I beg to move,
That this House, at its rising To-morrow, do adjourn until Tuesday 18th October, and that To-morrow the following paragraphs shall have effect—
On this occasion, I should have preferred to move this Motion formally and to answer points raised in the debate at the end, but it is such a complicated Motion that I think that it would be convenient if I gave a very brief explanation of what it means.
Provided that sub-paragraph (b) of this paragraph shall also apply if such a Motion for the Adjournment of the House shall have been withdrawn.
It means, first, that we propose to adjourn the House until 18th October; second, that we propose to enable any Lords Amendments to the Prices and Incomes Bill to be dealt with whenever they are received; third, that we propose to ensure that the Royal Assent to the Prices and Incomes Bill is given before the House rises; finally, and most important, it is designed to ensure that there shall be no inroad into the normal five and a half hours for discussion which private Members expect to have on such an occasion.
These are the essential four parts of the Motion.
On a point of order. Would my right hon. Friend accept from me for the record the thanks of the House generally to the staff of the Catering Department, who have done such a marvellous job here in very difficult circumstances? I feel that it would be appropriate to have that placed on record. Will he accept that from the House and have it placed on record, so that the staff may know that their work is appreciated?
I am sure that the House will agree with what the hon. Lady has said. Credit is due to her, as Chairman of the Committee concerned, for the part which she has played, and I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will ensure that her remarks are passed on.
I should like to welcome the new Leader of the House to his new position. It has enabled him to shoot from No. 14 to No. 4, in the hierarchy of which he is a part, but he would be the first to agree, I am sure, that that is an insignificant factor compared with the great honour which has now come to him of leading the House. I would congratulate him on the eloquent way in which he read the piece of paper provided for him by the Chief Whip. We are all interested, though not necessarily reassured, to see that the Paymaster-General is solidly by his side as his adviser on Parliamentary procedure.
I hope that we shall have a reply to the debate from the right hon. Gentleman, with the leave of the House, which I am sure he will receive in due course. I noticed with great interest yesterday, on the business statement, that the then Leader of the House gave an undertaking that every single point which was raised in this debate would be answered at the end of it. I must say that I heard this with some astonishment. It has never happened with this Government before—and I see now that it was an undertaking given by a man who knew full well that he himself would never have to honour it.
The House is being asked to agree to this Motion. Seldom has it been asked to fix the date of its rising in such a state of uncertainty, seldom with so many matters outstanding and seldom with so many problems unsolved. I must ask the Leader of the House for answers to some questions, and no doubt right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House will wish to ask similar questions and also will seek assurances on other matters before they feel that the House should accept the Motion.
Looking at it from the other point of view, although the Leader of the House did not go into these matters it is obvious why the Government want the Motion to be passed. The plain fact is that here we are in the middle of August already, kept sitting here by the mismanagement of business by the last Leader of the House and by the general incompetence of the Government in handling their business. It seems an absurd position for a Government which was returned only four and a half months ago, with a majority of 100, not to be able to manage their affairs in a way which is customary in the House. Never before have a Government so panted for the haven of a holiday as do the present Government. Never before have a Government been so desperate to get away from their obligations to Parliament. But then, of course, never before have a Government been so discredited in so short a time as have the present Administration.
Never before have an Administration, within four and a half months of a General Election, seen all their policies fail—and, what is more, right hon. Gentlemen come to the Government Dispatch Box and openly admit that they have failed. On the incomes policy, the right hon. Gentleman the former First Secretary, in the course of many eloquent speeches on the Prices and Incomes Bill, has constantly reiterated that his policy has failed. He wants us all to know it. The housing policy has failed. No one knows that better than the Leader of the House. He has got out from under it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] The National Plan has now to be rewritten. In Rhodesia, the Government's policy has failed. Every prophecy which the Prime Minister made about the timing of the Rhodesian policy has been proved to be absolutely wrong. The Government's policy on Europe has failed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I will tell the procedural advisers that these are all reasons why the Government want the Motion passed. As the Leader of the House is incapable of putting them himself, I am putting them for him.
All this has happened within four and a half months of the General Election. Never before, in such a short time, have a Government broken all their promises. That is one reason why they want to get away. They said that there would be no stop-go. That was their major promise. What have we got? A complete stop. There is no "go" in sight anywhere. The Prime Minister has been anxious to tell us that. The Government promised no unemployment, and now the Prime Minister says that, after all the redeployment there will be a permanent level of unemployment of 1½ per cent. to 2 per cent., up to 470,000. That is the policy to which the Government have committed themselves.
What of the 400,000 houses? That promise has been broken. It ought to be 420,000 houses in order to reach the target of half a million.
On a point of order. The rules of procedure on the Motion for the Adjournment for the Recess are governed by the debate on 14th May, 1964, in which I took part. Your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, then ruled quite definitely that it was not in order to raise matters of detail. It is my submission that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has been doing that since he began his speech. May we take it that the House will be governed by the rules of procedure of 14th May, 1964—which I must confess at the time I thought had been devised specially for my benefit? I should like to think that they have wider application and that they apply also to the Leader of the Opposition.
May I assure the right hon. Gentleman that debates on the Motion for the Adjournment are governed by more than the rules as applied in the single debate of 14th May, 1964, which I have read, together with all similar debates. It is in the hands of Mr. Speaker to decide whether or not a speech is in order. It is in order for an hon. or right hon. Gentleman to argue the reasons why he thinks that the House should adjourn or should not adjourn, should adjourn for the time for which it is proposed that it should adjourn, or should adjourn for a shorter time.
The right hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is right in saying that anyone who speaks in the debate must not go into detail. The judgment about whether an hon. or right hon. Gentleman is going into detail is a matter for Mr. Speaker. If I find the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition or other hon. Members straying beyond the bounds of order, I shall deal with the matter.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your Ruling.
I think that a situation has now arisen in which the Chief Whip must send for the Prime Minister. Last night, at one minute past ten o'clock, we read an announcement that the Prime Minister had made the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) Leader of the House. When we read it, many of us thought that it was a hoax—because some of us were living in that atmosphere. Now, within 10 minutes of the debate starting, we find that it was a hoax and that the Paymaster-General is the new Leader of the House. The only person who can settle this is the Prime Minister and he is now beating it hell for leather for the Scillies. But no doubt we can settle it later.
The final reason why the Government want this Motion is that never before have any Government put up such a ghastly performance as the present Administration have put up in the last four and a half months. We had the Budget misjudgment—again, openly admitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer standing at that Box. He stood there and said, "I agree that I was completely wrong". He goes on producing more freeze and more squeeze, culminating in what we realise, looking back, is the worst economic crisis since 1931.
Overseas, we have had the abortive Moscow visit. I will not go into detail for the Paymaster-General. We had that lost week-end when our life blood was draining away. We have had the squalid abandonment of the United States policy in Vietnam and that near-disastrous French visit which has killed any mutterings there were—half-hearted though they were—about our moving towards the European Economic Community.
No member of the party opposite has done more, or more consistently, to try to come to the aid of his Leader and his party than the right hon. Gentleman, and never was aid more greatly needed than now.
Another reason why the Government want the Motion is that never has a party been so divided within itself over the great issues of the day, over Vietnam, over Europe and, above all, over the incomes policy. On every major Division on the Prices and Incomes Bill there were about 30 absentions, 30 hon. Members opposite who wanted to kill the Bill and who could have done so if, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) so often urged on other hon. Members, they had had the "guts" to vote against it when they had the opportunity.
It was in view of all these reasons for trying to get rid of the House by this Motion that the Prime Minister last night produced his sudden, panic changes in the Administration. We had a shuffle last January. We had a shuffle last April. We have a shuffle in August. Yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman promised the Press another shuffle in October. When this Parliament met first, he promised us an annual shuffle. Now, we are having quarterly shuffles. Outside, this has been described as musical chairs. That is an insult to the game. When the Prime Minister plays it, there is always a chair for everyone.
In view of the situation in which he wants us to part, I must ask the Leader of the House for certain assurances. First, the general one, on which he has, no doubt, been briefed: will the Government be prepared, under Standing Order No. 117, to approach Mr. Speaker on a matter of public interest or when the public interest requires it, particularly, of course, on any major events while the House is in Adjournment, and will he listen to representations from Her Majesty's Opposition in cases on which they believe that the House ought to be recalled? I hope that he will be able to give that first assurance.
Second, I want the Leader of the House to give an assurance about our economic affairs. Despite all the Government's measures, the situation remains critical. The £ today is once again below 2·79. The trade figures are bad. What is the Government's intention now regarding Part IV of the Prices and Incomes Bill, should it be passed by Parliament before we rise? The First Secretary of State made clear last night that he wanted to pursue an inflationary policy still and to control it through Part IV of the Bill by authoritative means. When I heard that speech I was astonished that the First Secretary could stand at the Box, with the Chancellor next to him, publicly pursuing an entirely opposite policy. Of course, I realise now that it was made by a man who knew that at the most he had only another half hour in the job and he would never have to carry through all the things he was relating in that last speech.
If there is to be an inflationary policy such as we heard described last night, when will the Government implement Part IV of the Bill? Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that, if an affirmative Order is laid by the Government to introduce Part IV, the House will be recalled at once and that he will not leave it till towards the end of the 28 days allowed for an affirmative Order before recalling the House? It is of great importance that we have an opportunity to discuss the economic situation in which the Government find it necessary to implement Part IV and that it be not left till the last moment.
The third assurance I want is about housing. If I may say it to the right hon. Gentleman as confidentially as one can on the Floor of the House, the last Minister of Housing and Local Government was a man who broke every promise he ever made to the electorate and entirely failed to carry out his obligations to the House of Commons. What is more, the last Leader of the House had absolutely no control over the Minister of Housing and could not, therefore, keep him to his obligations. On 19th July, the last Minister of Housing promised to make a statement to the House before the Recess about the mortgage option scheme.
The right hon. Gentleman has still not done so. On 9th August he said that it did not matter—he had made a statement to the builders whom he had met on 2nd August—thus showing that he cares nothing whatever for the House of Commons and treats it with contempt. Will the present Leader of the House try to remedy that situation and speak seriously to the new Minister of Housing about it, and, before he does that, carry out this afternoon the obligation, which he gave personally, to make a statement to the House about the mortgage option scheme?
The fourth undertaking we want is on Rhodesia. The Prime Minister gave undertakings last Monday that he would recall the House in the case of a settlement or a breakdown of negotiations or a change of Government policy. He was particularly pressed about the use of force or any question of abdicating British responsibilities to the United Nations, where, of course, the Government have use of the veto. Will the Leader of the House kindly confirm those undertakings about recall of the House on the Rhodesia question?
The fifth undertaking I ask for is about Gibraltar. I ask the Leader of the House, as my right hon. and hon. Friends and I have asked the previous Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, for a clear assurance that there will be no diminution in sovereignty over Gibraltar, no agreement to diminish sovereignty over Gibraltar, without the agreement of the people of Gibraltar. The House cannot understand why the Government refuse to give such an assurance. The hon. Gentleman refused to give it this afternoon. Commentators on this question, the Press and its leader writers, cannot understand why the Government refuse to give the assurance.
In the White Paper on Gibraltar, published last year, it was stated:
The policy of Her Majesty's Government is clear. Great Britain has at no time renounced her title to Gibraltar or failed to defend her position there and will not do so now.
Why cannot the Leader of the House, or, for that matter, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, say quite clearly that they stand by that undertaking and they will not make any agreement to reduce British sovereignty over Gibraltar without the agreement of the people of Gibraltar?
The right hon. Gentleman may say that the Government are in negotiations. This we fully understand. Having been at the Foreign Office myself for three years, I realise, as some others did not when I was negotiating, what the difficulties are. But the Spanish Government have set out their position quite plainly. They lay claim to sovereignty over Gibraltar. Why cannot the British Government now state their position clearly, that they will not see sovereignty over Gibraltar diminished without the consent of the people of Gibraltar? It may be said that this is a concern of the United Nations as well, but the United Nations is concerned with the wishes of the people of the territory involved, so I see absolutely no difficulty in the way of the Leader of the House giving the undertaking.
It is important that the undertaking be given because, unless it is given, misinterpretations will be put upon the position of the Government, and these can be very damaging, damaging in Gibraltar and damaging in the negotiations themselves.
The right hon. Gentleman may say that the last Foreign Secretary gave the House an assurance that the representatives of the people of Gibraltar were satisfied with the negotiations. A remark like that, coming from the last Foreign Secretary, immediately sends shivers down one's spine. He said that the representatives of the Federation of South Arabia were satisfied with negotiations which the Government had conducted, but that statement was immediately repudiated by the representatives of the Federation of South Arabia. So I must ask the Leader of the House now—the country expects it and the people of Gibraltar expect it—for a perfectly clear assurance in the words I have used, which, in fact, are laid down in the Government's own White Paper.
I have asked for those five assurances, which, I hope, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give the House so that he may get his Motion through, but, of course, it must be recognised that even these undertakings will come from a discredited Government whom last night's changes certainly cannot save. What the Prime Minister has done is to compound failure with failure.
The First Secretary's incomes policy has failed, and so he is moved on to be Foreign Secretary. [An HON. MEMBER: "The right hon. Gentleman has said all this."] I shall say something else, too, We all know that this was the prize that the Prime Minister had to offer to prevent his Government being broken up on 20th July.
The last Foreign Secretary failed. There was not one constructive initiative throughout the time that he was at the Foreign Office. He was a creature of No. 10 and the butt of his party. Now he has been shifted, much to the pleasure of hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway. It is the third office that the right hon. Gentleman has held in 21 months. They are all coming up now for the third time in the Labour Party. The only difference this time is that the Foreign Secretary goes from being the Prime Minister's cipher to being the Chancellor of the Exchequer's rubber stamp.
The last Leader of the House failed—failed to deal with the business of the House. Now he is moved to deal with Rhodesia, where, no doubt, his well known rigidity will impair any possibility of movement whatsoever. The Commonwealth Secretary failed—failed to prevent U.D.I., and failed to secure any settlement afterwards. He has been moved to the Ministry of Overseas Development, where there is less and less to do and less and less to spend——
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman has written a new chapter in Erskine May—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—or, at least, you have given a slightly different interpretation from that of your illustrious predecessor on 18th May, 1964, can the House take it that the new doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman applies to my hon. Friends, who may wish to raise some subjects and treat them in a way which, on previous occasions, they have been debarred from doing?
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I share the point of view of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot); I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has gone into enough detail. Therefore, I hope that some of my hon. Friends will endeavour to go into the detail that I tried to go into on 18th May, 1964, and that they will inquire into the detail about which the Opposition Front Bench always remains very quiet—the detail about Suez. As long as that is possible——
Order. The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a point of order. The Chair will continue to rule what is in order along the lines of the debate to which the right hon. Gentleman referred and all other similar precedents, and if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen go into unnecessary detail, they will, despite the encouragement of the right hon. Gentleman to them to do so, be ruled out of order.
I was just warning the House that if, as a result of accepting the assurances that we may be given by the right hon. Gentleman, we give the Government this Motion today, we shall still have our doubts about the assurances because of the discredited nature of so many of the Ministers, and, in particular, because they have failed. [Interruption.] Obviously, the Paymaster-General just cannot take it.
I must round it up by coming to the Leader of the House himself. Anybody less likely to get the confidence of all sections of the House, whose interests he is there to look after, it is difficult to imagine. He is just about the most political animal on the Government side of the House, barring the Paymaster-General. In fact, when we ask for these assurances, and want to put our faith in them, what is the position? There are some people who thought that after the General Election, and perhaps some who thought that after the first shuffle, the Administration would devote themselves seriously to the business of government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Surely the right hon. Gentleman did not."] No; to be perfectly fair, I did not. But they must all now, especially after last night, be disillusioned.
What is the fact? It is that the Government are in future to be run by a triumvirate consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House and the Paymaster-General, who are just about the slickest three political tricksters in the whole business.
The last assurance that I have asked for concerns the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is interesting to note that he was the one man who publicly announced that he wanted to move, but he is the one man who has been told firmly to stay put. I gave him very good advice about it at the time. I stated from the Dispatch Box that it was being said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was telling his friends that he wanted to move. But I warned him that if he was doing that he ought also to tell his enemies, like the Prime Minister. But he did not, and now he is left in the hot seat, responsible for deflation, stagnation, declining investment and everything else, for which he will be blamed, and then, finally, he will be shifted.
I say to the Leader of the House that this is a tired, discredited Government. We cannot rise until we have been given the assurances for which I have asked. Better still, the Government should rise and get out.
Seeing that this is a serious occasion, and that we are about to debate a Motion in which we are asked to adjourn the House for a very considerable period, I should like to bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend the new Leader of the House a number of important and urgent points on which the House needs assurances before passing the Motion.
Before doing that, I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend upon his new appointment and express my confidence that, with his knowledge of Parliament, and looking at the writings for which he has been responsible on this subject, and his understanding of political democracy, he will be a good Leader of the House and will continue to give ideas to many people, as he has done in the past in many different ways, on Parliamentary reform.
I could not help feeling, when we were listening to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, that this was one of those occasions when he had a speech that absolutely had to be made. He might have prepared it for a very different occasion. I also felt that there was one section of it that he probably wanted to deliver as an after-dinner speech last night, but he was unable to do so because he turned up with a false invitation.
It is not very far to move from a false invitation to a false prospectus. During his speech the right hon. Gentleman referred to me and some of my hon. Friends and asked why we had not taken action that might have given him and his political friends an opportunity to form the Government. This is what I have in mind when I talk about a fraudulent prospectus, because if one thing has been revealed throughout the discussions in the past few weeks it is that the Opposition have a policy which they dare not properly reveal to create the kind of level of mass unemployment and pursue the policies pursued on similar occasions by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), and that there is no danger at all of anyone wanting to replace our Government by a Government with that kind of policy.
That is the feeling up and down the country. As recent Gallup polls have shown, whatever arguments there might be about the policy of Her Majesty's Government and the need for being quite clear about what happens during the adjournment of the House and in the autumn, the thing that stands out is that the political popularity of the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) has made no progress at all. In fact, according to some surveys it has gone down, but I wanted to be more generous than the right hon. Gentleman was in his speech.
The main burden of the argument which I wish to put to the House, and to which I would like my right hon. Friend to reply, concerns the period ahead of us during which the House will not be in session and the threatening international situation which we all face.
As I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House, I will put one urgent point to my right hon. Friend. It concerns the situation in South-East Asia where, just as we are about to adjourn, we are facing a new change of policy and a potentially dangerous international crisis in Vietnam. It arises, first of all, from an announcement by Marshal Ky, the Prime Minister of South Vietnam, that he thinks that the proper policy to be pursued is a very wide escalation of the war, an invasion of North Vietnam by South Vietnam and her allies—which is the way in which Marshal Ky formulates it, meaning primarily the United States—and the destruction of the Government of North Vietnam. That is the way in which Marshal Ky proposes to proceed in the next few weeks.
That is grave enough in itself, but, as has been pointed out in leading articles in The Guardian and the New York Times, we must not lightly dismiss statements made by the Prime Minister of South Vietnam. He is not perhaps very powerful in himself, and it is well known that his military effort depends entirely on the military forces of the United States. But, as both The Guardian and the New York Times point out, he has an uncanny way of predicting what is to be United States policy a few months later.
It was fully six months before the United States extended the war into North Vietnam by air attacks on that country that Marshal Ky demanded precisely that policy. At the time when the Premier of South Vietnam advocated bombing operations against North Vietnam, his view was dismissed as unimportant. But I submit that the present advocacy of an extension and escalation of the war by Marshal Ky may well become the accepted policy within the next six weeks. That is the burden of the argument which I wish to put to the Government.
We have even more reason to be deeply concerned, because that statement by Marshal Ky was taken great note of in America. I pray in aid an important expression of American opinion by a number of Congressmen in order to point to the urgency of the situation and to urge the Government not to ignore the dangers which are building up in South-East Asia, because, through the play of alliances, we could be involved immediately if the war were to extend.
The policy now proposed by Marshal Ky is one which would bring American forces into direct confrontation with the forces of other major powers. If they were then to become involved with the United States, the United Kingdom, as one of the principal allies of the United States, would automatically become involved through the play of alliances. At that moment, it would be far too late to argue the case which I want to argue today. If it were to happen during the Recess, this House would have no opportunity of making its voice heard in what could be the last three or four days before catastrophe overtook us all.
Therefore, I want to call in aid an important statement of American opinion about how dangerous the situation is. On 29th July, after Marshal Ky had made his statement, mainly directed to the United States, a group of 48 members of the House of Representatives published a statement which has only been partly mentioned in our Press, but which deserves very careful scrutiny by Her Majesty's Government.
These 48 Congressmen—46 Democrats and two Republicans—had this to say in what was headed "Statement on Vietnam":
Recent statements by Premier Ky suggesting an invasion of North Vietnam and eventual war with China indicate he and other South Vietnamese Generals have ambitions that extend far beyond and contradict the limited aims stated by President Johnson in seeking self-determination for the Vietnamese people. The danger that the war will spread is increasing daily. Extension of the conflict may embroil the major powers of the world in a destructive and brutal confrontation that would shatter all hopes of world peace.
That is the view of those 48 Congressmen, and it forms the main basis of the argument which I am putting to the Government. It is true that the Congressmen go on to say:
Premier Ky's statements dramatise the necessity for the American Government to redirect its energies more forcefully in the pursuit of a peaceful political settlement of the war. The spiral of escalation now being advocated by General Ky must be opposed and new initiatives attempted for a negotiated settlement.
If, by misfortune, while the House is not sitting, some of the policies now advocated by Marshal Ky were officially to become accepted by the Government of the United States, and were then to become part of a joint policy, what policy would Her Majesty's Government adopt and what steps are they preparing to recall the House and to allow Parliament to express its opinion on the situation? We have even more reason to be concerned in the light of a statement made recently by Mr. Dean Rusk, the Secretary of State in the United States Administration.
When I said a minute ago that I would like to know the Government's policy if the United States were to adopt Marshal Ky's statement, I was not merely talking academically and in theory, because a few days after Marshal Ky had advocated his policy publicly and a few days after the 48 Congressmen had published their statement, Mr. Rusk held a Press conference. I only wish to put one point to the Government about it, because, obviously, it is much more important to base my urgent call for a Government reply upon the reality of the position than upon my own point of view.
Mr. Rusk refused to dissociate the United States Government from Marshal Ky's statement. That represents an entirely new and highly dangerous development in United States policy. If the Government were to be faced during the Recess by a development of American policy beyond that implied in the statement made by Mr. Rusk at his Press conference, when he said in a general way that some military action into North Vietnam cannot be excluded, the effect of which was to give active support to the policy advocated by Marshal Ky, would they then make it quite clear that in no circumstances would the United Kingdom be associated with such a policy? It is essential that we have such an assurance before we consider passing the Motion. If such a policy were to develop it would be far too late for hon. Members to express their views, even if hurriedly recalled, because events would move on very fast indeed.
Beyond an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will dissociate themselves from any policy of further escalating the war into North Vietnam, I want the further assurance that they will act on the policy proposed by these 48 Congressmen and to say to the United States Government, here and now, "Instead of following the dangerous advice of Marshal Ky, we must, because of the dangers inherent in this situation, reinforce our efforts to bring about a peaceful solution".
In fact, the proper reply for Her Majesty's Government to this refusal by Mr. Dean Rusk to dissociate the United States Administration from the policy advocated by Marshal Ky would be to give a serious warning to the United States that Britain is no longer prepared to accept responsibility for those dangerous policies. This must be said now, because it will not be possible to say it if such a policy were pursued and our major ally were to become involved in an international war. In such an event, the play of alliances would be too late to help.
We have an opportunity now to make our position clear and to support these 48 Congressmen in their efforts to call a halt to this war. I invite my right hon. Friend, in his first speech as Leader of the House, to speak out and give the assurances for which I have asked.
It would subject one to the risk of prosecution by the R.S.P.C.A. to deny hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite their Adjournment Motion. The cruelty of keeping sitting a body of people who have seen, during the last four and a half months, the complete crumbling of their political ideas, the complete frustration of their policies and the complete repudiation of their election promises, would be an act of intolerable cruelty.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite must realise—if they did not realise it before, they must surely realise it after the speech of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson)—that hardly anyone can allow Parliament to go into recess with any confidence as to the way in which the Government will handle our affairs in the absence of any check from the House of Commons. That is why it is essential to obtain from Ministers as clear an indication as possible of their attitude, position and conduct on vital matters.
I agree with the hon. Member for Penistone—though certainly not with his views—that the subject which he raised is of the greatest importance. My hon. Friends and I will be raising other equally important matters. The real anxiety of all hon. Members on leaving our country to the unchecked rule of a Government who have made a shambles of our economy in four and a half months is very real indeed.
There can be no conceivable reassurance in the changes we have had in the last 24 hours. Even those who believe that the calm serenity of the new Foreign Secretary will enable him to deal with the international situation cannot be reassured by that extraordinary exhibition we saw a few moments ago of the way in which the newly appointed Leader of the House was treated by his colleague the Paymaster-General, who attempted to lay down the conduct of the debate. I have no doubt that the Paymaster-General filled more space in the columns of HANSARD this afternoon than he has during the last couple of years. The new Leader sat punctiliously here while we watched what one might describe as the Prime Minister's personal representative—others might use a stronger expression—trying to keep an eye, as is the custom in Communist countries, on the conduct by other leading Ministers of their responsibilities.
I seek assurances on two points and, without them, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that we cannot responsibly allow this House to go into recess. The first relates to the matter which the new Leader of the House was himself handling up to 24 hours ago, the question of mortgages. What is to happen during the Recess to the flow of mortgages which are necessary if owner-occupiers are to get houses built? Considering the mess which the right hon. Gentleman left behind in his former office, no one can feel particularly assured on this issue. Indeed, the only reassuring aspect of the situation is the substitution of a Balliol man in charge of this matter for one from New College.
When is the right hon. Gentleman's mortgage option scheme to be announced and to when will it be retrospective? The Leader of the House will appreciate the point of that; that unless people know that whatever benefits this scheme may contain—and we do not know what they are—will be retrospective to people taking motgages now, they will tend to hold back and so aggravate the falling off of building in the private sector. To what date will they be retrospective and what applications for mortgages will be covered?
Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us, in the light of the pressures being put on building societies in respect of mortgage rates, that throughout the Recess there will be an unchecked flow of funds into building societies and available to them to lend without rationing or check? In his previous capacity, a few hours ago, the right hon. Gentleman told us; that building societies would be put under pressure not to carry out their announced intention to take their recommended lending rate to 7⅛ per cent. Why it is apparently infamous for a building society to charge 7⅛ per cent. when the Labour-controlled Greater London Council can charge 7¼ per cent. is a matter about which the House has not been informed.
The question that arises on this Motion—and the Leader of the House understands this better than anyone—is how are the building societies, during the months of the Recess, to be able to get funds at interest rates which the Government have, in general, raised to unprecedented levels if they are denied, by Government pressure, the right to adjust the rate at which they lend to a point at which they can afford to borrow at existing rates? In other words, how are their funds to be maintained during the Recess?
I follow up the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about the negotiations over Gibraltar and which, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you may recall Mr. Speaker yesterday indicated, on my right hon. Friend's application for a Motion under Standing Order No. 9, that it would be possible to discuss, within reason, on this Motion. I want to know whether the Leader of the House persists in the refusal, which his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary persisted in this afternoon, to give the undertaking for which we have asked; the undertaking that the sovereignty of Gibraltar will not be diminished, reduced or handed over to Spain without the consent of the people of Gibraltar. If that assurance cannot be given, why not? What is there in these negotiations to prevent that from happening?
I am not one of those—and there are some—who speak in this House with any hostility towards Spain or the Spanish people. I have a great affection for the Spanish people. I have many Spanish friends and I am far from being anti-Spanish, but I think that Anglo-Spanish relations are being endangered by the suspicion and ambiguity which the sinister silence of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite is producing, the sinister refusal to give a plain assurance on the lines set out in their own White Paper of quite a short time ago.
I feel very strongly about the position of the people of Gibraltar, partly for personal reasons. I had a forebear who was there to defend the Rock in the famous four-year siege many years ago and I know the Rock and its people well. They are not Spaniards. They are like ourselves, a people of mixed origins. The very name of their Chief Minister, Sir Joshua Hassan, is the clearest indication that their origin is far more widely based than Spain. They very plainly do not want Spanish sovereignty.
I should incur your displeasure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I went into the intricacies of the Treaty of Utrecht, but I remind anyone who looks with undue favour on the Spanish claim, that we have owned the Rock longer than the Spanish did. If historical claims mean anything, which I doubt, probably a better claim is that of His Majesty the King of Morocco!
We must have a plain assurance. The former Foreign Secretary, now the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, gave a purported reason for not giving the assurance, which is more than the Prime Minister did. He said that this could not be done because our case was that sovereignty of Gibraltar was ours. Of course, that is so. No one quarrels with that, but what is to prevent anyone who has the power, as we have, saying that he will not exercise it without the consent of others concerned? That is precisely what right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are perpetually saying about Rhodesia, where we have the sovereignty. Why cannot the same be said about Gibraltar?
The Prime Minister tried to introduce a red herring into this matter with his talk yesterday about the frigates. I thought that it was a Freudian sense of guilt that made him bring up an action of his which cost the hard-pressed shipyards of this country many millions of pounds of continuing orders, which did not deny the Spanish Navy a single ship, but which only secured that it did not get them from Britain. I cannot acquit the Government and the Prime Minister of a great deal of responsibility for what I regard as the folly of the Spanish Government in bringing up this claim at this moment and pressing it in this way.
Although the Prime Minister dug up the question of the frigates, he did not mention the other matter which exacerbated this problem, the naval exercises. The then Foreign Secretary, who was not then a Member of the House, cancelled, within a fortnight of coming into office, naval exercises which had been arranged many months ahead, and in readiness for which Spanish naval officers had been taking courses in English and signalling. That was regarded as an insulting thing to do, and in the absence of explanations it was insulting.
That does not justify the Spanish attitude or claim, but it does indicate the ham-handedness of a Government which, first, aggravates the feelings of a proud and sensitive nation and then, when those feelings produce foolish, ill-considered action causing hardship on the Gibraltar border, of which I saw something last September, appears to show weakness in the handling of negotiations by not saying plainly from the outset that the sovereignty of Gibraltar is not in issue, save in so far as the people of Gibraltar consent.
If we are to go into recess and these negotiations are to go on in an atmosphere of suspicion, not only will Anglo-Spanish relations be poisoned—some hon. Members might not regret that, but I should regret it enormously, and not only will it cause alarm to thinking people in Gibraltar, but it will serve no national purpose whatsoever. Those negotiations, conducted against that background and in that atmosphere, will be doomed to failure.
It is no good the Prime Minister dragging in the sale of frigates, because there is one thing which all hon. Members think is a far more important issue. That is not the sale of frigates, but the sale of a free people, which this House, including the Prime Minister's own hon. Friends, will not tolerate for a moment.
Therefore, what harm can be done, if, with all the troubles gathering around the Government, with all the economic difficulties which they have encountered and aggravated, and with all the other problems at home and abroad with which they are so ineffectively trying to cope, they clear up at least one of the difficulties? Why cannot they say plainly and clearly that the people of Gibraltar, who have fought at our side for 250 years, who have a loyalty to the British Crown and British connection unrivalled in the world, can go into the period of the Summer Recess with a certain pledge and a clear understanding that they will not be sold down the river by Her Majesty's Government?
I find it somewhat amazing that the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) should raise the issue of the problems of our relations with Spain at this moment, particularly in view of the very discreditable record of past Conservative Administrations in this regard, stretching back over very many years. When one remembers, if one is politically old enough, the whole attitude of the Conservative Party in the past that helped to establish a dictatorship in Spain, it seems to me amazing that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite should still be attempting to support a régime of that nature, and be attacking what I regard as the honourable effort of Her Majesty's Government on taking office to make clear this Government's difference of view on this matter.
If the hon. Gentleman regards the Spanish régime in this light, why is he so hesitant in making clear that he and his colleagues are not prepared to hand free people over to it? If he is concerned to go into past history, is he seeking to justify the efforts of a great many of his hon. Friends to impose Communist tyranny on the Spanish people too?
I was merely drawing attention to a political history of which many hon. Members are well aware. I should have thought that no one on either side of the House would wish to support the highly discreditable actions of previous Conservative Governments in this respect.
I support the appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) for some assurance on our policy in relation to Vietnam while the House is in recess, and particularly in relation to the American Government's attitude and such influence as we possess upon them. In common with my hon. Friend, I very recently had the opportunity to discuss this subject with Congressmen and Senators, and some members of the United States Administration. It is a subject which divides the United States very deeply.
It would be a mistake to imagine that there is widespread, or anything like unanimous, support in the United States for the policy of escalation in Vietnam, which is now being followed by the United States.
There are certain matters for which the Government have a more immediate responsibility to which I want to call attention and ask for certain assurances. I found in the United States that there were fairly repeated references to the responsibilities which the United States felt it had under the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty and which it claimed Britain also possessed. My understanding—and I have had this assurance in the past—is that Her Majesty's Government have never accepted that the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty imposed any kind of military commitment. Nor have they accepted the action in Vietnam as constituting aggression in the terms of the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty. It is of the utmost importance that that attitude should be clearly reasserted by Her Majesty's Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone properly referred to the very deep anxiety which there must be, not only in this country but throughout the world, about the present trend of American policy and the way in which it may lead to a much wider conflagration in which we would inevitably be involved. One issue which is raised in the United States is whether there is any commitment under the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty. I hope very much that my right hon. Friend, whom I congratulate on his new appointment, will give an assurance that we in this country do not accept a military commitment here. Many of us suspect that the attempt in the United States to found a commitment on the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty is a means of trying to justify action which many of us believe is wholly unjustified. This is a commitment which the United States itself has created and is not binding on anyone else and cannot be found in any reading of the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone said, it is of supreme importance that, before we rise for the Recess, we should have further clear assurances in this matter from my right hon. Friend. In this specific case, a direct responsibility is borne by Her Majesty's Government, unlike certain other matters, and I am eager that they should press the United States Administration for a de-escalation rather than an escalation.
I welcome the statement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the United States, which, alas, because of other events, received very little publicity, that he was anxious to prevent further military escalation of the war. I am glad that this statement was made. There are many in the United States who welcomed the modest dissociation of Her Majesty's Government from American policy. That attitude must be maintained, and it must be made clear that we are wholly opposed to the policy on which the American Government appear to be set and which is causing deep anxiety in the United States and in this country. It is making almost impossible any moves for a settlement in Europe or elsewhere. This issue must be brought home to the United States. Her Majesty's Government must do whatever they can to make this point utterly clear.
As we are going into recess, I appeal to my right hon. Friend to give the limited assurance for which I have asked.
I have promised to be very brief. I will therefore limit my remarks to the question of Gibraltar, which is where I hope to be going very shortly, as I have informed the responsible Minister.
As congratulations seem to be in order today, I should like to express my thanks to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for the most effective speech which many of us can remember for a very long time. I enjoyed every moment of it. Probably the opposite was the case on the benches opposite. He certainly proved definitely that the Paymaster-General can still talk as well as conspire and plot.
I hope that hon. Members opposite will speak on the question of Gibraltar, because all-party Motions on this subject have been tabled during the last few weeks. Concern should be expressed on this topic by hon. Members on both sides. There should be no attempt on the Government benches to make party politics out of the question of the frigates, and so on.
I read in a leader in one of the newspapers today or yesterday that one could always trust the Prime Minister to be waspish when he was on a weak wicket. It was because he was on a weak wicket over Gibraltar that he tried to bring in these controversial items about which any hon. Member on this side would be ready to speak. But what we should be concentrating on is the people of Gibraltar. There is no doubt that there is genuine apprehension and fear among the ordinary people of Gibraltar. Those of us who have contacts with Gibraltar know that it is probably almost the second or third subject on which we get letters at present from the people of Gibraltar worrying about their political future. Therefore, it is not good enough for us to get the answer which I expect that the Chief Minister of Gibraltar has said that he is satisfied with the way in which Her Majesty's Government are carrying on the negotiations. That should not bring all-round relief to any hon. Member, because there are many people in Gibraltar who do not share their Chief Minister's faith in the British Government. That is well known to all of us on both sides of the House.
Since we have claimed that we have no doubt about where the sovereignty of Gibraltar lies, what possible reason is there for our not saying that we do not intend to part with that sovereignty? Why is it that right hon. and hon. Members opposite are so coy about making a simple statement to the effect that we have no intention of parting with one inch of the sovereignty of Gibraltar, which we have asserted is ours, without the consent of the people of Gibraltar? If the Leader of the House would make such a statement he would allay every doubt in the House. What is worrying is that, day after day, there have been Questions and Motions for the Adjournment of the House to get that simple statement, and the mere fact that it is not forthcoming cannot but raise doubts throughout the House and the country and on the Rock. The Leader of the House now alone has it in his power to clear up this matter, even at this late stage.
I said that the Chief Minister of Gibraltar might well have said that he is satisfied with his negotiations with Her Majesty's Government. There are other distinguished gentlemen abroad who have put faith in the present British Government and Prime Minister. There was a time when the Chief Ministers of Aden and South Arabia would have said precisely the same thing that the Chief Minister of Gibraltar has apparently said today. There was doubtless a time when our partners in E.F.T.A. would have believed assurances which we gave about our trading relations with them, but they were let down. We can find examples over and over again during the last 20 months when those overseas who trusted us and the word of the Government have found themselves betrayed. Hence, unless we get the definite statement for which we have asked, those who go to Gibraltar during the Recess, including myself, have a duty to make it clear that the people there should be very careful in trusting their fate any longer to the hands of Her Majesty's Ministers.
As one who has participated in some previous debates on the Adjournment Motion, I followed with great interest the interchange between my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General and Mr. Speaker. Many of us were very gratified to discover that the correct interpretation of the rules of order means that much wider debate is possible than we, in our timid manner, had thought in the past. We therefore propose, not only on this occasion but in the future, to make the fullest possible use of the accurate account of the rules of the House which Mr. Speaker has been good enough to give to us.
I move from that vote of thanks to another happy note. I congratulate my right hon. Friend who was Minister of Housing and Local Government on his appointment as Leader of the House. I know him much better than the Leader of the Opposition. He has been an extremely good Minister of Housing and I believe that he will be a very good Leader of the House. The Leader of the Opposition was quite unfair in one thing he said about my right hon. Friend. He said that he was one of the three slickest tricksters in the business, and he named the two other tricksters. At that moment, I saw the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) positively wincing. I think that he has since left the House in a sulk.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West is not even rated in the first three. Most of us on this side—and, I dare say, most hon. Members opposite—would have nominated him absolutely No. 1. It was very hard that the Leader of the Opposition, when in such a rare gay mood, should have dealt with his associate in such a savage and grudging fashion, particularly as his right hon. Friend has for as long as four or five months sustained his Leader without once suggesting that he would stab him in the back. It was very harsh of the right hon. Gentleman not to have tried to spread his bonhomie further round the House, and include his right hon. Friend among those to be congratulated.
I am also glad that my right hon. Friend has been appointed Leader of the House because there are topics in which some of us have been interested for some time and on which he will, perhaps, give us assurance. I hope that we shall have an assurance that during the Recess, and in preparation for the return of the House in the autumn, he will examine the various proposals that have been made for the reform of the House of Commons. Strong pressure has come from this side for many major changes in the conduct of our business. We want to do away with all the nonsense of Black Rod, and so on, and clear up a lot of flummery. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be eager to do that.
On other reforms of the House there is great controversy within the parties as well as between the parties. Speaking for myself, I still strongly oppose the whole idea of establishing specialist Committees, but we should decide the matter once and for all. We should not have a position in which debate goes on interminably. The debate on the subject, being so interminable, has prevented other urgent reforms.
I hope that during the Recess my right hon. Friend will take the opportunity of preparing a Government Motion for altering the rules governing Standing Order No. 9. We have had discussions and representations, and a whole series of examples in the past two months has illustrated that it becomes more and more difficult for subjects to be raised under the Standing Order. That is No. 1 reform. We want more flexibility on the Floor of the House of Commons itself, so that urgent matters can be debated without delay when, say, 40 or 50 hon. Members in the House demand it. I hope that my right hon. Friend, in proceeding with his plans for the reform of the House of Commons, will present, very early after our return, a positive programme for achieving that result.
Another matter in which I and some of my hon. Friends, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party, have shown interest recently—and, indeed, over many years—is the Suez incident. I do not want to embarrass hon. Members opposite, but this is rather an important topic. Recent revelations suggest that the Government of 1956 had prior knowledge. There are still some right hon. Members who were prominent in that Government—and I speak not only of the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), but also of the Leader of the Opposition himself. He probably knew as much about Suez as anyone, and might have said a word about it this afternoon, in between the banter. But he did not. We have now been told that prior to the Suez expedition there was a secret flight of Ministers, and of those acting for Ministers, and that they signed a treaty with the Israeli and French Governments to launch the expedition against Suez in 1956.
If that is true, lies were told the House of Commons on a scale hardly known in this century—and that is saying a great deal. The matter should be cleared up. I have tried many times to get the subject dealt with by the same honourable method established by the Liberal Government in the First World War, when Mr. Asquith set up an inquiry into the Gallipoli expedition—how it happened, and its origin. My purpose, if I have an opportunity, is, by means of a Bill or a Motion, to raise the matter in Suez week, in November next—to discuss it precisely on the precedent laid down by the Asquith Government in the First World War—when I hope that we will get to the truth of the matter.
Hon. and right hon. Members opposite can ponder these things during the Summer Recess. The Leader of the Opposition will have plenty of time to prepare his speech on the subject, which we hope we can look forward to, whether he is hoaxed or not. Incidentally, I was among those who got the bogus invitation, but the only two simpletons to accept it were the Leader of the Opposition and his hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), who both scampered along to the South Vietnam reception. The right hon. Gentleman must be hard up for dinners if he responds like that. Do not any of his hon. Friends ever take him out for a meal?
The right hon. Gentleman should give his mind to the subject of Suez, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will repeat the assurance given to us by the previous Leader of the House that we shall have an opportunity to debate it when we return. I would prefer my right hon. Friend to go further, and to agree that my Motion or Bill should be given time—for I am always willing to accommodate the Government, when I can do so reasonably, and I would be glad if they were to introduce their own Bill, in which case I assure them that I will withdraw mine in their favour——
If the Paymaster-General had been here earlier he would know that I had already given the right hon. Gentleman a vote of thanks, and I do not propose to give him another—at least, not until he has earned it.
Gibraltar has been mentioned. Leaving aside one Tory treaty, let us turn to another. With Suez, there was this secret treaty, and the Treaty of Utrecht was a secret treaty. If ever a treaty was signed behind the back of the House by a Tory Minister it was the Treaty of Utrecht. Indeed, the Tory Minister responsible for negotiating it—and no doubt setting the pattern for the party opposite when dealing with Suez—was attainted for high treason, and was not able to live in this country until allowed to do so by a generous Whig Government 10 years later. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite should be careful of recalling the Treaty of Utrecht and its consequences, particularly as it is the curious form in which Gibraltar is mentioned in that Treaty that gives rise to some of the difficulties.
I respond to what the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) said on the matter. We on this side of the House are also very much concerned about what should happen about Gibraltar. I am not concerned because the Government have any intention to sell the people of Gibraltar. I do not think that that will happen. Nothing I have heard makes me think that that is the case. I do not think it a good idea for hon. Members to suggest that something will take place on the basis of a very flimsy foundation. I do not think anything of the sort will occur. It would be quite wrong that it should.
But there are different ways in which the problem of Gibraltar could be solved. In my opinion, it would be proper for the present position to be maintained, or, if the people of Gibraltar wanted integration with this country—which would be a compliment to this country—we should be ready to consider it, just as we were ready to consider it for Malta. That would be a tolerable solution. It would also be tolerable if they said that they wanted to have independence, although there is difficulty about that because of the form of the Treaty of Utrecht.
What would be absolutely intolerable would be that the sovereignty of Gibraltar should be altered to the disadvantage of the people of Gibraltar. Of course, we would not tolerate that. I am sure that the Government well understand that if they were to alter the sovereignty of Gibraltar in that sense, it would, of course, cause the greatest difficulties, not only on the other side of the House, but on this. I do not believe that the Government have ever embarked on such a proposal about Gibraltar. At the end of this debate we should make clear to the people of Gibraltar that the Government have no such intentions and that, even though we may discuss the three possible solutions I have suggested, the Spanish solution, or any approach to it, is ruled out.
I am very glad to hear that the Opposition are now against the sale of a free people. I think those were the words used by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). I am glad to hear that he is against the sale of free people in Gibraltar. I hope that he is against the sale of free people in Rhodesia. I wish that he and his party had been opposed to the sale of free people in Spain. If that had been the case we would not have had the Second World War and many of the difficulties which we have today.
On the economic questions which we have been discussing——
Before the hon. Member leaves the question of Gibraltar, may I interrupt him as he mentioned my speech? He said that it would be wrong to suggest that there was any truth in reports, or that credence should be placed in the idea of the people of Gibraltar being sold. The simplest way would be for Her Majesty's Government to repudiate that, just as they have not hesitated to do in the case of Rhodesia.
I have listened to what Her Majesty's Government have said and I do not interpret it in the way in which the hon. Member for Torquay does. I have stated quite clearly what I believe would be an honourable solution of the Gibraltar problem and what I believe would be a dishonourable solution. Nothing I have heard from the Government comes into the category of a dishonourable solution, but it comes into the category of the three possible and honourable solutions.
Hon. Members opposite have a right to state their views, but I think that it will be plain, when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House speaks, that it is much better, in the interests of the people of Gibraltar, that it should not be suggested that there is a fierce difference about this matter as there is not a fierce difference. To suggest that there were would do some injury to the people of Gibraltar, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Torquay does not wish to do that.
I am very glad to hear that the Conservative Party is now in favour of preventing the sale of free people whether it happens in Spain, Rhodesia or Gibraltar, but there is also another place in which we are interested—Vietnam. The people of Vietnam have the right to choose their own future, also. This is one of the reasons why many of us on this side of the House have been so persistently concerned with this subject. We have not had any concern from hon. Members opposite. The Leader of the Opposition, who covered so many subjects, seemed to get the whole world out of proportion and chose to omit this. He left to my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) much the most important problem of all and one which is not easy to solve. I hope that the Leader of the House will give the assurances for which my hon. Friend has asked on this subject.
I merely add that in my opinion the most serious event, or the most serious indication of events, which has occurred during the past five or six weeks was the statements made by U Thant, when he returned from his visit to Moscow. These were the most important warnings to the world. U Thant is, I think, regarded by everyone concerned about the peace of the world, certainly by everyone on this side of the House, as one of the greatest statesmen of the century. It would be an appalling loss to the United Nations if U Thant ceased to be the Secretary-General. One of the assurances which we might send from this House would be to let him know how strong and powerful is the support in this country and in this House for him to stay in his post as Secretary-General.
I think that the most impressive speech I have heard within the walls of this Palace was the speech which U Thant delivered to the combined meeting of Members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. In 20 minutes he stated the whole world position. He stated it with absolute responsibility. He also made many criticisms of policies pursued by many Governments, including our own, but, though those criticisms were made in a manner designed to win their point and were expressed with great courtesy, they were still very strong.
U Thant, the leading pacificator throughout the world, came from Moscow a few weeks ago saying that he regarded the Vietnam situation as graver than he had ever known before. What did he mean? Of course, what he meant was that in his opinion—he was not stating it in these words, but we could deduce it—the escalation of the war by the United States, the bombing of Haiphong and Hanoi and other forms of escalation which had taken place, the more intensive bombing, had led to a situation in which the Soviet Government were faced with the most difficult choice that any Government have had to face since the Cuba crisis in considering how to react to that situation.
I hope very much that the Soviet Government will react to the situation with the maximum restraint, but I think that that Government have shown much more restraint in reacting to the Vietnam situation over the last few years than have the United States Government. That is why we on this side of the House are so critical of our own Government, because we believe that instead of criticisms being directed so strongly to the Soviet Government they should be directed more objectively to the United States Government, who have rejected urgings of restraint not only from us but from growing numbers of the public in the United States and other countries all over the world.
If there is a deterioration in the Vietnam situation even more serious than we can see at the moment, and even though it may not involve the direct points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone, it would surely demand the return of the House. I hope that the Government will not hesitate to recall the House at any period if there is any serious worsening of the situation in Vietnam. It is the responsibility of the Government to allow the House to come back and to speak because there might very well be a need for this House to be recalled. We might debate the danger of what could possibly be the gravest international situation since the Cuba crisis, 1962. This issue overshadows all others. Therefore, my main purpose in speaking is to support the pleas made by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone on this question.
For the rest, I will not give my views about the Government changes. I have seen so many Government changes on the Conservative side of the House. When I have read the names on those occasions and have seen the names down to the Ministries it has reminded me of what Junius said—that their names read like a satire upon all Governments. I should not like to apply that the other way round. I am in much too gentle a mood for that.
However, I hope that during this period the Government will ponder on many of the things which many of us have been saying not merely on international affairs, but also on our domestic problems. Many of us are most deeply concerned that our Government appear to be embarked on economic measures which are opposed to the whole philosophy which many of us have adopted over the years. I hope that they are not doing so. Some of us have tried to restrain them from courses which we thought were wrong and to divert them into different courses.
The Leader of the Opposition taunted me and said, "If you wanted to defeat the Prices and Incomes Bill, you could have done so". We could have done so only by going into the Lobby with hon. Members opposite and thus apparently supporting their doctrinaire laissez faire ideas. That was one of the reasons for not doing so. There are many other equally good reasons for not doing so. We are in no position to be taunted by hon. Members opposite in this respect, because had they wanted to fight the Prices and Incomes Bill, they could have fought it much harder than they did.
If ever there were a fake fight and a fake opposition, this was it. We could see that. They were complimented by the Former First Secretary, now Foreign Secretary, who had made rings around them. We have been confronted with the most feeble official opposition that we have had in generations—and that is a further incitement for us to supply the deficiency ourselves.
What we shall strive to do, and what we intend to do, is to get the Government to change many of the policies which we think are wrong and to divert their course into channels which we think are right, but at the same lime not to inflict upon the long-suffering people of this country a return of such a collection as we see thinly represented on the opposite benches. We do not want to do that, and there are multitudes of people in the country who understand our position perfectly well and who appreciate it. Some of them have written to me and have said, "We agree with many of your criticism, but do not let that crowd get back". That is a point of view which we need not argue in the House, because we can see it for ourselves.
I wish the Government well, but I hope that they ponder carefully the representations which my hon. Friends have made by our speeches, our Motions and our votes.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is ill informed about his history. If I went into all the historical analogies on the subject which could disprove his case, I should weary the House even more than I have wearied it.
I wish the Government well as long as they adopt the policies which I have advocated. I hope that they have a happy summer and come back much better men than they are. I could have proposed other changes in the Administration which might not have commanded full support throughout the House, but I am not worried about the changes which have taken place; they do not seem to me to make all that difference. Above all, I hope that the Government will recognise the serious case which has been put from this side of the House, and which we are still waiting to hear from the other side of the House, about the paramount issue of Vietnam, and on these other matters which we have sought to press from this side of the House.
I am as anxious as any that the House, having laboured long and hard during recent weeks, should rise at a reasonable hour for the Recess and should enjoy that refreshment of mind, body and spirit it provides. Heaven knows, right hon. Gentlemen opposite, battered and bruised, their supporters divided and confused, need that refreshment. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) that the Government need a pause for reflection of what has gone so sadly wrong.
But on this occasion I am opposed to the House rising in the absence of a clear and unequivocal assurance from the Government concerning the talks which are shortly to be resumed with the Spanish Government on the subject of Gibraltar, and I share the doubts and anxieties which were expressed in such a cogent fashion by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thomes (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett).
The House may recall that on Tuesday I asked the Prime Minister a Question. I invited him to make plain to the House and to the whole world, as the former Foreign Secretary had failed to do the day before, that as long as the Gibraltarians wish it we are in Gibraltar and mean to stay there. Others of my hon. Friends—and I do not doubt, in their hearts, many hon. Members opposite, too—have sought over the weeks a similar assurance. And all that they have been told, all that we were told at Question Time today by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, is what no one, except, possibly, the Spanish Government disputes—namely, that our sovereignty over Gibraltar is not in question. Why should they not accept it? We have as good a title to Gibraltar as anyone.
However, that is not the issue, and it never has been the issue. The issue is not the legality of our sovereignty. It is whether that sovereignty is to be the subject of compromise or even surrender in defiance of the wishes of the Gibraltarians and of this House. That is the issue. The whole House has long been accustomed to the evasive answers which the Prime Minister gives on these occasions but here, I suggest, was an occasion which demanded something more from him. This country is responsible for the well-being of 24,000 British subjects in Gibraltar who have no voice in this place. We have a moral responsibility for them.
I should have thought that not merely national interest, but our honour—I choose that word deliberately—required the Prime Minister to give a plain answer to a plain question. Instead, he chose, in an obscure way which still puzzles a great many of my hon. Friends, to refer to frigates, a matter which was not mentioned in the Question and which certainly was not in my mind. Indeed, his answer was a perfect example of standing facts on their head. If anyone in the House has been responsible for causing bad blood with Spain it is the Prime Minister himself in respect of his conduct both when in opposition and within a matter of days of entering No. 10 Downing Street.
There was even less excuse, I suggest, for the Prime Minister's failure to give a firm assurance on Tuesday, because it followed the strange reluctance of the former Foreign Secretary to say unequivocally on the previous day that the Government would not agree to any change in the status of Gibraltar without the approval of the Gibraltarians. The darkness of doubt could have been dispelled in an instant had the Prime Minister chosen to answer a straight question in a straight fashion. But he did not cast a single ray of light upon the matter. All that he has succeeded in doing has been to raise suspicions that maybe he is prepared to do a deal behind the back of Parliament during the Recess, when he cannot be called to account.
It is not the facts that matter so much as what people believe the facts might be. I am not suggesting for one moment that this is in the minds of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Indeed, I find it extremely difficult to understand, having regard to their past record on the subject of Spain, and the views that they have never hesitated to make known when in opposition, with the difficulties these have made for Anglo-Spanish relations, why they cannot come to this House and stand by what they laid down in their White Paper last year. Let me quote a passage from the White Paper. It says:
Great Britain has at no time renounced her title to Gibraltar or failed to defend her position there and will not do so now. She has no desire to quarrel with Spain but she will stand by the people of Gibraltar in their present difficulties and take whatever measures may be necessary to defend and sustain them.
Since the publication of the White Paper the situation has changed. The restrictions imposed by the Spanish authorities have increased. They have been increasing the last few weeks. Yet we are shortly to resume talks with the Spanish Government.
There is considerable apprehension on this score in Gibraltar, as my postbag reveals. Possibly because of my known connection with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association or possibly because I have been identified, in all the years that I have been in this House, with Colonial matters, I have been receiving a very large number of letters from Gibraltarians. A letter I received the other day expressed a sentiment common to many. The writer said:
We are British subjects and are proud to be so. We like the way we live with Britain and do not wish to see this changed. In fact we would like even closer association with Britain, if this is possible.
That is the kind of sentiment which appears in letter after letter which I and my hon. Friends have been receiving. There is considerable apprehension in Gibraltar at the moment, and there has been for some time, about the outcome of these resumed talks.
I am perfectly well aware that this is not the occasion to argue whether there should be talks with Spain. For all of my political life I have laboured for better relations with Spain. I have a deep admiration—[Interruption]—this is not a matter to sneer at—I have a deep admiration for the Spanish character and genius and the Spanish contribution to European civilisation. I was a member, as were many other hon. Gentlemen, of the Anglo-Spanish Parliamentary Group. I resigned from that Group for the simple reason that I did not find it in my heart to belong to an organisation of that kind at a time when the Spanish Government, for their own reasons, were bringing intolerable pressures to bear upon our fellow British subjects in Gibraltar. I am not arguing whether there should be talks. In almost any situation it is better to talk than to throw brickbats. I am not criticising the Government on that score at all. But perhaps I may be permitted to say in passing that I find it repugnant that these particular talks should have been resumed at a time when the Spanish authorities are stepping up their pressures upon the Gibraltarians.
Nor am I proposing to comment on what may or may not be discussed at these talks, if they take place, except to say two things. First, there have been rumours, and I put it no higher than that, of possible concessions to Spain, which if true, would in my judgment be wholly unacceptable to the people of Gibraltar and to this House. Secondly, Parliament has a right to insist that the Government should make it plain that readiness to talk with Spain does not indicate a readiness to settle at any price.
It is by dealing with this point that the right hon. Gentleman, when he replies to the debate, could do a great service to the Government and to this House. It is the Government's failure to express this feeling plainly at a time when Spanish pressures upon Gibraltar have been increasing that obliges me to oppose this Motion. It would be quite wrong in my view for this House to rise without any knowledge of what may be discussed and agreed in the talks. It would be quite wrong for the House to rise without any correction of the unfortunate impression created by the Prime Minister and the former Foreign Secretary that there may be some weakening in our position.
When my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked the Minister, on Tuesday, whether he would confirm the final paragraph of last year's White
Paper, which I have quoted and which, after all, is the basic document on this matter, or whether he would repudiate it, the Prime Minister answered in these words:
… negotiations are going on and I would rather we said what we have to say to the Spanish Government in this matter. There will be plenty of time to tell the House of Commons, …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th August, 1966; Vol. 733, c. 1388.]
I am sure that on reflection the Prime Minister would wish that he had not used those words, because there will not be plenty of time. If the House accepts this Motion, then by the time it resumes on 18th October and the Government lay an agreement, if it has secured one, before the House, as convention requires, the pass may have been sold. I am not saying that it will be, but in the absence of any clear and unequivocal statement at this stage it may be. The very evasiveness of the Prime Minister and the former Foreign Secretary on this subject suggests that this is at least in the realm of possibility. If this happens it would be to the indelible shame of the British Government. But there is nothing that this House could do about it.
It is not good enough to say, as the Leader of the House may argue, and as has been argued by Ministers before, that any agreement which results from these resumed talks will be laid before Parliament and that that is in accordance with the normal practice. This is a situation without precedent. Not only would any agreement, if reached, be between a Government who are answerable to a freely elected Parliament and a Government who are not. That is the first feature. The second is that such an agreement would concern not merely the rights and interests of Britain, for which we have a charge here, but those of a territory which, far from demanding independence, desires continued and close association with this country under the British Crown. It is imperative, therefore, before this House rises, that the Government should give a clear assurance that no concessions will be made in regard to sovereignty or status, in which case we can depart without further anxieties on that score. If, on the other hand, it is in the mind of the Government that some concessions are contemplated, of a kind which it would not be unreasonable to grant, if the people of Gibraltar were in agreement with them, particularly if it then led to a permanent and honourable solution of this much-vexed problem, then we must have an assurance that the Government will, with the approval of Mr. Speaker, use the normal machinery of Parliament to recall the House before any agreement is signed, rather than to present us with a fait accompli. Nothing less than that will satisfy my hon. Friends and myself.
The Leader of the House brings great skill, expertise and enthusiasm to his new task. One may have disagreed with him politically in the past and have been highly critical of him in his rôle of Minister of Housing and Local Government, but it would indeed be churlish not to wish him success in his new rôle. I hope that from now on he will recognise that he should hold the conscience of the House dear. This is a subject which should not be a matter of party difference. What happens to the 24,000 Gibraltarians is a matter of interest, and it should be a matter of honour, to every Member of the House. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that and, when he replies, give us the assurance we seek.
I feel anxiety about the House going away when there are very urgent matters for which we are responsible, but I certainly do not regard Vietnam as among the matters for which we are responsible. I should have thought that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister may, as a result of recent events, have leaned that perhaps making statements about American conduct and dissociating oneself from them in Vietnam can be expensive, when the £ comes under pressure.
I want to speak about Gibraltar. Of course the wishes of the inhabitants of a territory of which we have been rulers for a long time are an important consideration, but I do not regard them as the only consideration. I do not think that it is responsible to leave inhabitants in an economic position, particularly inhabitants without very much political experience, in which they cannot earn their living, merely because that is their choice.
This also applies in regard to Rhodesia, which is the subject on which I want to say most. I am very anxious indeed about our going away while the Government are committed not to settle with Rhodesia without recalling the House, because that in practice means that they will not settle with Rhodesia. That in practice means that this thing will run on. It is running on terribly expensively. The blockade of the Mozambique channel, while keeping an aircraft carrier there with escorts and flying 1,000 miles from its port on a blockade patrol, is, to say the least of it, enormously more expensive than the additional cost to Rhodesia of importing her petrol through Bechuanaland, still a British Colony. After all, the Rhodesians have just removed petrol rationing.
Then there is the R.A.F. in Zambia, who are not allowed to use Tanzania, which cries out for us to make war on Rhodesia. Just as a single example, the cost of keeping a Typhoon flying operationally for one hour is a round trip by a Britannia carrying petrol from Nairobi.
These are very expensive operations, but they are far more expensive indirectly. I refer to the amount of ill will we have gained for ourselves from our third biggest customer—South Africa. There is almost a willing boycott upon our trade there. The Japanese, the Germans and the French are all profiting enormously by the expansion of trade. This is £360 million of our trade.
Worst of all, it is copper. I think that the Prime Minister is under very much of a delusion if he imagines that our copper troubles, instead of being caused very largely by our Rhodesian policy, would be worsened if we settled with Rhodesia. All my copper friends in Zambia assure me that there would be no trouble all in Zambia settling with Smith as long as we stopped propping Zambia up, because the Zambians know very well that they are utterly dependent upon that copper and cannot do without it. Banda, who is a good deal less dependent, knew that perfectly well and said so. He said, "I cannot live without Smith", or whoever rules Rhodesia, "and I have to live with it". The moment we stop propping Zambia up, the copper difficulties will come to an end.
Of course we shall not get back to the price which we had before these troubles. That wise price, imposed by the copper people to prevent substitutes coming into this market, will no longer be recoverable. But if we do not do it, copper may well go over £1,000 a ton. Then it will be serious for our balance of payments.
What is the position with regard to Rhodesia now? What is the point of sanctions at this time? Military sanctions are, as the prime Minister has often said, and as he knows, out. They are out because they would be wrong. They are out because I do not think that our troops would stand for it. In any event, they are out because they are utterly beyond our capacity. No Chiefs of Staff would sanction this operation without committing two divisions. We know perfectly well that we have not got the logistics to support a brigade on the Zambesi. Therefore, talks about military intervention are nonsense.
Sanctions are plainly not working in the sense of bringing Mr. Smith's régime down. All my information is that Rhodesians are at this point over the hump and that economically things are getting better rather than worse. I have a number of sources and there is a large measure of agreement on that. The tobacco is coming out. I am not going to say where, but it is coming out, and I will go wide enough to say that it is coming to Europe and that the people who are getting it in Europe are doing very nicely, thank you. It is getting easier. The farmers, who were asked to hold back their deliveries, are now being asked to expedite them. One very large producer told me that he had had two urgent telephone calls asking, "Can you let us have more?"
Some of us listened yesterday to three very charming professors whom Mr. Smith, I think very unwisely, expelled from the Rhodesian University. These professors held a meeting yesterday and, as far as I know, there is no objection to my quoting things which were said there. They gave remarkable confirmation when one of them told us that a Liberal economist who had access to the Government papers and position said to them, "You cannot go on putting your faith in these sanctions. Believe me—and I know—the Government's economic position is very much stronger than anybody thinks it is." From such a hostile source, that was fairly remarkable evidence.
What is the point of sanctions now? The Rhodesians have been getting out of their difficulty by a quick adaptation of their economy to fit in with the South African economy. That is what sanctions are doing, and it is all that they are doing. We are giving independence to the South African Protectorates. It is an independence which, in practice, means that economically they become Bantustans completely dependent upon the Union economy. If these sanctions go on, all that we are doing is making Rhodesia into an Anglostan dependent upon and knit into the South African economy. I just cannot believe that that is the best way to serve our African friends in Rhodesia. Every day that this goes on, this pressure increases. More and more will we find Rhodesia fitting into the South African picture.
One of my hon. Friends said the other day that principle has no price. That is something he might tell the Chancellor some time. On the other hand, it is extremely easy to have principles at somebody else's expense. One can talk about self-determination and let the people run over the precipice, like the Gadarene swine. One can talk about one's principles and see the people with whom one is entrusted—that is, the Africans—pushed into a much worse position than is available to be negotiated now, knowing that, each day the negotiations are delayed, one's position to negotiate will become worse. I do not feel that this is a responsible way to behave.
I urge upon my right hon. Friend that there is no alternative at this point but to negotiate for the best. We cannot get our terms. We have lost on this one and the more we go on, we are losing at somebody else's expense.
In his speech this afternoon, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) made a statement with which hon. Members on this side thoroughly agree. He referred to three points or factors which, he thought, were predominant concerning Gibraltar. It is rare that hon. Members on this side can agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, but I think that I speak for nearly all of us when I say that the three points which he enumerated for Gibraltar were almost exactly the three points which we regard as paramount concerning that territory.
What is so regrettable is that as we have seen earlier this week, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale may say one thing but will not back up his convictions in the Division Lobby. Therefore, whilst we welcome his support, we have to dismiss it as a matter of little value and of little weight to us because he will not have the courage to come back to this House after the Recess, if Gibraltar has been sold down the river, and put his vote to the test in the Division Lobby with us on this issue. He has never done it yet. Therefore, we have to dismiss his support with much regret.
We have had a fairly severe time in the last few weeks with the rush of panic legislation through the House. I should like to take this early opportunity also of congratulating the right hon. Gentleman who finds himself at the Dispatch Box this afternoon on his new appointment as Leader of the House. We are in some difficulty, however, because shortly before he came in this afternoon and took up the illustrious position which he is now occupying, his right hon. Friend the former First Secretary came in and took charge of the Questions that were directed to his former Department. We are in some difficulty to know whether the right hon. Gentleman has, so to speak, accepted office yet or whether he is simply standing in; and, if so, why the former First Secretary came along for Questions to the Department of Economic Affairs.
The new Leader of the House will be asked many questions——
I am grateful to the hon. Member for his intervention. I merely say that it seemed rather strange to us on this side that the former First Secretary came in at the commencement of Questions to his Department, did not answer any of them but left as soon as they were concluded, and sat the whole time beside the Parliamentary Secretary. If he was not the Minister for Economic Affairs at that time, where was the Minister? Why was not the new Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and First Secretary—the former Foreign Secretary—present?
The right hon. Gentleman who is occupying, so to speak, the hot seat today has been asked many pertinent questions about Gibraltar and Rhodesia, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to the chronic financial situation. I wonder whether the new Leader of the House will be able to reply to these quesions with authority. I do not for one moment agree with the right hon. Gentleman's policies, although I am an admirer of his power of persuasion and oratory, but I do not think that he has been in the job long enough to be able to reply adequately to the seaching questions which my right hon. and hon. Friends have put to him.
A few moments ago, the Prime Minister came into the House. I hope that when the new Leader of the House was talking to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, he asked him whether he could give the urgent assurance which we need about Gibraltar. If he is not empowered to give the House that assurance, which we have not had yet although we have been asking for it for many weeks, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should get authority from the Prime Minister to give us the answer which we require before the House rises for the Summer Recess.
We had a very long Session in one way and another. We have had a difficult Budget followed by a contentious Finance Bill, and that in turn has been followed by a succession of very complicated Bills. As a consequence of the Finance Bill, we have had the Selective Employment Payments Bill. That was followed by the Prices and Incomes Bill, which has been rushed through the House in a very ham-handed manner.
After what is almost an unparalleled succession of fairly late nights, hon. Members are in need of a rest, but the rest that we need matters not one iota compared with the necessity for Members of the House to keep an urgent and continuous vigil on the outcome not only of the question of Gibraltar, but also of the question of Rhodesia, to which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition also referred.
As for Rhodesia, when the Prime Minister spoke about this a few months ago he indicated that he expected the matter to be solved, not in months, but in weeks. Therefore, it will, perhaps, come as a bit of a shock to hon. and right hon. Members to realise that, when the House resumes at the end of October, U.D.I. will be almost one year old; and, as far as we on this side of the House can see, the effects of the policies which the Government have pursued towards Rhodesia have had little or no effect at all on altering the headlong course which that country is now embarked upon.
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) gave us an example a few moments ago when he said that petrol rationing was being or had been abolished for people living in Rhodesia. I can tell him that the guaranteed price which Rhodesian farmers are getting from their Government for the forthcoming tobacco crop is a considerable improvement on the price they got last year—much better.
I am glad to have the hon. and learned Gentleman's support. While we are going into recess and hon. Members are scattered all over the country, while this burning question of Rhodesia remains completely unanswered, with the answer apparently beyond the grasp of this Government, German, Japanese, French and Italian businessmen are making hay where the sun shines in Rhodesia, in Bulawayo and Salisbury, and are moving into what was largely a trading preserve of this country.
As to Gibraltar, which is the main reason for my taking part in the debate today, there we have a really strong reason why this House should not consider going into recess. What we need is not for the House to be dispersed all over the country but a two-day or three-day debate on Gibraltar, because there are many urgent problems connected with that territory that have been unresolved. What are the Government planning to do during the Recess? So far as we can find out, the talks with the Spanish are to continue. We cannot get from the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary any firm assurance as to the future of that Colony.
At Question Time, and at the time of the statement in the House this week, Ministers were asked to state categorically that the status of Gibraltar would not be affected while the House was in recess, and continuously the theme running through the responses from Ministers has been that they will not give the guarantee which this House is seeking, namely, that the sovereignty of Gibraltar will not be effected while the House is adjourned for the Summer Recess, and without the full co-operation and the full acquiescence of the people of that territory.
Is not the hon. Member misleading himself about this? It is true that the Government have refused to give the undertaking which they were asked for, but that was not an undertaking in the terms the hon. Member is now reciting. It was an undertaking that they would in no circumstances recommend any agreement changing the basis of the régime in Gibraltar without assuring themselves that the people of Gibraltar approved. It is true that the Government did not give that assurance. I agree with the hon. Gentleman in thinking they should have given it and should give it now, but what he is now saying is something different. He is saying that the Government have refused to give an assurance that they will not alter the basis of sovereignty in Gibraltar without consulting the House. My impression is that the Government gave precisely that assurance.
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's intervention, but I think my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) dealt with that point a little while ago. It is no use whatever the House coming back when an agreement with Spain has been signed and sealed by the Government. The House is in a very difficult position if it adjourns for the long Recess and comes back and finds that in the meantime the Government have sold another territory down the river. That is what we are afraid of. I have no very great hopes of this because of the very great reluctance of certain hon. Members opposite to vote against their own party, but it might well be that the House would not ratify or approve an agreement which was made; but we on this side do not wish to see any agreement entered into without consultation with the people of Gibraltar, without their agreement first, and, secondly, without the seal of approval placed upon it by this House.
I conclude by saying that it appears to me that there has been a change in the attitude and the statements of Ministers over Gibraltar in recent weeks. In May and in the early part of June a fairly strong line was taken by the Foreign Secretary about the sovereignty of Gibraltar. It has been only in recent weeks, and especially this week, that we have found Ministers—the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary—exceptionally evasive over the issue. We on this side think that the House must remain in continual and perpetual vigil till such time as we can get a clear decision from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that Gibraltar will not be sold down the river behind our backs during the Recess.
Although it is not the subject I want to talk about I cannot resist making one slight reference in passing to the speech of the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). I fully agree that we on this side are concerned about the people of Gibraltar, but they are not the only people in the world. There are also the people of Spain who, if anyone was sold down the river, were sold down the river by this country 30 years ago. Our objection—let us make it clear—on this side of the House would be to handing over the people of Gibraltar to Spain, and our objection would be because we are not impressed by the nature of the Spanish Government.
I hope that when we are talking about selling or not selling people down the river we shall, in addition to being concerned about the Gibraltarians—a small minority compared with the number in Southern Rhodesia—also be concerned with the majority of the people in the latter country.
I should like to turn to the subject I was intending to speak about. I, among others, I think, on this side of the House, am very glad to see my right hon. Friend the new Leader of the House who has just taken over this most important office. I hope I am not treading on any corns here, but I hope that he will be very forthcoming on a subject which is very dear to us on this side, namely Parliamentary and institutional reform. It was some years ago that I was at a seminar given at Oxford by my right hon. Friend on the subject of interest groups being involved in decision-making in Governments. I had the temerity—and perhaps the foolhardiness, I suspect, in recollecting this incident—to make a point against him and was firmly rebuked with the final statement, "The difference between us is that I am a democrat and you are not."
At this moment we are not concerned about where I stand on these matters but a good number of us are very concerned about where my right hon. Friend stands. The case for institutional reform is something for which it is difficult to get a ready hearing. People say that what matters is policy and that the institutions through which policy is to be affected do not matter. It is my contention that it is the institutions that matter and I have been depressed by the fact that, in the three or four months since this Session began, we have not had a chance to discuss institutional reform.
I would join with those hon. Members opposite who regret that the House is going into recess were it not that, on reflection, I suspect that the cause of institutional reform might be better advanced by the Government using the next two months perhaps to bring forward some proposals along these lines when the House reassembles.
What proposals might the Government at that time, having used the Recess for mature reflection, decide to bring forward? First, it is now time that we made some progress in the further use of Standing Committees. We were all excited when the Prime Minister pledged that the Mother of Parliaments would use much more than hitherto this kind of standing specialist committee, but we have been a little disappointed since because the negotiations have been going on extremely slowly between the two Front Benches. I am sorry that, instead of holding talks through the usual channels with the Front Bench opposite—which I suspect is not really interested in reform in this matter—the Prime Minister did not consult us on the back benches behind him.
What we want with this kind of reform is a set-up in which hon. Members with specialist knowledge can use their knowledge. It is absurd that an hon. Member who comes to the House with a certain specialist knowledge which could be of use to the country, Parliament and the Government, should, because of the procedures of the House, be unable to make use of it.
Secondly, it is about time that we took some steps to reform the nature of the links between hon. Members and members of the Civil Service. We all know the constitutional rules on this. On 8th February, the Prime Minister said:
Civil Servants, however eminent, remain the confidential advisers of Ministers, who alone are answerable to Parliament for policy; and we do not envisage any change in this fundamental feature of our Parliamentary system of democracy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1966; Vol. 724, c. 210.]
That was a clear statement, and we know where we stand. But despite this it should be possible to increase the links between hon. Members and members of the Civil Service.
It is not always considered the right thing to quote examples of other Parliaments, but I am sure that members of the United States Congress are not the more ignorant for the fact that, in their standing specialist committees, they have full power to call for persons and papers and those persons can be members of the United States Civil Service. I know that there is a rather different system of government there, but it does not seem to me that it is a good thing that hon. Members of this House should be kept ignorant in this way.
It may be that, in some subjects such as defence, certain rules of secrecy will be necessary but that is something the Government could well look at because, although Parliamentary Questions and speeches by back benchers can be a nuisance, I am sure that, on reflection, my right hon. Friends would prefer those speeches to be well informed because Members had access to civil servants rather than badly informed.
With respect, that is what I was about to do. I was going to say that we have heard right hon. Members opposite persistently asking the Leader of the House when the House was to adjourn for the Summer Recess and have constantly had the reply—usually greeted with derision opposite—that it would be when the House had fulfilled a certain amount of its business. That has been going on for some time because we have this ancient tradition of a huge Parliamentary Summer Recess.
The old tradition was, I think, to have a three-month Summer Recess which was supposed to be sacrosanct. The trouble is that, when we have a lot of extra business—and really the business of the House is much too important to be done in a small number of months in the year—what tends to happen is that part of the Recess is knocked away at the beginning rather than at the end.
It seems to me that it would be much more sensible for this House to have a Recess which lasted, say, from 15th August to 15th September and, of course, in an emergency we might even lose that. The idea of a three-month Recess is today quite ludicrous and I do not see why the Government should be apologising for the fact that we are having only two months this year.
Another matter which I hope you will agree is relevant, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that one hopes that when the Government have used this long period of reflection, they will come back with proposals to deal with the system of voting in the House. In recent weeks we have heard complaints of shortage of time to discuss certain subjects—for example, from the Opposition on the question of the Selective Employment Tax. But it seemed to me to be a subject for amusement—or perhaps sorrow—that during the whole time they were grumbling, we were frequently trooping through the Division Lobbies, sometimes, perhaps, for 10 minutes in every hour. Yet it was known in advance what the result would be.
I would also hope that, at the end of the long Recess, the Government would come up with some really radical proposals for dealing with the question of the allocation of time in this House. The last time I was lucky enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, was in the debate on the allocation of time for the Selective Employment Payments Act. Such a debate, I gather, is a jamboree which takes place fairly regularly—every couple of years or so—when a Government put forward a timetable Motion, with the Opposition objecting that it is an infringement of liberty. It is time to get beyond this. When they come back the Government should decide to bring forward——
I am sorry to have strayed beyond Order, Mr. Speaker. I was trying to suggest that, unless the Government had a fairly long time in recess—two months instead of one month—they would not really have time to think about this important subject. I am not certain whether this gets round the point or not. If it does not, I apologise from necessity and withdraw from it.
There is another subject particularly relevant in view of the Ministerial changes. The Government will need a lot of time to think about the question of the relationship between this House and the Civil Service.
Order. We cannot discuss, even under the ingenious method that the hon. Member is seeking to adopt, the kind of subject that he wants Parliament to debate when it comes back after the Recess.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker; it seems that I am now effectively hemmed in on all sides in my attempt to debate this issue. Therefore, I simply say that this House has now been sitting for three or four months and it is to have a two months' Recess. Many hon. Members have suggested that this is too long, because so many subjects remain to be spoken about. The Government can effectively answer this argument—and this relates to my question on procedure as well as to the points raised by other hon. Members in connection with Gibraltar, and so on—if, at the end of this Recess, they are in a position so to organise the business of the House for next Session and subsequent Sessions that it is in a position to discuss all these matters.
Mr. Speaker, I shall try to keep within your rigorous Ruling on the question whether we should or should not adjourn, and should have a longer or shorter Adjournment. I add my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman for having moved from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to his present position as Leader of the House, but he will have to change his attitude a little. My hon. Friends and I have always felt that he was one of the most hyper-political creatures, and that he adopted a hyper-political outlook in respect of almost every policy he advocated in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.
My instinct is that the right hon. Gentleman had a fairly close relationship with the G.L.C., and as he is now moving to a more honourable position and one of greater responsibility, in that he will be speaking for both sides of the House, in an almost a-political atmosphere, I hope that he will drop his previous attitude.
I suggest that it is a good idea to have a Recess, because it is clear that Ministers are in need of a rest. I am told that a change of job is as good as a rest, and as the Minister has had a change of job he may not need a rest. But the Prime Minister is clearly in need of a rest. As one gets tired two things happen: one's memory lapses, and one tends to revert to old habits and old arguments, which is what we have had in the House recently from the Prime Minister.
I want particularly to draw the attention of the House to a Question concerning Gibraltar which was raised the day before yesterday. I refer to this because we are just about to see the discussions on Gibraltar resumed. It is, therefore, important that the background of these discussions should be clearly understood. The day before yesterday,
in answer to a supplementary question by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister said:
I attacked the frigate deal because of the Gibraltar situation …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th August, 1966; Vol. 733, c. 1387.]
The Prime Minister's memory is at fault. He did not attack the frigate deal because of the Gibraltar situation—
I only wish that you had been in the Chair earlier, Mr. Speaker, because the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) went very wide and discussed the question of Suez, Vietnam and goodness knows what else.
We are now reconvening the discussions on Gibraltar. My right hon. Friend asked for some reassurances on this matter. I was at pains to point out that the foundation of the quarrel which now exists between this country and Spain, and particularly between Spain and Gibraltar, is not as painted by the Prime Minister. I thought it important that the record should be put right, so that these discussions should be more productive and so that, if a change is made, the House can be recalled in the middle of the adjournment.
It is wrong to suggest that this argument started—as the Prime Minister went on to suggest—with the decision by Spain to put pressure on Gibraltar. To suggest that the pressure occurred before the frigate deal was started is not true; the frigate deal had been going on for many years. The Spaniards desired to re-equip their whole fleet, and when I was an Admiralty Minister I was responsible in some way for the negotiations. They had been going on for years before real pressure was put upon Gibraltar, for the first time, in 1964. These deals, which cost us £14 million to cancel, could have led to the entire renewal—
Order. I am not questioning a word of what the hon. Member is saying. He has a right to his opinion. But we are deciding whether or not to adjourn to a certain date, and he must link his remarks to that point.
Mr. Speaker, you are much tougher on Members than was your predecessor, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
We are about to start discussions with Spain, and it is important that the climate of those discussions and their historical background should be clearly understood and known by the Government of the day, who are now responsible for them. The Prime Minister's words about this background are completely inaccurate. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale used the word "lie" earlier, and was not stopped. There are gross inaccuracies in the history as given to the House by the Prime Minister only the day before yesterday. This is bound to influence the climate of opinion in these very important discussions.
It is not true to say that the cancellation of this deal arose because of the feelings between Gibraltar and Spain, or that the bringing of pressure to bear on Gibraltar occurred before the deal was called off; it was called off in July, 1964, and the pressure on Gibraltar built up in October of the same year. I should like to quote chapter and verse, but in view of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to transgress. Nevertheless, I hope that this matter will be put right, and that we can get the Prime Minister to accept the historical facts.
I offer my personal congratulations to my right hon. Friend the new Leader of the House on his appointment. We are old friends and colleagues, and I hope he will not think it a presumption on my part if I offer my congratulations in this situation. For many years, whichever party has been in government and whichever party has been in opposition it has been customary for Motions for the Adjournment to be opposed. They are rarely opposed seriously, and on this occasion I doubt whether any hon. Member will challenge the matter to a Division. The only question that is really in order is whether there is a valid reason against adopting a Motion which we are invited to adopt or for opposing a valid reason suggesting that we do not oppose it.
Only three questions have been raised which could possibly be within the rules of order on the Motion that we are discussing. The first is Gibraltar, the second Rhodesia, and the third Vietnam. I suggest that in the case of Rhodesia and Gibraltar the House may be satisfied with the assurances that the Government have already given. In both cases they have said that there will be no change in the situation without the authority of Parliament and without the recall of Parliament—or until Parliament reassembles—so that it may give or withhold its approval to any suggested change.
I agree that, in the case of Spain, the Government might reasonably have given the further undertaking for which they were pressed, that in no circumstances would they agree to a change in sovereignty which did not carry the support of the Spanish people. As we have repeatedly said over the last 12 months we will not support any constitution in Rhodesia which does not command the support or approval of the majority of the population, it is not unreasonable to say to the Government that what they said on behalf of the people of that country they could also say on behalf of Spain. No one can seriously argue that their failure to do so is a valid reason for refusing them the Motion. They have said that they will do nothing until Parliament has approved whatever they propose and I think that Parliament should be satisfied with that.
However, this is not the case on questions raised about Vietnam. Catastrophic things could happen over Vietnam before Parliament reassembles, if the Motion is carried. It is reasonable for some of us to say to the Government, as we would be inclined to do, that, unless they can give us reasonable assurances on this point, we would not be in favour of adjourning for so long.
If the proposals of President Ky were adopted, that would be only with the support of the American troops. There has been considerable controversy in this country about whether the Government were right to give the support which they gave 18 months ago to the original escalation of the war. I am not suggesting that it is in order to debate that now, but subsequent events have shown that that 100 per cent. support was not unlimited in time or unconditional. Subsequent actions took place which the Government thought justified their dissociating themselves from American action. What we ask them to do now, before we consent to go away for two months, is to undertake that they will dissociate themselves from any further escalation in the direction suggested by the present so-called Government of South Vietnam.
If they do not give us such an assurance, they are asking the House to go away for two months in circumstances which conceivably—I do not say "probably"—could mean that we would, against our will, be involved in a world war on the wrong side, without being consulted—[HON. MEMBERS: "Wrong side?"] Yes, on the wrong side——
I am saying nothing which any hon. Member need get excited about. I am saying that, if we were to support an action which might lead to a world war, which we did not want and which was against our will and in which it would be at least doubtful whether the Americans were on the right side, if we had to be dragged in—if we were dragged in—on that side, we might, without being consulted be in a world war which we did not want, about which we had not been consulted and on the side of which, on the whole, we least approved. I think that every hon. Member must see the danger to which that could lead.
I am asking for an assurance—I see no reason why the Government should have any difficulty about giving it—that, if there is any reasonable probability, any forlorn or remote chance at all, that the Americans might further escalate the war along the lines against which American Congressmen have recently protested, we should either immediately dissociate this country from any such policy or recall the House so that we may discuss here what the Government and the country ought to do in such a situation. I am not asking for any further undertaking than that, but I do say that I would certainly not support a Motion for the Adjournment for two months in these circumstances without such an assurance.
I would agree with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) in one thing, that the three subjects which he listed at the start of his speech are certainly highly relevant to the question whether or not we should adjourn. However, he was a little arrogant in assuming that those were the only three subjects which could possibly be relevant. I hope that, when I have finished, he will see that one or two other matters are also relevant.
The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council and I have exchanged pleasantries across the Floor of the House from time to time since 1945. There was an occasion when he referred to me as a "Blimp" and I took that as a compliment, coming from him. In wishing him well, I would add that I hope that he will always remember that ordinary Members on both sides are highly sensitive to those who sometimes give the impression that they have little time for those whom they consider to be less intelligent than themselves. Therefore, I hope that, as Leader of the House, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to make all parties, on both sides of the House, realise that he has the rights of hon. Members very much in mind.
We have had a historical review in your absence from the Chair, Mr. Speaker, and I wish to do no more muck-raking. But there has been some muck-raking today. I suppose that it is inevitable that, when a Government's record has been undistinguished—to put it mildly—a few red herrings should be dragged out from the past to put the eye off the major ball.
However tired we are, and however overstrained are the unfortunate staff who attempt to serve our needs, I still say that there are many reasons why we should remain in session. Although Gibraltar is certainly one of them, and it is very important that one current rumour should be banished before we adjourn, there are other matters. I have little more to add to a discussion of Gibraltar than what has already been said by my hon. Friends and by some hon. Members opposite, but there is one current rumour which must be banished quickly. That is the suggestion that the reason that the Government are being so equivocal on this issue is because the United States wishes to change its strategy in the Mediterranean and to come to an understanding with Franco, and that Franco's price for reaching that understanding is Britain trading in the rights of the Gibraltarians.
That rumour is being put about in this place as well as outside. I hope, therefore, that the Government will once and for all scotch that rumour. If it is true, or anything like true, it is certainly something which calls for a major exercise by the Foreign Office while we are away. If it is not true, it is not only doing a great deal of damage to the United Kingdom's relationships with Spain, but must also be causing grave concern to Gibraltarians.
I hope that the Government stand by the last paragraph of the White Paper and will not be bullied by the Americans, by General Franco or by anyone else over the future of Gibraltar, but will do what they believe to be right and which the Gibraltarians are satisfied fully protects the interests of Gibraltarians. That is all I shall say about Gibraltar, and it is probably more than enough for the right hon. Gentleman.
There is one other issue which I would like to raise additional to the subjects mentioned by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. If we had not been debating the Summer Adjournment today, we should have been debating the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation Bill. Rather unusually, even before the Bill has been debated, the Government have selected two of the principal officers who are to run that corporation. One is the chairman of a well-known textile company and the other is a distinguished merchant banker. I regard both gentlemen as either extremely gullible, or indulging in a deliberate exercise to bring about creeping Socialism. That is my opinion of their acceptance of the appointments.
It is bad enough to have a chairman and another principal officer of a corporation, which has not yet been put on the Statute Book, appointed by the Government, but if, during the Recess, we are also to witness the appointment of other principal officers of this corporation, which may or may not be brought into being according to whether Parliament passes the Bill, we shall be reaching the point where Parliament is being made utterly ludicrous and the rights of hon. Members to decide whether such a corporation should exist are being undermined.
As it appears that one of the main matters which we shall be discussing during the first week of our return will be this Bill, according to the business statement yesterday, I hope that we shall have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that no further anticipatory appointments will be made, so that we can go into the merits of whether there should be such a corporation.
Finally, during the last few months we have witnessed an exercise of political tergiversation greater than anything which has happened since the time of Robert Peel, when he was castigated by Disraeli for tergiversation over the Corn Laws. Promises have been broken by the Government almost daily and sometimes we have felt that we have had to sympathise with the appalling difficulties into which the Government have got themselves, largely through their own fault and their own policy.
I hope that during the Recess the Government will tell the country a little more of the truth than they have so far about the position of our national affairs. I do not believe that we have begun to hear the truth and I hope that we shall in future.
The accusation might well be made today, as it was once made in the 1945–50 Parliament by a distinguished United States Treasury official, who said of a certain previous Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, "Who is this guy? We used to be able to trust Bank of England figures; these, we know, are 'phoney'".
I hope that during the Recess we shall be told what the true figures are and that there will be no more of this deliberate deception of the British people.
On a point of order. A number of backbenchers still wish to speak in this debate, on which there is no time limit. Are we to understand, Mr. Speaker, that the right hon. Gentleman is about to intervene in a helpful way, perhaps about Gibraltar, or does his rising mean that the debate is to come to an end? There are many things which I would like to say. I would like to welcome him to his new job and I would like to deal with the question——
Order. I am seized of the point of order without the hon. Gentleman amplifying it further. I have called the right hon. Gentleman who seeks to intervene. What happens after that I know not yet.
On a point of order. Is the right hon. Gentleman intervening to wind up the debate, or is this just an intervention which will allow the debate to continue? Is it the Government's intention to move the Closure after he has spoken? I am bound to ask him whether he has noticed that there are many hon. Members on both sides of the House who would like to speak. I had intended to begin my speech from the Opposition Front Bench by congratulating him on his appointment as Leader of the House, but I am bound to say that this is one of the most disastrous openings for a Leader of the House, curtailing of the rights of discussion, which we have seen for a very long time.
I hope that it will be for the convenience of the House if I intervene at this juncture in the debate. I thought that until now we had had a reasonably good-humoured and typical debate of this kind which had gone on in much the usual way and under some of the usual difficulties. I thought that it was relatively good humoured; even my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said that he was in a gentle humour. I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition and all those other Members who have been sympathetic to me in my new responsibilities for the kind things they have said, because I know that after that I cannot expect, and do not want, any quarter from them.
I can tell the Leader of the Opposition that I appreciate the difficulties of this debate. There are matters on which individual hon. Members genuinely feel strongly. I have done it myself. One feels that one cannot let the House go for fear that something disastrous happens. Hon. Members vary about what those things may be, but they hold such views sincerely. One also feels that such an occasion is a good chance to make a last protest, so far as one can within the limits of order, and I congratulate hon. Members on the skill with which they have taken their opportunity.
When my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General intervened with memories of how he had been cribbed and confined in May, 1964, I thought that I was cribbed and confined, too. As a matter of fact, I welcome the somewhat greater licence which we have had today. It brought out one problem of the debate which was illustrated when the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) said that I was incompetent to answer the 40 or 50 big questions of policy which had been put to me. That is true. No Minister could conceivably answer all the questions which have been put today, because they were not all concerned with this Motion, but with general issues of policy on which I could not reply.
What I can and must reply to are the serious arguments put to me for not letting the House go without certain assurances and statements. I will start with those and begin with some which were put to me by the Leader of the Opposition.
The right hon. Gentleman's speech was good humoured, apart from one sentence which was repeated by one or two of his hon. Friends and to which I would like to reply. Having congratulated me, he suddenly said that as far as he could see, with me as Leader of the House, there was no chance of both sides getting fair treatment. He gave the remarkable reason that I was born a political animal. This seems to be a very American definition of a politician. It is in America that politicians are thought of in that way. I always thought that in England "political animal" meant one who was a politician, but politicians can be fair. A man may be a party man—and the right hon. Gentleman and I are both party men—and yet on all the issues which matter in Parliament loyalty to party and loyalty to Parliament are not incompatible.
I hope that, on reflection, the right hon. Gentleman will agree that if I am as political an animal as he is we can both claim that because we are political animals we would give minorities their fair share; and I have had somewhat greater experience in my political life of being a member of a minority than the right hon. Gentleman has had. For 18 years I was a member of various minorities and I have a penchant for and bias in favour of minorities, certainly until recent experience, and against majorities.
I must admit that during the last 18 months of responsibility my attitude towards majorities has changed a little, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that office does not altogether destroy that sympathy with minorities and my conviction that our Parliamentary system can only work in the last resort if we recognise fairness and recognise that we agree, above all, about the importance of making our system work.
That is quite true, and I fully appreciate it. I know very well that it is a test to which the right hon. Gentleman, when he was Patronage Secretary in the old days, was subjected to rather frequently—yet always with the same result, which I shall not, at this point, anticipate. The right hon. Gentleman and I understand each other and I assure him that I do not mind his making that taunt.
The Leader of the Opposition asked a number of questions which we must consider seriously. He asked, first, for an assurance about Part IV of the Prices and Incomes Bill. I, for my part, wish to emphasise what has already been explained. My right hon. Friend who was until a few hours ago the First Secretary continually emphasised that the Government were fighting for the voluntary principle and that they were anxious to have the reserve power contained in the Bill to make it work. My right hon. Friend said that time and again and, on each occasion, meant what he said.
As a member of the Cabinet, I support the Bill for that reason and I assure the Leader of the Opposition that what the First Secretary has emphasised on so many occasions is the point that I wish to emphasise now. That is why the special limitation of 28 days was written into the Bill, remembering that Part IV cannot come into force without an affirmative Order being brought before the House and that it is not just 28 days but 28 calendar days. We mean what we say about the Bill and what the First Secretary has emphasised so frequently on this subject.
I was then asked for an assurance about housing. I have some difficulty in answering this one, remembering who was the previous Minister of Housing and Local Government. I admit to the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and the Leader of the Opposition that, in retrospect, I failed—or, since I am speaking about the previous Minister of Housing and Local Government, perhaps I should say "he failed"—to tell the House about mortgages and that perhaps I should have given that information before making my speech to the builders, even though it got a good Press; indeed, the whole of it was printed. Although it was so widely publicised, I accept, as does the previous Minister of Housing and Local Government, that that is no substitute for making a statement to the House. Perhaps it would be apt if I quoted some of what I said on that occasion, so that it will at least be on the record. I said:
… we shall be introducing the necessary legislation in the autumn. Some details have still to be settled in further consultation with the building societies and other lending bodies, and we shall publish with the Bill a White Paper which will explain fully how the scheme will work".
Then, concerning retrospection, I said:
I have heard suggestions that some would-be purchasers have held off from buying houses because of uncertainty about the Government's intentions. I want to make it quite clear that there is no point in deferring purchase on this account. The legislation which will be introduced later this year will provide that owner-occupiers"—
and this answers the right hon. Gentlemans question—
who already have mortgages will be able to transfer to option mortgages and get the benefit of the Government subsidy, if they consider it to be to their advantage to do so. Anyone wanting to buy a house now can be assured that the Government are going to carry through their scheme for helping owner-occupiers; and that it can help them whether they take out a mortgage now, or after the scheme comes into operation".
That is the answer. The switch means that retrospection is unnecessary in that particular case.
I turn from those subjects of the home side to the questions which have been asked about various aspects of foreign policy, particularly Rhodesia.
I trust that the right hon. Gentleman remembers that I asked him another question about mortgages. I asked what assurances he could give about the supply of funds to building societies in view of the problems caused by interest rates during the Recess.
I considered that that was not the kind of matter which would be likely to decide whether or not we should adjourn for the Summer Recess. I do not think, therefore, that giving an assurance or making a statement on this subject would be likely to affect the Motion, since we can debate the matter; in other words, it is not as urgent an issue as some of the others that have been raised and is, therefore, not a matter which would be likely to prevent us from rising for the Recess.
I come to the questions put to me about Rhodesia, Gibraltar and Vietnam, because the majority of hon. Members have felt that around these three issues is centred the main concern about rising for the Recess. On Rhodesia, I do not think that I need say more than repeat the absolute and specific assurances given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 8th August, when he said:
Since we are approaching the Recess I should like to make it clear that, although there is at present no indication that a settlement is likely within the next two months, nevertheless, if there were any developments during the Recess making possible a settlement before the time fixed for the assembly of Parliament, we should regard this as sufficiently important to advise you, Mr. Speaker, under Standing Order No. 117, that the House should be recalled …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th August, 1966; Vol. 733, c. 1018.]
In terms of the Motion before the House, no hon. Member could ask for a more specific assurance than that. My right hon. Friend's assurance was to the effect that if anything like that occurred—although the Government think it unlikely—the Government would specifically recall the House for that particular reason. No Government could be more specific.
Many questions were asked about Rhodesia and a number of speeches were made concerning Gibraltar. They varied from the careful and moderate language used by the Leader of the Opposition to the more extreme remarks of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine). That hon. Gentleman said that it would be wrong for the House to recess without knowing what was being discussed and what might possibly be agreed. If we are to say that no Government should negotiate during a Recess without, in advance, telling the House everything that might be said and done, all negotiations would be impossible during all Recesses. However, I take it that those extremities of the back benches opposite are not the reasons why other hon. Gentlemen opposite say that they are seriously worried on this issue.
As the Leader of the House has referred to words that I used, does he recall that I was saying that it had to be presumed that the talks would take place against the background of increasing pressures from Spain? Is he aware that I said that I found it extremely difficult to understand how the Government could enter into these talks in that kind of atmosphere, and that it was in those circumstances that I felt that the right hon. Gentleman should give the House an assurance on these matters?
I listened to the hon. Gentleman's speech carefully. He said—and he made his point clear—that his view was that he had little confidence in the Government and that, rather than have any negotiations at all going on, he would prefer to make such negotiations impossible. That would be the effect of meeting the demands he made. I admit that it may be a reasonable point of view for the hon. Gentleman to take, but it is certainly a point of view that would be unlikely to receive the agreement of the House in general.
I was asked to give the specific assurance that the Gibraltarians would not be sold down the river. This continued assertion that the present Government are determined to sell Gibraltar down the river rings slightly forensic in view of the Prime Minister's explicit statement that there is no repudiation of the White Paper, a document which was absolutely clear. Having said that, I really do not understand what all the froth and bother is about. That statement having been made, I assure the House in good faith, these negotiations should be given a chance of success.
A number of my hon. Friends have referred to the situation in Vietnam and I agree with them that this is the area of the world—this area and not Gibraltar—where catastrophe and disaster could occur. This is the area about which all of us, whatever our positions, have a right to be alarmed and to express our fears and doubts, for we must all be constantly aware of the danger to the world of war breaking out. I therefore respect any hon. Member who asks, "Will you give the assurance that Her Majesty's Government share our alarm and are prepared to act?"
While I cannot give my hon. Friends an assurance that the Government will do all that they want them to do, if the kind of disaster which they foresee as being possible were actually to arise, Parliament would be recalled. However, I cannot go further than that and say precisely what the Government would do.
As Leader of the House, I assure the House that if the kind of eventuality about which my hon. Friends have spoken were to arise, it would be the duty of the Government to recall Parliament, because, in that event, the rôle of Britain could be decisive. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite agree that in the event of there being such a crisis it would be our job to be here. I give that assurance. It is an absolute assurance.
I come to the subject raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale which, after Vietnam, might be considered a minor matter. Indeed, history is always less exciting than present eventualities. He asked about Suez—and it was interesting to note that his question was not repeated from the Opposition. I am bound to wonder what would be the result of carrying out an exposure of Suez. I share my hon. Friend's curiosity. Fresh revelations may come day by day, possibly first from M. Pineau and then from General Daya. We never know what will come next. I wonder what the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) feels on this issue. Considering how fresh revelations come to light, I wonder whether it is more fun doing it this way than having the right hon. and learned Gentleman "come clean". I enjoyed it. I am looking forward to the fresh morsels that I shall read during the Recess. But we have decided to meet my hon. Friend's point of view. We think that it would be good and healthy for Parliament to debate this subject soon after the Recess. We think that it might be arresting to have the Opposition Front Bench alerted and ready, and that it would be helpful to discuss what happened in that long ago, historic, time of November, 1956.
I was much struck by the speech, on a former occasion, of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General about the precedents for inquiries of this sort. The inquiries into Mesopotamia and Gallipoli were good and sound. Without our being political animals in any sense, but in my present historical and judicious mood, I am sure that I shall receive a historical and judicious response from the Opposition for having a historical and judicious inquiry into what happened so long ago. We shall have the debate, after which we shall consider an inquiry.
I was also told that we should hold up our holidays because of the tardiness of both the Government and the Opposition on Parliamentary reform. There were earnest pleas from my hon. Friends the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig) as well as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. My conscience twinged me, because I think that we have been rather slow. We have taken our time in reflecting on the subject of the Committees and we should accelerate this. I say freely, speaking for the first time in my new capacity, that I have a strong prejudice in favour of Parliamentary reform, because I do not agree with the idea that Parliament has declined, is declining, and should decline still further. The first two parts of that are correct, and the third is a disaster. Parliament has declined, is declining, and should not decline any further.
I shall be interested to read the Report of the Select Committee on Broadcasting the Proceedings of the House. Television is very important, but it is not the most important issue. How we present ourselves to the public through new media of communication is secondary to the issue of what we actually do here, which is what matters, and I believe that we are right to be deeply concerned and worried about whether we are doing our job properly. We should be allowed to have a few months' thought on this rather than to have further discussion here in an unadjourned House because it is important to consult widely and carefully, as there are great differences.
There are those of us, like my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, who want to restore Parliament in its pristine 18th century figure. He wants the power to seat and unseat Governments in Parliament, whereas we now believe that that power should be in the hands of the electorate. But he is not a pure 18th century man. I agree with him that we should discuss things here on the Floor of the House a great deal more and a good deal less in secret conclave in other places. This is a heathy thing to ask, for anything which we can do to have the big issues discussed in the open is all to the good, because if we are to do our function of educating the public, which is our major job, we must get the great ideas debated here and so debated outside.
Another, older function, is that of being the critic, the check, the control of the Executive. I speak as a member of the Executive here and as a Member of the House. After 18 months, I think that my former Department does need controlling. Anybody who has worked in a big Department knows that the submission of that Department's detailed work to hon. Members in a Committee who would have time to see it in detail and with understanding knows that that has much to commend it. I therefore welcome the chance of such Committees being set up. But we must take care to set them up in the right way. We cannot make them American-style committees. They must be in our tradition. We must take trouble and care on this. We are on the edge of getting it right, but do not let us set up too many Committees.
Not every Committee has a queue outside waiting to attend it. Having come from local government, I say that anybody who thinks that the municipalisation of Parliament is the be-all and end-all had better study the committee system in local government, which has become a reductio ad absurdum. Let us select the right Committees for the right things if they are to be really effective. If we are to do that, we do not want to go on with this part of the Session now. We want a bit of a rest, time to reflect and think. The time has come—I have a feeling that the Leader of the Opposition is with me on this—when, having had this excellent debate, we should decide to adjourn.
As the Leader of the House has already said that the Prime Minister was not repudiating his White Paper, would he go a little further and say that the Government will not contemplate a transfer of sovereignty of Gibraltar to Spain against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar? If he would say that, it would be a very great help to a number of hon. Members on the question whether we shall adjourn for the Recess.
I said that I found it difficult to feel that this agitation was not somewhat synthetic when the Prime Minister has already stated categorically that the White Paper is not being repudiated and that it includes the sentences which were quoted. I cannot see how anybody can fairly say that we are trying to sell Gibraltar down the line.
|Division No. 171.]||AYES||[7.06 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Orme, Stanley|
|Allen, Scholefield||Hamling, William||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Anderson, Donald||Hannan, William||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Archer, Peter||Harper, Joseph||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Paget, R. T.|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Haseldine, Norman||Park, Trevor|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Hazell, Bert||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Heffer, Eric S.||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Beaney, Alan||Henig, Stanley||Redhead, Edward|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Horner, John||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgton)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Richard, Ivor|
|Blackburn, F.||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Booth, Albert||Hynd, John||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Boyden, James||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Janner, Sir Barnett||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Brooks, Edwin||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Coleman, Donald||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Judd, Frank||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Croseman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Silkin, S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Lawson, George||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Lee, John (Reading)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Davies, Robert (Cambridge)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Slater, Joseph|
|Dewar, Donald||McBride, Nell||Small, William|
|Dickens, James||MacDermot, Niall||Snow, Julian|
|Dobson, Ray||Macdonald, A. H.||Spriggs, Leslle|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||McKav, Mrs. Margaret||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Stonehouse, John|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Taverne, Dick|
|Ellis, John||MacPherson, Malcolm||Tinn, James|
|Ennals, David||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Ensor, David||Marquand, David||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Mendelson, J. J.||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)||Mikardo, Ian||Walker Harold (Doncaster)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Millan, Bruce||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Floud, Bernard||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Molloy, William||Whitlock, William|
|Forrester, John||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Fowler, Gerry||Moyle, Roland||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Murray, Albert||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Newens, Stan||Winnick, David|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Norwood, Christopher|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||O'Malley, Brian||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gregory, Arnold||Oram, Albert E.||Mr. Fitch and|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Batsford, Brian||Body, Richard|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Bessell, Peter||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John|
|Balniel, Lord||Biffen, John||Braine, Bernard|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Blaker, Peter||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hawkins, Paul||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Clegg, Walter||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Heseltine, Michael||Pardoe, John|
|Costain, A. P.||Holland, Philip||Peel, John|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hornby, Richard||Percival, Ian|
|Crouch, David||Howell, David (Guildford)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Hunt, John||Ronton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Doughty, Charles||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Sharples, Richard|
|Eden, Sir John||Kirk, Peter||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Elliott, R. W. (N 'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Teeling, Sir William|
|Fortescue, Tim||Longden, Gilbert||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Foster, Sir John||Loveys, W. H.||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Lubbock, Eric||Webster, David|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Maxwell, Hyalop, R. J.||Whitelaw, William|
|Goodhart, Philip||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Grant, Anthony||More, Jasper||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Morgan, W. G. (Denbigh)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Garden, Harold||Neave, Airey|
|Hall-Davis A. C. F.||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Nott, John||Mr. Pym and|
That this House, at its rising Tomorrow, do adjourn until Tuesday, 18th October, and that Tomorrow the following paragraphs shall have effect—
Provided that sub-paragraph (b) of this paragraph shall also apply if such a Motion for the Adjournment of the House shall have been withdrawn.