing associations in the Greater Manchester area. There is much concern in Greater Manchester about the way in which the housing associations have operated. On several occasions I and other hon. Members representing the area have seen Ministers to discuss the duality of interests of those on the management committees of the associations who also provide services to the associations.

I hope that there will be an early opportunity in the House to debate these matters. When members of the associations are also councillors there should be clear rules and regulations about their declarations of interest when planning issues arise. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to assure me that Ministers will pursue carefully the accusations that were made on the "Tonight" programme last week about housing associations in the Greater Manchester area. I hope that he will consider carefully whether the law needs to be amended in relation to housing associations, the declarations of interest by members of the associations who are also members of local authorities and planning legislation in general.

I turn to an issue to which the House devotes little time—namely, waste management. I understand that the Departments of Environment and Industry have been revising the composition and methods of working of the advisory council on waste management. However, the House has not been given very much information about the change.

There are two tips in Stockport within my constituency. One of the tips is in South Reddish. The local council has been promising to close the tip for the past three years but it has always found it necessary to keep it open for a little longer. That has caused a great deal of nuisance to many of the residents who live near the tip. Many of the problems have arisen because it has been considered unnecessary to provide cleaning facilities for the lorries and other such facilities because it is expected that the tip will close at any time. However, its life continues to be extended. My constituents in that area are disappointed that it has not been closed.

In North Reddish the Greater Manchester Council is threatening to open a new tip in an area that is totally unsuitable for a tip. It would cause major problems, especially to those who have recently moved into the area to buy new houses that were built on what now turns out to be the edge of the site on which the Greater Manchester Council is planning to site its tip. That is totally unsatisfactory.

If the council were to go ahead with such a tip, it would have to break all the guidelines that have been published by the Department of the Environment on sites suitable for tipping.

We have a major problem in the Greater Manchester area, and a growing problem throughout the country, in that there is a lack of holes in which to put our rubbish. We must not just stop tips being sited in particular areas, such as in Reddish, but we must generally assume that we have not an inexhaustible number of holes in the ground into which we can tip rubbish. I should like to see the Government making the advisory committee much more effective and bringing forward positive measures to the House that would stop us creating waste at anything like the present rate.

The Government should find time for a major debate on the manufacture of waste, especially the over-packaging of many goods. Almost all our dustbins are full of large amounts of packing material that could well be saved. We should also consider encouraging the use of returnable containers. There is increasing pressure from supermarkets, which means that we are using one-trip cans and bottles rather than returnables. Much of the extra rubbish that is being created comes from that source.

I plead that an opportunity will be given after the recess for a major debate on waste management with a view to the Government bringing forward positive measures to try to reduce the amount of waste that is being created.

When I look round many of the national parks I am appalled by the amount of litter that is dropped in them. As an experiment in national park areas the Government would do well to introduce legislation to insist that containers of liquid are returnable. That would do much to reduce the number of tins, cans and bottles that are left lying around our parks.

If my right hon. Friend cannot tell us today that he is prepared to reduce the Spring Recess by one day to give Back Benchers the opportunity to raise these issues, I hope that he will find time after the recess to bring forward debates on the issue of duality of interests within housing associations, and waste management and the reconstitution of the advisory committee with a view to making it much more effective.

4.58 p.m.

I suggest to the Lord President that we should not adjourn for the Whit-sun Recess until he can give satisfactory answers to the three issues that I am about to raise.

The first issue has a connection with the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), who earlier referred to the aviation industry. It appears that a state of confusion is prevailing at present in both the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence regarding the sales of Harrier aircraft to the Chinese People's Republic. I have some interest in these matters because for nearly four years I served as a Foreign Office Minister responsible to Sir Alec Douglas-Home, now Lord Home of the Hirsel, for our relations with China. I have some knowledge of the original approaches that were made to us in 1973 by members of the Chinese Government regarding the possible purchase of Harriers.

At that time, for various reasons connected with foreign relations in other parts of the world, it was not possible to pursue that interest in any way. The Americans were then indicating that they did not wish to see the sale of Harriers to the Chinese People's Republic. Following that, there was a dearth of comment or interest in the subject for some time.

That continued following the arrival in power of the present Government in 1974. It seemed that they turned their attention more to improving relations with the Soviet Union than to continuing the good relations which had been formed by Lord Home and my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) during the period of the Conservative Government from 1970 to 1974. That was understandable.

But more recently—in the last year—it has become clear that the sales of Harrier aircraft to China have again come into the forefront of comment on our relations with the Chinese People's Republic, and Peking. Questions have been posed in the House on several occasions on this subject to Ministers in the Departments of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Only yesterday, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), the Secretary of State for Defence, in relation to the proposed sale of Harriers, said:
"Everyone assumes that it is the Harrier that is likely to be wanted by China, but I have no reason to think that that is necessarily the case."
In a later exchange, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller), the Secretary of State said:
"If the Chinese interest in Harrier is confirmed, the usual political, stategic and economic criteria and our international obligations in relation to the sale of Harrier would have to be examined in detail before Her Majesty's Government could take a considered view."
Still later he said:
"We have not, therefore, gone through the COCOM procedure."
My hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch explained to the Secretary of State his concern that we were perhaps moving into a chicken-and-egg situation: the Government perhaps wishing to have a formal request from the Chinese People's Republic before reacting in any way and the Chinese People's Republic waiting for a firm proposal from Her Majesty's Government before indicating their formal interest in the possible purchase of the aircraft. That was dismissed by the Secretary of State with the extraordinary remark:
"As I explained, it is a bad practice to announce decisions before they have been taken, and no decisions affecting this matter have been taken."—[Official Report, 23rd May 1978; Vol. 950, c. 1318–25.]
It is a very bad practice and impossible to announce decisions before they have been taken, because one does not know what the decisions are. That is the situation facing us with regard to this important possible sale. It is not only a political decision but a decision which affects employment throughout the United Kingdom in the British aerospace industry. I have a constituency interest in that some of my constituents work at the Hawker factory at Kingston, but that is not why I am raising the matter today.

I am raising this subject today because there is no doubt that Chinese interest has been expressed, whether formally or informally, in the purchase of this aircraft. There is also no doubt from newspaper reports, which have not been denied by the Government at any time, that there is no longer any objection by our NATO allies or by America to the sale of this aircraft to Peking. Therefore, why are Ministers in the Department of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs being so coy about the subject?

It is in the interests of our industry and of this country to sell this aircraft to China if it wishes to purchase it. I hope that the Lord President will refuse to allow us to go on our Whitsun holiday until we have firm and clear answers on this subject. I hope that between now and 7 o'clock he will send a carrier pigeon over the road to obtain some answers from the Department of Defence or of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on this important subject.

The second area about which I wish to beard the Lord President this afternoon is equally vital to the economic health of this country. I have spent 30 years working in the City of London. Today there is in the City a crisis which can affect invisible exports, to which the City is a large contributor, and the livelihoods and earnings of people employed in the City.

This crisis has ben caused by individual members of the Post Office Engineering Union working on a go-slow for the last few months and refusing to connect new office blocks in the City of London to the main telephone lines.

I believe that nearly 30 offices are ready to be occupied. Major British companies wish to move in their staff to carry on their role of working in the commercial interests of this country. They have got their telephones, telex and other equipment installed in the building where these offices are situated. The Post Office lines are under the road to the entrance to the buildinggs, but, because of action by members of the Post Office Engineering Union, the two points cannot be connected. As a result, there is a major crisis facing some very important groups in the City. This is presumably also taking place in other parts of the country. However, I have no detail of other areas where this might be taking place.

I gather that some of the companies concerned have approached the chairman of the Post Office and inquired why action cannot be taken to solve the dispute. He has told them that it is impossible to get any action taken until the union has its annual meeting in June. Therefore, these companies will be without communications and will be unable to carry out their business. The chairman of this major nationalised industry has to throw his hands in the air and say that he can do nothing about the situation. Yet on the board of the Post Office there are worker-directors, presumably there to improve staff relations.

There is no other organisation to which commercial concerns can turn to link up their telex systems or telephone exchanges. They have to wait and lose money for their shareholders, put their employees in danger of losing their jobs and damage our balance of payments because of the actions of these few men.

I ask the Lord President to find out whether action is being taken by the Secretary of State for Employment, whether ACAS has been involved, and to give a statement to the House before we go away for a week or 10 days whilst our fellow countrymen, who are trying to help our economy, are unable to carry out their jobs.

The third matter I should like to raise has a close link with the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford. It is concerned with London. I think that it would be most unwise for the House to adjourn for the Whitsun Recess and to leave the South Circular Road in its present condition. The South Circular Road winds its way through the narrow streets of South London. It traverses my constituency, travels over Kew Bridge, winds along the Lower Mortlake Road, through Sheen and Barnes into Putney.

The North Circular Road, which goes round the northern outskirts of London, is a main arterial road. It is able, although very congested, to carry the massive juggernaut lorries which travel along it. But the South Circular Road cannot.

I have endeavoured to see the Secretary of State for Transport today to discuss the rapidly deteriorating situation on the South Circular Road. It is daily becoming more and more intolerable for those who live on either side of it. Damage is being caused to a bridge going over a railway in my constituency—a bridge which was not built to take the traffic that it now carries. Danger is being caused to old people who at times are unable to cross the road for hours because of the constant stream of juggernaut traffic.

It is impossible for the Greater London Council or for the local authorities involved to take any action to reduce the traffic or to signpost the traffic elsewhere, because they cannot get support from the Department of Transport to do so. A proposal was made by the Greater London Council, before the recent election when there was a change of power, to widen the Mortlake Road in one area. That would have eased the traffic into a bottleneck and caused even more chaos on the road from where the bottleneck started to where it joined Clifford Avenue further down. But that was stopped with the arrival of the new Greater London Council. The widening of the Mortlake Road will not now take place. However, it has not altered the situation. The increase in juggernaut traffic going through the whole area from Kew to Barnes continues. I have been unable to get the Department of Transport to take action.

The Lord President should consider carefully whether we should remain here next week until we are convinced that no action can be taken to reduce the traffic on the South Circular Road.

5.10 p.m.

When listening to the last argument—which the hon. Member for Richmond, Surrey (Sir A. Royle) made with a straight face—I had the mischievous thought that my right hon. Friend might say exactly what the hon. Member requested him to say. No one would be more shocked if that hapened than hon. Members who have spoken in the debate.

I wish to discuss the broadcasting theme that was raised earlier. I am not a new Member, nor am I an old Member. I am probably at the in-between stage after 13 years but I always thought that Ten-Minute Bills came after Questions and statements. That is clearly not the case. I shall listen carefully to the Leader of the House because the accusation of chicanery and jiggery-pokery could apply to no one less than my right hon. Friend. He was and is one of the most strenuous fighters for Back-Bench rights. He has not been guilty of anything. My understanding is obviously imperfect but I though that Ten-Minute Bills were given a certain slot and that it should have been considered before this motion.

We have been told that the Bill has been withdrawn. It was a wise decision. I think that the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) wants a more representative vote on the matter.

I did not vote for the broadcasting of Parliament. On the last occasion there was no substantial vote in favour of broadcasting, but the House carried the proposition. I have never believed that there was a demand for the broadcasting of Parliament. Had there been a demand for the public to know what goes on in the House there would have been an enormous increase in the sales of those newspapers which give most coverage to Parliament—The Times, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph—and the Hansard printers would probably have been rushed off their feet in an attempt to meet the demand for copies of Hansard. However, since broadcasting was introduced the comments that I have heard have been generally complimentary. People have said that by accident rather than design they have switched on their radios, heard the Prime Minister or someone else and enjoyed it. They feel that it has brought home to them in a real way what is going on in Parliament.

I shall surprise the House. When the Bill is voted upon I shall put up two hands and march through the Lobbies faster than I have ever done before. I shall do that not because I think that the public want Parliament to be televised. I do not think that they do. The best way to kill that idea once and for all is to introduce it.

I know the dodge about something being only an experiment. That is the way to get the foot in the door and the thin end of a big wedge. Once it comes it will be permanent. I want this to happen. I shall inject a little humour into the debate. Many of the television programmes that we have now will face increased competition because I have some novel ideas. Some of them will meet with approval. We could do away with the tedium of traipsing through the Lobbies. When the House is televised I should like an impartial jury. When we have finished a debate and the Opposition and Government have had their chance we should not bother going through the Lobbies. Instead we should have an impartial jury comprising Joe Gormley, Mick McGahey, Lawrence Daly, Clive Jenkins and probably the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) to add balance. They would adjudicate as on the programme "New Faces" in which points are awarded for performance and star quality. On the basis of that they would decide whether the Government had won or lost.

Seriously, there is no demand for the broadcasting of Parliament. It would be a folly to embark upon television but we should finish the matter once and for all. The televising of Parliament would distort even more the public's impression of the House of Commons. We must be able to show that a half-empty House does not represent the non-attendance of Members. That can be done only by showing Members in their offices and Committee rooms. We should get the matter out of the way.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to assure me—I am pretty sure that he has not done anything wrong—that my understanding of the slotting-in of Ten-Minute Bills is wrong and that motions such as this take priority.

In order that we do not find ourselves being accused of hypocrisy we should ensure that there is an unknown demand, as we were told there was for devolution in Scotland, by making certain that nothing will happen unless more than 40 per cent. of those eligible vote in favour of it.

That is an interesting thought, but I shall leave it there.

I now want to make two points, one a constituency point, the other a broader one.

We should now re-examine the boundaries of designated areas which have special development, development or intermediate area status. A debate on this subject is long overdue. I hope that the Lord President will be able to assure us that we shall have such a debate soon after we return from the recess.

The Skelmersdale part of my constituency enjoys the highest status—special development area status. It certainly needs it, with a male unemployment rate of 17 per cent. The largest part of my constituency is in the Wigan travel-to-work area which enjoys only intermediate area status. Repeated requests have been made for Wigan to be made a development area. The current rate of unemployment in that area is 8·4 per cent., which is well above both the national and North-West average.

We should have a debate on this because we have had rather stale replies from the Government in written and oral replies. The Government say that whatever the claims of Wigan there is only so much jam to be spread around. They say that if it is spread further it becomes thin and tasteless and will do no good. This is a fallacy. It is not a question of there being a pool of money which has to be spread around. It is a question of giving to areas which have special requirements, because their industries have gone or they have high rates of unemployment. Unless they receive special assistance they will not be able to attract employment. Areas should not be disadvantaged by the grants that are available to incoming employers. It is not a question of the money being spread year by year.

Areas such as Merseyside desperately need to attract industry. The fact that this privilege is conferred upon them does not necessarily mean that industries rush to those areas. It means that areas which do not enjoy that privilege are disadvantaged when trying to attract industrialists to their areas.

I want to demolish the fallacy that exists about the need to spread even more thinly the jam that is available. This is a matter of not disadvantaging further areas which could attract industry if this benefit was conferred upon them. Wigan's case is unassailable. The Government could have given it development area status, but if we cannot have a Government announcement to that effect we should have the chance to debate the boundaries that are set for regional aid purposes.

My next point concerns all hon. Members. We are very badly served in the facilities that we have and this can be seen in our pay and conditions and in the services that we give to our constituents. This situation arises from a combination of factors, one of them being—I will not use the word cowardice, but at least it is a fear of public reaction.

In so far as people take an interest in our pay and conditions, they usually believe that we are living in the lap of luxury and enjoy all kinds of benefits. When one tells one's constituents the true facts their reaction is to say that it our own fault. I tell them that I am one of the fortunate ones in that I have a window-less room of my own, containing a filing cabinet and a couple of chairs. But they are amazed that we put up with these conditions. We are the architects of our own misfortune, because we refuse to complain for fear of this public reaction.

We have the power to make out a case for better pay and conditions. There is already a provision on the statute book to permit us three months after the Prorogation of this Parliament to go on to a certain scale point allied to the Civil Service. That scale has now risen beyond what we orginally expected. That provision stands until we rescind it, and I hope that we shall not. This is a subject upon which we should now demand a debate.

We have now abandoned the interparty rivalry that existed over this question. The issue will be thrust upon us in due course. It would be far better for us to anticipate it and develop our arguments accordingly than to react in the way that we sometimes do. The issue will arise with the fixing of salaries for Members of the European Parliament. Fortunately we shall not have the task of fixing those salaries, but they will be fixed at a realistic point, as will pension entitlement, in another place.

However, a debate will be forced upon us when the Welsh and Scottish Parliaments seek to determine their pay and conditions. They will not pitch them lower than ours, and it will be of a nonsense if, for fear of the public reaction, we do not take action to improve our affairs now.

I am not all that concerned to be well paid, although I am entitled to be well paid. I have told my constituents that the man who will not fight for himself will not fight for anyone else: I would have no faith in him. We need to offer our constituents a much better service. Members of Parliament must be treated more generously—not in order that they may get their hands on the money. For example, I want to be able to appoint a place in my constituency at which my constituents can make daily contact with me by means of modern telecommunications. I want no dealings with the money, but I want these affairs to be handled here as they are handled in most modern democracies—whether in Canada, Australia or elsewhere—so that our constituents can get in touch with us when they wish to do so.

Unless we grasp this nettle we shall not be good Members of Parliament. For instance, we must have better research facilities so that we may more effectively challenge the Executive. Many hon. Members talk about challenging the Executive. But let us consider the facts. I was a coal miner before I became a Member of Parliament. I am not equipped, intellectually or otherwise, to be able to challenge the Executive on matters that are a bit above me. But I should like to have the services of people who could interpret for me what was being done and what I needed to do in return, and then leave me to handle the matter in my own way. I want to be better equipped, to be a better Member of Parliament for my constituents.

5.26 p.m.