House Of Commons
Friday 28 February 1992
The House met at half-past Nine o'clock
[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Safety At Sea
I have here a petition I wish to present to the House on behalf of Jennifer Vibert and some 14,000 people. When this petition was presented to me, I was told that each and every signatory had read it carefully. The petition is concerned with the safety of seamen and has come about as a result of the great grief felt by the surviving families of the young crew of the Wilhelmina J, which was sunk almost a year ago. The petition has come about also because those bereaved families feel that the lessons of that tragic accident have to be learnt and they wish their concerns to be brought to the attention of Her Majesty's Government. It is for that reason that I am presenting it here today.The petition reads:
The Humble Petition of Jennifer Vibert and families of the victims of the—Wilhelmina J", Sheweth that:—(i) unlike the employees of many shore-based companies, merchant seamen and fishermen are not necessarily covered by personal insurance. Yet in an industry with such high risk to its workers, this appears to be a major flaw in the maritime legislation. We therefore propose that Her Majesty's Government introduce legislation which insists that all Shipping Owners are responsible for their employees being covered by adequate insurance in the event of personal injury or death.
(ii) Her Majesty's Coastguard perform an impeccable service by monitoring shipping movements and organising search and rescue operations, within their prescribed areas. However in many cases this area is uncertain. We therefore propose that each Coastguard station is aware of the area of territorial water under its jurisdiction, that an overlap whereby both stations are required to maintain an interest in the movement of a vessel until the receiving station accepts responsibility, as in the case of Aviation Control.
(iii) Having identified an infringement of the Maritime Law, Her Majesty's Coastguards are powerless to take any physical action, unlike their French counterparts. By name and definition the Coastguard are the guardians of our coasts. We therefore propose that Her Majesty's Government supply the Coastguard with the necessary equipment, or access to such, to enforce the powers entrusted to them in protecting all vessels at sea and bring to account those who break these laws.
This is a detailed petition, arising out of the great concern of the families of the bereaved. The petition ends:(iv) The English Channel is said to be the busiest waterway in the world, but without any form of policing to ensure that all laws are adhered to. Because of this many "Masters" comply only when they deem fit to do so, sometimes ramming and sinking smaller vessels, then hiding behind the "International Waters" clauses. We therefore propose that the Merchant Shipping Laws be changed to combine the English Channel shipping lanes with both English and French territorial waters. Thereby placing all traffic under the jurisdiction of the respective coastguard.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your honourable House protect our seamen and fishermen in our coastal waters from unnecessary dangers, and your Petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.
To lie upon the Table.
I beg to move,
I move today's motion drawing attention to my case in the hope that it will encourage the House to make fundamental changes in its present rules and procedures as they relate to Members' Interests. On Wednesday 7 March 1990 a very great and quite deliberate injustice took place in this House. It was against me and my constituents. After almost exactly two years to the day, this is my first opportunity to speak in my defence. On that fateful day two years ago, the £480 million Paris scandal was given just 32 minutes of debate in the House but I was subjected to a five-and-a-half-hour internationally televised politcial show trial. At the precise time I was attending the House for the judicial debate, apparently —closely co-ordinated by Conservative central office—moves were being made in my constituency by my constituency chairman, Mrs. Felicity Hindson, to initiate my deselection by means of an ambushed reselection motion which was accepted without my being notified under my constituency rules, namely rule 18(2)(c), and with Mrs. Hindson urging that it would be to my best interests. On that day I was found guilty of two accidental breaches—SAMA and Chidiac. Those two names are important. I was found guilty of those two accidental breaches—SAMA and Chidiac—of the House rules governing the Register of Members' interests some seven years previously. One of the rules—SAMA—was so vague that I understand that it took the Committee itself many hours to determine the meaning of it. A clarification amendment was then passed by the House immediately after I had been sentenced. I wonder whether that it is natural justice. My unintentional transgressions resulted in no financial gain to me, had harmed no one, and no Government policy was either changed or even influenced. Despite this, the Select Committee on Members' Interests deemed, on circumstantial evidence, that my errors were serious. However, neither in the Select Committee's report nor in the debate in the House did any member of the Select Committee, or the Leader of the House, attempt either to justify or to explain what was meant by the vital word "serious". In fact, they seemed to lead the House away from any detailed discusion of the report. I shall quote later where these leads happened by referring to Hansard of 7 March 1990. I notice that the Chairman of the Select Committee on Members' Interests is here, and it may be that he will be able to help us later in the debate. As I shall point out later, I was not allowed to make a speech in the debate which took place on 7 March 1990. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was allowed only to make a statement, which had to be heard in silence, and it had to be totally uncontroversial. Furthermore, I was not allowed to ask any questions or to make any interventions in the debate. I therefore had no chance to raise this issue. In the two years since that trial, this is the first opportunity that I have had to speak on the subject and in my own defence. Most strangely, the two breaches of the rules—SAMA and Chidiac—concern precisely the same two cases in relation to which I had taken out libel suits against the complainant. Was this merely a very strange coincidenece? The complainant was a personal friend of and had a close working relationship with one of the most active—I may even say aggressive—members of the Select Committee; the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), who never declared this interest either to the Committee or to the House, although he intervened in the debate on 7 March 1990. This is referred to in early-day motions—That this House, believing that the concept of natural justice is paramount in trials before courts and all other tribunals, considers that the procedures of the House in relation to the registration of Members' interests, are inadequate; believes that the rules for registration are vague, somewhat confusing and even meaningless both to honourable Members and outside observers; considers that proceedings before the Select Committee on Members' Interests deprive a Member whose conduct is in question of even the most basic human rights to natural justice, to which he or she would be entitled if the matter were being adjudicated in a court of law, including rights of appeal; is dissatisfied with the processes which take place after the Committee has made a Report; is deeply concerned that the House can too easily be confused and be led to a decision based not upon justice but upon party political or personal motives, including the abuse of the party whipping system in what should be a matter for the individual conscience of all Right honourable and honourable Members attending the debate; believes that the case of the honourable Member for Winchester provides a classic illustration of the dangers of abuse inherent in the present procedures, which allowed even outside events to influence judgment; and calls for the appointment of a Select Committee urgently to re-examine all these issues and to make recommendations before similar great and deliberate injustices are done to other Right honourable and honourable Members and to their constituents.
Order. Do I understand that the hon. Member has given notice to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) that he intended to refer to him?
Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker.As I have said, this is referred to in early-day motions 1210 of the last Session and 115 of this Session. Since my trial, the Select Committee has investigated allegations against several other Members. Remarkably, all were found to be in error. Indeed, one—a Select Committee member himself—was found to have repeatedly and deliberately disobeyed a specific rule. However, none of those Members' cases was recommended for action by the House. All other pending cases, such as those against other Conservative Members, have been dropped. How was it that of all the similar cases the Select Committee considered that mine alone was serious, just on circumstantial evidence, and given a five-and-a-half-hour debate in the House followed by a draconian sentence? I submit to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the answer was not only injustice but grand and deliberate injustice.
The hon. Gentleman has said that he had informed my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) that he would name him in the debate. I wonder whether he will reaffirm that. Secondly, he has said that other Conservative Members were also up on "charges", which were dropped. I should like to know their names.
On the first point, I can reassure the hon. Gentleman. I have written to the hon. Member for Workington. I did so at the beginning of this week. Secondly, on the subject of the names of Conservative Members, I personally would prefer not to give them. I do not feel bound to give them, but I respect your judgment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and if you feel that I must name them, I must. As I have said, I would rather not.How was it that of all the similar cases that the Select Committee considered mine alone was "serious", just on circumstantial evidence? I was given a five-and-a-half-hour public debate in the House followed by a draconian sentence. I submit to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the answer was not only injustice but a grand and deliberate injustice. The precedent set by my case has never been followed. I was selected as a one-off scapegoat. Here I must place on record my sincere feelings. I did not in any way blame or bear any grudge against the vast majority of right hon. and hon. Members who voted in all innocence for my punishment, or who abstained from supporting me. In my view, 99 per cent. of hon. Members were misled—quite deliberately, I believe—and I hope to show the House both how and why that great crime was perpetrated by those in power. It is vitally important because if that can happen to me, as it did also to the late Lord Boothby before the war, it can happen to any right hon. or hon. Member—or, indeed, to anyone, because ordinary citizens can be called to the Bar of the House. Furthermore, if such a deliberate injustice can happen in the high and sovereign court of Parliament, against which—and contrary to all human rights conventions—there is no appeal, then which citizen of this realm is safe? I believe that the long-term good of the whole is most definitely not best served by the protection of the whole at the expense of the human right to justice of the individual citizen. Surely the long-term good of the whole is best served by the added protection of the rights of the individual to justice. I believe that it is greatly in the interests of the House, of our country and of our civilisation in general that such deliberate political injustice be never allowed to happen again. I submit that in the present state of affairs no one is safe from an individual purge by Government Ministers for political reasons. Surely such a state of affairs cannot be allowed to remain available as a weapon of government. I raise this matter in the hope that, despite any official cover-up, the House will look into the issue and so amend its procedures that no similar injustice can happen again to any other hon. Member or to any other citizen who might be called to the Bar of the House. People will no doubt ask why I have waited some two years until now before raising this matter.
The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) says "correct", and I hope to answer him. You will know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I tried hard for over a year to bring this matter to the attention of the House. You will know that I first tried to appeal to the Select Committee. After months of delay, the Chairman replied that there was no avenue of appeal. You will know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I have tried to raise this issue in a ten-minute Bill, by means of a private Member's Bill, in a petition under Standing Order No. 132 and in an Adjournment debate. All those avenues, including no fewer than 12 proposed titles for Adjournment debates, were ruled out of order. I was told that my only avenue was to get lucky and win a balloted motion. On 11 February 1992 I received from the Leader of the House a final negative reply to the appeal that I began a year ago. Twenty four hours later I won a Members' ballot for this debate, in the closing moments of this Parliament.So here we are, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with my first opportunity to speak in my defence. Sadly, this is the story of the deliberate manipulation of justice for party political reasons. It is also the story of a cover-up so powerful that even vast sections of the media appear to have been silenced. Even the boldest men, of great integrity, who have seen and recognised injustice have hesitated. Those whose prime duty it was to speak up have kept their silence. This is also the story of a long and necessarily complex web of intrigue. It may therefore help the House if I now cite the Official Report references that I intend to use in my speech. I shall refer mainly to quotations from the official Hansard report of the debate on 7 March 1990, and to the report of the Select Committee on Members' Interests dated 19 February 1990. I shall also refer to early-day motions 1210 and 1211 of the previous Session and to early-day motions 115, 121 and 585 of this Session. Finally, I shall refer to the High Court judgments of Mr. Justice Wood dated 6 February 1986 and 25 November 1986 and to the Court of Appeal judgment dated 23 November 1988. Two of the most fundamental of human rights are the right to a fair trial and the right of appeal. Those two fundamental rights are enshrined in clauses 1 to 4 and in clause 5 of the 14th article of the United Nations international convention of 1966, to which the British Government are signatories. That convention applies to both civil and political trials. Political show trials have a classic structure. First, they are preceded by a secret inquisition or inquiry at which the prosecution case is established. The accused is then paraded in front of the public for a sham trial in which he is not permitted any of the normal rights of defence. The prosecution holds sway, as the jury is fixed. It is typical of almost all show trials that there is no mechanism for appeal. That, in itself, is a breach of one of the most fundamental human rights enshrined in clause 5 of article 14 of the convention. We are accustomed to thinking that political show trials happen only in foreign countries, under regimes such as those in Nazi Germany or communist Russia, but even in our own country they happen occasionally. The late Lord Boothby was subjected to such a trial in 1940–41, and one slipped past the nose of this House on 7 March 1990. It is important that the House, and our country, know something of what happened. My political show trial followed the classic structure that I have described. It was preceded by a secret inquisition or inquiry at which the prosecution case was established. That was carried out by the Select Committee on Members' Interests, which was seen by the media, the public and other hon. Members as being, in effect, the court. The strength with which that was denied in the debate on 7 March 1990, both by the Chairman of the Select Committee and the then leader of the House, shows how true was that widely held concept. Some 308 Members of the House voted, of whom some 239 voted along the whipped Government line in favour of punishment. However, apart from during the opening and winding-up speeches, not more than 30 Members—10 per cent., at most—attended the debate. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn), a Queen's Counsel and former Solicitor-General for Scotland, said:
"Here we all are. Some members of the jury are out, and some are in. The jury is being asked to say what the sentence should be, but the jury was not even in court. Most of its members who are in court now have not read the report, and do not conceive of the rights or wrongs of what the Committee found…this partial jury should not exercise the concept of punishment."—[Official Report, 7 March 1990; Vol. 187, c. 957–58.]
The hon. Gentleman says that only 30 Members were present to listen to the debate. The truth is, as we all know, that that number is about par for the course. I should like the hon. Gentleman to tell us how many times he has sat in on debates for the Government —before the Government did the dirty on him. He talks about party political reasons, but the reason why he is not a Tory candidate for the next election has nothing to do with anything that the Labour party has done—it is because his own Tory party in Westminster has ditched him.When the hon. Gentleman was supporting the Tory party, how many times did he vote for a guillotine motion when he did not even know when and how the guillotine was to be imposed? Most guillotines are supported by Conservative Members who do not sit in on the debate, so the hon. Gentleman should not give us any of this claptrap about not many people having listened to the debate. The truth is that he got caught out by the gentleman's club whose members usually sit on the Tory Benches—he got knifed by his own side.
I agree with some of what the hon. Member for Bolsover said, but not all of it. It is true that for normal debates in the House there is a pretty good attendance for the opening speeches and the winding-up speeches made by Members on both sides, but a pretty sparse attendance in the middle. That is because right hon. and hon. Members of the House have great pressures on their time. Some 20 Committees sit at the same time as debates are being held on the Floor of the House. However, in a judicial debate—a debate in which the House is sitting as a court, as a jury when people are to vote on whether an hon. Member is guilty, hon. Members should surely at least listen to the case before voting. Thirty Members attending a debate may be par for the course, but the case to which I refer was certainly not par for the course.In what other court or even tribunal in this land—or in any other country—would a member of a jury be allowed to be absent while a case was being presented, only to return to deliver a guilty verdict and pass a draconian sentence? I submit that the answer is none. Yet that happened here on 7 March 1990. Is that justice, Mr. Speaker? The sham trial in the House was, as always, made very public, with five-and-a-half hours of prime television, syndicated world wide. The charges against me were made to appear massive, and even combined with innuendo. The apparent unwillingness of the then Leader of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), to reply to a stream of interventions is recorded in column 893 of the Official Report of the debate.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has been speaking for exactly 20 minutes, and it is clear that—apart from a degree of spontaneity introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)—the hon. Gentleman has read every word of his speech so far. I have counted six pages, and seeing the notes that he still has, I fear that he intends to read us another 60 pages, which will take up most of the debate, and it will all be written material. Surely it is not within the proper procedures of the House to allow someone to read an entire speech of that length. I understand the difficulties, and that hon. Members may want to use copious quotations and refer in detail to notes—I am not in any way trying to prevent the hon. Gentleman from putting forward a reasonable case—but surely it is outside the accepted procedures of the House to read what appears to be several hours of written material.
All hon. Members are aware of the hallowed phrase that hon. Members are allowed to refer to "copious notes". We have also traditionally taken the view that Members who speak from either Front Bench or an hon. Member who introduces a debate, as the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) is now doing, have a little more discretion than would otherwise be the case. The hon. Member for Winchester will be in order so long as he continues just to refer to copious notes.Mr. Browne: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I will try to look up from my notes to the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser), who is leading for the Opposition. However, I will glance down through my spectacles occasionally at this large volume of notes. The apparent unwillingness of the then Leader of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East, is shown in Hansard at column 893. He was most unwilling to reply to a string of interventions by hon. Members seeking confirmation that I had done nothing illegal. I felt that that was quite disgusting, but classic. Also, in common with all political show trials, the jury decision was—as has already been said this morning—fixed by the ruling party. In this case, the fixing was ensured by the operation of the Whips, both payroll and informal.
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he has now referred to another right hon. Member. If he intends to refer to several right hon. and hon. Members, rather than my interrupting him on every occasion, will he assure me that he has informed those right hon. and hon. Members that he intends to refer to them?
The former Chief Whip, the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton)—yes, I have.
And the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe)?
Yes, I have, Sir.Following the trial, very few people mentioned any of the criticisms of injustice or blatant abuse of human rights. Instead, the public image was created that I had been guilty of a major criminal offence. Indeed, it was interesting to note—
The hon. Gentleman is making pretty heavy weather of the fact that he was kicked out of this gentleman's club for 20 days. I call it a gentleman's club, but it is known as the mother of Parliaments, although only about 42 women are allowed in here. The hon. Gentleman is complaining that he got 20 days. His real problem is the fact that he is not the Tory party candidate at the next election—and that has nothing to do with what happened in this place.I have been kicked out of this place about seven times, but I did not have any chance to explain. No one said to me, "Dennis, will you explain why you said that the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) was lining his pockets when he picked up that non-executive directorship of British Telecom?" I would have loved to tell everyone all about that, but Mr. Speaker said, "On your bike—early bath," and off I had to go. When I called the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) a pompous sod, Mr. Speaker said to me, "You had better withdraw that". I said I would withdraw "pompous", but said, Mr. Speaker "That's not the word I'm looking for." There was laughter in the House and everyone thought that I had hit the nail on the head. I thought that that was a real parliamentary triumph, but Mr. Speaker thought differently. He said, "Off you go," and I did not get a chance to reply. I accused the noble Lord, Lord Pym, when he was a Member of this House, of being the Minister for unemployment because there were nearly 2 million people on the scrap heap—that pile of human misery known as the dole queue. Again, I was not able to make a speech before Mr. Speaker sent me out. Those were all genuine statements that I had to make. The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) was kicked out for 20 days because he lined his pockets with about £50,000 and did not put it in the register as he is supposed to do, and now he is whingeing but I reckon he got away with blue murder.
I have noted what the hon. Gentleman said. I actually have not mentioned 20 days yet, and I totally refute the claim that I lined my pockets with £50,000 and did not report it. That was not true, and it is part of what this whole debate is about.It was interesting to note that although the Select Committee felt my errors to have been serious, not one member of that Committee, nor the Leader of the House, ever attempted to explain how or why those accidental errors were considered serious. Before I describe the details of what happened in my case, I wish to point to some general points on the subject of the Register of Members' Interests which I hope will be of interest and help to the House. The Members' interest registry was initiated for very understandable and good reasons, to show Members' interests to the public and to the House. It is a laudable aim, but there are serious problems and anomalies. First, our Parliament consists of two Houses—a Commons House and a House of peers. This is an important but much overlooked point which I will return to later in my speech. The declaration of financial interests applies only to the Commons House and yet the House of peers execute legislation and have great influence over the Government. Why is there no declaration for all of Parliament? Secondly, the register is of financial interests and yet monetary amounts are not required to be registered. Is that not only farcical, but downright misleading? How does it truly inform either the public or the House? Thirdly, in the early 1980s the register was treated in a very casual manner indeed. When my case came to this House in 1989 about events in 1982, some of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite admitted to me that they had not even heard of the register—hence, I imagine, the greatly increased size of the registry since I was arraigned. Fourthly, as it is not a legal requirement, the registry is, as Mr. Enoch Powell maintained, unconstitutional. Worse still, because it is not a legal requirement, anyone brought to account under it is given none of the legal protection normally afforded to anyone standing accused of a crime in law. Fifthly, the rules of registration are vague—for example, the rules about declaration of foreign earnings. When I went to the registrar in 1982, I was told that the foreign earning of my company, if my company was declared, need not be declared as a client unless it was specifically related to the House. I was accused of not reporting it as an earning to me. Interestingly enough, it took the Committee hours to decide what that rule meant, and it was changed after my sentence: 10 minutes after my sentence, the rule was changed to say that if one owned a certain percentage of one's company, then one had to declare it. I also looked at the register of interests and the sort of groups of people who were declaring overseas payments, and found virtually none: no farmers, no scriptwriters, no broadcasters, journalists, lawyers or barristers—none of those people. Yet surely one, at least, of all the hundreds in the book must surely have had some foreign-derived earnings.
How does the hon. Gentleman know that?
I did not say that I knew, but looking at the registry in 1982, 1983 and even in 1989, the guideline seems to be that if earnings go to a company, the earnings are not declared as foreign payments, and that they should only have been declared as foreign payments if they actually went to the Member concerned. That is only a guideline, but it is something that I went by in those early days, plus consulting the Registrar himself—who, incidentally, was not called to give evidence by the Select Committee and I was not allowed to call him myself.Also, there are no strict definitions of sibling relationships such as there are in relation to the law on insider trading and securities. In the registry, this is still an area of very considerable doubt and therefore of danger to right hon. and hon. Members. The rules are somewhat vague and, as I have said, they are therefore dangerous because they can be bent by those in authority to snare almost any hon. Member who has outside interests. This is a danger hanging over many Members, particularly now that this subject is taken far more seriously and, I believe, correctly. Sadly, there is precedent for abuse of this danger hanging over hon. Members. In the two cases that I shall mention, the abuse was carried out by Government Whips who, although they strenuously deny it, have control at least over the profile of the majority of Select Committee members and can very strongly influence their voting. The case of the late Lord Boothby was described superbly in the recent excellent book by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir R. Rhodes James) entitled "Bob Boothby". I quote briefly from that book, from chapter 11, "A Terrible Injustice", on pages 270 to 298:
—I will bring out later the fact that I was not allowed to make such a speech but merely a statement—"A Select Committee is not a court of law and one of its fundamental problems is examining matters of this kind is that it is composed of Back-Bench MPs who are in fact judge and jury. The conclusions of the Committee were heavily and unfairly loaded against Boothby. There was no evidence that Boothby had any expectation of payment. Boothby was allowed to defend himself in his speech in Parliament. His speech influenced the opinion of Parliament"
The vague rules on Members' interests are potentially very dangerous for many hon. Members, particularly when we see the precedent for the abuse of power to distort justice. Briefly, the background to the Select Committee inquiry was this. In the general election campaign of 1987, Mr. David Leigh, a journalist from The Observer, made several serious allegations that I had incorrectly registered my Member's interests some years before. This was seized upon, understandably, by my local media and had a major impact on my support. My share of the vote was seriously eroded and there was a cut in my majority of approximately a half. It provided grounds for subsequent moves against me in my constituency. Suits for libel were issued against Mr. David Leigh and I had every hope of a major settlement. The suits for libel were issued against Mr. Leigh on the subjects of SAMA and Chidiac, in which I and my lawyer thought Mr. Leigh was particularly vulnerable, and so obviously that a court of law might be prepared to rule favourably upon them even though they were to do with the rules of this sovereign House. As I said, I had every hope of a major settlement. Subsequently, Mr. Leigh made a complaint against me to the Registrar of Members' Interests on those two issues and a number of surrounding issues. I was very confident of my innocence, and even welcomed the hearing before the Select Committee publicly so as to put an end to the sniping articles on the subject in some sections of the press. What I did not know was that Mr. David Leigh was a close friend of and had a close working relationship with a leading member of that Select Committee—the hon. Member for Workington. I was asked to make written submissions to the Select Committee in response to Mr. Leigh's complaints in the spring of 1989. After some delays, I was finally summoned before the Select Committee in the early summer of 1989. I sat before some 10 or 11 Members over some three sessions to answer just under 1,000 rapid-fire questions concerning some 20 companies over a time span of some 12 years. It was a mind-boggling exercise in research and in memory. I understand that the Committee and, indeed, the Conservative Whips experienced great difficulty in obtaining agreement to the report from the hon. Member for Streatham (Sir W. Shelton). However, after some seven further months of so-called deliberation during which there was a constant flow of leaks to my local press, the Committee issued its report on 19 February 1990. The Select Committee was widely seen as a court and its report was greeted with headlines normally reserved only for mass murderers and rapists. However, the court or Select Committee proceedings were criticised repeatedly in the debate by right hon. and hon. and learned Members with considerable legal experience for not having adopted procedures of natural justice towards me as the accused. Particularly noteworthy are the criticisms levelled by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), an experienced barrister and junior judge. He criticised the Select Committee as"Churchill then intervened and recommended that the House not proceed any further in the matter. The Government gave a clear message to the press that they would oppose any motion to condemn him."
He also pointed, in Hansard column 933, to what he termed "the smell of scapegoat". He also remarked on the smell of witch-hunt and the hypocrisy of the House. Most interestingly, he pointed to a catalogue of manifest injustices perpetrated against me. He said that"Whether intentionally or not, it was the worst type of kangaroo court but the press have been noticeably silent about that."
"me" in brackets—"it would be a great injustice for us to use"—
What my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton was referring to was the following catalogue of injustice. The Select Committee hearings, first of all, were all held in secret. None of the evidence was taken on oath. Secondly, contrary to Standing Orders of the House, I was not allowed to hear and thereby challenge directly in cross-examination the evidence of any witness whatsoever. Only rough typescript proofs were provided retrospectively. They were difficult to read and very difficult to handle because of their bulk and the bad copying. This was to the distinct disadvantage of me as the accused operating alone, unlike the Committee with its vast secretariat. From his similar experience, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) said in the debate:"as a scapegoat to exorcise…embarrassment about…the criticism that our rules on Members' interests are inadequate."
"Everything that the hon. and learned Member for Burton has just said about taking evidence was absolutely true. One writes to the Committee, its members write back, and there is no cross-examination or proper Hansard. At the end, the Committee makes a pronouncement and the word goes out to grovel.
In addition to this, I, unlike certain members of the press, was not informed when the Committee called witnesses until some weeks later—after the fact. Is that justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Thirdly, I was specifically denied the right to call any witness in person for cross-examination. Here the assertion to the contrary by the Chairman of the Committee, the hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith), in Hansard columns 906 and 907, seems to me to be quite extraordinary and was in direct conflict with the statement of his Select Committee colleague, the hon. Member for Streatham, who in column 918 clearly stated to the House that there was no verbal cross-examination except by the Committee. In the fact, I was specifically forewarned by the Registrar that only the Committee was empowered to call witnesses and that I would have to be content with asking for written statements. The lack of equality in the calling of witnesses was crucial. The Select Committee was able to recommend that the written evidence of vital defence witnesses such as that of Mr. Chattington in the report, page 28, paragraph 54, and of Mr. Denton-Thompson, page 147, be ignored by the House. Neither defence witness was called by the Committee to explain or to support their written statements which the Committee criticised or ignored out of hand. Is that justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Fourthly, there was no representation. This case was vastly complex. I was arraigned not to explain or to testify about some political issue but was on trial for my political and personal life. Despite that, I was denied the effective counsel or assistance of a lawyer, except over the physical handling of the vast documentation. Indeed, the hon. Member for Workington even protested in question 282 when I referred to my solicitor to gain a more informed answer as to a legal question. Why was it that in 1940 I understand the late Lord Boothby was allowed to have his legal representation? Why was it that after my case, on 13 January this year even the Maxwell brothers were allowed legal representation before a Select Committee and addressed the Select Committee through them? Why was I, uniquely as an accused, denied that important protection and most important assistance? Is that justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Fifthly, no right of discovery. The documentation produced by the complainant, Mr. Leigh, was vast, comprising some 100 documents, some over 30 pages long. To my knowledge there were no originals. The copies were very poor and badly collated. The documents were largely stolen from my personal and company files. They were produced very selectively and out of context. This was greatly to the disadvantage of the accused, as there was no means by which I could put crucial documents into context, particularly in the relationship between me and each of the Chidiac brothers and with regard to the missing SAMA report and its relationship to the supplementary Prime Minister's question that I asked. Even the Committee found it difficult to obtain certain documents, but, remarkably, paragraph 60 of the report then criticised me who, acting without the Committee's powers of discovery, was unable to trace or recover certain stolen documents such as the SAMA report. The point about the SAMA report is most interesting. First, I wonder how Mr. Leigh could have written his detailed articles on SAMA in 1987 without referring to it. I believe it was stolen from my company's files along with other evidence produced by Mr. Leigh, which was widely acknowledged as stolen property, most probably by my ex-wife. If the SAMA report was stolen, how could I produce it? Even more interestingly, in the report questions 310 to 317, it is clear how heavily the hon. Member for Workington, a close friend of Mr. Leigh and working with him on this project, criticised me for not finding the SAMA report. But why did Mr. Leigh not produce it? I ask, could it have been that it would have proved conclusively that it had no relationship with the supplementary question that I put to the Prime Minister? Is that justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker? No. 6—no statute of limitations. The Committee accepted to investigate all the charges made against me, even the most trivial, including minor errors that I had already admitted. This made the case vastly more complex in its ramifications. The case, as I said, covered some 20 companies over a span of some 12 years. [Interruption.] I wonder what the Leader of the House was looking at. The questioning of one man alone by 11 prosecutors putting rapid-fire questions at random is awesome. Given the complexity and in the circumstances of this case, it was a grave injustice. Great sympathy was shown by the hon. Member for Workington over this issue to one of his prosecution witnesses, Mr. Brian Deutsch, whose memory was very hazy about only one company in which he had worked almost full time. On the contrary, I was criticised severely in the report for not remembering precise details of events that had taken place many years before regarding companies in which I had been involved on a very part-time basis, such as in the report, paragraph 59. The hon. Member for Streatham, a member of the Committee, made a special point of this when he said:If hon. Members grovel and apologise, they will be let off with a caution and it will all be over in two or three weeks." —[Official Report, 7 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 935–41.]
No. 7—time pressures. Time pressures were exerted upon me as the accused. Despite the fact that the Committee took some nine months in its deliberations, decisions at which I was permitted to be present, which were merely three when I was being examined, were all pressured for time. Examples of this exercise of time pressure against the accused are in the report at question 523—I am sorry I must return to that. These were not time pressures exercised against the accused, but time pressures that resulted in pressure against the accused. I do not accuse my right hon. Friend of deliberately doing this at all, it is just that the time pressure did act against the accused. Examples are the time pressure in questions 523, 593, and 763, and also, contrary to normal Select Committee procedure, I as the accused was not given the time to complete an opening statement, and this was referred to in the report, questions 269 to 296. I must emphasise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this was my only chance in that whole proceeding of nine—almost 11—months, to speak in my own defence. Was that justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker? The eighth point is that there was no prosecution case. Mr. Leigh presented allegations. He did this outside my presence and I was unable to challenge or cross-examine him verbally on a contemporary basis. There was no single line of argument that could be followed from one prosecutor, as there is in a case in a normal court. I was therefore given no structure and no knowledge as to what points the Select Committee considered important among a vast array of often unsupported allegations and so-called but unsworn evidence. This, combined with the time pressures, I submit, acted seriously against me as the accused. There was also no defence. While I was allowed to make written submissions, they in no way equated to the contemporary challenges of verbal evidence that take place in a normal court. Furthermore, as there was no prosecution case I as the accused had no knowledge of which of the myriad subjects the Committee would consider important. Nine—the onus of proof. A reading of the report will show clearly that the onus of the proof was placed, contrary to basic tenets of English law, squarely upon the accused. This was clearly pointed out by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton, and examples include SAMA and Chidiac. Tenth, no motive was either alleged or established. Indeed, the complainant made note of the fact that he felt that my alleged breaches were not necessarily intentional. Any transgressions were accidental. Yet the Select Committee deemed these technical errors to be serious although, as I have said before, none of the members of the Select Committee when speaking in the debate sought to describe to the House what they meant by serious. Indeed, the hon. Member for Wealden, the Chairman of the Committee, said:"To have something dredged up after eight years is absurd."
Is that justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker? The eleventh point is that questions of publicity ranged far outside the scope of the Register of Members' Interests. The hon. Member for Workington was allowed by the Chairman, the hon. Member for Wealden, to introduce sub-judice law suits and have monetary amounts disclosed to the public—all contrary to the declaration of rules which specifically exclude monetary amounts. The latter point was used in the SAMA case greatly to my disadvantage as the accused by encouraging jealousy, and thus expressed outrage both in the media and by fellow Members who were later to sit in judgment. The twelfth point was the charade of unamimity. While the Select Committee report was approved unanimously by its members, only one of them, the Chairman, the hon. Member for Wealden, attended more than 84 per cent. of the sessions. Unlike the King's Cross Bill, of which I have an example here which I quote from and which every Member of this Committee was asked to sign—I was one of those Members—which states:"I do not wish to go into the reasons why we came to our conclusions and what we did."
I think that that is very correct, but no such demand was made on members of the Select Committee on Members' Interests, who were voting on a vitally important judical matter affecting the whole future life of one of their colleagues, although they had not even been present for the evidence. Again, in a matter of this importance the mere assumption that Members had read the vast and unclear transcripts surely was not good enough. Is that justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Finally, there was no right of appeal. The most obvious denial of basic human rights to natural justice was the complete absence of appeal, and this was in direct violation of clause 5 of article 14 of the United Nations international convention on civil and political rights. Again, I ask, is that human rights to basic justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker? I would now like to turn to the question of political bias on a Committee. It is obvious to anyone studying the reports of Select Committees that strong political bias normally exists. I submit that the Select Committee on Members' Interests was no exception. Again, the repeated protests in the debate of 7 March 1990 by the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Wealden, show how conscious the Committee must have been about this matter. In the debate the hon. Member for Wealden said, referring to the hon. Member for Workington:"I the undersigned, having been selected by the Committee of Selection to serve as a Member of the Committee on the King's Cross Bill, hereby declare that my constituents have no local interest and that I have no personal interest in the said Bill, and that I will never vote on any question which may arise without having duly heard and attended to the evidence relating thereto."
These statements were particularly interesting in the light of the vote of the House on 7 March 1990, which was very strictly along party lines. It was also most interesting with regard to the crucial defence evidence in this respect of Mr. Merrick Denton-Thompson, which was written on page 147 of the report. I quote from the letter written to me by Mr. Denton-Thompson on 8 June 1989, submitted in evidence to the Select Committee and in the report, page 147, but discarded by the Committee out of hand. The last paragraph states:"I can speak with my hand on my heart when I say that the hon. Members for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer),…were hon. members of that Committee, were totally bi-partisan. No sign of political passion crept into the Committee to prejudice the case against my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Winchester."—[Official Report, 7 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 900–37.]
I submitted the letter to the Select Committee. This crucial evidence of alleged political bias was discarded out of hand by the Select Committee, who made no attempt to call Mr. Denton-Thompson to the Committee to be cross-examined. I was not allowed to call him to give evidence verbally to the Committee. Was that denial of the basic right to call a witness justice? The political motivation risked being bust wide open and the evidence was disregarded out of hand. Secondly, I should like to refer to the bias of friendship. Unlike any court, quasi-court, tribunal or even judical Select Committee, such as sat on the King's Cross Bill, the members of the Select Committee on Members' Interests who were effectively trying a colleague for his political and family life were not asked to make any declaration whatever on whether they had any personal friendship or business relationship with any of the witnesses appearing before them. Such a crucial relationship existed with perhaps the key member of the Select Committee, who intervened repeatedly in the House debate—the hon. Member for Workington. Early-day motion 1210 refers to that. The findings of the Select Committee are contained in its report to the House of 19 February 1990. It is a vast document and was obviously read by very few hon. Members. However, the Chairman, the hon. Member for Wealden, tried to persuade the House otherwise. He said:"I am, however, extremely concerned that two Labour Members of the Committee made it quite clear to Mr. Valters that they believed that you would be found in breach of the code of practice and they were both actively seeking evidence against you in a way that could not be described as impartial, indeed they were said to be 'after your blood', 'We will do him'. I have been uncertain as to whether I should alert you to their biased and partial activities, because clearly you are in a very invidious position. Under normal circumstances I would take little notice of statements from the press. However I know this reporter well and indeed he is both totally trustworthy and reliable. As I have no involvement with politics he would have gained nothing by making his comments to me. Please do not hesitate to use this letter at your discretion."
There was no mention of the party Whips in that. The statement was followed by the submission of a socialist, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). I have not warned him about this, but I will merely quote from what he said in Hansard. Is that in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker?"Many hon. Members have studied the matter closely and read the report, and it is they who will pronounce at the end of the day."—[Official Report, 7 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 900.]
The hon. Gentleman should give notice to an hon. Member if he wishes to refer to him or, indeed, quote him. The hon. Gentleman would be wise to leave that out.
I will leave this out on your recommendation, Mr. Deputy Speaker.I was found guilty of the accidental, technical breach of two rules: one so vague that it had to be corrected 10 minutes after I was sentenced. In the SAMA case—
The hon. Gentleman has dealt with some of the technicalities in his long speech. As I understand it from reading the report, the issue on SAMA is relatively simple. The hon. Gentleman's company, Falcon, received $88,000 from the Saudi Arabian Government. I will concede to the hon. Gentleman that the wording of the lists of interests is vague in some respects, but once it was drawn to his attention that there was some concern about the $88,000 that he received through his company from the Saudi Arabian Government, why did he not then declare it?
When the hon. Gentleman says "attention", does he mean by the Select Committee or in newspaper articles?
By Mr. Leigh.
As I said to the Select Committee, the reason was because I thought that I was right. I had asked the then Registrar on this particular issue whether I had to declare the payment and his answer had been that ii the payment was made to my company which was declared in the normal course of business, it was not a payment to me and need not be declared. He even cited the hypothetical case that if an hon. Member were a director of ICI and all the foreign payments to ICI were printed in the Register of Members' Interests, the computer book would be hugely thick every day just on payments to ICI. That was the justification. Yet, when the Select Committee looked at the matter some eight or nine years later, it read through that and said, "Ah, the hon. Gentleman should have declared that because he owned 50 per cent. of the stock of the company". As I understand it, and the Member for Wealden will verify this, the Committee took several hours to discuss what the foreign payments rule meant. Then, 10 minutes after I had been sentenced by the House, the rule was changed to say clearly that if a Member owns more than 33 per cent. of his company—the Chairman will correct me if I am wrong—he must declare all foreign payments to it, although it itself is declared. That was not part of the rule in 1982 or before 7 March 1990.In the SAMA case, I had asked the Registrar whether a foreign payment to my company should be declared. In 1983 he told me, as he told other hon. Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), that if the company to which the payment was made was itself declared, as mine was, there was no need to declare the payment if it was made in the course of business. Despite that, the Select Committee apparently made no attempt to call the registrar to give oral evidence. Nor did it call any of the other hon. Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton, to whom the same advice had been given. I was specifically prevented from calling the registrar or any of the hon. Members to give verbal evidence. Is that justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker? The Committee said that the payment should have been declared because I owned 50 per cent. of the common stock of the company. That ownership rule was not part of the Members' interests rule and was added retrospectively by the House immediately after my sentence on 7 March 1990. It appears that the Select Committee was somewhat desperate to obtain a conviction on this issue. What is strange is that nothing has been done with regard to the other Conservative Members who were vulnerable on precisely the same point. Stranger still is that all similar potential cases have been dropped.
It is worth noting that the SAMA case was the subject of one of the two potentially massive libel suits that I had out against Mr. David Leigh, the chief complainant.In the Chidiac case the sibling relationship between the two Chidiac brothers appears to have been crucial. Although Arab people are not always strict about such matters as the use of writing paper, the Committee made much of the fact that Mr. Charles Chidiac had used the stationery of the London office of his brother's company. That, combined with the sibling relationship, led the Committee to say that I should have been aware that that relationship made my relationship with each of them declarable. The rules made no mention of sibling relationships. Again, there appears to have been considerable bending of the letter of the rules to obtain a prosecution. Furthermore, although the Select Committee admitted on page 32, paragraph 99 that they
and that "the information we have"—most of it stolen —"is incomplete", it discarded out of hand evidence from me and Mr. Chidiac without calling any of the other parties concerned to give evidence. It appears that, despite the onus of proof that was placed clearly on me as the accused, the Select Committee was thirsty for a conviction on this issue. The big and burning question remains: why those two particular issues? In neither case had any person been harmed. There was no financial gain to me and no Government policy was either changed or influenced as a result of the relationship that the Committee feels that I should have declared. Despite the above, the Committee found my technical breaches to have been serious and called for prompt action by the House. However, as I have said consistently, no Committee member attempted to explain why the breaches were deemed serious or what exactly was meant by the word "serious". I was present at the debate, but I was silenced: I was told that to be allowed to stay in the Chamber for the debate I had to give a verbal undertaking that I would not ask any questions, that I would not make any interventions and that I would not challenge anything that was said by another hon. Member after I had sat down, when I was allowed to make not a speech, but a statement which had to be uncontroversial and would be heard in silence. Furthermore, there was little or no precedent of a similar case, other than that of the infamous trial of the late Lord Boothby. The precedent of some 400 similar declarations made by other hon. Members in which overseas earnings could have been expected as normal, but in which none were declared, are shown clearly on page 67 in question 644 of the report. That was completely ignored by the Select Committee. The Select Committee's findings should be contrasted with the findings of the same Select Committee in the subsequent cases of the hon. Members for Surrey, North-West (Sir M. Grylls), for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates), and for Workington. All were found to have transgressed, but no action was recommended by the House. In the latter case, the hon. Member for Workington was found repeatedly and deliberately to have disobeyed a specific rule on Members' interests. However, he was a member of the Select Committee to whom the Chairman had referred in the debate on 7 March as being"have not been able entirely to get to the bottom of this matter"
In Hansard at column 897, the Leader of the House urges the House constantly to heed precedent in dealing with such cases. The precedent in my case has never been followed, even in the case of deliberate transgression. Does that even sound like justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker? I now turn to some coincidences—some very strange coincidences. The first was the strange matching findings of the Committee report with my libel case. As has been said, the journalist Mr. David Leigh had written some highly damaging articles about me during the general election of 1987. I and my solicitors felt that they were highly libellous. Writs were issued and Mr. Leigh has been successfully sued for libel by other Conservative Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill), and by Sir Stephen Hastings, Military Cross. We felt that he had made another mistake—this time a big one—on which very substantial damages were due. During the Committee hearings, it amazed me that the hon. Member for Workington was allowed by the Chairman, the hon. Member for Wealden, to ask questions about this sub judice libel case—report pages 42 and 43, questions 301 to 317. I understand that mention of a sub judice case is not normally allowed by Mr. Speaker. The intensity with which the hon. Member for Workington pressed his questions was also of considerable concern, as was his strong objection—report question 282 —to my consulting with my lawyer. He asked me repeatedly not about the substance of the cases but, most strangely—as if it were of great importance—whether or not I intended to pursue these libel cases. This appeared to be of paramount interest, although it did not relate in any way to the rules on the declaration of Members' interests. I must stress that these two cases—SAMA and Chidiac —on which the Select Committee found me to have committed serious errors were the very same two cases on which I had current, potentially massive libel suits against Mr. Leigh, the complainant. As a result of the Select Committee hearings, these two libel cases were rendered untenable. This very strange coincidence is even more alarming when one reads early-day motion 1210 and when one hears this boast from the hon. Member for Workington. After the report was published, the hon. Member for Workington spoke to me in the House outside Committee Room 13. He was amazingly friendly considering the circumstances. He told me that my case had got out of hand, and that the Committee was really after some much bigger and more serious cases involving some very senior Conservatives. He said that the masses of paper produced by my ex-wife made mine a good case to start with as a trend-setter. He than urged me to apologise in the debate, saying that if I did, he and his friends would not vote against me. He added,"so useful to us on the Committee"—[Official Report, 7 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 901.]
In the event, he did vote against me despite my apology. He then added a much more sinister comment which should gravely concern all hon. Members. In response to my observation that of all the complaints, I was amazed to be found in error on the SAMA and Chidiac questions, he replied:"Where I come from, you don't kick a man when he's down."
In other words, had I yielded to his pressure in the Select Committee hearings—report questions 301 to 317 on pages 42 and 43—my case would not even have been pursued, let alone to a show trial in this Chamber. Does this disturb you, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Could it be that an hon. Member on the Select Committee had set out from the beginning to get his friend, the complainant Mr. David Leigh, off the hook of a massive libel settlement, and to do so had perpetrated a massive and deliberate injustice in the form of a frame-up against another hon. Member, albeit of a different political persuasion? When this evidence was put to the Select Committee on Members' Interests, it refused out of hand to hear the case, giving no reasons whatever. Here I want to quote the return letter I got, having sent the case to the Select Committee."Look, you had libel suits out on those two complaints and I couldn't allow my friend to hang with a million pound suit. That's why I pressed you hard on that point when we took evidence. You should have dropped it."
The hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that he had a writ out against David Leigh of The Observer. He has said many times that it was a massive writ and that he was going to make a lot of money. So it was like game, set and match. He goes before the Select Committee which is dominated by Tory Members, not by Labour Members, and with a Tory Chairman. Let us get things in perspective. The hon. Gentleman gives the impression that a Machiavellian Member, my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), has somehow got all those Tory Members round his little finger. The hon. Gentleman claims that, as a result, he cannot pursue his writ. What happened to that massive writ? If the hon. Gentleman had such a first-class case, what happened to it? How much money did he get? If he did not pursue it, why did he not do so if he had all the cards stacked on his side?
First, talking about the massive Conservative majority on the Committee—
Well, there is.
Absolutely right—the hon. Gentleman is right. However I am sure that he has heard of the Whips Office. Indeed, his own Whip, the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) is sitting close to him. It is a point that I have already made in the debate. Regarding the writ, it would be impossible in my lawyers' view once the House had given its ruling. It was tough enough to get any court in the land to rule on an internal matter of the House of Commons concerning House of Commons rules. That was a dangerous thing. It was going to be tough. But when the House of Commons Select Committee on Members' Interests had made the ruling it did, the case was absolutely untenable.The letter that I got back from the Committee, dated 27 March 1991, said:
"Dear Mr. Browne. In accordance with the procedure laid down by the House on 22 May 1974, I referred your letter of 14 March 1991 containing a complaint against Mr. Campbell-Savours to the Committee.
Surely the Select Committee should normally have been expected to express keen interest in investigating a potential wrongdoing by one of its own members of such gravity and moment. Does this disturb you, Mr. Deputy Speaker? This strange matching of Select Committee findings with my libel case is the strangest coincidence of all in this saga of intrigue. I now turn to the strange precision of the Committee's findings themselves. The precisely convenient drafting of the findings of the House of Commons Select Committee was quite extraordinary. The Select Committee's findings allowed the Conservative Whips to guarantee me one of two totally opposed options: either a take-note motion with no punishment whatever, or a motion to punish me in an extreme manner. Does it raise your eyebrows, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that those findings of the Select Committee allowed both options to be put by the Government Whips?The Committee have asked me to say that they did not wish to proceed with the matter, and returned your letter to me. Signed A. J. Hastings, Registrar and Clerk of the Committee."
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) got a more severe punishment for what he did with the Mace.
The hon. Gentleman says that another hon. Member got a similar punishment, I think for dropping the Mace.
The hon. Gentleman is talking about having suffered an extreme penalty. The Committee, with its massive Tory majority, decided on a vote that the hon. Gentleman should be expelled for 20 days. My hon. Friend the Member for Leith touched the Mace one night and was kicked out for three months. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was thrown out because he had the guts to say that the Prime Minister of the day was lying. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), who has just come into the Chamber, was thrown out because he held up proceedings on the Budget for about five minutes.I ask hon. Members to reflect on the situation. This bloke pocketed £88,000, did not put it in the Register in the proper manner, and is now whingeing. He is still a Member of Parliament and has been picking up his money all the time, as well as massive sums from various companies. Yet he claims to have suffered an extreme penalty. He is in trouble because the Tory heirarchy have put the knife in his back.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for mentioning at least one point. Perhaps the House does not view a 20-day suspension as an extreme punishment, but outside this House, the concept is viewed as a very extreme punishment, and it does enormous damage.The Select Committee's findings allowed the Conservative Whips to guarantee me either a take-note motion with no punishment whatever, or a motion to punish me in an extreme manner. I hope that you will forgive those, Mr. Speaker, who see the possibility—I put it no higher at this stage—of collusion. The House investigations may show more, new and additional proof than the recordings that I have on the subject. A reference in the book on Lord Boothby by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge makes an interesting comparison. Evidently Lord Boothby, when a Member of this House, was fixed by the very same mechanism, in which the Conservative Whips played a most active part in the running of the Select Committee. That active role of the Conservative Whips in important issues concerning Select Committee has recently been evidenced again by the sudden change of heart on the part of the Select Committee on Health in toning down its report of July 1991. Even to this day the Whips Office appears to be playing a crucial role. When, on the written recommendation of the present Prime Minister, I went to the present Chief Whip, the right hon. Member for Mid Norfolk (Mr. Ryder), to ask for help over my appeal to the House, the door was slammed shut: "It is for the Leader of the House alone—you cannot expect any help from me," he said. Later in the conversation he said, "If you do not stand down at the next election, I will use all the resources at my command against you." That appears already to have started, for there have been more unannounced ministerial visits to my constituency in the last six months than in the previous 12 years. Now, even the selected candidate—the candidate selected by my local association to run against me—threatens, if press reports are correct, that no fewer than six Ministers, and even the Prime Minister, will come to speak for him in the election campaign if I do not stand down. It sounds almost as though a by-election is to take place in Winchester. Only two days ago an article appeared in the Daily Express saying that the Whips Office had said that I should have declared an interest called the John Browne foundation. I hereby say that no such foundation existed or exists, now or at any time. So the letter is about a non-existent foundation that I am supposed to have registered. I called the Chief Whip about it, but instead of offering to investigate the matter urgently, he wanted to hear none of it, saying that it was a matter for the pairing Whip rather than for him. Washed hands. The third extraordinary coincidence to which I must refer is that of timing of the House of Commons debate on 7 March and the timing of a meeting of my executive on the same day. My constituency association, under the chairmanship of Mrs. Felicity Hindson, who was once chairman of the women's advisory committee of the then Leader of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), arranged for a special meeting of the Winchester executive to take place in a village hall, rather than in Winchester, on the very evening of 7 March 1990. The cost of the hall was £29.50—not much to lose if the meeting was cancelled. That meeting was heavily supervised by Conservative Central Office, in the person of the area agent, Mr. Donald Stringer—the same Mr. Stringer, who, I understand, managed the selection process in Cheltenham and was consulted about the famous letter of the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), now Secretary of State for the Environment, when he wrote to his executive. By a quite extraordinary coincidence, the then Leader of the House, a friend of my chairman, arranged for the debate on my interests to be held at precisely the same time, on the afternoon and evening of 7 March 1990. He announced that fact publicly on Thursday 1 March at business question time. Mrs. Hindson who has subsequently been awarded the MBE—after only two years as constituency chairman—made no attempt to change the timing of the Winchester executive meeting to enable me to attend, or to allow those especially keen members of my executive to watch my trial on television, despite the fact that she had had secret advance warning of an ambush motion to be put by a Brigadier Lanyon at that special executive meeting to recommend the opening of reselection procedures. Mrs. Hindson finally admitted to that prior knowledge over a year later, under heavy questioning from the floor of the Winchester annual general meeting, on 25 April 1991. Furthermore, under the Winchester association rule 18(2) (c), she was obliged to keep me fully informed on matters of parliamentary candidature. In this case, I was kept totally in the dark. The result of those conflicting meetings—of my constituency executive and in the Chamber—was that I was unable to explain to my executive my objection in principle to the whole idea of reselection. I maintain that it is a socialist phenomenon tending to make Members of Parliament more like delegates of a few senior party officials rather than the representatives of their constituents. In my absence, the meeting in my constituency was persuaded that reselection would be greatly to my advantage, as it would wipe the slate clean of all the problems that I faced in the media.
Did you fall for that?
I was not even asked to fall for it because I had to be here to make my statement. My point is that I was not even there. So the real question is whether the members attending the meeting fell for it.Owing to my firmly held beliefs, I did not submit my name for reselection, as a matter of principle. On the other hand, as I did not submit to the unconstitutional pressure brought on me, as mentioned in early-day motion 1211, I did not stand down. The result is now total chaos in my constituency. With a Conservative ex-Whip as the official candidate, there are serious splits and extremely low morale. My constituency has now been placed in jeopardy with the prospect of two Father Christmases at the next general election. I come to the subject of unconstitutional pressure.
I am curious. The hon. Gentleman said tht the chairperson of his constituency party got her MBE after being chair for only two years. What is the tariff in the Tory party for an MBE?
The tariff that I have seen is that if one is chairman of a constituency association for three years and then president for three years, one has about a one in four chance of getting an MBE. The person in question had been chairman for about a year and a half, and suddenly out of the blue an MBE came winging its way. I tried to find who had recommended it, and on what grounds, but all information was tightly sealed.I turn to the subject of unconstitutional pressure. According to the Chief Whip, the Select Committee report was leaked to him by a Committee member just over a week before it was published on 9 February 1990. I do not personally believe that it was leaked in that way, but none the less that is what I was told. From that moment on, senior officers of state clearly sought to pervert the course of justice. Although numbed by the media onslaught, I was put under the greatest pressure to stand down at the next election, in return for a Government guarantee that I would not be punished in any way. I was told that I must stand down—not immediately, thus causing an embarrassing by-election, but at the next general election. The precision of the House Select Committee findings allowed all three of those options. I was told that if I agreed to stand down I would not be punished in any way, and that sympathetic and even laudatory speeches would be made about me from the Government Front Bench and from some Back Bench supporters. The House would pass a take-note motion, with no punishment. I would then be assured of a very easy time regarding late night votes, and pairing until the next general election and would be positively considered—
It being Eleven o'clock, MR. SPEAKER interrupted the proceedings, pursuant to Standing Order No. 11 (Friday sittings).
Fishery Decommissioning Scheme
(by private notice): To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the fishery decommissioning scheme he announced on 27 February.
I refer the hon. Member to my pursuant reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) yesterday evening. I explained that my fellow Fisheries Ministers and I are proposing a programme of closely linked measures to reduce the over-fishing which is posing serious problems for many stocks vital to the long-term future of our fishing industry. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that I have pointed out on numerous occasions that there is no way in which we can safeguard the future of our present fishermen and of their sons and daughters without serious conservation moves.The object of the proposed programme will be to reduce fishing effort over the period up to 1996. An essential feature of the programme will be the introduction of direct controls on fishing effort. Initially, we plan to freeze effort in 1993 at its 1991 level, with the permitted level of effort then decreasing in 1994 to 1996. How much we will have to reduce effort will depend, in part, on the outcome of forthcoming European Community discussions about the 1992–96 multi-annual guidance programme and, partly, on the impact of the other measures that we also propose to introduce. The other proposed measures include a decommissioning scheme to operate over two years with provision for expenditure of up to £25 million. That scheme will be cash-limited and subject to tight controls and will be designed to take out the maximum amount of fishing effort. No decommissioning payments will be committed until measures to control and reduce fishing effort are in place, which we intend to seek to achieve in 1993. In addition, we are proposing changes in our quota management and licence transfer rules, so as to encourage fish producers' organisations to play a more active part in rationalising the fleet and to increase the pressure to reduce the size of the fleet. Further, we intend to extend restrictive licensing to vessels of 10 m and below in length so as to prevent expansion in this sector of the fleet undermining the effectiveness of our other measures. Finally, we propose to make it possible for fishermen to trade their days at sea entitlements along with fishing licences. We shall shortly be consulting the European Community Commission and the fishing industry about the details of this important conservation package. When parliamentary time permits, the Government will introduce the primary legislation that will be needed for some elements of the package, such as the arrangements of trading days at sea entitlements. My right hon. Friends and I are putting this important programme forward now following a series of discussions with industry interests, in which we have made it clear that we would be prepared to introduce a further decommissioning scheme only as part of a package that would have real conservation benefits. The package is a careful combination of payments to industry, encouragement to voluntary action and some compulsory effort reduction. Reducing fishing effort is crucial to the long-term interests of our fishermen as well as the fish stocks. We look forward to constructive discussions with the industry about our proposals.
That is a useful statement from the Minister, bacause it contrasts sharply with the bullish assessment given by the Scottish Office yesterday evening. Can the Minister tell the House whether the funding proposed for the decommissioning scheme is fully comparable with that which has been available to other European fleets in the past few years, and if not why not? Can he specify exactly what extensions to the tie-up regulations he is proposing? If he is going in for transferable, viable and sellable quotas, how will he avoid the concentration of ownership in a few hands in the fishing industry, to the detriment of the family-run industry in Scotland?Would the Minister be prepared to join me in appealing to the chairmen of all the major clearing banks to suspend repossessions of fishing boats until it can be worked out whether the scheme will help fishermen in that position to leave the industry with dignity? Finally, does the Minister have no sense of shame or regret about his obduracy and his role in stopping such a scheme during the past few years and causing so much grief and heartache in our fishing communities?
You will have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman did not mention the word "conservation" once during his questions. One of the serious sadnesses of the discussions is that the Scottish nationalists appear to think that the only thing that we need to do is to hand out money to people and not to protect the stocks. Again and again I have asked for the Scottish nationalists' support for conservation. On every occasion they have refused to do anything to seek it, except to demand that taxpayers' money should be paid, without question, for the decommissioning scheme.First, I am not going to compare this scheme with any other. I would not have given the private notice question the title which the hon. Member suggested. The most important thing about the scheme is that it is intended further to conserve stocks of fish, to conserve the Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish fishing industries for today and tomorrow. I am sad that the Scottish nationalists have not joined me in that. I have only one sense of shame—shame that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan has not taken the opportunity to thank us for this package. I am also sad that the industry has not introduced the package, but I respect the large number of fishermen who will fully support the package, which is the right balance between asking the industry to make a substantial contribution—which is what I have been asking for for 18 months—both in the new job of the fish producers' organisations, which will be able to play a part in decommissioning, and in the fact that there will be further tie-ups. I have tried to create a situation in which there are only so many days at sea. We shall freeze that effort, as I suggested in 1991, from the beginning of 1993 and we shall reduce the effort, as is necessary to conserve stocks. I repeat that the intention of the scheme is to conserve stocks. The idea of trading days at sea entitlement is to give some flexibility between fishermen all over the United Kingdom. It is something that fishermen in Scotland will especially welcome, because it will mean that they will be able to adapt their fishing according to their needs in a way which would not otherwise have been available to them.
These measures will be warmly welcomed by my fishermen in Fleetwood, especially as my right hon. Friend has taken on board the need for a decommissioning scheme to be part of an overall protection package. Is my right hon. Friend prepared to introduce that decommissioning scheme, provided that agreement is reached with the rest of the industry on other protection measures?Secondly, will my right hon. Friend say more clearly what he is proposing to do about licensing of boats of less than 10 m? Finally, will the scheme that he has proposed encourage a newer, smaller fleet and encourage some of the older vessels to leave the fleet?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. The intention is to conserve stocks for the present and future. It is unlikely that the conservation measures that I have outlined will be agreed by the Commission and be in place in the fishing ports in advance of the dates that I have suggested. However, I shall certainly look at my hon. Friend's proposition. I cannot encourage him, simply because, having realised how complex a matter it is, I think that his aim is unlikely to be achieved.In all the talks that I have had with representatives of the fishing industry, it has been clear that they have taken an increasingly serious view of the need to restrict efforts. I am pleased that the general tone of the fishing industry has been to welcome the sort of package that we have put together and presaged in a series of debates, both in the House and elsewhere. I shall certainly consider the other points raised by my hon. Friend to see whether there is any further action that we can take. As for the licensing of smaller boats, the intention is to meet a demand of the fishing industry, members of which have become more and more concerned that the 10m boats and below are increasingly fishing stocks, so that they are unavailable to the more professional fishermen. Some such boats are very professional and keep just below the limit. I do not want that to continue. Such action is particularly prevalent in fishing ports such as my hon. Friend's, where times have been extremely difficult. I very much respect those who have stuck to their guns and determined to keep fishing. They have felt that their stocks had been purloined by those fishermen not subject to the same restrictions. In future, those fishermen shall be so subject.
Does the Minister agree that such a matter would have been more appropriate for an oral statement than for a written answer and the chance of a private notice question?Approximately what proportion of existing fishing vessels over a certain length are likely to be decommissioned as a result of the scheme? Will the Minister assure the House that he believes that there is an equivalence of surveillance of catchings, as distinct from landings, of fish throughout the EEC? Will he enlighten us as to why, twice yesterday at—column 1118 in answer to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), and at column 1123 in answer to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond)—the Leader of the House said that there would not be a statement, despite the accusation that the matter was imminent? Does not the fact that the subject occurs in columns 612–13 of Hansard, published in the early hours of this morning, and was issued to the press at 5 pm yesterday, mean that the Government are at sixes and sevens with the House and the fishing public on this vital issue?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. The likelihood is that the proposal might reach about 12 per cent. of the fleet. The decommissioning part of the plan is only one part of it, and the earlier part of my statement is perhaps the most important, as it commits the Government and the fishing industry to a significant restriction on effort in order to protect the future, by protecting the stocks. The hon. Gentleman will know that the United Kingdom has the largest proportion of fishing stocks in the European Community. It is perfectly true that, due to that fact, our surveillance is tougher, better and more extensive than any other Community country.I want to improve the surveillance that other countries have over their boats. Therefore, it was my job when I was Minister of State successfully to press the Commission to set up an inspectorate of inspectors and extend that inspectorate on the second occasion. I hope that we shall improve that further, as there is no doubt that the Commission has complimented the United Kingdom on the quality, extent and integrity of its surveillance. We shall continue to uphold those standards in this country. We hope to spread them to the rest of the Community. As to the comments of my right hon. Friend, he knew that I would produce a statement as quickly as possible. He did not know that I would be able to do so as quickly as I did. My speed surprised even myself.
When my right hon. Friend the Minister came to Norfolk last year, he will have heard some of the problems of the Wash shell fishermen who are concerned about conservation, and conserving stocks of shrimps, cockles, whelks and mussels. The Minister will have heard about how the industry plays a crucial part in the local economy. He will also be aware of the concern about the EC shellfish directive and various closure orders in the Wash, and about the threat of larger boats coming into the Wash and fishing for the inshore stock.To what extent will today's statement affect the inshore Wash shell fishery? Could we include in today's proposals measures to alleviate the problems caused by large boats coming in and taking the stock that local fishermen believe to be theirs?
I very much understand what my hon. Friend has said, not least because I, like him, have a fishing constituency with a proportionately large number of fishermen who are longshoremen and have precisely those problems, although the species are different. I do not believe that we can take measures under the proposals specifically to address my hon. Friend's concerns, but I am looking at ways in which the present system bears upon the smaller fishermen, particularly in relation to shellfish, where there are real worries.May I correct an answer I gave earlier to the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing)—[Interruption.] There is no need to worry—I shall state absolutely clearly that it would be more accurate to answer the question about the effect of decommissioning to say that we think that 10 per cent. of effort will be removed by the decommissioning as it stands.
Does the Minister recognise that for all of us, from all quarters, who have been pressing long and hard for the Government to concede the principle of decommissioning, the Government's concession—their deathbed conversion—is welcome? But the industry's suspicions are likely to be aroused by the uncharacteristic reluctance of this Minister, of all Ministers, to come to the House to tell us of his departmental activities?Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify the statement issued by the Secretary of State for Scotland yesterday, when he spoke of the £25 million that was to be put into decommissioning? Is the entire decommissioning scheme to be Government funded, or will it involve an anticipated contribution from the industry? Will he take this opportunity to respond to the anxiety felt on both coastlines in the north of Scotland—that of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) and mine —over the repossessions currently taking place? Will he influence the respective chairmen of the clearing banks involved to urge them not to proceed with that policy? In his announcement, the Minister placed emphasis on the other measures—tie-up days, transferrable licences and so on. When he quite properly speaks of the need for continuing constructive discussions with the industry, will he bear in mind the particular problems that such measures pose for smaller fishing communities? Will he consider the lack of support that those measures have generated within some sectors of the fishing industry?
I acknowledge that, in contradistinction to others, the hon. Gentleman has always made a major point about conservation and has always accepted that it had to be part of any scheme that we proposed. It is perhaps unfair of him to suggest that we had to concede the principle, as I accepted it 18 months ago, but on the condition that there was a substantial contribution by the industry. The Government's contribution is £25 million, most of which will be paid by the British taxpayer. The industry's contribution is a serious one and there will be a heavier weight attached to it due to conservation reasons and tie-up days.In future we shall provide fish producer organisations with the ability to discover in what spheres they may seek to rationalise their own local problems at their expense. That will not be enforced, but will take the form of voluntary action if they are prepared to do so. The whole industry will be affected by the more general conservation measures that will arise partly due to the extension of the licensing of boats of 10 m and below. That is the industry contribution and it is the one with which I hoped that it would come forward. All the elements of that contribution have been suggested by those within the industry who are concerned about it. I think that it strikes the right balance. In the past, the hon. Member has suggested that he was not unwilling to see such a balance achieved. The £25 million is the Government contribution and there is no question of taxing or raising money from the industry to contribute to that. I very much agree with what the hon. Member said about smaller communities. Unless we do something significant about conservation, it is those communities which will be most obviously affected. The hon. Gentleman will know from his part of the United Kingdom how much antagonism between communities has arisen because of the shortage of fish. It has not been a pretty sight to see the way in which different parts of Scotland, let alone Scotland and England, and different parts of England have argued among themselves because of the extremely limited amount of fish available. I hope that the proposed scheme will help those communities in the long run. I shall consider carefully the way in which the burdens of that scheme fall upon individual small communities. I have such communities in my constituency and I understand their concerns. The tie-up is difficult, but it is better to have a tie-up under the current proposals than under the unsatisfactory proposals that were previously forced upon us by the Commission—even after we had changed them to an extent. The much more flexible proposals were British initiated and they were hard-fought for by the Parliamentary Secretary and myself. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that they are a great improvement. I shall talk to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland about specific examples of repossessions. If the hon. Gentleman or any of his hon. Friends wish to inform me of particular cases I would be happy to take them up individually.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this issue is a matter of balance? The answer my right hon. Friend has given strikes the right balance between the short-term interests of the fishermen and the long-term issue of conservation. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Scottish National party should recognise that unless we preserve the fish stocks, there will not be any fishermen in the future?
I agree with my hon. Friend. I am sad that this is not a matter of universal agreement in the House. The written answer that I gave yesterday seemed to me to be so obviously a balanced one that it could not cause any kind of controversy. The fact that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) seeks to make it controversial shows that, once again, conservation that costs something—all effective conservation does—is not something that the Scottish National party is ever prepared to support.
The Minister has placed you, Mr. Speaker in an invidious position today, whereby you felt that you had to grant a private notice question because this is the first opportunity to ask questions following the statement published this morning in Hansard. I believe that the statement made at the Dispatch Box today is designed to snooker my hon. Friends with responsibilities for fisheries who are unable to be here today because they are busily involved in constituency engagements. What the right hon. Gentleman has done is a breach of parliamentary faith and that is wrong.What will be the position of the small boats of less than 10 m that will be decommissioned? Will they be destroyed? Will they be burnt, broken up or put to alternative use? Is it possible that some of those boats could be used as part of Britain's aid programme and sent to overseas countries where they could be put to good use in underprivileged fishing communities? I give the statement a cautious welcome. I should like to know how it will precisely impact on communities such as my own of Maryport in my constituency. To find the answer I shall have to make contact with some of my fishing colleagues, such as Mr. Madine and Mr. Harold Musgrove, who is a Maryport resident. They will quickly inform me of the value of this particular statement. Therefore, although I give a cautious welcome to the statement, I reserve some judgment on it.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his cautious welcome, and I should be happy to talk to him about the specific problems of Maryport—an area which faces difficult economic problems in any case. Obviously I hope that my statement will make a contribution, at least in the medium term, to the resources and abilities of his constituents to fish.I suspect that the hon. Gentleman's fishermen will tell him that the announcement is good as far as it goes, but that they wish that the burden of conservation did not have to be borne by them. That is one of our problems. We are asking today's fishermen to take on a considerable burden, because of the over-fishing of the past, to provide for real fishing in the future. I recognise that fishermen find that extremely difficult, and it is for that reason that I believe that the significant sum of taxpayers' money should be part of the deal. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's fishermen will find that satisfactory. I do not believe that I put you, Mr. Speaker, in any difficult position, but, if I had done so, I would have been the first to apologise. I do not believe that to be the case, because the private notice question technique is a standard part of the House's methods of communication. The hon. Gentleman was able to put his question and I was able to answer it. I, too, had constituency engagements today, but if others had wished to be here, I am sure that they could have been present.
Is there not another reason why this statement has been made this morning in answer to a private notice question? It is because the right hon. Gentleman has been locked in mortal combat with the Scottish Office, and other sections of the Tory party, for the past three years.There is another way of looking at this statement. It is not all sunshine, because the right hon. Gentleman has really said that we shall have fewer fishermen and fewer boats getting fish and that the price of fish will go up. We are a maritime nation, an island in the Common Market, but ever since we went into that tinpot Common Market, our fishermen have been told that they cannot catch as much fish as they did before, because it must be surrendered to the other 11 EC countries. A number of hon. Members have complimented the Minister today. What for? He is being complimented for sacking people, stopping them working and throwing them on the dole. What a carry-on.
The House will have noticed the hon. Member's eloquent support for Labour party policy on the EEC—
I am not surrendering to the Germans.
The hon. Gentleman appears to be fighting battles long over.
I will win in the end.
He does so with scant connection with the facts. The problem is not our Community partners, but the fish. I know that the hon. Gentleman's constituency is far removed from the sea—
We have to buy fish.
The reason that there is a shortage of fish is not the European Community but the fact that we have over-fished in the past. We have the largest amount of European fish and it is our over-fishing, as well as that of others, that has caused the problem.It would be wrong to suggest that we can blame this problem on others. We have fished too much and we must hold back on our fishing. We will do so to give our next generation the opportunity to fish in what is the largest sector of EC fisheries. Thank goodness we have a common fisheries policy, because that is the only effective safeguard for the conservation of our fish stocks. The hon. Gentleman is fighting long-lost battles, and the sadness about it is that he misleads the House by suggesting that an alternative policy would reap any better results.
Will the Minister accept that his statement this morning that he will talk to Labour Members or to the Secretary of State for Scotland will not help the immediate repossessions that we are seeing now and that will come about later in the year in the fishing industry? It is not just a problem for Scotland—it exists in Redcar and up the north-east coast, in the constituencies of many of my hon. Friends. Will he make a commitment to talk to the clearing banks about the difficulty, because next year, as he and I know, will be too late for many of those fisheries people?
In case others are not aware of this, I should make it clear that, although the specific cases which no doubt the hon. Lady would like to bring to my attention, although she has not done so so far—I do not believe that I have had a letter from her asking for support on this—
It is not up to the Minister; the clearing banks make the decisions.
If the hon. Lady has a particular case that she wants me to take up, I have always shown myself extremely willing to talk to Members of Parliament about individual cases. The hon. Lady has not so far contacted me, but if she were willing to do so, I could take it up with the clearing bank concerned.In general, the fishing industry's returns have kept up with inflation, because, although the numbers of fish that have been taken are smaller, as the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has told us, the price of fish has also risen. Therefore, it is untrue to say that the fishing industry overall is enduring general repossessions. There may be individual cases, and in those cases I am happy to do whatever I can to help. If the hon. Lady has such a case —it will of course be in England, as her constituency is in England and will therefore be my responsibility—I should be happy to take it up at the moment that she gives me the details.
To pick up a point made by the Minister, my hon. Friends who normally speak on the fishing industry are in their constituencies. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) is 300 miles away, and my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) is 200 miles away. They are absent not only because of the assurances given by the Leader of the House yesterday but because of the assurances given late yesterday by the private offices of Ministers that a statement on this matter would not be made in the near future. I hope that the Minister will take this opportunity to apologise for that information, which came directly from his Department.Is the Minister aware that the Labour party generally welcomes the decommissioning scheme that he has announced? He should not be surprised at that, because Labour colleagues both north and south of the border have been pressing for this action for many years. We recognise that a balance has to be struck between guaranteeing the livelihood of those involved in fishing today and conserving stock for the fishing communities of tomorrow—the whole principle of sustainable development that I wish was introduced in other Departments. Does the Minister think that the £25 million that he has announced—there seems to be some confusion about the amount of reduction in capacity that that will bring—is adequate to deal with the problem? How does he react to the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, which believes the sum to be inadequate? Does the Minister agree that had this scheme been introduced two years ago, as the Labour party demanded, there would have been greater stability in the fishing industry today and we could have avoided the need for the other and more draconian restrictions that the Minister also announced today? Is it not a fact that this is a cynical deathbed conversion, which has more to do with the date of the election than with the Minister's concern with the fishing industry?
This scheme could not have been introduced two years ago, because the arrangements under which the European Community operated would not have given us the opportunities to take the conservation measures that we now have.—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady has asked a question and I will answer it politely. She will then no doubt be able to intervene if she thinks that I have not answered it adequately.In the past 18 months, we have spent a great deal of time working in the European Community to get the system that makes possible what I announced yesterday. That is why it could not have been done or announced before. In any case, the reason for the announcement at this time has to do with the agreement that we have to enter with the European Community about our multi-annual guidance programme targets. We now know that our fleet will overshoot those targets and we have to negotiate with the Commission on the basis of what target we should have, how we will keep our fleet within those targets and the effort within those targets over the period 1992–96. The hon. Lady does not normally speak on this subject, so she will understand if I say this directly—this is the timing that is inevitable given the European Community's timing. As to the hon. Lady's colleagues, I have made no further announcement today that was not clearly put in the answer to the written question that I gave last night. I am answering this private notice question today—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady wants an answer and can no doubt return on the matter if she wishes to. Her synthetic anger will be seen by all. There is a private notice question today and I am answering it. Every hon. Member who is present has seen that I have given no further information than that which was already in the hands of the House in the perfectly sensible, public answer to a written question which I made yesterday. The hon. Lady said that the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations thinks that this amount of money is inadequate. I suspect that, whatever figure had been placed on this, those who are the recipients would have liked more. I believe that this is the right balance and I should like to thank her for her willingness to say that, if there is to be a decommissioning scheme, it must be part of a package. However, the difference is that that is a balance which we have achieved, which she has supported but which, up to now, her hon. Friends have not pressed for. Like so many others, they are keen on emphasising the scheme that puts money into people's pockets without accepting the other half, which is very tough, which the fishermen recognise and with which I concern myself because it is hard for them.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Your name has been mentioned in relation to embarrassment; I would not know whether that is so and I would not ask. However, is it not clear from the exchanges that we have just had that certain hon. Members, including those on the Opposition Front Bench, have been embarrassed today by the turn of events? You will have just heard my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) ask for an apology from the Minister. You will know that, yesterday, when he was asked whether a statement was imminent, the Leader of the House—no doubt in good faith, because I know him—said:
You will know, Mr. Speaker, that at that very moment an envelope must have been on the way to give the hon. Gentleman who had asked the written question his answer. Therefore, is it not a fact that there has been a breach of order or of courtesy and that some apology is required? The Minister has not yet given it. Can we ask whether the apology is due from the Leader of the House—I do not think that it is, knowing his general conduct—or from the Minister of Fisheries—I think that it might be—whose conduct we have just witnessed?"I am not yet in a position to say when conclusions will be reached."—[Official Report, 27 February 1992; Vol. 204, c. 1118.]
This is a private Members' day, and there are other motions on the Order Paper. I was not embarrassed by this matter. I consider private notice questions on their merits, and that is the basis on which I granted the private notice question today.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It would not be in my nature to be curmudgeonly. If any hon. Member feels that he could have been better served by me or my Ministry, I am sorry that he does feel so. I shall try to ensure that he does not feel so in future.
After that handsome apology, I do not think that there is anything more to be said.
I wonder whether you might comment, Mr. Speaker, on what happened yesterday. The Leader of the House gave—
Order. I have already said that I cannot comment. It is not for me to comment on these matters. As I have said, this is a private Members' motions day. The hon. Member knows—he has often been in this position himself—that it would be unfair to take up time with points of order that I cannot answer.
At the same time that the Leader of the House was telling the House that there would be no answer, a letter was winging its way to an hon. Member including a parliamentary answer that was entirely at variance with an undertaking being given by the Leader of the House. Surely that shows that there was some congestion in Whitehall.In your ruling, Mr. Speaker, you said that you consider whether a private notice question is important enough to be granted. There is an additional factor that you are required to take into account, and that is whether it is the first opportunity to raise the matter. Will you confirm, Mr. Speaker, that this is the first opportunity to raise the matter and that only on this day would you be prepared to grant the private notice question? If an hon. Member such as myself had come to you on Monday, you would have said, "The first opportunity was last Friday." Is it not clear, therefore, that there was very little that you could do other than allow the private notice question today, given that the answer was given yesterday and published in Hansard this morning? Is not that the reality?
Of course that is true. The hon. Member correctly states the criteria against which I judge applications for private notice questions.
Question again proposed.
As I was saying Mr. Speaker, I was told that, if I did agree to stand down at the next general election, I would not be punished in any way. In fact, sympathetic and even laudatory speeches would be made about me from the Government Front Bench and from Government Back Bench supporters. The House would pass a take-note motion, and there would be no punishment. I would then be assured of an easy time here with regard to late nights, pairing and so on, until the next election. I would be positively considered for any Committees or overseas visits for which I applied. On the other hand, if I did not submit, I could rest assured that the House would pass a hostile motion involving severe punishment.That offer was entirely unconstitutional, in that it denied the rights of my constituents to vote either for or against their sitting Member at the next general election. When I asked, "What about my constituents?", I was told by the party chairman, "Do not worry about your constituents." But I do worry about my constituents and their rights, over those of party officials, to hire and fire hon. Members of the House. This is a fundamental pillar of democracy. Surely we want hon. Members to be answerable to their constituents, and thereby to serve the interests of their constituents rather than those of party officials. We do not wish Members of the House to be answerable to, and thereby to become the private delegates of, a few party officials. Is that not what our British democracy is all about? Surely that should be a matter of concern to all right hon. and hon. Members of the House. Worse still, what happened was one of the gravest possible abuses of judicial power. Pressure was put upon me by some of the most powerful people in the land—namely, the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East who is not only a Queen's Counsel of the High Court of England, but was then Leader of the House, in charge of the business of the House, and, as Foreign Secretary, had been in charge of MI6; the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), who, as Home Secretary, is in charge of MI5; and the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex, who was in charge of the Government Whips Office. With such great power wielded with impunity against the flow of justice, what man or women in our land can consider himself or herself safe from an individual purge for political reasons? Under such circumstances, when the Government call for silence, it is indeed the silence of the lambs. Does that not worry you, Mr. Deputy Speaker? That illicit pressure was placed on me at a series of well-recorded meetings held in the Chief Whip's Office and the offices of the Leader of the House and of the party chairman. Interestingly, some of those meetings are not even recorded in the official diaries of the Ministers concerned. One meeting was so secret that I was met outside the door of the building not by the Minister's secretary but by the Chief Whip himself, who ushered me in to see the Minister in a back room, without my name being registered as a visitor.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I have already given way a lot, and I have been given the vibes to get a move on.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I shall not—not for the moment, anyway.That series of meetings confirmed my worst thoughts.
Why will the hon. Gentleman not give way?
It was apparent to me—
Why will the hon. Gentleman not give way? He has made a series of allegations—
It was apparent to me that the Labour party—
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The wider general public, and those who read Hansard, will know that, over the past hour and a half, the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) has made a series of outrageous allegations about me. Do you not think it right in the circumstances, Mr. Deputy Speaker—is it not the custom of the House—that, when such allegations have been made, the Member on his feet who is making them should give way at least once, so that a single question can he asked?
That is a matter for the hon. Member who is speaking.
The hon. Member for Workington was not present when I said those things—
I have been in the Chamber ever since we started.
I shall refer to the hon. Gentleman again, and I shall gladly give way at that time, but I shall not give way to him at the moment.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way on this issue?
No. I am talking about the Government Whips Office. I have had the vibes to get a move on, and so far I have given way to every demand that I do so. I must get on.The series of meetings to which I referred confirmed my worst thoughts. It was apparent to me that the Labour party was out for the blood of a Conservative Member on the issue of Members' interests. That was mentioned in Mr. Merrick Denton-Thompson's letter, referred to on page 147 of the Committee report, which I have already read out, and which said that people were after my blood. It is interesting that that letter was discarded out of hand by the Committee on the word of another journalist. As the hon. Member for Bolsover has said, the question is: why my blood? I shall attempt to answer that key question by referring to some outside factors that were allowed to influence the course of justice. In 1988–89, the flavour of the season in the media was the subject of Members' interests. That was magnified by consistent pressure brought by some socialist Members. Allegations were made by socialist Members and by the media against a number of Conservative Ministers, former Ministers and senior Back Benchers. It was an unpleasant and threatening pressure on the Conservative party. In 1989, the Labour party—especially Members seated below the Gangway—began to interrupt Prime Minister's Questions with persistent choruses of, "Sleaze party," and, "Party of sleaze." Again, that gave cause for considerable concern, which was apparent in the way in which it was received by the then Prime Minister. At that time, I was involved with the Protection of Privacy Bill, and in an acrimonious divorce, about which there have been many misconceptions. Despite such provocation, I have never spoken ill of my former wife, nor sought to put publicly my side of that great human tragedy. However, I shall now list some undisputed facts. In 1983 my former wife—now Mrs. Elizabeth Jowitt —left me for my one-time lawyer, Mr. Ernest Jowitt, with whom she had previously committed adultery, and whom she has since married. She sued me for divorce and it was agreed that the divorce should take place on the grounds of my adultery. There may have been reasons, even understandable reasons, with a wife committing adultery, but there can be no excuse for it—and, indeed, I felt much shame. In the subsequent High Court action concerning financial settlement, Mr. Justice Wood reached some important judgments, most notably those of 6 February 1986 and 25 November 1986. These judgments were subsequently confirmed before the Court of Appeal on 23 November 1988. All of them were public and, indeed, all but the main initial hearings were in public. Despite that, certain sections of the media chose to present a totally different picture of the truth. According to the Court of Appeal, page 9, columns G and H and page 10, column A:
In the media, the breakdown of the marriage was blamed upon my adultery. However, in his judgment of 6 February 1986, Mr. Justice Wood points to the fact that my ex-wife had two prior adulterous relationships—page five, paragraph H, and page six, paragraphs A and F. The media have never made mention of this to my knowledge. Mr. Justice Wood also said that he was quite satisfied that the tactics of my ex-wife were to pressurise and to try to break me financially—page seven, paragraph F. In describing my ex-wife's character, Mr. Justice Wood said on page 11, paragraph F:"there has been a great deal of publicity in the past over this case. There has, it appears, been misleading impressions of the types of applications and the purpose of the applications made by this husband, the suggestion, I believe, that he was a man hoping to live off a rich wife. The facts are very different."
He went on, on page 13 paragraph D in referring to my ex-wife, to say:"I judge Mrs. Browne to be highly intelligent and to be manipulative. Where her own interests are concerned she is unscrupulous even to the extent of total lack of frankness."
Finally, on page 8, paragraphs D and F, Mr. Justice Wood refers to my wife's theft of documents from me. It is most interesting to note that no mention was made of the public hearing in which I have pleaded consistently through my counsel not to have my wife sent to prison. Also ignored was the very significant statement made by Mr. Justice Wood in open court which was well attended by journalists on 25 November 1986, when he said:"Unless her evidence is corroborated from independent and reliable sources, it remains suspect and indeed unacceptable."
This statement was published by only one small newspaper. Despite those published findings of a High Court judge who had heard the case presented to him by barristers over some two weeks, a totally distorted picture was accepted and disseminated to the public. It was a sensational story, I agree, but it was largely false and it was repeated, repeated and repeated. No one appeared willing to correct it. The evidence: in essence, the story blamed the breakdown of the marriage upon my adultery. This was false, as I have said. Secondly, I was accused of trying to put my wife in gaol. That was false. It was a very newsworthy story, I admit, with a parade before the court on a day when there was not even a court hearing. Some of my lawyers felt that she should go to prison, but I did not. I have never thought so, and in fact I fought successfully in public court to prevent it. That is very different from the story that has been put about. Thirdly, I was accused of applying for maintenance. Again, that was false. I applied for a division of assets of a marriage which was long and to which I had contributed very heavily and rightly so. Fourthly, the size of the settlement was considered wrong. I cannot comment on a judge's decision, but, as he said, he noted the deliberate run-up of legal expenses amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds. He saw an attempt at financial destruction of a spouse. He also saw assets of the marriage stashed away in an overseas trust and the sole beneficiary of that trust of almost £1 million claiming rights to legal aid. This false mass publicity had understandably a most detrimental effect on my standing in my constituency and upon my standing among colleagues in this House. It provided food for my political enemies. In 1988, I introduced the Protection of Privacy Bill. I understand that, at the outset, it had the tacit support of the majority of the Cabinet. Subsequently, the Government moved to kill it under the guidance of the then Minister, the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex, who, ironically, was later to operate the payroll and informal Whips against me on 7 March 1990. Apparently, the Government did so largely due to the enormous pressure brought against the Bill by the media. I personally was subjected to very serious and consistent media criticism and character assassination. Allegations were made that I had introduced a Bill to smother charges of my incorrect registration of a Member's interest. Prima facie, this was false. A reading of the Bill will show quite clearly that business, political and all non-family private matters were specifically excluded from protection under the Bill. I mention this background only because of the quite unprecedented insults and critical coverage given to me by certain sections of the mass media. I submit that it must have been a material fact in the minds of both members of the Select Committee and of the House in reaching their judgment. However, no attempt whatsoever was made by those Members guiding the judgment, such as the Leader of the House or the Chairman of the Select Committee, to encourage Members to dispel such critical and false assertions from their minds. Of particular note among others in this respect is the speech of the socialist Member, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) in Hansard at column 961, in which he pointed out that the House would not be discussing my case if it had not been for the press references to my matrimonial problems and the fact that I had introduced the privacy Bill. I believe that he was quite right. In addition, the press coverage of the Select Committee inquiry, its report and the judgment by the House, were also quite unprecedented. The right hon. Member for Shropshire, North, (Mr. Biffen), a former Leader of the House, was moved to say in the debate, as reported in Hansard:"It is right that I should make it perfectly clear that Mr. Browne, throughout these proceedings, from beginning to end, has behaved entirely properly, and indeed, I know in correspondence from Mr. Jowitt he earned the comment that he has behaved as a gentleman. With that comment I would agree."
Even before the House sat in judgment upon me, it had viewed major detrimental headlines which I believe affected judgment. I now turn to the House debate itself on 7 March 1990, the day upon which this political show trial was staged for the world to see. As I said, it was first preceded by a secret inquiry where the prosecution case was made and established. Most people considered the Select Committee inquiry to be the court and saw the House merely as a court of appeal. This was a grave error, because, as I have said, there was no appeal at any stage. No, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the House was used by the Government Whips as a public stamp of approval—the show itself. Mr. Deputy Speaker, you and many other people will, when they realise what happened, be aghast. As I said at the beginning of this necessarily long speech, it is often important to remember that Parliament consists of two Houses, not one. They both have a crucial role to play, and no way more so than in judging any Member of Parliament—be they a peer of the realm or from the Commons House of Parliament. Searching through "Erskine May" on the subject of trying Members, chapter 25 of the 12th edition and chapter 2 of the 14th edition, you will see that the court of Parliament involves both Houses, not just one. This is most important, because it allows a sense of justice to permeate the more immediate pressures of political expediency. It sounds more like justice. When Parliament tries one of its Members, it is the Commons House which is seen as the natural inquisitor and prosecutor, and it is this House which conducts the inquiry and prosecutes the case, but it does so in front of the Lords, who act as a jury under the watchful and skilled eye of the man entrusted to run the whole judiciary of our land—the Lord Chancellor of England, who acts as the judge. The Lords are far less susceptible to Government Whips. So why were the late Lord Boothby and I tried against ancient precedent by only the Commons House or the prosecuting body standing alone? Does that sound like justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker? The high court is of Parliament, not the high court of the Commons House, and it is before Parliament that right hon. and hon. Members should be judged. Furthermore, on such matters as contravention of House rules and privileges, surely Mr. Enoch Powell is right when he says that disputes should be tried by the Select Committee on Privileges which, unlike any other Committee, is equipped to take evidence on oath and adjudicate as a tribunal. Why were the late Lord Boothby and I placed in the hands of a Select Committee which was not only ill-equipped to try hon. Members but itself had a vested interest—the sanctity and upholding of its own rules? Is that justice, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Why were even the ancient mechanisms for justice within this Parliament so ruthlessly and cleverly short-circuited? Was it because the short circuit was the insider circuit of the Government Whips and, like all insider circuits, more easily fixed? Does that ring alarm bells, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Even before the show trial started, it was wrongly based, not in the normal law of the land but by the customs of this high and sovereign court of Parliament, against which, and contrary to all major human rights conventions, there is no appeal. I believe that it is precisely because of the awesome power of Parliament and the lack of appeal that these somewhat cumbersome mechanisms were evolved over centuries. They were cumbersome, but they ensured greater justice. They acted against the manipulation of justice by Government. I now turn to the debate itself. In this show trial, I was paraded before the television cameras from this very seat to the world for some five and a half hours. The judge in the debate was the Leader of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East. As I have said, he is a Queen's counsel, so he is well versed in the requirements of natural justice. He is no amateur at persuading a jury or a court. He was also to act as chief prosecutor. However, he protested that he was not the prosecutor, merely the judge. In Hansard, column 966, he said:"One of the least happy aspects of the whole case has been the trial by tabloids …It has been done in a way that has made the Shropshire luminary Judge Jeffreys seem like a lilac social worker."—[Official Report, 7 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 945.]
At this stage there was a large interruption, which you can see on the video. This interruption was most important, because it indicated the House's feelings that he was indeed acting as chief prosecutor, and it can be clearly seen on the video. The Leader went on:"I put the question before the House, not in any sense as a prosecutor—"
The jury were the Members of the Commons House of Parliament. The jury foremen, were the members of the usual channels, most importantly, the Leader of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East and the Chief Whip, the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex. The jury were whipped, and voted strictly along party lines, with the only rebellion being among some 50 per cent. of Conservative Members who, disobeying their Whips, voted against my punishment. As an ex-Deputy Chief Whip yourself, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will know the power of those Whips. As judge, the Leader of the House briefed the jury of right hon. and hon. Members extremely carefully and cleverly. In his speech, great importance was attached to the fact that I had apologised. The Leader of the House referred to that apology repeatedly—this is in Hansard in columns 891, 896, 898, 899, 906, 926, 963 and 964—together with the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Wealden, and the hon. Member for Workington. Indeed, the hon. Member for Workington even insisted in column 906 that, because I had conceded some errors, the Select Committee was correct in not allowing me to call any witnesses. In their speeches, they all alleged or insinuated that, as I had apologised, I had obviously agreed with the findings of the Select Committee and the procedures—"I should like to have the attention of the House while I try to focus on exactly what that question is. [Official Report, 7 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 966.]
May I ask the hon. Gentleman for a yes or no answer to a simple question? Has he, since he was elected to the House in 1979, ever recorded with a taping device a conversation with any Member of the House of Commons without their knowledge and approval? Will he give me a straight answer to that question?
Yes, I have, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I realised at the very outset, as I said, of this fixing operation that it was very important that I did so, just to make sure that the record was clear.The insinuation was that, as I had apologised, I had obviously agreed with the findings of the Select Committee and the procedures upon which those findings were based. This was totally untrue and unsupported. Even in my statement, which I emphasise was not a speech in the debate on 7 March 1990, at the risk of being controversial in such a statement, I said that I was not happy with the investigation procedures. I utterly abhorred the methods used by the Select Committee. However, I had to accept their existence and the referee's whistle. In the debate on 7 March 1990, I was not granted the right to defend myself. I was permitted only to make a personal statement which, according to the rules of the House, could not be controversial. I was specifically prevented from speaking, making interventions and from asking questions in the debate. Nor was I permitted to challenge any of the wrong or misleading statements of others. I was effectively prevented from making any defence whatsoever. If the House had not been adversely steered by the Leader of the House and whipped by the Government Chief Whip, there is strong reason to believe that the Government motion for my punishment might have been defeated. The eminent past Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), said:
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, as a point of interest, voted against my punishment in the subsequent vote, as did the right hon. Members for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) and for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). As judge, the Leader of the House—I am sorry, I have got it wrong; he voted against my punishment. The right hon. Members for Finchley and Huntingdon abstained, but they were here in person. As judge, the Leader of the House never even attempted to show the House either why or how my errors were serious. On the other hand, he steered the jury of Members present strongly away from any detailed review of the Committee's findings. In Hansard, columns 894 and 895, he said:"My conclusion is that the House should accept that apology. In my experience, the House has always been magnanimous to Ministers or hon. Members who recognise their errors and come to the House to apologise. In this instance I believe that that is the right step".—[Official Report, 7 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 926.]
I find that statement amazing. He also steered the House away from any feelings of allegiance or sympathy with the accused—column 895. He tried to convince the Committee that there should be no real concern over natural justice, due to my apology—columns 963 and 964. Finally, while he obviously knew that the vote would be whipped, he sought to convey to his fellow right hon. and hon. Members in the jury that the decision would be made by the House—column 966. He said:"the House will wish to proceed on the basis of the conclusions recorded by the Select Committee. I do not consider it any part of our function today to review those findings in detail."
Does that sound, Mr. Deputy Speaker, like an honest judge? In short, the Leader of the House acted as both judge and prosecutor in a clever but totally biased and hostile manner. Of course, he was a member of the jury. Worse still, he held that coveted legal title and privilege of assumed integrity of Queen's counsel. From him, there was no sympathy for the accused, even though he knew that the jury had been fixed—no sympathy, in fact the reverse, for the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East, in column 895, urges the House away from any temptation of sympathy. I quote what he said:"For my part, I stand by the terms of the motion, but I am content to leave the matter to the House."
"We must not, for example, be swayed by some feeling that we are all, as it were, members of the same club and owe some kind of primary allegiance to each other"—[Official Report 7 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 894–967.]
justly, Mr. Deputy Speaker—"Of course we must seek to act justly—"
Again, I find that an amazing statement in view of the fact that he knew that this vote would be fixed. He went on:"when dealing with our colleages in such matters".
"but as we form our judgment in this case I suggest that we should also be mindful of the advice offered to the House, again in 1977, by Lord Strauss—better known to us in the House as George Strauss, former right hon. Member for Vauxhall and Chairman of the Select Committee which reported on the earlier case. He said:
What emblem of democracy is deliberate injustice? The Leader went on:'This is a national affair and the national aspect of it is that there must remain in the mind of the whole public a high esteem for this body, because it is the emblem of democracy in this country'."
What hypocrisy! Here is a right hon. and learned Member, a Queen's counsel, who knows that the charges were very sketchy, who knows that the motion put down was purely political and that if I had accepted his threat to stand down, he would have changed it for a motion completely different, one involving no punishment. Who knows he knew that the House or jury was fixed? What sort of judge, what sort of colleague, was that? It is somewhat hard for me to reconcile the leading association of any right hon. and learned Gentleman with the totally unjust and most unconstitutional pressures to force me to stand down at the next general election in return for a take note motion and no punishment with the words of the Leader of the House. The Leader of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East, as Lord President of the Privy Council and a Queen's counsel—in my view, it is amazing that, as an honourable man, he felt able to say, knowing what he did:"We can all say, 'Hear, hear,' to that. The strength and authority of the House of Commons rests upon the respect of the people. If that respect is endangered, much greater damage may follow. That is the fundamental background against which we must remind ourselves why we are so deeply concerned by the topic of today's debate."
That was said by the Leader of the House who had just asked me to stand down in return for no punishmenmt, who had bargained my place in this House, who had bargained the rights of my constituents either to elect or not elect me at the next election. The Leader went on for more, this time for blood, my blood. He said in regard to punishment:"The House has increasingly, and in my judgment rightly, taken the view that the composition of the House, in personal as well as political terms, is not a matter for the House itself, but for the electorate. A Member's election to, and continued membership of, this House is a matter between him and his constituents."
What does he mean by precedent? The late Lord Boothby was saved in his trial debate by the Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill, and the Government Whips then immediately changed tack and supported him. That was the precedent which my researches have shown. There is no other precedent—the case of Mr. John Cordle is not appropriate in this respect, because he resigned. There was no vote to be fixed. To what precedent did my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East refer? Was it really the precedent of justice, or the precedent of quite deliberate injustice to another hon. Member of the House? You have seen much in your time, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I will warrant that you have seen nothing like this. I hope that nothing like this ever happens again. In my show trial, the Leader produced no motion for clemency according to his threat. Unlike the broad spectrum of motions that the Government made available for the last abortion debate, the Government sponsored only one motion in my show trial, and that was guilty as charged, with a call for draconian punishment, a punishment so severe that even a member of the Select Committee itself, the hon. Member for Streatham, was moved to say in the debate:"Finally I come to consider what is probably the most difficult question—that of penalty or reproach. Should the House proceed to impose a penalty upon my hon. Friend or require him in some way to be reprimanded or rebuked? If so, in what form or at what level should that be set? Some hon. Members, I know, believe—and will, I dare say, argue today —that talk of penalty is, in such circumstances, inappropriate. I do not share that view; nor do I believe that it accords with precedent."—[Official Report, 7 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 895–97.]
The hon. Member for Bolsover intervened earlier in the debate to say that he considered that even that retribution was mild and virtually nothing. However, the hon. Member for Streatham said that it was greater than the offence. The importance of this single Government motion should not be underestimated, because it was obvious that very few Members had read the vast Select Committee report. In all innocence, they relied upon the Leader of the House, who was also a Queen's counsel, to lead them towards a just decision. They believed that the Select Committee report was the hearing and that the Government judged in all honesty that I should be punished. This, together with the Whips, was the decisive influence on the voting of most Members. This motion was the party political deal, which was reflected in it. On this crucial issue, a past Prime Minister, and ex-Chief Whip, voted against my punishment. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup made some most interesting points. He said:"I believe the retribution is far greater than the offence."
"In my experience, the House has always been magnanimous to Ministers or hon. Members who recognise their errors and come to the House to apologise. In this instance I believe that that is the right step to take.
This again, I emphasise, was the party political motion. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup went on:I am not trying to rebuke my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House, but I think that he has tried to produce a solution which would meet disparate views in the House."
Without any inside knowledge whatsoever, this ex-Prime Minister and ex-Chief Whip had hit upon one of the key elements of this clandestine injustice. He earned my total respect. As I have said, as the accused in the debate I was permitted to make only a short statement, which according to custom Mr. Speaker announced would be heard in silence and without interruption. That is in Hansard at column 889. The custom of the House is that such statements should he apologetic and not controversial, and I was carefully briefed as to that. I was specifically forbidden to speak, to ask questions or even to intervene in the debate. I was therefore denied any opportunity whatsoever either to defend myself or to challenge the report or the speeches or interventions of any Member of the House who spoke in the debate. You can now see, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that from start to finish—throughout the Committee hearings, when I was not allowed to make any verbal presentations of my case but merely to answer questions—I was given no opportunity of a defence case either to the Select Committee or to the House—or, incidentally, to the media. It appeared that the whole case was cut and dried from the beginning. Surely in such a condition, the right of appeal should be considered fundamental. It is also of interest that the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Finchley, whose Ministers organised and whipped the vote, abstained in person. A fine lawyer and Whip, the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Baker) also abstained. The ex-Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup and the ex-Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North voted against the motion, as did many free, non-payroll vote Ministers who were barristers, such as my hon. and learned Friends the Members for Burton and for Perth and Kinross and my hon. Friends the Members for Corby (Mr. Powell) and for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton). My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Sir A. Buck), and the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee voted against my punishment, as did a member of the Select Committee on Members' Interests, the hon. Member for Streatham. That was a great credit to their integrity, and I thank them now formally. I wish to place it on the record that I attach no blame whatever to the vast bulk of hon. Members who voted for my draconian punishment. I believe that they voted in all innocence of the injustice of the Select Committee and of the deliberate perversion of justice by some of the most senior officers of state, including a Queen's counsel. The judicial vote should have been a free vote of the House, but in effect it was along party lines. At 10pm on 7 March 1990, the House voted, but it did so along strictly party lines. The ultimate injustice was that the decision of the House on a judicial vote was done by means of a whipped vote."This is a personal matter for each one of us to decide and I think that it has been settled because the apology has been made; the whole House knows it and my hon. Friend's constituents know it."—[Official Report, 7 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 897–926.]
It was a free vote on this side of the House. Hon. Members voted in different ways. There were different motions from different Opposition Members. Any idea of it being a party political issue on this side of the House is utter rubbish.
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, because he would know much more about that than me. Nevertheless, it is clear from the voting record on the first crucial vote, on the motion that I was guilty and to be punished—I am not talking about the subsequent votes —that, with one exception, the members of his party voted one way.Two facts stand out clearly even from a cursory observation of the voting list. The first is that the House divided along party lines, perhaps not whipped in the Labour party's case. The same political bias that had been so consistently and heavily denied by the Chairman of the Select Committee in column 937 of Hansard was made clear for all to see. Secondly, Conservative Members were subjected to a payroll Whip. What is not clear, but nevertheless true, is that they were subjected to an informal Whip. Again it is interesting to note what the Chairman of the Select Committee said in an intervention in the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton. He said:
The hon. Member for Wealden knew that the Whips were armed. He continued:"I must ask my hon. and learned Friend to bear in mind that there is no question of our punishing or convicting my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne). We did no such thing and it is for the House to decide."
What about the stolen documents that were not returned? They were not mentioned. He continued:"My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester had every chance to produce any documents he darned well wanted to."
I do not know what he meant by that, but as he is present he may tell us in his speech. He continued:"My hon. and learned Friend will spoil the debate".
I should like to have conducted the House through further parts of that debate, but—"I can speak with my hand on my heart when I say that the hon. Members for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), whose reputations he tried to traduce a moment ago, and who were honourable members of that Committee, were totally bipartisan. No sign of political passion crept into the Committee to prejudice the case against my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester." —[Official Report, 7 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 937.]
Could the hon. Gentleman answer me another question, again: yes or no? He referred previously to divorce proceedings. Has he ever changed, modified or removed from a transcript of any legal proceedings in this country any words? Has he ever used such a transcript in any meeting anywhere in the United Kingdom?
Not that I can think of. There was however a document that was produced in my constituency on the advice of a lawyer who said that I should answer questions that had been raised in my constituency executive by not going outside the judgment of the learned High Court judge in my case, Mr. Justice Wood. So I prepared a document and took from his published judgment those items that affected just the answers to the questions that had been raised at my executive.
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he quoted selectively? Is he saying that he admits in the House of Commons to quoting selectively from a legal document?
No, that is not quite what I am saying at all, and the hon. Gentleman does himself no credit whatever in trying to put those words into my mouth. Various questions were raised by my executive that pertained to my divorce. I merely quoted the judge in order to answer those questions that were raised at my executive meeting. So there was selection, just as there is when any Member quotes from Hansard. We cannot produce the whole of Hansard for every quote. It is common practice to quote. It is a matter of getting the quotes correct, which I made every attempt to do. There was one typographical error where a secretary missed out a bracket that was not all that vital. I was also criticised severely for putting round brackets instead of square brackets. My typewriter did not have square brackets, and in those days I was unaware of the huge legal significance of the difference between a round bracket and a square bracket. Otherwise, I have nothing further to say in answer to that question.Immediately after my sentencing by the House, it was asked to vote for a motion clarifying the vague rule on foreign payments, under which I had been sentenced. The goalposts were immediately moved. The result of the vote of the House was portrayed in the media internationally as if there were something very serious and I had got a hugely serious punishment, almost like a criminal. As the hon. Member for Bolsover said, in this House a 20-day suspension is not considered vastly serious, but in the outside world it is. The problem is that judgments by the House are seen by the outside world very differently from the way in which they may be considered by hon. Members. On the question of precedents, I should like to say that the inquiry report and my subsequent punishment by the House, with the exception of the case of the late Lord Boothby, were virtually unprecedented. The perversion of justice it involved in fixing the House vote was absolutely unprecedented. Following my punishment, all Opposition barracking over the "party of sleaze" stopped immediately. Cases were brought against other hon. Members, but, although they were found guilty, none of them was brought to the House. Most interestingly, a case was brought against a member of the Select Committee itself—the hon. Member for Workington—and it showed the hon. Member to have deliberately and repeatedly broken a specific rule regarding the declaration of Members' interests. Surprisingly, his case was not referred to the House. Obviously, the precedent set by my punishment was not to be followed.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware what the report to which he refers says? I do not receive and have never received moneys from the Confederation of Health Service Employees, the trade union, either for expenses or directly to me. That is accepted by the Committee. Is the hon. Gentleman aware what the report said in its conclusion? It said:
That is the case in my case. How can the hon. Gentleman link that case, in which no payments were made to me, to his own case, in which he received $88,000 from the authorities in Saudi Arabia?"We recognise that Mr. Campbell-Savours has never sought to conceal his sponsorship by COHSE, and that this sponsorship has always been properly registered in the Register of Members' Interests. As we have noted above, it is by no means clear that the House necessarily expects trade union sponsorship, when there is no direct payment whatever to the Member, to be declared."
I have the report on the hon. Member's case in my hand. I do not have time to quote it all. However, the last lines of the recommendation of the Select Committee are:
The Committee recommended no action. The point is that it was a technicality. Sure. My contention is that so was my case, as I said before. The payment—"Since it is a specific rule that sponsorship should be registered, we believe that Mr. Campbell-Savours is technically in breach of the rule on declaration."
A payment of $88,000.
Right from the very beginning, when he was allegedly out for my blood before the Committee even sat, the hon. Gentleman has been quoting vast figures. These monetary amounts are not required by the Select Committee on Members' Interests in the Register. I think that they should be. I think that it should be total—either no declarations or total declarations. However, because we steer this rather grey area in the middle where, as I said at the beginning of my speech, there is this farcical situation of a financial declaration with no monetary allowance needing to be disclosed, we now have this situation.It was said that the fee was for one little bit of work, and there has been some downgrading and attempts to make it look like a huge fee for almost nothing—which was totally false. The fact is that the hon. Member for Workington keeps mentioning this figure. Why? Because it creates more jealousy? People say, "How does this man get a huge fee for almost nothing?" Even hon. Members have said to me, "My gosh, that seems an awful lot of money, John." Jealousy was aroused among the jury sitting in this House by statements such as the hon. Gentleman has made. As I said earlier in my speech, the technicality was that I asked the Registrar whether that payment should be registered, and he said no, because it was a payment to my company which had already been declared. It was because of the manipulation—the bending—of this rule that the Select Committee said, "Oh, but as you own 50 per cent. of the stock, you should have declared it." What did the Committee do immediately I had been sentenced? It changed the rule. It is now clear for Members' interests that, if one owns over a certain percentage of stock in a company, all payments to those companies, declared or not, have to be declared. Now, I understand it is very clear. It was a technicality. I am not trying to insult the hon. Member for Workington: all I am saying is that he was on a technical charge as well. Why was the precedent of my case not followed? Why was a member of the Select Committee not brought back to the House, as happened in my case? Some people have asked me why I have waited until now to raise the matter. The truth is that I have been trying to raise the matter for well over a year. My hope in explaining the case, which involved not just a great injustice but, much more importantly, a deliberate injustice, was that some right hon. Member would not only see the outrage, but be prepared to do something about it or even to speak out. I therefore tried to appeal. I soon discovered that there was no right of appeal anywhere. This was in direct contravention of article 14 of the United Nations convention on civil and political rights of 1966. One of the most fundamental of all human rights, as I have said, is the right of natural justice to appeal. I have tried for over a year to appeal this on the grounds that I was systematically denied almost every basic human right to natural justice and that the procedures of the Select Committee itself stood in the way of justice. I do not blame the members of the Select Committee. These are the procedures. My aim with the Leader of the House today is, by showing what happened in my case, to get the procedures changed. If an hon. Member is arraigned before a Select Committee, particularly on a matter of such seriousness affecting his whole career—so that he is virtually sitting in a court on an issue affecting his life—evidence should be taken on oath and the Committee should be equipped to take evidence on oath and to adjudicate. Those are the procedures which I am trying to get at. I am not trying to criticise the members of the Select Committee. They do not decide whether or not certain things can be done. They are part of the system. So I believe that great matters need to be corrected. To give an example, the Select Committee denied me some of the rights that are given to all murderers and even to thieves, such as the right to call witnesses in one's defence and to have them heard and cross-examined. I do not know whether it was the wish of the Chairman of the Select Committee or whether it is the system, but the fact remains that those rights were not granted, even though they are essential to proving one's case. The defendant should be able to call witnesses and have them cross-examined by himself and by the Committee—
Order. I have heard the hon. Member refer to those particular points on many occasions. He is now getting very close to tedious repetition.
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was trying to drum them home. I will get on.I have also tried to appeal against the findings of the House on 7 March 1990 on the grounds that the decision was made as a result of a quite deliberate perversion of justice by some of the most senior and powerful officers of the Government. I tried in vain. I realise that there is no established appeal mechanism in the House of Commons, but the Government certainly have the power to bring the matter back before the House. Surely any Government who are a signatory to the United Nations convention and are made up of men of honour would move decisively to expose wrong and to punish any deliberate abuse of justice in the treatment of an hon. Member. As I said, I believe that the House was deliberately misled when it debated and voted on the issue on 7 March 1990. Therefore, as I have said before, I do not hold the vast majority of hon. Members to blame in any way whatever. I have said that the right of appeal is very basic. It is-enshrined in clause 5 of article 15 of the UN convention. It is also enshrined in the European convention. Governments talk much about human rights, and rightly so. Our Government have signed those two conventions, but I understand that they have not signed the protocols that allow individuals to bring cases against the Government under the United Nations convention. Why not? Be that as it may, I have to accept—and I had to accept—that there was no appeal. I believe that my case is similar to the Dreyfus case in Paris in the 1890s.
Similar to what?
Yes, similar to the Dreyfus case. He was a captain in the French army. He was falsely charged, falsely convicted, disgraced and imprisoned for five years on Devil's Island.
I am anxious to get on.His case was then covered up by the state, and a state cover-up is very powerful. As Anatole France said in describing the Dreyfus case:
As no official avenue of appeal was open to me, I approached some of the most powerful Ministers, from the Prime Minister downwards, with my appeal, listing what the House has now heard. I approached some of the most influential people in the realm. My hope was that honourable people would move to correct this injustice. My hope was that they would certainly move to root out deliberate injustice, for what greater crime can there be than deliberate injustice? Sadly, the result of my approaches was silence, in all but one case—yes, a constructive suggestion from the right hon. Member for Finchley. In the case of the Government Chief Whip, it even aroused hostility. I was even threatened. Certainly, my constituency has been put into trouble by it and has become almost a laughing stock. Does that state silence amount to a cover-up—a cover-up so powerful that even parts of the media are silenced? Does deliberate injustice by the Government amount to corruption, and if a little corruption is accepted for the good of the party, where does it stop? Who will be next? Which right hon. or hon. Member of the House would be selected in future? For if Ministers, given charge of secret agencies such as M16 and M15, can take such blatantly discriminatory and unjust action against a loyal colleague, no citizen of this land is safe under the law."Some people began to recognise the injustice done, but it was supported and defended by so many open and secret powers that even the boldest hesitated. Those whose duty it was to speak up kept silent."
Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting close to impugning the integrity and honour of other hon. Members of the House. He knows that that is not in order. The only way in which he can do that in order is by putting down a motion. Criticism is in order—even strong criticism—but he must not impugn integrity and honour.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I accept that ruling and I have put down early-day motion 585 to that effect.I fought my case in the knowledge of my innocence and also the knowledge of this great and deliberate injustice and that it could happen to other right hon. or hon. Members who have outside interests. I have fought my case in the hope that the House will urgently examine and change its rules and procedures to prevent the same deliberate injustice from ever happening again. As Clemenceau said, again in the Dreyfus case:
I wonder who will be the first to break the silence—the silence of the lambs."The cause of human justice admits no compromise. You must be either for it or against it."
It may be for the convenience of the House if I intervene at this point.The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) covered three main topics affecting the House and those are the only topics on which I may comment. The first topic is the debate on 7 March 1990, when the House considered the report from the Select Committee on Members' Interests, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith). The findings of the Select Committee in that report were fully covered in that debate, when a variety of different views were expressed before the House came to a clear decision on a vote. I have re-read that debate thoroughly. Certainly, a variety of views were expressed. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester that there was no whipping. It was a free vote and my hon. Friend mentioned the difference in the way that some of my hon. Friends voted. As the House will know, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester is aware—he and I have corresponded about this—there is no formal route of appeal following the decision that the House reached in March 1990, after the debate conducted in accordance with the rules of the House. The resolution that the House approved at the end of that debate is the final decision of the House.
I find it hard to accept my right hon. Friend's statement. I know that he is an honourable man —I sincerely mean that—but he said that there was a free vote. Perhaps, on the surface, there was a free vote. Everyone in the House knows how the Whips operate, with the payroll and by applying pressures—what is called the informal vote.
Well, we had a free vote.
Maybe, but I am talking about the Conservative side of the House. Even a Cabinet Minister came up to me and told me that he was pressurised. He actually said that he was ashamed of what he had done, but that he was ordered to do it by the Whips. He did not attend the debate, but he came in to vote because he was ordered to do so by the Chief Whip. My right hon. Friend must admit that although it was a free vote on the surface, it was very much a whipped vote, under the table, on this side of the House.
If my hon. Friend looks at the Division lists, he will see that my hon. Friends voted in a variety of different ways. Therefore, I think that the position is clear.The second topic raised in my hon. Friend's speech was the procedures followed once the Select Committee has made a report following a complaint against a Member. As my hon. Friend is aware, the rules of the House are clear in relation to reports from the Select Committee. They are set out in the annex to the report of the Select Committee on Members' Interests (Declaration) of the 1974–75 Session, and summarised in "Erskine May" at page 389. It is made absolutely clear there that the final decision is for the House to take. The proceedings in respect of Select Committee reports are of long standing and perfectly well understood by the House, and I see no need for them to be re-examined. The third topic discussed by my hon. Friend for Winchester at great length was the procedures that the House has established for the registering of Members' interests and for the investigation by the Select Committee on Members' Interests of alleged breaches of those rules. The House will recall that on 7 March 1990 the House approved a second motion requesting the Select Committee on Members' Interests to study and report further on the questions raised by its report relating to, first, the definition of outside interests and the enforcement of obligations in relation to declarations of outside interests by hon. Members and, secondly, the procedures whereby complaints may be brought before the Select Committee and whereby the Select Committee investigates such complaints; together with such other questions as might appear to it to arise therefrom. My hon. Friend spent a considerable part of his speech today examining the procedures in front of the Select Committee and also making various recommendations on the definition of "outside interests" and the "enforcement of obligations". I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden will have noted the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester. At present, those matters are in the hands of the Select Committee, as the House requested. I do not think that it would be right for me to discuss them in detail today before the Select Committee has produced the report as requested by the House. The matter was fully debated in March 1990 and the points that my hon. Friend raises about future issues affecting the Select Committee are ones which the Committee is currently investigating. I believe that it is right to leave it there.
Will the Leader of the House ask those following our debate to note how the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) has interpreted what happened during the Divisions that evening? Is not it significant that the hon. Gentleman stated that, 10 minutes later, the House took a decision in effect to change the rules, but that was not the decision taken? The House recommended that the Select Committee should consider the rules. There is a great distinction between the way in which the hon. Gentleman presented what happened and the way in which the House made its recommendation. Will the Leader of the House allude to that fact? The speech of the hon. Gentleman, which lasted about three hours, was littered with examples of slight distortions of the facts that he believes would benefit the presentation of his case.
I must reply to the hon. Gentleman's point. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester has taken a great deal of the time of the House.It is not right for me to comment on detailed points made today. My position as Leader of the House is to deal with key issues in the motion relating to the way that the Select Committee deals with Members' interests and the procedures thereafter. I have responded to both those matters. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) is right about the recommendation—I have re-read all the papers and note that the Select Committee recommended a change but that, on 7 March 1990, the House did not approve that recommendation. Instead, it asked the Select Committee to look at the wider issues to which I referred. I understand that the Select Committee is now doing that. When the Select Committee makes its report to the House, that will be the time for the House to consider the matters to decide whether changes are required.
What we have heard today is a catalogue of events from a Member of the Tory party who, in the run-up to the 1987 general election, did what many Tory Members do—made money on the side. Not content with being a Member of Parliament on a salary that was then about £25,000 or £26,000 a year, he wanted to line his pockets from outside. Many people do that—about 250 Tory Members and a small handful of Opposition Members, although the number of Opposition Members who make money outside this place is thank God, decreasing.In 1974 people in local government were told that they had to sign a register of their interests when they became councillors. We in Parliament said that that was a great idea because it would ensure that councillors discussing and voting on planning decisions had to tabulate in a register their interests and for whom they were speaking. In our society there has always been a conflict of interests. Can you truly represent your constituents on a local authority or in Parliament and at the same time represent someone else? That is the classic question. Over the years, many people have said that they can do both jobs. They have even gone so far as to say that your need to do another job to keep up some interest. That is like me saying, "Where is the nearest pit?"—miners who come to Parliament cannot work in a pit for half a day a week, but Members who are lawyers can go off to the law courts and pick up £60,000 a year, quite apart from what they get for being in the House—if and when we see them. The reason why his place starts at half-past two in the afternoon, except on Fridays, is so that people can make money in the City and in the law courts. They could also make money at Lloyd's, but in recent years it seems that they have not been able to open the box and pull out a lot of money all the time. They are now squealing and they want their money back. They put their bets on in that posh gambling den of Lloyd's and they have nearly always made money, but now that they are not winning they want Parliament and the taxpayer to foot the bill. In that environment, along came the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne). He told his Tory friends that he had interests outside Parliament which were making him a lot of money on the side. When he became a Member of Parliament, I suppose that they told him that he had better declare those interests in the register which Skinner and his friends forced through the House of Commons in the early 1970s. We said that if it was right for people in local government to have a register, there should be one in Parliament, too. That register was no big deal. We were not asking people to put in how much they made, although they ought to do that. A section of the register should record such facts. For example, the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) worked for two months for Maxwell Communication Corporation. He got a £300,000 pay-off when he packed in, £100,000 extra as redundancy pay for working two months, and a Mercedes for a quid. That should all have been in the register. Along comes the smart Alick hon. Member for Winchester. Given that none of his mates on the Tory side had disclosed their interests, he decided not to do so either. He picked up £88,000 from Saudi Arabia. I have always said that that money should have ended up in the miners' fund. During the strike, the hon. Gentleman accused the miners of getting money from the middle east, while all the time he was picking it up himself. That 88,000 quid was not disclosed, but in the run-up to the 1987 election some bright-eyed spark at The Observer called David Leigh found out about it. It was a nice juicy little piece. OK—the story could have related to any of the 250 Tory Members, and for the hon. Member for Winchester it was sad that it was him, especially as he had a bit of trouble, to which I shall not refer, with another matter. The net result was that the voters of Winchester decided that they had someone representing them who was making a lot of money on the side, and the Tory vote slumped. It is pretty obvious that someone in Winchester Tory party would have said, "We had better do something about this." So along comes the Select Committee. Here I am paraphrasing because I am not a member of it—I do not have owt to do with Select Committees.
The hon. Gentleman has paraphrased a lot. It was not that the voters of Winchester thought that here was a chap who was making money on the side—the article by Mr. Leigh suggested that I had done something wrong. My point was that, according to the registrar, whom I asked in 1983, I had done exactly correctly. That was the point, and that is why I issued the suit.
So, along comes the hon. Member for Winchester and he says, "I don't like this article in The Observer, so I'll issue a writ—I'm going to stop it and I'm going to make a lot of money." After all the business of the Select Committee and the writ being issued, the case was never pursued. Like many other writs, it was issued to silence somebody. He has talked about being silenced, but he decided to silence The Observer for a convenient period, and he has never pursued the matter. If David Leigh had said something extravagant and outrageous why is it that, with all his money, the hon. Gentleman was not capable of pursuing the writ to make sure that he landed The Observer with a big, fat bill? The truth is that he did not follow it through. He blames the Select Committee for having looked into the matter, as he said earlier in his long tirade.
That is not the point. How could a suit like that possibly be pursued successfully when the Select Committee came along and said that I was not right in the way that I gave information to the Register of Members' Interests?
When I was at school, that was known in geometry as QED. The hon. Gentleman has proved my case. He is saying that his friends in the Tory party said to him, "I'm afraid we'll have to rap you over the knuckles, John." As a result, the paper realised that it had a first-class chance of sustaining its argument. The hon. Gentleman does not realise that he has made a statement which proves that The Observer had a case because a gang of his friends in the Tory party proceeded to do what The Observer thought they ought to do. The Observer is not supposed to be a Tory paper, although I am not sure about that.The hon. Gentleman has been whingeing this morning. He got 20 days. Somebody said to me, "What shall we do, Dennis, with this bloke who's up for trial?" Trial—I ask you! The hon. Gentleman has compared himself to Dreyfus. He has a lot of brass. According to the register, he is still making a big, fat packet on the side, as well as picking up his salary of 30,000 quid. A lot of Tories do that, but to come here and say that he has been treated like Dreyfus is worse. He may be a lot of things, but Dreyfus he is not. He got 20 days. Big deal! My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) touched the Mace.
He more than touched it.
He dropped it. He tried to pick it up, but he dropped it and his case turned into a cause célàbre. My hon. Friend got kicked out of Parliament for a longer time than the hon. Member for Winchester, and he has suffered in other respects. Others have been thrown out for other reasons. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) got thrown out because he said that the last Prime Minister was lying. Other people get kicked out and their penalty can add up to well over 20 days, and they have not lined their pockets. They have been kicked out of Parliament because they have said things that they believed in, as a matter of principle.The truth is that the hon. Member for Winchester has suffered at the hands of his friends. Let us put it on the record once again. The Select Committee has a Tory majority—his friends. One hon. Member who serves on the Committee has been referred to several times—my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). The hon. Member for Winchester is trying to make us believe that my hon. Friend has twisted all the other members of the Committee—a majority of whom are Tories—round his little finger like some Machiavelli so as to do down the hon. Member for Winchester. I will believe a lot of things, but I ain't believing that. The hon. Member for Winchester should understand what really happened. His party decided in 1987, when it saw the Tory vote in Winchester slump, that it had better get rid of him and that he would be the casualty. He may be standing against the Tory candidate at the next election.
Quite frankly, he should get on with it. If I see Tories falling out, I will do everything that I possibly can to help, although I will not go down and speak for the hon. Gentleman. If they are to fall out and fight one another, that is their business. We all know that the Tories have divided the working class over the years. Divide and rule is their tactic.The hon. Member for Winchester told us this morning that he is dividing against his right hon. and hon. Friends, and that is why he has found himself in a predicament. The hon. Gentleman talked about the attendance in the Chamber when a certain private Bill was considered. He got his facts wrong. When a private Bill is considered in this place, Members have to attend. He tried to make a comparison between a private Bill involving King's Cross and another private Bill dealing with the Register of Members' Interests. Of course fewer Members turned up here for the Bill on Members' interests. We all know that it was not a private Committee. As I see it, the hon. Gentleman has produced his manifesto for Winchester when the general election takes place. I will give him some advice. I shall not give him a great deal today, but I will tell him this: that manifesto is too long for the general election. You need a few pictures and a shorter manifesto. If you make the speech that you used this morning when you are at the guildhall at Winchester, you had better complete it much more quickly than you did today. In other words, you should get to the point. You would also be better off not reading it all out.
I am just giving the hon. Gentleman some advice. You were not here this morning, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman went through it all and we heard it.
Order. The hon. Member keeps saying "you" instead of "the hon. Member".
I get your drift, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was giving him serious advice if he is to stand against the Tory party. If that happens, the Labour candidate could slip through the middle and win the seat. That is one of the principal reasons for my involvement in the debate.The hon. Member for Winchester should understand that this place is a gentlemen's club as well as a place for enacting legislation. I have been here for 20-odd years and I know that. I do not like the gentlemen's club part of it. I decided when I came here not to be part of it, but I knew it existed. The hon. Gentleman has been done by many of his hon. Friends who are in this club. He was not done by Labour Members. We had a free vote. The hon. Gentleman says that there was a whipped Government vote against him, and he must prove that. As I have said, we were not whipped. We did not get involved in the club. Many of my hon. Friends said, "We will not vote to send somebody out for 20 days." They did not want to vote. A hell of a lot of Members did not vote for that reason. The hon. Member for Winchester must understand that when he came to the House he came as part of the gentlemen's club. If he wants to be involved in the camaraderie of that club, he might have to accept some of the rules. When Mr. Speaker tells me that I must leave the Chamber, I do not like it. On those occasions, I should like to appeal. I should like to say to Mr. Speaker, "Look, there are good reasons for my saying that someone is lining his pockets." But that is not possible, and I have to leave. When I pass through the doors, there is a bobby waiting waiting for me to escort me from the premises. An hon. Member who finds himself in that position is not allowed to speak in front of a camera in the Norman Shaw building. Yet the hon. Member for Winchester is whingeing because there was no appeal. In fact, he secured one, whereas I have never had one—I have never had a chance to put my case on the occasions when I have been told to have an early bath. The hon. Gentleman should understand what the game is all about. That is all that I say to him. He has sat among those who want to make money on the side. I think that I know what is getting to his craw. It is that he has been done when many of his hon. Friends are making money. At the beginning of his speech I sat in my place thinking that he would reveal all their names. I thought that he would give us the figures that are absent from the register. I thought, "He might tell us what ex-Cabinet Ministers —who have 59 directorships between them—are getting". I thought for one fleeting moment that the hon. Gentleman would put numbers by the side of all those directorships, but he did not. Instead, he pulled back. Here is another bit of advice for the hon. Gentleman: if he means to fight the election, he must not pull back. He will get some good copy. Not only the Winchester press but the national press as well, will be interested. Chris Moncrieff will be ringing the hon. Gentleman every morning. Think about it. Name the names—they are all in the register. The hon. Gentleman could make 20 or 30 speeches in Winchester and they could be in —I was going to say The Sun, but I think that The Sun would black them. Anyway, he could be in the Daily Mirror every morning. I know that there is something wrong with the register. We all know that. Two or three things need doing—and we should be sharp about it. We want to know how much money is being made by all the company directors and the rest. What would be wrong with that? I would go further, but the House would not carry it. Every Member of Parliament should have only one job. I would like to see that in the Labour manifesto—not many of my hon. Friends have outside interests. It would be a good thing, and we should sweep the country. There would be no talk of hung Parliaments and the like. I would like us to say to the millions of voters that the next Labour Government will insist that when someone enters Parliament he must represent his constituents—he should have one job and one job alone. But the hon. Member for Winchester would not support that.
Yes, I do.
If the hon. Gentleman supports the idea of one job, and one job alone for a Member of Parliament, why has he still got so many interests in the register?The hon. Member for Winchester had a choice in the gentlemen's club, and he did not take it. A lot of hon. Members who go before the Select Committee about such matters give in. I would not do that—I would take it on the chin. If I had stood up and said something in the Chamber or outside, or if I had done something, I should stand by it, but the hon. Member for Winchester wanted to have his cake and eat it as well—he wanted to plead to the Select Committee, but he did not want to take the consequences of what he had done and said. He could have apologised at the beginning, and that probably would have been the end of the matter. But he chose to bluff it through, and the bluff did not work. The hon. Gentleman should be a man. He should understand what happens when someone enters to the House as a Member, with all this apparatus. It may be true that he is one of many Tory Members of Parliament who are making a lot of money. He feels, "Why should I get done?" He is like the bloke who speeds up the motorway at 100 mph—the Minister of State for Defence Procurement did so twice in a fortnight, and said that he thought that the police were escorting him. One cannot say in court. "Seven other people broke the speed limit as well, Mr. Judge, or Mr. Magistrate, so why have you picked on me?" Such things happen. Some people get picked on occasionally, and they think, "Why me?" The hon. Member for Winchester should understand that he has had his chance, but he wanted everything and it did not work. I think that the rules are wrong. They want tightening up. We want to ensure that the register is complete, and there is only one method of doing that. It is for all of us to represent our constituents, and there is an end of it. If hon. Members want to help someone they can do so and get nothing out of it. When I get up in the morning and the House does not start sitting until 2.30, I look in the papers to see if there is a strike, and I join in if it is within 20 miles of this building. That is my interest. I do not want to be paid for it. I may have to pay, to help the people who are on strike. But to think that one can make money and get away with it is another matter. The hon. Member for Winchester has achieved one thing in raising the issue today. He has again raised the question whether the register is satisfactory. The answer is clear: it is not satisfactory. It is time to change it, and I hope that that happens in the next Parliament, after Labour sweeps to power. If the Labour Government cannot introduce the idea that one Member of Parliament should have only one job, who can? My hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) is very sound on such matters and I ask him to convey to the next Labour Government the fact that the least we can expect is for the register to be brought up to date. Not only that—we should ensure that we know fully how much money people are making on the side in the law courts, in the City and in the board rooms. If this debate has done that, it has served a useful purpose.
My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) was courteous enough to give me notice that he intended to refer to me today as I am Chairman of the Select Committee on Members' Interests. Like my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, I do not intend to reply in detail to the criticisms of that Committee.As my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester will be aware, the Select Committee was faced in 1989 with a disagreeable and complicated task when it was required to investigate complaints made against him. Our inquiry took nine months, which was a long time. The Committee's report, and even more important, the 150 pages of oral and written evidence which were printed with it, must be seen and read as a whole. They are the basis on which the House took its decision in March 1990. To take any particular political part or passage in isolation can only distort the overall picture. If anyone in the House or outside, having read the report and the evidence in full, were to accept the interpretation of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester of the events in preference to the Committee's findings, I would disagree with him profoundly. I must point out that the findings were unanimous and I stand by the integrity of my colleagues on the Committee in the discharge of their duties. As I said, I do not want to go into the details. However, there is one very important point which is a matter of justice. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester said many times today that he was specifically denied the authority to call witnesses. That is certainly not my recollection.
It is obviously also not the recollection of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester did not make any request to call witnesses either before or during his evidence. However, very much later, during our inquiry—
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I will finish my sentence first.Much later, during our inquiry, my hon. Friend asked to call a former business partner. That was the only occasion. Otherwise, in the course of his evidence, that was not the case. I am afraid that I must point that out to him. Although I do not want to go into detail, that is an important point that he has made today.
I respect what my hon. Friend has said, but I asked on a number of occasions to call witnesses. I asked the registrar, I think, on at least three occasions whether I could bring three specific people to address the Committee to have them cross-examined—particularly Mr. Chattington, Mr. Merrick Denton-Thompson and the former registrar. I was told, "Certainly not." I was told that the only people who could call witnesses to the Committee were the members of the Committee themselves, and this was verified in the debate. The hon. Member for Streatham (Sir W. Shelton) said exactly that —that I was not allowed to call witnesses for cross-examination.
I am very sorry, but I must tell my hon. Friend that he was given the chance to call witnesses. I will not go into the details about Mr. Chattington because if we go into that, we will get very involved and we will become involved in a situation in which we found ourselves so often in respect of our hearing evidence from him.
My hon. Friend referred to the report of his Select Committee which, of course, I read with the greatest attention before our debate two years ago. I have no doubt that he conducted the proceedings of that Committee with the great probity with which we all associate him in the House. Does he agree that that report did not reach any conclusions about the guilt or innocence of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne)? It rejected a number of allegations against him and focused on two, on which it recommended further investigation. Those were the conclusions of the Select Committee report.
No, that is not quite the story. In our view, not all the allegations were founded. In the course of our report, we indicated that that was the case, but in two particular instances we believed that there was a breach.
Will the hon. Gentleman further qualify his reply to the invervention of the hon. Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies)? Is not it true to say that we did not recommend further investigation? We recommended that the House should make a decision on the decisions that we took. The words in our report are:
That was a decision that we took on the basis of all the evidence before the Committee. It was then for the House to decide whether, in the light of our upholding the complaint, action should be taken."We therefore uphold the complaint."
The hon. Gentleman is correct.There is another aspect into which I do not intend to go in detail. It concerns the procedures which the Committee followed when investigating the case. They were the procedures which had been approved by the House in 1975 when it first instituted the Register of Members' Interests. Essentially, they are the same procedures that any Select Committee uses to establish the facts of a matter and then to come to a conclusion on the basis of those facts. At the end of the debate on my hon. Friend's case, the House gave the Committee a wide-ranging remit to review the rules of registration and declaration and the procedure for investigating complaints. The Committee has had a lot of other business to tackle in the intervening period, but it has not neglected the remit which the House gave it. I hope that the Committee will be in a position to agree a report on those matters before Parliament is dissolved. In the meantime of course, it would be quite improper for me to anticipate the report. When the House eventually comes to debate that report, it will be able to take into account the points made in today's debate and in the debate in March 1990. However, it would be wrong to regard that review as in any way reopening the case on which the House reached a decision nearly two years ago. If the House had considered that the alleged deficiencies in our present rules and procedures were sufficiently serious to tilt the balance of judgment in my hon. Friend's case, it could have done so. It did not do so and, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has made clear, its decision cannot now be reopened.
This has not been a very happy or pleasant occasion. We all know briefly the history of the matter. The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) had a well-publicised matrimonial squabble. he was complained about by a journalist who, in the terms of the Select Committee's report, was not wholly without professional interest in the result of those matters.The hon. Gentleman was suspended by the House for 20 days, which is not a terribly serious punishment, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has pointed out. His real complaint is that he was disowned by his party. That is a matter between him, his party and his constituency; it is not a matter for rehearsal in the House today. The hon. Gentleman was lucky in the ballot, and he has chosen a matter of personal interest rather than a subject of interest to his constituents. We have one very clear and one slightly vague obligation in relation to our interests. When we speak in a debate, we should declare our interest where the speech touches on that subject. That is a much wider responsibility than the responsibility for declarations. I used to have a caravan at one time. I do not think that that is a declarable interest, but, if I was speaking about caravan sites—indeed, I have done so—I should declare an interest, because, although it is not something that needs to go in the Register of Members' Interests, it is clearly relevant to what I am saying. Equally, if I have a dwelling house that is in the path of a motorway or is subject to the channel tunnel connection, although I do not have to declare my dwelling house, nevertheless if I was talking about legislation about which directly affected my interests, it is something that I should declare. That is a clear, wide and relevant declaration which we all understand. Except on private Bills, it is fanciful to think that hon. Members actually change their vote as a result of any payment that they receive from outside. I can hardly imagine the circumstances, when it comes to voting, in which the hon. Member for Winchester will go through the Labour Lobby because there is some financial interest. Everybody would soon be on to that. A good deal of scamming goes on here. People have received money from outside interests as consultants in their capacity of Members of Parliament. They are taking outside interests for more of a ride than they are taking the House of Commons. I cannot think of any circumstances in which hon. Members would have been paid a consultancy and would have changed their vote in the House as a result of any such payment. Parliament does not award contracts. Parliament does not determine expenditure, except in a general sense. The real thing that matters—it is much more akin to declarations of interest for local authorities—is when one is making representations to Ministers. It is not the House that has the mega-bucks, although we vote them; the people who can really fix the mega-bucks are Ministers and senior civil servants. That is the really important part, and that brings us to the declaration of interests. It is relevant not so much to what is said in the House or how hon. Members vote here, as to representations made to Ministers who may be placing contracts.
Will my hon. Friend go further on this? There is a whole range of interests, and he has rightly mentioned some that should be declared because people should know about them. I am particularly interested in whether or not a person is a member of a masonic order and of particular lodge. Does my hon. Friend agree that that should also be a declarable interest? I am not against people being masons—that is entirely up to them —but we should know. Does my hon. Friend agree that that should be added to the register?
I think that I am on the record as saying that that should be declarable, particularly in relation to judges. If one is a member of a masonic lodge, one should not be ashamed of saying so. People can then judge actions in the light of that fact.I mentioned the declaration of interests first. The second is the Register of Members' Interests. In it, some matters are set out so that people know of an interest. It also saves tedious repetition. I have it in the register that I am a solicitor, so I do not have to say that on every occasion when I rise to speak. It is fairly well known. I agree with the hon. Member for Winchester slightly, in that the criteria in the register are vague. It uses words that are subjective. One does not know quite what words such as "substantial" mean. It mentions "foreign persons", which is so wide a phrase if one does not consider it in the context of foreign Governments and foreign organisations. Nevertheless, the real deficiency is that we do not yet have declarations. We have the declarations of the puppets, but not of the people who pull the strings. That is a deficiency. The Select Committee's recommendations for a change of practice in the registration of lobbyists and their clients who seek to influence Ministers are long overdue. The biggest interests of all, about which most of us know, are represented largely by Tory Members. They are usually the interests of the landlord against the tenant, the brewer against the consumer, the fund manager against the investor, and the employer against the worker. Those are the truly big interests. The judgment will be made about them not here, but at the general election. In a sense, this has been an unhappy and slightly embarrassing debate. I am afraid that the epitaph of the hon. Member for Winchester will be "public schoolboy, guards officer, banker, Member, whinger".
In a few short moments, I wish to agree with most of those who have spoken. The motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne), in so far as it refers to the inadequacy of the present system of registering Members' interests, makes a perfectly fair point. I would go further than that and agree with many of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)—about the first and last time that I shall probably say that.Many Conservative Members recognise that the Register of Members' Interests—I have it, made up to 13 January 1992, with me—is an extraordinarily inadequate document. As with so many ill drawn up documents, it conceals more than it reveals, and by doing that we do ourselves no favours. I disagree on one point with the hon. Member for Bolsover. It is a little naive to think that every hon. Member should behave in this place as if it were a nunnery. I understand the hon. Gentleman's demonic purity of view, for which he is well known, nationally famous, and his hair-shirt philosophy. That is in contrast to the Gucci shirt worn by his hon. Friend the Member for Newham. North-West (Mr. Banks). It is probably not Gucci, because Gucci is probably vastly out of style.
It is Balmain.
The hon. Gentleman's attractive tie is infinitely more fashionable than mine. Mine is an old tie which does not seem to crease, and it was issued by the IPU.When I return home late at night after my hard work in this place at perhaps 10.30 or 11 o'clock—
Or at 1.30 in the morning.
—or indeed at 1.30 in the morning—by way of diversion I often switch on the television and see none other than the hon. Member for Newham, North-West hosting a programme, accompanied by a good friend—not my hon. Friend at this time but perhaps one day he will be a noble Lord—the putative Lord Archer of Grantchester. Between them they do very well. That role is not contained in the register, which suggests that the employment of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West is as parliamentary adviser to the Broadcasting and Entertainment Trades Alliance. I am sure that that is an oversight.There was an oversight on my part and one that I noticed only today when I saw that the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and I both went to address a conference in the south of France in August. I did not put that on the register, largely because I was doing the job in the vacation and got paid for it. Here and now, I have written a note to the registrar putting that on the record. Perhaps the hon. Member for Newham, North-West would like to comment. He is a good friend of mine, and I do not suggest the slightest impropriety. I am merely pointing to the unreality of the view expressed by the hon. Member for Bolsover that we should exist in a little cocoon and have no outside interests or earnings to be justified. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade is a substantial grocer, although I understand that he takes no practical part in the family business. None the less, he probably benefits from it to some small degree. My right hon. Friend could do almost any job, but he has chosen to give up much of his free time to work extremely hard as a Member and an excellent Minister. It is utterly unrealistic to suggest that he should do that for the salary that a generous population affords to its Members of Parliament. That is nonsense, and does not wash. I am perfectly happy with the concept that my good friend the Member for Newham, North-West and the future Lord Archer of Grantchester and others should earn money outside at the same time as doing an excellent job for constituents.
The hon. Gentleman started his speech with a fairly amusing point about my clothes. My shirt is by Balmain and the silk tie by courtesy of the Tie Rack, which will perhaps now send me a free one—which, I suppose, I shall have to declare in the Register of Members' Interests.The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point, which had not occurred to me. I have three months in which to declare that programme. If the rules were more defined, no one would make a mistake. I had not thought of putting in my television appearances. I think that I will then need my own book, because there are quite a few television appearances.
The hon. Gentleman has made my point. I had not bothered to look at his entry until I noticed him sit down next to his hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover. I then took out the register, which is one of the greatest works of fiction I have even seen, and suddenly wondered where the bit about his television programme was.I have often thought of asking the hon. Member for Newham, North-West how he got the job, because it seems to be a wonderful way in which to pass an hour in the evening once a week. I have often listened to the quality of the questions bobbing back and forth between the hon. Gentleman and Jeffrey Archer and thought that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I or many other hon. Members might "like a bit of that"—if I may use the vernacular. It is fair to say that I do not have one quarter of the hon. Gentleman's talent, and I am sure that the television companies are intelligent in picking him and not me. I hope that hon. Members heard me say that, when I read the register, I noticed that the hon. Member for Copeland had mentioned that conference. I had not, and I shall have to do so. It was an error on my part. I want to make the matter clear because, although it is not significant, it is material. It was not long ago that I saw another hon. Member who had been on a tour on which I had been. I had to put that in the register, which I had previously forgotten to do. Such matters worry me. What is this thing supposed to be? The entries of some hon. Members are so exhaustive that they are meaningless. Some almost say, "Was bought a cup of coffee by a constituent who thought that if he did so, I might vote against the Government and bring down the Commons." It is lunatic stuff. On the other hand, there are significant entries which say, "Nil." I look at those and think, "Nil on all counts? That is hardly realistic." I list four directorships. All are unremunerated, because they are all charities. I regard the entry as significant because I should say that those are matters in which I am interested. I list a shareholding. I do not draw any money from it, but it is an interest, and hon. Members should know about it. I also list a directorship that pays me. The solution to all this is straighforward. Without anticipating the Select Committee report, we should be far more specific about what should be in. what should not be in and why. I go along with what the hon. Member for Bolsover said on my second point. It is about time that we put numbers alongside names. The names mean nothing to me. One can open the document at any page and read fascinating names which are utterly meaningless in themselves. Some may pay an hon. Member nothing, whereas others will involve a considerable amount of an hon. Member's time which is given entirely voluntarily. Others may be worth £500 a year and others may be worth £50,000. Am I doing wrong because, on occasions, I have had lunch with a lobbyist and have not put that in the Register of Members' Interests? He or she bought me lunch. Is that not material? The lobbyist wanted to talk to me and, presumably, to try to influence me. The hon. Member for Bolsover was right when he said that the idea that that means that I would walk through the Labour Lobby is vaguely naive. I go further. What would I achieve? It is a pointless exercise from that point of view. Where do we start and stop? We should just say how much. The President of the United States suffers one minor indignity: his tax return is public property. I agree with the hon. Member for Bolsover that the road of disclosure is the proper road, whether at national or at local level. This country has an enviable reputation for honesty and integrity which I want us always to keep. We must put amounts by entries such as "occasional journalism".
The hon. Gentleman is putting an interesting case which, I confess, I have opposed on the grounds of privacy. Even so, he puts it powerfully. How does he respond to the proposition that, suffice that hon. Members declare, they are entitled to some privacy? Does he also agree that a volume of money of a certain size might have varying amounts of influence, depending on which hon. Member receives that money?
The hon. Gentleman anticipates me. I underline that I am a Conservative Member and that I have on occasion had significant income other than my parliamentary salary. As the hon. Member for Newham, North-West constantly tells me—he has made me a few offers for it—I carry my mortgage around my wrist so that I may know the time. The hon. Gentleman has been saving up to buy it from me, and I have it on good authority that some of his earnings from the BBC may shortly be corning my way. I do not know whether I shall have to declare that transaction when it takes place. If I believe that it is notifiable, I shall declare it.The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) makes a serious intervention, and I assure him that I am deadly serious about what I am saying. On the question of privacy, one quickly realises on becoming a Member of this place that one should not have joined if one cannot take a joke. There are many things about this place that involve personal sacrifices. The media are likely to want to know a lot about one in all sorts of respects and, however uncomfortable that may be, they are entitled to do that. Part of that—because, sadly, there is always the odd rotten apple in the barrel—will have to be the sacrifice of a degree of privacy. Before making that statement, I had to consider that it might mean my tax return becoming public propery. I hasten to add that it would be unbelievably tedious reading—that is almost the answer to the hon. Gentleman's intervention—in the same way as the register is unbelievably tedious. That sacrifice of privacy is an essential prequalification for the right to be a member of this place. The register does not show the true worth of, for example, the free airports pass that is given to us by the British Airports Authority for our parliamentary duties. For somebody who uses it to the tune of £50-worth a year and who has earnings of say, £150,000 a year, I reckon that BAA will not get much political influence out of that. But for an hon. Member who exists on his basic parliamentary salary of £30,000 a year and who saves £1,000 a year because he uses the pass every weekend, it suddenly becomes material. So the point about the Register and an open tax return is that it allows one the crucial ability to say that, for one hon. Member, it is derisory to suggest that his failure to declare some obscure night television programme for which he got £20 is a breach of faith with the House compared with some far greater perfidy that might be perpetrated for other amounts of cash.
I have been listening with fascination to much of what my hon. Friend has said and am wondering whether I must now disagree with him. How would he extend the principles that he has been enunciating to the spouses of hon. Members?
I have always thought that a nonsense of the register is the way in which it ignores spouses, and there have been many famous cases where that has been self-evident. I want a Committee of the House to consider closely the practicability of including a spouse's tax return with that of a Member, and also the question of how far one should go. It is illogical simply to confine the debate on additional income to spouses.
What about children?
My right hon. Friend—whom it is a pleasure to see joining us today when he has a busy schedule guarding our interests in the Community—asks about children. If one's child were to receive some remuneration, would that not be an obvious way to divert some money?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman and have argued endlessly much of the case that he makes about spouses. Can he give a sign of the extent to which, he feels that he has support for his proposition from his hon. Friends?
I cannot answer. The answer to that question is no.When any hon. Member contemplates the scenario that my right hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) and others have suggested to me, one simply has to decide on a cut-off point. That may be a spouse, or perhaps hon, Members will consider that an unnecessary extension. That is fine, but I would like us to debate it when there is the realistic prospect for real changes in the system. Members' interests should be understood before we make crass decisions.
Will my hon. Friend take the logic of his argument a little further? Would he go beyond spouses and say that the financial interests of the tax returns of Members' co-habitees should be declared? Or, if people are not formally living together but have separate addresses, although they are in a close relationship of one form or another—whether heterosexual or homosexual —should their partners declare their financial interests? Or does he feel that there is something special about the marriage contract and that the obligation should stop there?
My mind is reeling from contemplating the basis on which my hon. Friend has asked that question. I had not ascribed to him any of the motives that his question suggests, but I happen to know that his question is purely academic. I do not think that he is in any co-habiting arrangement, other than with his most attractive and excellent wife, on whom I commend him for his good fortune and perspicacity.Members' interests are an issue that we should be talking about instead of the utter and arrant nonsense—the absence of reality—which this solemn document, the report of the Select Committee on Members' Interests, represents. The lesson of today's debate is clear. There is absolute all-party interest in the public knowing that Members of Parliament are justified in doing what they do and that they are making proper declarations. The questions that my short speech has inspired have enthused me to take the matter further, but I must make it clear that it has nothing to do with Labour or Tory, with rich or poor, it is a matter which concerns the integrity of every Member of the House.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Hargreaves) wishes to have his debate, so I shall be brief.I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris) has just said, especially with regard to matching numbers with names. I also agree with him on the privacy issue. Here I point out that I introduced the Protection of Privacy Bill and I believe that my hon. Friend is absolutely correct, and so I agree with every word that he says. I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) says, but I shall take up two matters. First, he said that I should have apologised to the Select Committee—
I did not say "should have"—I said that the hon. Gentleman "could have".
Oh, "could have"—the hon. Gentleman suggested that it might have been to my advantage to do so. I accept that the hon. Gentleman said "could have" apologised. The reason why I did not do so was that I thought that I was in the right and had nothing for which to apologise. I explained what I had done and that I thought that I was right. The Select Committee said that I was wrong—by sort of bending the rules, I think, but that is a matter of opinion. I apologised to the House in my statement once I had been shown to be wrong by the Select Committee's version of the rules.The hon. Member for Bolsover said that my case was not like the Dreyfus case. I did not say that I was like Dreyfus, or that I received anywhere near the same punishment as Dreyfus. The point that I was trying to make about the Dreyfus case was that of the deliberate Government-inspired injustice and the Government cover-up that followed—those were the similarities to which I was drawing attention. I disagree with a number of points made by the hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith), the Select Committee Chairman, particularly the matter of calling witnesses and the right to call witnesses. I was specifically told by the registrar on about three occasions that I was most definitely not allowed to call witnesses in front of the Committee.
But not by the Committee.
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) says from a sedentary position that I was not told by the Select Committee members themselves. That is perfectly true, but as everyone knows, when dealing with Committees, all of one's advice comes from the Clerks Office and the Clerks to the Committee.
I am listening carefully to the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne). Does he agree that there should be an extension to the declaration of interests? He is talking about a Select Committee, but does he agree that Members appointed to a Committee dealing with a Bill have a job to do? The party that is in power has the highest number of Members on the Committee. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, once appointed to a Committee considering a Bill, Members should not sit in the Cafeteria studying the Financial Times to see how they or their constituents can line their pockets by noting the state of the City while the rest of us are in Committee working away to oppose or push through a Bill? In addition, I believe that people should apologise when they have got it wrong.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's last point. When I was told that I had got it wrong, I apologised to the House.On the hon. Gentleman's first point, I think that hon. Members do a good job in Committee. I do not see many hon. Members sitting in the Tea Room reading the Financial Times when they should be in Committee. I believe that the hon. Gentleman is right to say that hon. Members should work if appointed to a Committee, and I think that they do. That is not to say that I think that outside interests should be abolished. I believe that outside interests should be allowed as they encourage the system of hon. Members representing their constituents in a more informed manner. The hon. Member for Workington correctly said that Committee Members had not told me that I could not call witnesses. But Members have to deal with briefings. I was briefed by the Clerk and, in particular, by the registrar, who was calling me up all the time. I had only three brief sessions in front of the Committee, which were action packed and we were pressurised for time. It was the registrar who told me, on three occasions that I can remember, that I was not allowed to call specific people whom I had asked to call. I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden to check this vital point with the now ex-registrar who was present at the time.
The hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. When certain Bills are being discussed in Committee, one has to be there whether one likes it or not. I am talking about important legislation going through the House. On one occasion when we had a Bill in Committee I saw with my own eyes one of the Conservative members of that Committee sitting in the Cafeteria studying the Financial Times to line his pockets. He should have been working in the Committee. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that hon. Member should have been there working and not sitting in the Cafeteria trying to line his pockets?
The hon. Gentleman mentions a specific case and I have no idea of the details. All I can say is that, in general, I believe that hon. Members do a very good job on Committees. I do not know the specific case to which the hon. Gentleman is referring.
Just so that the record can be absolutely straight, will the hon. Gentleman answer a simple question? Falcon company, the vehicle that the hon. Gentleman used, received $88,000 for the SAMA document and the hon. Gentleman knew that the Select Committee wanted access to it. He knew from sources within the United Kingdom that he was unable to get a copy of it. In light of the fact that he was repeatedly asked in Committee for a copy, did he approach the Saudi authorities to get a copy so that it could be provided to the Committee? Did he try to do that? I draw his attention to the fact that his reply is being given in the House of Commons.
Yes, I did. The hon. Gentleman was not here for that part of my speech when I dealt with that specific issue.
I was up in the Gallery behind the hon. Gentleman.
I did not see the hon. Gentleman behind my back.It was an interesting situation because the actual document, it is alleged, was stolen from my files. Mr. Leigh wrote some articles. Obviously he had read that document, or he could not have written them. I was then accused of not producing the document. The Committee's judgment seemed incredible to me when it knew that Mr. Leigh must have seen that document. So where was it? Why did not Mr. Leigh produce the document to the Select Committee?
The hon. Gentleman has not answered my question.
I did answer—yes.My hon. Friend the Member for Wealden avoided answering the vitally important question as to why the Select Committee refused to accept for investigation the case that I put to it about the hon. Member for Workington. If my hon. Friend reads the record of the debate, I should like him to give some reasons as to why it was not accepted. The Leader of the House made an extremely short speech. He said that the final decision was for the House, and of course it was. I believe that it was a heavily whipped vote and that that sort of thing must be wrong in terms of justice. It is quite right and accepted to whip an ordinary vote, but it must surely be very wrong to whip a judicial vote in the House.
I am sorry to intervene as I am sure that my hon. Friend wants to bring his remarks to a close and I apologise for extending the debate. However, I want to make one thing clear. As a Conservative Back-Bench Member, not the slightest pressure was brought to bear on me either way as to how I voted. I just want to make that clear. If it was, I missed it. It must have been incredibly subtle and it must have gone right over my head. So far as I am aware, no pressure was brought to bear on any Back-Bench Member of the Conservative party. I wanted to say that for my hon. Friend's reassurance.
I do not know whether that is reassuring, but I can only go by what people have said to me in the House. Hon. Members have told me that pressure was put on them through the informal system. If one reads the Division lists, it is pretty clear that the payroll vote was whipped. Ministers have confirmed that to me, but of course my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest was not a Minister.The purpose of the debate was to raise the issue of Members' interests, which is a complex one. A lot of things need to be done about it in the interests of hon. Members. I wanted to present my case as an example in which many of those issues were raised. I think that that purpose has been achieved. The debate was very disappointing in terms of the reply of the Leader of the House, but I have no wish to pursue it further. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move,
Unfortunately, unlike Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, for which debates are held in Government time, the only opportunity that the House has to discuss the north-west comes when an hon. Member is successful in the ballot for private Members' motions. In 1979, the picture of the north-west in the minds of most people was of an area where workers were constantly on strike, where local government was dominated by left-wing extremists, where the old industries that had made the country prosperous were declining and where the industrial scene was full of restrictive practices and overmanning. That was not necessarily an accurate picture of the north-west, but it was the image from which it suffered. I am pleased that my success in the ballot gives me the opportunity to consider—somewhat more briefly than I had expected—the successful effect that Government policies have had in the region since 1979 and the problems that need still to be addressed. The north-west consists of the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire. The region has a population of 6·9 million 1 per cent. fewer than in 1981. Between 1981 and 1989, there was 15·7 per cent. growth in the number of people aged 75 or over. Some 18·1 per cent. of people are pensioners and 20 per cent. are under 16. A glance at the football league tables shows Manchester United at the top of division 1, Blackburn Rovers at the top of division 2 and Burnley at the top of division 4. Even I would not claim that Government policies are responsible for that, but it is success in sport, especially by Liverpool and Manchester in football and the Lancashire county team in cricket, for which the region is rightly famous and of which people throughout the country are rightly aware. They are equally aware of the name of Accrington Stanley, whose tie I wear this afternoon, although not necessarily for the same reasons. It is enormously good news for the north-west that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has announced that the Government are to provide full backing for Manchester's bid for the Olympics in the year 2000. As Sir Arthur Gold, chairman of the British Olympic Association, said, "It is the most heartening announcement that British sport has heard since 1948." The £55 million offered by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will pump-prime the essential investment necessary for Manchester to make a successful bid. A successful outcome to that bid would be of enormous importance to the north-west. The gains would be the north-west's largest-ever inward investment, providing 5,000 permanent jobs, and the boost that a successful bid would give to the north-west would carry the region forward for many years. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for his announcement on Wednesday and for his assurance that the bid presentation will have Government support from the highest level. In 1989, for the first time ever, more than £1 billion was spent in the north-west by tourists. Even that amount will be increased substantially if the Olympic games are held in Manchester. Albert dock in Manchester which, thanks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, is now the second largest tourist attraction in Britain, with 5 million visitors a year, may well become the country's No. I attraction. The pride and confidence that Manchester enjoyed in the 19th century are emerging again today. Manchester's bid gives the north-west a new opportunity to lead the way. There are equally successful stories to be told about other aspects of life in the north-west, but we seldom get the opportunity to do so and many people in the country—perhaps many in the House—will believe that another north-west success, "Coronation Street", is an accurate reflection of life in the north-west. Although it is my very favourite television programme, I have to say thankfully that life in the north-west has rather more to offer than "Coronation Street" implies. When I was a child, a large proportion of my immediate family, friends and neighbours were employed in the cotton industry. Recession in the industry, hit everybody in the area hard, as we found to our cost. There were no massive redundancy payments for cotton workers who lost their jobs. Thankfully, the north-west is now more diversified and there is no doubt that Government policies have ensured that the north-west is in better shape to withstand this recession than it was in previous ones. A recent survey in the North-West Business Insider concluded that the top 10 companies in the north-west wereThat this House welcomes the successful effect that Government policies have had in the North West since 1979; draws attention to problems in the region which need to be addressed; and urges the Government to consider ways of so doing.
That is a welcome development from the position that was faced in the past. The north-west is second only to the south-east in terms of regional output. Gross domestic product was £44 billion in 1990, accounting for 10 per cent. of the United Kingdom total. The region takes second place in the United Kingdom in terms of manufacturing, which in 1989 was worth £12 billion, 13 per cent. of the United Kingdom total. That is a tribute to workers and management in the north-west. In 1989, there were 17,000 manufacturing units in the region, an increase of 23 per cent. on the 1979 figure. The region's business stock grew by 18·6 per cent. between 1979 and 1990. There were 152,100 registered businesses at the end of 1990. In October 1991, the North-West Business Insider stated:"a varied and balanced portfolio with a healthy preponderance of technologically advanced companies, belying stock images of the region as the home of sunset industries."
In helping that growth to come about, we are fortunate to have the Agency for Investment into North-West England, INWARD, which is supported by the Department of Trade and Industry to the tune of £990,000 this year. INWARD has secured about 4,000 jobs and nearly £200 million of investment in the north-west. Last year, it encouraged 27 companies to locate in the region, compared with 16 in 1990. The last financial year was the best ever for inward investment, with direct investment of £39·71 million creating or safeguarding 1,070 jobs. In 1990–91, about £450 million was invested in the north-west by overseas companies, creating 3,000 jobs and safeguarding another 8,000. Between 1980 and 1991, inward investment created more than 14,000 jobs. That was a massive vote of confidence in the north-west. It is good that some of the world's top performers—Pirelli, Siemens, Kellogg and Nabisco, along with German and Japanese banks—are showing their confidence by investing millions in the region. I do not seek to pretend that there is not an unemployment problem and that there are not business failures. Unfortunately, there are both, and I regret the problems that they cause to those involved. I am trying to show, however, that it is far from all doom and gloom in the north-west. Occasionally, we should concentrate on the region's successes and not its failures. All too often we dwell on the bad news and fail to react to the good news. The north-west has not escaped the effect of the worldwide recession. That would be impossible. It is pleasing, however, and worthy of note that it has not been affected as severely as other parts of the United Kingdom. Thankfully, unemployment in the region as a whole fell between June 1987 and January 1992. Confidence has remained high. A survey of manufacturing industry's intentions show that 43 per cent. of companies plan to increase capital expenditure this year. It appears that 65 per cent. said that the recession had affected capital expenditure plans only slightly or not at all. That is a far cry from the recessions that I remember when I was young. There can be no doubt that the Government's policies and initiatives have played a large part in bringing about this change. Sixty three per cent. of the region's work force are in assisted areas. There are two city action teams in Manchester/Salford and Liverpool. There are three DTI task forces and 14 training and enterprise councils, one of the most successful of which is East Lancashire TEC, which covers my constituency. ELTEC had a budget for 1991–92 of £17·5 million and 205 local firms are members of it. There are 3.500 young people on youth training schemes, 1,200 people receiving employment training and 500 on the enterprise allowance scheme. There are four enterprise zones, which have resulted in an increase in employment of 21,500 since they were designated. The east Lancashire zone has been especially successful despite the lack of enthusiasm of the Labour party in Hyndburn and the scorn that it poured on the idea when the zone was established. I shall deal briefly with national health service provision in the north-west. There are three regional health authorities—Northern. North Western and Mersey. I welcome the fact that in North Western, which covers my constituency, and Mersey spending increased by 73 per cent. between 1982 and 1990–11 per cent. ahead of inflation. Last year, £1·3 billion was spent in North Western and £753·6 million in Mersey. It sometimes appears to be forgotten that the health service is for the benefit of patients. As someone who has benefited enormously from it, I welcome the fact that in 1990, 546,818 in-patients were treated in the north-west region. That is a substantial increase over the number of patients treated 10 years earlier. There was a similar large increase in the Mersey region, where 280,000 in-patients were treated. Day cases have increased dramatically in both regions—in the north-west region they are up by a staggering 73 per cent., to 139,987. Those may seem merely cold figures, but they represent people relieved of pain and suffering. They are living proof that we have a fine health service, despite the Labour party's continued attempts to denigrate it. Such attempts do nothing for morale in the national health service and are unacceptable, coming from a party which when in government underpaid nurses and stopped capital spending on hospitals. Fortunately, we have reversed that trend, and in the north-west region 62 building schemes, each costing more than £1 million, have been completed since 1979. Capital spending for 1991–92 was £108·4 million. Shortage of time prevents me from speaking about the maternity unit at Accrington Victoria hospital and housing problems in Hyndburn. However, I wish to draw attention to two further problems. The first is the proposed reorganisation of local government—a matter on which different areas within the north-west region will no doubt have different views, some irreconcilable. That is not so in north-east Lancashire, where views on what we would like to emerge from the reorganisation proposals are almost unanimous. Local authorities there are working together to press the local government commission for unitary authorities based on the existing districts. I support that proposal, safe in the knowledge that it is what my constituents want. The borough council carried out a survey of the electors, asking them what they wanted from local government, and the result was overwhelming suport for a unitary authority based on Hyndburn. The council also consulted all the companies in Hyndburn with more than 20 employees. Of those, 84 per cent. wanted a unitary authority based on the district rather than on the county. I welcome the response of the people of Hyndburn and the responsible attitude exhibted by all the Lancashire local authorities to local government reorganisation proposals. When those proposals were announced, I was convinced that history would repeat itself and that I would find myself fighting off a bid for Hyndburn to be taken over by Blackburn, just as I did when I was chairman of Oswaldwhistle urban district council in 1969–70, and led a campaign against being taken over by Blackburn. We did not want that then and we do not want it now. I am thankful that the leader of Blackburn council does not want it, either, but the commission may seek to impose it, and I wish to warn against that. As a lifelong resident of east Lancashire, I know how strong are the ties that bind local communities together. We are fiercely proud of our history and civic traditions, and of our contribution to the well-being of the north-west, and of the nation. That contribution was made first through the cotton industry, which I have mentioned, and more recently through the multitude of small businesses that have grown up since the demise of cotton. My hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities stresses that the Local Government Bill aims to ensure that the new structure of local government in the north-west and elsewhere reflects the identities and interests of local communities. Only local people can be aware of what those identities and interests are. As my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) said in the Committee on the Local Government Bill, Members of Parliament should be careful about telling areas of the country that they do not represent and do not know well what form of local government is good for them. The commission needs to be warned, therefore, that any proposals to merge Hyndburn with any of our neighbours by drawing circles on the map will be greeted with outrage. Local government has the potential either dramatically to improve or fatally to hinder the development of local spirit and pride. We must take the right decisions on reorganisation, and one of those must be to listen to and to accept the views of local people. Finally, I want to refer to the problem that arises most frequently in my surgeries and in correspondence—concessionary television licences for pensioners. It is hardly surprising that that problem arises so frequently, given the percentage of old people in the north-west. For many old people, television is their major form of entertainment. As old age comes, it is more difficult for people to get out and about and television becomes an important link with the world outside. It helps pensioners to feel less lonely and less cut off and isolated in their own homes. Television and radio—and especially television—are a vital part of a pensioner's life. People of pensionable age, perhaps more than any other group, understand that there is no such thing as something for nothing and that previous attempts to provide a free television licence to pensioners would have meant a large rise in the licence fee for all non-pensioner households. I do not believe that they wanted that to happen. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of unhappiness about the present concessionary system. The concessionary scheme has existed for 20 years. It was intended to benefit pensioners and disabled people living in residential homes and comparable sheltered housing by local authorities and housing associations. However, changes were made in the regulations in 1988 following the Kirklees judgment. The new regulations more clearly define the type of sheltered accommodation that would qualify in future. The regulations came into force on 19 May 1988 and under them the qualifying accommodation had to form a group of at least four dwellings within a common and exclusive boundary to be served by a full-time or resident warden so that the accommodation could be seen to form a cohesive self-contained unit with staff at hand, just like a residential home. The anomalies that arise from the concessionary system cause difficulties, confusion and even ill feeling. I accept that when the scheme had to be changed as a result of the Kirklees judgment the Government could have withdrawn the benefits of the scheme from those who ceased to qualify under the new regulations. They felt that that would be unfair and included provision in the 1988 regulations that preserved the right to existing beneficiaries for their lifetimes, provided that they continue to live in accommodation that qualifies under the old regulations. Consequently, in some schemes, residents continue to enjoy the benefit of a concessionary licence even though the scheme no longer qualifies, while people who move into such schemes cannot now obtain concessions unless they have reserved rights. Therefore, neighbours in the same non-qualifying scheme may sometimes be treated differently, with existing beneficiaries enjoying a concession which newcomers cannot enjoy, even if they are older and poorer. The whole situation is confusing for pensioners, who had great difficulty understanding the fairness of the original scheme, let alone the present situation. The present situation is unfair and it cannot be defended any longer. We should seriously consider introducing a concessionary scheme that gives equal benefit to all pensioners and is easily understood and seen to be fair. The present situation is not understood and it is not fair: £5 for some pensioners and £78 for the people next door. In Lancashire terms, that is plain daft. The situation could be made more fair by allowing all pensioner households to pay a £5 licence or at least have a rebate of 50 per cent. on the cost of the present television licence. The loss of revenue to the BBC could be compensated for by allowing advertising on Radio 1, Radio 2 and, if necessary at some hours of the day, on BBC1. Advertisements leap out at us when we watch sports programmes on television. Players wear shirts on which there are company names. The names of products and firms are thrust at us on advertising hoardings at sports grounds. We may as well go the whole way and allow advertising during certain periods and use the proceeds to get rid of the present anomalies in the concessionary scheme once and for all. I welcome the view of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that the Government should set up an inquiry into the future of the BBC after the general election. I hope that the concessionary licence scheme will form part of that inquiry. The past 12 years have been important, not just for the north-west. People in very different societies have had to accept that the nation's fortunes are made from their own individual efforts. In the north-west we have responded: there is more self-employment and more small businesses, and that reflects a new awareness of the need to compete. The emphasis of Government policy has been on the role of individuals to try harder to compete more effectively. There is now a different attitude in the north-west, even in areas which, in the past, gave the region a bad name. There is an attitude of partnership between local business, local authorities, educationists and Government who are working together better than ever before. That is vital if we are to solve our present unemployment problems and the ones that will follow from the peace dividend in an area in which the defence industry has played such an important role. I am optimistic about the future of the north-west and the quality of life that we enjoy—provided that we return a Conservative Government at the general election. I was born in the north-west, and I have lived all my life there. I know the people. They are the kindest and most caring people in the country. During my time in the House, I have always tried to put their interests first, even at the expense of sometimes voting against my own party. So much do I care for the people whom I represent that if my party, during a recession, introduced a minimum wage, higher taxes and higher national insurance contributions, I would refuse to stand for election at the coming general election. The Labour party's policies will decimate jobs and do untold damage in the north-west. They will hit hardest the very people whom it wants to help. During a recession, such policies are nonsense, and the people of the north-west will say so in no uncertain terms at the general election."For the first time in decades the region has a manufacturing sector capable of growth."
I repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Hargreaves) said about the new attitude in the north-west toward competitiveness and the idea that the market for products in our part of the country exists beyond these shores. I commend my hon. Friend for all that he has done for industries in the north-west—knowing, as he does, so much about them.It is striking that, in the past few years, although we have had an unfortunate recession in this country, there is no doubt that it has been less pronounced in the north-west because people in my region are rather more cautious. As a result, there is a lower incidence of debt even in respect of mortgages and business lending. That will do much for the region when the recovery comes. We can use a much stronger equity base in order to take advantage of increased demands for products made in my region. There are undoubted problems, however. My hon. Friend mentioned the defence industries. It is useful to point out that, although we have a peace dividend, we still need to keep our defences strong. The Labour party and Liberal Democrats have failed time and again to make that point. We need a strong aviation industry based on civilian and military products. We in the north-east are dependent on military products. The Government's policy of maintaining a strong defence, rather than the huge cuts proposed by the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats, will result in a larger aviation industry in the north-west, as opposed to what would happen under a Labour Government, whether or not supported by the Liberal Democrats. The other industry on which the north-west depends heavily is nuclear power. The Labour party and the Liberal Democrats want to phase out nuclear power, but 120,000 jobs in the north-west depend on nuclear power. Without that industry, jobs would be devastated, and there would be a spill-over effect on smaller contractors, retailers and people who depend on that inflow of funds into our region. The Government's balanced policy on nuclear power and other forms of energy generation shows that we support the north-west. The Opposition would damage the north-west not only by the minimum wage but by their attitude to the two most important industries in our region —aviation and nuclear power. They want to damage the region's opportunities to move forward and take advantage of European and world markets for our products.
I fully understand the anxieties of the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Hargreaves) as he looks forward to the next six weeks because if, as seems likely, the election is held on 9 April, the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will have to defend an economic record in the north-west which, I am afraid, bears no relation to what the hon. Gentleman said.Let us examine 13 years of Conservative government in the north-west and some key indicators that most parties would agree measure the competence and performance of any Government. First, between June 1979 and December 1991 unemployment in the north-west increased by 153,200. Outwith the south-east and Greater London, that is the biggest increase in unemployment of any region. The other side of the coin is the change in employment. Outwith the west midlands, the north-west has lost 199,000 jobs. That is a staggering figure and directly confronts talk about the success of the Government economic policies during three periods of office. The disastrous trade figures announced yesterday show the change in manufacturing employment. In looking optimistically to the future, we look to the west midlands, the south-west, Scotland and the north-west, which we hope will play a major role in the regeneration of the British economy. Sadly, between June 1979 and December 1991 the north-west lost 361,000 manufacturing jobs. That is not a small but a substantial haemorrhage of jobs at a time when not only the hon. Member for Hyndburn but Ministers have been making extravagant claims about the Government's employment record. If there is one statistic that reinforces the current crisis in manufacturing it is the one that relates to skills. Between March 1981 and March 1990 the north-west lost 11,300 apprentices. There has been a slump in jobs, a dramatic slump in manufacturing jobs, and the back of the apprenticeship programme in the north-west has been broken. That did not happen in the early part of the 1980s during the first or second Tory recession, but in the dip that we are now experiencing. A job loss document that we produced this week shows that in the north-west 6,400 jobs have been lost in the first five weeks of 1992, the year of the single market and of major challenges throughout the world. We face threats from the Japanese and the strength of the Germans despite what the Primne Minister says, and Pacific rim countries are investing in skills and becoming commanding economies. The statistic on which I shall finish is a statement on the Government's appalling record United Kingdom-wide, and certainly in the north-west. In January 1979, 62,300 18 to 24-year-olds were unemployed in the north-west. In January 1992, the figure was 103,253—an increase of 66 per cent. in the number of young people who are unemployed, after two recessions and a supposedly economic miracle. The sad state of affairs is shown graphically in yesterday's trade figures. I cannot help the hon. Member for Hyndburn in his efforts to be re-elected in a few weeks' time. I sincerely hope that when the electors in the north-west go to the polls they will look at the claims being made by candidates and Ministers and will measure the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of 12 dismal and depressing years of Government economic policy. We hope that on 10 April in the north-west, and in the United Kingdom, we shall have a chance to start rebuilding the British economy.
I am grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Hyndburn (Mr. Hargreaves) and for Wyre (Mr. Mans) for the eloquent way in which they have dealt with how the north-west economy is progressing satisfactorily under this Government. For the sake of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish), I will put the debate in context.In both employment and output terms, the north-west is second only to the south-east in size, having a gross domestic product of £47 billion—equivalent to 10·1 per cent. of GDP. Some 2·4 million people are employed in the region, representing 10·9 per cent. of the national total, and of those nearly 661,000 are employed in manufacturing. The latter figure is significant. Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman said, the region's manufacturing provides 27 per cent. of employment, compared with a national figure of 23 per cent. That share and its long history are why the north-west feels particularly strongly about manufacturing industry, and I understand the reasons for that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn recognised, there have been problems in the decline of the traditional industries, such as textiles, coal and steel, and to a lesser extent the ports. That decline is part of the natural life cycle of industries and sectors within industries. Governments cannot interfere with the natural order of such things. I recognise that it is extremely painful for those involved in declining industries, and I know that the decline has cost many jobs. Between 1965—I hope that the hon. Gentleman will note that date—and 1989, around 400,000 jobs or 55 per cent. had gone from the manufacturing industries in the region. That is part of the steady decline that we have seen in the north-west, as throughout Europe. The once dominant textile industry, for example, which will be close to my hon. Friend's heart, is a typical example of what has happened in the north-west. Textiles now face low-cost competition from areas abroad, so we have had the multi-fibre arrangement, which is part of the general agreement on tariffs and trade, to ease the process. We have also seen diversification of the north-west economy. With such diversification there is strength. The sectors represented range from engineering, the food industry, chemicals, the defence industries, and motor vehicles to the traditional industries to which I have referred. The services sector provides the region with the largest body of service industry employment of any region outside the south-east. Important banking, finance, insurance and business services are provided in the region, which combine to make Manchester and Liverpool major centres of commerce, transport and education. Despite its past decline, Liverpool remains an important port. Its performance since the abolition of the national dock labour scheme has been most encouraging. Manchester has more than 60 domestic, merchant and international banks represented there, as well as the northern stock exchange—a different picture from that presented by the hon. Gentleman. Elsewhere in the region there are important ancillary activities, including the Barclaycard centre in Liverpool and, in Chester, the headquarters of North West Securities and St. Michael Financial Services. That diversity now helps the region to ride the business cycle much better than it would have done with an over-dependence on larger, old-established industries. It is no good the hon. Gentleman coming to the House today with the usual speech that we have heard many times from the Opposition Front Bench. The Opposition never give their answer. There was not a word in the hon. Gentleman's speech about their agenda, their plans or their policies—just the usual slogans, platitudes and criticisms. That is not surprising; the debate on manufacturing that we have had so often in the past few months has become wholly predictable. The House need look only at the speeches of the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) to see that. I have done an analysis of his speeches. In June he made a speech on manufacturing. It amounted to 57 paragraphs in Hansard. How many of those, do my hon. Friends think, describe his policies? Was it 20? Was it 25? [HON. MEMBERS: "1\10."] WaS it 30? [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Any advance on 30? [HoN. MEMBERS: "No."] It was less than 30. To be precise it was just one. What about the hon. Gentleman's next speech on manufacturing which was in October? Surely he could do better. Surely his own personal policy relevation growth rate would be—
Order. This is all very entertaining, but it seems to be of little relevance to the motion before the House.
This is very relevant to the north-west, which is what the debate is about. We want to know what the Opposition policy means for manufacturing in the north-west. Of 51 paragraphs in Hansard, only one lonely paragraph was about Labour's policy. It was about Labour's small business scheme.What a shame it is that the Labour party, time and again, failed to explain its policies. When Labour recently called a great conference on industry, it was going to explain its policies. Labour invited no fewer than 1,000 industralists to that conference—