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Commons Chamber

Volume 984: debated on Tuesday 6 May 1980

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 6 May 1980

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

FALMOUTH CONTAINER TERMINAL BILL

Order for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time upon Thursday.

BANGOR MARKET BILL [ Lords] ( By Order)

PIER AND HARBOUR PROVISIONAL ORDER (BRIGHTON WEST PIER) BILL

Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Thursday.

Oral Answers To Questions

Education And Science

School Teachers (Employment)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is satisfied with the present number of qualified schoolteachers not in full-time employment.

Unemployment, whether among teachers or anyone else, is no cause for satisfaction. However, the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to learn that the March figure for schoolteacher unemployment in England—namely 7,818—was lower than the figure for that month in the previous two years.

Will the Minister agree that that figure is still far too high? What is he able to say to the unemployed school teachers in Derbyshire who are having to exist on a little supply teaching or on the dole, when the policy of cutting back on specialist teaching is forcing some schools to offer fewer subjects? How is that helping to raise standards in education?

My answer to the hon. Gentleman is that the figure that I gave represents less than 2 per cent. of the whole of the teaching force. I say to the teachers in Derbyshire, or anywhere else, that I believe our proposals for education over the next few years, allowing for the numbers likely to leave the teacher training colleges, will mean that there will be opportunities in education for those people.

Overseas Students (Fees)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about overseas students' fees.

From 1 September 1980 overseas students beginning courses will, in general, be expected to pay full cost fees, and those in mid-course, fees at the subsidised overseas rates. It is intended that students from European Community countries should pay the home rates of fee.

In arriving at those decisions, will the Minister give the estimates of the Department on income resulting from people being trained in this country, and, on returning to their own country, specifying equipment that has to be bought from British manufacturers?

Attempts have been made to quantify that, but none has been satisfactory, either from people who are for or against the increased fees for overseas students. The 10 to 15 years during which there have been increases in foreign students have been years of relative economic decline, so there is no automatic link between the number of foreign students coming to this country—which has tripled in the last 10 years—and the British economic system.

Has there not already been a 12 per cent. reduction in the number of overseas students coming to this country? Is not that reduction likely to be disproportionately from poor students from poor countries? Why is it the Government's policy to allow students from rich countries—including EEC—to continue readily to come to Britain, while the poorest are not able to do so?

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's attitude to the EEC, because I had always thought that Liberal Members were pro-EEC. Since the EEC is the one area in the world to which we send more students than we receive, I am astonished at the hon. Gentleman's attitude on that point. There is a decrease in the number of applications of 12 per cent. up to the end of March this year compared with last year, and 6 per cent. compared with two years ago. However, it should be remembered that only one in four of those who applied last year was accepted at that time and many must have had the necessary qualifications for acceptance. A fall of between 17 and 20 per cent. in the number of foreign students accepted would not reduce the figures to the numbers planned by the previous Labour Government.

Does my hon. Friend agree that no one asked for the number of foreign students to rise as much as it did over the past 10 years? Does he further agree that it is better to ration by price rather than by quota?

I find myself in total agreement with my hon. Friend. Under the previous system all students were subsidised, and one student in four came from a country where the average income was higher than that in Britain. I remind the House that the ODA will continue to help students from under-developed territories.

Assisted Places Scheme

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the present local education authority recoupment charge for secondary school education; whether this figure includes any allowance for capital element; and what is the comparable full cost of a school place in a typical independent day school likely to participate in the assisted places scheme.

The recoupment charge for the financial year 1979–80 is £715 for pupils aged 11–16 years and £1,155 for sixth form pupils, both figures including an allowance for capital costs. I understand that in January 1980 the average day fee at direct grant grammar schools—which we expect to provide the core of the assisted places scheme and which have all indicated their interest in joining it—was about £900, at Head Masters' Conference schools the day fee was £1,200 and at Girls' Schools Association schools about £1,000.

Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures indicate that the scheme is remarkable value for money, especially as it does not take into account the contribution that some parents will be making?

Rossendale is the valley in which I was privileged to be born. It seems that the sense of those in that valley is as strong now as it always was.

I recognise that the Government have a strong interest in various transfer fees. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that recoupment costs are only one of the ways of measuring unit costs in education? Does he accept that whatever is spent on the assisted places scheme is extra money spent in the most favoured part of the education system? As all the teachers' unions and other experts have forecast, it will result in the creaming-off of the most able pupils from the maintained sector and the threatening of the viability of sixth form courses. In view of the continued disputation over these matters, will he prevail upon his right hon. and learned Friend to publish the results of the study of the National Children's Bureau, which demonstrates conclusively that more able children are not penalised by being in the maintained sector?

It is up to the National Children's Bureau to publish its survey. As I understand it, the Government have provided the money for publication. I am sure that the report will be studied by hon. Members on both sides of the House when it is published and that they will join in battle in the Chamber. I remind the House that all the assistance that we are putting into the scheme will go to parents who could not otherwise afford to send their children to the schools within the scheme.

The hon. Gentleman says "Nonsense". That indicates that my statement is hurting. Let me remind him that 30 per cent. of British families will be able to let their children participate in the assisted places scheme without paying a penny, if their children pass the examination; 43 per cent. will be assisted and the 27 per cent. in receipt of higher incomes, including Members of Parliament, will have to pay the full fee. If the scheme is operating against the working class, I should like to know what is operating for the working class.

Did my hon. Friend note the remarks of the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) when he congratulated his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) on getting his second child to Ampleforth?

The ex-direct grant schools and many of the independent schools are superb academic schools. I do not blame anyone for wishing their children to go to them. We want a system that will enable the children to go to these schools who can gain most from them, irrespective of their background.

Teaching Profession

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he proposes next to meet leaders of the teaching profession.

I expect to meet representatives of teachers in universities and in colleges of further and higher education on 13 May, and of the National Association of Head Teachers on 26 May.

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman meets the teachers' leaders does he agree that they will draw to his attention the crushing Tory election defeats of last week? Will he give an assurance that he will not frustrate any plans for comprehensive schools in any local education authority areas?

The hon. Gentleman's charming smile as he asked his supplementary question made me think that he did not really believe that there had been the crushing defeat that he pretended, compared with the occasion when the seats were last fought. I believe that education largely needs a period of stability. In the local education authorities, where the political leadership changes regularly, I hope that those concerned will come to agree a system of education that will not be changed, or made the subject of an attempt to change, every time the political leadership of the council changes.

When my right hon. and learned Friend meets the teachers' representatives will he discuss with them the £140 million which has been issued to them by some boneheaded and rather scatterbrained professor from somewhere in the Midlands, and say what he intends to do, together with the local authority associations, to get that money back on behalf of the ratepayers, who are likely to be hammered through the pocket by teachers' pay to far too great an effect?

The Department employs no teachers. The employment of teachers is a matter for the teachers' unions and the local education authorities. My hon. Friend commented on the £140 million. It appears that there was a factual error in Professor Clegg's report. It is by no means clear what effect, if any, that had on the recommendations that were eventually made.

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman meets the teachers' leaders, will he give further consideration to the issue of falling rolls and extend a good deal of sympathy to the problem that arises in inner cities, where there are special demographic and other features that will have to be met with help?

Over the next few years numbers in schools will fall dramatically. I have said repeatedly that the saving that we are looking for in education, both in the number of teachers and in expenditure generally, is less than the equivalent proportionate fall in the number of pupils. We realise that there are some diseconomies of scale.

When my right hon. and learned Friend meets the leaders of the teachers' unions on a future occasion, will he indicate to them that he believes in democracy and that, perhaps reluctantly, he has agreed the reorganisation proposals for Tameside, which indicates clearly that the Government honour local democracy when there is a change of Government? When he next meets the head teachers and teachers will he tell them that parents are also experts on their children and that we expect as much attention to be paid to parents' wishes for their children's future as we do to the wishes of teachers.

My hon. Friend asked me rather a lot of questions in one supplementary question. I agree with him about the importance of the wishes and the views of parents. That is inherent in the recent Education Act. As for my hon. Friend's remark about Tame-side, yes, I believe in democracy. I believe that, on issues of policy, the local education authority must at least have the opportunity of putting forward the plans that it believes are right for its area. I, among others, have to decide on education grounds whether the plans are acceptable to the Department.

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman meets the leaders of the teaching profession, will he make it clear that he approved the Tameside proposals not reluctantly, as his hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) suggested, but because they were right for the area and because several elections had proved that that was what the electorate wanted? In the areas that have not yet gone comprehensive, and where there have been clear mandates from the electorate at last week's elections, will he confirm that he will not stand in the way of authorities that wish to go comprehensive in future? Will he also explain—

I repeat that I approved the Tameside proposals to go comprehensive because they represented an issue of policy for the borough and were submitted by the duly elected local education authority. The proposals have been argued through two local election campaigns. I was advised that if the area was to go comprehensive the system was sound educationally. As I said to the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones), in reply to an earlier question, I still believe that it is in the interests of children generally that we retain, rather than continually change, our form of secondary education.

May I congratulate the Secretary of State on his decision—announced today—about Tameside? Is it not significant that a council that was Conservative-controlled two years ago now has 46 Labour councillors and 10 Conservative councillors? Is he aware that there is some concern about the long delay that occurred before the decision was announced? Although some of us accept that such decisions should not be announced during local elections, was not the announcement on the Birmingham local education authority during that time very strange? Does the Department use any criteria when making such announcements?

With great respect, the two cases are totally different. Only one school was involved in Sutton Coldfield. The local education authority put in a request to restore the school to grammar status, and that request was shown to have the support of parents living in Sutton Coldfield. That came up in the normal way, and I thought it right that the decision should be announced.

I am glad that I managed to make the announcement about Tameside after the elections. I know that education is a highly emotive issue in that area, but I hope that the decision will now be accepted with good grace by both sides.

Teachers

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what effect reductions in local authority manpower will have on teacher numbers.

This is for individual authorities to decide. The Government's expenditure plans assume a reduction of nearly 40,000 teachers in England and Wales between 1979–80 and 1982–83.

Has my hon. Friend some idea of the size of the drop in school rolls during the whole of that period? What effect will that have on the pupil-teacher ratio?

Pupil numbers in England and Wales are predicted to fall by approximately 800,000 during that period. We expect that the pupil-teacher ratio will fall from 18.9:1 in 1979, to 18.5:1 in 1983.

Does the Minister admit that the number of teaching staff assumed in the public expenditure White Paper will prove completely inadequate if curriculum and education standards are to be protected?

No line can be drawn from the hon. Gentleman's observation. As regards expenditure over the next four years, my right hon. and learned Friend has made clear that we are determined to preserve the curriculum and our educational standards. We shall certainly do that.

Is the Minister satisfied that everything possible is being done to encourage the early retirement of teachers, and thus avoid any necessity for redundancies?

That is a matter for local education authorities to decide, in consultation with teaching unions. My right hon. and learned Friend will not direct that policy.

Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that, given falling rolls, this is the right time to make drastic improvements in pupil-teacher ratios? Does not he accept that if the Labour Party had remained in office it would have concentrated on moving in that direction, and would have provided more teachers in the areas of greatest educational need?

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would not engage in inaccuracies. In the hon. Gentleman's interest, and that of his constituents, I must tell him that the pupil-teacher ratio has never been better. Future redeployment has been discussed with local authorities, and will be discussed in the course of consultations during the next few months. We recognise that there is a need to transfer more teachers into certain educational areas. That issue is being discussed with some urgency.

Ancillary And Administrative Personnel

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if there will be any reduction in the ancillary staff in schools as a result of reductions in local authority manpower; and whether he expects any savings in administration personnel.

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his policy on the reduction in employment of ancillary workers in schools.

The Government's expenditure plans imply some reduction in ancillary staff in schools as pupil numbers fall as new arrangements for providing school meals are introduced in the light of the Education Act 1980. The Government plans also imply savings in administration personnel. The pattern and extent of these reductions will be for individual local authorities to determine.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that, given expenditure targets, local authorities are sometimes faced with the alternative of preserving the ancillary worker arrangements inherited from former authorities or of getting rid of teachers? Does he not further agree that authorities should be given every encouragement to get rid of ancillary workers rather than teachers, to conform with those expenditure targets?

The encouragement is certainly there. My right hon. and learned Friend made that point clear. Perhaps I can offer my hon. Friend some consolation if he is concerned about the policy of former local authorities. The Government's expenditure plans allow nationally for some increases per pupil in schools' non-teaching costs expenditure. I hope that will satisfy my hon. Friend.

Is the Minister aware that the policy of getting rid of ancillary workers is causing great hardship and a lowering of standards in education and care in schools in Leicestershire? Does not he accept that the poorer the area, the greater is the loss incurred by a reduction in the number of hours worked by ancillary workers? Does not he agree that these invaluable people, who are often poorly paid, are vital to our education system?

My right hon. and learned Friend has made clear, and I also acknowledge, that the ancillary worker plays a vital part in the daily life of any school, no matter for which age group it caters. I am aware of his anxiety, and that experienced by his constituency and county. However, to be parochial, some £600,000 was restored to the budget of Leicestershire for that aspect of expenditure. My right hon. and learned Friend and the hon. and learned Gentleman were engaged in correspondence in the middle of March. That should give him some reassurance that the restoration of that money will encourage the retention of a number of ancillary workers at primary school level. Indeed, ancillary workers are probably most needed in that area.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there are educational advantages in having school meals supervised by teachers? If he agrees, will he work towards that as a long-term objective?

In an ideal world that might be the ideal situation. Unhappily, the trends and developments of recent years have led to a shift away from that policy. The school meals provision is effectively administered, and I hope that the Education Act 1980 will improve that provision.

What notification have the Merseyside authorities given to the Minister about the reduction in the establishment of ancillary and administrative staff, in the various educational undertakings? Will he give some assurance that he will carefully reappraise any recommendations that are made, in the light of local need?

I cannot promise to reappraise anything. It is predominantly a matter for local Merseyside authorities to decide. I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety, but, as far as I know, my Department has received no notification from Merseyside. The best thing to do is to check that thoroughly. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Due to the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I give notice that I shall seek to raise the subject of ancillary staff on the Adjournment of this House, if I am fortunate enough to be able to do so.

University Grants Committee

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to meet the University Grants Committee.

I have no plans at present to meet the full committee. My Department is in close and regular contact with the chairman of the committee and his officers.

Since those close contacts might presumably include discussion about the total grant made to universities, is it accurate to say that that is looked at relatively as a cash limit? Is there any element of inflation built into the 1980–81 grant?

Yes. I announced recently that the grant provision for 1980–81 would be £987 million. That is a cash limit. It takes account of assumed inflation, and is based on the assumption of roughly level fundings within the universities, and an equivalent number of entries into universities this year as last.

Considering the favourable response of the vice-chancellors committee to the Finniston committee's suggestion that we need a more practical base for our engineering courses, will the Government discuss with the University Grants Committee proposals to extend sandwich course learning?

The Department will be running a conference later this year and it will look at all the educational effects of the Finniston report. No doubt such matters will come up at that conference.

Denominational Provision

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science to what extent, in deciding upon applications to him under section 13 of the Education Act 1944, he takes into consideration the need for denominational provision.

In considering proposals made under section 13 of the Education Act 1944, my right hon. and learned Friend takes into consideration all the relevant factors in each case. This includes demand for denominational provision where that is relevant.

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on the Department's decision this morning regarding Highbury Grove school, which is a good decision about a good school? In considering the recent application by the London borough of Ealing—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."]—for the establishment of a new denominational school, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that there is no Church of England secondary school in Ealing?

I assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. and learned Friend will take into consideration the demand for denominational schools in that area and the question of balance. He will also take account of the fact that we have received 7,623 signatures opposed to the proposals and 11,575 in favour.

Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that those parents who seek denominational education for their children in Church of England schools in the borough are satisfied with the provision in adjacent local education authorities? Will the hon. Gentleman also take into account the fact that the teachers are overwhelmingly against the changes proposed, and that there is danger, for local reasons which have nothing to do with the attitudes of the Church of England, of the Twyford development becoming a sectarian matter?

I have the privilege of representing the constituency adjoining Ealing, North. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is demand for Church of England secondary education in the area, including from my constituency. Schools exist not only for teachers, but so that parents may choose an education for their children. All these factors will be taken in account by my right hon. and learned Friend. Schools should reflect the desires of parents in the area.

Who in Brent has made an application under section 13 that would affect the Twyford application?

No one. The hon. Gentleman will know his constituency and I know mine. I know that there is that interest, which also comes from the nine Church of England churches. If the hon. Gentleman is interested in local factors, perhaps he will allow me to take him on a trip around my constituency one evening.

Will my hon. Friend modestly accept that having a successful headmaster as a Minister in the Department of Education and Science helps to reflect parental views on many matters, including denominational schools? Does my hon. Friend recognise that, with another successful headmaster, Peter Dawson, from Eltham Green, as General Secretary of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, parental wishes on such matters as denominational schools will receive even more consideration?

My hon. Friend's comments are interesting. I had the privilege of visiting that school in the South of England soon after Peter Dawson took over. I know what a splendid school he made it. I am pleased that he has moved to a position of influence in the union, as I have moved into Parliament. Both moves demonstrate that factors influencing education are as important outside schools as in the head's study. Perhaps when we all have it right we can go back.

Sixth Forms

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what studies his Department has made as to whether the removal of the sixth form has adverse effects on the lower school.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the House would like his assurance that he will not embrace the fashion for sixth form colleges without a study of their effect lower down the school? Is he aware that if A-level pupils and teachers are removed from a school it can narrow its aims and objectives, to the detriment of pupils in earlier years?

Strong educational arguments are often advanced for retaining 11-to-18 schools rather than having sixth form colleges. However, I have to balance that against the fact that, with the falling number of pupils of secondary school age, it may be difficult for every secondary school to have a viable sixth form unless it becomes too large overall. Different solutions may be the answer in different parts of the country.

As no studies have taken place, is the right hon. and learned Gentleman still proposing to go ahead with his assisted places schemes for sixth form pupils, thus further depriving schools of those very pupils that his hon. Friend mentioned? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman intend to conduct a study to see whether the assisted places scheme will benefit individual sixth form pupils and what the effect will be on the schools that they leave?

The answer should be obvious from our legislation. We intend to go ahead, with our assisted places scheme. The proposal has always been that in the main pupils should go to such schools at the normal age of entry.

While a number of sixth form colleges, including that in Scunthorpe, are worthwhile and achieve excellent results, is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that many comprehensive schools with sixth forms not only deliver the academic results but benefit from the part that sixth forms play?

I fully accept that, but the situation differs in different parts of the country. I have visited one or two extremely good sixth form colleges, where clearly, as a result, the take-up of education beyond the age of 16 has increased. However, in other areas the demand for sixth form education is sufficient for individual schools to have viable sixth forms. I attempt to take all these factors into account in my decisions on educational provision.

Will the Minister consider an investigation into sixth form education? Is he aware that many of us feel that open access secondary colleges, as opposed to sixth form colleges, have done a marvellous job in many parts of the country?

I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. However, from his previous experience and connection with the Department of Education and Science he will know that I receive continuing advice from Her Majesty's Inspectors, which includes general advice on the educational merits or otherwise of sixth form colleges.

Higher Education (Spare Places)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the present estimate of spare places for suitably qualified candidates in higher education.

There is no evidence of any substantial excess of capacity across the country, but there is evidence of spare places on courses in certain subject areas. Since admissions are for individual institutions to determine, I could not specify an exact number of places.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Will he indicate the courses that have an especially large number of vacancies?

I can tell my hon. Friend' that 18-year-olds who apply for courses in medicine, law and English will need high grades. Over the past two or three years 18-year-olds who applied for courses in engineering, classics and Russian would have been accepted with reasonable grades.

Will my hon. Friend assure us that those places will not be taken up by foreign students from outside the Commonwealth at the expense of the British taxpayer?

I can say to my hon. Friend that, until last year, had those places been taken up by foreign students from outside the Commonwealth, they would have been subsidised by the British Government by 60 to 70 per cent. Now, those students will at least pay an economic price and not be a burden on our taxpayers and ratepayers.

British Industry (Careers And Opportunities)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he will take to make careers and opportunities in British industry better known in schools to children before they start A-level specialisation.

My right hon. and learned Friend will continue to encourage in various ways the improvement of careers education in school and the development of direct links between schools and industry. Both issues are being pursued with urgency in current consultations on a framework for the school curriculum, and in other discussions.

Will my hon. Friend accept that in many schools the best pupils, encouraged by their teachers, tend to specialise in the arts and social sciences rather than skills that could be useful in industry? Will my hon. Friend use all his Department's influence with successful British firms to encourage them to visit secondary schools to hawk their wares and make fully known the careers and job opportunities that they have to offer?

I think that my hon. Friend has identified the trend of the past 15 years or so. I assure him that the Department of Industry Education Unit and the Department of Education and Science, in conjunction with the local authorities, are doing all they can to improve this aspect which is so vital to our economic future. A large measure of responsibility, in my opinion, lies with industry itself. Over the past 10 or 15 years industry and commerce in this country have neglected to tell the teaching staff exactly what they want in the schools. In the urgent discussions that I have had with the CBI and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce we have been mindful of this point.

Will the Minister tell us when the Government will make their conclusions known on the consultation document on education and vocational training for 16 to 19-year-olds? Will he also take on board the need not just for general careers advice, but for the possibility of initiating specifically vocational education work in this country?

This is an aspect which has been acknowledged by the review that I am conducting at present In answer to the specific question, I hope that the 16 to 19-year-old review will be concluded by late autumn. This is an enormous subject which, to a certain extent, embraces the overall philosophy that the country wants for the education of this age group. Certainly we are mindful of the need for training in industry and commerce.

Is the Minister aware that it is not only the job of industry to tell young men and women about the future for them in industry and commerce, but particularly the job of the leaders of industry to show that they care and are concerned about the future intake to the wealth-producing sector of the British economy?

I accept that fully, but it is incumbent on all regions of the country to acknowledge their vital responsibility in this direction.

In advance of the working party report on education and training for 16 to 19-year-olds, will the Minister replace the rather garbled leak that he gave to the Secondary Heads Association conference on the matter of link courses? Will he say whether he favours link courses, and if so, will he provide funds for such courses and thereby criticise the action of local education authorities, such as Northamptonshire, which, because of the cuts in expenditure, have actually closed link courses for 16 to 19-year-olds?

The hon. Member refers to a speech that I made some months ago at Oxford on a most important subject. I was anxious to test the feelings of the head teachers at that conference. The hon. Member knows that when the country is faced with its present economic situation, I cannot make such a commitment. He knows very well that the economy of this country is the most important aspect at present.

O And A-Level Courses (School Sizes)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the minimum size of selective grammar school which is considered sufficient to support viable GCE O and A-level courses; and what is the comparable size for a comprehensive school.

Circumstances vary and it would be inappropriate to be prescriptive about the minimum size of schools. However, one would expect a grammar school of about three forms of entry and a comprehensive school of about eight forms of entry to be able to sustain a balanced range of courses leading to O and A-levels.

I am grateful for that excellent reply which shows, as always, the flexibility of the Conservative Government. Will my hon. Friend not agree that, where an area has been forced to go comprehensive against the wishes of a large majority of the parents in that area, and where there has been an assumption that sixth-form education would be provided in all the new comprehensive schools thus formed in the reorganisation, it is wrong for the local education authority to renege on the assurance that was given to parents?

Where new schemes have been put into operation at the request of local authorities, it is the responsibility of those authorities to fulfil the aspirations of parents in the area. If they had been promised viable sixth forms and those sixth forms are not available, the local education authorities must provide alternative arrangements.

Will the Minister bear in mind the educational needs of those children who are not taking A-level or O-level subjects? They are just as important, probably more so, than the minority who take A and O-levels. Instead of concentrating on specialist courses for these latter children will he bear in mind instead that neighbourhood community schools, offering security and reducing the need for bussing children all over the place are very often in the best interests of childern and provide a better service to the community?

I respect the right hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) as an ex-schoolmaster. Obviously it is important that all children should have the opportunities to fulfil their talents. Just as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) wants proper sixth-form provision in the comprehensive and grammar schools in his area, similarly one would presume that children who need help to become literate or numerate should have proper provision. This Government believe that by means of the core curriculum, and developments from the fourth and fifth years onwards, this need can be fulfilled.

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q1.

In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. Later this afternoon I shall visit the Yugoslav embassy to sign the Book of Condolence for President Tito. This evening I hope to have an Audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Has the Prime Minister found time to reflect on the hammering that the Tories deservedly got in last week's local elections, especially in Scotland where Labour now controls 25 district councils? In view of the Tories' stated belief in the freedom of local authorities, and the fact that Labour councillors were elected on manifestos opposed to the Tory cuts in essential spending and to the legislation on the compulsory selling of council houses, will the Prime Minister now abandon these proposals, otherwise she will face massive confrontation from the elected representatives of the people?

The most notable thing in Scotland was the collapse of the Scottish National Party vote.

On the question of the Labour Party's performance in the local elections in England—my goodness, the Labour Party must have been very disappointed with it.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that those who work in the public service and who indulge in the political strike on 14 May will not be paid for that day?

I do not imagine that anyone who goes on strike will be paid for the services which will not be rendered that day. However, I hope that people will not go on strike.

Will the Prime Minister consider some time today whether, when she attends Marshal Tito's funeral—and we all regret his death—she will take the opportunity to have talks with President Brezhnev about the world situation and the need to restrict armaments, particularly the nuclear armaments build-up?

I am going to the funeral primarily to pay tribute to President Tito. There will be time for a few bilateral conversations, but not many. These have not yet been fixed.

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to read the first leader in The Times newspaper, pointing out how Communism has subverted democracy throughout the world? In this light, has she reflected on the payment of £5,000 to the Communist paper, the Morning Star? Will she, as leader of one great party that won many millions of votes from trade union members in the last election, comment on this? Does she think that there is any prospect of the leader of the other major party, which also won many millions of union votes, commenting on the same matter?

I believe that Communism and true democracy are totally incompatible. I believe that that subscription will cause great concern to many members of the Transport and General Workers Union, who would not dream of approving it themselves.

Does the Prime Minister support the comments of the Secretary of State for the Environment to the effect that local authorities should operate within the law? Since part of that law is the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, which is now being flouted by some authorities will she join me in condemning those local authorities and asking the Law Officers of the Crown to take legal action against them?

I am sure that if the local authorities were in breach of the law, action would be taken against them, but that is a matter for the Attorney-General and not for me. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I fully support my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Environment, and that position is reciprocal.

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 6 May.

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that one of the major changes of the last few months is the new respect in which Britain is now held by the rest of the world, based on the increasing competence, sensitivity, and determination now abounding in Britain, which was shown especially by yesterday's events and by all those involved in them? Will she also agree that, after a long period of time, everyone in this country can now once again hold up his head and say how proud he is to be British?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I should like to say one word about events yesterday. It was, I believe, a brilliant operation, carried out by the Special Air Service with courage and confidence. I agree with my hon. Friend that the performance both of the police and the SAS made hon. Members on both sides of the House proud to be British.

May I also congratulate all those who had the skill to plan this operation and the courage of those who carried it out? I express our gratitude at the fact that they succeeded and our sympathy for those who lost their lives. In view of the exchange of correspondence with President Bani-Sadr, does the Prime Minister propose to send him a message to inform him that it is the responsibility of all Governments, including his Government, to resume control of the situation in Tehran and to secure the release of the American hostages and their return to the United States?

I sent a message to President Bani-Sadr right at the beginning, defining what I understand and believe to be the legal responsibilities of each and every Government to look after the safety of diplomats on their territory. I believe that the way the operation was carried out in this country will have an effect on the future position of American hostages in Iran. I have replied to President Bani-Sadr. We should now consider how we can turn this superb operation in Britain to best advantage for the American hostages.

Will the Prime Minister say what advice the Government are now giving to British industry regarding trade with Iran?

The Foreign Ministers met yesterday and again today to give further detailed consideration to the communiqué that they issued previously regarding sanctions and Iran. The position will remain as it is at present until it is changed.

Did the Prime Minister hear the reports on the BBC this morning concerning the massacre of schoolchildren in Kabul by Soviet forces? If these reports are true, can they be circulated to every athlete who proposes to attend the Olympic Games?

I am not in a position either to confirm or deny that report. I hope that British athletes will not go to Moscow so long as Soviet troops are holding down an independent country by force, and atrocities are being committed.

Heaton Moor

Q3.

Will the Prime Minister explain to pensioners in Heaton Moor why they will have to wait an extra two weeks this year for their uprating and, further, that the amount that the Government save in those two weeks is about the same as pensioners will receive as their Christmas bonus?

By the time November comes, a married couple's pension will have gone up by over £12 a week. What is happening is totally in accordance with our undertaking to keep the pension in line with the increase in prices.

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 6 May.

Will the right hon. Lady have an opportunity today to take some action on behalf of the beleaguered and depressed fishing industry? Is she aware how deeply is felt a situation in which the industry sees its markets destroyed by imported, dumped, fish and conservation regulations flouted by just about every other country that fishes in its territories?

As the hon. Gentleman, I believe, is aware, we made a grant of about £3 million to the fishing industry recently. Its distribution is a matter for the fishing industry. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware, from the communiqué issued after the EEC meeting in Luxembourg, that I was not prepared to accept anything for the fishing industry that I believed to be detrimental to our own fishermen. I shall persist with that view.

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to advise the National Union of Teachers to follow the example set by other teachers' unions and put the welfare of the children and the wishes of parents before political considerations next Wednesday?

I am happy to do so. I believe that example is the most important thing in teaching.

Will the right hon. Lady take time to reflect on the fact that, contrary to what she keeps saying, a comparison between the growth of the money supply and the rate of inflation shows no relationship at all in Britain over the last five years? Equally, there is no association visible between the two in France, Germany, the United States or Japan over the same period. If she still stubbornly clings to this idea, will she provide the evidence to enable hon. Members to see whether the foundations of her economic policy are built on wishful thinking?

No. I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's contention. The factor he has left out of account regarding money supply in those countries is that those countries have grown considerably year after year. When that is taken into account, with the money supply, the hon. Gentleman will find that the figures bear a relationship one to another.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that several holidaymakers last weekend had their weekends ruined by mobs of skinheads and so-called yobs in seaside resorts? Will she urge her right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to increase the number of police and urge on magistrates the need to impose stronger sentences upon these people?

My right hon. Friend will take every possible step to increase the strength of the police and to see that the law is upheld in this country.

Will the right hon. Lady take action to remove the threat to residents in this country who hail from Libya? Will she give instructions for the closing down of the Libyan embassy which is harbouring, it seems, a gang of thugs, bent on shooting and killing people in this country?

There have been two cases of murder of Libyan citizens in this country. People are held and being charged with murder at the moment. No one, of course, is guilty of murder until proved guilty. As the matter is sub judice, I think it best to go no further.

While everyone in the House will welcome the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has joined my right hon. Friend in commenting upon recent events at the Iranian embassy, will not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be extremely helpful if the House knew precisely where the Leader of the Opposition and his party stand on the question of the 14 May strike? Will she agree that leadership is demanded not only from our Prime Minister but also, occasionally, from the Leader of the Opposition?

I trust that the Opposition Front Bench, as well as the Government, are against strikes for political purposes. Such strikes are wholly contrary to the law in this country.

European Community (Leisure Activities)

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if she will seek to place on the agenda at the next European Council meeting the question of leisure activities in the Community.

Does not the right hon. Lady agree that there is a need for the Community to look at leisure activities, in view of the fact that enforced leisure is the fastest growing sector in the Community? Does she not feel that Britain should give a lead in view of the fact that we face not only technological unemployment but the unemployment created by the policies of her Government?

With due respect, I think that at the moment the Community has even more important questions to examine and resolve, and that will be so for some time.

In view of my right hon. Friend's strong reiteration last week of the importance of our membership of the Community—in spite of the EEC budget problems—does she agree that the House should dismiss the rather destructive comments of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) in the Sunday Express and, therefore, invite him to take extra leisure?

I am firmly behind our membership of the European Economic Community. We are trying to turn it into the kind of Community which does not devote such a large proportion of its budget to agriculture. However, we must accept and admit that the work of the Community, particularly in co-operation over foreign affairs, has been excellent and is not hindered in any way by a number of disagreements about internal matters.

Iranian Embassy, London

Mr. Speaker, I will, with permission, make a further statement about the taking of hostages by armed gunmen at the Iranian embassy.

As the House is aware, this incident was brought to a conculsion yesterday evening following an assault by members of the Special Air Service Regiment. I regret that it proved necessary to resort to the use of force, but there was in the end no alternative. The terrorists killed two hostages. The outcome of the assault, I believe, speaks for itself. Of the 19 hostages known to be alive when the assault took place, all were rescued. Sixteen have already been discharged from hospital. Three remain there. Four gunmen are believed to have been killed in the assault and another is in police custody. None escaped. There were no police or SAS casualties.

Throughout five days of the siege, the Metropolitan Police patiently sought to negotiate towards a peaceful conclusion. As a result of their efforts, five hostages were, progressively, released. On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself I made it clear to the Commissioner that Her Majesty's Government were not prepared to give in to the terrorists' demands for a safe conduct out of this country. Subject to that overriding consideration, we did everything in our power to persuade the terrorists peacefully to surrender and free the hostages. It was in the light of that policy that my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office sought the assistance of some ambassadors from certain Middle East countries, but help from that source was not possible. The Commissioner of Police underlined the approach that his officers were taking in a personal written message that was delivered into the Iranian embassy yesterday. The help of a Muslim imam was also sought. He spoke personally to the gunmen in an attempt to persuade them not to take action that would be damaging both to their hostages and to themselves.

As yesterday progressed it became increasingly clear, however, that the days of patient negotiation and of personal direct appeals were not going to achieve their objectives. From the start of the seige, the gunmen regularly threatened to kill hostages if demands were not met. As soon as it became clear that they had begun to carry out those threats, I authorised, at the Commissioner's request, the commitment of the SAS.

I know that the House will wish to join with me in congratulating the Metropolitan Police on an operation that they carried out with skill, care and determination. Their conduct throughout was an example of the highest standards of the British police. The success of the final assault and rescue is an outstanding tribute to the professionalism and bravery of the SAS. I am sure that the House, and, indeed, the country, will wish to join the Government in giving thanks to all those involved—police, military or civilian. Our sympathy goes to the families and friends of those hostages who have been killed or injured.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would simply add this: the way in which this incident was conducted and resolved demonstrates conclusively the determination of the British Government and people not to allow terrorist blackmail to succeed.

Is the Home Secretary aware that the Opposition believe that he was right, as the Secretary of State in charge of the operation in the last six days, to take time for negotiations and discussion before deciding to act in the way that we saw last evening on television? Is he aware that we believe that the overall operation was well carried out and that it shows the merit of the procedures built up for operational control at two levels—ministerially and with the police? On behalf of hon. Members on both sides of the House, may I ask him to convey our tribute to the bravery shown by many of those involved—the police, the SAS, and other individuals? We echo his sympathy for the relatives of those who were killed.

Is the Home Secretary aware that we believe that he was right to bring in the SAS at an early stage, just in case they needed to be used? Is he aware that we believe that the right note was struck a moment ago by him and by the Commissioner last night, which is to the credit of all concerned? There is a feeling that all has gone well and that we have won something, but it was not expressed in that way. Last night it was said that it was a matter of deep regret that the siege had to be ended by violence. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I believe that that is the right approach to such a matter?

Is the Home Secretary further aware that we believe that the Government were right to make it clear that in no way will any British Government be prepared to offer safe conduct to those who commit criminal acts? Does he agree that lessons are to be drawn from the events of the last six days, operationally and in general?

May I ask the Home Secretary a number of questions, which should be asked now that the events are over? Given the spread of Middle East terrorism to this country, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Foreign Secretary to impress on Middle East embassies that passports should not be given under any pretext to people who are not their nationals? Will he remind them that the carriage of arms under diplomatic protection is an unfriendly act?

What is going on in the Libyan embassy? Are the people working there officially accredited to this country? I bring to the Home Secretary's notice what the Americans have done in that respect.

What steps are being taken to deal with Colonel Gadaffi's threat to liquidate Libyan nationals in Britain unless they return home? That threat has been made, and steps must be taken to ensure that it does not happen.

We accept students from all parts of the world who come to our universities and polytechnics. Long may that continue. It is an important part of our life. However, why is it so easy for Iranians to come here to follow courses that have sprung up in institutions in different parts of the country when Asians and West Indians who want to come here to study are forbidden to do so? Will the Home Secretary examine the ease with which Iranian students can come here for that purpose?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his generous tribute to all those involved in the operation. As he and the Leader of the Opposition will appreciate, planning in advance of such operations has been conducted by successive Governments and was most important when it came to the moment of carrying out the operation. I pay tribute to all the planning that has been done in the past. It was extremely important.

I shall certainly draw the attention of the Foreign Secretary to the points that the right hon. Gentleman made about Middle East terrorism, passports, and the carriage of arms. As to the Libyan embassy position, we have made it clear that we expect the law in our country to be carried out. I note the right hon. Gentleman's question and shall consider carefully what he said.

Concerning the last point, I would, of course, point out that under the amended immigration rules that I introduced recently the regulations to deal with those who might be described as bogus students were greatly tightened up. Nevertheless, I think that the right hon. Gentleman makes a broader point, which is taken by many people in this country, and I undertake to look into that as well.

Is the Home Secretary aware that my colleagues and I would wish to be associated with the tributes to the patience and courage of the police and the SAS and, in particular, to the high standard of competence shown in this operation?

Will the right hon. Gentleman also accept that we wish to be associated with the remarks by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition about the lesson that the Iranian Government should learn from this episode? May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will—without necessarily giving details to the House—undertake to review the standard of protection that we offer to politically sensitive embassies in London?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he said and I am glad that he and his colleagues wish to be associated with the tributes to those concerned in the operation. Of course, it is our duty to afford protection to the various embassies, but I would add that the embassies themselves have a considerable duty to organise their own protection, and many of them do that. All embassies should carefully consider that issue, but I take the right hon. Gentleman's point.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the heroic actions of 5 May command the admiration not only of the nation but of the world? Does he further agree that, by contrast, they make the TUC's politically motivated day of inaction on 14 May appear all the more petty and futile?

I think, perhaps, that I would be wise to confine my remarks to my responsibilities as Home Secretary. They seem to have been quite sufficient in themselves in recent days.

Will the Home Secretary confirm the understanding that the reference at the end of his statement to the determination of the British Government and people applies equally to all parts of the United Kingdom?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the whole House wishes to be associated with the congratulations to the SAS and the police force? We should also like to congratulate him on taking the bold decision to send in the SAS. Was their action not further acknowledgment of the sheer professionalism of our forces? Will my right hon. Friend seek to mark, in some way, the marvellous success of this operation, if not by the striking of a medal, at least in a manner that demonstrates how we appreciate what has been done on this occasion?

I am grateful for what my hon. and learned Friend said about all who took part in the operation, and I am also grateful to him for his personal reference to me. I can only say that such was the care with which all the operations were planned that the final decision had to be taken by the Home Secretary. Of course, if things go right it is good; if things do not go right the situation can indeed be very difficult. However, that decision is one of the easier actions to take in the final event. I appreciate that I might not be standing here saying that today had events turned out differently.

Speaking as a Londoner, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to convey to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis the deep appreciation of all Londoners for the magnificent job that the police did during the seige? Will the Home Secretary also convey to the Commissioner the fact that the vast majority of Londoners respect and admire the police force and wish them well?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I will certainly pass on that message to the Commissioner. I think that it would be appropriate for me to say, having been in close contact with the Commissioner over all these days, that I greatly admired his personal courage and steadfastness during an extremely difficult operation. I should like this House to know that. I shall be pleased to pass on to him the congratulations offered not only to him but to all the members of his force. Such congratulations are extremely well deserved.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as has already been said, not only the whole House but the whole world will congratulate the SAS and the Metropolitan Police on the way in which this matter was handled? Does he agree that it is time that some action was taken to prevent non-British people demonstrating in this country, thus putting our police forces at risk? Is it not time that we considered telling foreigners that if they wish to demonstrate they should demonstrate in their own countries?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said in support of all those who carried out the operation. Concerning demonstrators, we have recently published a Green Paper on public order, which raises many questions, including the one referred to by my hon. Friend. It is important that we should consider these questions together. They raise difficult issues about freedom in a democratic society, which we in this House would do well to ponder carefully.

Was any request made by the Home Secretary or the Commissioner to radio, television and news reporters to be cautious in their reporting in order to deny to those inside the embassy information that might have hindered security operations? Has the Home Secretary any information on the reason why the attitude of the terrorists, who at one time were showing a degree of humanity by releasing hostages, suddenly changed to murdering them? Will he accept that the important question is not how successful we were in getting people out but how they came to be in that situation in the first place?

Inevitably, events such as this are a matter of major public concern. They are, therefore, bound to be covered by TV and radio. Had there been a moment when it was felt necessary to ask the authorities concerned to exercise restraint, that restraint would have been asked for, but I must tell the hon. Gentleman that such an occasion did not, in the final event, arise.

As to the hon. Gentleman's other point, I would prefer to go no further into the details of the operation. I think that I would be wise not to do so.

Has not this event—like many others—underlined that the first social service that any Government owes to its people is the maintenance of the Queen's peace? Will my right hon. Friend therefore dismiss all those calls that have been heard recently in this House for the abolition of the Special Patrol Group, for the standing down of the Special Air Service, for the reduction of powers under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, for the reduction of MI5 and the security services, and for the control by the borough of Lewisham of the operations of the Metropolitan Police?

It is well known that I believe that the maintenance of the services that look after and protect our citizens is of vital importance. I believe that those service must be preserved and encouraged in all their forms. I have never disguised from the House my view on that. The way in which we employ the British police service is of enormous importance.

What pleases me about this operation is that we brought it to a successful conclusion while, at the same time, preserving the highest standards of the British police service and demonstrating that we have a community police service in this country.

While I share in the general satisfaction, may I ask the Home Secretary about the surviving gunman? Bearing in mind that the alleged killings took place within the Iranian embassy, is this man to be repatriated to Iran or is he to be tried in the courts of this country?

I understand, on advice, that he is to be subject to the due process of law in this country.

Questions To Ministers

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, of which I have given you notice, arising out of your statement on Thursday, reported in col. 1641 of Hansard. As one who has been plaguing Prime Ministers since 15 December 1970 on questions about the Diego Garcia base, may I ask for your protection in relation to the ruling by the Prime Minister? It seems to many of us that Downing Street has ruled out these questions because they are inconvenient to the Prime Minister.

May I ask a direct question, even if it be a bit hypothetical? If we are not to be allowed to put questions on movements through allied bases, does it mean that, for example, we cannot ask questions about movements of food aid to Kampuchea? Indeed, would you rule on the whole issue of questions that are blocked suddenly and rather uncharacteristically by the Prime Minister in this way?

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice this morning that he would raise this matter this afternoon. It gave me an opportunity to prepare a considered statement in reply to his point of order.

There is a long-standing rule of the House that a question may not be tabled if it is already fully covered by an answer or by a refusal to answer. In 1972 the House relaxed the rule, which previously applied for a whole Session, so that information refused in answer to a question may now be asked for again in three months' time.

The Prime Minister has refused to confirm or deny movements through allied bases. Any question on this subject must therefore, be tested against that refusal by the Table Office and, if the question is referred to me, by myself. Obviously I cannot rule on particular questions until I have considered them, and I am sure that the House would not expect me to comment on any hypothetical questions that hon. Members might have in mind.

Members' Constituency Interests

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On 24 July last, in response to a point of order from the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) complaining about a question by the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman), you gave a ruling to which, in your own words, you gave particular stress. You said:

" I first want to give a ruling on a very important question. The wider constituencies belonging to the Assembly of Europe have no bearing at all upon us here. I treat every hon. Member as a Member for the constituency for which he or she was elected to this House."—[Official Report, 24 July 1979; Vol. 971, c. 349–50.]
That was a ruling which, with respect to you, Mr. Speaker, was still somewhat open to interpretation. Indeed, the following day the parliamentary correspondent of The Guardian made his interpretation—an interpretation with which I felt I agreed, but hon. Members may differ—and said:
"The Speaker of the Commons yesterday ruled that a Euro MP could not raise constituency problems of another Westminster MP simply because they come within his or her Euro boundaries."
That interpretation, so far as I know, has neither been confirmed nor denied by anybody. The Guardian correspondent on that occasion interpreted your words, Mr. Speaker—
" I treat every hon. Member here as a Member for the constituency for which he or she was elected to this House"—
as meaning that the rights of Euro MP's extended
" only to constituencies for which they were elected to this House."
If that interpretation is correct, it must have clear implications also in regard to what is to be regarded as proper behaviour for a Member elected only to this House vis-a-vis another Member's constituency, not least because the hon. Member for Lancaster is a Member of this House. Certainly this view is widely held.

I recall to the House that the Home Secretary, during an exchange on this matter on 15 November 1979, said:
" In my 25 years in the House, I always understood that it was a condition and a principle amongst hon. Members that we did not interfere with cases in each other's constituencies."—[Official Report, 15 November 1979; Vol. 973, c. 1503–4.]
That is certainly a principle to which I have sought, in the 15 years that I have been here, to have meticulous regard. At the same time, all the advice that I have been able to obtain suggests that this convention is not inviolate, but, like most sensible conventions, has to be subject to reasonable exceptions. But the fact that there are exceptions does not mean that the convention can be ignored altogether.

Clearly a large number of hon. Members have within their constituencies big industrial concerns, airports, railway stations or whatever, which have general interest. [Interruption.]

The example that I wish to bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, has certain, but not all, of these aspects. It is here that I seek your guidance. I am sure that it is within your recollection that it was announced a week ago today in the late afternoon that the—

Order. It must be very difficult for the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), with the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) chattering all the time whilst he is trying to speak—and the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English). [Interruption.] I know that it was two hon. Members, but it is very unfair and ill mannered.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker.

As I said, it will be within your recollection that it was announced a week ago today, in the late afternoon, that the pulp mill at Fort William in my constituency was to close, affecting 450 people directly and others outside. You will remember that, on the Wednesday, I sought by private notice to raise a question on this.

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know the rules of order. He must not refer to any private notice question that has come my way and not been accepted. The whole House understands that that is important.

In any event, the following day, Thursday, I went to my constituency and visited Fort William. In consequence, I put down two written questions on the issue to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

On the next day, Friday, I learnt that a motion was on the Order Paper in the name of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) and the names of 22 other hon. Members expressing concern about the issue. I mention that not to complain about it—far from it, because it seemed a perfectly fair and reasonable thing to do—but to make the point about the difficulty facing hon. Members in deciding where the line is drawn.

However, I also learnt that there were seven written questions down on the subject by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). With six of these I would not in any way quarrel, but I should have thought that the convention of the House would suggest that the civilised and sensible thing to do was for the hon. Gentleman to give me some notice of it.

However—and this is the point that I wish to raise with you, Mr. Speaker—if you take the first question that he raised —[Interruption.]

I am sure that you would agree with me that matters of principle are often tedious—

Order. If the hon. Gentleman would come to his point of order, it would help us all.

Indeed, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Garscadden

" asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will visit Fort William to discuss with the local authorities, the Fort William action group and other interested bodies the closure of the pulp mill and its impact on the area."
Is not that clearly a matter which affects a constituency Member principally and primarily? What is the convention? Is there a convention? How is it applied, if it is to be applied? Surely it is not irrelevant to ask that the hon. Member for Garscadden, who is also the Chairman of the Select Committee on Scottish affairs, ought to have a particular care for, to use the words of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) who raised the matter earlier, the rights and privileges of constituency Members and not simply to raise the constituency matters as and when he feels appropriate.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I may offer a very brief explanation and, perhaps, an apology for any aggravations which may have arisen from my actions.

I think that it would be common ground in all parts of the House that in Scotland the closure of the pulp mill at Corpach is a matter of national concern, which engages the attention of people involved in politics throughout Scotland. It was on that basis that I took an interest in the matter. I imagine that it would be common concern on all Benches that everything possible should be done to save all the jobs in this very exposed industrial outpost in the Highlands.

I was one of a group of Members who put down an early-day motion in connection with that, and in conjunction with that motion I put down seven written questions. I spoke earlier today with the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), who was good enough to say that he took no exception to six of them but that he took exception to the seventh, to which he has very properly referred in his remarks.

In retrospect, I regret that that question was included. It was one of a series. I hope that the House will accept that enthusiasm ran away with me. Certainly there was no intention of encrouching upon the proper preserve of the hon. Member or of embarrassing him in any way. I regret it, but I hope that the House will accept that point. I have known the hon. Member for more years than I care to think of, long before either of us became Members of this House and I have a healthy respect for him. The question has not yet been answered, and I have arranged for its withdrawal. If I have unintentionally caused offence to the hon. Member or to the House in terms of its conventions, I certainly apologise.

I am very much obliged, and the House is obliged, to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). Before we leave this matter, I merely say that, from my own long years of service on those green Benches, I am aware that hon. Members are more sensitive about their own constituencies than about anything else. The hon. Member for Garscadden has cleared up the matter.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to draw to your attention, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, the fact that the convention is very often broken by one of the colleagues of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston). I make no complaint. Indeed, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) very often transgresses into other constituencies when putting down questions, and not once have objections from my colleagues been registered. I believe that there are circumstances in which it is perfectly legitimate to ask such questions, but I object to the Liberal Party claiming certain privileges and to those privileges not extending right across the Floor of the House.

Order. It is not a Standing Order but a convention and a matter of good taste that we try not to interfere in one another's constituency affairs.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since I was referred to by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), and further to his point of order, perhaps I might say that I would support his view that there are many points—I seek your advice on this matter—which are, as the hon. Member said, of general interest to all hon. Members, and one of these is the European regional fund. It is in the interests of all hon. Members and the country in general that we get the best possible value from this fund. I very much hope that nothing in any ruling that you have ever given prevents hon. Members from seeking to get the maximum benefit for this country from that fund.

The hon. Lady should remember that those who are Members of the European Parliament have their opportunity there to ask what questions they like. So far as I am concerned in this House, I believe that we must recognise the centuries-old tradition that an hon. Member speaks here for the constituency and for the country generally, but, in particular, I recognise him as the Member for such-and-such a constituency, and the European Parliament is recognised by hon. Members as a different body.

Secretary Of State For Industry (Statement)

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

"the statement of the Secretary of State for Industry on Thursday last."
You will recollect, Mr. Speaker, that paragraph (4) of that Standing Order says that
"In determining whether a matter is urgent Mr. Speaker shall have regard to the probability of the matter being brought before the House... by other means."
You will also recollect, Mr. Speaker, that, as reported at column 1643 of Hansard for Thursday 1 May, you, with entire propriety, said that you had taken note of the fact that the usual channels were likely to discuss this matter. Unfortunately, as far as we can determine, the usual channels may conceivably have discussed this matter but they did so after the Leader of the House had told the press that he was not going to do anything about it.

The degree of consideration that the right hon. Gentleman gave through the usual channels he himself announced on Friday, when he also said of the matter, that
"it is not as urgent as all that."—[Official Report, 2 May 1980; Vol. 983, c. 1768.]
I think that it is quite clear that the matter must be urgent, since the Secretary of State for Industry was asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dept-ford (Mr. Silkin) whether he could give us the authority under which he was making payments to Lazard Freres.

The point at issue, surely, is that the Secretary of State for Industry made a statement on Thursday which I wish to have debated by the House. He is making payments to Lazard Freres. I have no doubt that the Crown can, if it wishes, on the advice of a Minister, pay a person for whatever services it wishes. I know of no authority whereby a foreign company can be paid to release that person. There may be such authority, and one would have thought that at column 1634 of Hansard the Secretary of State for Industry would have explained what the authority was, instead of which he merely said:
"The authority is the agreement of my colleagues".—[Official Report, 1 May 1980; Vol. 983, c. 1634.]
With respect, Mr. Speaker, that is not the law of the land. It may be that the law should be changed, in which case the Secretary of State should have announced that a Bill was to be introduced to change the law. The urgency of this matter, contrary to the understanding of the Leader of the House, is that this matter, it would seem, is being agreed before 1 July. Some agreement is being entered into which may or may not be in accordance with the law of the land, if it is not in accordance with the law of the land, this House should have the right to alter that law or to consider whether it wishes to do so. If it is in accordance with the law of the land, why was it that the Secretary of State was not informed by his civil servants of what authority he had? He does not seem to know. Certainly we do not know. In the whole course of the many leaks that have occurred over the weekend, no one has leaked the authority—the Act—that the right hon. Gentleman possesses for the statement that he made on Thursday.

I therefore suggest, Mr. Speaker, that before any further agreements are entered into, this House has a right to discuss the matter. I seek your authority, under Standing Order No. 9, to allow the House to discuss it.

The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) gave me notice before 12 noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the statement of the Secretary of State for Industry on Thursday last"
—and I think that I may add the words
"and the Act under which he is acting."
I listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman, and I listened very carefully to the exchanges on Friday, which were quite clear. I have re-read them this morning in view of what the hon. Gentleman said. As the House knows, I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in the Standing Order but to give no reasons for my decision. I have given careful consideration to the hon. Member's representations, but I have to rule that they do not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

Textile Industry (Lancashire)

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

"the accelerating number of mill closures and redundancies in the Lancashire textile industry".
I make the application because of the shattering announcements at the end of last week by Courtauld and Carrington Viyella of the closure of eight mills and establishments, together employing 1,500 people or more. One of the mills, Courtauld's Imperial mill, is in my constituency and employs more than 300 people. It survived the economic ravages of the 1930's but has been unable to survive those of this Government. The Courtauld announcement brings the total of that firm's job losses over the past 18 months alone to a staggering 7,200.

These closures come hard on the heels on announcements by Messrs. Tootal of 1,200 redundancies in the Lancashire textile industry and of many other annonuncements of closures and redundancies. In the spinning and weaving sectors alone, announcements have been made this year of closures of 20 mills. and 22 other firms have announced redundancies short of closure.

The total of job losses announced in just four months of this year stands at 4,600, which is almost equal to the figure of 5,300 for the whole of last year—itself one of the worst years on record.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have repeatedly warned the Government that closures on such a scale would occur if adequate support for the industry were not forthcoming. But the Government have taken no effective action. They have sat on their hands and have repeatedly refused requests for debates from hon. Members on both sides. Given the Government's attitude, it is clear that it is unlikely that the issue could come up for urgent debate by any means other than an application under Standing Order No. 9.

The urgency of the matter is that, unless there is prompt Government action, there will be even more closures and large sections of the industry will, without question, be wiped out. In an urgent plea to me this morning, the Blackburn and District Textile Manufacturers Association said that unless the decline is arrested the industry will suffer "irreparable losses".

Textile and clothing is still the third largest industry in this country, and for the communities involved, as well as for the country as a whole, the closures are at least as serious as those taking place in the steel industry. Sadly, however, they have received less attention, because the total job loss figures are made up of many separate closure and redundancy decisions rather than one single dramatic decision and announcement, as in the steel industry. The numbers to be thrown out of work in the textile and clothing industry are equivalent to, for example, those made redundant at the Shotton and Corby steel works.

With those considerations in mind, you, Mr. Speaker, may recall that on 16 July last year you granted an application made under Standing Order No. 9 by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones) regarding the Shotton steel closure. I respectfully ask you to do likewise on this equally important matter.

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) gave me notice before 12 noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the accelerating number of mill closures and redundancies in the Lancashire textile industry".
The hon. Member referred to the emergency debate on Shotton, but I remind him and the House that every application stands on its own. There was an application for an emergency debate on Corby which was not successful.

The House has instructed me not to give reasons for my decision. The hon. Gentleman and the House are aware that his is one of a series of recent applications under Standing Order No. 9 for debates about redundancies in individual constituencies. I merely remind the House that the hon. Gentleman is not alone in his application.

The hon. Gentleman has drawn the attention of the House to a serious matter. I listened with care and concern to what he said, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

House Of Lords (Abolition)

4.14 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to abolish the House of Lords.
The last time that this issue came before the House, when there was a Division, was 16 June 1976, when my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) sought leave, which was refused, to bring in a Bill for the same purpose. I believe that this Parliament should have an opportunity to express a view in principle on the issue. In addition, many of my new hon. Friends wish to place their views on record, so that back in the constituencies those who sent them here can see where they stand on this matter.

In addition, on the Labour side there is now unity on the issue, because, since my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover introduced his Bill, we have had a resolution carried at the 1977 Labour Party conference:
"This Conference declares that the House of Lords is a negation of democracy and calls upon the Government, the Parliamentary Party and the National Executive Committee to take every possible step open to them to secure the total abolition of the House of Lords, and the reform of Parliament into an efficient single chamber, legislating body without delay."
The resolution was carried—I have to say this for the benefit of those who report our proceedings—by a majority of constituency parties, as well as by the block votes. It was carried by 6¼ million votes to 91,000. Those figures clearly show that it was carried by a majority of constituency parties.

It is true that in 1979 we in the Labour Party had a slight hiccup on this issue, but the abolition of the House of Lords is clearly on the agenda for the special conference of the party organised for 31 May and, according to The Times—and I know this from my right hon. Friends—the Labour leadership is unanimous on the issue. Indeed, I suspect that the Division Lists on my Bill, which is one which the Government Chief Whip will now allow to go through unopposed, will be widely circulated to delegates to the conference.

Two red herrings have to be disposed of. I should make clear that no plan to abolish the House of Lords would affect the appeals procedure carried out by the Lords of Appeal. That is one red herring put up when the case is made for the abolition of the legislative body. The Law Lords are appointed, under a different Act from that which deals with life peers.

Secondly, it is not good enough for Labour peers to tell us that we should concentrate on the economic and social issues of the day. You, Mr. Speaker, must know, as my hon. Friends and Conservative Back Benchers know, that no radical reforming Labour Government ever stood, or will ever stand, a chance of getting to grips with those major issues unless we tackle first the constitutional issue at the other end of Parliament. Peers are still, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover said, the Tory long-stop, and that is a negation of democracy.

Of course, the abolition of the House of Lords does not mean the status quo for this place. In fact, the job—if we can call it that—done in another place could, with modifications to our procedures, easily be done here. I shall not go into detail, but some of the modifications could reduce the powers of the Whips on both sides. There may be a role for the House of Commons Commission. You preside over that body, Mr. Speaker, and you always tell us that you do not even recognise the existence of the Whips in this place. There is a case for modifying our procedures to enable us to overcome the problem that may be raised when we get rid of the so-called revising role of the House of Lords.

The House of Lords is a part of our constitutional system which democracy cannot reach. That is why I and my hon. Friends have made speeches such as this time and again. Peers have no authority and no special qualification to rule over our people. There is no reason why the children of people who were appointed under the hereditary system should make laws over the children of people outside.

I come to the question of the Duke of Norfolk. I have said both inside and outside this House that I am prepared to attack what the Lords did on 13 March. I agreed with what they did on its merits, but if we in this House stay silent when the Lords overturn the will of the elected House we are devaluing our case when later we come to abolish them. I believe that we must place that firmly on record. On that day, of course, there was a record attendance in the other place—328. That is an important figure and I will come to it later.

The Lords cannot be trusted to do a job. They cannot be trusted—and this has been seen this year on the Social Security (No. 1) Bill, which is before them—to defend the rights of pensioners. Half the members of the House of Lords are over pension age anyway and one in five of them is over 75. Yet they, with this extra qualification which I have not got, could not find it in their hearts to vote for the pensioners who are under attack by this Government, and they are likely to act similarly when the rest of the Tory Government's legislation to dismantle the Welfare State which they are bouncing through this House comes before their Lordships.

This is how we have to judge their Lordships performance—on how they look at the merits of an issue and cast their votes. We know that in all there are nearly 1,200 members of the House of Lords. I am told by the Library, which has been told by the Whips, that 436 take the Tory Whip, and that is not the real figure because the Tory Whips told the Library that they send a lot of those out for old time's sake. They are leaving that stinking and sinking ship so fast it is unbelievable. Only 164 take the Labour Whir;—and that does not square with the number of life peers made by Labour Prime Ministers either.

We would expect the life peers to be making a greater contribution. We are led to believe that they are made members of the other place for their expertise, their knowledge and not just their past but their future contributions. There are 32 life peers who have not yet made their maiden speech and 23 of them have been there for over 18 months. The showbiz gang, the Lords Grade and Delfont, have yet to make their maiden speeches. This is no criticism of their Lordships; I am just putting it on record that they have not had a chance to make the contribution for which they were appointed peers. We all know that "Lady Lilac" of note paper fame, the noble Baroness Lady Falkender, has not yet had a chance to make her maiden speech, and that is a loss that we all feel.

Not making speeches in the House of Lords does not mean that their Lordships do not attend, of course; Hon. Members should not believe that. In fact, it is on record that over the past few years their Lordships' average daily attendance has been increasing. It has increased almost every year for the past four or five years, and it may be six when this year's figures come out. The last full year for which I have the figures is 1977–78, when the average attendance was 282, that is, those who claimed and signed on. The average number staying for the Divisions in that year, however, was 135. Less than half of those who clocked in to get the £36 a day which they can claim for their fee and attendance allowance stayed. It will be noted that three times that number came down on 13 March.

The Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security, instead of sending his people to stand outside the homes of decent law-abiding widows in Birmingham, should send his shock troops to the other place, because some people outside may say, and constituents have said to me, that they are clearly ripping off the public purse. They do not do a good job and they have no qualification for being there. It is firmly on record that there is unanimity on this issue on this side of the House and it has been thrashed out at our conference. It is only right that, it being four years since we last had an opportunity to deal with it in another Parliament, this Parliament ought to be given the chance to put its views on record.

The hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) has given me notice that he wishes to oppose the motion.

4.26 pm

I oppose the motion moved by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). The House will notice the terror that he inspired in the Benches of the Lords in the Gallery, which are currently flooded by one Liberal peer.

We have had debates on the abolition of the House of Lords before now. This matter tends to come before this House at times of frustration on the part of the Opposition, especially when the Opposition are a Labour Opposition, who, as the hon. Member for Perry Barr said, have never found it possible to get more than 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. of the peers to accept the Whip.

The last Ten-Minute Bill—at devolution time, four years ago—was moved by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), or, as was said at the time, perhaps the future Lord Bolsover; possibly—if he satisfied the criteria of the right hon. Lady—Viscount Claycross. He asked what the Lords had ever done to deserve accommodation in the Palace of Westminster, let alone a voice in our legislative system. The House will recall that this was at a time when the then Prime Minister had ennobled his grocer, his publisher and his raincoat-maker. In the ensuing vote it was interesting to notice that among the people who opposed it were my then hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery—Mr. Emlyn Hooson—and the then right hon. Member for Fulham—Mr. Michael Stewart—both of whom seem to have changed their minds and are now sitting in the other place.

But the motion on that day was lost, as I hope it will be today, and while on that day we did vote on party lines, with the exception, on this side of the House of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) and me, I hope that on this occasion hon. Members on the Opposition Benches will bear in mind the debt of gratitude that I think we owe the Lords on the matter of school transport, as dealt with in the Education (No. 2) Bill. The Lords came from wherever Lords come from and they voted handsomely that enough was enough from the Front Bench representatives of the Department of Education and Science. Their vote was against the dedicated life-long party advice; it was a significant vote. As a result, families were not penalised in respect of their children's education for living where they do. I think what have unkindly been called "the Iron Lady's bovver boys in ermine" performed a service beyond praise.

The hon. Member for Perry Barr said that with the Lords established down the corridor there was no chance of constitutional change. I should like to put it to him that Labour Governments have done pretty well in the nationalisation of steel, transport and aerospace, and if this was not unradical and unconstitutional I should like to know what it was.

Of course the Lords have no right to rule, but my submission is that they do not rule. If we had an ideal House of Commons, perfectly representing the nation, always moderate, never passionate, abounding in men of leisure and never omitting the slow and steady forms necessary for good consideration, it is quite certain that we should not need a higher Chamber. The work would be done so well that we should not need anyone to revise it, or take another look at it, because in government whatever is unnecessary is pernicious.

The fact is that our House is not ideal. It is less perfect in its representation of national opinion than any nation that calls itself a democracy. We have had Governments who have sought to speak for the people of Britain. In 1970 the Government was elected by 33·4 per cent. of those who had a vote. In February 1974 that figure went down to 29·3 per cent. and in October 1974 to 28·6 per cent. To put it another way, every time the Prime Minister of the day addressed a representative 100 of his people, 71·4 of them did not endorse his policies, or certainly did not vote for them. In 1979 the figure rose to 33·3 per cent.—still a pittance.

Throughout that time the Opposition have opposed. While they represented a considerable majority of the people, their chance of success lay in resorting to the sort of gestures that the hon. Member for Perry Barr and I have had to indulge in in respect of the Social Security (No. 2) Bill, or in looking to our longstop in the House of Lords.

What do the Lords do? [HON. MEMBERS: "Nothing."] On average, they sit for 155 days in the year. For 52 per cent. of that time they are examining, revising and scrutinising legislation. That is a fact, whatever Labour Members feel. Twenty-

Division No. 281]

AYES

[4.32 pm

Anderson, DonaldBrown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)Crowther, J. S.
Archer, Rt Hon PeterBuchan, NormanCryer, Bob
Armstrong, Rt Hon ErnestCallaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Cunliffe, Lawrence
Ashley, Rt Hon JackCampbell-Savours, DaleDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Ashton, JoeCanavan, DennisDavis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)Cant, R. B.Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Carmichael, NeilDewar, Donald
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Cartwright, JohnDixon, Donald
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodClark, Dr David (South Shields)Dormand, Jack
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Dubs, Alfred
Bidwell, SydneyConcannon, Rt Hon J. D.Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertCook, Robin F.Eadie, Alex
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Cox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting)Eastham, Ken

two per cent. of their time is spent debating matters of public interest, and 12 per cent. is spent initiating legislation —legislation like the Abortion Bill that my right hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) had the opportunity of making into an Act in 1967.

The Lords have no real power, other that that of what their enemies call "delay" and perhaps their friends refer to as "the power to make us in this House think again".

The Lords are not ideal, as I am sure they would agree, but a country that can ill afford Her Majesty's Opposition, whose job is to oppose regardless of the issue, needs a second Chamber, if only to stop an attempt to perpetuate the Government of the day. The Lords are currently our only protection against the abandonment of the five-year rule. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree with me about the need for the people of Britain to be given the opportunity to replace the Government of the day—perhaps, in particular, that of the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister. This must not be denied them.

Sir W. S. Gilbert wrote:

"The House of Peers, throughout the war,
Did nothing in particular,
And did it very well".

There is an immaculate argument in favour of reform and democratisation of the Lords. But abolition and the ensuing single Chamber would do us no good.

I therefore urge the House to oppose the motion.

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

The House divided: Ayes 142, Noes 240.

Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)Litherland, RobertSever, John
English, MichaelLyon, Alexander (York)Sheerman, Barry
Evans, John (Newton)McCartney, HughSheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)
Ewing, HarryMcDonald, Dr OonaghShore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
Field, FrankMcElhone, FrankSilkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)McKay, Allen (Penistone)Silverman, Julius
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMcKelvey, WilliamSkinner, Dennis
Foster, DerekMagee, BryanSmith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Foulkes, GeorgeMarks, KennethSnape, Peter
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Soley, Clive
Garrett, John (Norwich S)Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)Spriggs, Leslie
George, BruceMaxton, JohnStallard, A. W.
Graham, TedMaynard, Miss JoanStewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Grant, George (Morpeth)Meacher, MichaelStoddart, David
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Mikardo, IanStott, Roger
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Millan, Rt Hon BruceStraw, Jack
Hardy, PeterMiller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterMorris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyMorris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Haynes, FrankMorton, GeorgeTilley, John
Healey, Rt Hon DenisMoyle, Rt Hon RolandVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Heffer, Eric S.Newens, StanleyWatkins, David
Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)O'Neill, MartinWelsh, Michael
Home Robertson, JohnOrme, Rt Hon StanleyWhite, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Homewood, WilliamPark, GeorgeWhitehead, Phillip
Hughes, Mark (Durham)Pavitt, LaurieWigley, Dafydd
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)Pendry, TomWilson, Gordon (Dundee East)
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)Winnick, David
John, BrynmorPrescott, JohnWrigglesworth, Ian
Kerr, RussellRadice, GilesWright, Sheila
Kinnock, NeilRichardson, JoYoung, David (Bolton East)
Lambie, DavidRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Lamborn, HarryRobertson, GeorgeTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Leighton, RonaldRooker, J. W.Mr. Frank Dobson and
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Roper, JohnMr. Reg Race.
Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West)Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)

NOES

Adley, RobertCormack, PatrickGummer, John Selwyn
Aitken, JonathanCorrie, JohnHamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)
Amery, Rt Hon JulianCostain, A. P.Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Ancram, MichaelCrouch, DavidHampson, Dr Keith
Arnold, TomDean, Paul (North Somerset)Hannam, John
Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Dickens, GeoffreyHawkins, Paul
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)Dorrell, StephenHayhoe, Barney
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesHeddle, John
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Dover, DenshoreHenderson, Barry
Banks, Robertdu Cann, Rt Hon EdwardHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Bell, Sir RonaldDurant, TonyHill, James
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)Dykes, HughHolland, Philip (Carlton)
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Eggar, TimothyHurd, Hon Douglas
Berry, Hon AnthonyElliott, Sir WilliamIrving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Biggs-Davison, JohnEmery, PeterJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Blackburn, JohnEyre, ReginaldJessel, Toby
Blaker, PeterFairbairn, NicholasJohnson Smith, Geoffrey
Bonsor, Sir NicholasFairgrieve, RussellJohnston, Russell (Inverness)
Boscawen, Hon RobertFaith, Mrs ShellaJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Fell, AnthonyJoseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Boyson, Dr RhodesFenner, Mrs PeggyKaberry, Sir Donald
Braine, Sir BernardFinsberg, GeoffreyKellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Brinton, TimFisher, Sir NigelKimball, Marcus
Brooke, Hon PeterFletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)King, Rt Hon Tom
Brotherton, MichaelFletcher-Cooke, CharlesKitson, Sir Timothy
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Fookes, Miss JanetKnight, Mrs Jill
Browne, John (Winchester)Forman, NigelLamont, Norman
Bryan, Sir PaulFox, MarcusLang, Ian
Buck, AntonyFraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Latham, Michael
Budgen, NickFraser, Peter (South Angus)Lawson, Nigel
Butcher, JohnFreud, ClementLe Marchant, Spencer
Butler, Hon AdamGardiner, George (Reigate)Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Cadbury, JocelynGarel-Jones, TristanLester, Jim (Beeston)
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Glyn, Dr AlanLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Goodhew, VictorLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)Goodlad, AlastairLuce, Richard
Chalker, Mrs. LyndaGow, IanMcCrindle, Robert
Channon, PaulGower, Sir RaymondMacfarlane, Neil
Chapman, SydneyGrant, Anthony (Harrow C)MacGregor, John
Churchill, W. S.Greenway, HarryMacKay, John (Argyll)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Grieve, PercyMcNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)
Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)McQuarrie, Albert
Colvin, MichaelGrist, IanMarlow, Tony
Cope, JohnGrylls, MichaelMarshall, Michael (Arundel)

Mates, MichaelPink, R. BonnerStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Mather, CarolPollock, AlexanderStokes, John
Maude, Rt Hon AngusPowell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)Stradling Thomas, J.
Mawby, RayPrentice, Rt Hon RegTapsell, Peter
Mawhinney, Dr BrianPrice, David (Eastleigh)Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinPrior, Rt Hon JamesTebbit, Norman
Mayhew, PatrickProctor, K. HarveyTemple-Morris, Peter
Meyer, Sir AnthonyRaison, TimothyThompson, Donald
Mills, lain (Meriden)Rathbone, TimThorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Mills, Peter (West Devon)Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Miscampbell, NormanRees-Davies, W. R.Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Renton, TimViggers, Peter
Moate, RogerRhodes James, RobertWaddington, David
Molyneux, JamesRhys Williams, Sir BrandonWainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Monro, HectorRifkind, MalcolmWakeham, John
Moore, JohnRippon, Rt Hon GeoffreyWaldegrave, Hon William
Morgan, GeraintRoberts, Wyn (Conway)Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)Rost, PeterWalker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)Sainsbury, Hon TimothyWaller, Gary
Mudd, DavidSt. John-Stevas, Rt Hon NormanWard, John
Murphy, ChristopherSandelson, NevilleWarren, Kenneth
Myles, DavidShaw, Michael (Scarborough)Wells, John (Maidstone)
Needham, RichardShelton, William (Streatham)Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Nelson, AnthonyShersby, MichaelWheeler, John
Neubert, MichaelSilvester, FredWhitney, Raymond
Newton, TonySims, RogerWilkinson, John
Ogden, EricSkeet, T. H. H.Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Onslow, CranleySmith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)Winterton, Nicholas
Page, John (Harrow, West)Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)Wolfson, Mark
Page, Rt Hon Sir R. GrahamSquire, RobinYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)Stainton, KeithYounger, Rt Hon George
Parris, MatthewStanbrook, Ivor
Patten, Christopher (Bath)Stanley, JohnTELLERS FOR THE NOES
Patten, John (Oxford)Steel, Rt Hon DavidMr. A. J. Beith and
Pattie, GeoffreySteen, AnthonyMr. Stephen Ross.
Percival, Sir Ian

Question accordingly negatived.

Social Security (No 2) Bill (Allocation Of Time)

4.45 pm

That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Bill:—

Committee

1.—(1) Subject to sub-paragraph (2) below, the Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before 12th May.
(2) Proceedings on the Bill at a sitting of the Standing Committee on 12th May may continue until 11 p.m. whether or not the House is adjourned before that time and if the House is adjourned before those proceedings have been brought to a conclusion the Standing Committee shall report the Bill to the House on 13th May.

Report and Third Reading

2.—(1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in one allotted day and shall be brought to a conclusion two hours after Ten o'clock on that day; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the proceedings on Consideration such part of that day as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.
(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House their resolutions as to the proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those proceedings and proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the fourth day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.
(3) The resolutions in any Report made under Standing Order No. 43 may be varied by a further Report so made, whether or not within the time specified in sub-paragraph (2) above, and whether or not the Resolutions have been agreed to by the House.
(4) The Resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which proceedings on Consideration of the Bill are taken.

Procedure in Standing Committee

3.—(1) At a sitting of the Standing Committee at which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.
(2) No Motion shall be moved in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who moves, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.
4. No Motion shall be moved to postpone any Clause, Schedule, new Clause or new Schedule but the Resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are to be taken in the Standing Committee.

Conclusion of Proceedings in Committee

5. On the conclusion of the proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

Dilatory motions

6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall be moved in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Extra time on allotted days

7.—(1) On an allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings on the Bill for two hours after Ten o'clock.
(2) Any period during which proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the said period of two hours.
(3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the said period of two hours.

Private Business

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

Conclusion of proceedings

9.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others), that is to say—
  • (a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
  • (b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the question that Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);
  • (c) the Question on any Amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that Amendment or Motion is moved by a member of the Government;
  • (d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded; and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.
  • (2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.
    (3) If an allotted day is one on which a Motion for the adournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this Order, stand over to Seven o'clock—
  • (a) that Motion shall stand over until the conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time;
  • (b) the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.
  • (4) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

    Supplemental orders

    10.—(1) The proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.
    (2) If on an allotted day on which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

    Saving

    11. Nothing in this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee shall—
  • (a) prevent any proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution, or
  • (b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.
  • Re-committal

    12.—(1) References in this Order to proceedings on Consideration or proceedings on Third Reading include references to proceedings, at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of, re-committal.
    (2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to re-commit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.

    Interpretation

    13. In this Order—
    "allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as the first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;
    "the Bill" means the Social Security (No. 2) Bill;
    "Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;
    "Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.

    Whatever emotions may have been expressed by the Opposition about this timetable motion, I guess that surprise was not among them. The Opposition have made it abundantly clear from the start that they are deeply opposed to the Bill and would use any legitimate parliamentary tactic to delay it. As the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) put it near the start of the Committee stage:

    "We shall not facilitate the passage of this Bill."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B; 22 April 1980, c. 18.]

    That remark showed an uncharacteristic modesty of expression. The right hon. Gentleman has been as good as has word. By the time the Committee adjourned at 8.30 pm last Thursday, our achievement after 44 hours of debate was that we were still on clause 1. It is clear beyond a peradventure that without this timetable motion the Bill would have little prospect of reaching the statute book.

    Yet it is essential that the Bill should become law. You would rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I were to launch into a lengthy exposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget strategy. Suffice to say for the purposes of this debate that that strategy requires a steady and sustained reduction in the burden of public expenditure over the next four years.

    It is inescapable that the social security programme should make some contribution to those savings, and the provisions requiring legislation are contained in this Bill. The Bill was approved in principle by the House of Commons on 15 April by a majority of 55.

    The savings to be achieved by the passage of the Bill will amount to £270 million net in the financial year 1981–82, rising to £480 million net in 1982–83. The Bill is short, and the six main provisions are contained in the first six clauses. They include provision for an abatement of the uprating of certain national insurance benefits which are not, but should be, part of taxable income: for the freezing of the earnings limit for retirement pensioners; for shortening the linking period used for incapacity and unemployment benefits; for reducing and subsequently abolishing the earnings-related supplement; for reducing the unemployment benefit payable to occupational pensioners over 60 with significant occupational pensions; and for reducing the supplementary benefit for the families of strikers.

    While it is entirely right and proper for the Opposition to use every means open to them to hold up the Bill, it must be equally proper for the Government to take suitable parliamentary steps to make progress on the Bill so that eventually, if the House so wills, it reaches the statute book.

    I anticipate that the Opposition may deploy three arguments in resisting the motion. They may argue that the Government are proceeding with undue haste. They may argue that lengthy debate is essential in view of the nature of the changes proposed and that debate so far has been responsible and restrained. They may argue that there is no precedent for a guillotine in circumstances such as these—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] I hope that the hon. Gentlemen who say "Hear, hear" will listen to the arguments I shall now deploy against those three points.

    The Social Security (No. 2) Bill is a Budget Bill in the sense that the proposed changes in the law flow from decisions in my right hon. and learned Friend's Budget. It is not a Finance Bill and it is not, therefore, subject to the special rules relating to Finance Bills. In particular, it is debatable in another place to which the House has just voted to give another lease of life, and accordingly time has to be allowed for that.

    Yet the Bill, affecting as it does the level of the uprating of benefits to take effect next November, has to be law in time to allow the necessary orders to be laid and debated before the House rises for the Summer Recess.

    I will explain why that is so. The parallel systems of contributory national insurance benefits and non-contributory supplementary benefits exist alongside one another. Indeed, for people entitled to both kinds of benefit the benefits are often paid together. Despite having to make reductions in the social security programme, the Government are determined to maintain intact the supplementary benefits safety net, and the supplementary allowance is accordingly being fully price-protected.

    There will, therefore, be a number of people—we put the estimate at about 30,000—who, because of the abatement of the national insurance benefits provided for in the Bill, will be entitled to supplementary benefit who would not otherwise have received it. In addition, there will be others already entitled to supplementary benefit whose entitlement will be a little higher.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether those people will be on long-term or short-term supplementary benefit rates?

    If I understand the hon. Gentleman rightly, we are talking about people on the short-term supplementary benefit rate, because that is the short-term safety net for people on the benefits affected by clauses 1 and 4.

    I am sure that I have the whole House with me—

    The right hon. Gentleman said that the Bill was required to allow for the necessary uprating. Is he saying that no uprating is already taking place? To my knowledge, books are already being printed with the uprating of 16½ per cent. provided by the Budget and the 11½ per cent., as well as the changes in the Bill. In that case, why is there such a rush for the Bill?

    There has been for many years a convention which has been applied by Governments of both parties that, once a decision has been announced, because of the time factors to which I have referred, the necessary preparatory work takes effect before the statutory authority is finalised. In 1974, the supplementary benefit order books for the 1975 uprating started going out after only the Second Reading of the Bill on 21 November 1974. The Bill did not become law until 13 March 1975. This procedure is perfectly proper. In every year since then the benefit books have started to go out before the uprating order has been passed. Nothing new is happening this time.

    I think that all hon. Members will agree that people who are entitled to the benefits should receive their supplementary entitlement by the due date in November.

    No; I have given way once.

    Those who follow these matters will be aware that supplementary benefit books are prepared in local offices.

    I read the right hon. Gentleman's mind like an open book.

    He knows that supplementary benefit books are prepared in local offices, and that the preparation of the new books always starts during the summer. These books, showing the new rates of benefit payable in November, are sent out to beneficiaries week by week as they come round in the rota, and they are sent out during the summer and autumn months. That is the only way in which we can make sure that the benefits are payable at the appropriate rates by the uprating date in November.

    That, of course, is the supplementary benefit rate. Because of that abatement of the national insurance benefits, the supplementary benefit rates for which the books need to be prepared are higher than they otherwise would have been. I am sure that it would be the wish of the whole House that we should take these steps in time to allow the higher supplementary benefit payments to be made by the due date.

    The Secretary of State thought that he was able to read my mind, but he did not get it right. If he knew that he would have to proceed by this timetable, why did he not introduce this measure earlier, or why did he not include it in the Social Security (No. 1) Bill? Why did he produce it so late and force the House into this intolerable position?

    With great respect, it need not have been an intolerable position. As the right hon. Gentleman recognises, and as many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have urged for some years, the House should consider expenditure and revenue at the same time. This year, for the first time, the public expenditure White Paper was published with the Budget Statement, and, as a result, these changes became Budget changes, and the Bill is, therefore, a Budget Bill. That is the way in which to deal with the matter.

    Even in a normal year, the uprating would require some overtime by staff in the local offices. However, this year the position is complicated by the need to give effect to the first stage of the simplification of supplementary benefit provided for by the Social Security (No. 1) Bill. We also need to ensure that staff in local offices are familiar with the new regulations and instructions which that Bill makes necessary. These changes, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, arose out of reforms proposed in the review report entitled "Social Assistance"—the review that was carried out by our predecessors. All that is bound to put a heavier than normal work load on the staffs of the local offices.

    I should like those staffs to know how much the Government appreciate the great efforts that they are making and will make to get the benefits paid at the new rates on time. However, despite those efforts, some people may receive their increases late, although the increases will, of course, be back-dated to 24 November.

    I warn the House that it would add materially to the difficulties of those staff if we were not able to adhere to the suggested timetable for the Bill. We may have our differences about the amounts of benefit to be paid, but there can be no difference on the need to make sure that the increases that are to be paid are, so far as is humanly possible, paid to those entitled to them from the dates at which the uprating takes effect.

    Any delay in the Bill leaving this House would greatly prejudice that objective. As I said, this Bill, unlike the Finance Bill, is fully debatable in another place, and time must be allowed for that. We consider it essential that the Bill should reach the statute book by mid July, since the uprating order, which requires an affirmative resolution of both Houses, cannot be dealt with until both this Bill and the Social Security (No. 1) Bill have received Royal Assent.

    That is the case for making swift progress, and why it has been necessary to compress the debates into a shorter time span than perhaps the Opposition would have wished. This need not have entailed any cut in debating time, and that is why in Committee the Government proposed a fairly tough sittings motion. With sensible use of the time, I have no doubt that all the six main provisions of the Bill could have been properly debated and the Bill reported to the House in accordance with the timetable without need for a guillotine motion.

    That brings me to the second argument. My reply to it, to put it bluntly, is that the Opposition have not chosen to debate the Bill responsibly. Instead they have engaged in lengthy, time-wasting filibustering in order to delay progress. The hon. Member for St. Paneras, North (Mr. Stallard) was perfectly honest about that when he referred to it as "stupid all-night charades". He was right.

    Let me tell the House what has been happening in Committee. We started with a five-hour discussion—two morning sittings—simply on the constitutional propriety of sitting on three afternoons a week. During that debate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) spoke for no less than one and a half hours—