Before we rise for the recess, I should like to ask for a statement from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House on the question of Scottish unemployment; more particularly, on certain specific issues of which I have given his office notice.
My first point concerns an issue which arose at Question Time yesterday on the vital and crucial question of investment, and investment related to multi-national companies. I am glad to see that the Minister of State, Scottish Office, responsible for the Scottish Development Department is present—because I can put this matter simply. All I am asking for is a serious study among the multinational companies to give us not only an increasing proportion of employment, but also a very important chunk of the worth-while jobs we have. As to how investment plans and tax changes of the Government have in fact affected the investment plans of the multi-national companies, I am a member of the Standing Committee on the Finance Bill, and the Chief Secretary knows very well that there are many issues arising out of the tax changes, and it is extremely important that the multi-nationals are asked at an early stage how this has changed their investment plans.
I make no comment and cast no aspersions or ribaldry at the change in the system. The truth is that none of us knows yet. I ask for a serious objective study of this matter, and that it be reported to the House.
The second point is that there is a crisis—it does not need me to tell the House—in the electronics industry. Part of the crisis arises out of increased dumping, not least of micro-circuitry from the United States and Japan, and the time has come when the Government Departments involved, particularly Department of Trade and Industry, must look at the problems sent to them in great detail, both by Mullard and by Plessey, and ask themselves whether urgent action is not required, because otherwise, as many of us know, a very serious unemployment situation will develop in the electronics industry, not only in Scotland but throughout Britain, and will not be averted.
My third specific question involves a particular factory, namely the closure of the machine tool sector of Plessey at Alexandria. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. McCartney) is present and hopes to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. I shall certainly not go into the details, which are internal to that factory, other than to say that, representing many of those who work for Ferranti's, I am authorised to say that Ferranti's are very concerned that certain assurances that they thought they were given by Plessey's as to the keeping of know-how in Scotland and the setting up of employment in Scotland have not been honoured. I am not suggesting that there was a legal obligation. The fact is that Ferranti was extremely helpful in setting up the Plessey factory at Alexandria, and this creates a difficult situation.
It also involves the general principle of whether money which has been given out of the public purse, by the taxpayer, for the purchase of machinery in development areas can haphazardly be moved to a part of the country outside a development area. My hon. Friend may comment in detail on that, but it is the understanding of many of us in Scotland that the situation that has arisen in this factory is similar to that which arose at Fords of Merseyside with the transfer of equipment to Europe.
There may be good reasons for what is happening, but we ought to be clear in our minds about it because, as a matter of principle, it is wrong that machinery which has been paid for by the taxpayer for regional development purposes should be shifted elsewhere without a full explanation of what is happening. I hope that the Leader of the House, who, in a previous incarnation, was a candidate for the constituency of Dunbartonshire, East, and knows the area well, will comment on these urgent matters, the importance of which I am sure he appreciates.
In following up what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), I seek to expand on the situation as it exists at Alexandria. The situation is serious. Redundancies will bring the unemployment level among males up to between 15 per cent. and 20 per cent., which means that it is reaching dire proportions.
What we are faced with is not the normal type of redundancy, because only five months ago this Government-owned factory was taken over by Plessey. The firm was encouraged to go into the factory because of the rundown in the manufacture of torpedoes. The Government wanted a firm to take over the valuable factory, which had plenty of equipment, and make it a growth point in the area.
There were two sections to the factory, one which did machine work and was part of the machine division of Plessey, and the other a separate entity, on the electronics side, manufacturing Numerical control equipment for machine tools. My hon. Friend referred to the concern about the electronics industry in Scotland, and possibly in Britain as a whole.
People in the area thought that the factory would be a growth point, and welcomed the firm with open arms. Key workers were given new houses, even though there were people on the housing waiting list. It was possible to explain to them that the advent of this factory would do a great job for the area which had been running down. To get the firm to go there, the Government had to give it the most advantageous terms possible. This is not a small factory. It covers 500,000 sq. ft., and has, in addition, a large machine shop unit.
The situation is that by the end of August the machine shop will have been closed. Redundancies have been announced in the electronics section, and the firm has made it clear that unless there is a pick up in work, particularly in the machine tool industry, the end of this part of its business is in sight, but it says that the matter will be kept under constant review.
The firm is prepared to sell off the equipment which it obtained on the most advantageous terms, and I should like the Government to ask the firm not to move this equipment, so that an inquiry may be held into the whole matter. If the Government provide a firm with valuable assets, they should at least try to find out why the equipment is being moved, and at what cost. They should try to discover whether their assets will be lost. The situation is fast approaching a local scandal.
This is a large factory, and I should like the appropriate Minister to consider reacquiring the factory space which Plessey will not be using so that it can be sold or let to other firms which can make use of the special development area terms that will be available. Unless a new firm comes in that is prepared to make use of this valuable space and the generous terms available in the area, we shall be faced with an extremely serious problem.
I should like the Government to think about the points that I have raised. It has to be made clear that, as public assets are involved, irrespective of whether there was a declaration of intent about employment, the removal of these assets must be the subject of an inquiry in order to make sure that this company has not taken the Government for a ride.
I rise to express a measure of disappointment that we are being asked to embark on the Whitsun Recess without some more reassurance about the timetable for the negotiations in regard to entry into the Common Market.
In saying that I appreciate, of course, the difficulties of the Government in this regard, and the uncertainties in respect of the timetable, but what we know is that the next meeting at Luxemburg will, in any event, not be before 21st June, and that puts the earliest date for the White Paper at the end of June, and more probably early July. Even on that timetable it is quite clear that there will not be time for any decision to be asked for from the House if there is to be a proper opportunity for public opinion to manifest itself between the time of publication of the White Paper and the taking of a decision.
Against that background, one would hope that it might still be possible for my right hon. Friend, when he replies to the debate, to give more reassurance than he felt able to give at business question time and tell us that, in any event, no decision, in any form, will be sought this side of the Summer Recess.
I referred during business questions to the story in The Times this morning to the effect that the Government are proposing to mount a division in July to approve the White Paper setting out the terms of entry, and that that was to be followed by a second Motion in the autumn formally asking approval for adherence to the Treaty of Rome.
On that timetable, the House is bound to ask itself what would be the substantive difference between the two decisions that it was being asked to make because, if the White Paper is to contain the terms, then a Motion to approve the White Paper is a Motion to approve the terms of entry, and a Motion to approve the terms of entry is indistinguishable from a Motion to adhere to the Treaty of Rome.
I think that anybody reading that suggestion in The Times this morning must have felt a considerable measure of disquiet because, if that were to be the timetable and the procedure, it would be widely said to be an effort to pre-empt the decision of the House by taking the initial vote at a time too soon for hon. Members really to be able to absorb the full impact of public opinion, as their duty is. I use the expression "to preempt" because the phrase used in The Times this morning is to "manœuvre a definitive decision".
I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members, however deep and genuine their divisions may be on the propriety or otherwise of entering the Common Market, are wholly at one in their view that in this great matter the Government should proceed on the basis of giving public opinion the fullest possible opportunity to manifest itself. That is implicit, or perhaps explicit, in the Prime Minister's own dictum in May of last year that entry can be made only with the full-hearted approval of the British people. So I would ask my right hon. Friend if possible to give us the assurance when he comes to reply this afternoon; and if not to say he will carefully consider these matters over the Whitsun Recess with a view to giving a statement at the earliest possible opportunity thereafter to the effect that the Government will in no circumstances adopt the procedure which is suggested as their possible intention in The Times this morning, but will fashion the parliamentary timetable in regard to this matter so as to give opportunities for the fullest possible expression of opinion by hon. Members of this House, and to give all hon. Members an opportunity also to register the impact of public opinion on the matter.
I find myself in a broad measure of agreement with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and would wish to add only one point to what he has said—that I think the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House when he considers and consults with others on this crucial question, this matter of principle, whether or not we have a vote of substance before or after the Summer Recess, should really take account of the fact that the opinion in the country is already very deeply disturbed, I would say even becoming angry, not only about the substance of what is being negotiated but the manner in which it is being railroaded through. People feel that this, the most important decision probably, that has been taken in this century in time of peace, is being taken, if the Government get their way, without any serious opportunity for the people of this country to say what they think about what is to happen to their own rights, their own political framework and their own economic destiny.
I would tell the right hon. Gentleman that as we disperse, if we do disperse, tomorrow he is going to make us all very unhappy that we are going to be deprived for a whole week of the opportunity of questioning him, of putting points to him, and attempting to stir him to what ought to be a very simple and very correct decision, namely, that there will be no vote of substance this side of the Summer Recess.
I rose to speak on the Adjournment of the House not to make particularly the point I have just made, but rather to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to another matter which greatly disturbs me, which I would be most grateful if he could bring to the attention of his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, to see whether we could get a statement from him before the House rises for the Whitsun Recess. I am referring, as I have done on one or two other occasions in the last month, to the situation in East Bengal. This situation, as the right hon. Gentleman will know, is certainly not getting any better. There are now a number of quite important matters and questions which I feel must be put, and to which we are entitled to answers before we disperse. The first, inevitably, concerns the question of refugees. His right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary told the House, I believe on 17th May, that U-Thant was making a further approach to the Pakistan Government on the question of letting into East Bengal a team of international specialists to ascertain the scale of the problem and to make a report. We do not know what has been the response of the Pakistan Government to that approach. I believe we should know.
Secondly, I would like to know, as I am sure the House would, what response our own Government have had to the plea—and that is the right word—released by U-Thant, I believe on 19th May, for help and money to deal with the appalling problems of refugees who are still pouring across the frontiers of India and the neighbouring provinces, that is, from East Bengal. The numbers now appear to be of the order of three million, and the costs of maintaining them are bound to be colossally high. This is a very urgent and desperate problem.
A third question I would like him to consider is whether he has any information on whether the Pakistan Government can be persuaded to improve the facilities for telephone communication, letters and mail between this country and the various towns and cities in East Bengal, where many people living in Britain now have friends and relatives, for whose safety they fear and about whom they have had so little news.
My last two questions are, first, has the Foreign Secretary or the right hon. Gentleman anything to tell the House about the response of the President of Pakistan to the points put to him about the necessity for a political settlement, and the necessity for finding a way of reopening a political dialogue with the leaders of East Bengal, many of whose representatives were arrested at the beginning of these events.
Lastly, and in a sense most important: What is the Government's assessment at the moment of the incidents that have been reported on the borders of East Bengal between India and Pakistan? According to some reports we have read today, a number of soldiers have been killed in forays across the border. The right hon. Gentleman will know that inevitably the situation there is a very tense one and that there are pressures both within the Indian Parliament and in Indian society; and there are, of course, the old rivalries and so on of which we know so much, between India and Pakistan.
If these reports of which I have no firm or detailed knowledge are correct they suggest that the situation is getting more and not less dangerous, that the number of incidents and violations of the border have escalated and there is clearly some danger that these events might get out of hand. Therefore, I would like to put it to the right hon. Gentleman that he requests his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to consider whether he cannot make some statement on these matters today or tomorrow.
I would ask him in particular whether he might again consider the question of the kind of initiative for peace Britain could take, either in association with other Commonwealth countries or in any other form which seems to be most practical and most helpful.
I should like to put to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House a slightly different view on the Whitsun Recess. I do not think that the recess is long enough. Recesses are getting shorter and shorter because Government legislation is getting more and more. This is a time-consuming business in which we are all involved.
A Member's job is first as important outside this place as inside it. Members of Parliament require to do two things during the recess: they require a holiday, even if it is a short one—and most of our constituents will accept that we deserve a certain amount of holiday from time to time—and they also want to spend some time of the break in their constituencies learning points of view on various matters affecting Government legislation. Clearly, with the short recess we are having to combine the two. This is extremely difficult, and either the constituency suffers or the Member of Parliament does not get his appropriate break. That is the first reason for opposing the Motion.
My second reason, which I think was touched upon by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), concerns the Common Market debate. My view is that we ought to have a longer recess so that we can find out what our constituents are thinking about the Common Market. The issue has been very widely discussed in the Press and in the other media—radio and television, and we need time to find out the reaction of the public. I do not take the view of some of hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite that we ought to delay a decision on this matter for a long period of time. We have been discussing it deeply for many months and on and off, for many years. It is time we arrived at a decision. We owe a decision not only to ourselves but also to the public and to Europe, and to delay it beyond a reasonable period of time would be a great mistake. When I say "a reasonable period of time" I mean that we should make a decision before we rise at the end of the summer. Because I take that view, I think there would be some advantage in having a slightly longer Whitsun Recess to spend some time finding out what our constituents think about the Common Market.
The Government should recognise that recesses have a twofold purpose. Part is work and part is holiday, and it is a mistake to cut down the amount of time we are allowed to be away, because that makes it difficult for us to do our job in the country as compared with the job we have to do here.
I agree with what has been said by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) on the Common Market question. The replies by the Leader of the House on the business statement today are bound to be profoundly disappointing to large numbers of people who will continue to suspect that the Government are planning to bounce a decision through within a week or two of the publication of the terms. It is a great pity that we are to rise for the recess without a clear response from the Government to what I think is the will of hon. Members on both sides of the House and people on both sides of the argument that we should not be bounced in this way, but that there should be proper time for consultation, consideration and debate after the terms are finalised.
I want also to put to the right hon. Gentleman a rather different point about the Common Market discussions. There are some aspects of the subject that the House should be debating now, on which separate debates are overdue. That is why I oppose the Motion, because the Government must find time for some of these vital matters, preferably by dropping some of the items in their legislative programme. My hon. Friends and I could make some suggestions on that. Failing that, they should do it by the erosion of recesses, however short, rather than that the House should not discuss some of these vital matters.
I have two specific examples of aspects of the Common Market debate that we should be discussing, or should already have discussed, and which we should discuss separately. First, we should have a debate about how the decision is finally to be reached. When the Prime Minister answered questions the other day after his talks with President Pompidou, he assumed too readily that the normal processes of Parliament and the normal sovereignty of Parliament should apply to the decision, without any extra means being used to find out the opinion of the public. I have always held that view on every other decision that has come before Parliament since I have been a Member. I have quoted Edmund Burke as regularly and as enthusiastically as any other hon. Member. We have all quoted him from time to time. But this decision will be unique, not only because it is of such tremendous importance but also because it is permanent.
It alters the constitution of this country permanently, and if we sign the Treaty of Rome—certainly if we take it literally and our signature means that we are signing with the intention of carrying it out—there can never be any reversing of the decision. In other words, the House will not only have reached a decision on which no political party had a mandate from the electorate, but which the electorate will not be able to reverse if they do not like it. That is what makes it so different from other decisions.
I voted for the abolition of capital punishment, although I knew that the majority of my constituents took the opposite view. I did so with the knowledge that they had the right to turn me out if they wished, and that if that happened in enough constituencies the decision could be reversed. Most other decisions could be reversed sooner or later. But the Common Market decision is unique, requiring unique procedures.
A letter from a constituent which I opened only about an hour ago sums up what many people are thinking. He wrote:
This is probably the most important and far-reaching question that this country has ever had, or ever will have, to decide, and I believe that the people's voice has to be heard on this and their choice upheld by way of a national referendum … this is a once in a lifetime event that requires special treatment.
I believe that my constituent is right, and that he speaks for millions of people.
With some hesitation and reluctance I have come to the view that a referendum would be the right procedure in this case. Other hon. Members have a different view. All that I am suggesting at this stage is that we should debate the question, and debate it soon. Indeed, we should have debated it already. We should not go into the Whitsun Recess without debating it. We should seriously consider the profound constitutional implications and discuss, as a House of Commons, whether we are prepared to consult the electorate on such a vital and permanent decision.
The other question that deserves a separate debate is the way in which it is proposed to deal with the sugar-producing developing countries in the Commonwealth. When the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made his statement recently it was clear that there was widespread dismay in the House that he had not persisted in Brussels with his original demand that there should be quantitative assurances on sugar, that, having made that demand very vigorously, he then reversed it and accepted the formula which so many of us regard as unsatisfactory. The dismay at that situation was not confined to those of us who are opposed to entry. I have had conversations with hon. Members on both sides who support our entry but who were nevertheless profoundly disturbed at the way in which it was proposed to deal with this subject.
Therefore, we should have a separate debate very soon on this question. It must be a separate debate, because if it is simply to be discussed when the terms are known, perhaps when we have a debate to take note of the White Paper, inevitably it will be swept up with so many other subjects, and hon. Members who support the Common Market in general will speak in support of the White Paper and will not give full rein to their doubts on this subject.
It should be held soon, because the Government are committed to consultations with representatives of the Commonwealth countries concerned, who I understand are sending representatives to London next week. They should hold those consultations in full knowledge of the feelings of hon. Members on this subject, and we should be able to tell Ministers what we think about this. Above all, we should press Ministers on the point on which I asked a supplementary question of the Prime Minister today—whether there was any prospect that the Government, having had the views of these Commonwealth countries, would take the matter back to Brussels and demand quantitative guarantees.
The Prime Minister ducked that question, as he has ducked a similar question from hon. Members in the last week or two. He should be pressed on that point. Otherwise, these consultations will be not consultations at all but simply a process in which the representatives of those countries are told what the Government intend to do.
What I want us to do is discuss the future of some of the smallest and weakest of the Commonwealth countries—Mauritius, Fiji, Barbados and others. In view of our history in relation to those countries, they are worth a few hours of Parliament's time. It is worth debating how we are going to deal with them rather than go into the recess without doing so. To fail to give proper attention to them would be a betrayal of the people in poor countries who are liable to be made immeasurably poorer by the view which Britain takes of its own self-interest at this time.
I therefore put it to the Leader of the House, that, on these two aspects and perhaps on other aspects as they occur—perhaps the New Zealand issue at the appropriate time—there should be separate debates as well as the wide-ranging debates which we eventually have to decide our policy on this matter.
In considering his timetable for the recess in relation to the decision on the Common Market, will my right hon. Friend give full weight to all the important considerations? The first, of course, is that already urged upon him—the need for us to consult our constituents and, in the very difficult circumstances of this issue, which cuts across traditional party lines and organisation, to make sure that there is a full sense of participation among the public at large in the decision.
Would he bear in mind, among the pressures upon him in this regard, that a belief in the supreme importance of consulting our constituents is as strongly held by those who are firmly in favour of our entry as by those who are against? There is certainly no monopoly of concern for public interest held by those who are against the decision. Some of them have been strongly against the decision, whether or not they have consulted their constituents, for many years, and have reached their hard-and-fast decisions.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House and both sides of the issue would agree that adequate time must be given for consulting public opinion, but that does not automatically lead to the conclusion that it must be after the Summer Recess. I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear in mind the progress so far and the way in which the debate has been conducted on the major issues. The political decision has been debated between those who are campaigning for and against for some months now, and the political decision was clear last Christmas. The first matter of the terms, on which the whole decision really depends, was the sugar agreement, which has been before the House for the last two or three weeks.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will reflect on the way in which the sugar agreement, contrary to what the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) said, has been very fully debated and explored in the time which has become available in the House already, and hence has also been debated in the Press. The right hon. Member for East Ham, North and others, in the hour-long statement by the Chancellor of the Duchy on his return from Brussels, were fully able to put all their doubts and reservations to him.
Through the reporting of that, the issue whether the assurances obtained by him were adequate, compared with the previous position of those countries under the former arrangement, has been put before the House. The point has been made that the Chancellor of the Duchy got strong assurances and an offer of association for all the sugar producing countries, which should extend to other goods as well. This has been fully compared with the previous position under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, which was renegotiated by the last Government to make sure that there was no continuing contractual obligation on this country after the end of 1974 and which rested on very vague obligations.
That term having been covered, and full consideration having been given to it, New Zealand and the transitional contribution are also likely to have time allowed to them in the House——
I see that the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) disagrees strongly with me. Is he seriously contending that we shall be able to retain the attention of the British public by debating the issue of Commonwealth sugar from now until October? If so, I should be very surprised. He must see that there is deep concern on both sides of the House about the position of these countries and equally clearly a division of opinion between those who feel as I do—that their position has been covered better than it was before by the agreement in Brussels—and those who do not.
The idea that a debate can be conducted on that aspect of the negotiations for much longer is a little unreal in terms of parliamentary time and Press attention.
Suppose the representatives of the developing countries who produce sugar come to London next week and—they should know their own business best—say that they are thoroughly dissatisfied with these arrangements and the British Government refuse to take the matter back to Brussels. Does not the hon. Gentleman concede that those of us who are anxious about this should then have a debate to make our views known?
Of course it would be a matter for the Leader of the House and would no doubt depend on the extent of the dissatisfaction expressed by the leaders of those countries and the dimensions of the problem. But I have no doubt that the right hon. Members for East Ham, North and Workington would not hesitate to press upon the House at every available opportunity the views of the sugar producing countries—and quite rightly, feeling as they do. I should be surprised, given the scale of the Common Market negotiations and the several coming issues, if, throughout the whole of next Session and into the autumn, we were able to sustain public attention and concentration on this one issue.
In the end, the debate will not be decided by the heads of State of the sugar-producing countries. It will be resolved here, and will depend on whether, in our opinion, as the representatives of our constituents, the position of those countries is met. The comparison between the terms obtained in Brussels and the present position is already crystal clear. We have already expressed our views on it and I shall be surprised if the issue is sustained much longer.
I share the concern of hon. Members about the time needed to consult constituents so that they should feel that they have been consulted to the full, but they should bear in mind how long public debate can seriously be maintained on any issue, however important, in a responsible fashion.
We all know how long a three-week General Election campaign, during which the public are consulted on the question of who is to govern them over the next five years, can feel to those campaigning. I am sure that no hon. Member would suggest that a General Election campaign should be made any longer than three weeks, because it would be impossible to sustain public interest beyond that time. The idea that public attention will be focused through public debate on one issue of the Common Market for three months at a time, while optimistic and taking a generous view of the part that we shall play in any issue and the part that the public will play in the debate, is a little unreal.
I ask my right hon. Friend to make sure that the pressure coming from the other side of the House for the most generous allowance of time is related entirely to the laudable aim of consulting constituents and making sure that the public at large are allowed to participate. Both political parties are fully entitled to gauge political and party opinion in the manner they judge best. I ask my right hon. Friend to discount those views, if he thinks there are any coming from the other side of the House, which are based more on a desire to allow a Labour Party conference to play a dominant part in the final decision than on any wide concern for public opinion.
If the Labour Party conference is allowed to feature as a central matter in deciding the timing of this debate, because of the constitution of the Labour Party that is giving Mr. Hugh Scanlon and Mr. Jack Jones, and other wielders of large block votes, a disproportionate amount of influence in the debate on the Common Market in the view of many hon. Members on this side of the House. It is significant that hon. Members opposite, present now and anxious to press this matter on the Leader of the House, seem to contain a majority of those who in the past have been most anxious to allow the Labour Party conferences to have a dominant say in the Labour Party on various matters. I ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind these matters and not to allow to be dominant in this issue tactical decisions about when a Labour Party conference can be held.
The other matter to which I ask my right hon. Friend to pay attention is the need to come to as quick a decision as is reasonably possible, given the need for consultations, to avoid the unending delay in this matter. This is not a new issue. For eight years the political merits of going into or remaining out of the Common Market have been discussed. In my opinion the delay in reaching a decision, the fact that the whole problem whether we are to be in the Community has hung over our heads for so long, has been harmful, not least to public opinion. Because we have been rejected twice and because the issue, however important to hon. Members, has to some extent grown stale on some of the public, this is doing harm to our prospects, whether we remain outside or enter the Community.
We have to consider the need for proper consultation with our constituents and with our parties and at the same time the need to let the public know where they stand finally and decisively on this matter so that we can go into the Community now and end damaging delay—if that is to be the ultimate decision.
I echo what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis). We must also remember that we owe it to our European partners to attempt to reach this decision as quickly as is reasonably possible consistent with our duty to the public in this country. We have come near to the conclusion of difficult and complicated negotiations and there is a limit to the extent to which our friends can go on allowing time for us to conduct a mini-election campaign, if that is what is necessary.
The Prime Minister has committed the Government to a campaign of information involving considerable sums of money. Is the hon. Member suggesting, in view of the staleness of the public, which I do not accept, that all this money will be wasted and that we should not pursue this public expenditure? Would he recommend his right hon. Friend and the Government to call it off?
I am sure that the sums of money expended by the anti-Common Market campaign and the sums of money expended by the pro-Common Market groups have not been wasted—and that goes for Government expenditure, too. This is expenditure that has been incurred on this campaigning for months. It must be borne in mind that both sides have attempted to mount a great debate when we consider how much further time is to be given. We must distinguish between legitimate final campaigning and consultation and a desire to postpone the evil day, particularly if that desire is put even more strongly by that side of the argument which appears to feel that it is losing the moment that progress is made.
However much time we take to resolve the situation, I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear these matters in mind in deciding the timing of the Whitsun Recess and parliamentary matters thereafter. Let us bear in mind what we are keeping waiting in Europe while we debate, and if the decision of the House is to be that there are great opportunities to expand our political influence and to benefit economically from our prompt entry into the Common Market, we must take the decision and shoulder our responsibilities in this House as soon as we can. Europe cannot be kept waiting too long because of party political manœuvrings in this House.
About eight weeks to three months ago the editor of my local paper, the South Yorkshire Times, phoned me and said that he had received about 50 letters inquiring about the state of negotiations in the Common Market. He asked me if I would write a piece for him, in two parts. Given that my general attitude had been known for some years, would I first of all present the general problems and quote the arguments as best I could of those who thought that this country would be better served by entering the Common Market if proper terms could be achieved, and then would I add to that the views of those who felt that the terms, as they were emerging, and as they appeared possible, would not be terms that they would want to recommend to the British public.
I did that. I first of all produced the arguments of those who, by and large, were in favour, not decrying them as people who would be prepared to recommend any terms and all terms. For the purposes of the article I suppressed my suspicion that there are some people who are prepared to do that. I treated the argument seriously. In the rest of the article I put my point of view. I have since received correspondence from people pointing out that the article was all to the good, that it had started the public debate in the Penistone constituency area but that essential factors were missing.
They can emerge only as the negotiations proceed and produce some results. This is my main reason for speaking today and urging a definite course of action on the right hon. Gentleman. It is clear that, for the first time, after the report of the Chancellor of the Duchy and the brief references made to his conversations with the President of the French Republic by the Prime Minister, some of the outline and definite details of what have been for so long referred to "the terms" are now beginning to emerge.
Surely this creates a new situation making completely irrelevant the views of the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) who said that this matter had been considered for years. He is on very feeble ground there, because he is undermining the Prime Minister's case. I hope that the Prime Minister will forgive him, as time goes on. It is the Prime Minister's case, as he has always put it to the House and country, that until the terms are known and he is able to present them, no one can really make any judgment on whether he should recommend to the British public, from the House of Commons, that they should be accepted. I prefer to address myself to the Prime Minister's case.
When negotiations are resumed on 7th June and continued on 22nd and 23rd June, and possibly 24th June, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will have a great deal of work ahead of him. I put this to the Leader of the House purely on practical grounds. To start with, there is the position of the sugar producers. The Prime Minister on Tuesday of this week, in reply to a Question from me, said that next week the Chancellor of the Duchy will meet representatives of the sugar producing Commonwealth countries. For the first time the Chancellor of the Duchy will be able to see whether the grave doubts about the proposal, which have been expressed by the High Commissioners in London before the arrival of the more senior representatives from the Commonwealth sugar producing countries, represent the firm policy of those countries. I have no doubt that the views already expressed by the High Commissioners will be the firm view of their Governments, but the right hon. Gentleman will meet the senior Cabinet representatives and be able to judge.
If the Chancellor of the Duchy finds that the results emerging from the negotiations he has conducted are unacceptable to the Commonwealth sugar producing countries, he will have to go back and tell the Six. I am not now on the formal point which has been expressed this week about whether the Prime Minister will say publicly that the Chancellor of the Duchy will have to go back and say that these terms are unacceptable. The Prime Minister may not wish to say this categorically, and I can understand that. Whether or not the Prime Minister says so categorically, our chief negotiator will have to go back and report, because he is publicly committed to doing so. The discussion will then start again, and we do not know how long discussion on that one subject will take in Luxembourg.
The Prime Minister has said that there are many other important subjects. The House has no knowledge of the attitude of the Six towards New Zealand. All the Prime Minister has told us is that he has discussed the position of New Zealand with the President of the French Republic. That is the second large subject which will have to be discussed in Luxembourg. All this time neither the House nor the British people will know what is emerging on these points.
Another large subject is the United Kingdom's financial contribution to the Community budget—as it is euphemistically called in the circle of experts. It means the hundreds of millions of pounds this country will be called upon to pay to finance the agricultural policy of the six Common Market countries. That subject has not been started on yet. I do not regard the Government as being so irresponsible as to rush these negotiations and, a few days after these major discussions, present to the House a policy and within a few weeks consider that hon. Members have had sufficient time to consult their constituents and be able to vote and commit future generations to this irrevocable policy of entering the E.E.C. A historian reading this debate would find it absurd that there should be any hesitation in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman who is the custodian of our political procedure as to the answer he should give at the end of this debate.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House is sitting here in loneliness, influenced by a political decision which contradicts the direction in which he was moving on 13th May when I first asked him a question about the timing. The most important question on this subject was put by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to whom, naturally, the right hon. Gentleman's reply was more detailed and forthcoming. I understand that, because my right hon. Friend speaks for at least half the country.
President Pompidou made it clear in Brussels the night before last that there are conditions of entry. The British Press is reporting these matters badly, and will be called to account in the debates in the House which are to take place. To quote one example at random concerning the sugar agreements, I have a copy of Figaro—an eminent Liberal-Conservative French newspaper close to Government circles—which reports the Press conference given jointly by the Chancellor of the Duchy and M. Schumann, the French Foreign Secretary, at 5.30 a.m. at the end of the long discussions on the proposals for the sugar producers. Figaro reported that the Chancellor of the Duchy, when questioned on the significance of these proposals, said, "This includes everything that matters—quantities, prices, all the things that matter". M. Schumann was asked the same question, and he said, "This is a collection of many large proposals. It includes prices, diversification and other industries".
The chief political correspondent, who was present at the conference, commented that these were quite different interpretations of what had taken place in the long negotiations during the night. None of this has appeared in The Times, the Daily Telegraph or any of the most reputable organs of the British Press, which had headlines "Marching in", instead of addressing themselves to the task of serious newspapers, to setting out both interpretations side by side. There is much yet to be reported that will emerge. What does M. Schumann's interpretation mean? It means a resistance to moving from the original condition that there must be no quantities given, and means no real assurance for the sugar producers.
I knew that one hon. Member had to be the first to fall foul of the Chair, but I thought that the hon. Member for Rushcliffe who preceded me went rather wide and I was trying to reply to some of his arguments. But I will remain under your sovereignty and jurisdiction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, at any rate for the time being when we are still sovereign and you are our ruler.
The position is that in Brussels the night before last M. Pompidou talked about these things, clearly implying that in his mind they were conditions. When the broader picture emerges on these three great items and many others, there may be need for another meeting after 22nd June, given the importance of the subjects involved.
Then there is the question of the writing of the White Paper. I cannot tell my constituents that the White Paper has already been written, although we read in The Times today that this might be the case. That newspaper talks about "manoeuvring" and in another newspaper we are told that the drafting of the White Paper had already begun. I cannot believe that the Government would act so irresponsibly, and I know what their own supporters would tell them if that were the case. I assume that the Government have blank sheets in front of them and that as yet there is no White Paper, because nobody knows what is to go into it. They will take their time since this has to be seriously considered.
We shall return to our constituencies at the weekend and the process of consultation must be taken up in earnest. Surely the parliamentary process should be married to the consultation with the people. This should particularly involve the Government who have refused even to consider any alternative proposals as to the way in which the British people should be consulted. That is their decision. They are obliged to give ample opportunity for Members of Parliament to consult with their constituents. I refer in passing——
Before I conclude my remarks, I intend to make some relevant points, Mr. Deputy Speaker, which relate to the direct consultation of my constituents. The hon. Member for Rushcliffe said that the party conferences do not come into the matter rather as if it was a dirty word. That is an astonishing doctrine.
That is so, but the hon. Gentleman referred to this matter at some length and made an attack on hon. Members in respect of party conferences. With respect to the Chair, the hon. Gentleman said that the annual party conferences should play an important part in the policy making of the Labour Party. I proudly proclaim that I am one of those people. I have always believed that democracy should play a part in our political system, and I remain of that view.
It should be possible to have a preliminary debate in which the terms of the British contribution will be known for the first time. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has said that no figures have been written into M. Schumann's proposal. This includes the sugar-producers' deal and the proposals on New Zealand, the importance of which I need not underline. All these matters will be known in detail for the first time. There ought then to be a debate over two, three or four days in this House on the proposals as they then emerge, without a vote at the end. The country ought to be listening in to that debate.
I do not share the hon. Gentleman's pessimism as to how interested constituents will be. They have already shown that they are greatly interested and they will show their interest when the time comes. After this debate, we shall go back to our constituents and take counsel with the people in our areas. We should take that counsel for some eight weeks to three months. We ought then to appreciate the expressions of opinion in our constituencies both directly and through all three party conferences. Then we should come back here in the autumn——
Then we ought to be able to say next weekend to our constituents, "You need not worry about one thing because, whatever view you take over the many weeks in the summer period, you will have time to state your point of view".
Would the hon. Member accept that there are a number of M.Ps., of whom I am one, who have made arrangements to go on holiday tomorrow in order to get in our summer holiday now so as to be available for consultations later. Therefore, is not the correct time to take the Whitsun Recess that which has been proposed by the Government?
Before I get any more help, I had better carry on with what I was saying. At any rate, these comments show that the democratic process is as it ought to be.
The right hon. Gentleman's reply to this debate will give him the opportunity to discount the suspicions held by many of us when we see words like "manoeuvring" being used by the political correspondent of The Times. We see the idea being put about that this debate is to be rushed. Therefore, the Leader of the House should accept the opportunity to respond to the request made to him by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition during the questions on the business statement and give the House a firm assurance that there will be a preliminary debate on either a White Paper or some of the emerging conditions of entry and the conclusions reached in the Luxembourg negotiations. Then after a period, such as the whole of the Summer Recess, there will be the first attempt, if the Government so desire, to ask the House to approve the entry of the United Kingdom into the E.E.C.
If that is Government policy, the right hon. Gentleman should give a clear assurance that there will be a preliminary debate and then the whole of the summer for consultations in the country at large. Then in the autumn, at the earliest, if the Government are of such a mind, they can consider any request for the House to decide whether this country is to adhere to the Treaty of Rome and enter the E.E.C. It is the bounden duty of the Leader of the House to make clear the situation when he replies this afternoon and not to miss this opportunity to do so.
I shall not detain the House for very long and, if the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) will forgive me, I shall not take up his many points, not even the one in which he gave for him surprising praise to Le Figaro. I am more a supporter of Le Monde.
Instead, I want to return to the speech of the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), who made a number of points with considerable persuasiveness, one of which I wish to develop. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the unique character of the decision to enter the European Economic Community. I would suggest that it is very difficult ever to decide what is unique and what is not. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the importance of the decision which has to be taken, and I agree that it is very important. He went on to refer to the decision about capital punishment and how in that instance some hon. Members did not have the full support of their constituents. It so happens that I voted as the right hon. Gentleman did. He went on to say the electorate had an opportunity to take another decision later on that issue if they so wished.
This is an interesting parallel, but it is one on a quite different level. On the other hand, the situation which arose with the declaration of war in 1939 is closer in importance. It was a decision which led not only to victory in 1945 but to the situation that we faced in May, 1940. It was a decision which might have had disastrous consequences for the country.
Then there was the decision taken by a previous Labour Government to give independence to India. Certainly that was a decision of historic consequence. It brought about the end of the British Empire, and affected the subsequent development of this country and of the Commonwealth.
Those surely were fundamental historic decisions. However, no referendum was held before they were taken.
I do not question that the decision to enter Europe is one of major significance. It is right that there should be consultation and extensive debate. Those of us on this side of the House who support the Government's negotiations, who believe that they are proceeding well, and who hope that it will be possible for the Government to produce terms which we shall support with enthusiasm, are fully aware that we must discuss the matter with our constituents and consult them extensively. That means that a period of time is necessary for discussion, for consultation and for the passing of information; to do all of this is our responsibility. At the end of that period, it will be for us to make up our minds and to vole accordingly.
I believe the Government fully accept this and I see no reason whatsoever to suggest that there will be an attempt to "bounce" the House and the country into joining Europe. We have heard a great deal about the need for reasonable time for discussion and consultation, and I support this. However, the suspicion must arise that many of those who are arguing so forcibly about time for consultation really want to prevent the decision going in favour of entry and are using this argument as another means of trying to delay entry.
Does that mean that the hon. Gentleman thinks that, the longer that the debate goes on in the country, the less likelihood there is that the people will look favourably upon the terms that emerge?
I do not think that at all. I believe that, when the British people are informed and as they see the terms and realise that it is open to Britain to join Europe, there will be growing suport for British entry. On the other hand, I do not believe that it is necessary for an issue which has been debated and which will be fully debated again should continue to be debated ad infinitum. A decision should be reached within a reasonable time.
For those reasons, I support what I understand is the Government's attitude. I believe that when they are satisfied with the terms, they intend to give a reasonable period of time for consultation and then to move forward with determination and vigour.
The Leader of the House will be delighted to learn that I do not intend to talk about the Common Market. It would have been simpler if the right hon. Gentleman had set aside a day or two for a discussion on the Common Market before we rose for the Whitsun Recess.
My reason for intervening in the debate is to draw attention to the case of the daughter of one of my constituents, a school girl who was aged 15 last April and who is now in Holloway Gaol.
As long ago as 23rd January, she and a girl friend who is just over 16 appeared in court having been charged with various offences. Since then, there have been numerous remands on bail. Finally, on 20th May, four months after the original charges were made, a special juvenile court at Camberwell found the two girls guilty of the offences with which they had been charged.
This is neither the time nor the place to express my views on the conduct of the justices of the Camberwell Juvenile Court. I have had opportunities on previous occasions to deal with magistrates courts who have not carried out their duties satisfactorily. In this case, at the final hearing, the court referred to the Inner London Sessions the responsibility of deciding the sentences to be imposed.
We all know about the serious congestion in the various Metropolitan courts. No one knows how long it will be before the Inner London Sessions decides the penalties to impose on these two girls. In the meantime, they are in Holloway, and I consider it monstrous that the only place to which they can be sent in these circumstances is Holloway Gaol. I suggest that the girls should have been sent to a remand home or Borstal institution. They should have been sent anywhere but Holloway.
When I got in touch with Home Office officials yesterday, they confessed to being helpless in the matter. But I still think that the Home Secretary should exert himself a little more and provide some alternative place for these girls to be kept pending a decision about the penalties that should be imposed on them. I urge the Leader of the House to bring the case to the notice of the Home Secretary so that, without interfering with or impeding the course of justice, some other arrangements can be made for the detention of these two young girls.
When I got in touch with the authorities in Holloway Gaol, I was told that the girls were in the prison hospital and to that extent were separated from the general run of prisoners. However, anyone who has seen what it is like in the hospital at Holloway Gaol will realise that it is just as unsuitable for young school girls as any other part of the prison. It is no consolation to pretend that incarceration in the prison hospital is better than incarceration in the prison itself.
I ask the Leader of the House to bring this case to the notice of the Home Secretary so that other arrangements can be made for the detention of these girls. I am not asking for them to be released. I am not querying the decision taken by the court. I am objecting most strenuously—it will come as a surprise to most people in this year of grace 1971—that it should still be possible for a London juvenile court to send a schoolgirl to Holloway Prison in the circumstances I have mentioned. I therefore ask the Leader of the House to bring this case urgently to the attention of the Home Secretary so that, if possible, tonight or tomorrow morning, these girls can be transferred to another place of detention while the Inner London Sessions—goodness knows when—makes up its mind on the sentence to be imposed.
I oppose the terms of the Whitsun Recess Motion for a variety of reasons.
The first reason is geophysical. I think that we should stay here and debate next week a Motion—an appropriate right hon. or hon. Member could be found to move it—on the shape of the earth.
I read in the Press this morning, for instance, that those who oppose the Common Market are called "flat earthers" by no less a person than my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This may have been said in a facetious manner; it may have been said with tongue in cheek. However, as I read it—that is all I could judge from—it was said very seriously, and I rather resent it. As a Member of Parliament I am entitled to exercise my judgment and not to be held in contempt for it.
I know, because I taught children for many years, that the earth is not flat. I am not exactly ignorant about that. I used to describe the shape of the earth to children as being that of an oblate spheroid. I am glad that one hon. Member opposite agrees with me. We must have been educated in the same atmosphere.
The assumption that someone who does not believe as either the Establishment or pro-marketeers believe is ignorant is very wrong. We should be given the benefit of sound judgment. I am as sincere in my belief that we should not enter the Common Market as some of my right hon. and hon. Friends are that we should. But to be designated as an ignorant "flat earther", as one whose thoughts are antediluvian, whose politics come out of the Ark, and whose knowledge of modern constitutions is almost barren, is to relegate me, and others who think like me. in a completely contemptuous fashion.
If we had such a debate next week—in discussing such a debate next week I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I am in order—I could prove, at length, that it is a mistake to dismiss with contempt people who believe as I believe. It is a big mistake for any part of the Establishment of this House, whether on this side or opposite, to under-estimate what they think are minorities. I have learned that almost all revolutions spring from minorities. If it is assumed that there is a minority of Members of this House against going into the Community, it is also a dangerous assumption to believe that they will not be affected and to dismiss them with arrogance, contempt and almost impertinence. That is the way I regard this matter.
I believe that opposition to going into the Common Market should be dealt with in a much wider way in our debates than hitherto. I am told that it is not the price of butter which counts, but something far wider and deeper. I shall not go into those issues now, but I believe that the wider and deeper issues have not been adequately touched upon in this House. I refer particularly to the constitutional issue.
Next week I should like a series of debates not only on the oblate spheroid, but on the constitutional implications of going into the E.E.C. In passing, I should say that "flat earthers", if such we are, are the only people with any physical chance of having both feet soundly on the ground, because if one is on a curvature one cannot stand properly. Therefore, we must carry this flat earth assumption to its logical conclusion.
I want to get back to the constitutional debate. I confidently believe that the cost impact over the next three years will be quite drastic and will militate against the success of my party at the next election. I am a fundamental Tory. I believe implicitly in Tory principles and have fought for them over many years. I believe that, before making a decision, we must examine the constitutional implications of going into the Community. Therefore, I urge that we should stay here next week and discuss not only the shape of the earth and all its consequences, but the constitutional issues involved in going into the Community.
I should like to take part in such a debate and ask my right hon. Friends and right hon. Gentlemen opposite—for instance, the Leader of the Opposition who tried to take us in at one time—what sort of Europe they want us to go into. Is it a federal Europe, a confederal Europe, a loose association, or what? We have not had from any prominent pro-marketeer in this House a deliberate statement on what will be the future of this country in Europe in 30, 40 or 50 years.
I am not too worried about the price of butter—it will worry me, because it will be symptomatic of the rise in prices—but I am deeply worried about the future of my grandchildren. In 20, 30 or 40 years, in what kind of country will they be living, constitutionally and politically? That is what matters and that is what I want to debate next week.
Some people have said that we should go back to our constituencies and consult our constituents. I do that every week. I live in my constituency. Everybody knows me. I talk to people in the pubs, the clubs, the marts, everywhere. Furthermore, I fought the last two elections on a distinctly anti-Common Market ticket. Therefore, my constituents know where I stand and I know where they stand, because I won Burton in 1966 against the whole trend of the country. It was one of the best Tory results in the 1966 election, and on an anti-Common Market ticket. Therefore, I have no need to spend next week going into the mart at Uttoxeter or into the market place at Burton to find out what my electors think. They have told me by their votes.
There is another reason why the House should sit next week. It is in Committee work at full stretch. Hon. Members need only look at the board to see the number of Standing Committees which are sitting, not only in the mornings but in the afternoons, the late afternoons, the evenings and in one case all night and in another until 4.30 a.m. The House is at full stretch and is likely to be so for a considerable time. Next week, those hon. Members who did not want to take part in the debate on the oblate spheroid could sit on Standing Committees—I love that phrase—and get the work of the House cleared for when we get the terms of entry into the Common Market. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told me that I could not care less about the terms, and he told the truth. It does not matter what the terms are, I shall vote against the Common Market, and I have behind me the logic of the constitutional position, which has never been settled.
We should stay here next week and pile in on the Standing Committees. When we get the next two spasms of terms from my right hon. and learned Friend after his next two conferences in Europe, we should have the decks cleared of all our ordinary business, or as much of it as possible, so that we can devote all the ensuing days to discussing this epoch-making decision—a decision which will affect the future for ever. It will not be a part-time decision that we can revoke. It will be irrevocable. Let us come back next week and get the Standing Committees working night and day, day and night, to get the decks cleared. Then we can come to a decision perhaps before the Summer Recess, perhaps after it.
I have said that I do not like being treated with contempt. No minority in any organisation likes to be treated with contempt. I have referred to the "assumed minority". All the pundits have estimated the numbers on either side of the House, but they have underestimated the numbers of anti-Common Marketeers on this side of the House. Anyone who dismisses the minority of anti-Common Marketeers in this House is making a big mistake because all those parliamentarians who have been here for some time and know the manœuvrings and the tactics can reasonably weigh up the future form.
So far, I have been in order. Perhaps in what I am about to say I shall be getting out of order. It relates to beyond a week come Monday. If we have a debate on a Motion to "take note "—perhaps there could not be a vote on that—and then we have the crash decision to take two, three or four weeks after that, I can foresee the tendency of some people to use "bounce". But I remind them that if one bounces off flat earth one bounces up and down, whereas if one bounces in the surface of an oblate spheroid one bounces off at a tangent. If bounce is the tactics to be used for a decision in the last week of July or in the first week of August, the bounce may go off at a tangent and go wrong. One of the ways in which it could go wrong would be if some bright individual were to put down an Amendment to the effect that, "The Question be heard six months hence". That might really put the cat among the pigeons as far as taking a decision was concerned. For these cogent and potent reasons, I do not want to go home tomorrow.
I hesitate to trouble the Leader of the House and my right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) with a further intervention at this hour. Both of them know that I shall not unduly delay the outcome of the debate. Before the House rises for the Whitsun Recess it is, however, essential to have an assurance from the Government on the timing of any decision about entering the Common Market. It is the merest commonplace to say that the Government have no mandate from the British people to do more than negotiate. The Prime Minister was beside himself during the election campaign to emphasise that he was seeking authority to negotiate, no more and no less. Thus it would be an outrage against our democratic institutions and deeply degrading for this House if there were to be any attempt to rush a decision, over the heads of the electorate, on a matter of this importance.
There is great concern in the country that we are failing to take proper note of the anxieties of the British people and of their friends throughout the Commonwealth as to their future. Indeed, there are those here and in many parts of the Commonwealth who feel that Mme de Pompadour received less from her suitor than M. Pompidou did from his in Paris last week.
There is a feeling in the country and in Commonwealth countries generally that far too much has been given away already in the discussions in Paris, Brussels and elsewhere. I believe that the great majority of the British people are eminently right to have rejected the terms now proposed for British entry. Few, if any, of the vital safeguards promised have been secured. The Government have already accepted the entire Rome Treaty, the laws made under it, the Common Market's dear food policy and a Budget payment falling heavily and unfairly on Britain. No firm and lasting safeguards have been obtained for Commonwealth countries, rich or poor.
Many of us on this side of the House are escepially concerned about the Commonwealth poor. We are very troubled by the so-called agreement that has been reached on Commonwealth sugar. Commonwealth producers were told that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would seek bankable assurances to protect their interests. This pledge has not been honoured. These Commonwealth countries desperately need quantified access to Britain for their sugar.
It is wrong also that Australia's interests have been brushed aside. There are those who give the impression that Australia's connection with this country is no longer of importance, but that is not the view of the majority of the British people. Neither happily is it the view of the great majority of the people of Australia.
Consider what it will mean to Queensland if its sugar is excluded. It has been suggested that Australia will be phased out of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement if we adhere to the Treaty of Rome. That could have disastrous consequences for the farmers of Queensland, on whom the effect could in fact be worse than on New Zealand if we fail to secure adequate safeguards for that country. If Australian sugar is excluded from our market and from Western Europe, the International Sugar Agreement will be destroyed. Australian sugar will be forced on to the world market and the effects of that will damage the economies of 40 of the poorest countries.
There are people in Britain who feel that we should be talking here next week about the need for continuing trade relations with countries like Australia. The Leader of the House knows that many of us feel deeply on this issue. One might say that there are indeed those of us who have given tangible proof of our sincerity.
For my part, I have never felt that internationalism resides within tariff walls of the kind one sees in the E.E.C. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give an assurance that a statement will be made, at the latest on the first day of our return, about the timing of any attempted decision about our entry into the Community. If we are not prepared to show anxiety on this matter, we merely prove our unrepresentativeness in the House.
The fact that so many contributions to this debate have been about the negotiations to enter the E.E.C. will, I am sure, not have come as a surprise to the right hon. Gentleman. This is the great issue now facing this House and the nation. I believe that the British people will take the first opportunity to reject those in this House who do not prove that they are prepared to act representatively on this issue. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will respond favourably to the points that have been made—made with, I believe, great conviction by hon. Members on both sides on this deeply crucial issue affecting the future of the nation.
The Leader of the House may not consider it surprising that I wish to advance some reasons why the Whitsun Recess should be shorter. I will adduce five reasons why the House should be recalled next Thursday, 3rd June, and, again perhaps not surprisingly, they are all connected with the state of the Common Market negotiations.
My first reason is concerned with sugar. Next Wednesday, 2nd June, a conference will be held in London at which the sugar producing countries of the Commonwealth and the Government will be represented. We cannot know the outcome of that meeting, but one is entitled to speculate that it will not necessarily be a happy one for the Government. This morning's Guardian states:
None of the 14 countries which sell sugar on the British market under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement have expressed satisfaction at the Brussels pledge. All are critical and apprehensive. Mr. Rippon next week will have the task of hearing their detailed objections and trying to reassure them. They, for their part, apparently intend to press him as strongly as they can to return to Brussels in the next round of talks on June 2 with a request to reopen the subject.
In view of that, and the probable unsatisfactory outcome of next week's conference, it is imperative that the House should meet next Thursday to receive a statement from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster about the outcome of those consultations and about what he intends to do at the next ministerial negotiating session in Brussels on 7th June. If the statement is unsatisfactory, the House should have an opportunity of
expressing to him its deep concern and dissatisfaction with the state of consultation.
My second reason is also connected with the ministerial meeting on 7th June. It concerns a subject which is bound to come up at that session, as the meeting is the penultimate one, according to the Government's timetable, in the current negotiations with the Common Market countries. At this meeting the question of the financial contribution will undoubtedly be raised.
The present state of play is that the Government have made an offer of 3 per cent. as Britain's initial contribution to the Community budget. The Chancellor of the Duchy has on several occasions described this offer as being, in his opinion, reasonable and equitable. However, we are told by the newspapers, with what authority I do not know, that at the next ministerial negotiating meeting the Chancellor of the Duchy will tell the Common Market countries, following the summit meeting between the Prime Minister and the President of France in Paris recently, that Britain will be prepared to increase that initial offer—not to 4 per cent., which might be a reasonable negotiating tactic, but to more than double it, to between 7 per cent. and 9 per cent.
If the Chancellor of the Duchy can describe an offer of 3 per cent. as "reasonable and equitable", I wonder what words he will use to describe an offer of that magnitude. The English language is marvellous, but does it have the resources to cover that sort of reversal of negotiating position?
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman goes to that meeting on 7th June the House should have a chance to debate the amount of our revised financial contribution. Perhaps 3 per cent. was marginally too low. Certainly anything of the order of 7 per cent. to 9 per cent. would be completely intolerable, inequitable and unreasonable. It would involve this country in a tremendous balance of payments burden, and this would ultimately lead to the very deflationary policies which have kept our growth at a much lower level than our competitors since the war, and not just since the Brussels Treaty was signed in 1958.
We should also have an opportunity to debate whether it is worth our while increasing our offer simply to subsidise the costly, inefficient and protectionist common agricultural policy of the E.E.C., which has been universally condemned by every economist who has written on the subject. Yet on 7th June we shall possibly send a Minister to more than double our initial contribution to that costly policy. The House should meet next week, on Thursday, 3rd June, to tell the Minister that he cannot go to Brussels and increase that offer more than perhaps, marginally, by 1 per cent.
My third reason for wanting the House to be recalled on Thursday, 3rd June, is to deal with the subject of fisheries. Nothing has been said in the House recently, in Ministerial statements, about the current state of the negotiations regarding fisheries. Before the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster goes to Brussels on 7th June, we want to know whether he intends to clear up the position of the common fisheries policy in respect of our fisheries. The House will want to know soon—next week if possible—whether the fisheries issue will be settled before the House is called upon to take a vote.
If the Government consider that they can present a White Paper to the House in June or July which does not cover the fisheries issue—indeed it could not cover it unless it is mentioned at either the meeting on 7th June or the meeting on 21st-22nd June—they will be in for a great surprise. Many hon. Members who are basically pro Common Market—I do not include myself among them—may well feel that, since this issue has been fudged and left until the autumn, they could not possibly support a final decision on the matter until it is settled.
My fourth reason for wanting the House to be recalled next Thursday is to take account of the results of today's by-elections. With due modesty, we on this side of the House feel that those results will show a massive swing against the Government. One of the reasons for this is the very issue of rising prices which, in the public mind, is linked with the Government's attempt to get us into the Common Market. Some people consider that prices are deliberately being allowed to rise so that, when the crunch comes, there will not be so much extra to add on to prices. The House ought to have an opportunity of meeting before the next ministerial negotiating session in Brussels on 7th June, so that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster can be told in no uncertain terms of the verdict of the British people on the current state of the negotiations and the line that he ought to take in Brussels on 7th June—a line of negotiation for protection of the British people's interests and the interests of the Commonwealth; not a line of capitulation.
My final reason for wanting the House recalled next Thursday is connected with the forthcoming Government propaganda campaign in favour of entry. Before the Government embark on such a campaign, the House should have an opportunity of debating the form, style and content of that propaganda. I say that advisedly, because the existing Common Market propaganda coming from an organisation called the European Movement, subsidised by the Government with taxpayers' money is downright misleading, if not lying. I give an example.
In the propaganda of the European Movement it is plain that Britain has a certain number of holidays but that the Common Market countries have far more than we do. The clear implication, which must be obvious even to an infant of seven or eight, is that if Britain enters the Common Market, we shall all have longer holidays. There was a question to a Minister some months ago on this matter. The Government reply was that if Britain enters the Common Market this would not mean longer holidays. Why should it? Why should it mean, necessarily, that we should all suddenly find ourselves £5 a week better off? Of course we shall not. It is because of the misleading nature of the propaganda, subsidised by the Government, that the House should have an opportunity to debate the content of the Government's campaign before they embark on something that will lead them into a great deal of trouble with the Members of the House.
For these reasons, I earnestly ask the Leader of the House to recall the House next Thursday.
I shall not detain the House for very long. We ought to come back next week and we ought to have a full-scale debate on the Common Market.
There have been gross exaggerations on the question on both sides. My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) gave an example of a gross exaggeration by those in favour of entering the Common Market almost at any price. There have been exaggerations on the other side, too. For example, some of the arguments that Britain, almost overnight, would lose its sovereignty and be merged into a kind of new, total, overall political system, in which the House of Commons would be relegated to something like a parish council, have also been exaggerated. Hon. Members will know that in the past I was one of the foremost advocates of entry to the E.E.C. and that I once referred to some hon. Members as "ancient Britons". One hon. Member objected to being called a "flat earther" by one of his hon. Friends; possibly he was one of those I had in mind. It seemed that they were of a breed which, in all circumstances, wanted to oppose our entry into the Common Market.
In the past I have made my position clear. I have fought hard within my party and in the House for the idea of entry into the E.E.C., because I believed in the grand design of an overall European unity, which would involve all sections of Europe, so that we could stand up, as it were, against both America and Russia. But it is no use having a wonderful theory, a grand design, if it does not work out in practice. Either one has to say that there is something wrong with one's theory and one adapts one's theory to the reality in practice, or one continues in blind obeisance to a theory which leads into a blind alley.
Some politicians in the past have tried to put into effect the grand design in other ways, with disastrous consequences for Europe. If one wants to continue in that sort of way one ought not to allow this to happen without the whole subject being properly discussed and every angle examined in the greatest detail. We ought to have a debate next week on the Common Market because there are far too many issues which the House and the country have not considered in any depth.
The common agricultural policy has been mentioned. When I was advocating passionately Britain's entry into the E.E.C. there was still a hope, despite the stupidity of the workings of the common agricultural policy then, that we, by being a member, could have changed the fundamental way in which the policy would have worked. But about a year ago that hope disappeared.
The final, irrevocable decision has been made. It is all very well for hon. Members to say, "In 10 years' time there will be a modern agricultural system in Europe, and all the problems that you are worried about will have disappeared, all the workers will have left the land, the peasant system will have been abolished, and you will have the kind of capitalist agricultural system that we have here". The difficulty is to accept something that it is said will happen in 10 years' time, while in the meantime one has to pay a heavy price, and I regard the common agriculture policy as utter folly.
It represents one of the most ridiculous systems in the world, and for that reason alone, apart from any other, I could not accept entry into the Common Market without this fundamental issue being open for negotiation. But we know that it is not. We know that it has been settled, just as many other things have been settled by means of orders and regulations, particularly during the last 18 months.
The great dream that I had of joining a Europe moving in the direction in which I wanted it to go has disappeared. I therefore have to bring myself into line with reality or continue on a path which leads nowhere. I hope that I am an honest politician. I try to be an honest person. I know that it is very difficult for politicians to say, "I advocated that last year, but I have changed my mind this year". Perhaps I should say that it is not difficult for some politicians to do that. Some politicians can change their minds overnight, and say "That is what I said yesterday, but I have changed my mind today". I hope that I am not in that category. I am trying to be utterly honest about this whole issue.
About a year or 18 months ago, in an article in the New Statesman, I said that I had had second thoughts on the matter, and that I could not go along in the way that I had in the past. The doubts and hesitations that I had then have increased as time has gone on, and I think that we need a full-dress debate next week so that we can consider all these issues at considerable length and ensure that those who are not totally committed on one side or the other have the opportunity to examine in great detail some of the important problems with which we are faced. We must, for example, consider the rôle of a European Parliament, the future political set-up of the organisation. This issue has not been properly debated. It has not been examined at any length, and many other issues remain to be considered in full.
I ask the House to consider the question of the sugar agreement. Hon. Members have quite rightly referred to the effect that joining the Common Market will have on the sugar producing countries. I remind the House that not only will it affect the sugar producing countries, but it will have a serious effect on the workers in the sugar refining industry here. When Tate & Lyle workers at Liverpool write to me and say that unless there is something better than a statement saying that the Government are taking all the considerations to heart they must be worried about their future, I take note of that. "Taking to heart" does not mean quite what the right hon. Gentleman tried to make out that it meant. My wife is a member of the Institute of Linguists, and according to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) she understands French perfectly. According to her, that expression does not mean quite what the right hon. Gentleman said it did. It does not mean what the right hon. Gentleman tried to kid us it meant.
When workers in Liverpool, an area with a high rate of unemployment, write to me, through their shop stewards' committee, saying that they are concerned about the future of their employment, and want to know where they stand, I take serious note of their position. Hon. Members should bear in mind that aspect of the problem.
I think that all these matters ought to be debated at great length. Merely having reports and short statements, followed by hon. Members trying to frame questions so that they do not take up too much time, and are able to get their points over quickly, is not a satisfactory way of dealing with the fundamental and momentous decision which this country has to take. That is not the right way to deal with this great issue. At every stage of the negotiations there ought to be a short debate on the issues involved so that the ramifications of each stage of the process are understood, both in this House, and by people outside.
We are not getting that, and therefore I hope that we shall not all rush off to have a weekend away from the House, much as I should like that in one sense. I hope that next week we shall have a serious debate on the present stage of the negotiations, and what the future holds for Britain and the British people. In my view the British people are not being properly consulted. Their views are not being properly heard. It is time that they were, and it seems to me that the Government and the Opposition must give the maximum amount of time for a debate to enable the proper decision to be made.
Would the hon. Gentleman care to cast his mind back to the thirties? The hon. Gentleman spoke about the people of this country being consulted. Some of us are old enough to remember the League of Nations' vote on rearmament. I suspect that if we had discussed with the people of this country whether they wanted us to rearm, many of us would be flat in the earth.
I will not follow the hon. Gentleman into that realm. I have made my position clear. We are being asked to decide the momentous and fundamental question whether we should become part of the European Economic Community. Ballots on the League of Nations, the peace ballot, and so on, are different matters. The British people must be consulted in full before a decision is made whether to enter the Common Market.
This is a traditional debate on the Adjournment of the House. Quite properly, hon. Members raised matters which they feel should be clarified by further Government statements, either by the Leader of House this evening, or, if he cannot now deal with the issues raised, by conveying our views to the Ministers concerned so that they can deal with them in due course.
This has been an interesting afternoon, and many topics have been raised. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) raised the question of unemployment in Scotland, an issue on which he was strongly supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Ian Campbell). My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian was also worried about investment in multi-national companies, and he asked for a serious study of the whole matter. He asked, too, what the Government's investment plans were, and how the tax changes would affect the investment plans of those companies which provide employment for many of our people in Scotland.
Unemployment is not a matter which affects only Scotland. It is causing concern in many of the regions. There has been a considerable rise in the unemployment figures, and these are now a major talking point in current by-elections. I noted what my hon. Friends said about unemployment in Scotland, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will urgently convey their views to the Secretary of State for Scotland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), who always assiduously defends his constituents, raised a matter affecting the Home Office. The Lord President will have taken note of what was said, and I am sure he will make the necessary representations.
Throughout the speeches of other hon. and right hon. Members there has been an uneasy feeling about the discussions and the form of debate which should take place on the Common Market. A former Minister, the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) talked in detail about the timetable of the negotiations. He was interrupted by his right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). I would support the right hon. and learned Gentleman because I believe that he is basically right on this issue.
Many hon. Members, whatever their views about the Market, believe that there should be adequate consultation. I feel that to be extremely important. After all, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who is the principal spokesman on foreign affairs for my party, has a distinctive point of view which he explained to readers of the Daily Mirror the other day. There are various opinions on both sides of the House. But I am sure that all hon. Members, whatever positions they take and whatever attitudes they have on the Common Market, would agree that there must be adequate discussion and consultation. This was clear in most of the speeches.
We must not have a vote too soon. I believe that that would be an abuse of our procedures. Nor must there be any attempt to manoeuvre decisions. I believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman quoted an article in The Times arguing that we must give public opinion an opportunity to manifest itself, and that spokesmen and politicians should explain their attitudes. Many hon. Members have already made up their minds. No one denies that. But many have not. There is still a need for information and, as I tried to show in an intervention, the Government are embarking on a campaign of providing factual information for the British public. I do not accept the view of the hon. Member for Rush-cliffe (Mr. Clark) that this issue is stale. I was at Bromsgrove last night on the eve of the by-election poll, and practically all the questions raised at my meetings were on the Common Market issue. The British people are interested in this subject. They are anxious to know where people stand. It is the main talking point; so it cannot be stale. We must have adequate debate in this House.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) made a plea for this. He said that opinion was deeply disturbed—and I believe that he is right. Many people are angry about the rush in the negotiations, although I know that some take a different view. This point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West and many others. My hon. Friend made a vigorous speech, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer); and other hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), argued that we must have adequate discussion and pointed to the dangers if we do not.
I would not say that I have sat on the fence on this issue. Perhaps I may quote what the Leader of the Opposition said on 24th May when he pleaded for a debate first, without decision, and later for the postponement of a major decision until after the autumn. I stand by that. In reply, the Prime Minister said that he was not prepared to give an undertaking at this stage. I must be fair to him: he said that he was prepared to talk in the usual way with the Leader of the Opposition on the best method of handling this and that, with his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and indeed the Cabinet, he would take into account the different views in the House.
May I reinforce this strong opinion which flows from all sides of the House by using a phrase which some hon. Members thought rather harsh when it was used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East and which I repeated from a seated position. The Prime Minister was rather sensitive about it. I would say that we do not want to be "bounced". I hope, therefore, that the Leader of the House will confirm that there will be adequate discussion and also that there will not be a decision before we rise for the Summer Recess. I know that we must not argue about the next Session, but I am asking that the Leader of the House should take note of what has been said and convey it to the Prime Minister and his colleagues. When we return, we may then expect a major statement on this crucially important issue.
There is deep concern. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North went into great detail about the great problems that have arisen already. He was led to the conclusion that we must have a referendum. I am only suggesting to the Lord President, the spokesman for the Government today, that if there is any attempt to create frustration among back-bench Members of Parliament and a feeling in the country that political leaders are not carrying the people with them, inevitably there will be more and more demands for a referendum. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or a General Election."] Or a General Election. But I am not yet convinced that a referendum is the answer. I believe that this issue should be settled with proper regard for hon. Members and for their constituents.
Of course, I should like an election on this. I share the view of the hon. Member for Burton on its importance. My constituents know my views, as do the Press who, over the years, have run a vicious and ugly campaign against some of us who were in the late Administration. The hon. Member for Burton spoke of the arrogance of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in calling some of his colleagues and others who take a different view from him "flat earthers". I agree with the hon. Member's judgment. It was arrogance of the worst kind, and others have been guilty of similar arrogance.
I hope that we can cease being arrogant with each other. There are distinctively important arguments on both sides. My hon. Friend the Member for Walton gave his own sincere view of the common agricultural policy. I understand it, and no one would accuse him of flying a kite just for expediency. He has deeply held views and is always forthright in putting them forward.
I hope that this debate will be conducted at a high level, and without personal rancour. I give an assurance that I will do all I can to ensure that this question which, after all, affects the constitution of our country and is one of the major decisions of our time, is not argued on a basis of personal abuse. People will argue strongly and vigorously—and that is right; but they must respect the sincerely held views of others. As my right hon. Friends the Members for Stepney and East Ham, North said, there are huge problems affecting a great many people outside the House.
The whole question of the sugar negotiations is an example. I am not going to follow the arguments that have been used by hon. Members, such as that put so clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson). But there are great problems which need further consultation. After all, the Chancellor of the Duchy is to have consultations next week with major spokesmen for the Commonwealth sugar producing countries. I had the pleasure not long ago of visiting the West Indies and following in the footsteps of the Chancellor of the Duchy. He gave the impression to people in the West Indies that we could not possibly let down the sugar producers, that they must have bankable assurances, that they must have access to the market. But there has been a change.
These are matters we have to debate and to argue in this House. We have had some cross-examination at Question Time, but many hon. Members, like the hon. Member for Burton, my hon. Friend the Member for Walton and my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone now want a debate next week. That is why they are seeking to delay the Adjournment. I understand their feelings and share their views. But it is not merely a question of the West Indies, Mauritius, Fiji or parts of India and Africa. There is also Queensland, which has been left out and sold down the river already, and where some of our friends have been considerably harmed and offended.
Then there are the negotiations over New Zealand. Again, we cannot go into detail, but I know of many hon. Members who are very worried about the progress of these negotiations. Whatever the arguments about entry, there is widespread concern. Many people are afraid that major decisions will be taken over their heads. As my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamslow, West said, there is also the argument about the financial contribution. The offer of 3 per cent. has been raised in order to support the costly common agricultural policy which has been condemned even in Europe. Even Mr. Mansholt has been sceptical about its effectiveness. He has suggested that one day the E.E.C. countries would have to move towards the British deficiency payment system, which is to be wiped out by the present Government.
Then there is the worry about the fisheries industry, which affects some of our Norwegian friends. If the policy is not altered, if we do not get anything out of the negotiations, it could mean disaster for our inshore fishing fleet as well as for our friends in Norway. These are all matters that are worrying people in the country. Therefore, I urge that there must be adequate debate and consultation, whatever views we may have.
I shall be out of order if I pursued many of the main arguments that have been developed, which will, however, have to be further debated on the Floor of the House. They include major constitutional issues, the sovereignty of Parliament, and the final arrangements on agriculture. There are the questions of what is to emerge for New Zealand and on sugar. There are many other matters, including regional and monetary policies, real issues which affect the British people. They have a right to be taken into consultation. We must also provide them with adequate information. We must discuss every aspect of the question with them. There must be no arrogant attitude, such as I thought was reflected in the speech of one hon. Member, towards the men and women in our constituencies. The good basic British commonsense of our electorates may in the end play a decisive rôle in the argument about the Common Market. Let no one ignore it.
The Prime Minister said last year, on 5th May, 1970, before he became Prime Minister, that it would not be in the interests of the Community that its enlargement should take place except with the full-hearted consent of the Parliaments and peoples of the new member countries. How do he and the Leader of the House propose to judge what people think? How does the Leader of the House propose to conduct the debate in Parliament? Will he give a straight reply to my right hon. Friend who raised this matter? He said that there will be consultations, but will he see that there is adequate discussion and that no attempt is made to manoeuvre the decision through the House, but rather that we have in this great democratic assembly full argument and debate, in which all the major issues can be adequately discussed? Until that happens, there can be no decision. If the Government attempt to do otherwise, with indecent haste, they will unite even many of their supporters who favour entry in opposition to their headlong and indecent rush.
The right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) was right in saying that a vast amount of the debate has been devoted to discussion about the Common Market. Some of the speeches concerned the merits of the case, and some the handling of the whole question in the House. This is only natural in the circumstances. I will take the most careful note of what has been said, both on the merits and on the issues of handling.
I regret that I must deny myself the great pleasure of arguing the merits. I sometimes feel that I would very much like to enter into the argument at this moment, but some of my Cabinet colleagues might think that it would have been better if I had not spoken at all, because I might not succeed in putting the case as well as many of them would. Therefore, I shall do much better to stay out of the argument altogether, except to say one thing: the right hon. Member for Workington said that his constituents have long known his views. My constituents have long known mine, which have remained the same throughout the time when my Government applied to join the E.E.C., when the right hon. Gentleman as a Cabinet Minister supported his Government's application, and again now. My constituents know very well that I am one of those who believe that joining the E.E.C. would be in the long-term interests of this country, and I hope that we shall succeed, in the negotiations, in obtaining the right terms.
On the question of handling the matter in the House, I can only repeat what I said in answer to Business Questions this afternoon, that at this stage it is impossible to forecast when the White Paper on the results of the negotiations can be published. No decision can be taken at this stage about the timing of debates. Therefore, any question of bouncing the House, or trying to manœuvre the decision through, is out of place. I can honestly say that no decision on the question of timing has been taken, and I have undertaken that before any decision is made there will continue to be the fullest consultation.
As no decision has been taken, I shall most carefully consider with my colleagues, the arguments that have been put forward, some in one direction, some in another. I assure the right hon. Member for Workington, the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore), and the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshtire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), my hon. Friends the Members for Burton (Mr. Jennings), Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis), Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) and Westbury (Mr. Walters), and the hon. Members for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) and Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) that I wish to have the fullest possible consultation. I have had some part of that consultation—if that is the right word—in the views expressed this afternoon by all those right hon. and hon. Members. This is profitable in coming to a decision. I wish to confirm once again—and it is important that I should—that no decision of any kind has been taken, and, therefore, that all these points of view can and will be taken into account before any decision is made.
I turn to the other matters that have been raised. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), with his customary courtesy, informed me in advance of what he wished to say. I am most grateful 1o him. He raised first the question of the effect on multi-national companies of the Government's investment plans. The Government believe that our package of investment incentives will be as effective for multi-national companies as for British companies. I remind the hon. Gentleman that these include two cuts in corporation tax and substantial Local Employment Act assistance in the development areas, together with the new system of capital allowances. We believe that these will be attractive to both the multi-national and British companies.
The hon. Member next raised the question of a crisis in the electronics industry because of dumping by the United States and Japan. His remarks will be conveyed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I have investigated this matter, and I find that it is true that large numbers of low-priced, standard circuits, have been imported into the United Kingdom from U.S. manufacturers. I am assured that prices of these types of circuits have fallen sharply in other parts of the world, and evidence of dumping has not been submitted to the Government. If the hon. Gentleman feels that there is evidence, I hope that he will contact my right hon. Friend.
The hon. Member for West Lothian and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Ian Campbell) raised the question of the closure of the Plessey machine tool section at Alexandria, which is of considerable importance to Alexandria and to a county of which I have considerable knowledge. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West asked about the position of any new equipment on which grant may have been paid by the Government. I am informed by the Department of Trade and Industry that no investment grant has been paid on any new plant in Alexandria. If any of the plant at Alexandria which has been brought there from other factories—for example, at Dalkeith or at Bathgate—has received investment grant, the grant will be repayable if it is moved from Alexandria to outside a development area. I also undertake to ensure that both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland—the Under-Secretary for Scotland is with me now—and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment look carefully into all these problems caused by what is obviously an extremely unfortunate closure. I undertake that the Government will do the best they can.
The hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) raised the case of the girls from his constituency who have been sent to Holloway Prison. I will represent these matters to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but it will help in the investigations if the hon. Gentleman will give details of the persons concerned. The information will be passed to my right hon. Friend and then inquiries will be made into all the circumstances and why the case has been handled as it has. I understand why the hon. Gentleman did not give the details in the House.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I know that my right hon. Friend will consider the case on that basis.
The right hon. Member for Stepney raised the important matter, which has worried many people both inside and outside the House, of the situation in East Bengal. He asked whether my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary could make a statement before the House rises for the recess. I know that my right hon. Friend is most anxious to keep the House fully informed of any developments there. We immediately responded to the situation by our contribution to the Secretary-General's appeal for the refugees. The reports of clashes between India and East Bengal are serious matters. My right hon. Friend is keeping in close touch with those concerned. It is also true that Mrs. Gandhi and President Yahya Khan are only too well aware of the dangers of these clashes and will do all they can to prevent them. The British Government will do all we can to help with communications and on the whole question of the refugees.
I think that I have referred to most of the matters raised in the debate. I take neither comfort nor pleasure in the fact that I am once again proposing a shorter than usual Whitsun Recess. It is a somewhat short one, but in the circumstances reasonable and right. I therefore ask the House to support the Motion.