(2) At a sitting of the Standing Committee at which any Proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the Proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.
(4) No Motion shall be made in the Standing Committee relating to the sittings of the Committee except by a Member of the Government and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement of the reasons for the Motion from the Member who moves, and from a Member who opposes the Motion, and shall then put the question thereon.
3. The Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in two allotted days, and shall be brought to a conclusion at Seven o'clock on the second of those days; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 41 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the Proceedings on Consideration such portion of the time on those days given to the Bill by this Order as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.
4. The Business Committee shall report to the House their recommendations as to the Proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those Proceedings and the Proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the fourth day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.
5. On the first allotted day Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) and Standing Order No. 1A (Exemptions from Standing Order No. 1) shall have effect with the substitution of references to half-past Ten o'clock for references to Ten o'clock; and Proceedings which under any Resolution of the Business Committee are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall not be interrupted under the provisions of the said Standing Order No. 1.
6. If, on the first allotted day, a Motion is made under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance), paragraph 5 of this Order shall not apply, but—
7. If, at Seven o'clock on an allotted day, any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time have not been concluded, any Motion for the adjournment of the House under the said Standing Order No. 9 which, apart from this Order, would stand over to that time shall stand over until those Proceedings have been concluded.
8.—(1) Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on the first allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by the Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill on that day, and shall be exempted by this paragraph from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for a period of three hours, or, if the Proceedings on the Bill are concluded before half-past Ten o'clock, for a period (from Ten o'clock) equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the completion of those Proceedings.
11. For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which, under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee or of the Business Committee, or under this Order. are to be brought to a conclusion at a particular time and have not previously been concluded, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall, at that time, put forthwith the Question on any amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair and, in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, also the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill, and subject thereto shall proceed to put forthwith the Question on any amendments, new Clauses or new Schedules moved by a Member of the Government of which notice has been given (but no other amendments, new Clauses or new Schedules) and any Question necessary for the disposal of the Business to be concluded, and, in the case of any amendments, new Clauses or new Schedules moved by a Member of the Government, he shall put only the Question that the amendment he made or that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.
12.—(l) The proceedings on any Motion moved by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order or of a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee or of the Business Committee shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion two hours after they have been commenced and paragraph 11 of this Order shall, so far as applicable, apply as if the proceedings were Proceedings on the Bill:
Provided that if the Proceedings are interrupted by a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance), the time at which they are to be brought to a conclusion shall be deferred for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on the Motion for the adjournment.
(2) If a Motion moved by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order or of a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee or of the Business Committee is under consideration at Seven o'clock on a day on which any private business has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock, the private business shall stand over and be considered when the Proceedings on the Motion have been concluded and shall be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for a period equal to the time for which it so stands over.
13. Nothing in this Order or in a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee or of the Business Committee shall—
15. In this Order "allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as the first Government Order of the day; "the Bill" means the Pipe-lines Bill [Lords]; "Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee; and "Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.
—I thought so—applying to five Bills, and that is quite a lot of Bills. The point was also made in a leading article in The Times on Saturday to which, no doubt, reference will be made. I do not know who wrote the article, but I know where it was written. It was written in one of those ivory towers which are occasionally erected in Printing House Square and which provide at times a very distant view of Westminster. Frankly, the ordinary facts of parliamentary life are very different.
I think that everyone will agree with what is said in The Times, that
it does not do to skimp discussion
of a number of important matters during the Committee stage; but, with repect, that is not quite the point. The point is, what action does the Government take if, instead of discussing these important matters, the Committee prefers to spend, for example, four hours on the first sittings Motion, or if it goes on to spend 20 hours—I remind the House that this is equivalent to three full days and more on the Floor of the House—on Clause 1?
I think that those who attended the Committee may, perhaps, agree with what was said by the Minister at 3 a.m. on 6th June:
There seems almost no limit to the time that hon. Gentlemen opposite will spend in recapitulating and repeating all the arguments
they adduced on earlier Amendments which have now been dealt with."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 6th June, 1962; c. 616.]
In this sort of situation, the classic conflict of Parliamentary democracy arises. It is not by accident that it has arisen here. It is the intention of the Opposition to bring it about. I make no complaint whatever about that. I am fairly clear that I should have done the same myself in their place. But what we have to decide in the circumstances is the balance which we should try to draw between the right of a minority to have their say and that of the majority to have their way. This is the true question which one debates today and which one always debates on Motions of this kind. Always, of course, the onus of proof is on the Government and must remain there until it is discharged, as I hope to do.
Some people would go a great deal further in applying the Guillotine to such Measures where there is contention and where arguments, perhaps, about nationalisation take place. Perhaps I may remind the House—this is my only quotation from previous debates—of what was said by the Leader of the Opposition in his final speech on the Gas Bill on 13th May, 1948, addressing himself to my right hon. and hon. Friends on that Committee.
I thought so. That is why I introduced the subject.
The Leader of the Opposition, addressing my right hon. and hon. Friends
on the occasion to which I have referred, said:
They have achieved something, perhaps surprising even to themselves, but something of some importance. They have convinced every hon. Member of the Committee, and, I venture to say, every member of my party and an important circle of persons beyond, that never again should a Bill of this kind be committed to a Committee without having a Guillotine Resolution. The consequences of this may be far-reaching indeed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 13th May, 1948; c. 2185.]
That, obviously, goes a great deal further than anything which has been suggested by this side of the House. The Opposition will, no doubt, remember—again, this is fair—that they practised what they preached, because the Iron and Steel Bill in November, 1948, following on what the Leader of the Opposition then said, was introduced with a Guillotine before there was a single discussion in Committee.
It is not in order, on Motions of this kind, to discuss the merits of a Bill, but I think that it is agreed that this Bill has been long foreshadowed. It was included in the Queen's Speech. In Committee, my right hon. Friend the Minister has made a patient search for its passage by orderly means. It is an important Bill, and it is important also, in the Government's view, that it should be passed this Session.
This is the first time that we have proposed to legislate generally about the control and development of pipelines. Industrial pipelines are not particularly new. There are a number in existence. But the numbers, the extent and the use of those which are likely to be laid make it necessary to secure their orderly development. I do not think that this is in dispute. What is in dispute between the two sides of the House is whether this should be done as in the way provided for in the Bill, or, to quote the words of the Opposition's Amendment on Second Reading,
… by public enterprise in accordance with a policy of planned economic expansion … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1962; Vol. 659, c. 459.]
That is the basic conflict between the two sides of the House.
The House will know that almost exactly two years ago the Select Committee on the Esso Petroleum Company Bill recommended that no further Private Bills for the construction of pipelines should be passed by the House. Only a little over a year ago another Private Bill was introduced, but was withdrawn when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power gave an assurance that he would hold discussions with a view to legislation being introduced as soon as possible. We know that a number of other firms are planning projects, and it is likely—indeed I take it as certain—that, if it had not been for the decision to withdraw last year's Private Bill, they would have promoted other Private Bills this Session. Even if the Government's Bill is passed this Session, it will be some time before these applications can be dealt with.
The position as I see it is this. This is a Measure on which there is at least one basic point of difference, enshrined in the Opposition's Amendment on Second Reading, between the two sides of the House and which arouses echoes of the many controversies that there have been about private or public ownership. May I try, I hope not unfairly, to summarise the attitude of the Opposition towards the Bill. They do not like it and they have no intention of helping the Government—again I make no complaint about this—to put the Bill on the Statute Book.
There are, therefore, three choices. We can wait to get the Bill in the time that the Opposition think right, which, in practical terms, the House will recognise is never; or an Allocation of Time Motion must be put forward; or—and no doubt this is the course which the Opposition would prefer—the Government could drop the Bill.
I do not propose to talk in detail about the Motion. It follows common form throughout, I think, and I do not think that there are any special points Which I need draw to the attention of the House. It makes use of the Business Sub-Committee as well as the Business Committee. If the Opposition take part in the discussions, it would be normal for their proposals, if they are at all reasonable, to be accepted by the Government.
The Committee upstairs has already had 15 sittings on the Bill, including one all-night sitting and one which lasted until about 3.30 in the morning. It is not for me to say how many more sittings will be suggested by the Business Sub-Committee, in the time which is available between now and Wednesday, 18th July, but, assuming that the Committee proposes something like six more sittings, there will have been 21 sittings in Committee, including one all-night sitting and one lasting until 3.30 a.m. I do not believe that that is inadequate time in Committee for a Bill of this nature. It is certainly not out of line with previous Bills or with previous Allocation of Time Motions introduced from both sides of the House.
It is true—and I think that I should make this point because I believe it to be the weakest; I think that it is the only comparatively weak point in my case—that the Bill was introduced late and that this Motion has been proposed late in the Session. I acknowledge that. I wish that it had been possible to arrange matters in some other way, but, again, it would not be at all difficult, I assure the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin), to quote precedents for that and for Allocation of Time Motions being introduced even later in July than this one.
In short, this is a Bill to which we attach importance. It is an important part of this year's programme. It was given a special place in the Queen's Speech and has had very considerable discussion in Parliament. It is thoroughly disliked by the Opposition. The Government have to recognise that fact and to consider What it is right for them to do. There can be no question of the position now before the House. Everyone who has studied what has happened upstairs—I suppose that most people listening now have done that, either through being a member of the Committee or by reading the reports of the proceedings—will realise that the Opposition were determined, and, within their rights, properly determined, to use to the utmost their power of parliamentary obstruction. This Motion is the result.
I said earlier—I do not doubt the correctness of this—that this is an illustration of the classic dilemma of Parliamentary discussion. Either we accept the situation as it has been created upstairs and bow to it by withdrawing the Bill, or we ask the House to accept an Allocation of Time Motion. Because of the time which has been devoted to the Bill, because of the importance which the Government attach to it and because of the importance of getting legislation on this matter, which makes an important contribution to the economic growth of the country, on the Statute Book as soon as possible, we believe that we are right to push on with the Bill and, accordingly, to ask the House to accept the Motion.
The Leader of the House repeated himself by saying that this Motion represents the classic conflict of Parliamentary democracy. He went on to express it in this way, that it is the right of the minority to have their say and the right of the majority to have their way. The majority in this case would appear to those of us sitting on these benches to be represented by Shell, B.P. and Esso.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the onus was on the Government to make the case for the Motion. About two sentences later he said, "I will say nothing more about the Motion". Up to that time he had not said anything at all about it. He has told us about the time taken by the Standing Committee in discussing the Bill. I should have thought that, in commending the Motion to the House, it was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to show whether it was reasonable to ask the Standing Committee to do the work still outstanding on the Bill within the time limit set out in the Motion. But the right hon. Gentleman did not make any attempt to do that.
The Leader of the House told us that there had been 15 sittings on the Bill so far and that he thought that we might reasonably have another six sittings within the timetable Motion, making a total of 21 sittings. He thought that 21 sittings constituted a reasonable time to spend on the Bill. But that is not the complaint I am making. My complaint is that the Minister failed to realise how much of the Bill still has to be considered by the Standing Committee and haw little time is allowed in the Motion to undertake the remaining work.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Bill was long foreshadowed. Then he admitted in an aside that the Bill was introduced fairly late in the Session. I wonder whether hon. Members realise that it is only two months since the House received the Bill. It is bad enough to impose a timetable Motion at the beginning of May, which is when we got the Bill, but to impose one in the middle of July in the hope that the Bill will reach the Statute Book before we rise for the Summer Recess is quite unjustified. This is a ridiculous way to treat what the right hon. Gentleman is still pleased to call a parliamentary democracy.
The first paragraph of the Motion, which the right hon. Gentleman said he did not want to discuss, states:
The Standing Committee … shall report the Bill to the House on or before the eighteenth day of July, nineteen hundred and sixty-two.
That is Wednesday of next week. Paragraph 3 states that the House will be allowed one-and-a-half days for the Report Stage and Third Reading of the Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman will, I think, be willing to consider with me how much work is still outstanding on the Bill. Does he realise that we still have 52 Clauses and six Schedules——
—that we have not started to consider? This is a Bill which the right hon. Gentleman admits to be breaking new ground. Of course, it is an important Bill and it breaks new ground. We have had pipelines for a very long time, but here we have a Bill which enables the Minister to grant monopoly public utility powers to private enterprise companies without any safeguards for the public interest.
That is the kind of Bill it is, and that kind of Bill should be properly discussed. I do not think that any responsible Government would have introduced the Bill in its present form, but if any Government claiming to be responsible were to introduce it they certainly should have done so much earlier in the Session than early in May.
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Bill was in another place a little while before that and that it had a rough passage. The Government suffered one of their infrequent defeats in a vote in the other place on a Timetable on the Bill because they tried to do in another place what they are doing here. They tried to rush the Bill through with inadequate discussion, but their Lordships, even those sitting on the Tory benches, would not have it. We have to wait until later today, I suppose, to see whether the Whips are any more successful in this House than they are in another place.
There are 52 Clauses and six Schedules to the Bill as it was introduced still to be dealt with. There are 23 new Clauses on the Notice Paper, 10 of them in the name of the Minister, six in the names of Opposition Members and seven in the names of Government supporters. There are 23 new Clauses to be considered. Of the Amendments on the Notice Paper, the Minister is responsible for 62 of them. Forty-nine were put down by my hon. Friends and 29 by Government supporters, a total of 140 Amendments. I should add that one new Schedule has been put down by a Government supporter.
We have 75 Clauses still to be considered. Twenty-three of them have to be considered for their Second Reading. There are 140 Amendments on the Notice Paper and many more, I have no doubt, would have gone down from both sides of the Committee had the Standing Committee been given a proper opportunity of considering the Bill. Does the Minister think that this work can be done between now and Wednesday of next week? As we are called upon to report on or before Wednesday of next week, it is clear that we will have to complete our work on the Bill not later than Tuesday of next week. So we have one week in which to do all this work.
I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it is unreasonable to ask a Standing Committee of the House of Commons to do that. It is impossible for the Standing Committee to consider the Clauses of the Bill, to consider the Amendments which have been put down to the Clauses, and quite impossible for the Standing Committee to consider the new Clauses which have been put down by the Minister, let alone to give any consideration to the new Clauses put down by other hon. Members on both sides of the Standing Committee.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that that is the matter to which he might have devoted some of his time in commending the Motion to the House? He said that the onus of proof was on the Government. Does he not recognise that the Government have the responsibility of convincing the House of Commons that this proposition is reasonable—or is he ashamed of it? Does he realise that it is not a reasonable proposition?
There are only three sitting days for the Standing Committee between now and Tuesday of next week—that is, tomorrow, Thursday and the following Tuesday. The normal practice would be to have one sitting each day. Even if we have what the Minister suggested —six sittings—we will have a total of 15 hours. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we have to allow 10 minutes in each sitting for the Chair simply to put the Questions. That lops off one hour, leaving us with 14 hours.
If we had only five minutes to each of the 140 Amendments on the Notice, Paper—and that would not be time-wasting, debate; after all, half of the Amendments have been put down by the Minister and are surely worthy of five minutes' discussion—that would take 12 hours, leaving two hours for 75 clauses and seven Schedules.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) prompts me about voting. If we took the trouble to vote on all the Amendments, the whole of the 15 hours would be taken up by having votes. We would then have no discussion at all. This is the most ludicrous Motion I have ever known to be put before the House. [Interruption.] I wish that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) would keep quite for a little while. If he had been anxious, perhaps he would have got on to the Committee and we would have given him all the time he wanted. We are having this Motion because, presumably, Government supporters are unwilling to do a bit of overtime.
We are willing to carry on with the proper consideration of the Bill. As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has said, we went on until twenty minutes to nine in the morning on one occasion and on other nights until 3.30 a.m. What we were not willing to do was to sit back and allow the Minister to put the Bill through without proper discussion and without giving us answers to questions.
When a Standing Committee spends a long is on a Bill or on any part of it, it is not necessarily because the Opposition are being unreasonable. It may well be because the Minister has been unreasonable, because he sat back with the kind of smile he is now wearing, looked at the hon. Members on the Opposition side of the Committee, paid no attention to any word they said and then, after listening to a few speeches, got up and uttered a few sentences, either in support of a Government Amendment or a Clause in the Bill or in opposition to a Opposition Amendment, without any reference to the argument advanced in support of the Amendment from the Opposition benches.
When a Minister treats the Opposition with that profound discourtesy—and it is the most profound discourtesy on the part of a Minister in charge of a Bill to ignore completely the case being made by the other side—nothing is more calculated to destroy our democracy. That is how the Minister treated the Opposition at sitting after sitting. That is one of the reasons why we made such slow progress on the Bill.
In a democracy, there must be an assumption that when we get over the fundamental issue that separates the two sides of the House of Commons or of the Standing Committee, hon. Members who sit on the Opposition benches will sometimes be able to make a suggestion which is calculated to improve the Bill. I could give the Minister a list of Amendments that were moved during the proceedings on the Bill so far, Amendments that were lifted directly from other legislation for the purpose of making the Bill clearer and of making it a little more comprehensible and understandable than it is now.
On every occasion, the Minister simply pushed us aside as if we were putting a monstrous proposal before the Committee. The Minister could have eased very considerably the process of the Committee's examination of the Bill if he had just sometimes admitted that Opposition Members did not talk nonsense all the time; but he never did, and so we on our side say it is the Minister's fault.
But whether it was the Opposition in the Standing Committee who were to blame for the time taken on the first 10 Clauses of the Bill, or whether it was the Minister, I come back to this point, that the timetable Motion should be set aside unless the Leader of the House can assure the House, in inviting hon. Members to adopt the Motion, that reasonable time will be allowed by the Motion for the future consideration of the Bill. No matter who is to blame for what has gone on up to now, up to last Thursday, in the Standing Committee, the right hon. Gentleman cannot deny, nor can any Member in any part of the House, that the Standing Committee appointed by the House to consider the provisions of the Bill is now being asked to report within a timetable which makes it impossible for the Committee to do its work.
It may be that the right hon. Gentleman may say that I might have put down an Amendment to this Motion, an Amendment to delay the Committee's reporting by a few days, but he will realise that it could have been only a few days. I said during questions on business last week—and I did not know what would be in this Motion—that I did not think it reasonable to expect that the remaining provisions of the Bill and the new Clauses could be considered adequately this month. I do not. I do not think that they can be considered adequately this month. The only proper thing to do with a Bill of this importance—and it is because of its importance—is for the Government to withdraw the Bill, and, if they are so minded, to introduce a similar Bill at the beginning of next Session.
After all, the right hon. Gentleman and his Government have had lots of experience of withdrawing important Bills after they have proceeded quite far along, thought not to the end of, their courses through both Houses. They have withdrawn a good many Bills which were very much wanted by many workers, and they have, because of the pressure of time, withdrawn them much earlier in the Session than this. They have withdrawn them on the ground that they did not have time to get them on the Statute Book. It must be that on this occasion those who wish the Bill have a greater influence with the Government than those who, for instance, wanted the Shops Bill a few months ago.
Or the Weights and Measures Bill.
The House should realise that on this occasion the Minister, in presenting the Motion to the House, is inviting us to choose between having a Bill which is properly discussed and having a Bill which is passed this Session. The Government have decided that it is much more important to have the Bill passed this Session than to allow our normal democratic practices to function. I would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have been ashamed of himself. The right hon. Gentleman has sometimes earned some kind of reputation for being a good democrat.
Not outside, but in his party; but even outside his party he is an erstwhile protagonist of the brotherhood of man. I remember one of his television appearances when he had quite a lot to say about democracy and about treating all sections of the community equally and fairly.
On this occasion, however, we have a Bill which makes great changes, a Bill which introduces, I believe for the first time, the concept of a private company being given public utility powers without being in any way answerable to Parliament or to any public authority. The Minister has been so anxious to avoid any responsibility for looking after the public interest, to avoid seeing that Members of Parliament would be enabled to looking after the public interest, that he has rejected proposals that decisions he might make would come before Parliament for approval, and he has even refused to write into the provisions of the Bill any requirement that he, in making his decisions, would have to pay attention to the public interest.
This is a very important Bill indeed. It gives to large private enterprise companics powers which up to now, they could have got only by promoting a Private Bill at very great expense to themselves in time and money. Now, without any expense to themselves, either in time or money, they are to get all they could ever get from a Private Bill and a Private Act of Parliament. They are to get it all from this discredited Tory Government.
I have no doubt at all that a great many people outside will be looking on to see how the Government treat these great vital interests and that they will contrast that with the way in which the Government treat ordinary folk. I hope that every hon. Member in the House who has any regard at all for the decencies of debate and for the retention of the kind of democracy we have built in this country will see that all that is set aside by this Motion, and will accordingy vote against it.
We cannot all have the pleasure of serving on such an important Standing Committee as that dealing with the trunk Pipe-lines Bill, and I must say, in my limited Parliamentary experience, that I felt it was a grave omission that my right hon. Friend did not use his good influences to see that I was a member of the Standing Committee.
My hon. Friend says that I can swop with him, but it is a bit late in the day to make a suggestion of that kind.
For my part, I have habitually participated in fuel and power debates, and I would have enjoyed participating—had the deliberations been sensible—in the affairs of this Standing Committee upstairs.
No, I did not volunteer, because the selection of Conservative Members to serve on Standing Committees is not based on volunteering. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The hon. Gentleman should endeavour to confine his activities to those matters affecting his own party machine, and not those of the Government party, which happily orders its affairs so very much more effectually than the Socialist Party manages its affairs.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) concluded his speech by referring to the Ministry of my right hon. Friends as being discredited. It is not discredited. It is certainly not discreditable to have brought in a Bill of this kind which is the logical successor in title to the corporation Bill introduced the Session before last and which a majority of my hon. Friends and I myself sitting on this side of the House felt involved too momentous issues to be dealt with by a private corporation Bill.
Many of my hon. Friends and I joined in asking the Minister of Power of the day to introduce Government legislation to deal with this very important and progressive matter of trunk pipelines—for carrying minerals, liquids, and even water as an alternative on certain occasions—as an important public matter, and one which was much too large, in view of the diversity of technological and economic problems associated with it, to be dealt with by a private corporation Bill.
When the present Bill was brought in as a Government Measure, first in another place and then sent here, many of us on this side—I, for one—recognised that not only fuel and power problems were involved, but that there were involved very important issues of town and country planning as well, and that it was certain to be a Bill which would involve heated controversy between the two major parties in the House on the simple proposition whether these trunk pipelines should be publicly owned or privately owned subject to important safeguards in the Bill.
I, and, I believe, the majority of my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House, are still sternly, unhesitatingly and uncompromisingly opposed to any additional powers of public ownership being set in statutes passed by this House.
If I am out of order, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that you will put me into good order at once. So far, I believe, I am perfectly in order.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House referred to the deeply controversial issue in the Bill and whether it should be regarded as an additional measure of nationalisation, or whether, as my hon. Friends and I feel, it should be a private enterprise Bill.
We at least are quite united. We are opposed to nationalisation root and branch. We do not propose to countenance any extension of it. On the other side of the House, however, there is no such unanimity. Those who study, as I do with avidity, Motions Which appear on the Order Paper, will have noted the one put down by the near-octogenarian right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) last week, calling for more nationalisation.
I am wondering. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) was entitled to develop his argument if it was coming to the Allocation of Time Motion. What he was saying was not quite in order, but I have not heard quite enough to be sure.
All these matters, as you know, Mr. Speaker, are progressive. I was referring to the deep cleavage of opinion on the issue of nationalisation. I said that this side of the House is quite unanimous in opposing further nationalisation root and branch. Members opposite are not unanimous on nationalisation.
If the hon. Member will allow me to finish my point, I will then give way. Meantime, perhaps he will stop yapping.
Members opposite are not unanimous about nationalisation. The right hon. Member for Easington is calling for more, leading off with the nationalisation of I.C.I.
Order. The matter of order was raised with me. I have indicated to the hon. Gentleman that he must get back to the Motion, and he must now do so.
There is nothing in the Motion about Highland shipping and I cannot, therefore, refer to it. The point I am endeavouring to lead up to is this: we on this side are united in opposing nationalisation, but hon. Members opposite are split down the middle. They do not know whether they are for or against more nationalisation.
Order. The hon. Gentleman has so far repeated three times each of those propositions. Repetition does not represent getting back to the Motion. He must do that, or stop.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House drew attention to the large number of Amendments on the Notice Paper in the Standing Committee. The hon. Member for Hamilton referred to 140 Amendments now outstanding, of which approximately half have been put down by the Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Approaching one half. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, I have not added them up, and I do not intend to add them up, because they will not all be selected. Moreover many of them will be grouped and it is, therefore, wholly erroneous to suggest that a certain amount of time should be allocated to each Amendment now on the Order Paper.
The point I am endeavouring to make is that a substantial number of Amend- ments are Opposition Amendments. They are largely in support of the principle and the concept of public ownership. It is, therefore, perfectly reasonable that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power should reject, without any nonsense, all such Amendments and say that the Government side will not accept them.
The hon. Member for Hamilton accused my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power of gross discourtesy. I have listened to many deliberations in this Committee, although I have not myself been a member, and I have not witnessed or heard any gross discourtesy by my right hon. Friend throughout the very lengthy sittings.
Further, the hon. Gentleman has said that the available time under this timetable Motion amounts to 700 minutes in which to debate 140 Amendments, assuming that each takes five minutes. But, of course, that is nonsense. To start with, 140 Amendments will not be called.
Because it would be absolutely impossible, as the hon. Member well knows.
Never, in any Standing Committee or on the Floor of the House, has every Amendment on the Notice Paper been selected. Of course they will not all be selected in this case. In any event, the hon. Member for Hamilton, complaining that the time allocated was too short, suggested that the Committee would only sit tomorrow, Tuesday, 10th July, Thursday, 12th July and Tuesday, 17th July—the three normal days.
But the Committee does not sit only on normal days. There is nothing to prevent him, if he wants additional time, from putting forward, when the Committee resumes its deliberations, a suggestion that it should sit on Tuesday, 10th July, Wednesday, 11th July, Thursday, 12th July, Friday the 13th July, and so on, to debate his allegedly important Amendments. But I suspect that he does not legitimately want more time. What he really seeks is an extension of time, generally, in order to wreck my right hon. Friend's timetable so that he will not be able to secure his Bill by the end of this Session. That is why I oppose him.
Hon. Members opposite have had abundant time to make all relevant, reasonable and logical points on this Bill. I took a party of visitors to the Committee one night at 12.30 a.m. to listen to what was going on. We sat and listened from the Strangers' section of the Standing Committee room for 25 minutes.
That seems to me to be rather an irrelevant intervention. I have paid several visits to the Committee to see what has been going on. I regard it as the most flagrant example of frivolous filibustering by a group of hon. Members opposite, that I have listened to in my modest twelve years in Parliament. On one occasion, there was the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Harper). I listened to him. He was addressing himself to a Motion that the Committee should adjourn. That Motion had then been before the Committee for an hour. The hon. Member for Pontefract is a good humorist.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Proudfoot) says, "Not as good as you are, Gerald", but standards of humour vary.
The hon. Member for Pontefract was pawky but irrelevant and successfully wasted the time of the Committee for more than 20 minutes. He was then followed by two or three of his hon. Friends, who went on for a couple of hours. If the hon. Member for Hamilton had really wished to make good progress, the whole of that time could have been devoted to a proper discussion and to many important Amendments.
Far from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power being discourteous, on that occasion I marvelled at his consummate patience. As I left the Committee that evening, I said to the three ladies and one gentleman who were my guests, two of them American visitors, "Thank God I am not a Minister; I could not stand this appalling waste of time in the name of so-called Parliamentary democracy."
I wish that my right hon. Friends the triumvirate now seated on the Treasury Bench, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power and my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary, had exercised their customary and collective prescience when the Bill arrived in this House and had introduced a time-table Motion at the outset. It would have saved a lot of our time and shattered nerves, and by now the Bill would have been on the Statute Book.
This is a Conservative Measure. The principles in the Bill enunciate the principles of private enterprise as opposed to State ownership. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Socialist Amendments seeking to impinge on or to destroy those principles have been so roundly rejected by my right hon. Friend. I hope that this timetable Motion will be passed, as deservedly it should, by a large majority.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) occasionally earns the respect of the House when he speaks on some matters with which he has a slight acquaintance. When he speaks on those with which he has none, he adds to our entertainment but not to our enlightenment. He could hardly have made the speech which he has just made if he had made any study of the Amendments in the Standing, Committee. For example, he would have known that none of the Amendments remaining has anything to do with the contest between public and private enterprise.
Because the hon. Member is now leaving the Chamber and has no further interest in the proceedings of the House, having said what he had to say, he will now never know that he was quite mistaken when he suggested that the proceedings on a Motion for the adjournment of the debate were unduly prolonged by hon. Members on this side of the Committee. They were prolonged because the Minister had taken his usual arrogant attitude towards proposals made by Opposition Members and had refused to give any indication of his intentions that night, merely making a few flippant remarks about progress which the Committee made during the hours of darkness and indicating, for the second time during the proceedings in Committee, that he hoped that the Committee would sit all night. As a matter of fact, he had to pack up at half-past three in the morning on that occasion because his hon. Friends were beginning to revolt.
There are two points on which I agree with the Leader of the House: first, that the Bill is important; and, secondly, that it was introduced too late in the Session. The mistake which the Government have made throughout their handling of the Bill has been to underestimate its importance. Instead of treating it as a Bill of major importance, from the beginning they have treated it as though it were purely a minor matter concerned simply with putting on the Statute Book a procedure to enable certain vested interests to obtain licences to print money, as they did with the Television Act.
Because that was their attitude, the Government introduced the Bill nearly half way through the Session instead of at the beginning. If they were in a hurry, they could have introduced it early in the Session. They have had plenty of time to draft it, for it is nearly two years since the Minister of Power said that it was necessary to have general legislation to deal with this subject. What has he been doing all that time? Why was it so long before we could even see a draft of this extremely important Measure?
Why was the Bill introduced first in another place? The Minister has admitted that it raises matters of the highest controversy, the fundamental issues of public and private ownership. Such Bills, traditionally now, are taken first in this House and not in another place. If this had been, we would have saved further time, because to some extent we are now having to duplicate work which was done in Committee in another place. Even in another place the Bill did not have the progress which the Leader of the House assigned to it. The Government originally intended that proceedings on the Bill in another place should be completed by 3rd April, but, in fact, they were not completed until 1st May, four weeks later, so that there was a further four weeks' delay.
The Leader of the House then calmly told us that we could go off for two and a half weeks for the Whitsun Recess and that the Government's programme was in such good shape that there was no hurry and that we could have an extra week to look after our constituencies. But as soon as we came back, we were told that we had to rush on and at all costs get the Bill through before the end of the Session.
The Bill is now less than one quarter of the way to completion, if we are properly to consider it, and its proper consideration is a matter to which we attach a great deal of importance. We want a Bill for the orderly development of pipelines. We have always wanted such a Bill, because we realise that this will be an extremely important form of transport, which is why we would have been anxious to facilitates the passage of a good Bill. The trouble was that we got thrown at us not a good Bill, but an extremely bad Bill, a Bill which not only took the doctrinaire attitude of the Tory Party on the subject of public or private ownership—which we rather expected from hon. Members opposite—but which completely failed to carry out the undertakings given by the Minister himself when the House discussed previous Private Bills.
We were bound to have a long discussion on the fundamental issue of public or private ownership, but the Minister knows that most of the time in Committee and this will apply to future discussions—was concerned not mainly with the issue of public or private ownership, but with whether the Bill was in such a form as to give effect to the undertakings given by the Minister himself when he foreshadowed this Bill more than twelve months ago.
When, in April of last year, the Minister spoke about the the type of Bill that he was contemplating introducing, he said that there would have to be general legislation to lay down the procedure for applications for a licence to establish pipelines. Such applications would be considered at a public inquiry. Following on the public inquiry there would be a Ministerial Order, and that Order would then come before Parliament so that Parliament could in the last resort decide whether it should be confirmed, and whether by the making of such an Order the Minister had complied with his expressed intention of ensuring that the development of pipelines should proceed in an orderly manner.
When the Minister first talked about introducing a Bill dealing with pipelines, we thought that the public interest was to be the paramount consideration. We understood that the rights of objectors would be properly safeguarded. We understood that attempts were to be made to secure a balance between a threefold interest in this type of development: general public interest; the private interests of landowners and others affected by the construction of pipelines; and, in the last resort, the interests of the prospective users of the pipelines.
None of those things is provided for in the Bill. When we first saw the Bill, we realised that it was a complete abortion as regards the proper and orderly development of pipelines. The whole purpose of the Opposition in tabling Amendments and in seeking adequate discussion of them has been to ensure that the Minister's undertakings were carried out, because he failed to carry them out himself.
I admit that the Minister courteously explained that he had not been able to carry out the undertakings that he had thought it reasonable to give a year before. He admitted that he had changed his mind because of the pressure of what he described as interests both inside and outside his Department. But as a result of the pressures of those interests—and they certainly include the great oil companies to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) referred—we were presented with a Bill which, if it was to accomplish the job it was intended to do, would have to be radically transformed in Committee.
What did we get from the Minister? We got no concessions from him to any of the proposals we put forward to improve the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said that hon. Members on this side recapitulated their arguments in Committee. There was a reason for doing so. We did it because only by so doing could we extract any kind of a reply from the Minister. Time and again we tabled important Amendments to which we got a brief reply lasting five minutes or so from the Minister or his hon. Friend.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend.
As a result of these brief replies, we pressed for proper replies. We put forward further arguments in support of our Amendments, but all that happened was that the Minister sat dumb, as did his supporters behind him. They apparently had nothing to say on this extremely important Measure. It was only after we had put our points to the Minister, once, twice, and sometimes three times, that eventually we received a reasonable reply from him; not, except on the rarest occasions, any concessions to our point of view, but at least some explanation of the Government's point of view, which we could never get until the matter had been argued at great length.
None of us wanted to take as long as we have done to discuss the Bill. We would have been glad to have made faster progress, but we were doing our duty to the Committee, to the House, and to the country in fighting a proper battle to improve the Bill. We have been prevented from doing our work in Committee, and now the Leader of the House proposes to cut down the time to a ridiculous fraction of what would be reasonable to discuss the remainder of the Bill. The Government will get their Bill, but it will be a bad one because it has been mishandled all the way through.
The Bill is misbegotten, and now it is to be rushed through and placed on to the Statute Book. The only purpose it will serve in the end is to give a licence to those private interests—the big oil companies—who are waiting for the opportunity to apply for the great concessions which tie Minister proposes to hand out.
I almost felt sorry for the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) when he talked about the great difficulty that he had had in Committee of doing this great service for the nation. During the many hours when I was in the Committee I felt that the hon. Gentleman's attitude was due to a different reason from that stated by him.
I do not want to be ungenerous, but I got the impression that hon. Gentlemen opposite were not particularly interested in seeing the Bill go through anyway. Far from the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that my right hon. Friend had adopted an arrogant attitude to hon. Gentlemen opposite, I felt that all the way through my right hon. Friend had been as accommodating as one could expect a Minister to be when in charge of a complicated Bill of this kind.
The hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) spent so little time in the Committee that he probably does not know the number of occasions on which my right hon. Friend was very accommodating, particularly when dealing with the question of compulsory acquisition, about which the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) and several hon. Members on both sides of the Committee were concerned.
Although he did not say that he would alter the Bill or accept an Amendment, my right hon. Friend said that this was a problem that he would be prepared to reconsider. My right hon. Friend was not arrogant, and was not adopting a stonewalling attitude. He was seized of the fact that many hon. Members were concerned about the question of compulsory acquisition.
We have spent so many hours discussing the Bill that my memory is not as good as all that. If my right hon. Friend did not accept the one referring to compulsory acquisition we must assume that there were some very good reasons for it.
I am sorry, but the hon. Member for Ashfield, in his intervention, asked me to state how many Opposition Amendments had been accepted by my right hon. Friend, and I said that my memory was not good enough to enable me to give him the exact number. He did not ask what had happened to the Amendments moved by my hon. Friends.
I am sorry, but the hon. Member is misunderstanding me. He gave one example of the Minister's being reasonable. I was pointing out that the Minister was then being reasonable in dealing with an Amendment moved by one of his own supporters. My hon. Friend asked a question and the hon. Member said that he could not answer it, and he was going to move on from that. I just wanted to point out to him that there was nothing in the point that he made.
This may be a matter of opinion. Hon. Members opposite have said that my right hon. Friend made very short replies. They seemed short, but only because of the extremely long speeches made by the Opposition. The attitude which my right hon. Friend adopted on the Bill is a matter of opinion.
It is important for us to realise that it was clear that there would be a head-on clash when the Bill was debated, either here or in Committee upstairs. This was to be expected, because the Bill involves the question in respect of which a great dispute has been going on between the two major parties for many years. A collision of interests was quite natural. The important point about the timetable Motion is that we should make sure that the Bill has an opportunity of becoming law during this Session.
The main reason for that is that the Select Committee which considered the Esso Petroleum Company Bill—the Committee of which I was a member —reported to the House that it was concerned that arrangements such as those contained in the Esso Bill should no longer be covered by private legislation, but should be made subject to public legislation, properly designed to bring about more co-ordination in the pipeline structure of the country.
Since this was a suggestion of the Select Committee the House and the Minister had a responsibility to see that public legislation was enacted at the earliest possible moment. I notice that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House pointed out that if this Bill had not been in the process of being discussed at present attempts might have been made by promoters to introduce further Private Bills. Most hon. Members believe that it is time that this matter was dealt with other than by private legislation, and although it is unlikely that any hon. Member, on whichever side of the House he sits, is completely satisfied with the provisions of the Bill, the Committee upstairs has been trying to resolve various points.
The hon. Member for Hamilton, naturally, had to make loud noises of righteous indignation when he spoke this afternoon, but he must have heaved a sigh of relief at the thought that he would no longer have to find various groups of words to keep the Committee going long enough to make certain that we would sit forever, or until the Bill was killed by kindness. That was the attitude adopted by the Opposition in Committee.
The hon. Member for Hamilton said that once we had reached the end of the contentious Clauses we would be able to go merrily along, making use of our combined experience and so ending with a better Bill. We have gone through what I thought were the contentious parts of the Bill, during which long speeches have been made and many red herrings have been drawn across the trail. We have had many long arguments about the interpretation of the word "pipeline", although the Interpretation Clause is as clear as anyone could expect. On almost every Amendment that has been moved there has been this harking back to the definition of the word "pipeline".
Time after time, in answer to all the points that have been raised, the Minister has been forthcoming in his replies. Hon. Members opposite may say that my right hon. Friend has not given any answers; all I would say is that there is none so deaf as he Who will not listen. If hon. Members opposite do not want the answers that my hon. Friend has given they will continue to say that he has not given the right answers. The Minister has all the experience of his Department behind him, and is advised as to the points that ought to be changed in the Bill. The Minister has handled the Bill very well.
It is quite clear that from our progress so far we should not be able to finish the Bill during this Session without a time-table Motion. That being so, it is right and proper, to prevent future private legislation to deal with pipelines, that we should support the Motion for the allocation of time and that afterwards the Committee should seriously examine the Bill. Once the Committee does that, and stops having fun, it can settle down and make certain that when the Bill leaves the Committee it will be a better one than it was previously.
I want to refer to two points made by the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) which might be slightly pertinent to the discussion. First, I want to deal with the question of the Minister's ability to accept Amendments of any kind, whether moved by members of the Opposition or by Government supporters. The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), who is by no means a supporter of the House——
Yes, I am sorry. I meant to say that the hon. Member was by no means a supporter of this side of the House.
The hon. Gentleman submitted his Amendment, and in reply, the Minister said that he was 90 per cent. in sympathy with its terms; he had every sympathy with the principle behind it and felt that he might have the powers which the acceptance of the Amendment would have accorded to him. But at the end of the discussion the Minister suggested that his hon. Friend should withdraw the Amendment. I had pleaded with the Minister to say that he was prepared, even though he could not accept the terms of the Amendment, to undertake to accept the principle and provide a suitable Government Amendment on Report.
The Minister refused to make an adequate comment on the plea which was made to him. But, an hour-and-a-half later, after practically every hon. Member had put the same point to him and tried to persuade him that it was the right thing to do, the Minister agreed that he would look at the Amendment again and see what could be done on Report. As has been said by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), there has been filibustering, but it was on the part of the Minister—there is more than one way to delay the proceedings of a Committee.
Not all the long speeches have been made by hon. Members from this side of the House who sat on that Standing Committee. We were treated to a speech from the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) which lasted for 25 minutes and related to a very simple Amendment. If the Minister cannot control the length of the speeches of his own supporters he cannot complain if some hon. Members on this side make speeches in Committee lasting about 10 minutes——
The hon. Member has made as many speeches in the Standing Committee as anyone else. I say this in answer to the suggestion that hon. Members on this side who were members of that Committee made all the speeches.
I am not criticising hon. Members opposite for making speeches. If anyone can tell me what we are supposed to do in a Standing Committee except examine the Bill which is before the Committee, and make speeches in support of Amendments or new Clauses which are introduced, I should like to hear. That is the job of hon. Members on this side of the House and of Government supporters. The reiteration of what has happened in the past is a sheer waste of time.
This is an important matter to the House of Commons and no one recognises that more than the Leader of the House. The imposition of a Guillotine is something which has become a habit of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that it was becoming a habit. He referred to the number of times during this Session when the Government have had to have recourse to guillotine Motions in order to secure their own way. I hope that I may have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman when I say that today we are creating another precedent.
Is it a new precedent, that we should devote only a period of two-and-a-half hours to discussing a guillotine Motion? Should not this Motion have been discussed at least for a full day? Have we now reached the point when not only do we accept the principle of guillotine Motions on major legislation, but are not prepared to devote sufficient time to discussing such Motions?
I do not care whether or not arrangements far this Motion were made between the two sides of the House. I do not know whether the Motion has been moved as a result of consultations, but I think that we should register a strong protest at the abuse of the procedures of the House if back-bench Members have been denied the opportunity to discuss an issue of great importance.
I am very grateful for your generosity, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I can assure you that I had no thought of attempting to bring discredit on the Chair.
When I said that the debate on this Motion finished at seven o'clock, or rather, when I asked the question—I did not say that it finished—I assumed that that had been determined by the Leader of the House and submitted to the House last Thursday during the announcement of business. If it be true that we can return to the discussion on this Motion after Private Business, that is all right, and I am very glad. But I hope that there will be a sufficient number of hon. Members prepared to continue the debate until this matter has been aired as fully as possible.
I consider this issue to be important. I know that some hon. Members seem to look upon it as a huge joke. They cannot attach sufficient importance to the Parliamentary democracy for which we fought for so long. It is most important to any hon. Member that our Parliamentary democracy should continue, and if any Leader of the House, whether he be from the Conservative Party or the Socialist Party, denies their rights to back-bench Members of Parliament, it is incumbent upon them to protest.
Even though this debate be continued after the Private Business has been disposed of, I still consider that it is an abuse of the procedures of this House on the part of the Government to introduce such a Motion as this in relation to major legislation, The Leader of the House can talk to me about past "crimes" committed by other Governments until he is blue in the face. It will not make the slightest difference to the arguments which I wish to advance —does my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) wish to intervene?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but I think there was a further reference to iron and steel, which, perhaps, was what the Leader of the House meant.
Even assuming that it might be necessary at some time for the Government to introduce a guillotine Motion on major legislation of this kind, we have to ask ourselves: is this the appropriate time? Here we have a Bill which is recognised on both sides of the House as being of major importance. Even ignoring the political differences, and ignoring the issue of whether the pipelines should be under social ownership or private enterprise, we are dealing with a Bill which will set the pattern for our future distributive for transport services.
The implications of this Measure are such that it has been difficult to know how to designate them. That was one of the difficulties we had in the Committee. The Minister of Power, who has been piloting the Bill through Committee, and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, have had this difficulty just as much as we had. We do not yet know the full implications of the pipeline transport system. We have disposed of 10 Clauses of the Bill.
I do not think that the Minister would attempt to charge me with having taken up a great deal of time during the Committee sittings. With one exception, all my speeches have been very brief, five or seven or eight minutes. I have attempted at all times to make them as concise as possible. We have disposed of 11 Clauses and we have 100-plus Amendments to consider, 60-plus in the name of the Government. There are six Schedules and a whole host of new Clauses.
This is the question the Leader of the House has to answer. Does he consider it possible for the Standing Committee to give due consideration to all the Amendments, the new Clauses and Schedules which are likely to be called? That is the issue with which the House is dealing. I understand that we have only until a week on Wednesday before the Bill is reported. We have tomorrow and Wednesday and the following Tuesday before we submit our deliberations to this House.
That would be three sittings of the Committee, but the Minister has a new idea. He gets two sittings in one day as often as possible. That is another abuse of the House. Hon. Members are not supposed to spend the whole of their time in Standing Committee. Ministers have an idea that they can abuse the time of Members of Parliament, particularly that of full-time Members, without whom Standing Committees could not be manned. There will come a day when full-time Members will say to Ministers, "You had better man your own Committee. We cannot be expected to spend the greater proportion of our time in Committee. We are sent here by constituents to look after our constituencies."
The question is, within the time allotted under the guillotine Motion, can we possibly give due consideration to the proposals before the Committee? If the Leader of the House cannot answer that question in the affirmative, if he cannot give that assurance to hon. Members and the country when Members of Parliament are dealing with major legislation on an issue the full implications of which they do not know, he is neglecting his duty. He knows as well as we do that under the timetable Motion we could not give adequate consideration to even 50 per cent. of the Government Amendments.
This is the negation of parliamentary democracy. The only difference between parliamentary democracy and totalitarianism is that the Government in a totalitarian State say, "This is the decree we are enacting," whereas in a Parliamentary democracy the Government have to allow the floodlight of publicity to play upon their activities. If by virtue of this guillotine Motion we are unable to have the floodlight of discussion put on to Amendments submitted by the Government there is no difference between that procedure and the procedure of totalitarian countries. It is the job of the Leader of the House to see to it that there is complete defence of our Parliamentary democracy. Unless he does that he will be guilty of gross neglect of his duty.
If I were to give advice to my own side in considering this proposal, this is the advice I would give to my Front Bench and my hon. Friends. I should withdraw from the Committee and say, "We are not prepared to attempt to discuss the Bill under these conditions." I would serve notice on the interests the Government seek to serve that after the next General Election we would revoke this legislation.
I am sure that hon. Members all share the uneasiness expressed in the very sincere speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin). I thought that it would be appropriate if some hon. Members who did not take part in the Committee took part in what, after all, is a very important discussion.
I want, first, to refer to the lighthearted speech of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who, after making his speech, has left the Chamber. He ought to have stayed to hear some of the debate. He charged my hon. Friends in Committee with "most frivolous filibustering". That is about as inaccurate as the description he gave of his own time in Parliament as a "modest twelve years".
The Gas Bill was not guillotined. Compared with the Gas Bill Committee, the Committee about which we are debating today has been a model of co-operation and good conduct. I would say this to the hon. Member for Kidderminster if he were here. At any rate, the House would be unanimous in agreeing with him when he thanked God that he is not a Minister.
This is not only a very controversial Bill in which the battle between private and public enterprise is being waged. It is also a very important Bill, because it raises all kinds of new issues of tremendous significance. They need time to be discussed. I suggest to the Leader of the House that it is an over-simplification to regard what has taken place in Committee as being merely the usual clash of the parties between private and public enterprise. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey), who played a very active part in the Committee, has given some examples of some of the issues outwith the major cleavage of opinion between the two parties.
The Committee has, for instance, been engaged on considering the consequences, both from the point of view of public interest and of preserving the private interests of some citizens against the private interests of other citizens. Today, we are imposing a time limit on a free debate in Committee, and I believe that nobody likes doing that. My hon. Friend was right to evoke the spirit of Parliamentary democracy in a world where every basic assumption is challenged as never before in history. We do not lightly throw away even for one Bill, a single one of the privileges which men like Peter Wentworth died in the Tower of London to win for us.
On the other hand, no one is opposed to the Guillotine in principle. When we were the Government we had to use it, and we shall certainly use it when we get back to power. Let us be quite frank about that. I hope that the leaders of my party, when we return to power, will profit by some of the examples given by the present Government in the effective way of using the Guillotine. At the end of the last century we had to come to the conclusion, that, on occasion, free debate must be ourtailed.
The Leader of the House is perfectly right when he says that there are only two alternatives. Either the majority governs or the minority governs, and it is unthinkable that a Government should concede to a minority the power of dictating action to the Government. But while the grim alternatives are majority or minority rule, in between the two extremes there is a field of good will and co-operation.
One does not use a sledge hammer with which to crack a nut, and one of the charges which we make against the Government is that they have been reckless in their use of the Guillotine. Compromise and understanding could have obviated the necessity for at least some of the guillotine Motions which have been introduced. It is right that the Government should have to pay with a day of precious Parliamentary time—the more precious at the end of a Session—as it is doing today. I echo the uneasiness of one who loves Parliament, that the Government have been lucky in sacrificing only half of their Parliamentary time today because the half a day on private Members' business would have come from the Government in any case. I hope that this is not a precedent.
Guillotine debates are changing. They used to be a game. The Government 'used to quote statements of spokesmen of the Opposition when they were the Government and the Opposition used to quote statements by Government speakers when they were in opposition. There has been none of that this afternoon, except for one use of it by the Leader of the House, who took one speech from the Opposition when they were in Government without telling us that when our Ministers made such statements on the need for the Guillotine the Government, then the Opposition, were thoroughly indignant and up in arms and talked about dictatorship, Cromwell, and all the rest of it.
As I have said, Guillotine debates are no longer a game. All the speeches made this afternoon, with, perhaps, the exception of that made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, have been serious. The Leader of the House has asked us to put a timetable on the Bill. I must confess that as I listened to the right hon. Gentleman it seemed as if there were a timetable on his brief speech. It seemed as if he had guillotined his own speech. There was hardly any argument in it at all. The right hon. Gentleman simply told us that it was all the fault of the Opposition, although he conceded that the Opposition had the right to oppose, that the Bill is a very important one and that the Government must have it by the end of the Session.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman why, if the Bill is so important and when it was mentioned in the Queen's Speech, it should arrive in the House so late in the Session. The right hon. Gentleman told us, as if we did not know it, that it was late, but he did not offer the House a single reason why the Bill should not have had its First Reading—important as it is, and the whole House knows that it is important, until May. The urgency of the present position is largely due to the fact that the Bill was so late in coming to the House.
I suggest that when the Leader of the House is asking the House to give him a timetable he ought not to rely mechanically on his party's majority. He ought at least to explain to his own side why so important a Bill should come to the House so late. The right hon. Gentleman hardly gave the House a single word about the timetable itself. He merely said that he thought that 18th July was a reasonably good day on which to finish the Committee stage of the Bill. He told us that that would give us 21 sittings. I remember presiding over a non-contentious Bill—I think that it was the Road Traffic Bill—which had 26 sittings. In that case, it was not a matter of time wasting; it was a complex Bill—like this one.
It is not sufficient for the right hon. Gentleman to say to the House that 21 days seem to him to be reasonable. He ought to be able to prove it, and he ought when he replies, if he is to reply, to deal with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) and address himself to the question and whether the Committee can reasonably consider in six sittings all the detailed matter that remains.
I have not read the whole of the debates of the Committee. I have read a number of them, however, and, in particular, the first one. The Bill got off to a bad start. At the first sitting the Minister in charge, for whom we have all a profound personal regard—our criticism of him is political not personal—proposed the most unusual timetable with which any Committee has been presented at its first sitting. Had this happened after some days and had the Minister had reason to think that the Committee was being awkward, it might have been justifiable.
I blame the Government and the Minister for needlessly antagonising the Committee by presenting it with a timetable of meetings at its first sitting which called forth protests even from Government supporters. To begin a Committee stage in this way, knowing that hon. Members are human, was only to ask for trouble. This is partly the cause of the trouble. The Government are in difficulties. The Bill is important and time is needed, and hard to provide, for a real discussion of some of the complex issues that still remain, outside the major battle that exists between the two sides of the House.
The Government must face up to the simple fact that they are responsible for the delay. It was not the fault of the Opposition that the Bill came to the House so late in the Session. The Government are responsible for mishandling the Committee and we have not heard from the Leader of the House today any real justification for the kind of timetable that he proposes.
Having said what I have said about the right of the majority to govern, I do not believe that a Government have the right merely to depend on the strength of their vote in the Lobby when presenting their demand for a timetable for which their own mistakes are responsible. The Leader of the House must remember that he is not only a leading member of the Government, but is also Leader of the House, with some responsibility to the House itself.
I will not detain the House for more than a few minutes, but I was called to my feet by the speech of the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King). He started by saying that the Opposition had learned a great deal about guillotine Motions and that they would use them when they were in power, following what they had learned from this Government. He rightly went on to point out that it was the job of the majority to govern and that the minority had not the right to govern.
It seems to me that the House could turn its attention to procedure in Committee. We have a debate on Second Reading on the principle of a Bill, and the time allowed for that is clearly laid down-6½ hours. At the end of that time, and in accordance with the procedure of the House, the Guillotine falls, the vote is taken and a decision is reached on the Bill. The Bill is then sent into Committee upstairs. Once it reaches there without a guillotine Motion, it appears to run with very little control.
This Bill—and I am glad to say that I am not a member of the Committee —has already had 60 or 70 hours of debate. It had six hours debate on the principle and in Committee it has had 60 or 70 hours of debate and has still reached only Clause 11.
The House would get a great deal more respect from the public and the Press, and our procedure would be more coherent, if the Committee on Procedure were to consider the question of a Business Committee, allocating voluntarily, after discussion, time for the consideration of a Bill upstairs in Committee. This would give our proceedings more coherence than they have at present.
I am sure that the hon. Member does not want to give the general public the wrong impression. Debate in Committee is not uncontrolled. Every Amendment must be in order; selection would reject any Amendment which was merely repetitious. The Government have the right at any time, if they think that the debate has lasted for an unfair length of time, to ask the Chairman for the Closure, and he can give them the Closure if the debate seems to him to have been ample. There are very many controls in Committee upstairs.
I am sure that the hon. Member accepts that I realise that. I am not saying that it is a wild free-for-all. It is not. But there is not the same control as we have on the Floor of the House. It seems to me that in this modern day and age—and this applies to both sides of the House—we should bring far more coherence into our Committee procedure if the matter were looked into by a Committee on Procedure at an early date.
The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) has made the first genuine House of Commons speech on this subject today. In his few remarks he showed that he had the interests of the House at heart.
One of the great difficulties is that when there is opposition of the kind which has existed on this Bill upstairs, the tendency is for hon. Members opposite to regard it as frivolous and as all part of the Parliamentary game. I do not know whether I can make any impression on hon. Members opposite for sincerity, but that is an entirely wrong impression. I understand how it has come about, and I fully appreciate that in the course of proceedings upstairs my hon. Friends and I have taken rather longer over things than we might have done—that is quite possible—if the Minister had handled this matter in a human way.
The curious point is—especially curious for him, because, normally, he is a man of broad humanity—that some of us genuinely believe that he did not handle it in this way and that what he did was calculated to goad us, as human beings, to be somewhat more diligent than we would otherwise have been.
This is an extremely important Bill, whether we realised it or not when it was first before the House. As my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) said, it is not only a question of public ownership against private ownership; it is a question of orderly development of something which we all want to happen, and a question of interference with private rights without, as some of us think, adequate safeguards. All these are immensely important matters with which surely the House should deal.
To some of us the Government's attitude has seemed, "Never mind if what we are doing leads to disorderly development and interference with private rights, or interference with the beauty and amenity of the countryside. Never mind if this has to be done all over again because we have not taken the reasonable planning measures which we could have taken. Never mind if these things happen, provided only that our powerful and wealthy friends have what they want for their private profit." That is how it has seemed to us, and, naturally, feelings on this side of the House have been running strongly. Naturally, the Bill has given rise to great controversy.
But that is not the complaint. It is not that we do not want a Bill of this sort. We know that we must have a Bill of this sort. We know that pipelines have already arrived and that there will he even more in the future and we believe that they are a right and proper development. It is not even that we object to a timetable. I was most interested in what the hon. Member for Ormskirk said. Possibly we ought to consider whether almost automatically there should be an agreed time table for work upstairs. I do not know whether we should agree with it after we had gone into the suggestion, but it seems a very good suggestion which ought to be considered.
What has happened in Committee on the Bill? I submit that not a single Amendment proposed by my hon. Friends was not a serious Amendment. It is true that on several occasions, the discussion was rather longer than we should all have like it to be, but I submit that that was largely because the Minister in charge of the Bill—very much more than the Parliamentary Secretary who assisted him, and who tried every now and then to explain her view on the difficulties which we felt on these matters—did not explain the position to us but simply sat silent. I was not there all the time, but I was there a good deal of the time. He came down from Olympus, as I said in Committee, to say one or two words to us, generally in a rather deprecating and derogatory fashion, without discussing the nature of our opposition.
That is not the way in which he should have dealt with the Committee, or the way to get hon. Members to co-operate and to help with the work which was supposed to be going on in Committee. He tailed lamentably—and I am sorry to have to say this. I think that the blame for what has happened must rest largely upon his shoulders. Upstairs in Committee the real functioning of Parliamentary government was sacrified because of his conduct. Now the House is asked to agree to this Motion. No one would suggest that the time to be allotted to, the Amendments still on the Notice Paper is adequate for proper discussion.
What we are concerned with is not whether, in this instance, there should be a timetable Motion, but whether this Motion allots adequate time. I shall not go into all this again. I shall not repeat everything, because my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) has done same very lucid arithmetic. He has shown that the timetable is unreasonable. This is just another instance of the way in which, perhaps because they are so busy, possibly because they are tired, right hon. Members opposite are undermining our Parliamentary system, which has been built up through centuries of tail and which so many of them as individuals, as well as most hon. Members on this side, want to see preserved and possibly made more effective than it has been in the past.
The Leader of the House, in moving the Motion, based his case on two legs. The first was that we have taken an unreasonable amount of time on the first 11 Clauses, that we have, in fact, been filibustering. The second was that the Government have to get the Bill before the end of the Session.
The right hon. Gentleman's point about the unconscionable time that we have taken needs to be examined. It arose not so much from the fact that the Opposition have opposed the Bill to their utmost as from the Minister's conduct. Had the Opposition wanted to oppose the Bill to the utmost, I very much doubt whether we would have reached Clause 3.
I do not think that we have seen one purely drafting Amendment on the Notice Paper. The Bill lends itself to hundreds of drafting Amendments, but, apart from Amendments designed to effect some alteration in the administration, we have not tabled what can be described as drafting Amendments, although the Government have. Nor have the Opposition tabled a frivolous Amendment. Therefore, we have not opposed the Bill to the utmost. The delays which have arisen have undoubtedly arisen as a result of the way in which the Bill has been handled.
The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the Bill has been introduced late in the Session. This is a very serious point. If the right hon. Gentleman agrees that the Bill is introduced very late in the Session, he gives us half our case.
The first thing that happened in Committee was that we were confronted with a sittings Motion enabling us to sit all night. The Minister should have known Committees well enough to know that that would cause controversy. It did. He was not even satisfied with suggesting a sitting lasting the ordinary 2½ hours.
That was the first thing which happened in Committee. We were faced with a Motion enabling the Committee to sit for 24 hours, not for 2½ hours. If the Minister expects hon. Members not to discuss that, it is about time he learned something about hon. Members and their reactions. Of course it lent itself to obstruction and great debate. It even caused a certain amount of discontent among his hon. Friends.
Having got over that hurdle, it took seven or eight sittings to impress upon the Minister that we expected a reply to some of our arguments and that when questions were asked seriously we expected answers. The Minister did not seem to realise this until about the tenth sitting. I think that it was about half way during the first all-night sitting before the right hon. Gentleman seemed to realise that when hon. Members asked questions—some of my hon. Friends were speaking on behalf of local authorities; one was speaking on behalf of the London County Council, which has very important matters to raise—they at least expected answers. We did not expect the Minister to agree with all our questions, but at least we expected replies. This led to a great deal of time wasting.
On the occasion when we sat practically all night for the second time one of my hon. Friends asked in three sentences whether the Minister could tell us how long he expected us to sit or how far he expected to get with the Bill. We did not receive a proper reply. We merely got a lot of "guff" to the effect that the right hon. Gentleman found that we got on better during the night. We did not get a proper answer. We had a debate lasting one and a half hours for no reason, merely because the right hon. Gentleman could not do what is the common practice and common courtesy in the House of Commons. Night after night Ministers rise and say, "We should like to get Clause 12", or, "We think that we ought to carry on for another two hours". This happens over and over again. Or it is arranged behind the Chair. So we wasted one and a half to two hours. This might have been for the very reason the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. He thinks that he functions better during the hours of darkness. He told us so. Perhaps that accounts for the fact that we received no answer until we sat all night. The right hon. Gentleman may be very good at sitting all night, but some of us rather resent having to sit all night.
I could go on illustrating the way in which the Bill has been handled. The Opposition may have taken up a certain amount of time. When one sits all night time is apt to be wasted. This happens on the Floor of the House. It would be intolerable to sit all that time with-out having a few little excursions or humorous asides. If the Minister wants to read the best filibustering speech of the whole 60 hours the Committee sat, he should read the last speech which was made from the Government side. The hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) spoke for 25 minutes and talked about nothing. He continually turned round to see how the time was progressing.
The Bill has been badly handled. We could have got much further with it if it had been handled properly in the first place. The Bill, although it has already gone through another place, where their Lordships spent a considerable time discussing it and where the Minister had an opportunity to amend it, still requires about 60 Amendments and nine new Clauses from the Minister. A Bill that was a good Bill would not require that amount of amendment.
I suggest, therefore, to the right hon. Gentleman that this is a bad Bill, quite apart from the principles involved in it. It is a shocking piece of legislation, so much so that the Minister, the last time that we discussed it, had to come along with a great pile of Amendments. Day after day we were confronted with an ever-thickening Notice Paper, not as a result of the activities of the Opposition, but the activities of the Minister. When the right hon. Gentleman blames the Opposition he is very wide of the mark. We are now being asked to suffer because of the blundering incompetence of the Government. We are now being asked to do as much work in six sittings as would keep the Committee going for 20 sittings, and to do this because the Government say, "We must have the Bill".
The hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) was, I thought, rather modest in his description of what happened about the Amendment which the Minister said he would consider. It was only because the hon. Member came in and the Minister thought that one or two of his own party would support him that he said that he would look at the Amendment. There was no indication from him while the Opposition were speaking that he would consider it. The hon. Member for Totnes was the only Member to give an answer to our question. He gave the best answer given during the whole of the Committee proceedings. When we asked the Minister for a reply, he said, "My hon. Friend has replied to the question".
That was the only answer that we got. I do not think that we exactly agreed with it, but it was a first-class answer. Why the Minister could not have stated that view two hours before the hon. Member for Totnes got to his feet, I do not know. He had the same information, with a large staff of civil servants to help him, but he did not have the understanding of the Committee which would have enabled him to give that answer in order that he might be able to proceed with the Bill.
The hon. Member for Totnes summed it up when he said that we now have to answer the question whether it is more important that we should get the Bill than it is that we should discuss the Bill properly. That is what the hon. Gentleman, although he may not have said it in those words, implied. That is the question before us now. The hon. Member for Totnes said that he thought that it was more important that we should get the Bill.
I know that the hon. Member will not want to be unfair or to convey an unfair inference. What I suggested throughout the whole of my speech was that it looked as if the timetable Motion was being introduced to enable us to drop all the fun that we were having in spending a long time in discussing the Bill and get down to solid decisions on the Bill, which, I believe, we can do.
We shall see what the hon. Member said when we read HANSARD tomorrow.
I am quite certain that the hon. Member posed the question that it was more important now to get the Bill than to discuss it at length. The said Member said that, of course, it was more important that we should get the Bill. I cannot accept the doctrine—the most dangerous that I have heard—that it is more important that we should get the Bill than that we democratically in this House should try to get the best Bill that we can. Once we accept that argument, we are on the very dangerous slope which must ultimately lead to the disappearance of democratic methods altogether.
It was the argument of the right hon. Gentleman himself that it was important to get the Bill, in his words, "In six sittings". Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not suppose that a Notice Paper full of Amendments can be adequately discussed in six sittings. Some of the right hon. Gentleman's new Clauses, which have not been read a Second time and the principles of which have not been considered, are almost a page in length. Every day the Notice Paper is enlarged as a result of the activities of the Minister——
I think that the hon. Gentleman should look at the first stage of the Bill where there are a number of Amendments from hon. Members opposite. I have attended the Committee every day except the last sitting and I have heard long hours of argument poured oust to no purpose.
This is another novel doctrine, that the Opposition are not expected to put down Amendments. When we add up all the novel doctrines emanating from the Tory benches we shall get a pretty picture of what the Tory Party stands for.
There is a new Clause of two pages on the Notice Paper, "Power of the Minister to attach conditions to Compulsory Rights Orders". This concerns private companies in their dealings with private individuals. It is an important matter. I would have thought that the rights of private citizens were worth more than 10 minutes' discussion.
Does the Leader of the House think that we ought to deal with two pages of a Clause concerning the rights of private citizens as against the big oil companies and dispose of it in 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour? It takes an enormous time to understand that new Clause, and it is obvious that questions must be asked about it. Apart from that, the principle embodied in it is so important that I am certain that nobody would suggest that it should be lightly dismissed.
A number of these new Clauses are of a similar character, and we cannot do justice to the Bill in six sittings. Even if it did not become law by July, and had to wait for another nine months, that would not be as disastrous as the Minister has indicated—certainly not so disastrous that we should sacrifice all our democratic rights to avoid that happening. We are all prepared to sacrifice our rights of speech and criticism in trying to make a Bill a good Bill—a bad Bill can do a lot of damage to various people—and it would have been better to have spent more time in improving this Measure.
For those reasons, I hope that the House will reject the Motion, which really asks us to put a parliamentary garb of respectability over the actions of a few tin-pot dictators.
When I entered the House about two hours ago I had not the slightest idea that I should speak. However, it was so hot outside that I wondered where the coolest place in the House was. I decided, despite the subject of this debate, that I would take a chance, and listen to it. Having heard a great many similar debates previously, I must confess that I have not heard any new arguments put forward today.
I sat on most of the Committees that dealt with the various nationalisation Measures between 1945 and 1950. Those Bills sought to create fundamental changes in the country's life, but most of them were dealt with by their Committees in a reasonable time—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Gas Bill."] That was an exception, I agree. That Committee had an all-night sitting, and a time limit was subsequently put on the Bill.
My concern is that when the public read of our interminably long sittings they will begin to criticise our proceedings as a whole—
The hon. Gentleman must not be so hypocritical about this. The party opposite was guilty of forcing long sittings during 1950 and 1951. Then, when it came to power, it changed the rules so that the same procedures could not again be adopted.
The hon. Member was not here in 1950, nor was I, though I was a Member from 1945 to 1950, and had very considerable experience of Committee work during those years.
If any Opposition—or, in certain cases, the Government, though I do not think that to be the case here—create the necessity for these timetables, our methods of procedure in Committee will be criticised outside. We have to get through such an enormous amount of work nowadays that we do not appear to have time to do it reasonably, and if that is the case we must change our rules. If we had to take up so much time on the Floor of the House, life would be unbearable. Why do some Bills take so much longer to deal with in Committee than they do on the Floor of the House? I urge the Government to think of that—and the Opposition, too, because they will be caught up in it later.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) accused the Minister of being provocative. I have had the pleasure of knowing my right hon. Friend for many years and, while I could say many things about him, I could not accuse him, of all people, of being provocative. I regard our present Committee procedure as unsatisfactory in some cases, and I must say it would be for the benefit of the good name of the House if some changes were made.
I cannot imagine any business succeeding if it were run on the same lines as some of our Committees. We criticise business a great deal, but as firms have to get through their business they organise things in such a way that they get the fundamental decisions worked out in a way that is not done in our Standing Committees. I hope that we shall deal with these matters, because they are of equal importance to both sides, according to where they are sitting.
I wish that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) had stayed in his place, because I want to take up two of his remarks that were entirely without foundation. First, he said that when I spoke in the Committee in support of a Motion to adjourn our proceedings, I spoke for twenty minutes. That is false, because I have never spoken on any occasion for more than ten minutes. Secondly, he said that that speech was full of irrelevancies. In his usual circus manner, the hon. Member put it over to the House very nicely, and then took his unhurried departure. I am told that that is his usual way.
The Leader of the House has said that we on this side do not want to see a Pipelines Bill. That is entirely wrong. We do not want this Pipe-lines Bill but we do want a Pipe-lines Bill, because we recognise that this facet of transport is already very important and will become more important in the future. We firmly believe that that Bill should set out quite clearly that this side of our transport system is to be publicly owned. As has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), very great powers are given by the Bill to private companies, and those powers rightly belong to public utilities.
When I accepted nomination to the Standing Committee, I thought that I would really see democracy in action. I had not been on it for very long before I was sadly disillusioned. Apart from one Amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot)—an Amendment to which the Minister himself later attached his name—no other Opposition Amendment has been accepted. On one occasion the Committee sat until 8.35 a.m., which prompted one Yorkshire newspaper to say that the freshest man in the Committee was the Minister himself. It even described the red carnation he had in his buttonhole. I realise that the Minister is not wearing the same carnation as the one he wore on that occasion, which really was a nice one. In any case, why should the right hon. Gentleman not appear to be fresh? He did nothing. He just sat there and did not even listen to the arguments. There is an old saying, "In one ear and out the other." That could be applied to the Minister.
To be honest, I wondered on occasions whether the right hon. Gentleman was actually alive, but I happened to see him move occasionally. Do the Government consider that to be democracy at work? The Opposition tabled some Amendments which could have been accepted—and I am not referring to those connected with nationalisation—and which, if accepted, would have improved the Bill. Our aim has been to improve the wording of the Measure because it really is badly worded. Try, try and try again was all we could do, but our efforts were of no avail.
It would be as well for the right hon. Gentleman to remember that instead of having the usual two Standing Committee sittings per week he proposed, virtually at the outset of our proceedings, that there should be two meetings on Tuesdays and another on Thursdays. One hon. Member of the Standing Committee, When the Motion to sit more than twice a week was introduced, asked why the Committee should not also meet on Wednesdays and Fridays. I am wondering, if the Government wish to be as silly as they seem, why they are not proposing to sit on Saturdays and Sundays as well and so get the Bill through all the more quickly. The Government know that they have "dropped a clanger", have brought the Bill forward too late in the Session and are, therefore, trying to rush it through.
A long list of Government Amendments and Clauses have yet to be discussed and if they are accepted, as I am sure they will be by the force of strength in the Divisional Lobbies, what will be involved? All the remaining work, including the passing of about 50 new Clauses and seven or eight Schedules, will have to be done in about three sittings. I am keeping my fingers crossed as to the length of those sittings. The only point on Which the Minister has given way in Standing Committee is that he allowed us to go home at 3.30 one morning instead of about 9 o'clock, as on a previous occasion. Anyway, on the occasion we left earlier he did not do it out of any consideration for Members on this side of the House but could see that his own supporters were wilting and had to send them home.
If the Motion under discussion is allowed to go through I am afraid that it will show the country that what we call our democracy is really a farce. So much business in Standing Committee will need to be transacted, especially in view of the number of Government Amendments and new Clauses, that it will be a question of an hon. Member popping up like a marionette to move one of them, another seconding, a call for a vote, a Division and passing on to the next one. If that is the way a Bill of this magnitude is to be taken through the House of Commons it is about time that our whole procedure was altered. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) advised the Opposition Front Bench—not that they are in need of advice on this issue—they should advise the Government to withdraw the Motion and bring in the Bill again at the beginning of the next Session.
When the Leader of the House introduced the Motion earlier he began his speech by making a short quotation from a leader article in The Times. The right hon. Gentleman took great care to tell us little about that article which appeared on Saturday. I thought that "The Robespierre of Debate" was a rather nice headline for The Times. It showed a close knowledge of revolutionary events and gave the Leader of the House a new title which we might well remember.
The Times based its headline on the fact that the Leader of the House has been responsible for guillotining five Bills, a great number, particularly
…in a fairly calm and not particularly congested Session
as The Times pointed out. It has certainly not been a Session in which there has been a great deal of new social reform legislation or legislation of tremendous importance that would greatly improve the well-being of the citizen. The Leader of the House, naturally, was not in a position to argue on these grounds, and, in fact, there was no mention at all in his speech of the sequence of events and the timing which led up to the introduction of the Bill.
I would like to add to the quotation made by the right hon. Gentleman and go on to what I would call the crux of the debate. After all, an attempt has been made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), the Minister and other hon. Gentlemen opposite to try to evade the real issue. They have all been saying that because the Bill includes the basic disagreement between the two sides—public and private ownership—the Opposition has decided to obstruct the Bill. That is all there is to it, as far as they are concerned—and the Government, in the interests of the majority, must defend themselves and introduce the Guillotine. That is their argument, but I suggest that it is far from the truth.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster said that my hon. Friends and I were terribly divided on the public ownership aspect of the matter. He was able to say that only because he has not been an hon. Member of the Standing Committee. Had he been one he would have known that the Opposition is completely unanimous in its attitude towards the Bill. Certainly we should like to see, at the growing points of industry, its future decided by public ownership, especially an important new means of
transport. We at least wish to see this new industry publicly protected. But that was only one of the principal issues. The Times leader stated:
There are also other aspects of the Bill which demand the most careful draftsmanship and over which, experience has shown, legislators can easily go wrong: powers of compulsory purchase, requiring in this case specially careful scrutiny since they are being given to private undertakings; procedures for the hearing of objections and for public inquiries, a sensitive area of legislation which is widely thought to be capable of improvement; safety precautions; the interests of local authorities, who can be relied upon to cause plenty to be said on heir behalf during the passage of legislation affecting them.
All these issues found no place in the speech of the Leader of the House. He, whose primary responsibility it is to see that the working of the House goes on along democratic and Parliamentary lines, completely ignored that part of the article from which he quoted.
If the evidence is inquired into and investigated—and time does not permit us to do that now—it will be seen that by far the greater part of the time spent in Standing Committee was concerned with those five major issues which I have quoted from The Times. It is not usual for The Times to turn on the Government on matters of this kind, but its doing so proves conclusively that on all these other issues there was bound to be prolonged debate.
I am not concerned so much with the attitude of the Minister on one or other occasion. There has been more than one reference to that. I am much more concerned with the necessity in Parliament, no matter who is in office, to table Amendments and to deal seriously with all these aspects because they involve the freedom of the subject to defend his property, however small it be. It involves the freedom of the subject to defend himself against big monopolies—and as we all know there is not a more time-honoured subject that this House has had to deal with than this.
By the Pipe-lines Bill we are dealing with an entirely new departure. We are setting down the pattern for the future. There is, however, one other important aspect. Because we are putting down a new pattern for the future hon. Members have, rightly, time and again in Standing Committee referred to the experiences of other countries, especially the United States, regarding pipelines. The Minister recognised, though he was not prepared to accept a complete parallel between this country and the experiences of countries overseas, that hon. Members were right in bringing forward the experiences of other countries When considering this important new departure.
All that was done, and there was a good deal of hard work in preparing the information and presenting it to the Committee. There were serious faults in the Bill itself as presented by the Minister. There were arguments about clear definition on essential aspects of the Bill. It was not an argument only between members of the legal profession. It was an argument in which all hon. Members joined on occasion because they felt that the Bill could not be proceeded with properly unless these definitions were clarified.
What are the reasons for these faults and difficulties? They are given in The Times leading article which, with permission, I should like to quote. The earlier part of the leading article says:
Five is a large number in a fairly calm and not particularly congested session"—
referring to the number of Bill Which had been guillotined under the direction of the right hon. Gentleman.
Curtailment of committee proceedings is becoming a habit, and a bad one at that…It does not do to skimp discussion of these things at the Committee stage, yet some of them have still to be considered by the Commons Standing Committee.
The Government, when they introduced this Bill at so late a stage in the Session, knew full well that the House of Commons might need a good deal of time to discuss it. But I submit that they did not realise that so much time would be required in another place. They were caught off guard in that when the Bill was first introduced into another place more time was taken these than they expected. This introduces another serious constitutional issue. It is partly because more time was taken in another place on this Bill than the Leader of the House expected—it is for him to estimate in advance haw much time might be required, and it is for him to advise the Cabinet on these matters—end because he was wrong that we in this House are now being hustled to pass this Bill without proper consideration and debate.
It is important that the Government should ensure, with reasonable time land with reasonable opportunity for debate, that the majority must prevail; but it can never be argued that the majority must prevail at all costs. The understanding that we have always had and the understanding that is implied in the procedure of this House—indeed, the understanding implied in all the teaching on the constitution over the centuries—is that the principle that the majority must prevail implies proper time and proper conditions for debate.
It is significant that so far the main burden of argument from the other side of the Committee has been on this issue of public ownership. When a major new development has taken place, as the history of this country and of other advanced industrial countries has shown, we do not legislate just for one particular type of industry. In legislating for pipelines there are a number of commodities that can be used for transmission through pipelines. But we also know that we are here dealing with growing points of industry. We are also dealing with the potentialities of the future. None of us can say with certainty what sort of commodities might he conveyed in this way. We are therefore creating new precedents.
This Bill having been passed, in years to come people who will pass additional legislation or who will be affected in their business by it will all refer to the first occasion when Parliament was dealing with the subject and, whether we like it or not, precedents will have been created. This being the situation, it makes this Bill rather different from other Bills. It is not an additional Measure in a field which has become routine. It sets a new pattern and creates new opportunities. For example, there is the relationship between the smaller and the large firms which may be the first to be in the position to build a pipeline. The Minister is conscious of that fact.
Time and again there has been a great deal of agreement in the Committee. I want to dispel the idea that the Committee has spent all its time with the Minister arguing in one direction and other members of the Committee arguing in another direction. That is not correct. There have been many occasions when it was agreed between the two sides, whatever we might think about the principles of the Bill, that it ought to be improved as much as possible, and many of the Amendments have been designed for that purpose. On many occasions the right hon. Gentleman has said, "I can see exactly what the hon. Gentleman wants to do. I agree with the purposes behind what he seeks, but I do not believe this is the best way of doing it."
Such utterances by the Minister, which were quite numerous, destroy the charge of deliberate obstruction. The Minister did not say such things lightly and he did not say them to humour us. In fact, he did very little to humour us in Committee—not that I make any complaint of that. The Minister said such things because he was convinced of their truth. We moved many Amendments which were very much to the point and in reply to which he said that he did not agree with the wording or with the method of achieving our object. That sort of thing occurred time and again.
It is not good enough for the Leader of the House to take no notice of that fact. It is not good enough for him to make life so easy for himself. He has said, "There is the principle of common ownership involved here. You want it and we do not." The facts do not support this simple attitude. Whilst it might be argued that hon. Members on the back benches opposite might be satisfied with this sort of easy case and might feel that they have had a Parliamentary triumph by making a few silly remarks about what has gone on in a Committee about which they know nothing, it is not the job of the right hon. Gentleman to make life so easy for himself. He is in a special position. He, among others, is the guardian of our Parliamentary proceedings. He is the representative of all Members of Parliament. He has set out to try to prove that there was nothing but a clash on one principle. He has tried to prove that there was nothing but obstruction.
Curtailment of time for the consideration of a major Bill is one of the most serious decisions that any Government can take. It strikes at the basis of our procedure. It involves the basis of confidence. The right hon. Gentleman, in the very limited and completely un-instructive way in which he has presented this serious Motion to the House, has done a disservice to democracy, a disservice to his own position and he does not deserve to get this Guillotine Motion passed by the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) was correct in pointing out that throughout the proceedings of the Committee there have been many occasions of unanimity. It is not true to say that every discussion has been acrimonious. Indeed, one of the main troubles which arose in the Committee was that on some occasions the Minister, having expressed his agreement in principle with Amendments which we on these benches had moved, refused to accept our Amendments and then put them on the Order Paper as his own. It is a little frustrating when the Opposition, without assistance from civil servants or anyone like that, burn the midnight oil in trying to understand a Measure and suggest constructive Amendments, only to be told by the Minister that he cannot possibly accept such ideas and then find later that he has promptly "pinched" them and incorporated them as his own. We are used to this at election times, but we have not reached the point of becoming used to it during the passage of Bills through Committee.
I was intrigued by the intervention of the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) who seemed to reprimand my hon. Friends for suggesting that the Opposition had a right to put down Amendments.
I did not say anything of the sort. I was referring to the fact that in this case there were not only Amendments put down by my right hon. Friend but there were also a number of Amendments put down by the Opposition, but I do not say that the latter are of any weight at all.
The hon. Gentleman has not understood the difference between the two sides. On this side, we try to move our Amendments fairly concisely. If that practice had been followed by hon. Members opposite, there would have been no difficulties on the Bill.
I like the hon. Gentleman's use of the word "concisely". A short time ago, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) said that there was no such thing as volunteers on his side of the House. In other words, there is press-ganging of people to sit on Committees. I thought that, when hon. Members opposite offered very little in the discussion, they did this because they were trying to expedite the passage of the Bill. Now, it seems that their attitude was one of being mute of malice. Since they were shanghaied on to the Committee, whether they liked it or not, this was the only way in which they could show their disapproval of the dictatorial attitude of the Leader of the House.
In asking us to agree to this guillotine Motion, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the rights of minorities to have their say and of majorities to have their way. This may sound good democratic usage until we remind ourselves that it is not just the liberty of the minority to exercise its right to be heard which is the proof of democracy. Apparently, no question arose in the right hon. Gentleman's mind of the possibility of the majority accepting the arguments of the minority when they were shown to be superior. This is the basis upon which the House of Commons has become renowned throughout the world. If we are to have a peremptory approach by Ministers saying, "We must put up with the Opposition for a little time and then, when they have had their say, we can apply the Guillotine", that will be an end of that.
The Times leading article is absolutely right when it tells the right hon. Gentleman that he has a partiality for the Guillotine which will soon earn him the title of the Robespierre of debate. There has been a deterioration in the right hon. Gentleman since his days in the Ministry of Labour. I am serious about this. He and his right hon. Friend who is now Minister of Power were in charge of the Factories Act in 1959. That became a very much improved Measure because of the way in which he considered Amendments tabled by the Opposition.
In spite of the hon. Gentleman being on the Committee, it became a good Act. Quality emerged despite such barriers to progress.
The right hon. Gentleman, a forward-looking Minister, a Minister who was interested in trying to produce a better Bill than he at first had tabled, accepted Amendments which, as he knows, have made of that Act a very fine piece of legislation. Had this attitude prevailed in the Committee on the Pipelines Bill, we should have made far greater progress than has been possible in fact.
The Minister's attitude, before a word had been said in opposition, in demanding that we should have afternoon and evening sittings—in other words, open-ended sittings at which he could keep us as long as he liked—showed that he had no intention of listening with tolerance to arguments deployed in order to improve the Bill. While we have been denied the right to have our Amendments or ideas accepted, we find that the inadequacy of the Bill is admitted by the Minister, as is shown by the way he has deluged the Notice Paper with new Clauses and Amendments going far beyond the sphere that even our Amendments at the beginning covered. Taking merely the amount of time available from the moment when the Bill started in Committee to the moment when we shall have to finish if the timetable Motion passes, if the Opposition had tabled no Amendments at all, there would not have been adequate time to discuss the Government's own Amendments and new Clauses in a proper and comprehensive manner.
All we heard from the Leader of the House in opening the debate was that the Government are determined to get the Bill this Session. They, therefore, insist on a Guillotine which will allow them to get their own Amendments, which is all they are interested in, and what the Opposition suggest is of no account.
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a few moments when I come to something which he said.
One of the excuses which the Leader of the House gave for the late introduction of the Bill was that it had been foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech. Of course, it was foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech. But this is a Bill with 60 Clauses, and six Schedules, to which many more new Clauses have been proposed since. Is it the argument that, because a sentence or two in the Queen's Speech gave us knowledge that there was to be a Bill about pipelines, we should, therefore, accept that our arguments should be curtailed even before we had seen the contents of the Bill? Arguments of that kind make a mockery of debate on a timetable Motion like this or on any other subject.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there was nothing new about industrial pipelines and that it is necessary to ensure their orderly development. We agree that it is necessary to ensure their orderly development. The Bill as it is still drawn will not ensure their orderly development unless drastic Amendments are made before it leaves Committee. For our part, we have tried to make suggestions and introduce Amendments which would make an orderly Bill of it. For that we are told that the Opposition are merely engaged in wasting time.
I want the right hon. Gentleman to remember something else. During several of the afternoon and evening periods when the Committee was sitting, the Committee stage of the Finance Bill was being taken on the Floor of the House. We had the undignified spectacle of hon. Members with Amendments down to the Pipe-lines Bill also having Amendments down to the Finance Bill on the Floor of the House. A number of my hon. Friends, and I think hon. Members opposite, had to choose between expressing their wishes as put in Amendments upstairs and foregoing Amendments to the Finance Bill to which they had their names.
The present Attorney-General, when we were in office, was most indignant when a Committee of which I was a member sat all night and he wanted to be down here moving Amendments to the Finance Bill, and he suggested that, whereas it was undoubtedly Tuesday outside the House of Commons, it was still Monday inside, and wanted the Chairman of the Committee to agree that because the Committee has sat all night the clock should stop, rather on the French principle of one minute to twelve. it reminds one of the old song "When its night-time in Italy, its Wednesday over here." The Attorney-General deployed the argument that the Finance Bill was the most serious and important Bill of the Session. It may well be. But it did not alter the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, knowing perfectly well that many members of the Committee wished to move Amendments in the House, compelled us to sit upstairs.
We believe that the conduct of the Minister in forcing this issue has led to much more delay than any other issue. We are discussing not a minor matter, but the creation of a new system of transport in Britain. The use of pipelines, which has been confined in the main in this country to the movement of oil, will speedily spread to many other commodities. There will be a need for pipeline development over a wide sphere and for a large number of commodities. If we begin on the wrong foot and get a wrong analysis of the method by which the pipeline system should devolve, it could be a determining factor in the economic prosperity of Britain a few years from now.
As I say, this is not a minor issue but an issue to which a great deal of time, thought and consideration should he given. Yet the Leader of the House is concerned merely that the Committee is taking a little longer in its delibera- tion than he thinks necesesary and he desires to impose a Guillotine which will confine us to about six more sittings. I doubt whether more than an eighth or a ninth of the business before the Committee has been completed.
To me, this is a negation of democracy. It makes a mockery of hon. Members' efforts to try to understand a complicated Bill and to assess how they can best utilise their ability to improve it, only to find that the result of their labours is that many proposals may never even be called and others will not adequately be discussed. It makes one wonder whether the nation will take this place as seriously as it has done in the past.
By this Measure, for the first time we are giving to private companies, which, I believe, will develop into private monopolies, power which has never before been conferred on anything other than a public authority. An analysis of the Notice Paper will show that we on this side have been trying to look ahead to the orderly development of the pipeline system in this country on which so much depends.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster said that we were concerned only about tabling Amendments on nationalisation. He should not make such absurd statements. Obviously he has not even looked at the Notice Paper. It is the case and we make no bones about it —that we are thoroughly convinced that this project cannot be a success unless it is under public enterprise. The hon. Gentleman told us that hon. Members opposite wanted nothing of nationalisation. He is wrong. That is not the principle of the Tory Party. All that hon. Members opposite oppose is the nationalisation of industry which can still be used as a vehicle for profit-making. They have been in power for 12 years and the majority of the nationalisation Measures are still on the Statute Book. The only two which they tried to get rid of are the two out of which they could not make profits. They have failed to do that. The hon. Member is the greatest critic of the Govenment for not denationalising Richard Thomas & Baldwins.
I did not accuse the Opposition of tabling Amendments to the Bill concerned only with nationalisation. I said, "largely" concerned with nationalisation. In fact, they were largely concerned with nationalisation. The whole purpose of the filibuster by the Opposition has been to impress measures of nationalisation on my right hon. Friend. He would have got into a lot of trouble with me if he had not resisted them as vigorously as he did.
Again, the hon. Gentleman is utterly and completely wrong. The only time when Amendments on nationalisation were capable of being placed on the Notice Paper was during discussion of Clause 1. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we finished with Clause 1 a long time ago. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman should look at the Bill. We passed Clause 1 many sittings ago. Since it has been dealt with, Amendments of that type have not been discussed in the Committee.
We seriously believe that, given this time schedule on which the right hon. Gentleman is insisting, the Bill cannot have anything like adequate discussion. If there is discussion and a vote on every Government Amendment and new Clause, I doubt whether we shall be able to give five minutes discussion to each of them. I know that all Governments have to get their business, but again the article in The Times is right. This Session there has been precious little in the way of major legislation. We know that Toryism does not use the House of Commons for that purpose. It uses it as a sort of standstill operation while power resides in the City and elsewhere. This Session there has not been any really major legislation with the exception of this Bill. Yet this is not the first time that we have had to discuss the use of the Guillotine.
In this phase of the development of our Commonwealth in which we take great pride, since they look on this House as the home of democracy where men can discuss and argue about things across the Floor of the House believing that at the end of the day the opinions of minorities will be taken into account, I should have thought that this was the worst time to treat this House in such a disgusting and disgraceful way. Representing as the Government do less than 30 per cent. of the nation, this shocking thing in addition to their dismal record in other spheres should be their ultimate act, and the sooner that they go the better it will be for Britain.
We have had a quite lively argument about the Government's action in proposing this Motion. Most of it has been conducted in terms rather more moderate than those which the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) saw fit to use at the end of his speech. There has been the usual difference of opinion, which, to most of us who heard it, was not wholly unexpected, as to who is to blame for the slow progress on this Bill and as to whether hon. Members opposite have frustrated its progress.
Most of us would agree, I think, that, as we stay in the House of Commons, we get fairly experienced about these matters and generally know by a sixth or seventh sense when Oppositions are trying to frustrate a Measure's progress. Most of us know when an Opposition is anxious to make progress. Also, we know when it has its own reasons for delay.
Naturally, none of us quarrels with the intention of the Opposition, which is the right and proper one, that legislation should be examined with care. When, however, we had spent four hours discussing the procedure Motion at the beginning—which, I should like to make clear, was designed to provide the Committee with sufficient time to consider the Bill; that was the purpose of the sittings Motion—and when we had spent, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster remarked in opening the debate, twenty hours on Clause 1 and another eight or nine hours on Clause 2, I began to be suspicious of the Opposition's intentions.
I was saying that I began to be suspicious at the end of Clause 2. I then suggested that we should sit late and we made, I am glad to say, considerable progress on Clauses 3 to 7. As far as I remember, however, the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) went to bed before the end of the sitting.
—and dissertations on such abstruse conceptions as runrig tenure, the feu superior and even, on one occasion the principles of Machiavelli. All these things began to harden my suspicions into certainty that the Opposition were in no hurry to make progress with the Bill.
It did not seem to make any difference whether I accepted Amendments, and this debate still leaves me in a certain amount of doubt about it. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) has congratulated me for being accommodating, with Amendments. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) has said that I did not accept Amendments. I have referred to the record and found a number of Amendments which I have promised to incorporate on Report. On one occasion, I accepted an Amendment by the hon. Member for Derby, North rather than my own. On yet another occasion, I considered the hon. Member's Amendment so good that I added my name to it. There have been many occasions when I have accepted either the words or the spirit of an Amendment and have undertaken to make further changes myself.
I draw attention to the fact that the hon. Member for Hamilton, very politely and kindly referring to my conduct, said
Without being patronising, may I say that I think this is the way to conduct the Committee stage of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 5th June, 1962: c. 641.]
I have repeatedly tried to accept the spirit of Amendments from both sides of the Committee, quite apart from Government Amendments which have been tabled to meet points raised both by speeches and by other Amendments which appeared on the Order Paper.
I did not congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on accepting many Amendments. I said that he often resisted our Amendments although prefacing his resistance by the remark that, "There is a lot in what you want to do, but I do not accept the way in which you are doing it."
I am sorry, I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. I was taking what he said as an admission that I had not been wholly defensive and stonewalling in my opposition.
When we were left without an issue, particularly in the middle of one night, I remember a long discussion as to whether "effectual" or "effective" was the right word to put in the Bill. Therefore, it did not seem to me to make much difference whether I met the points put by the Opposition. The discussion seemed to continue almost as long if I met them as if I had not.
Only one hon. Member in the Committee suggested that "effective" would be better than "effectual". Surely, that is a reasonable proposition to make in the drafting of a Bill.
It is quite reasonable, but when I explained my reasons for keeping the word that I had in the Bill, it was questioned certainly by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) and, I think, by others.
All this process was completed when the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Laughlin) admitted on one occasion that he was wasting the time of the Committee. The hon. Member will remember the occasion. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Harper) confessed at a recent sitting that he was getting nearly as bad us his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East. I do not know what the bon. Member had in mind.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman will not wish to be unfair. Will he kindly quote in its context the statement which he has just attributed to me—if he has extracted it, he must have it available—that I was wasting the time of the Committee?
I am not dishonest.
We have spent nearly 60 hours discussing the Bill. We have reached Clause 12. The hon. Member for Ash- field (Mr. Warbey) suggested that as we were a quarter of the way through the Bill we needed, perhaps, not four times as long as we have spent already, but getting on that way. We have sat the equivalent of 23 two-and-a-half-hour sittings. If we were to follow the hon. Member's suggestion, we should sit for 92 sittings, which most people would consider excessive.
Hon. Members have complained a great deal about the insufficient time for the rest of the Bill. They have drawn my attention to the Government Amendments, which the hon. Member for Newton called a deluge of Amendments. I suggest that hon. Members should do a little of their homework on the Order Paper. It will be perfectly clear to any- one who studies it that not only are many of the Amendments grouped together, but that a great many of them are designed to meet points which have been raised, a number of them from the Opposition benches in another place, and that the large majority of Amendments in the Government's name are purely drafting Amendments. Only a handful are to deal with points of substance which have not yet been discussed. The same is true of new Clauses.
When a long time ago we were discussing the sittings Motion, the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) suggested that after the nationalisation issue had been disposed of and after we had got through the complexities of Clauses 8 and 9, we should be able to make considerable progress with the Bill. We must look back as well as forward in these matters, and even if it were true—which I do not accept for a moment—that the remaining time is insufficient for the proper consideration of the Bill, the score of sittings which were available from the middle of May would have given perfectly adequate time to consider the Bill, if the Opposition had had any wish to use that time properly for its consideration.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has explained why the Bill was introduced at the time it was and why it was essential for the Bill to be passed this Session. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend that I would have liked to have seen the Bill introduced earlier in the Session. I have explained on several occasions, notably on Second Reading and also at the begining of the Committee stage, why it was that the deliberations which were necessary before the Bill was introduced took quite a long time and why the Bill could not have been introduced to Parliament before early this year.
The House will remember the Select Committee on the Esso Bill and the Government's subsequent decision, which the House as a whole supported, that this development should not any longer he continued by Private Bills, but should be subject to public legislation. The House also supported the approach, which I then announced we intended to make, to the many outside interests which had to be consulted. We had to leave a considerable time for the reception of those views. After that there was the drafting of the Bill which, as hon. Members have said, is lengthy and complicated. It was for those reasons that the Bill was not introduced into Parliament before this Spring.
It was also necessary for the Bill to be introduced during this Session and it is necessary, for exactly the same reason, for it to be passed during this Session. If it is not passed this Session, there will be a number of possible developments which may well be frustrated, because Parliament has decided that no more pipeline development is possible under the old Private Bill procedure.
The time for the discussion of the Bill, which it has been suggested is short, has been about five months. It was introduced in another place and the other place discussed it very fully and, as I said on Second Reading, made considerable improvements to it. It then came for our discussion and we could have had more than 20 full sittings of the Committee discussing the Bill if there had been a great will to make progress, which did not seem to exist.
We could have had 20 sittings for the reason that the Sittings Motion, which I moved at the beginning of the Committee, would have provided 20 or more sittings if that had been desired. A great deal of the work which had been done in another place on the Bill has been re-done, or anyhow rehearsed, in the Committee and a number of points which I heard and which, no doubt, other hon. Members heard fully discussed in another place have been
I have said that there are several important developments which are almost certain to be delayed if the Bill does not soon become an Act. Pipeline development in this country is admitted by everyone, including the Opposition—I do not think there is any difference between us on this—to be of very great importance. The hon. Member for Newton suggested that it was regarded as a very important form of transport for the future. The country will be noting with some interest, and possibly with some weariness, the efforts which the Opposition have been and are making to frustrate and delay this pipeline development, because as we have already agreed in the House that we shall not allow further Private Bills, this is the only means by which pipeline development can be carried on in future.
I think that the country will also be interested in one of the reasons for the Socialist Opposition to the Bill—their belief, which I have mentioned several times, that the pipeline system should be a nationalised system. The Government believe that future developments in pipelines are of far greater importance than the petty delaying tactics of the Opposition and that it is against the national interest for this new form of transport to be frustrated, which, as I hope I have made clear, has been the consistent aim of the Opposition since the beginning of the Committee stage. I therefore ask the House to accept the Motion.
|Division No. 241.]||AYES||[6.57 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Berkeley, Humphry||Burden, F. A.|
|Altken, W. T.||Biffen, John||Butcher, Sir Herbert|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Biggs-Davison, John||Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)|
|Allason, James||Bingham, R. M.||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Carr, Compton (Barons Court)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Black, Sir Cyril||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Bossom, Clive||Channon H. P. G.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bourne-Arton, A.||Chataway, Christopher|
|Balniel, Lord||Box, Donald||Clarke, Henry (Antrim, N.)|
|Barber, Anthony||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Braine, Bernard||Cleaver, Leonard|
|Barter, John||Brewis, John||Cole, Norman|
|Batsford, Brian||Brooman-White, R.||Collaret, Richard|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Cooke, Robert|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Cooper, A. E.|
|Bell, Ronald||Bryan, Paul||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Buck, Antony||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Corfield, F. V.|
|Costain, A. P.||James, David||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Coulson, Michael||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Rees, Hugh|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Renton, David|
|Crawley, Aidan||Joseph, Sir Keith||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Cunningham, Knox||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Rippon, Geoffrey|
|Curran, Charles||Kimball, Marcus||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kitson, Timothy||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lagden, Godfrey||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|d' Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Rodgere, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Leather, Sir Edwin||Roots, William|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lebum, Gilmour||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Doughty, Charles||Lilley, F. J. P.||St. Clair, M.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lindsay, Sir Martin||Scott-Hopkins James|
|du Cann, Edward||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey(Sut 'nC' dfield)||Seymour, Leslie|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carthalton)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Sharpies, Richard|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Longbottom, Charles||Shaw, M.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Longden, Gilbert||Shepherd, William|
|Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Loveys, Walter H.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Fell, Anthony||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Smithers, Peter|
|Fisher, Nigel||McLaren, Martin||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Foster, John||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Maclean, SirFitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.)||Speir, Rupert|
|Frater, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Freeth, Denzil||McMaster, Stanley R.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Galbraith Hon. T. G. D.||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Gammans, Lady||Maddan, Martin||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Gardner, Edward||Maitland, Sir John||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Gilmour, Sir John||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Tapsell, Peter|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Marlowe, Anthony||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Marlowe, Anthony||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Marshall, Douglas||Teeling, Sir William|
|Gower, Raymond||Martin, Neil||Temple, John M.|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.||Mathew Robert (Honiton)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Green, Alan||Mawby, Ray||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Gurden, Harold||May don t Lt.-Cdr. S. L. C.||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mills, Stratton||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Miscampbell, Norman||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. John||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Turner, Colin|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Nabarro, Gerald||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Harrison, Brian (Maidon)||Neave, Airey||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesfd)||Noble, Michael||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Hastings, Stephen||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Walder, David|
|Hay, John||Oshorn John (Hallam)||Walker, Peter|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Wall, Patrick|
|Hendry, Forbes||Pannel, Norman (Kirkdale)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Hiley, Joseph||Percival, Ian||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Peyton, John||Whitelaw, William|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hobson, Sir John||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Holland, Philip||Pitman, Sir James||Wise, A. R.|
|Hollingworth, John||Pitt, Miss Edith||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hopkins, Alan||Pott, Perclvall||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Hornby, R. P.||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Woollam, John|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Prior, J. M. L.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Hurd, Sir Anthony||Proudfoot, Wilfred||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Pym, Francis||Mr. Chickester-Clark and|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Mr. Finlay.|
|Jackson, John||Ramsden, James|
|Abu, Leo||Blyton, William||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Ainsley, William||Boardman, H.||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Albu, Austen||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Callaghan, James|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leics, S.W.)||Chapman, Donald|
|Awbery, Stan||Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Cliffe, Michael|
|Bacon, Mist Alice||Bowles, Frank||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Boyden, James||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Beaney, Alan||Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Cronin, John|
|Benson. Sir George||Brockway, A. Fenner||Croaland, Anthony|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Probert, Arthur|
|Dalyell, Tam||Janner, Sir Barnett||Proctor, W. T.|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Rankin, John|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Reid, William|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Deer, George||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Dempsey, James||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Rodgere, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Diamond, John||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Ross, William|
|Dodds, Norman||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Kelley, Richard||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Driberg, Tom||Kenyon, Clifford||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Dugdale, Fit. Hon. John||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||King, Dr. Horace||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lawson, George||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Small, William|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Snow, Julian|
|Evans, Albert||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Finch, Harold||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Fitch, Alan||Lipton, Marcus||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fletcher, Eric||Loughlin, Charles||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stones, William|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||MacColl, James||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Forman, J. C.||MacDermot, Niall||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Swain, Thomas|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Ginsburg, David||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Taverne, D.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. G.||Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Manuel, Archie||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Grey, Charles||Mapp, Charles||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianslly)||Mason, Roy||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Mayhew, Christopher||Thornton, Ernest|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Clenvil (Colne Valley)||Mellish R. J.||Tomney, Frank|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mendelson, J. J.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Hannan, William||Millan, Bruce||Warbey, William|
|Harper, Joseph||Mitchison, G. R.||Weitzman, David|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Moody, A. S.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Moyle, Arthur||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Healey, Denis||Mulley, Frederick||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis)||Neal, Harold||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Oswald, Thomas||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Hilton, A. V.||Owen, Will||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Holman, Percy||Padley, W. E.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)||Pargiter, G. A.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hoy, James H.||Parker, John||Woof, Robert|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Parkin, B. T.||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paton, John||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Peart, Frederick||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Pentland, Norman|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Short and Mr. Redhead.|