Orders of the Day — Dentures and Spectacles (Charges)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th July 1969.

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Photo of Mr David Ennals Mr David Ennals , Dover 12:00 am, 7th July 1969

I hope that the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) will not be embarrassed when I tell him that I have a great respect for him because of many things he does in the House and in Standing Committees which I share with him. But I thought the Motion unworthy of him. This sort of knockabout debate is not his style.

There are practitioners of the art who sometimes appear on the Opposition Front Bench. I am thinking of the sort of synthetic anger and frenetic fury sometimes produced by the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) whom we rarely see these days. This is not the sort of job for the noble Lord. As he was speaking, I was reminded of the advice that Confucius gave to young dragons, when he said, "If you try to breathe fire through a paper mask, you will scorch only yourself".

In this debate the Opposition are behaving like a pack of end-of-term public schoolboys, except that they have kept it up for several months. It is a sort of Billy Bunter stuff. At one stage they cry, "Let's get Wilson", and off they rush, M.P.s, Tory journalists, commentators, script writers, and truth gets lost in the chase. Then, when they either get tired of that, or find that they are defeated, they try another tack, "Let's get Castle", they say, "If you cannot win the argument, shout them down". We heard them doing that in the debate last Thursday when they did not win the argument, but simply shouted down the other side, and brought disgrace to the House in the course of doing so.

But for a few weeks it has been a different theme. "Let's get Crossman", they say, and off they have rushed on this tack. Nor does it matter what is thrown into the charge. Truth is expendable in the sort of adolescent foray which we have had from the Opposition. If I may coin a phrase, they have spoken in half truths, quarter truths and no truths—mainly no truths in the story that they have told.

One wonders what is the brain process which produces this type of time-wasting, trivial Motion when there are important issues which I would have thought the noble Lord in particular would have wanted to bring before the House. Why are they so worried about the date of the Regulations? One might suppose that they wished to oppose them. But I gather that they do not. Is it perhaps that they want to increase Health Service charges? Perhaps they will say that the figure ought to be higher. I do not know. We have not heard from anything said by the noble Lord today or from anything said last week by his hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Maurice Macmillan). Perhaps they have in mind other Health Service charges. Certainly that has not been suggested.

We had hoped to get the answer to that question when the hon. Member for Farnham opened the debate on Health Service charges. He made a long speech which the noble Lord said was extremely interesting. Certainly it was a monumental list of questions and an accumulation of arguments that could lead to one conclusion only: that the Tory Party is wedded to a substantial extension of health service charges.

When this point was made, up jumped the hon. Gentleman in the middle of my right hon. Friend's speech to say that he was not advocating Health Service charges. I have read through his speech, as, no doubt, have many other hon. Members—