Before I call the Leader of the House to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper, I should say that I have given much thought this morning to how we shall transact the business of the day. After the Question on the Motion has been proposed from the Chair, I thought that it would be as well to have a general debate on the allocation of time and the principle of this guillotine.
I thought that it would be helpful if I had my provisional Selection of Amendments posted in the "No" Lobby, as I would have done for an ordinary Bill, and I am grateful to the Table for its help in preparing this at short notice for the "No" Lobby. I do not propose to call any hon. Member to move any of the Amendments until some time has elapsed. I would have thought the House would not wish me to do so for several hours in order to allow adequate discussion on the main proposal. I thought that this might mean that I should call the first Amendment at about 8 o'clock.
In order to obtain freedom of discussion and amendment on this time-table Motion I shall follow the course taken on previous occasions by my predecssors and relax the rule about speaking twice to the extent that Members who may have spoken on the main Question will not thereby be debarred from moving Amendments. This relaxation does not however confer any additional rights to speak. It is limited to that small concession. Finally, when all the Amendments have been disposed of we shall return to discussion of the main Question, as amended, which will be the final Question to be decided by the House.
Whilst appreciating the careful consideration that you have given to this, Mr. Speaker, and knowing the difficulties involved when there are a number of Amendments moved, I would ask you to reconsider your suggestions that 8 o'clock is the right time for ending the principal debate, because we have already lost one hour and 10 minutes of what would have been our normal time on other business and had we started the debate at 3.30 most hon. Gentlemen would have thought that to end the discussion at 6.45 would have been giving too short a time for such a major and important debate. We are anxious to see that the debate on the guillotine is not itself guillotined.
Could I reinforce what has been said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) on this basis. I assume that we are to debate two different matters, first, the general principle of the guillotine being applied to this Bill, and thereafter the details of the actual provisions put forward. It seems to me, in my respectful submission, that those are two separate matters to which the House will wish to address itself. Without going into the merits of the guillotine, it is generally agreed that we are discussing the merits of a Bill of some length and complexity.
I therefore respectfully urge on the House the view that if the Amendments are called at approximately 8 o'clock this will give something like one hour and 40 minutes for speeches other than those by the two Front Bench spokesmen if, as I apprenhend, they will probably take 40 to 45 minutes each.
If they take less it will mean that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who wish to speak on the main merits of the guillotine will have an opportunity to do so. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I respectfully urge that whilst 8 o'clock may be the hour you have at present in mind, if you should later take the view that there is pressure for the debate on the Motion as a whole to go on longer, you would perhaps be flexible in reinforcing your Ruling.
I would like to submit for your consideration, Mr. Speaker, that this Motion is out of order and should not be proceeded with on the grounds that Amendment 2087 to the Transport Bill which was tabled early this morning in Standing Committee F appeared subsequent to the Motion on the guillotine and that this Amendment 2087 so changes the character of the Transport Bill that this debate becomes highly irrelevant. Further, much of the time spent in Committee in debate on the Bill has been devoted to measures which now largely evaporate in the light of Amendment 2087 and, therefore, the Committee should be allowed to proceed with the Bill in the ordinary course and catch up with its time.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his ingenuity. This is the most ingenious point of order I have heard in a guillotine debate for a long time, but the Motion is in order.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Might I, with respect, obtain your guidance, which I feel might be for the assistance of the House. You have made it clear that movers of Amendments would be allowed, with leave of the House, to speak a second time after speaking on the particular Motion? It will be obvious to the House that the provisional selection of five Amendments which you have made are on various and different points. It will obviously be to the inconvenience of the House if each Member, once he has the Floor of the House, was to have to speak on each of these Amendments in his full speech before they had been moved. I would submit to you, therefore, that it might well be for the convenience of the House if, rather than having everybody speak on all the Amendments the moment they happen to catch your eye, you should allow some latitude so that people may speak directly only to the Amendment moved and might have your lenience in speaking a second time.
First of all, if the hon. Gentleman is worried that when an Amendment is moved hon. Members will speak only to that Amendment, and that some might speak more than others, this is a self-denying ordinance that hon. Members must put on themselves if they wish others to speak in debates.
On a different point of order, may I draw attention to the fact that seven of the Amendments which appear on the Order Paper today appear for the first time, and are tabled by the Government themselves to a Motion which appeared on the Order Paper for the first time only yesterday. This is, of course, in order, but it is grossly inconvenient to the House and, I submit, comes rather close to infringement of the rules of the House for the reason that no opportunity now arises to amend any of the seven Amendments which have been tabled; in particular that on page 491 to which it might well be wished to put Amendments. I submit that this is a matter we have to bring to your attention.
The right hon. Gentleman has already ruled on his own point of order that what is on the Paper is in order. It is unusual, but there is nothing out of order in the fact that the Government has amended its own Resolution.
Further to that point of order, as my right hon. Friend has said, this Motion only appeared on the Order Paper yesterday and the Government seek substantially to amend it by Amendments which appeared on the Order Paper this morning. When the Motion appeared on the Order Paper yesterday, we endeavoured, after studying it carefully, to place Amendments on the Order Paper. At least two of those Amendments are to lines in the Motion which the Government now seek to leave out and to insert other lines. Nevertheless, those Amendments apply to the Government's amended Clause, and I would ask you whether, under those circumstances, you would accept manuscript Amendments which would be the same words as are on the Order Paper but would relate, in lines, to the new Clause which the Government seek to insert and, therefore, would be Amendment to the Amendments of the Leader of the House.
Mr. Speaker, you are considering representations made to you about when we should move on to the Amendments. Will you at the same time take into consideration the views of those hon. Members who consider that long debates on guillotine Motions are a complete waste of time and that the sooner we get on with business the better?
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is not my intention to follow the course of the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) and offer you advice. I want to follow what seemed to be the reasonable point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). I see your difficulty in saying beforehand that you will definitely accept or reject manuscript amendments, but I hope that I can ask you respectfully to bear in mind the embarrassment and confusion into which the House has been put by the action of the Leader of the House who, having pushed this Motion at us only a couple of days ago, then has second thoughts, because none of his second thoughts is particularly welcome, and we have not even had a chance to put our considered views on paper.
The House does not need my assurance that I shall bear in mind all the factors which have been mentioned and all those that have not been mentioned in addressing myself to the problems of today's debate.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. While you have ruled quite clearly that the position is in order at the moment, it does not alter the fact that we have had a new Clause put to the Standing Committee which alters the character of the Bill, and that seven Amendments have been put on the Order Paper by the Government Front Bench. Would it not be fairer to the occupant of the Chair if the Leader of the House, recognising that fact, undertook to provide another day so that the matter can be examined properly?
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If I may, I want to pursue with you a little further the general implications of what has happened. There is nothing now to stop a Government who find that their Motion on the Order Paper has been threatened by Amendments tabled by hon. Members, taking away the whole Motion on the morning of the debate and putting down another, thereby avoiding any debate on the Amendments which have been tabled. It would seem to me that this situation will arise again on other occasions when Motions are put down, and that it should be considered by the House and, with the greatest respect, by you whether it would not be a wise rule of the House to say that no Amendments can be accepted to a Government Motion, as has happened here. In the light of that possibility, would you not consider ruling that this debate should not take place until the matter has been considered?
I think that the hon. Gentleman knows the answer to his last question. I am not prepared to rule that this debate should not take place. We have already dealt with the point about the unusualness of Amendments to a Government Motion appearing on the Order Paper on the day when the Motion
|That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining Proceedings on the Bill:—|
|5||1. The Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before 15th May.|
|Report and Third Reading|
|10||2.—(1) The Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be competed in three allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at Ten o'clock on the last of those days: and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the Proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.|
|15||(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House their resolutions as to the Proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those Proceedings and Proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the fourth day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.|
|20||(3) The resolutions in any report made under Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) may be varied by a further report so made, whether or not within the time specified in subparagraph (2) of this paragraph, and whether or not the resolutions have been agreed to by the House.|
|(4) Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) shall apply to the Bill as if the words sub-paragraph (b) of' were omitted from that Order.|
|Procedure in Standing Committee|
|25||3.—(1) At a Sitting of the Standing Committee at which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the Proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.|
|30||(2) No Motion shall be made in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a Member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement of the reasons for the Motion from the Member who moves, and from any one Member who opposes, the Motion and shall then put the Question thereon.|
|Order of Proceedings in Committee|
|35||4. No Motion shall be made to postpone any Clause, Schedule, new Clause or new Schedule but the resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are to be taken in the Standing Committee.|
|Conclusion of Proceedings in Committee|
|40||5. On the conclusion of the Proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.|
|6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, Proceedings on the Bill shall be made in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.|
|45||Extra time on allotted days|
|7.—(1) If on an allotted day proceedings on the Bill are not entered upon by half-past three 3'clock—|
|50||(a) the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be deferred for a period equal to that between half-past three o'clock and the time at which proceedings on the Bill are entered upon on that day; and day; and|
|55||(b) proceedings on the Bill shall not, save as is provided in paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 2 (Exempted business) be interrupted at ten of the clock and may be resumed and proceeded with at or after that hour for such a period as aforesaid.|
|60||(2) If a motion under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) stands over until seven of the clock on an allotted day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day at any time after seven o'clock shall be deferred for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that motion.|
|(3) Any deferment under sub-paragraph (2) of this paragraph shall be in addition to any deferment under sub-paragraph (1) thereof.|
|65||8.—(1) Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by the Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 2 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill or, if those Proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the completion of those Proceedings.|
|(2) No opposed private business shall be taken, on an allotted day on which a Motion under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) stands over until seven of the clock, on that day.|
|75||Conclusion of Proceedings|
|80||9.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr Speaker shall forthwith proceed to put the following Questions (but no others), that is to say—|
|(a) the Question or Questions already proposed from the Chair, or necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including, in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);|
|85||(b) the Question on any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that amendment or Motion is moved by a Member of the Government;|
|(c) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;|
|90||and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule the Chairman or Mr 90 Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.|
|(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.|
|95||(3) If, at Seven o'clock on an allotted day, any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time have not been concluded, any Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) which, apart from this Order, would stand over to that time shall stand over until those Proceedings have been concluded.|
|100||10.—(1) The Proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion two hours after they have been commenced, and paragraphs 7(2) and 9 of this Order shall apply as if the Proceedings were Proceedings on the Bill on an allotted day.|
|110||(2) If any Motion moved by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order is under consideration at Seven o'clock on a day on which any private business has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock, not being a day to which paragraph 8(2) of this Order applies, the private business shall stand over and be considered when the Proceedings on the Motion have been concluded, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 2 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business so standing over for a period equal to the time for which it so stands over.|
|115||11. Nothing in this Order or in a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee or the Business Committee shall—|
|(a) prevent any Proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution, or|
|120||(b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such Proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.|
|12.—(1) References in this Order to Proceedings on Consideration or Proceedings on Third Reading include references to Proceedings, at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of re-committal.|
|125||(2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to re-commit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.|
|130||13. In this Order—|
|'allotted day' means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as the first Government Order of the Day;|
|'the Bill' means the Transport Bill;|
|135||'Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee' means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;|
|'Resolution of the Business Committee' means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House;|
|140||and where under this Order paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 2 (Exempted business) is applied to any Proceedings for any period, those Proceedings shall be deemed to be included in the proceedings specified in the said paragraph (1) for that period.|
It might be convenient if I refer for a few moments to the Government Amendments which came on the Order Paper today. They are all of what I believe is called a concessionary character, in the sense that, having read some of the Opposition Amendments, they are designed to meet objections of the Oppotion that they felt that they were being starved of adequate discussion in the time-table allotted to the Report stage. All of them are of that character.
If the House had preferred, I would have put down an amended Motion. I discussed it through the usual channels, and I gathered that it was more to the satisfaction of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite if the Government Amendments were put down alongside their Amendments, so that the House could judge and decide between the two sets of proposals for dealing with the lengthening of the time available for the Report stage.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will permit me to conclude this part of my remarks before he criticises. I was explaining why we had put down the Government Amendments. It is a matter which we shall discuss when the Amendments are called. These Amendments are to be discussed at the same time as the Amendment put down by the hon. Gentleman relative to the same topic.
All that we shall do is to put those forward, and it would be convenient to say that I accept the view that, in this case, more time should be allocated than in the traditional time-table. The original Motion was in the traditional form for a time-table Motion. Without any change, the Report stage is not exempted business. I have now suggested that, instead of having more days for the Report stage, we should take more time and allocate five and a half hours each day—a certain amount after 10 o'clock and a certain amount in the mornings. I calculate that that will provide the Opposition with the equivalent of more than two days in a way which is convenient to the House.
Whether it is right or wrong, I believe that we can discuss these proposals of ours alongside the hon. Gentleman's proposal, and come to a decision on it when we reach the second group of Amendments.
The House finds itself in this difficulty because, having announced the guillotine Motion last Thursday and having obviously considered it before then the Government were unable to put down their Motion on the Order Paper before Tuesday. That is the reason why the House is in this impossible position of not being able to comment or table Amendments.
What we did was done in order to meet objections from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am sorry if they have been caused inconvenience. When we come to discuss these matters, I hope that they will find themselves able to commend what we have suggested as a way of proceeding.
I want to draw attention to the Government's reference in later Amendments to five-and-a-half hours. In the form of procedure which the right hon. Gentleman is proposing, that period is not subject to amendment. Mr. Speaker has said that this is unusual. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether there is any precedent known to him for the course that he is now suggesting?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well that that question should have been directed to the Chair and not to me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] We have put this down in this form, and it is in order. I suggest that we should consider what is our main task, and that is to decide whether or not to time-table the Bill and, if so, how.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, did you hear the right hon. Gentleman say that all this kerfuffle which has gone on the Order Paper had been through the usual channels? Did he not say that? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] If he said that, I would like an explanation, because my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) did not appear to know about it. I want to know what the usual channels were doing.
On a point of order. I understood the Leader of the House to say that there had been agreement that there should not be a new Motion put down, but that there should be Amendments tabled by the right hon. Gentleman and that this had been agreed through the usual channels. Nothing has reached me through the usual channels on this matter. Is it in order for this to happen?
I would like to relieve the anxieties of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), who I know would not like that kind of thing to happen. It did not happen. I said that I had, through the usual channels, asked whether it would be acceptable to put down a complete redraft of the Motion. When I had a clear indication that it would not, I took my own decision. [Interruption.] We put down our Amendments so that they could be discussed side by side. If the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen wish to have a well-organised time-table, or to improve it, as they are seeking by their Amendments—[Interruption.] The Opposition, in a long series of Amendments, are not opposing in principle the guillotine, but seeking to improve the timetable. All I suggested was that it was reasonable to consider these two alternative methods of dealing with the Report stage when we come—[Interruption.] It does not seem that we shall have much time for discussion of principles if we cannot get over this discussion on how to conduct our business on the time-table.
With the consent of the House, I should like to come to what I was asked, namely, to explain why we are being compelled to introduce a compulsory time-table for the Transport Bill.
It will take longer if I have to say everything twice. I have been asked to explain why we have decided that the Bill should be reported back to the House on 15th May.
Before coming to my positive case on the time-tabling of the Bill, I will deal with the arguments of the hon. Member for Worcester. They come down to three main points. First, he contends that this is not a single Bill. He does not regard it as a single Bill but as a—[Interruption.] I am trying to summarise in my simple language what he says in more complicated language. He regards this as a portmanteau Measure. He argues that instead of being presented to the House as one Bill this Session it should have come Session by Session as a long series of Bills. The Leader of the Opposition, who is an expert, having once been the Patronage Secretary, in guillotines, said that it should not have come to the House. We are not discussing that. We are discussing, it having come, in what form it should be reported back to the House. I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition takes us back to that fractious background.
The first point is: is this a Measure which should have been brought forward as a lone series of independent Bills, or is it a closely integrated single Bill? This is the first issue which we have to decide in the first Session of our debate.
We all know that the hon. Member for Worcester does his homework. Both in public and private discussion he has presented to the Minister and the Minister of State a whole series of proposals for excising those sections from the Transport Bill which, in his view, could be postponed to a later Session. Therefore, we are able to judge objectively between his view of what the Bill is or should be and our Bill, and decide which we want. If we want ours, I can tell him that we have to have a time-table, whereas if he were to get what he wanted, not to my great surprise, he would not need a time-table if he had a majority. His case is that we only have to accept these excisions, and then the truncated body of the Bill could be shoved through the legislative processing machine without further trimming of members from it by the guillotine. What shape the body would be in at the end of this process, and how many limbs would survive is another question.
I have taken a lot of trouble to study his proposals for excisions. There is a whole series. To put the matter rather indelicately, I contend that they would not only dismember the Bill, they would emasculate it, to use only a mild physical analogy. They would destroy its organic unity and defeat the objective for which the Minister has fought so hard—the provision of a complete legislative framework within which the Government can construct a fully integrated transport system.
The Bill contains—and I think the Minister concedes—a few genuinely miscellaneous items whose removal would not significantly alter the time-table. But with these small exceptions it is the closely integrated product of the most thorough review of the whole range of transport policy ever presented to Parliament. Except for the docks reorganisation, on which the Minister hopes to legislate next Session, the Bill gives effect to the whole of the new integrated transport policy as reported to Parliament in her five notable White Papers.
What about the truncations, the excisions? I gather that the hon. Member for Worcester proposes, for example, that the sections of the Bill relating to quantity licencing and waterways can be removed and so improve the quality of the Bill. But he knows—
The right hon. Gentleman is monstrously misquoting my whole case. He knows full well, first, concerning the inland waterways section, which is seemingly so important to this policy, that that could have gone to another Committee this Session perfectly reasonably and sensibly and had its own Second Reading.
Concerning quantity licensing, the right hon. Gentleman knows full well that my case was that the Minister herself is on record as saying—[Interruption.] If the Leader of the House is going monstrously to misquote me he must expect interruptions. On quantity licensing—
It is for the Chair to decide in every case whether the length of an interruption is reasonable or unreasonable and to interrupt at the point when it becomes unreasonably long.
If I dare say so, I recommend the hon. Gentleman to make his own speech later. These are all points that he can make to which my right hon. Friend will reply.
Taking his curious argument about the waterways section of the Bill, he said that it would be simple to have that taken before a separate Committee and have a separate Second Reading. One can divide all Bills into five or six sections, each with its own Second Reading, but this would not be the way for any Government to get its business through in a reasonable time. I hope that the House is beginning to appreciate the reasons which have led us to feel that a timetable is necessary to control the exuberance of rhetoric. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wants to present his views on the portmanteau nature of the Bill, and no doubt the Minister will reply.
In my view, having looked at the Bill, the answer is simple. It is a closely integrated whole. It is the Bill which we announced in the Queen's Speech, which we presented early in December, and which we are determined to obtain this Session. The more the hon. Gentleman says that, in order to get it through, the Bill must be truncated, the more he strengthens the case for our saying that we require a time-table.
On this issue I should like the hon. Gentleman to hear the words of one of my predecessors moving the guillotine Motion on another Transport Bill. The right hon. Gentleman concerned is unable to be here. He has an important domestic arrangement, which I do not begrudge him, but I wish that he were here, because he is an unrivalled expert on the reasons for guillotining transport Bills. I am, of course, referring to the right hon. Member for Enfleld, West (Mr. Ian Macleod).
On the last Transport Bill guillotine Motion the right hon. Gentleman said:
The fundamental fact which we, as the House of Commons, have to consider is that with our procedures, which have grown up over so many years, any Bill…will…if it is sufficiently disliked by the Opposition, result in a situation in which the Government must ask for allocation of time powers or drop the Bill…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 432.]
The right hon. Gentleman understood the position. I do not think there was a censure Motion against him that time, but it did not make much difference. He said that there comes a point in any transport Bill when the Government must ask for the allocation of a time-table. The idea of compulsion entered my head only after I read the Motion in the name of the right hon. Gentleman, when he said that one is driven to ask for the allocation of time powers or to drop the Bill.
It is clear what has been happening in Committee. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been doing their duty by creating a situation in which they hope we will take the alternative of dropping the Bill, but I have a suspicion that they are not unduly surprised to find that when faced with this alternative we decided not to drop the Bill, but were compelled to ask for an allocation of time powers. My first contention to hon. Gentlemen opposite is that this is no new or novel thing. We are doing in this Bill what we have been driven to do by a consistently thorough and efficient Opposition who knew what they were doing, and are not surprised by what we are doing.
Has the right hon. Gentleman ever, in his experience in the House, had a Bill guillotined—which is a proper procedure—when there has been a complete absence of any filibustering? The right hon. Gentleman is not a member of the Committee, nor am I but I have examined its proceedings. I find that no more than 15 minutes have been spent per Amendment, and there can be no suggestion of being driven to introduce the guillotine on the basis of the Committee's performance.
I suggest that the word "filibuster" is a pejorative word. It is a nasty word. I always regard as serious a sustained discussion from this side of the House what I am in danger of dismissing as filibustering when it comes from the other side. This is the difficulty in which we find ourselves when there are long speeches. We tend to treat them in a biased and prejudiced way, so I hope that in this debate I shall not accuse even the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) of filibustering in his one thousand and one nights of Arabian entertainment which he has done on this Bill so far.
I want to mention a peculiar character of transport legislation. I do not think it is an accident that each of the four major Transport Bills presented to Parliament since the war has aroused such passionate and well-fought opposition, twice from a Labour Opposition, and now for the second time from a Conservative Opposition, that the Government have been compelled to impose a time-table as the only alternative to losing a Measure which formed an essential part of their policy. Indeed, this has been so not only since the war. I go back to Herbert Morrison's Transport Act of 1930. Transport is always a bone of contention between the parties, and it is also an issue which provokes extra-Parliamentary activity because it affects wealthy vested interests and powerful pressure groups.
If the hon. Member for Worcester makes the charge that the first postwar Labour Government's Transport Act of 1947 was, and this Transport Act in 1968 is, far more important than their two Tory counterparts, much more far-reaching in extent, and far more innovating in purpose I shall not deny it. The Tory Measures were denationalising, disintegrating, negative Measures. Ours are constructive. They have aroused fierce opposition because they are bold Measures of radical reform which challenge vested interests of the status quo, and insist on submitting them to public control. I was not surprised to find myself called on to speak to this Motion in due course. The only question was when.
What the right hon. Gentleman has been saying are things which only he would have the audacity to express. As he was so well forewarned that a Transport Bill would come up against fairly heavy criticism from the Opposition, why in the name of conscience did not he take the trouble to put the Bill down earlier so that there would be adequate time for it?
If the hon. Gentleman will contain himself in patience, I shall come to that charge. I have gone through and listed the points that he wanted me to answer. In my speech I should like to answer them in my order, and not his.
It remains true that whenever the Government—of the Right or Left—promote a major transport Bill they find themselves faced with the choice which confronted the right hon. Member for Enfield, West in 1962, that of either asking for the allocation of time, or dropping the Bill.
Now I turn to the second contention relating to time. I gather that for many weeks now the hon. Member for Worcester has contended that a time-table Motion would be unnecessary if only the Government were content to see the Bill come back to the House at the end of June. We shall discuss this on a later Amendment. This strikes me as distinctly optimistic, but even if it were a realistic assessment of the pace achievable in Committee, it is an unrealistic assessment of the time required both for the concluding stages in this House, and for the necessary procedures in another place. It is our contention, and I have seen nothing to contradict it, that to get the Bill through all its stages in this Session it must be reported here in mid-May, and since the Opposition will not collaborate in a voluntary time-table for concluding the Committee stage by 15th May, this Motion has become inevitable.
I have heard it suggested that even so we have been unduly impatient in bringing this Motion forward, and that if we had been reasonable people, the Minister of Transport and I would have let things go on for a week or two longer Upstairs before introducing the timetable. To this I would say that there is nothing more frustrating to good debate, and more infuriating to serious Opposition, than a time-table which jerks a Committee which has become acclimatised to a lazy slow-motion Clause by Clause consideration—I am not referring to this Committee—and precipitates it into a breakneck rush over the rest of the Bill.
To show what I mean, I should like to compare what we are doing with this Bill, with what the Conservatives did in 1962. When they were in office the Bill was allowed to crawl along day by day at little more than the speed of one Clause every two weeks. That was the pace which was achieved in the period before the guillotine. And then, suddenly, when the guillotine was introduced, the process was accelerated by approaching 1,000 per cent. The right hon. Member for Enfield, West decided to accelerate the process from a slow crawl to a breakneck Gadarene drive.
We have timed ourselves better and I calculate that if the time-table is successful the rate will have to accelerate somewhat—the progress on this Bill has been much better, it is true, but it is a longer Bill—but we shall have to ask for only a three-fold increase in pace instead of the ten-fold increase which the Tories sought. I seriously suggest that the Opposition will get a better debate, a better spaced debate, which is divided up and considers each part of the Bill more adequately, under this planned compulsory time-table.
Under our time-table, when the Bill is finally reported, as it of course will be, more time will have been devoted to it in Committee than to any other Bill. I reckon, in the history of the British Parliament—twice as long as the Conservatives gave for the 1962 Transport Act. It is, in fact, the equivalent of 76 ordinary sittings of two and a half hours each. Therefore, those who are concerned, not to prevent the Bill being passed, but to ensure that it has adequate time, will have a hard job to convince me, when I can show how much time we shall give and how fairly and reasonably that time will be spaced, by introducing a timetable now, between the various parts of the Bill—
I remember from my time in Opposition that when one is in Opposition and dislikes a Bill one of the things which one always feels about what the other side regard as a big, important, statesmanlike Measure is that it is a package of terrible things, and one tries to chop it up and destroy it bit by bit. That is why we need the time-table, but we are getting slightly nearer agreement about why the time-table is necessary.
It is always a temptation for the mover of a Motion such as this to dilate on precedents, and I will quote the right hon. Member for Enfield, West only once more on this subject. He was speaking not on the Transport Bill but on the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. He did a whole series of guillotines. We all remember the 15 Bills guillotined by the Tories in their 13 years. And there were several in one day: they did them in bunches, not singly, as we do.
In his most robust form, the right hon. Gentleman said:
…the clearest and most robust declaration of what we are all aware to be one of the facts of Parliamentary life was made by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) during the last debate on an allocation of time Motion.
This is what the right hon. Gentleman said:
'So long as I sit in this House and when my party is in power, I shall support the efforts of the Government to get their business. But if the party opposite is in power I shall oppose the Government getting their business, and I hope that no one will have any illusions on that score.'…
That is a splendid, almost a classical exposition of the situation, and that, after all, is what this debate is about."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th January 1962; Vol. 652, c. 417.]
That was an unusual piece of candour, which I might have been accused of showing myself, and which I am exercising the greatest care in avoiding this afternoon. It is one of those pieces of candour which does not really describe the situation—
No, I said that it did not describe the situation. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would be good enough to pay attention just to this point. When we are discussing guillotines and time-tabling, we should face—the Leader of the House especially must face—the fact that, if we ask for a constriction of time and a limitation of debate, we must justify it to ourselves. It is not right to take the attitude, "Whenever I am in Government I will rail-road my policy through and when I am in Opposition, I will use every means of stopping Government policy", because Parliament does not work that way. We on our side must be careful when we ask for a time-table that we have taken trouble and weighed all the considerations and arranged a fair time-table. We must be fair.
All I would add is that there is an equally serious danger to the danger of Governments being autocratic, and that is a danger for which Oppositions are responsible—their power to prevent good Government and decision by frustration and delay. In the kind of decision which we are making today, the real test is whether this action achieves a fair balance between the legitimate insistence of Government on concluding the discussion of a vital Measure in good time for it to go to the other place for discussion, and the legitimate demand of the House that the Bill should be adequately discussed.
I have always believed that a voluntary time-table, if possible, is not the enemy of good discussion, but an essential precondition of it. I was reinforced in this view by the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure which strongly recommended the use of voluntary timetables. l t was with this sensible concept in mind that the Minister tried hard to reach agreement with the hon. Member for Worcester. In view of the size of the Bill, she offered, right from the start, that the Committee should meet three times a week, including long sittings on Wednesday. She accepted, too, two all-night sittings to give extra time to discussion of Opposition Amendments. She made it clear that, if agreement could be reached on a time-table, she would allocate time in the total to take into account the wishes of the Opposition.
But all in vain. The hon. Member for Worcester asked for—how much? Not everybody has seen this figure. He asked for 455 hours in Committee. That is 182 normal sittings, and the Bill would have taken two years in Committee. Hon. Members opposite all nod their heads. That is what they wanted. When my right hon. Friend said that she wanted to work out with the hon. Member a sensible voluntary time-table, that was the rumbustious reply which she got—
Of course, the hon. Gentleman will be able to make out reasons for his action and make it sound less insane when he makes his own speech. I am simply pointing out that, when the hon. Gentleman was offered a voluntary time-table and said that he wanted two years in Committee, this suggestion was nothing short of frivolous and cannot be taken seriously by a Government such as ourselves.
is my right hon. Friend aware that on one of the Transport Bills which he did not mention our party agreed to a voluntary time-table and that that was the best conducted debate ever on a Bill?
I would add that it was not one of the really contentious Transport Bills. We are dealing with one which is contentious because someone will be hurt and someone will benefit by it. These are the contentious ones.
The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) said that we should not have brought a Bill of this size to Committee as late as mid-January, and that things would have been different if the Bill had been brought to the House for its Second Reading—
I did not say that. The right hon. Gentleman should be a little more tidy about his quotations. This cynical sloppiness with which he uses other people's words and twists them in a serpentine way which comes natural only to himself is intolerable.
One of my difficulties is that I have to try to summarise in precise form the passionate orations of the hon. Gentleman. I thought that it was fair to say that he had complained that we produced the Bill to the Committee too late. Is that right?
I am so sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is slow to take the point, though he may have a note to deal with this later in his speech. The point is—let us labour it: there is plenty of time—that if the Leader of the House, as he says, was forewarned of trouble in getting the Bill through, one is slightly curious to know why he did not take the elementary precaution of getting started with it as soon as possible.
I like questions put in that moderate and modest way, since I can reply to them moderately and modestly. If that is the question, why we decided to bring it forward in January, my right hon. Friend will go into it in greater detail, but I am told—I know this as a Member of the Cabinet—that there were many matters on which we had to have expert and precise consultation, and in our view it was better to spend time on consultation and get the Bill in January rather than to have it less well prepared in December.
Since great play has been made with the question of the Bill having been brought in late, it is interesting to note that the longest time we possibly could have had in Committee with this Measure would have been an extra two weeks before Christmas, which represents four sittings. When I compare that with the 455 hours, or two years, being sought, those two weeks would have made very little difference indeed.
I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would stop constantly suggesting that I asked for two years in Committee. I did no such thing. I stated in a letter to the right hon. Lady the Minister that we would be willing to sit the hours necessary to finish the 455 hours for which I had asked by the end of June. This statement about sitting for two years in Committee is, therefore, a figment of the right hon. Gentleman's imagination, and I trust that he will stop talking about two years.
I am glad to accept that. This is something that I did not know. I said that if we had 455 hours of normal Committee work, week by week, that would take two years. If I did not say that, that is what I meant and I correct what I did say. I am glad to hear that what the hon. Gentleman was proposing was 455 hours in Committee, to be completed in June. I will get our statisticians to work and let hon. Members know how that would have worked out within this reductio ad absurdum portmanteau.
I trust that you will allow me to put my point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understood the Leader of the House to say that he was not told by the Minister of Transport about the offer from the shadow Minister for the Committee to sit the requisite number of hours. The right hon. Gentleman should have been in possession of this information before deciding to deal with this matter by way of the guillotine.
I am grateful for those interventions because they have enabled me to find the relevant document. I said that the presentation of the case now by the hon. Member for Worcester was somewhat different from the one I had heard from my right hon. Friend. I am interested in the attractive way in which he has presented his proposition. I gather that he is maintaining that he made the proposition that the Opposition would require 50 hours per week in Committee until mid-June. I would have thought that 50 hours was overdoing it a bit, to say the least. We believe that, instead of 50 hours per week untill June, we should have a sensibly timetabled Committee finishing on 15th May.
I have a mass of correspondence before me. I suggest that these are all points which can be raised in the debate. At that time hon. Gentlemen opposite will be able to make their remarks effectively and I hope that I may now continue without being constantly interrupted.
These are the hard facts: the Bill was introduced at the earliest possible moment in the Session and, as I pointed out, the two weeks which could have been provided would have made negligible difference compared with the major demands on time that are being made. In considering the present situation, in spite of the extra time which my right hon. Friend has been prepared to allow, the Bill is far behind schedule. About 2,000 Amendments have been tabled by hon. Gentlemen opposite and, as far as I know, this is a record. I understand that the hon. Member for Bodmin put down 1,000 Amendments on his own.
I am glad to write that correction on the tablets of my heart. I will remember that as being the only record achieved by the Liberal Party in this Parliament.
Proceedings can be dragged out just as much by putting down and discussing hoards of Amendments as by speaking at great length to a small number of them. As the House knows, we must complete the Committee stage by mid-May if we are to finish the Bill this Session. Three sittings a week are as much as it is sensible to expect hon. Members to attend, and no hon. Member wants constant all-night sittings. After 23 sittings, the Committee is still discussing Clause 45, and that is why we have introduced this Motion.
My right hon. Friend will be dealing later with many of the detailed points. I conclude by recognising something frankly and with admiration, although I may have this quoted against me by the next Leader of the House when he is dealing with a guillotine Motion. The strange fact when reading speeches made by one's predecessors is that there is virtually no difference between them, from whichever side of the House those speeches are made. This is what makes this proceeding sometimes viewed with cynicism by people outside.
As I was saying, I recognise frankly, and with a certain reluctant admiration, the formidable scale of the publicity campaign which has been organised inside and outside the House against the Transport Bill. Indeed, our opponents have mounted this colossal propaganda offensive with such skill, such huge financial backing and such persistence—
Before the right hon. Gentleman completes his peroration, is he aware that he said earlier that people were going to get hurt by the Bill? As the overwhelming majority of taxpayers are going to be grievously hurt, surely they have every right to proclaim their indignation about the right hon. Gentleman's horrible Parliamentary methods.
That does not have much to do with the point I was discusing. I was talking about the formidable propaganda offensive which has been launched inside and outside the House by hon. Gentlemen opposite. They have conducted it with such persistence that they have won the reward which Governments in the last resort always concede to a really determined Opposition. That reward is the relaxation of tension by a well-earned time-table Motion.
Another quotation may be of interest to the House. This one is not from a speech made by the right hon. Member for Enfield, West but from a speech made by an even more intellectual member of the Tory Party, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) at the time of the introduction of a guillotine Motion. He said:
I believe that the House equally recognises"—
this may not be suitable for his present standing
that when such a situation arises, it is the duty of the Government…not inconsistent with Parliamentary democracy, to follow the precedents and apply the procedure of the guillotine."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1961; Vol. 636, c. 168.]
Those words were used by the right hon. Gentleman when he was paying tribute to the Labour opposition to the National Health Service Bill in 1961, before he rewarded their efforts with a time-table Motion. I believe that, for the Transport Bill, the moment has come to treat a determined, gallant Conservative Opposition in the same way. I pay my tribute to them and I offer the same reward.
I thank the Leader of the House for the last general tributes, if not for the reward. His speech contained some appropriate quotations, which we can all produce, from timetable debates. Naturally the right hon. Gentleman had to endeavour to persuade the House that the necessity for guillotining this Bill was similar to the necessity for guillotining past Bills. In the manner in which he has done it and the complete lack of fundamental argument behind his case, in my view the right hon. Gentleman has completely and utterly degraded the position of Leader of the House of Commons.
I say that, first, because his speech was full of thoroughly irresponsible misquotations. We have become used to that, as was pointed out. Secondly, the facts on which he based it were basically wrong. Thirdly, the whole basis of the argument does not bear examination. The right hon. Gentleman tried to deal, first—he did so completely inadequately—with the problem of the magnitude of the Bill.
We are discussing the guillotining of a major Bill which has no friends at all amongst those responsible for the British economy. On the very day that we debate this the front page of the Financial Times, a newspaper which is often quoted by hon. Members opposite because of the position and attitudes it adopts to the economic situation, is taken up with a major headline as to the problems facing sterling at present.
Page 2 of today's Financial Times carries the heading:
Transport Bill attacked by food manufacturers.
There is an official statement from them saying how much they consider that the Bill will increase the price of food. Page 3 tells us:
Transport Bill would increase building costs.
There is a statement by the National Federation of Building Trades Employers saying how much the Bill will adversely affect the building industry. Page 14 sets out a statement by nine economists who urge, in the interests of the country, that the Bill should be postponed. Despite the economic situation, the Government are not postponing the Bill today for the very valid reasons which they could employ. They are endeavouring to ensure that it is not properly discussed in Parliament but is steam rollered through.
I want to look at the major reasons why we consider that the timetable is completely unjustified. First, the Bill is too large, in the view of many observers. The main editorial of The Times of 8th March, commenting upon the Government's decision to guillotine the Bill, said:
Good or bad, there is no disputing that this is a quite exceptionally long Bill. It contains 169 Clauses and 18 Schedules, and runs to 260 pages…It was not sent to Committee until towards the end of January, and the Minister wants it out of Committee by mid-May so as to be sure of getting it through the Lords. The Opposition are justified in complaining about all this.
That view will be shared by anybody who is reasonably aware of the normal happenings in the House of Commons.
There is no precedent in Parliamentary history of a Bill of anything approaching this size going to Committee as late as 23rd January. There is no precedent even approaching it. It is ten major Bills in one. I do not deny that there is a link in policy. In my view, it is the very bad link of wanting to extend public ownership and to restrict and control various sections of the transport industry. Nevertheless, I cannot complain about the Government's trying to get through this very Left-Wing Measure.
This is why one is able to list a whole series of Bills which were not consistent with the Minister's main theme. If the Leader of the House was really pursuing his task as Leader of the whole House responsibily, he would have carefully considered the proposals that certain sections of the Bill should be put into separate legislation. I will list the ten sections involved. They are: a Bill to reorganise the railways; a Bill to create a National Freight Authority; a Bill to create passenger transport authorities throughout the country; a Bill to create a national bus company; a Bill to extend the manufacturing and retailing powers of nationalised industries; a Bill to introduce a new road vehicle licensing system; a Bill to introduce two new forms of taxation on road haulage; a Bill to restrict drivers' hours; an Inland Waterways Bill, and a Miscellaneous Provisions Bill of about 30 Clauses.
When the Minister approached the Opposition at the beginning of our proceedings, the Opposition agreed to various measures, which I shall go through, to ensure that the Bill was properly debated and discussed. First, they agreed immediately, when approached, and without any objection—there is no precedent for this in a Labour Opposition—to the Committee immediately sitting three days a week. On every previous Bill to which there has been opposition in principle, Oppositions have tried to debate whether the Committee should sit three days a week. We agreed immediately and readily. I agreed on behalf of the Opposition before the proceedings started. We voted for this immediately.
Secondly, the Minister asked me whether I would agree to a voluntary timetable ending the proceedings in the middle of May. I duly considered the number of Amendments we would want to move and how we would like to discuss them. I submitted to the right hon. Lady, as far as I could judge at the beginning of the Bill—it is obviously very difficult at the beginning of the Bill to judge the timings that are necessary—my suggestion for the type of timing I thought would be necessary. I said that I realised that to get the Bill through it would mean the Committee sitting long hours and many days but that, if the Government insisted on getting it through, I was willing to agree to a voluntary timetable whereby the whole of the Bill could be discussed and could end its Committee stage by the end of June. I discussed this with my hon. Friends who were members of the Standing Committee and who would have been perfectly willing, for example, to have given up a complete week of the Whitsun Recess to sit as a Committee and to go through the various parts of the Bill properly and sensibly.
The Leader of the House made certain calculations to show how irresponsible it was to make that suggestion. It was not irresponsible, because the Opposition agreed to go through the work which was necessary to complete a voluntary timetable and to get the Bill out of Committee by the end of June. The right hon. Lady told me that this was unacceptable to her.
The House will, therefore, see that even at this stage the Opposition side of the House would agree to a voluntary timetable for the Bill which would allow the whole Committee stage to be completed by the end of June and we would be willing to sit the hours necessary to achieve that. That was the first offer made to the Government, but it was rejected by the right hon. Lady. She said that she must have the Bill by the middle of May. Therefore, I wrote to the Minister and outlined Clause by Clause those which I thought could be dropped in order that we could complete the major part of the Bill by May.
The Leader of the House knows this, but he made monstrous misquotations about what I wanted to do about the Bill. The Clauses which I submitted were not controversial ones on which we violently disagreed with the Government, not those for setting up provisions for the National Freight Authority or the quality licensing system. We decided that they should drop the miscellaneous provisions, certainly the quantity licensing system, because the Minister had said that she had no intention of using it until the freightliner system had been completed and it will not be completed for two years.
The Government could then put forward a separate licensing Bill next Session if the Minister wanted these very bad and ridiculous proposals to come forward in the time required. If these various Clauses had been dropped, the Bill would have been reduced from 169 Clauses to 99, but it would still keep the 99 most controversial Clauses. It could have been completed by the middle of May, but the Government refused that also and decided instead to go ahead with the guillotine.
Let us study some of the reasons why it is particularly bad for this Government to do so. First, it is a badly prepared Bill. The Leader of the House mentioned the flood of Amendments on the Notice Paper. I do not know whether he counted the number of Government Amendments. So far there are over 170 of those. There are 110 Ministerial Amendments to be debated in the time which is to be guillotined and another 51 in the names of back-benchers on the Government side of the House. So there are 161 to be debated which come from the Government side and which will be included within the guillotine Motion. This is a reflection on how badly prepared this legislation was.
Only this morning we had the remarkable scene in Committee of the Minister putting down an Amendment agreeing to criticisms we had made of the Bill in debate after debate. Throughout one all-night sitting the Minister of State argued that we were wrong in the principle we propounded. Then, at 5.30 in the morning, he apologised and said that we had been right throughout the night, having wasted a considerable amount of the Committee's time. He went on to say that in spite of the fact that we were right technically he still defended the position against us. This morning, as a result of Opposition pressure, the Minister has completely given way on principle. If the Minister can give way on a major principle such as that, it shows the considerable importance of properly debating the Bill. Various suggestions have been made by the Opposition.
With reference to the time-wasting for which the hon. Member suggested the Minister of State was responsible, would he not agree that a great deal of time was wasted by the two Amendments which were debated at length by back-benchers opposite? I thing he entered one fairly extensively. When it was explained that the Amendments would have done exactly the opposite of what hon. Members opposite thought they would do, they had to withdraw them after taking up a lot of time.
If a Minister has a case like that to put, it is the easiest thing in the world to intervene in the early stages and make that case.
I make two perfectly reasonable offers of an agreed timetable Motion, one for a shorter Bill and one for a complete Bill which the Government could have accepted. There is the criticism that this Bill of such enormous size came far too late to the Committee. The defence put up by the Leader of the House was that it could have been got into Committee only a few weeks earlier.
Two weeks earlier. The Labour Government managed to get the Steel Bill into Committee far earlier. The only reason given by the Minister for the Bill being so late was that she was anxious to publish White Papers in order to tell us more about the Bill. If that was the purpose, I should have thought there was more justification and need for more ammunition to debate its various concepts. [An HON. MEMBER: "More White Papers?"] I would not bother to put in more White Papers if they were as bad as those which have been already published.
The Leader of the House put up a very surprising argument when trying to defend the record of the Minister. He said that the Minister had had two all-night sittings in order to give the Opposition time to debate its Amendments. He suggested that this was a sort of generosity of the Minister. It is the first time I have known a Government suggest that they are doing a favour to the Opposition by sitting all night. The standard form during the time when there was a Labour Opposition was that whenever the Conservative Government wanted to go on debating throughout the night, the Opposition constantly moved the Adjournment of the House in order to slow down proceedings.
For classic examples of that one has only to look at the position over the 1962 Transport Bill. We have had a classic case on this Bill. On two occasions the Opposition voted to go on sitting. On one occasion the Government abstained and on the second the Government voted down the Opposition and stopped the sitting at 11 o'clock at night. I wonder if the Leader of the House can quote a precedent for that. Let us examine the progress made. The Leader of the House tried to give the impression that progress had gone rather slowly and that this was a justification—[Interruption.] He does not give that reason? He thinks that it had gone rather quickly?
Let us examine the criticism that it has gone too slowly and there is need for acceleration. Up to the time that the guillotine was announced, the Committee had sat for 91 hours, 101 of which were taken up by adjournments, breaks for dinner, and so on. So the actual time until the guillotine was announced was 80½ hours. In that 80½ hours the Committee got through 37 Clauses, six Schedules and 488 Amendments. I defy the Leader of the House to name any controversial Bill in Parliamentary history where such progress has been made. Can the Leader of the House name one? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer "] Can the Minister do so? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer"]
The hon. Gentleman has put a specific question about a precedent. I shall leave it to my right hon. Friend to answer, but he cannot ask for an off-the-cuff answer to a detailed question.
I would expect any Leader of the House before deciding to move a guillotine Motion on a major controversial Bill to give very careful thought to it. Any Leader of the House who gives it to a Bill which has had 37 Clauses, six Schedules and 488 Amendments dealt with in 80½ hours cannot possibly conclude that there has been filibustering on it.
It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to present that picture of so many Amendments taking only 15 minutes each. Many of them went through just on the nod; there was no discussion of some Government Amendments and certain others. I can bring to the hon. Gentleman's attention cases where there was deliberate filibustering and wasting of time. One example is the first all-night sitting, when we sat for 14 hours and 50 minutes and got through only four Clauses.
We must put the matter in its right perspective. The hon. Gentleman was on the 1962 Transport Act Committee as well as the present Committee. In that one all-night sitting we got through twice as many debates and more Clauses than in the first 10 sittings on the 1962 Act.
Why was it suddenly decided at this stage that the Government would move the guillotine? Presumably they became less and less satisfied with the progress being made. But we happen to know that the Minister was satisfied with the progress made on the first Part of the Bill, the first eight Clauses. She has expressed in writing to me that she thought that the progress made on the first Part was good. Therefore, if the Government are to have any case at all they must establish that since completing Part I the position has deteriorated and that there has been filibustering.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that one could argue that Amendments taken on the nod were included in the average. But let us consider the average time taken in debates on groups of Amendments to Part I, on which the Minister has expressed her satisfaction at the progress made. The average time taken was 26 minutes. The Minister can argue that that included a very long debate on the procedural Motion as the first sitting. So that I cannot be accused of giving a misleading impression, I should inform the House that if we take that out, the average is 25 minutes per debate. As a result of the faster progress since then, the average time for debate on the whole Bill has come down from 25 minutes on the first Part, on which the right hon. Lady expressed her satisfaction, to 19 minutes.
In case any hon. Member wants to suggest that there has been any trend of filibustering I shall tell the House the number of minutes taken per debate in the sittings since she expressed her satisfaction at the average of 25 minutes. In sitting No. 9 it was 11 minutes, in sitting No. 10—the worst of them all—it was 43 minutes; sitting 11, 21 minutes; sitting 12, nine minutes; sitting 13, 17 minutes; sitting 14, 19 minutes; sitting 15, 11 minutes; sitting 16, 18 minutes; sitting 17, 16 minutes; and—a very bad one—for sitting No. 18 it was 37 minutes. That was also a very short sitting, and one of the main reasons for the length of time taken was that two Government Amendments were moved about trade union representation which took rather a long time. For sitting No. 19 it was 18 minutes; sitting 20, 14 minutes; and sitting No. 21, 19 minutes. In that list of the average time for debate, no trend is shown of the Opposition increasing the time taken.
Let us consider the all-night sitting complained of. Part of the Minister's case and that of one or two of her backbenchers is that at the first all-night sitting progress was nowhere near as fast as at the morning sitting the previous day. That is perfectly correct. The morning sitting average was the fastest ever, at nine minutes per debate. The all-night sitting average was 17 minutes, very much less than the time taken in the Part of the Bill about which the Minister expressed her satisfaction. There can be no criticism, even taking the one example hon. Members opposite wish to give, of the time taken.
Therefore, it can be seen that this is very different from the Acts which the Leader of the House tried to quote. He mentioned the 1962 Transport Act and spoke of the acceleration. Presumably he admits that the very slow progress then made was due to the Labour Opposition. He did not mention the progress the Labour Opposition made after they were told that the guillotine would be moved. Having got through 14 Clauses in about 19 to 20 sittings, we then got through another 14 in the next two sittings before the guillotine came down. This has not happened this time because, our pace was, and has continued to be a responsible pace throughout.
As I have said, we have got through 37 Clauses, six Schedules and 488 Amendments. At the same stage of the 1962 Act, which it was then decided to guillotine, the Committee had got through 12 Clauses and 66 Amendments. We have got through more than three times as many Clauses and more than eight times as many Amendments as was the case in 1962 when, because of the progress made, the Government quite understandably found it necesary to move the guillotine.
The Government decided not to guillotine the Iron and Steel Bill. Why not? If there was no case for guillotining that Bill, there is not a glimmer of a case for guillotining this Bill. At the 20th sitting of the Committee considering the Iron and Steel Bill we had got through 12 Clauses and 134 Amendments; at the same stage of a Bill which the Government decided not to guillotine, the Committee had made only a third of the progress we have made in the same time.
What the hon. Gentleman is saying is that if there was no need to guillotine the Iron and Steel Bill there is no need to guillotine this Bill because he does not believe in his own demands. He will be aware of his demand for time. If we come to the famous breakdown of the demand for 455 hours for debate up to the end of June, and remember that the hon. Gentleman is asking for that time for Conservative Amendments alone, leaving out Government and Liberal Amendments, that would give us a debate of 25 hours a week for Conservative Amendments alone, and 50 hours a week for all of them. The average time spent in the unguillotined Iron and Steel debate, which went on to very late hours, was 19 hours a week.
There are several major differences, and all of them against the Minister. The first is that the Government had the sense to get the Iron and Steel Bill into Committee in October. The second, where the Minister completely loses her case, is that that Bill, which contained 51 Clauses, had 144 hours in Committee. A simple piece of mental arithmetic shows that the basis of what we asked for with this Bill was not less time per Clause and Schedule than was given by the Government to the Iron and Steel Bill.
Certainly not. As the right hon. Lady knows, for she has had it in writing from me, I said that we on our side of the Committee would be willing to sit the hours necessary to guarantee the timetable getting out by the end of June. It certainly would mean long hours and giving up a week of the Whitsun Recess. We are happy to do all that. But the Minister has never even discussed it. From the beginning, she said that she wanted the whole Bill by 15th May. She has made no concession on that at all, despite the fact that we offered to com plete the Bill by one date and part of it by 15th May.
I have the OFFICIAL REPORT Of Our meetings. I say in all sincerity to the hon. Gentleman, as a vigilant and fairly dedicated member of the Committee, that no dispassionate reader of the record of our proceedings would deny that it shows evidence of 75 per cent. filibustering.
I will take the hon. Gentleman at his word. How does he explain that the right hon. Lady expressed satisfaction at the progress with Part I, which he claims was 75 per cent. filibustering? Part I, I remind him, went more slowly than the other parts we have discussed. The hon. Gentleman is disagreeing with his right hon. Friend. She said that she was satisfied with the progress on Part I.
I can understand the hon. Gentleman taking that kind of view, but I hope that he is appropriately gratified that it differs from that of the right hon. Lady. If he goes further into his allegation that there has been 75 per cent. filibustering, he will discover the unfortunate fact that, for the first 10 sittings, the Labour members of the Committee spoke more than the Conservative members and that, even at this stage, the Conservative members have taken up less than 50 per cent. of the whole time of the proceedings.
Is not the hon. Gentleman really being a little disingenuous? He knows that throughout the proceedings in Committee Government spokesmen, whether Front Bench or back bench, have always taken a marked minority of the time. They have taken up 36 per cent. of the time compared with 64 per cent. by the Opposition, and there has been a pretty united front between the two Opposition Parties on this.
Certainly not. I repeat that the right hon. Lady expressed satisfaction with the progress of Part I of the Bill, yet that took longer than the remaining parts of the Bill we have dealt with. It ill becomes her to say that too much time has been taken by the Opposition when she has said that the time taken on Part I was reasonable and when the time taken on Part II and Part III has been less than on Part I.
If the right hon. Lady wants to examine the proportions of time taken, I would point out that the time taken by the Opposition has been perfectly responsible. She should contrast that with the time taken by the Labour Opposition on the 1962 Act. There was a very different picture there. The Labour Opposition then took nearly two and half times as much time as all the Government and Liberal speakers put together. The right hon. Lady has no case on this.
Let us look at the time to be allowed for the rest of the proceedings on the Bill. The right hon. Lady has referred to the need for acceleration. By the time this Motion is put into operation, we will have seven Parliamentary weeks left before 15th May, assuming 10 days for the Easter recess. Thus, in eight weeks, moving faster than on any controversial Bill this century, we have to get through the remaining three quarters of the Measure. Yet this remainder contains the highly contentious proposals for quality licensing, quantity licensing, abnormal loads tax and wear and tear taxes. Nevertheless, the Government want it all pushed through Parliament in seven Parliamentary weeks. We are expected to treble our speed. We are expected in seven weeks to get through 124 Clauses, 12 Schedules, 110 Ministerial Amendments, 51 Labour back-bench amendments. Even without the Opposition moving any Amendments at all, this would be a completely unreasonable timetable.
The right hon. Gentleman has great responsibility as Leader of the House. I ask him to think of the impossible position he is putting the Business Committee in. It has a high reputation in endeavouring to come to conclusions on a nonpartisan basis. But when a Government introduce a highly controversial Bill and then impose the worst guillotine Motion in Parliamentary memory, the Committee is placed in an embarrassing and almost impossible position. The right hon. Gentleman should have carefully considered this before agreeing to the Motion.
The Government are guillotining a Bill upon which fast progress has been made and which they failed to get into Committee at the proper time and to prepare in the proper way. Either the right hon. Lady has been incompetent in getting the Bill into Committee in time and incompetent in drafting it properly, with the result that it needs so many Government Amendments, or she is anxious for the hideous proposals in it not to be debated. The right hon. Gentleman is either completely ignorant of the proceedings which have taken place upstairs or else he has failed to fulfil in the best traditions of the House the tasks of his office as Leader of the House.
The Government must either be ignorant of the economic effects of the Bill or must have a complete disregard for Parliament. This guillotine Motion was put on the Order Paper last Tuesday and seven Government Amendments have been put down already. This is yet another example of their incompetence. Indeed, the whole Motion and their attitude to the Bill are classic examples of the Government's incompetence—and we get such examples day after day.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Earlier, you indicated your intention to move on to the taking of Amendments at about 8 o'clock. It is now after quarter past six, without any back bench expression of opinion having been made. For the assistance of hon. Members interested in the Amendments, will you indicate whether that is still your intention?
As one who has sat through a number of debates on guillotine Motions, I find that there is no difference between this one and its predecessors. Whenever any Government bring forward such a Motion, they always encounter tremendous opposition.
I received this Bill in about the middle of December and the Selection Committee had to choose the Standing Committee for the Bill on 20th December. I made a careful study of the Bill, because it was a very large one and because I have never believed that the Selection Committee should be a rubber stamp for any Government. I was concerned to discover that the Bill contained 169 Clauses and 18 Schedules in 11 Parts.
As the Committee stage of the Bill could not begin before 23rd January, I examined the timing possibilities. For the Bill to complete its Committee stage, it was obvious that the normal Committee days of Tuesday and Thursday were totally inadequate. They would have provided only 36 sittings up to the end of May and an average of five Clauses would have had to be passed at each sitting if consideration of the Bill was to be completed. Adding Wednesdays, there would have been 54 sittings and an average of three Clauses per sitting would have had to be dealt with. If the Committee sat during the mornings and afternoons of the three days, there would have been 108 sittings and an average of almost two Clauses per day would have had to be dealt with in order to get the Bill through by the end of May.
It is interesting to note that the progress of the Bill so far is identical with the progress which would have been made throughout the 108 sittings. I calculated on the basis of three-hour sittings, but we know that three-hour sittings on a Bill of this sort are impossible. The House will note that I have not taken account of Amendments. As we know, a tremendous number of Amendments have been proposed by the Government and by the Opposition.
It was perfectly clear in December that it was utterly impossible for the Committee to deal with the Bill reasonably in the time available. Therefore, I was not surprised when the guillotine Motion was proposed. When a major Bill of this description is introduced two months after the beginning of a Session, a time-table Motion should be introduced with it. During the 23 sittings of the Committee on the Bill so far, 45 Clauses have been dealt with.
The hon. Gentleman has raised a most interesting point. Does he know of any precedent for the introduction of a time-table Motion at the same time as the introduction of a Bill?
No. I hope that my suggestion will be considered when any Government propose to introduce a Bill like this.
If the present rate of progress were maintained, the Bill would have been completed by the end of May without the need to introduce a guillotine Motion. As it is, far longer sittings will be involved than has been the case up to now. Quite a few all-night sittings will be needed to get the Bill through. Therefore, the guillotine is necessary to get the Bill through in time and to prevent an intolerable strain being placed on hon. Members. Moreover, the most controversial parts of the Bill have not yet been reached.
As with all guillotine Motions, the effect of this Motion will be to curtail or even to prevent discussion of the most important parts of the Bill. It is most essential that there should be discussion of the vital parts of Bills. Here I part company with the Government. It was quite wrong for the Committee stage of a Bill of this magnitude to begin at the end of January. [Interruption]
If the railway workers had to deal with matters of this sort, they would think so, too. Many things are done in this House which the workers think are quite daft.
If it were possible for the whole of the Bill to be ready at the beginning of the Session, it should have been separated. It could be split into at least three Measures. Had that been done, there could have been a full and exhaustive examination of each part of it. As it is, parts of the Bill will not be discussed at all. This is bound to leave a sense of grievance among those sections of the transport industry whose position cannot be debated.
It is time that the Government and the Opposition, not just in this Parliament, but in any Parliament, agreed on a system whreby a timetable was introduced at the beginning of the consideration of every major Bill. It should be the normal procedure of the House. It would avoid all this trouble, which we get in every Parliament. Time could be allotted to the various Clauses so that there was reasonable discussion of them. This is not a guillotine; it is a timetable to enable the Bill to be properly debated.
The hon. Gentleman has made an interesting suggestion, but surely much depends on the number of Amendments arising from bad drafting or from the form of the Bill. If a Bill is perfectly drawn and the draftsmen have done their job, such a timetable might be adequate and right, but if, as in this case, there are hundreds of Government as well as Opposition Amendments, the timetable would not be fair.
If the timetable were operated as I have suggested, it would cut out many Amendments from both sides.
Whenever a guillotine is applied, it is not merely a negation of democracy; it is a negation of justice. Moreover, it is an infringement of the rights of Members of Parliament to express the views of their constituents. With a Measure such as this, touching this industry in the whole country in one form or another, it is essential that there should be the widest possible debate on every part of the Bill, but this negation occurs whenever any guillotine Motion is introduced, whatever the party in power.
I accept that it can be argued with some accuracy that hon. Members themselves often bring about a guillotine, but it is the duty of every Government when introducing a Bill, whatever its nature or purpose, to see that there is ample time for it to pass through all its stages with fair, adequate and reasonable debate. That cannot be done for the Transport Bill without an unnecessary strain on the members of the Committee. When the Government decided to introduce the Bill two months late in the Session, in all fairness they should have cut the Bill in order to give ample time for its discussion.
I have had some experience of Committee work. Some hon. Members came to me who wanted to be on this Committee. I acceded to their request, and said a little prayer for them at the same time. If I address some remarks to hon. Members, I hope that they will not take them amiss. There was some difficulty about the setting up of this Committee. I refused to accept—and the Selection Committee agreed with me—the proposal that there should be five Ministers on this Committee.
Very good, Mr. Speaker; I will pass from that. I will say only that we had some difficulty in the setting up of the Committee, both about Ministers and the number of Members. One difficulty was the shortage of Members. We could not set up a Committee of 40 Members as we wished. I point out to the House that there are 80 Members on the Government side who never take part in Committee work, and there are 90 such Members on the Opposition side. I hope that that will give hon. Members food for serious thought.
During the past few weeks, I have met a number of transport workers and directors of companies who have put their views about the Bill to me. I have found them to be very reasonable. [Laughter.] My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) thinks that they are unreasonable. I have found them to be reasonable. One usually gets reasonableness according to one's approach. They are uncertain about their position. This is a Bill which breaks the whole tenor of the work and life of many people. It is something which they cannot take lightly and every consideration should be given to all their views.
It is wrong to give these people the feeling that, by hindering for retarding the progress of the Bill, one supports them. That is not the case. The case against the Bill can be put with reason and with constructive Amendments. I feel sure that if such a case were put in the Committee, it would be given the consideration which it merited.
I do not like the Bill as it has been presented. The Government have made a blunder. Even at this stage, rather than force it through on a guillotine Motion, it would be far better for the Government to cut the Bill and to introduce it n separate parts, so affording free discussion of every part and every Clause.
I have followed the speech of the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) with great interest. He has put fairly and commendably many of the arguments which we on this side of the House wish to put to the Government, and we are grateful to him.
I regard today's discussion as one of the most important debates in which I have had the privilege of taking part since becoming a Member of Parliament. Because of the nature of the debate, I looked for precedents for a guillotine Motion and for speeches by distinguished Members of the House in the past, in order to try to get the entire debate into focus. I was particularly impressed by a speech made in 1954 by the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, Mr. Harold Macmillan. He put forward an argument for the guillotine, and, for the sake of getting our discussion into proportion, it is worth quoting his words.
Referring to a guillotine debate he said:
What happens is this. The right hon. and hon. Members who find themselves for the moment n opposition are filled with an extraordinary devotion to the principles of constitutional Government, to the free rights of Members, to the long historical struggle of Parliament against the Executive, to the cause for which Hampden died in the field and Sidney on the scaffold. But when, with the all-healing flow of time, these same Members find themselves upon the Government benches, they become comparatively immune to these high-flown sentiments. They are influenced by the urgent necessity which every Government feel to carry through their Parliamentary business with some relation to the calendar and the march of even ts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1954; Vol. 524, c. 42.]
That is a realistic view of the use of the guillotine in normal circumstances.
During the same year another view was expressed by another hon. Gentleman who said:
Debates on the Guillotine are mainly matters for ancient Parliamentary men—for
Members of the Front Bench particularly, and for those who are interested in the Bill which it is sought to Guillotine. Most Members of the House regard the Guillotine as a regrettable necessity of a Government. In the last resort a Government must govern for if powers like the Guillotine did not exist there would be government by the minority."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1954; Vol. 527, c. 1078.]
This puts into perspective the attitude which right hon. Members might adopt towards a guillotine Motion. Today there is a fundamental reason why it is right and proper that hon. Members on this side of the House should oppose this Motion. I believe that I am right in saying that the size of this Bill is unique in recent Parliamentary history. I interrupted the Leader of the House and asked him whether he could quote any instance of legislation of this size coming before the House in recent history, and whether there was any precedent for a Bill of this size receiving the guillotine. He did not answer, and I believe that that was because he knows as we all know that the size of the Bill is such that it is quite wrong that it should be guillotined, at this stage.
There have been many cases when a business Motion has been discussed by the House and there have been a large number of interesting comments made by hon. Members who now sit on the Government benches but who, in those days sat on the Opposition benches. I have already quoted from two authorities, who have both recognised the necessity for the guillotine. I do not quarrel with that necessity in special circumstances, but the words used by other hon. Members in other connections are far more appropriate to this debate, because of the nature and content of the Bill upon which it is sought to restrict discussion. First, let me quote from the speech made in the House on 4th February, 1957, in the debate on the allocation of time Motion on the Rent Bill, by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). He said:
The fact is that by its very nature the Bill,"—
he was referring to the Rent Bill—
touching so many millions of people, is one that demands continued and prolonged discussion. We have to remember, also, that this is a controversial Bill, and because the matter is controversial it does not mean that we should cut down the amount of discussion on it. It is a reason for extending discussion and a reason why there should not be a guillotine."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1957; Vol. 564, c. 110.]
That was the Secretary of State for Scotland, who I am glad to see is in his place. I had no idea that he was going to be here. His words then were words of wisdom and I accept everything that he says. Having applied those words to a Bill which, I agree with him, was controversial—one which affected the lives of millions of people—would he deny that this Bill is any less controversial or that it affects the lives of millions of people any the less than the Bill to which he referred on 4th February?
I should like to take another example because it is important to see the attitude which has been adopted toward Bills of far less importance. I have a speech by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), who was shadow Minister of Transport when the Conservative Party were in power. He said in relation to the Business Motion on the 1962 Transport Bill:
he was referring to the Opposition—
dislike many parts of this Bill very much indeed. Therefore we cannot be expected to agree to any proposals such as the right hon. Gentleman puts before us today which makes its passage easier or more certain. We were elected to the House to oppose by all the powers which Parliamentary procedure accords to us the enactment of such legislation as this Transport Bill".
He said later:
We think that it is a thoroughly bad Bill and will have bad consequences nationally and on those working in the industry. Therefore, we oppose the time table Motion, which will inevitably curtail what we consider to be proper discussion of the Bill and the movement of essential Amendments."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 442.]
That was the view of the Opposition in relation to the 1962 Bill. It is true that the Opposition today take precisely the same view of the Government's proposed legislation. We feel today, as the present Government felt when in Opposition in 1962 about the Tory Government's legislation. We feel about it in the same passionate way as did hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in Opposition. It was right that they, as an Opposition, should oppose bitterly the idea of a timetable Motion, as the right hon. Member for Vauxhall did. If they were right then, they must be consistent. They must accept that just as there were big issues of principle involved, which caused them to oppose the
the timetable Motion, so there are big issues of principle now involved for us, in many cases bigger issues of principle, because the scope of the Bill is very much greater. Therefore, the Government should afford to us that which they demanded when in Opposition.
There is one other quotation which I must give, from a speech made by the right hon. Lady the Minister of Transport, when she was in opposition. She was speaking in respect of the timetable Motion before the House on 23rd January, 1962. She said:
We therefore oppose this guillotine Motion, not because we want to filibuster, but because we say that both these Measures introduce vital new principles that fundamentally affect the civil rights and liberties … of the people of the country. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd January, 1962; Vol. 652, c. 480.]
If the right hon. Lady were in her place I do not think that she would deny that within this Bill there are measures which will fundamentally alter the lives of many people. I do not wish, and you would not allow me, Mr. Speaker, to discuss the merits of the case, but it is sufficient to say that her Bill was at least as controversial as that about which she was then speaking. I cannot believe that it is right that a Government should adopt one attitude when in Opposition and a totally different attitude when in Government.
As I have said, there can be circumstances and conditions under which a timetable Motion is essential. But it depends on the nature of the legislation. I believe the Labour Party as an Opposition were absolutely right to oppose a timetable Motion on the 1962 Transport Act, and had I been in the House I should have done likewise; but I do not think they can have it both ways. That is the fundamental reason why I object so strongly to this Motion before us.
I will give one other quotation from a speech made last night by the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon). He said—and I salute him for it:
As a true democrat, I feel that all that matters is that one should say what one wants to say. We can all then be happy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F, 13th March, 1968; c. 1733.]
This is what we are here to do. This is what we are elected to do in this place. The Government must get their business, but we have here a number of matters which make this particular
Motion objectionable to the House. There is the size of the Bill, which I will not labour again. There is the late date of its introduction. This has been passed over. It was passed over by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, but it is most unfair to do so because there is no reason at all why we should not have had a Second Reading debate at the start of this Session of Parliament; there is no reason why the Bill should not have been committed to a Standing Committee immediately, and why we should not have got in a substantial number of sittings before the Christmas Recess. The fact is, we did not start until 23rd January and the progress we have made since then—
Yes, I was aware of that. I did not want to raise the question of the Steel Bill because that is one we have discussed on several occasions in relation to this Bill, but I thank the hon. Gentleman for his helpful intervention. There is the late start, but there is also the progress made; and the case which has been put to the House this afternoon by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) is, in my submission, unanswerable. It is an unanswerable case because in this massive piece of legislation, which was so well described by the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), we have dealt, up to our sitting today, with 44 Clauses and five Schedules, a total of 49 sections altogether, in a mater of 22 sittings. The right hon. Lady the Minister herself told the hon. Member for Worcester that she was satisfied with the early progress made. It is impossible to believe that the Minister is not satisfied with the progress which has been made so far.
The suggestion has been made that because we are now reaching more controversial aspects of the Bill, because we are reaching Clauses which are likely to exercise the concern of the Opposition more than the earlier Clauses, this is the moment to introduce the guillotine. I reject that argument because until it can be shown beyond peradventure of doubt that the Opposition are either deliberately opposing, in the sense that they are filibustering or are behaving in a manner which is likely to prevent the right hon. Lady getting her legislation this Session, then it is clearly utterly wrong that any question of a guillotine should even arise, let alone that a Motion should be put before the House.
At a later stage if the Minister were able to say to the House that we have deliberately filibustered or behaved on the Opposition benches in such a manner that we were not making progress, if she could say, "In the first 22 sittings we got a matter of nearly 50 sections of the Bill completed but thereafter things slowed down and became impossible", she might have a case and I might not myself oppose a guillotine in those circumstances. But the fact is that there has been some time wasted. There has been time wasted on the Committee and the only reason why time has been wasted is that given earlier this afternoon by other hon. Members—because we discussed at such great length one vital issue of principle which was resolved by an Amendment which we received only this morning.
I am grateful for the concession made to the Opposition in this Amendment, as I said earlier upstairs, but the fact remains that if there has been any waste of time that waste is entirely due to the failure of the Government to take the point we were making with such insistence earlier and to their having waited until now to accept it, thus causing us to have to argue repeatedly a case which we knew was of such importance. Even though it took so long to get that through to the Government, I am glad that at least we got that concession today.
I believe that in democratic terms there is a solution to this problem. In fact, there are two solutions. There is that which has been offered by the hon. Member for Worcester. It may be said that to sit for 50 hours a week would be to put an intolerable strain on hon. Members. I reject that argument. It is not unusual for many workers in many industries in this country to work 70 hours a week and, although I do not like this, the fact remains that it happens. We ask it of other people. We allow other people to do it. Why should we in this House regard ourselves as being so sheltered? Why should not we be prepared to work 50 hours a week?
It has been mentioned that I am the only Liberal in the Committee. That is true, and it is right because it is in the right proportion. But it means that I have to be present throughout every sitting of the Committee, and I am. if I am prepared to sit all night and to sit for 50 hours a week—and I am prepared to do that—then there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why the Government should not do likewise.
I speak of unusual circumstances. I would not ordinarily expect any hon. Member to sit in a Committee for 50 hours a week, but we have here a piece of legislation so far-reaching in its consequences and with such a vast number of new provisions that, irrespective of the merits or otherwise of those provisions, the issues are so vital that I believe hon. Members should not consider themselves and should be prepared to make any sacrifice in order to give adequate time to debate and discuss it, even though it means sitting 50 hours a week.
There is an alternative solution.
I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman now, though I will be glad to do so later. We are good friends in the Committee upstairs. The other solution which I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House is that we sit if necessary through the Summer Recess. I know this would not be popular; certainly it would not be popular with me. I do not want to do so. I want to get back to Cornwall with all possible speed, but nevertheless I still say that we have a peculiar, special and indeed unique responsibility to this House and to the country in respect of this Bill, and for that reason it would, in my view, be far more reasonable for the House and for the Committee to sit if necessary at any legth of time, either on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Worcester or through the summer in order that this Bill, of all Bills, shall be fully considered clause by clause.
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer briefly. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said he would not accuse me of filibustering in Committee. He referred to my 1,001 nights of Arabian entertainment. I said in correction that the number was 1,047. However, I have to correct myself, because there are 1,086 Amendments in my name.
It is true that I have made some 160 to 180 speeches upstairs and that I have taken up a large number of columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT. However, perhaps I may refer the Leader of the House to a comment in this morning's Sun about my performance. Referring to me, it said:
However much it may irritate the Government, that is what he is there for.
That is the job that I have to do.
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He is always very courteous and has said how anxious he is to preserve our friendship. What has amazed me is that, during his period as the only Liberal hon. Member serving on the Committee, he has so conspicuously out-Toried the Tories.
I will not follow that argument. It is one that we have had upstairs and one which it would be quite improper to discuss now. If the hon. Gentleman means that I have been firm and assiduous in my opposition, I have, and that is what I am there to do. It is also true that neither the hon. Gentleman nor any of his hon. Friends have accused me of filibustering. On the contrary, frequently they have complimented me on trying to be constructive in my argument. In fact, that has been true of all sides. No hon. Member on either side of the Committee has filibustered or attempted to argue at great length. One cannot complain at the length of Ministerial replies or at the length of speeches from the Opposition side, by they Conservative or Liberal. We have done our utmost to get the Bill through as quickly as possible, allowing for all the complexities and the many new measures contained in it.
That is a very important point. On no occasion has the closure been moved in the Standing Committee. If it was necessary to bring in this guillotine Motion, how much more necesary must it have been to have introduced a closure Motion on some of the debates upstairs. We know that that has not occurred. The figures were given by the hon. Member for Worcester. We know that progress has been sound, smooth and satisfactory.
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. We had a closure on the sittings Motion but that was not a closure on a debate on the content of the Bill, and that is the point that I am making. He is speaking on a technicality and not the merits of the Bill, which is the point to which I am referring. On one occasion in this House, a very great Leader of the Liberal Party, the right hon. David Lloyd George said in respect of another right hon. Member:
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have crossed the Floor of this House, but never has an hon. or right hon. Gentleman crossed the Floor and left such a slimy trail of hypocrisy behind him.
The Leader of the House, who in opposition voted consistently against guillotine Motions, crossed the Floor quite properly when his party came to office. Today he holds a position which is perhaps only the second highest that this House can give to any of its hon. Members, perhaps second only to Mr. Speaker himself. He is Leader of the whole House, and not just Leader on behalf of the Labour Government. We expected and hold the unquestioned right to expect that in his high office as Leader of the House he would honour the principles for which he cast his vote when he was in opposition. I believe that he has failed us all, and he has failed those principles. To revise the words which Lloyd George used, it is a sorry and a slimy story upon which we are embarked today.
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) has the advantage, because it is easier for Liberals to speak on guillotine Motions than on some others. I say that as one who comes from a Liberal family. The Liberals have not had the duty or the opportunity of exercising powers of government for quite a long time now, and perhaps they find it easier than some others to be consistent on guillotine Motions.
I would remind him, however, that it was the Liberal Party which introduced the idea of guillotine Motions in the first place, and it was that party which introduced the most severe restrictions on the freedom of speech that this House has ever introduced. At the time of the operations of the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Liberals introduced the closure and many of the devices which we now find convenient. They did that when they exercised the powers of government. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman should be a little more careful about making charges of hypocrisy in these matters.
In fairness to him, it was a very severe charge which came from this side of the House. I think that he was rather provoked by the accusation about out-Torying the Tories. That is not the kind of accusation which I like to hear flung round the House. However, it would be better if he withdrew the last part of his speech.
I can understand that. I was dealing only with the charge which the hon. Gentleman made against my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. Before making charges of that character, I think that he should take into account the measures which the Government have introduced for extending the opportunities of back bench hon. Members and others to engage in debates. He should take into account the general reforms of Parliament which have been introduced during the period of this Government. If he did that, I am sure that he would not feel justified in making such a charge.
Having said that, I do not engage in the debate as one who likes guillotine Motions. I have engaged in many such debates, but I do not like them. If they can be avoided, it is a great advantage. I am not an enthusiastic supporter of the view stated by some hon. Members on both sides that we should have automatic time-tables all the time. I am not in favour of them and, as a result, it may be that I approach this matter with a more open mind than right hon. and hon. Members on either Front Bench.
There is normally a game of Parliamentary tit-for-tat on guillotine Motions, with one side quoting what was said previously by the leaders on the other side. I do not propose to engage in that sort of exchange. It is not necessary. As I say, I approach the matter with an open mind. I have voted for some guillotine Motions. I have voted against others. I propose to exercise that right today in the same carefree way.
Perhaps at this point I might deal with the most substantial point made by the hon. Member for Bodmin, echoing something said by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), to whose speech I shall come to in a moment because my remarks will be directed mainly at him.
The main argument put by the hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his speech was that the Government were doing something unprecedented in applying a guillotine to this Bill of a different nature from the other Bills to which the guillotine has been applied. That is a powerful argument. But all Governments have to do things for the first time. All precedents have been set in this manner. Therefore, precedent of itself is not a conclusive argument.
Although I have other things to say about the Measure later, I would argue that the Bill is unprecedented in that I cannot recall any previous Transport Bills which have been presented since 1945—and, after all, Transport Bills are of extreme importance to the country as a whole—where the House of Commons has been presented, over a period of a year or more before, with a series of White Papers laying out all the main principles incorporated in it.
I do not say that everything in the Bill has appeared in the White Papers. The whole point of producing a White Paper is to have a discussion on it and, therefore, to carry through some of the Amendments before the Bill is introduced. Otherwise they would have to be dealt with in Committee if there were no White Paper.
The hon. Gentleman has not appreciated the full force of my point. It is not only one White Paper. I understand there were five White Papers. If hon. Gentlemen opposite want to treat the matter seriously—they may treat it frivolously if they wish—I say that it is a good thing that Governments should present White Papers in advance of matters of major principle which shall be discussed. In this case, I understand that the first White Paper was issued 18 months or more ago.
Of course there has been discussion up and down the country about it and of course there have been changes. Therefore, this Bill comes to the House of Commons with more White Papers having been presented to the country and with more opportunities for the country to discuss the background of the Measure than almost any other Bill which has ever been presented to the House.
The hon. Member for Worcester complains about this. He says that if we produce more White Papers we need to have more discussion in Committee. That is part of his argument. I hope that the Government will not follow his advice. If they did, it would mean that henceforth they would not produce any White Papers before Measures were introduced. That is the logic of what he is saying. In that event, we would get a different hullabaloo from the other side. They would say, "Why do you throw this Measure at us without a White Paper in advance?" They had better make up their minds which they want.
That is a different argument. It is part of the argument, but I cannot deal with the whole of the hon. Gentleman's argument in one paragraph or even one sentence. One of his main arguments was that the fact that we had extra White Papers meant that we should have longer time allocated in Committee. Contrary to that, I say it is surely common sense that the more White Papers there are and the longer the notice given to the country of the matters at issue the more one tends to the view that there is a right to curtail the Committee stage.
I am in no sense suggesting that. I am seeking to controvert the argument of the hon. Gentleman who complains that the Government have presented White Papers, I am arguing not that it is a substitute for detailed examination of a Bill, but that it deprives the Opposition at least of that part of their argument on a guillotine Motion that there has been no opportunity for the principles of a Measure to be discussed in the country. The Government have taken the precaution of publishing five White Papers which enabled the country to have precisely that discussion.
One of the main arguments for longer proceedings in Committee is that we should give people in the country an opportunity to react. If it is said that the protest from the country has come a bit late, that they have not had time, I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that they have had organisations operating in the country quite a long time. I only got my signed protest about this Bill yesterday morning. I agree it is late, but these organisations have been in operation for quite a long time, as the hon. Member for Worcester knows.
That brings me directly to him. I am disappcinted with him. I have read the speeches which he has been making for months about the Bill based on the White Papers. Before the Bill was ever published he went up and down the country telling us what terrible things he would do when the Bill was introduced. Week after week, if one opened up the news papers at the weekend, one discovered that the hon. Gentleman had made another speech on the matter. The speeches got better and better as they went on. So frequently did these speeches appear in the newspapers that I thought he was doing what I describe as "doing a Donnelly"; that is, getting reports of speeches that are not delivered before phantom audiences. All through September, October, November and all the rest, the hon. Gentleman travelled up and down the country from Lands End to John O'Groats saying, "There is going to be the greatest Parliamentary fight in history when we get this Bill brought before us." That is what we were told. Organisations were brought into being. I do not know how much money they contributed to the Conservative Central Office and I do not suppose the hon. Gentleman knows because they probably did not count it for him. There has been a powerful organisation at work making contributions either directly or indirectly to the Conservative Party or to Aims of Industry to prepare for this great Parliamentary battle to be led by the hon. Gentleman.
I could hardly believe my ears this afternoon. After all these prophecies of what was going to happen. I take this on the hon. Gentleman's own testimony. What have they been doing upstairs? No filibustering. Shooting through Amendments at record speed. There have been 45 Amendments in so many sittings—the fastest procedure on any Bill that there has ever been. After all these promises of belligerent opposition, upstairs in Committee he has been as good as gold. He has never used 12 words where one would do. He has been succinct almost to the point of being cryptic. That goes not only for him but for all other hon. Gentlemen. That is what has been happening upstairs.
What about the people who have contributed to the Conservative Party funds? They ought to ask for their money back. The hon. Gentleman is guilty of a political fraud on Bristol Siddeley. I have a whole list down here of the things on which he has been assisting my right hon. Friend. When something was slowing up he has come forward with a new suggestion for helping it along. He would say, "Are you having difficulties here? I do not mind. I will give you special time to get through the controversial matters. That is especially hard, is it not?".
Hon. Gentlemen here have been holding meetings with their constituents. I bet that they have not been telling their constituents what the hon. Gentleman said this afternoon. They have probably been saying, "We will fight this Bill. Do you know what a fight is going on?" That is what they have been saying. Or have they said: "We are going to make sure that this Bill, the biggest Transport Bill we have had, is going to go through without any real formidable opposition"? I think that I have his words. I think he said that he defied the Government to instance any occasion on which the Opposition had held up the Bill. He invited the House to take into account the fact that the Minister has said that she is satisfied. Let hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they meet the hauliers and the others who have backed them, tell them that the hon. Gentleman has conducted the opposition to the Bill in such a manner as to leave no possible question of criticism by the Government. That is the situation.
It is difficult to believe what hon. Gentlemen opposite have been saying. We are told about the need for honesty, that people must say candidly what they mean. If we take the hon. Gentleman at his word, the exposition that he has given kills him as a future Parliamentary leader. I had the greatest respect for the hon. Gentleman. I remember that once we engaged in a campaign together. We were both against the Common Market. He took charge of the outer Empire, while I looked after affairs in Europe I say with my usual modesty that I was more successful in bringing about our failure to get into the Common Market, than the hon. Gentleman was. I had great respect for the hon. Gentleman when he was fighting in those days, but now he has given up. We now have him getting up and saying that we must have responsible treatment of the Bill, and get it through faster than is proposed. I have said it about others, but it fits the hon. Gentleman better than anybody else. He has moved from rising hope to elder statesman without any intervening period. We shall have no more trouble from the hon. Gentleman.
If it is asked why my right hon. Friend, who has been assisted in this way at every turn by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who has been treated so courteously, should have been so heartless as to force a guillotine on them, the answer is simple. It is that perhaps even the hon. Gentleman in his less militant mood, in this new form that he takes, might change his mind later. I give him more credit than he gives himself today. He is not as green as he looks. Everybody knows how our procedures are operated in this House. Everybody watches the timetable. It would be very foolish if the more belligerent Member of the Liberal Party were to start doing anything approaching a filibuster up to this stage, but, as the weeks pass, one is reminded of a seesaw. As we get past a certain date, it can be calculated by clever Chief Whips—and the Chief Whip of the Tory Party is clever—that if they turn on the heat then, they can not merely disrupt this Bill, but disrupt the rest of the timetable. The hon. Gentleman's protests of innocence may therefore not be as good as he claims, because if my right hon. Friend was unwise enough to fall for this guileless approach, we might lose the Bill, or parts of it, and that is what the hon. Gentleman is after.
The hon. Gentleman has not dealt with this very skilfully, and I think that my right hon. Friends have chosen the right moment to bring in the Guillotine. I give this advice to the hon. Gentleman. My right hon. Friend is a very good Minister of Transport. Indeed, I think that she is a good Minister in a nutty Government, and I am glad that she has been so successful in the Ministry where so many previous politicians have found their graveyard. I give the hon. Gentleman this advice, and perhaps it might be followed by anyone else who wants to deal with my right hon. Friend. I have known her for a long time, and I give her credit for what she has done.
The way to deal with my right hon. Friend is to make up one's mind that she will get her way in the end, and ask how. If one does that, one may be able to extract some concessions. One may be able to accommodate her. I am sure that this has been learned in her Department, and by many of her Cabinet colleagues. I would like to see her having her way even more, but that is the way to deal with her.
Instead of that, the hon. Gentleman and the party opposite have betrayed the people who have backed them in this fight. Tomorrow the message will go out to all the road hauliers, all those in the country who have contributed to the Conservative Party, that the party, on its own confession, has given up the fight on this Bill. The fact is that they have never fought at all. That is what hon. Gentlemen opposite have said today. That leaves the Member of the Liberal Party as the sole real opponent of the Bill, but I do not think that even his gallant fight will revive the fortunes of his party.
This Bill is different from any other. It is different in the sense that it is a much more Socialist Measure than most of the other Measures introduced by the Government. This is one reason why hon. Gentlemen opposite have been caught out. This Bill is different because, for the first time in this century, we have a Measure which is trying to deal fundamentally with the transport problems of this country. It is trying to deal with them comprehensively, which is the only way in which they can be dealt with. There was therefore every ground for putting all the proposals into one Bill. There was every ground for seeking to get the country to understand how the different parts of the Bill fitted together. There was every ground for presenting it to the House as a Measure of major importance, and not one that could be taken aside and murdered by the Opposition.
I am therefore glad that the Government have completely outwitted the Opposition on this matter. I do not say that that is the highest of tributes that I should like to pay, but the hon. Gentleman should learn a lesson from what has happened to him. He should not run away in future. He should stand by his principles. That is what he should have done on the Common Market, but he ran away then. I do not know what rewards have been accorded to him on that account.
While on the question of running away from principles, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he considers that he ran
away from his principles the last time he spoke on a guillotine Motion when he said:
It is because I believe that both the guillotine and the authority of private Labour Party meetings upstairs or of 1922 Committees make discussion a fake, … that all these institutions are derogatory of the authority of the House of Commons itself …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th January, 1962; Vol. 652, c. 459.]
I hold to those views, and if the hon. Gentleman had attended a meeting upstairs a few weeks ago he would have heard me say the same thing. Unfortunately, I have not been able to attend a meeting of the 1922 Committee, but I am sure that what I said about it is true, so I do not retract a word of it.
I hope that we need have no more discussion about the guillotine, now that there is unanimity about the necessity for getting the Bill through at the pace which the hon. Gentleman has laid down in the procedure up to now. I hope that it will go through smoothly. I think that the only people who have any right to complain are those who put their trust in the hon. Gentleman, and contributed to the funds of the Conservative Party.
I must apologise both to the House and to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) for not being here when he started his speech, but I congratulate myself on being here at least for the latter half of it, because it was a remarkable performance. I think that most of us, at least on this side of the House, are becoming dimly conscious of the fact that it happens from time to time, and of course the hon. Gentleman never seeks to delve too deeply into the subject under discussion. It is rather like a Punch and Judy show, with the punch left out.
The right hon. Gentleman will have to find—[Interruption.] The Patronage Secretary is seeking to take part in the debate. If anyone should hide his head in shame, particularly in his present difficulties, it is the Patronage Secretary. Decency forbids me to go into details about his recent conduct of affairs, which would embarrass him, so I will not do so, but I hope that he will take no further part in the debate without at least getting to his feet.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale actually suggested that the Bill tries to deal, fundamentally and comprehensively—he is good at adverbs—with our transport problems. I defy him to say how it is either comprehensive or fundamental in its approach and to express his grounds for confidence that it contains any solution to the problems. I thought that I heard the hon. Gentleman accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) of running away from his principles. When Left-wing Socialists speak like that, one wonders what is coming next. So far as we know, the principles of the Left-wing are kept in some tabernacle upstairs and are only referred to, not acted upon, downstairs.
Without undue reverence, I hope, I come now to the speech of the Leader of the House. I am sorry that he is not here, because we all miss him, despite what we have said about him on the Order Paper. I understood the right hon. Gentleman, who has a great talent for misquoting other people, to infer that the Amendments had been put down to fall in with the wishes of the Opposition. A greater piece of nonsense than that has seldom passed the right hon. Gentleman's lips—and that is saying a lot. We know what happened. We finally extracted from him the fact that all he had done was ask whether we would like a new Motion. When the usual channels refused, he treated this as consultation and an exercise of the Opposition's preference between two alternatives.
I say to the Patronage Secretary, in the absence of his right hon. Friend, with whom he must have gone through many agonising hours lately, that it is unworthy to abuse the usual channels in this way. Even these days, and with this Administration, Members are disposed to put some confidence in the exchanges through the usual channels. If the Leader of the House is going to abuse his position by misquoting these negotiations, even by his standards he will be rendering the House a signal disservice.
He said that we were not opposing the principle of the Bill. That was an astonishing comment, since, if this Bill has a principle, I ask the Government to accept that we are opposed to it root and branch.
He then made some fanciful references to the "trimming of Members". I was not sure whether he was advocating pruning the Committee, but was eventually forced to the conclusion that he was talking about trimming the Bill. In advocating trimming the Bill, my hon. Friend was doing nothing but pursuing the dictates of common sense. We have never faced such a large volume as this Bill. I believe that the House has been shoddily treated throughout by the Government.
I know that the right hon. Lady is not unduly sensitive to these rebukes, of which she has had a good many, but the transport industry is in a state of fury. Traders of all kinds in my constituency have registered their severe disapproval and deep anxiety. What is most disquieting is that the Government show no reaction or concern. They are always arrogant to the last and are determined that they are right. They will hold to their opinion and take account of no views which conflict with their own.
We now face this bogus target of securing an integrated transport system. I wonder how many of my hon. Friends doubted, with me, whether the right hon. Gentleman had ever read the Bill. He made much of the fact that it was the way to secure an integrated system. I can remember, over many years now, saying that this target of an integrated system run by some non-existent genius in Whitehall was pie in the sky—
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I was concerned with what the right hon. Gentleman had said. He let loose the idea that he was convinced that the Bill would secure an integrated transport system and I allowed myself to be tempted momentarily away from discussing this Motion into reflecting once again upon the right hon. Gentleman's judgment.
The Government, he told us, felt obliged to ask for a timetable. I very restrainedly asked him why, when they had foreseen the necessity for a timetable on a controversial Measure, they had postponed it for so long. Why did they not make maximum use of the time, have Second Reading as soon as we came back, and send the Bill to Committee even in November? They would then have had a better excuse for asking to rush this through.
The Leader of the House is fond of the word "pejorative". When he is speaking, I feel that the words "fair" and "reasonable" become pejorative, because they are stood on their heads and do riot mean what they appear to mean. We stand accused by him of preventing good government. Good heavens, as if any one on this side has had the slightest chance in the last three or four years of preventing good government. There has not even been the possibility of preventing it. All that we have had is this unique combination of ineptitude and arrogance, culminating now in the creed, "We know best. We, in my Department, have hatched this wonderful scheme to integrate and render efficient the transport industry. We do not care for the views of the House of Commons or of the industry. We care for nothing except our own settled views."
The right hon. Gentleman rather spoiled his speech at the end. He was at his best today, because he treated a rotten case with that necessary mixture of levity and good manners which came as something of a surprise to us. This nevertheless made it possible for him to persuade us that he was not being entirely vicious to the Tory Party. When he addressed us with the adverb "frankly" we trembled as we recognised the trade mark of the Treasury Bench. The Prime Minister frequently prefaces his remarks with "frankly", but we have learned that he is less than frank.
It is regrettable that the Leader of the House should have introduced, in such an untidy manner, a guillotine to this fundamental Measure. It has not penetrated those sealed circles in which he moves that a large number of people detest the Bill and consider that the discussion of it is being curtailed intentionally by the Government. I do not know who is the villian of the piece, the Leader of the House or the Minister of Trans- port. The right hon. Gentleman seemed so urbane that we were bound to think that the right hon. Lady had put him up to it. As we listened to the right hon. Gentleman we thought that we were listening to the cynical inexactitudes of an elderly serpent, but if the right hon. Lady had put him up to it, she has an immense load of guilt on her shoulders which will never be removed from her as a result of the effects that the Bill will have. In restricting discussion on so montrous a piece of legislation, the right hon. Lady is writing her political death warrant and epitaph. I hope that the Government's sins will be visited heavily on their shoulders in future.
The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) used to be reasonably successful when he dealt with fuel matters, particularly coal. I do not suppose that he has ever carried 1 cwt of coal, but he used to tell the miners how to do it. At least he tried to teach himself something about coal mining, but I fear that he knows nothing about the problems of transport.
I worked in the transport industry for many years and I have been glad of the opportunity to serve on the Committee upstairs. I am finding it a rewarding experience and I am sure that success will crown our efforts. All the thousands of £s being gathered by the Road Haulage Association will not make any difference to the devoted work that my hon. Friends will put into considering the Bill and into making it law. For the first time we have a chance of getting a really integrated transport system, with the various facets of transport being welded together for the public good, both on the freight and passenger sides.
It might be thought that the guillotine will obstruct us and prevent us from giving the Bill sufficient consideration. I do not believe that. Instead, the various facets to which I referred will be welded together in the service of the public.
I regret that the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) is not in his place. However, a back bencher, the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) has temporarily taken over and I wish him luck. He used to be on the Front Bench when Scottish affairs were being discussed. The hon. Member for Worcester tried to make us believe that he had been amenable, in the negotiations through the usual channels, to make arrangements for adequate discussion of the Bill. At the first sitting of the Committee the hon. Gentleman staked his claim for 500 hours, which would have meant a Committee stage of two years, sitting on the ordinary Tuesdays and Thursdays to which we are accustomed. Later the hon. Gentleman said that he would be willing to sit any number of hours the Government liked so that the Bill could be completed by June, although he did not say that it could be finished by 15th May.
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) is not in his place. This is to be regretted because I have some caustic remarks to make about him. He suggested—and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), with his agile brain, will be interested in the figures I will be giving—that 50 hours a week could easily be worked in Committee. He elected to be the sacrificial lamb for the Liberal Party, throwing himself into the fight against the Bill. What would 50 hours a week mean to hon. Members?
Having done some calculations, it would mean that to get the Bill by the end of June, the Committee would have to sit on Mondays from 10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m.; one night lost. On Tuesdays we would start at 10.30 a.m. and, after adjourning at 1 p.m., restart at 4 p.m. and go through until 8 o'clock the following morning; another night lost. On Wednesdays we would again start at 10.30 a.m. and, after adjourning at 1 p.m., resume at 4 p.m. and continue to 8 o'clock the following morning. By that time we would have been out of bed for three nights, and on Thursday morning we would resume at 10.30 a.m. and carry on to 1 p.m. With time during the week to have only a shave each morning and a cup of tea, we would have worked 501 hours. How could we evolve sensible legislation when working under such intolerable conditions?
A great deal has been said about the starred Amendment which has appeared on the Order Paper and which, it has been claimed, has caused a lot of trouble. The Bill has always had safeguards within it regarding commercial practice and competitive tendering in the operation of railway workshops. Because of the suspicion of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, we have been trying to educate them in the many weeks in Committee, but they have still been reiterating the same points. They were so suspicious that my right hon. Friend brought in the Amendment that has been referred to so as to show in black and white that the workshops would be conducted economically and on a competitive tender basis. Since this is a concessionary Amendment, why do hon. Members opposite object to adopting it?
The Amendment would save time. It would knock out dozens of Amendments placed on the Notice Paper by hon. Members opposite with a view to establishing what this Amendment lays down. Why are they so afraid of it? I think it is because they have been trying to launch a great campaign and their intention has been to spin out discussions on the Bill while they were mounting that campaign in the country. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart made this perfectly clear in the most misleading article which he wrote in the Sunday Post. It was the most misleading and scandalous article by a Member of Parliament that I have ever read, and that is saying a lot.
I felt that I had to challenge him in Committee about the article, but he made no attempt to show that he wrote it with honesty of purpose. There has been a reply from a good friend of mine, the President of the Scottish Co-Operative Wholesale Society, who is now in another place. He gave a truer picture of what the Bill will accomplish. Last weekend the hon. Member addressed a huge rally of susceptible Young Conservatives in London. What he wrote in the Sunday Post was nothing compared with what he told them. He told those promising young Primrose Leaguers:
This Socialist Government will bring into State ownership everything that moves.
Presumably, he included the worms in the fields. This sort of overstatement is the
hon. Member's great failing. He overstates his case repeatedly in Committee. I wish him well as a young Member of this House, and I have tried to help him on many occasions. I ask him to stop overstating and destroying his case.
Hon. Members opposite are in a great dilemma because now dozens of Amendments will be knocked out. They were to be the culmination of all the newspaper articles and of the employment of Mr. Murphy of the Road Haulage Association. These Amendments were to be introduced by the hon. Member for Worcester, the hon. Member for Cathcart, and the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine), who has done well in the Committee. It is the first Committee on which he has sat and, although he started rather slowly, he has proved himself an able member now that he has got geared up. He was a little over-arrogant at times, but nevertheless I pay him the compliment that he has got down to the Bill. Between us we should not be bad opponents.
I am sorry; I was not aware of that. After a slow start, the hon. Member came to his full stride and he has been striding and talking longer every day since.
The culmination of the great campaign has gone up in smoke. In order to avoid more suspicion being spread, my right hon. Friend has put down this Amendment and now the Opposition has wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds. Many people have been gulled, and that is very sad. It is not the way to make Acts of Parliament, by stampeding people into fear of something awful happening to them. I am pleased that the guillotine is being introduced. I shall not mention any names, but I know some hon. Members opposite hoped that there would be a guillotine. Not every hon. Member opposite can cross his heart and say that he has not said this to me. When I have asked them why they said that, they have said "It was a great propaganda point. See how you used it in 1962. We would like to use it in the same way."
Another great cause for resentment among hon. Members opposite is that they hoped that the longer the Bill went on the greater would be the period in which they could try to recover prestige which they lost in Committee. There is one Liberal on the Committee, the hon. Member for Bodmin. I have helped him on one occasion. Strangely enough, he has captured all the key positions in the Bill by the skilful placing of Amendments. No hon. Member opposite can deny that in nearly every case the Tory Party has fallen behind the lone Liberal.
That was not exactly the point I was dealing with. I thought that the hon. Member had been following me. I have given a lucid exposition of the Bill, which already contains safeguards because. of the directions the Minister can give. Because hon. Members opposite were so suspicious we have brought in this Amendment making it starkly clear to them that they need have no fear. Because they need have no fear, they are terribly disturbed because of all the money they have spent for nothing.
The Liberal Amendments have been placed at key posiions in the Bill. I am sorry that I had to make certain references to the hon. Member for Bodmin before he came into the Chamber. I cannot repeat them now that he has returned, I hope that he will read what I said. He suggested that by sitting 50½ hours a week we could finish the Bill by the end of June. That would mean sitting all night on three nights a week with time to get a cup of tea and a shave only from 8 o'clock until 10.30 each morning. When he reads what I have said, I think that he will find that it would not be practicable to ask hon. Members to legislate under such conditions of work which would be necessary if, with the support of the Tories, his suggestion had been carried into effect.
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester made the offers to sit the necessary number of hours many weeks ago. If the Government had accepted the offers when they were first made, the burden on members of the Committee would not have been necessary. We are still prepared to sit those numbers of hours, because we believe that it is our duty to examine the Bill in detail, but we are to be precluded from doing so.
The hon. Gentleman came in late, otherwise he would have known that I dealt with that point. I quoted chapter and verse for the request for 500 hours and for the promise to finish by the end of June. When the hon. Gentleman say my name on the Annunciator, he should have rushed in to hear my speech. As the hon. Gentleman is now in the Chamber, I will give the House an idea of the filibustering and time wasting which has been going on in the Committee by quoting the number of columns in the OFFICIAL REPORT taken up by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman is not on the Front Bench. Everybody knows that the Front Bench takes far more time than the back benches. The hon. Gentleman is an ordinary back bencher, sitting at the rear of the Committee Room, unassuming and quiet for most of the time. He took a little while to get into his stride. For the first six meetings he was getting geared up and watching points.
There is no doubt that the hon. Gentleman is a capable Member, because he has made great strides. After remaining silent for the first six meetings, he began to take a vocal part in the proceedings and I now state for the House the number of columns that he has occupied in the OFFICIAL REPORT for the next 20 meetings: seventh meeting, 23 columns; eighth meeting, 13 columns; ninth meeting, 9 columns; tenth meeting, 26 columns; eleventh meeting, 9 columns; twelfth meeting, 31 columns; thirteenth meeting, 22 columns; fourteenth meeting, 32 columns; fifteenth meeting, 13 columns; sixteenth meeting. 7 columns; seventeenth meeting, 12 columns; eighteenth meeting, 4 columns; nineteenth meeting, 9 columns; and the twentieth meeting, 8 columns. I hope that no one will seek to tell me that that is a fair share-out for a back bencher who is taking a third-class rôle in the proceedings, remembering that the Front Bench opens, winds up, and moves Amendments and must consequently have a much larger share. The House will see that my hon. Friends and I can hardly get a word in edgeways.
I apologise for not being here at the commencement of the hon. Gentleman's speech, but my absence was unavoidable. To be fair, the hon. Member for Tavistock was, and is at the moment, leading for his party.
My point was that he was unassuming on the back benches. I want to close now. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite are annoyed because I have made a successful speech and exposed their weaknesses and hypocrisies. My right hon. Friend the Minister has examined every Amendment. She adopts any Amendment which has value. However, no Amendment will corrupt the Bill to such an extent that the basic principles of proper integration will not take place. There will be integration. The Bill when enacted will be the most beneficial thing that has ever happened, for the benefit of the public of this country so far as a proper transport system is concerned.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) will have done enormous good to my party in the West Country. Many of my constituents will be delighted to learn from his speech that my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) has been doing such a good job in the Committee. I am not a member of the Committee but I am delighted that my hon. Friend has been doing so well.
I protest against the Motion, not because I want to add fuel to party controversy on the issue, but because I want to explain in detail my very real concern about the effect the Bill will have upon outlying areas if it is taken through the House at the speed proposed in the Motion. The Leader of the House, by claiming that it was rich vested interests that opposed the Bill, cheapened the Government's case. In my part of the world the vested interests, which are considerable, are certainly not rich. They are the fishermen, the farmers, and the ordinary people living in an outlying area which will be very adversely affected by the Bill. Not one of them, as far as I know, is rich.
I want to go over a few vital arguments, because now, under the terms of the Motion, we shall not have the opportunity to make points affecting special parts of the country which we could have made had the Bill proceeded at the normal speed. I make no apology for referring to my constituency, because I believe that it will be more adversely affected by the Bill than practically any other. The Highlands of Scotland and the outlying areas of Wales may be equally badly affected, but the far South-West will be more adversely harmed than practically any other part of the United Kingdom.
Has the hon. Gentleman read the Clauses dealing with rural transport? Is he aware of the 50 per cent. subsidy which the Minister is prepared to grant for the first time? Thus transport in rural areas will have more help than it has ever had and will be able to run a transport system in those areas. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell), who represents a rural area, acknowledges this.
I was not referring to individual Clauses. I was referring to the Bill as a whole and, in particular, Part V, which I have read, in regard to quantity licensing and drivers' hours. There are Clauses which I welcome. But on the hon. Gentleman's point, an enormous burden is placed on the rates in the far West by keeping services going throughout the winter months to have them available for tourists who treble our population in the summer months. The additional burden on the rates of keeping our branch lines open and making other provisions will be more difficult to bear in our part of the country than in practically any other.
I want to refer particularly to quantity licensing and drivers' hours. I had prepared for the Standing Committee a number of detailed Amendments which now, because of the Motion, I do not believe can be dealt with in Committee. According to the Motion, there will be only three days for Report, so I do not think that the detailed points which need to be discussed will be heard. I want, therefore, to make some of these points now—
I will do that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have listened to a long recitation from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) on how to deal with the Minister of Transport, on contributions to Tory Party funds, on government by White Paper, and to a whole host of other admirable topics which bore even less relation, if I am entitled to say so, to the Motion than the few remarks I was seeking to make. I am protesting about the curtailment of the debate because I do not believe that the very real and special interests of outlying areas will now have a proper hearing. It is in that connection that I want to make a short speech.
I shall take just two industries as examples of those which will not now be able to have their interests properly ventilated. [Interruption.] The Leader of the House asks "Why?". The answer is that I am sure that there will not be time, if the Committee stage ends on 15th May, for all the Amendments to Part V to be properly debated in Committee, nor will there be time on Report to deal with these matters during the three days available.
To quote the first example, the fishing industry exists in West Cornwall because of the flexibility of road transport. There is not the slightest doubt that if the transport of fish from Cornwall is forced on to the railways under Part V the fishing industry will simply disappear.
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the whole essence of the new quantity licensing proposals depends on the existence of freight liner terminals in his part of the country. If he studies the existing and proposed freight liner grid he will not find a freight liner terminal in his part of the country.
I know more about the freight liner terminals in my part of the country than the hon. Gentleman does. There is no freight liner terminal within 60 miles of the area to which I am referring.
I too have been taking a very active interest in this aspect. I am aware of fairly large areas where there are no rail connections of any kind and where operators of vehicles going over 100 miles, and of 16 tons weight, will be able to ask for and automatically obtain their licences. But where a railhead could be used, or there is a short haul to a freight liner depôt, and British Rail object to the load going by road, it must prove three things before getting it—reliability, speed and cost. The hon. Gentleman should not start shaking his head. Does he not know the Bill?
Order. I think that both hon. Members are doing what I ruled out of order, which was a detailed discussion of the Bill. We are discussing a timetable Motion, and all remarks must be related to it.
With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the hon. Gentleman, who has so courteously given way, said in introducing the quantity licensing question that he feared that the guillotine would not allow proper discussion of it. On that matter, I suggest that he was perfectly in order.
The hon. Gentleman's opening remarks were perfectly in order. What he failed to do was to keep in order, because he went into detail about the issues, and he cannot do that on the timetable Motion.
I cannot debate this now. I shall talk about it with the hon. Gentleman afterwards, because it is out of order to discuss it now.
The point I am trying to make is that there are very special interests in particular parts of the country which already have a higher cost of living than the metropolitan areas and are already poorer than those areas. Those special interests will not get a proper hearing as as result of the Motion. I cannot see that it is conceivable that there will be more than a few days' debate on this vitally important matter under Part V. The Bill fundamentally affects the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people in the outlying areas, and their livelihood will not now be the subject of debate as the Bill passes through Parliament.
A likelihood that the railways will not object to quantity licences being given for transport in the outlying areas is not very much comfort to us. What we hoped to do before the guillotine Motion was introduced was to table Amendments on the relevant Clauses in Part V and obtain assurances from the Minister that she understood our particular problems and would give guidance on the granting or non-granting of quantity licences for the interests which concern us now. Now we shall rush through this part of the Bill—
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way for the third time. I think that he rather misunderstands the main provisions of the Bill, because as I see it the only thing that will affect this part of the country is the wear and tear and abnormal load charge. The quantity licensing provisions stay basically the same.
That is not the case, and that is why I object to the Motion so much. I know Nuneaton and I go up there fairly frequently. It is clear that the hon. Member for Nuneaton has not the slightest idea about this Bill although he is on the Committee—
I shall not give way again. It is clear that the hon. Gentleman has not the slightest idea how the Bill will affect the outlying areas. By making that remark and saying that there is only one aspect of it which affects us—the wear and tear charge—he is displaying the ignorance of hon. Members, even on the Committee, of how the Bill will affect such areas.
There are all sorts of other aspects of the Bill which will not be able to be properly debated—
I also object to the Motion because probably we shall not now have a chance of a full debate on Report on drivers' hours. This is another matter on which a full debate was needed. I make no excuse for referring to my constituency. I do not always make constituency speeches, but I believe that the Bill affects my constituency far worse than any other in the whole country, and I am very concerned about it. I hope that the comments of the Leader of the House about rich vested interests opposing the Bill will appear in my local Press next week. There may be rich vested interests opposing the Bill, but it is basically the poor vested interests in my constituency that are most upset by it—the fishermen, horticulturists and others in an area with lower incomes than any other. These are the subjects which will be adversely affected by the Bill and that is why I protest against the curtailment of the proceedings.
We shall not be able fully to debate the question of drivers' hours. This is a vital matter for my part of the country because there are no mass metropolitan markets within 300 miles of the producers there. The only market within 100 miles of my constituency is Plymouth. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Bristol?"] Bristol is closer to Dover than to my constituency. It is nearly 200 miles away. I do not think that hon. Members opposite have any conception of what they are talking about. The nearest metropolitan markets to my constituency are 300 miles away. Yet we shall not be able fully to debate the question of drivers' hours.
I am in complete agreement with what the hon. Gentleman has said. Does not he agree that the issues of the Freight Corporation, the establishment of passenger transport authorities and of the National Bus Company, and quantity licensing, quite apart from quality licensing, will considerably affect all parts of Cornwall?
I entirely agree. I am glad the hon. Gentleman intervened because I find it frightening that a member of the Labour Party sitting in the Committee is so ignorant of the way in which this Bill is going to affect outlying areas of the country. But after the interruptions I have had from hon. Members opposite, I want to come back to the curtailment of the proceedings and the timing chosen. I want to give an example of the sort of Amendments which would have been tabled in Committee and fully debated had not this Motion been brought forward.
We would have been able to table Amendments dealing with the fishing industry, but I doubt now whether, if we did, these could be called in the time that is to be available. We would have been able to show that, if the railways were to succeed in their objections to the carriage of fish by refrigerated lorries, the cost of carrying fish would go up by about 400 per cent. on the railways. No doubt, we shall be told that quantity licences will be granted to someone carrying fish by lorry if the railways were 400 per cent. more expensive. But what we fear is that the railways will quote a lower price, which they are able to do because their prices for fish go up 50 per cent. one day and come down 20 per cent. the next.
I will come back to the time-tabling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If we had had the time in Committee to table Amendments relating to the fishing industry, and a reasonable chance of their being called, and if on Report we had been given a chance to do the same, this point would not have arisen in this debate.
The Motion will be regarded as a serious curtailment of the right of the House fully to discuss the interests of my part of the country. My constituents will not regard the Motion in the favourable terms in which the hon. Member for Nuneaton regards it. It is a curtailment of the right of their representatives to discuss fully how each industry in their part of the world will be affected.
I am not referring to what the Conservative Administration did but to the fact that, in this case, as a new Member of Parliament, I object to not being given the opportunity of a longer Report stage in which to move Amendments—I do not see how in three days such Amendments could be called—and thereby show the effects of the Bill on industries in my constituency.
Representing a constituency as remote from the industrial centres as the hon. Gentleman's, I am at a loss to understand how he can think he is assisting these parts of the country by such gross exaggeration of the effects of the Bill. If he understood the provisions of the Bill, as he obviously does not, he would not find it necessary to put down phoney Amendments to safeguard situations which are not in fact threatened by the Bill.
But such assurances I would like to have heard from the Minister herself, in Committee or in the House, as a result of Amendments put down to cover these industries. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is right. He has a constituency with many of the same prob- lems. But none of these assurances has been forthcoming from the right hon. Lady. If the hon. Gentleman is right, then it is only necessary for the right hon. Lady to write me a letter in reply to one from me and tell me that my fears are unjustified.
The hon. Gentleman says that he has read at least part of the proceedings in Committee. Has he read the White Papers produced by the Ministry? Could anything be more clear than those White Papers about the protections written into the Bill?
The hon. Gentleman is not correct. The protections are not clear in the White Papers and that is why I object to this Motion, for it will not give sufficient time to clear up these matters.
The hon. Gentleman has repeatedly mentioned that he will be very limited on Report. We shall discuss that aspect more fully when we reach the Amendments, but I would point out to him that, as a result of Government Amendments which we shall move, on the Report stage, which is to last three days—which is as long as anyone has ever had before—we are giving five and a half hours extra each day. That is tantamount to two extra days. He will therefore find that his complaint has been largely met in terms of time and that he will have every reasonable chance of his Amendments being discussed on the Report stage under the unique arrangements which we are making for the Bill.
If the Report stage is longer than usual that is only right in a situation in which my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) has asked for a great number of additional hours for the Committee stage, which is being sharply curtailed. I am saying that, since these points which I want to see discussed in Committee will not be discussed in Committee, then the Report stage should be considerably longer than is intended in the guillotine Motion.
I had no opportunity to speak on the Second Reading of this Bill which affects my constituency in the most catastrophic way. The Leader of the House is not correct when he says that we have no reason to fear it. People of every party, and of no party, in my county fear the Bill. I have read the White Papers on the Bill. I have not read all the proceedings of the Committee stage, but we do have a great deal to fear from it.
On a matter of this nature, seriously affecting the livelihood of practically every person in an area which is already the poorest in the United Kingdom, we should have had a full debate. It is the Minister's reluctance even to answer our inquiries, even to give us the assurances for which we ask, that makes us most concerned. If we have nothing to worry about, it would be quite simple for the Minister to answer our letters, the letters from the N.F.U. and the fishing industry, and give us the assurances we seek. Then we would at least be in part content.
I trust that the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his speech, except to say that I feel that many of his anxieties are exaggerated. He would do well to accept the advice of my right hon. Friend, that many of his fears will prove unfounded. I would prefer to refer to one or two things which my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) had to say. He said that many Members had approached him with a view to being placed on the Committee. He added that he had acceded to their requests, and said a little prayer for them. I asked to be allowed to serve on the Committee and have no misgivings at all. I am very happy about being able to do so and I feel that for my service I might earn a remission of my purgatory.
Indeed, having listened to so many unenlightened speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite in Committee, I might even be a fortnight in Heaven before the Devil knows that I am dead. It has been interesting to reflect on the words of my hon. Friend, for whom I have a very high regard. Despite his admonitions and misgivings, I would say that the opposition that has come our way has nothing to do with the limitation of time, in other words, nine is not the problem.
The rub of the situation is that the Opposition do not like this Bill, to put it very mildly. They are ruthlessly oppose to it, they detest it. As the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) recalled, in generous vein, I have said that hon. Members were entitled to say what they want to say. He forgot to add that I have also been saying during our deliberations that hon. Members were taking an inordinate amount of time in Committee. We have needed the patience of Job. There has been a flagrant abuse of Parliamentary time.
At times the proceedings were anything but businesslike. Because we have had so little time to speak, we can only lay the blame for the waste of time at the door of hon. Gentlemen opposite. We want this Bill and intend to have it, and that is the reason for our patience. An integrated transport system is a promise that we have made to the nation, and we need to redeem that promise and intend to use the guillotine. We make no apology for doing so in order to ensure fair play.
The hon. Member for St. Ives made a rather querulous speech. That prerogative belongs to Members on this side of the House, because we have not had fair play in Committee. We have not had the opportunity to express our own point of view, and it is equitable and just that we should have the time. Now that we intend to use the guillotine we shall have this in the fullness of time. The objections to the Bill have used up most of the time, and there cannot be any argument or dubiety about that. I often felt that hon. Members opposite were deliberately shutting us out of the discussion. It is not fair to us, it is not fair to themselves and not fair to Parliament; and it is certainly not just and equitable to the people outside whose interests they tell us they have so much at heart.
The guillotine was a "must" if we were to be given the opportunity of having a reasonable say in the deliberations. Without this Bill Britain in the near future will grind to a halt. Without this Bill there will no be economic recovery in our land. Difficulties, yes, but when was there a time when we have not had difficulties? Difficulties make giants and the difficulties will be overcome. Without the guillotine, without the Bill, there will be and there will continue to be a great measure of social injustice, and we believe that we have done no injustice at all.
We are being eminently just in our belief that it was absolutely necessary to have the guillotine in order to forward the discussion on this tremendous Bill in an equitable, fair and just manner.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, as a member of the Committee I have had to listen to quite a number of speeches which have been both amazing and irresponsible, and sitting here listening to this debate has been no change. We have just heard the hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon) talking of all the complaints he has of the Committee. First of all, that there has been time wasting. Those who are members of the Committee will be well aware that the chief exponent of that has been the hon. Gentleman himself. He has consistently intervened on spurious points of order to such an extent that he has been censored by the Chairman, as hon. Members know. He has said that hon. Members on the Conservative side were shutting out the Government Members on the Committee. He must know that that is rubbish. Let him look at the columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debates up to the time the guillotine was announced.
As to how responsible hon. Gentlemen on the other side have been, I would ask the hon. Member for Preston, South to note that up to the time the guillotine was announced the Conservative members of the Committee, with all the persuasion and force at their command, and all their fears, took up 5,395 columns. The hon. Gentleman said Opposition members of the Committee have sought to shut out Government members who were anxious to get the Bill through. How many column inches did Government speakers take up? They took 3,960—only about 30 per cent. less than the Opposition took.
I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to perpetrate an injustice even though I am the victim. He speaks of admonitions by the Chairman of the Committee. I will leave hon. Members on both sides who are members of the Committee to judge who has been the particular culprit in that regard. The hon. Gentleman has come under the hammer, as will, I believe, be verified in loud acclaim, by members of the Committee. He has shown more pique and bad temper than anyone and has spoiled our happiness on a great number of occasions.
I cannot pursue that point. The hon. Gentleman knows that I was called to order by the Chairman only once, and that was for eating oranges.
If there was ever an argument against this guillotine, it was that advanced in the three interruptions of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott). The reason why we must have more time than this Motion allows is because the Bill is not sufficiently known even to members of the Committee.
In a splendid intervention, the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huck-field) said that British Railways would have to prove that they were more speedy, reliable and efficient if they were successfully to oppose a licence application. If he has read the Bill, he must know from Clause 70 that it is not up to them at all. The onus is upon the road haulier. It is not a matter of the Railways proving anything. Clearly, the hon. Gentleman does not know the Bill, although he is a member of the Committee. That fact alone shows how obvious is the need for more time to discuss it.
That is again proof of how ludicrous the position is. The hon. Gentleman has been sitting in the Committee and listening to our deliberations; yet he says that it is up to the licensing authority. Does he not appreciate that the authority has to interpret the Bill as it is and that the Bill does not leave it to the licensing authority? It says that if there is any doubt it is the road haulier who must prove himself and not the Railways Board.
I will, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and one of the principal arguments against the Motion is that because of the time that we have had and the speed with which we have gone through our business hon. Members opposite do not know the Bill. We think that they need time to study it carefully and to understand the dangers in it. Most important of all, the public needs more time to appreciate the dangers in this massive Bill. We must have more time than will be possible if we are obliged to conclude the proceedings in Committee by 15th May.
Other examples have been given. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) always makes a habit of attacking me in the Committee, quite unjustifiably. However, he is not here now, so I will say no more about it.
The one good thing that may come out of the Motion is that it has given the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) the opportunity to support the Government, which is something that he rarely does. He usually criticises the Government for what they do. All that he has done today is to accuse them of being more Tory than the Liberal member of the Committee, the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell). We know why the hon. Gentleman supports his right hon. and hon. Friends. It is because he approves of the Bill completely. It is what his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House would call another giant stride towards Socialism.
What do we have to prove to stop this Motion going forward? We have proved beyond doubt that there has been no filibustering in the Committee. Admittedly, there have been tough debates. We have gone into all the issues carefully, trying to protect our constituents. But there has been no filibustering, as all speakers from this side of the House have testified. In addition, there has been no endeavour from the Government side to say that there has been.
Do we have to prove that the Bill is important? We know that it is a vital Measure. I was impressed to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) earlier. He said that when first he saw the Bill just before Christmas he knew that it would not be possible for it to be reasonably debated, even assuming that every minute of a three-day week was given to it. However, the Leader of the House is not even trying to give us an opportunity to debate it reasonably. He is giving us an intolerably short time to discuss what is a massive Bill.
The Bill is too big for this kind of Motion. It is about the most massive Measure ever to come before Parliament. Certainly it is the largest one that I have seen in my three years in this House. It has enormous powers, including enormous spending powers. In view of the situation in the money market today and in view of the position of sterling, is it reasonable to ask us to go through three-quarters of the Bill by the 15th May and carefully discuss provisions which involve the direct spending of taxpayers' money on write-offs of capital, loans, subsidies and grants of £1,900 million, quite apart from the additional damage that it will do in raising costs and in other ways. Does he seriously think that he can suggest to the House that we should go in detail through three-quarters of this Bill involving such an enormous amount of discussion and spending?
We had the question of it being too late. The Bill has come too late to the Committee, but this is not our fault. We should not have an unreasonable Guillotine imposed because of this. This is the fault of the Government. It is their responsibility.
The most ludicrous argument has been that we could not have a full discussion because it would mean too many hours per week. We have made clear that we are only too glad to discuss this at length with late night and all night sittings, if need be, to make sure that the Bill is properly discussed.
I did not vote against it. I pointed out some of the difficulties of the Scottish Members. I am prepared, if there is any doubt in the hon. Gentleman's mind, to sit day and night. The hon. Gentleman has made two terrible mistakes this afternoon. He should keep quiet and not make any more, because his constituents will throw against him his scandalous attitude to a Bill which will seriously affect them. He should appreciate that we are only too glad to sit day and night so long as we have an opportunity of going through the Bill in detail carefully and sensibly without filibustering. We are told that 40 or 50 hours a week is too long. Does the Leader of the House appreciate that within the Bill we are making provision for drivers to have a working week not of 40 or 50 hours, but of 60 hours? Is he seriously saying that on this vital Bill we should not be able to work the same working week in Committee as drivers? [Interruption.] This is a very serious point. If the hon. Gentleman is prepared to have a Bill rushed through—
The hon. Gentleman is talking out of the back of his head. He knows as well as I do that every active Member in this House—I say "active Member"—works far more than 60 hours a week now.
I would not contest that for a moment, but the hon. Gentleman knows that if there were an important Bill which he felt was dangerous for his constituents and against our national interests he would find the time—perhaps by getting other hon. Members to take up certain of his duties. We are saying that we will make the time available, but the Government are not prepared to do it. The result will be that large chunks of the Bill will not be properly discussed.
I wonder who has been fighting for us? The Leader of the House referred to a collective decision. He said that the Bill had been held up because of a collective decision and Cabinet discussion. This guillotine Motion was obviously a collective decision on the part of the Government. We wonder who in the Cabinet was fighting for the people. When we bear in mind that large chunks of the Bill, which could have devastating implications for Scotland and its industry, will not be discussed, we wonder whether the Secretary of State was fighting for freedom of expression and free discussion on this Bill as he has fought on so many guillotine Motions before.
The Government do not want a full and adequate discussion on the Bill because this would give adequate opportunity for the people to be told the facts about it. If this is such an important matter, who is welcoming the Bill? Who is pleading for us to rush it through the House of Commons? We have destroyed every single argument which could be put forward for a guillotine. There has been no filibustering. We have offered to provide the time. We have suggested that parts can be taken from the Bill. What more do we have to do to avoid a guillotine?
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale asked why, if we are so opposed, are we being so reasonable? There are different ways of opposing a Bill. We could try to be wreckers or try to hold up discussion, but we should know that a guillotine would come along and we would have little time for discussion. We decided to try to do this reasonably for one reason only, namely, so that we could have the maximum possible time to go into the Bill and suggest changes. If there has been any waste of time, we have not been responsible for it.
Having said that, I must qualify it by saying that there was one occasion on which time was wasted. I am referring now to the long discussion that we had about the financial disciplines which should be imposed on nationalised undertakings when they go into free competition. We wasted a lot of time on this, but we obtained a concession this morning, by way of a manuscript Amendment. If this Amendment had been tabled at the beginning, many valuable hours could have been saved.
This Bill could have devastating implications for the regions. It will affect tax payers and ratepayers. It will affect thousands of jobs, and it will affect prices. In spite of that, the Government have brought forward this Motion. They have introduced the guillotine despite our cooperation, and despite our efforts. It is the most irresponsible action that we have seen by the Government, and I hope that hon. Members, irrespective of their political beliefs, will prevent the Government from doing something which is savage, dishonest, and disreputable, and something which will be very much against t le interests of our nation. I hope that the Motion will be strongly opposed, to make sure that it is thrown out.
I hope that other hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate will find an opportunity to do so during the discussions on the Amendments which have been selected.
I start by referring to what I thought was a most valuable contribution to the debate, the speech of the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), who is the Chairman of the Committee of Selection. It was clear from what he said that he had worked out the time that it could be expected the Bill would take in Committee. His estimate, without any delaying, accords with what has happened in in the Committtee so far. I think that right hon. and hon. Members must have been impressed to learn that the Chairman of the Committee of Selection, in selecting us to serve on Committees, is so conscientious and painstaking in his examination of the situations with which he was confronting us. The Government should have followed his advice. They should have divided the Bill into at least three Measures, as he suggested, and they should now follow his advice and withdraw the Motion. Has there even been an occasion when a distinguished Member of the House, holding such a key position, has expressed such views on a particular time-table Motion? I believe that his action is unprecedented, and I therefore urge the Government to consider carefully what he said.
In eight weeks the Committee considered 44 Clauses, and 6 Schedules. That was good progress by any standards. If we accept the Motion, we will be left with only seven working weeks in which to consider the remaining 125 Clauses, and 12 Schedules, together with new Clauses to which large sections of trade and industry attach importance. In 22 sittings the Committee reached Clause 45. Perhaps we might compare that with what happened to the 1962 Transport Bill, when, in 21 sittings, the Committee reached only Clause 13. There was, therefore, then justification for a time-table on that Bill. That Bill went into Committee well before Christmas 1961.
I am glad that the Secretary of State for Scotland is here. The other Measure which was time-tabled at the same time as the 1962 Transport Bill was the Scottish Housing Bill. At its 14th sitting, that Committee had reached only Clause 2, and the right hon. Gentleman, who contributed much to the discussion, was largely responsible. If that performance is compared with ours on the. Transport Bill, the House can draw its own conclusions.
This situation is entirely different. There has been no filibustering. There was one closure on the Sittings Motion at our first sitting, which was moved immediately after the Minister's speech, giving no one else a chance to comment. But there have been no closures moved on debates on the Bill itself. Parliament has therefore been placed in a deplorable situation, because far too much has been crammed into one Bill which was introduced too late. The Committee began work only on 23rd January. As a result, neither the Committee nor the House will have enough time to consider proposals which cover an enormous range of subjects and are vague, ambiguous, and unclear in their effects.
The Bill should have been split and some parts postponed to a later Bill or Bills, because some could easily have waited. The quantity licensing to restrict large lorries on journeys over 100 miles or when carrying certain bulk loads any distance has caused great concern, not just among the hauliers, but throughout trade and industry, which is accentuated by the news of the guillotine. People are asking whether there will be enough time to consider these proposals and whether all the Amendments and Clauses will be discussed before the chopper falls.
The quantity of licensing proposals, the two new taxes and the inflexibility of drivers' hours have created well-founded objections from bodies representing almost every activity, particularly in Scotland. The more remote Scottish local authorities are particularly worried. They have been active in recent years in encouraging industry and employment and they are worried that many of the key Amendments which would have such an effect for Scotland will never be reached. This is a deplorable situation for which the Leader of the House must be held responsible.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) referred to White Papers. The White Paper on Freight, the part which mainly worries trade and industry, appeared in November, only a short time before the Bill came out in December, leaving very little time for consideration. And in at least one important respect, the Bill differed from the White Paper.
The right hon. Gentleman's speech was amusing although flippant, and I enjoyed it, as I think did the whole House, but there was one great flaw in it. He equated Parliamentary opposition with filibustering and filibustering with fighting. I disagree entirely, and I am disappointed that he, of all people, should support filibustering as opposed to orderly, Parliamentary debate, however deeply one is concerned about the subjects. I would have expected him to favour logical discussion and the weighing of facts, and the arguments and views expressed. I would also have expected him, as an editor, to have considered the influencing and informing of public opinion to play an important part.
While I disagree with the hon. Gentleman on many things, I would have thought that he would have favoured cerebral processesses and not have become a declared advocate of filibustering as a way of expressing opposition and achieving changes in legislation. Although he made an amusing speech, that is what he was advocating, which is quite different from what he said in a previous debate, when he stated:
… once we have a timetable all the interplay of free debate is gone. Every hon. Member knows this; I do not say that our debates are models of dynamic intercourse … but the introduction of a guillotine makes them all the worse".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th January, 1962; Vol. 652, c. 456.]
I give the hon. Gentleman credit for contributing to the dynamic intercourse of our debates, but, regrettably, on this occasion, he gave way to wit rather than logic.
The Motion appeared on the Notice Paper only yesterday and several Government Amendments, at which complaints have been levelled, appeared only today. Three of these Amendments seem to be on the Notice Paper only because the Leader of the House has forgotten the
Order of 12th December on Sittings of the House, on one of his own recent proposals concerning the carry-over of business to 10 o'clock the next morning. However, for sheer exuberant irresponsibility, his hon. Friends behind him have excelled because in Early Day Motion 197, which appeared before the right hon. Gentleman's Motion and which was signed by 111 hon. Gentlemen, it was stated:
The House welcomes the decision of the Leader of the House "—
and I regret that the right hon. Gentleman has decided to leave the Chamber at this moment.
The Motion continued:
to propose a timetable Motion in pursuance of Standing Order 67.
Many of us immediately wondered what would come the following day because we were expecting a timetable Motion either under Standing Order 43 or 43(a). We wondered if we would have the old or new procedure. But Standing Order 67 was subsidiary and irrelevant and, when the Motion appeared, it was proceeding under Standing Order 43.
Almost 130 hon. Gentlemen opposite have signed this Motion and it is a matter of regret that so many hon. Members should have signed a Motion supporting steam roller methods of forcing through a Bill of a size unexampled since the 1930s. It is also a matter of ridicule that they should have been misled into putting their names to a Motion thinking that the Leader of the House would take certain action when so many of them have been proved wrong and have not, even on this subject, known what the Government were doing.
Let us consider the relationship between the time-table and the parts of the Bill which the Committee has not yet reached. There are a wide variety of subjects in the various Clauses yet to be considered and we will not have sufficient time in which to consider them properly. Without going into details, some of them are headed "Bridges, level crossings, etc.," "Inland waterways," "Regulation of road traffic" and "Miscellaneous and general", a part of the Bill with 21 Clauses, for good measure. Will we have enough time to consider those provisions?
Then there is the reorganisation of the nationalised bodies and the new powers they are being given. There is also the question of drivers' hours, about which the Committee will wish to discuss the important question of safety, but also in relation to flexibility to ensure that the Measure will not cripple and cramp trade and industry.
What would happen if a driver arrived 10 miles from a port and his time ran out? Is he then to stop, is he to miss a ship, thus missing a delivery date to which a firm is committed? This is the kind of problem which trade and industry are worried about and which must have proper discussion and be clarified by the Government, if we have time to reach this sort of point under the timetable.
In addition to the sections I have mentioned, there is the whole question of altering the system of road carrier licensing. After the Geddes Report it was expected that there would be a change in the system, but it was not expected to be put in with everything else in this indigestible pudding of a Bill. Time is needed to consider the quality licensing proposals to try to iron out the anomalies which will arise under the present proposals and to try to reduce the red tape and bureaucracy they contain. There must be time for this in Committee because these are very much Committee points.
The quantity licensing proposals have raised serious objections and apprehensions of so many people all over the country representing not only trade and industry but many activities, employers, trade unions and so on. The Government have said that the fears which have arisen are unnecessary, but again we need time to enable the Government to explain why the fears and apprehensions of so many people are unfounded.
There is the whole procedure of objections. It is a complicated one which those outside the House have been quite unable i o understand so far. There is the whole question of whether international journeys are affected, journeys which start or end outside this country. Do they come within the scope or not? There are complicated transitional arrangements because the old and the new systems are to run together for some years. This needs sorting out and explanation is needed in Committee. The Amendmets will enable this to be done and will enable alterations to be made.
There are two new taxes in the Bill, the wear-and-tear tax and the abnormal loads tax. These affect very important sections of trade and industry, particularly those in the export trade. The Minister said that she is considering a concession on the abnormal loads tax, but there has been no sign of it so far. Will she say whether it will appear in the next two weeks? We shall be on to that section of the Bill in about two weeks' time if this is the sort of timetable under which we are to work. We have put down Amendments which would help the hon. Lady. Perhaps she will tell us which of those Amendments she would agree to. We should like to abolish the tax altogether; at least, its effects should be "mitigated"—to use the Government's expression.
This tax will cover such a wide range of persons and activities that I do not believe even the Government understand how much is affected. Do they realise that at present the driver of a combine harvester moving from one field to another would have to give notice and pay a fee before it could be moved? Are the Government aware that road-mending and road-building equipment is of such size that unless exempted, it would need notice to be given and a fee paid when it is moved along a bit of road doing a job? This is the sort of anomaly which needs to be put right, and we need time to do that.
I am sure that the Government do not even realise how much is covered by the Bill. For example, Gipsy Moth IV went round the Horn and round the world, but to go from the Boat Show to Greenwich at the end, a tax would have had to have been paid, because of the dimensions of the beam, which exceeds the dimensions prescribed in the Bill. Such points as these need to be sorted out, because, if a boat which went round the world without paying such a tax now has to pay a tax on that journey, it shows that any boats of a similar or larger size being sent for export would be hit by the tax.
The extra cost, the restrictions, the uncertainty, and the loss of flexibility, could seriously dislocate trade and industry. None of these freight proposals has been reached yet in Committee. All the proposals concerning freight are still to come and must fall within the period which the timetable covers. This is of great concern to Scotland. I hope that the Leader of the House is listening to this point. I know that there are other parts of the Bill which are causing grave concern and would, if not changed, cause damage in England and Wales, because the Government seem to be following a Socialist principle, which we have now come to know quite well, of meting out equal misery to all. It is about these freight proposals that so many people in Scotland are worried and concerned. They are worried now particularly that there is not to be enough time for them to be considered, because the freight proposals are in the latter part of the Bill, and, therefore, must fall under the guillotine.
The measures on quantity control, for example, are thought in Scotland to be a counter-development measure, because they and the taxes make distances more expensive. If the Minister thinks that she has the answers to matters such as these, she must want time in Committee and on the Floor of the House to explain them.
The Bill, so enormous, has other interesting parts to it. We are at the moment on the nationalisation Clause. There is also, I point out to those who may not have had the chance to examine it, what is known as a Henry VIII Clause. The right hon. Lady is following an interesting historical line in this—that is, the kind of Clause which empowers the Government to alter by regulation provisions in the Bill after it has been enacted. This is the kind of matter which parliamentarians always want to discuss at length. I am sure that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale would wish to join in this kind of discussion. Again, that Clause may fall under the guillotine before it has been reached.
Then there is an incredible number of provisions for orders and regulations under the Bill. They will flow in vast torrents and reams of paper. I warn my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), if he is not aware of this, that he will be burning much midnight oil, as he takes such an interest in Statutory Instruments and Orders, when the torrents begin after the Bill has been enacted, if it is. Provision for delegated legislation is something which right hon. and hon. Members would wish to examine carefully and would wish to be examined carefully by the Standing Committee. It is doubtful whether we shall have time under the time table.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) tried to give the impression that the Conservative Party, both in the House and outside, was whipping up fears and opposition to the Bill. I assure him that there was no need for that. I have been concentrating on the freight side of the Bill. People outside the House know that, too. It has been the other way round: we have been the recipients of representations on an almost unprecedented scale from trade and industry, which were worried from last summer when the right hon. Lady made some of her main proposals known to them before the White Papers appeared. They were alarmed about the effects not only on their own businesses but on the economy of the country as a whole.
In the past the right hon. Lady has expressed different views about time-table Motions. She ended a speech against a time-table Motion on the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, with the following lines:
None ever feared that the truth should be heard but he whom the truth would indict.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th January, 1962; Vol. 652, c. 481.]
That is as true today as it was in 1962 and 100 years ago.
The Press often reminds us that the Minister of Transport cannot and does not drive a motor vehicle. But today it is clear that there is one vehicle she can drive. We have heard the ominous rumbling of the wheels. The vehicle that she drives is the tumbril, lurching towards the guillotine with a large number of hon. Members opposite pushing it along from behind. But not the Leader of the House. He is accident prone. He has accelerated himself up a wrong turning, and he has been consistently wrong today. The right hon. Gentleman talked today about the time we could have had before Christmas. He said that it could have been only two weeks, but we all know that it could have been more, because other Bills were able to have more than two weeks. He said that if it had been two weeks we could have had four extra sittings. Has he forgotten that the Committee has been sitting three times a week? That would have given six extra sittings.
It is this ignorance of what has been going on in Committee and what is needed for the Bill to have full consideration that causes us on this side of the House to deplore his action today and to oppose it. He should never have agreed to introduce this gigantic Bill so late in the Session, and never have been persuaded by the right hon. Lady to impose a timetable on this massive and ill-conceived Bill.
Anyone who heard the outcry with which the debate was launched would agree that it was the clearest demonstration we could hope to have that a guillotine on the Bill was inevitable. We had at the outset a combination of farce and filibustering by hon. Gentlemen opposite on points of order designed to waste time in the name of demanding more. This was followed by a series of explosions of indignation so volatile that they fastened indiscriminately on Government concessions and Government resistances.
Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I, having once again, in our co-operativeness and innocence, tried to meet what we thought were legitimate points made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, found ourselves in the middle of a storm of denigration for allegedly having somehow double-crossed the other side. This has been an experience which I have gone through more than once in the Committee. During the debate some hon. Members have tried to make a great deal of the fact that on the Order Paper for the Committee this morning appeared a Government Amendment designed to go some way towards meeting the points we had assumed they had seriously raised. But, lo and behold, this again was made the subject of a sudden, very volatile and totally meaningless attack.
I frankly admit that the kind of baying mood—almost a sort of race riot flare-up —which we had at the beginning of the debate, has not been the atmosphere throughout most of our Committee proceedings upstairs. It is a kind of reserve mood that is held back ready to be turned on and off conveniently like a tap. In fact, the Committee stage upstairs has been notable for a series of non-events.
The first non-event was the sustained, outraged attack upon the Bill which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said, in his brilliant intervention, the public have been waiting for. Indeed, hon. Members opposite are so out of practice in this sense of outrage that, when they try to put it on, it has really a hollow ring. I agree with my hon. Friend that the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) was not at his peak of pugnacity this afternoon. But all of it seemed, and must have seemed to anyone watching the debate, a little unreal.
The second non-event was the Opposition, panting for martydom in a great cause, demanding to sit all night. We have heard a lot about this. We have been given the impression that hon. Members, thirsting for a long night's work, have been deprived of their sacrifice by the Government. It is true that we had two all night sittings just to see whether this would enable us to make the progress hon. Members opposite said they wanted to make, and on other occasions we have sat until 11 or 11.30 p.m.—certainly not short afternoon sittings.
Only once in our seven Wednesday afternoon and evening sittings have the Opposition divided on our Motion to adjourn the Committee at a reasonable hour. That was at 11 p.m. one night when they thought that we should go on until 11.30 p.m.
I do not want to breach private confidences but I must remind the hon. Gentleman that he came up after the first occasion and told me that it had all been a mistake. He had agreed with me that we should sit until 10 p.m. that night.
Is the right hon. Lady going to continue to suggest that all this has been play-acting? Has she had no indication from the country of the feelings about the Bill? Has she had no representations from the road hauliers and other affected interests? Has she not heard from exporters, industrialists or farmers? She should not go on pretending that there is not strong feeling in the country about the Bill. Outside concern has never been greater or more genuine.
I am being accused tonight of trying to prevent other people from getting a word in, but I would not mind if hon. Members opposite would allow me to continue my speech.
There was the "non-event" of the Opposition giving, as they admitted—in fact they made a point of it—full !attitude to go ahead, talking and talking without us ever moving a Closure. There has been the failure of the Opposition to consume the hours that they demanded. I suggest to hon. Gentlemen opposite that this is rather significant when we are trying to examine whether the attacks or criticisms that have been so vigorously levelled against us tonight are sincere.
Our debates on Parts I, II and III of the Bill took up less time than the hon. Member for Worcester had demanded of me when he—[Interruption.]
Hon. Gentlemen cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that 450 hours is the very minimum needed to give them full democratic debate, and then make the point about saving their proposed allocation Part by Part, and refusing to enter into a negotiated voluntary agreement, because they were ready to go to the scaffold for their 450 hours and now, given total latitude and freedom without a Closure Motion, they have shown that the hours for which they asked were unnecessary.
The hon. Member for Worcester, when I was trying to negotiate a voluntary agreement, wrote and said that 27 hours' debate was the absolute minimum for Conservative Opposition Amendments alone. Yet, including Government and Liberal Amendments, as well as Conservative Amendments, we took not 27 hours but 19½ hours. Not all the elaborate repetition of their arguments, to the brink of tediousness, have succeeded in consuming the time that they tried to tell the House was necessary for the Bill.
The truth is that there are only three things—we have heard about the monster Bill, 10 Bills in one every part of which should be fought line by line—in the Bill about which the Opposition feel passionately. They are the "wear and tear" provision, quantity licensing, the extension of the manufacturing powers of nationalised industries, and, perhaps, drivers' hours.
These are all matters of very great importance to the vested interests which are financing the campaign currently being launched in the country against the Bill. One of my prime purposes in trying to seek a voluntary agreement with the hon. Member was to safeguard time for these controversial Clauses lying ahead. I wanted to safeguard an allocation of time appropriate to their controversial nature.
I admit that when I wrote to the hon. Gentleman on 29th February, I made this point clear. I said to him that I was anxious to provide enough time for discussion of all the substantial points arising in the Bill, and believed that we had achieved this on Part I, within the time which I had provisionally allocated. [Interruption.] The position is that I have had in my mind, and tentatively on paper, my own provisional timetable of how the time available could fairly be allocated, just as the hon. Member has had. I anxiously watched our progress, part by part and section by section, because I was very desirous of avoiding a guillotine; and all along I have been most concerned to get a voluntary agreement instead, if that were at all possible.
I would tell my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), for whose views I always have the very greatest respect, that what we have been careful to do here is to watch to see whether we were falling dangerously behind in our progress, because we did not want to delay coming to the House with a timetable Motion to a point which would leave too little time for proper discussion of later stages of the Bill. This, therefore, is what has decided the necessity for and the timing of the timetable.
In her previous argument the right hon. Lady was saying that we have been very much quicker over Part II of the Bill than I had estimated. Seeing that I had estimated this previously, why did not the right hon. Lady do something about it instead of having the long gap during which time she agrees I have gone rather faster than I thought I would?
The hon. Gentleman's own failure to live up to his own demands shows that he has never put before the House a realistic timetable. If he had done so I would have been willing and ready to discuss it with him. But since he did not put forward a realistic timetable that would enable us to complete these discussions by mid-May, the very latest date by which the Bill can go through the Committee process in this Session, we have had to watch that we did not delay the guillotine too long.
We ourselves have offered every co-operation in giving the Opposition a full chance to air its views. We have offered to allocate most time to those areas of the Bill which we know they are most keen to attack; and I would tell the House that if this Motion is carried I shall certainly be anxious to do that in exactly the same way.
Can the right hon. Lady say definitely, on a point put to her by my hon. Friend, whether she is correctly reported as stating that she did not need the quantity licensing proposals for two years, following page 17 of the White Paper on Freight, which said that they need not be brought in until the freight liner service is fully developed?
I have been incorrectly reported, as I have told the Committee and written to the hon. Gentleman. I have never said this would require a period of two years. We were ready to pass over more quickly those parts of the Bill which we know are so popular in the country at large that the Opposition dare not oppose them openly.
I am very happy to elucidate: the new bus grants, the rebate on fuel tax, rural bus grants, grants for the maintenance of socially necessary rail services, the creation of a system of recreational waterways, the introduction of quality licensing and the long-overdue reduction in driving hours—because, if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite do not care about road safety, the vast majority of people do.
I have given way very generously, and I do not propose to give way to every hon. Member who finds my barbs too hard to take.
There is no hon. Member on either side of the House who will not admit that the Government have exercised a self-denying ordinance in the proceedings of the Committee, speaking, despite provocation, only when there was an important point to raise or answer. As I pointed out to the hon. Member for Worcester, in our discussions on Parts I to III of the Bill, only 36 per cent. of the time has been taken by the Government. My Ministerial colleagues and I have always been ready to listen to reasoned arguments and give reasoned replies. Time and time again, despite the image which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite attempt to create in other places, they have thanked me and my colleagues for our helpfulness and courtesy. If they want to hear the testimonials, I have a list of them which I can read.
As I was saying, we have accepted five Conservative Amendments and two moved by hon. Members on the Government side, whereas our Conservative predecessors accepted only three Labour Amendments during the whole Committee stage of the 1962 Transport Bill. It is not we who are guillotine-happy. It is right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. In eight years of Labour Government, this is only the fifth guillotine. The Conservatives had 15 guillotines in 13 years.
If we are talking about the right for unfettered and democratic discussion, let us look at what they did in the 1962 London Government Bill, whose Clauses and Schedules were so long that the Act was only three pages shorter than my own Transport Bill. Nevertheless, the Conservative Government guillotined it before it ever went to the Standing Committee.
If we could have maintained the same sort of progress in relation to the overall time-table as we have done on Part I of the Bill, there would have been no need for a guillotine. We soon discovered that the hon. Member for Worcester has a built-in regulator. I have been watching my provisional time-table to ensure that we were making adequate progress. He was watching his to make sure we were not. Therefore, we had the experience that, whenever it looked as though our progress was forg- ing ahead, the speeches lengthened, the arguments became more repetitive, and, as my hon. Friends know, we could see the progress deliberately being eroded away. I say to the hon. Gentleman—
If I have done the hon. Gentleman an injustice, I withdraw without his having apoplexy. We made an attempt, as I have told the House, to see if we could maintain the rate of progress necessary without a guillotine by trying the experiment of an all-night sitting. We had made the sort of progress on the morning of Tuesday, 20th February, that was a kind of model for the progress of a Committee stage. If we had continued to approach our work in this way the hours that we could have agreed between us would have been perfectly adequate. So we said that the following night we would sit the whole night through and give hon. Gentlemen opposite the chance to make the progress which they said they wanted.
In view of the fact that the right hon. Lady earlier quoted a conversation that I had with her, perhaps I can quote that in the middle of the sitting on the Tuesday morning she informed me that it was her intention to go all night on the Wednesday.