Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
The Question is, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. I say with reluctance that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) inadvertently misled the Committee when making his most recent point of order. He gave the impression that two Opposition Members had been to the Table Office to make representations and to secure an Adjournment debate. That was not so.My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) went to the Table Office. I followed a different course. It was one that was dictated by courtesy. I telephoned the Department of Education and Science to try to secure the Minister's agreement to my raising the issue of school and university teachers' pay and the abolition of the Clegg commission. I was informed that the Secretary of State was not in a position to say anything. I say that only for the sake of the record. I regret what took place, because I cannot now ask the Secretary of State whether teachers should write to him to thank him for winning in Cabinet, or to the Chief Whip for making such a mess of the business this week.
I rise to speak on the Question, That clause 2 stand part of the Bill. The Chair indicated earlier, Mr. Godman Irvine, that we would be able to have a substantially wider debate on this clause than was possible on clause 1. [Interruption.]
Order. It would be convenient if I were able to hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine.
The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) has already raised a point of order.
I rose to speak on the Question, That clause 2 stand part of the Bill.
Order. That indicates how important it is for the Chair to be able to hear what is being said.
On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) is speaking on clause 2 and wishes to make a few brief points. I wish to raise a point of order about the last Division. Sometimes people end up by voting in both Lobbies. Until recently that practice did not worry Mr. Speaker very much, but a couple of years ago Mr. Speaker said that that practice was to be deprecated. People used to take part in "positive abstention". When they were not sure what to do, they voted twice. During the last Division the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright), who had not taken part in the debate for many hours, and who has disappeared again, voted twice—
Order. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman had to go through two Lobbies. However, it is too late to raise that matter now. We are discussing clause 2 stand part.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. It has also been brought to my attention—
Order. I have already given a ruling on the point of of order.
The ruling does not apply. It has been brought to my attention that the confused hon. Member for Colne Valley went into both Lobbies but became even more confused and came out again.
I began my observations, Mr. Bonner Pink—[Interruption.] I apologise profusely, Mr. Godman Irvine. I am sorry. I have spent so much time under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Pink) during the discussions on a notorious Private Member's Bill that I have, to my great regret, made a mistake of identification.I began my observations by saying that I would address myself to the Question That clause 2 stand part of the Bill. In an earlier ruling, it was said that this debate could go wider than the debate on clause 1 stand part. Indeed, the Chair specifically informed us that as the clause is headed—
Order. Perhaps I might be of assistance to the hon. Gentleman. This debate must concentrate on the principle of appropriation, and nothing else. The money must be spent as the House of Commons decreed.
That is just the point that I was about to make. The ruling given was to the effect that we could, and should, discuss appropriation. Indeed, the clause is headed "Appropriation of Grants". In moving from clause 1 to clause 2, we move up a notch or two in the escalation of astronomical sums. In clause 1 we were debating a mere £41,601,455,200.
In clause 2 we are debating £67,793,421,250—and 4p.The Minister, who has sat in the Chamber since the beginning of the Committee stage, has remained silent, in spite of what must have been powerful temptations. I hope that he will intervene in the debate, because I am desperately anxious to know what the 4p is for. I want to know whether he intends to maintain his sphinx-like proclivities.
May I help my hon. Friend? I have heard the Minister whispering. If I understand the gist of it, the 4p is due to corporation tax.
I was saying that if the Minister can unblock that which at the moment is inhibiting any vibration of his vocal chords, I hope that he will not do it in respect of anything else, but will tell us what the fourpennyworth is. I have not worked out what percentage 4p is of £67 billion, but clearly it must be an item.One thing that has always puzzled me in respect of appropriation is why some of the Votes are rounded off to an extent which indicates that they have not been properly considered, and others are worked out in meticulous detail, involving pennies. An example is Class II, Vote 8:
That means the spies. I refer to page 10, schedule (B).—part 4, Class II, Vote 8. Precisely £4 million is provided for"For Her Majesty's foreign and other secret services."
I do not believe that for a minute. I do not believe that the salaries of a number of people and all their James Bond travelling allowances, their revolvers and their secret cameras, which are made to look like cigarette lighters—"Her Majesty's foreign and other secret services."
Order. The hon. Gentleman is aware that the only question under consideration is whether the Treasury shall be compelled to appropriate the total sum in a certain way. It is impossible to deal with single items.
On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine.
Order. There is no point of order at the moment.
We had an extensive discussion about clause 1 when this question was raised. The other two Chairmen indicated that the debate on clause 2 could go wider than the debate on clause 1.
Order. Whatever may have happened in the past, the only question now for the Committee to decide is whether the Treasury is compelled to appropriate the total sum of money in a certain way.
On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. It was ruled earlier that we could debate only the overall total under clause 1, and that we should apply ourselves to the task of discussing appropriation generally under clause 2. The Chairman said that the point that I wished to raise, namely, the way in which the sum of money would be appropriated—
Order. The hon. Gentleman is confirming what I said. The question is confined to the appropriation of the total sum of money in a certain way.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. In deciding how to appropriate the £42 billion allocated under clause 1, surely we are entitled to say that the appropriation—
Order. That matter has been decided. It is a question whether the Committee now appropriates the money in the way that has been decided.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. Should it be appropriated in the way indicated in the schedule? My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) is arguing that a sum of money allocated to the Foreign Service for the operations of the Secret Service should not be so allocated but should be put into housing in Bethnal Green and Bow.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. I specifically raised a point of order with one of your predecessors about whether a debate could arise on departmental spending in a global context. Your predecessor clearly said that it could not be raised under clause 1, but that it could be raised under clause 2.
The answer to that remark is "No".
Further to that point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. I have listened to your explanation. With respect, it seems to go against something that happened immediately prior to your ruling. I understand that you have now said that my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) cannot develop his argument. Various hon. Members have raised points of order. You said that we could not go into detail. I listened carefully to my hon. Friend. I heard him going into great detail about how 4p would be spent, and the way in which it was being spent. He was not called to order. I assumed that that argument could be developed. I hope that my hon. Friend will further explain the 4p.
Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman and the Committee to accept that we are discussing whether we appropriate the total sum of money in the way that has been decided.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. I am trying to understand your ruling in the light of the context of the Bill, which states that the money should be appropriated
From my Back Bencher's point of view, I believe that because the Bill refers explicitly to the services and purposes expressed in schedule (B) it would be in order to raise questions on and to debate those services and purposes. While I accept that that deals with an appropriation, it specifies that the appropriation shall be in the terms covered by schedule (B). I am, therefore, at a loss to understand how the assurance given by the Chair earlier this morning that we could go into detail can now be overridden, given the context of the clause."for the services and purposes expressed in Schedule (B) annexed hereto".
We cannot discuss the details of the schedules. We can debate only the principle of the appropriation. The debate can be broader than clause 1, but it is still narrow.
With respect, Mr. God-man Irvine, if I had been allowed to finish my sentence, we might have been saved this trouble. I was not discussing the merits of a particular Vote. I was simply making a broad point. I recapitulate: the argument—
On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. It is already clear that we have lost today's business. Would it not be useful if the Leader of the House were to indicate his intentions so that we may then proceed?
That is not a point of order for the Chair.
I was arguing, and will argue if I am allowed to do so, that we are discussing the appropriation under clause 2, which covers schedule (B), as will be seen. Schedule (B) lacks credibility. Some votes are calculated to the last penny. The 4p—
On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. Hon. Members cannot hear what is being said.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I would prefer not to have to shout. It is difficult for hon. Members to make their points when other well-rested hon. Members, who have come into the Chamber at lunch time in very high spirits, having doubtless stopped at one or two places of refreshment on the way, and having made no positive contribution to our debate, are now trying to make negative points. But we are getting used to public school hooligans.I repeat that I refer to the sharp contrast in this global rounding-up. Vote 8 comprises salaries, travelling allowances and many items of equipment and, lo land behold, all those separate items amount to £4 million exactly—not to £3·999 million, but to £4 million exactly, and, by contrast, this funny old 4p is included in schedule (A). If we examine schedule (A), it will be seen that the 4p does not cover one single item—it covers 3p on one Vote and 1p on another. The Minister is inarticulate, but he is not immobile. I thought for a moment that he was not merely doomed to Trappist silence, but that he was also fossilised. However, he has nodded. He is therefore indicating concurrence with the discovery of my researches that the 4p is made up of 3p and a penny. May I now beg him, therefore, to carry movement into speech and tell us what the 3p is and what the penny is, by contrast with this rounding-up? I suspect that the rounding-up is a cover for a figure which, if it were properly set out, would be very much larger. It is this sort of strange accountng practice that we have got used to from the Treasury under all sorts of Governments over many years—indeed, centuries—and that is beginning to bring our processes of monitoring public expenditure into doubt, if not into disrepute. Before we leave this Bill, I hope that we shall hear from the Financial Secretary, who is euphemistically described as being in charge of it but who, as far as I can see, could not take charge of the skin off a rice pudding, so little has he contributed to our proceedings.
Has my hon. Friend considered schedule (B), the appropriation accounts, which we are discussing at the moment.
Whether the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) has or has not considered it is not relevant to clause 2. It might be of assistance to the Committee if I put the Question on clause 2.
I had not finished.
On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. You said that the appropriation of grants was not relevant to the debate on clause 2. However, clause 2 refers to those services which are deemed to be appropriated
Therefore to consider schedule (B) is one of the things that we can do. Surely your ruling was in error."as from the date of the passing of the Acts mentioned in … Schedule (A), for the services and purposes expressed in Schedule (B) annexed hereto."
The scope of debate on a Consolidated Fund Bill is extremely narrow. We are now dealing with clause 2, and I think that the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow had finished what he had to say.
You are nearly right, Mr. Godman Irvine. I had not finished, but I am very near to finishing. I shall finish because I am desperately anxious to make way for the Financial Secretary.
On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. Has not the Leader of the House some kind of obligation to give us a statement of Government business? He is sitting there sulking, and I feel that he ought to give the Committee some indication of future Government business.
I suspect that the Leader of the House has little to contribute to the debate on clause 2. However, hon. Members are anxious to hear if he has anything else to contribute, and I suggest to the Committee that it would be desirable if I were to put the Question, That clause 2 stand part of the Bill.
I am discussing the subject dealt with in clause 2, the services and proposes expressed in schedule (B) annexed thereto. I am not in any way indicating the nature of those services. Nor am I talking about the appropriation of services. I am talking about the figure which is to be found at the bottom under the grand total. That indicates a figure of £6,138,547,782.24. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow did not have his attention drawn to the 24p, but the significant factor of that grand total is that the 24p purports to be part of the total of the columns above it. In fact, there are no pence in any of the pence columns above. The Treasury did its sums and added up a column of noughts and made a total of 24.
Having criticised the Treasury when it was wrong, I must defend it when it is right. It is the Minister's job, but he will not do it. I do not know what he is drawing his wages for. I must do his job for him. If my hon. Friend looks at the summary on page 5 he will see that the 4p arises for the service of the year ended 31 March 1979. That is why it is not included under the service of the year ended 31 March 1980.
I was talking about the 24p which arises under part 2 (Civil (Excesses). The position is set out on page 7 where a number of items are indicated in precise figures.
Order. The hon. Gentleman has doubtless heard me say that we can deal only with the principle. He is not dealing with that and therefore he is out of order.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 3 and 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedules ( A), ( B) and ( C) agreed to.
Bill reported, without amendment.
Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 93 ( Consolidated Fund Bills), and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.