Adjournment (Christmas)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th December 1968.

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Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds 12:00 am, 17th December 1968

Perhaps I can list the things that I think should be debated. We certainly ought to be debating, before 20th January, the unemployment, which is rising, in West Suffolk. We ought to be debating, before 20th January, the falling private investment, which has handicapped the overspill programme in my constituency. We ought to be debating the problems that the local authorities face in having to make do with a 3½ per cent. increase when new schools and roads are badly needed. Those are the problems that the House should be dealing with and people do not understand why at this time it should be away until 20th January.

Against this background, more and more people are coming to the conclusion which all hon. Members will regret, that Parliament is no longer responsive to the things that matter to them. They are concluding that the House of Commons seems not to care about their local affairs.

Another reason the House should come back earlier, for that is what I ask, is that the people I represent look to the House not only as the protector of their local interests, but as the guardian of the nation. My constituents are extremely worried about the state of the nation. They feel that we should be debating the growing burden of international debt. They are worried that we owe more to the United States today than we did when we first borrowed money from the Americans in 1946. They are worried about, and feel that the House should be debating, the jeopardy of the £ sterling, and the security of our island.

If Parliament is to mean anything, it should be considering, during the difficult and dangerous weeks that lie ahead, the fact that the security of our island is being put at risk because we see our alliances crumbling, the relationship with the United States not what it was, the old Commonwealth ties being severed, and we are not yet in Europe. People feel that the House, rather than going into recess, ought to be here, debating a situation in which we may soon find ourselves, without the old Commonwealth, without the Anglo-American special relationship and not yet in Europe.

This growing sense among our constituents of their potential isolation in the world leads them to conclude that Parliament should be sitting, dealing with the business of the nation, and that hon. Members should not be sent home to their constituencies to allow the Government to get on with the business, which business my constituents no longer have confidence in the Government's capacity to manage. If Parliament is to leave Westminster from 20th December to 20th January, we are putting at risk the confidence that our constituents feel in this institution. There is not simply an economic crisis, there is an institutional crisis, and I suggest to the Leader of the House that he is putting at risk the prime institution, namely, the House of Commons, if at this time he dismisses it, when ordinary people feel that it should be here debating their problems.

I do not ask that we should give up our Christmas Recess, heaven forfend; I suggest only that when day by day hon. Members ask for a little more time to debate a Bill, when in the great debates on foreign policy or economic affairs so many are not able to get in, it is wrong that the House should be dismissed for so long a period. My plea is: can we not contemplate coming back at least a week earlier to deal with the affairs of the country that I, for one, have no confidence in the Government's ability to manage in our absence?