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Questions To Ministers

Volume 78: debated on Wednesday 1 May 1985

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3.40 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I raise this point, on reflection, more in sorrow than in anger. My first reaction was one of anger, but I think that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who equated all Socialists with National Socialists, must have been ignorant and did not understand the nature of the struggle against Nazism.

Will the Secretary of State apologise to hon. Members and to the country for equating National Socialists with democratic Socialists, who fought, arms in hand, against the Nazis and laid down their lives? During the second world war, the deputy Prime Minister of this country was a member of the Labour party and a democratic Socialist. Thousands of my colleagues, who, like me, joined the forces at the age of 19, laid down their lives. They were democratic Socialists, and we find it offensive for any individual—especially the Secretary of State, who has suffered at the hands of certain people—to make that sort of allegation against democratic Socialists who died in the fight against Fascism.

I ask for an apology from the Secretary of State. I hope that he will retract his statement. I am sure that he will recognise, on reflection, that he made a grave error.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am happy to help the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). He would have a good point of order if I had said what he, in his excitement, believed that I had said.

I referred to the views of the gentleman—one of my officials—who was described by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) as having a Nazi background. As the House will know, "Nazi" is a shorthand term for the National Socialist German Workers party and I expressed my distaste for extremist Socialist views—I should be happy to make that "anti-democratic extremist Socialist views"—of any kind, whether they are National Socialist or other versions of Socialism.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps you can help me. On question No. 10, which you may recall was about a particularly loathsome individual, Mr. Denis Pirie, it was said that his views were silly. They were not silly——

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not trying to perpetrate something of which we are not in favour, which is to put a supplementary question that he was not called to ask during Question Time.

With your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, may I finish my question, which I believe is important? You must have read Mr. Pirie's views. They were not silly; they were evil. Do you think it right that on the great point of principle about whether the views of a man working for a Government Department are silly or evil only one supplementary question should be allowed? How do you judge what is an important question?

As the House well knows, I make a judgment in these matters and I have to take into account other questions on the Order Paper and the broad, important issues that they involve. I made that judgment today.

Order. The hon. Gentleman asked his question earlier, and I hope that we are not about to pursue the matter.

Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you made a plea for moderation of language. In the light of that, would it not be helpful if the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry did not come here with his poisonous tongue?

I think that that is an unworthy accusation, as the Secretary of State has made an apology.

On an entirely different point of order, Mr. Speaker. You gave my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Mr. Wood) the privilege of asking question No. 46 after the official end of Question Time. I am deeply envious of that privilege and I wonder whether you can advise me as to how I may promote my questions in that way.

I did not grant it. It is up to Ministers to say whether they wish to answer a question at the end, but it is a well-established practice.

I am anxious not to prolong the proceedings, but I believe that in the response of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) no apology was actually made. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman continued to relate National Socialism to democratic Socialism when National Socialists have nothing to do with Socialism.

I heard clearly what the Secretary of State said, and at this particular time, 40 years on from a war in which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and many other Members, including myself, were involved, I think that we should leave the matter there.