European Parliament (Supporting Services)

Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th June 1973.

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10.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

I beg to move, That, in the opinion of this House and following the resolution come to by the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) on 20th March and contained in the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Committee ordered by the House to be printed on 17th April(H.C. 69-ii), supporting services broadly equivalent to those provided for the delegations of other member nations should be made available from the beginning of this financial year to Members of this House and of the House of Lords who are members of the European Parliament for the purpose of attending meetings of the European Parliament and of its Committees. I am sure that all hon. Members, whatever their views about Europe, would feel that our Members of the European Parliament should have all the backing they need to ensure that they are not placed at a disadvantage compared with Members of the European Parliament from other countries. The purpose of this motion is to enable them to be provided with the supporting services, such as assistance by Clerks and other facilities that they will need.

Although I intend to introduce the motion tolerably briefly, I shall of course reply to any points made by hon. Members, or if I am unable to answer any points tonight I shall make certain that hon. Members concerned are informed.

The Services Committee has already passed a resolution broadly on these lines, but perhaps I should tell the House what particular services we have in mind. First, our Members will need some assistance from Clerks and other secretarial and clerical staff when preparing in this country for meetings of the Assembly. I have in mind that there might be one Clerk from each House who would be specialists in this field.

Next, when British Members attend meetings of the Assembly, they will need the services of a Clerk and appropriate secretarial support available to them on the spot. This is in line with what other member Governments provide for their Members.

Then again, some form of special mail service between London and Strasbourg may be helpful to our Members, especially in dealing with their constituency mail which, surprisingly enough, does not diminish when Members are abroad——

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Is all this to be in addition to the £25 tax-free expenses which they get?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

That is a separate issue from the expenses allowed to Members——

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Is it £25 a day, tax-free?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

—for the execution of their duties——

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Will the Leader of the House now answer my question? Is it £25 a day, tax free, which these people get by way of expenses? If they are Members of another place, do they also get their £8·50 a day expenses, tax free? The engineers, bricklayers and carpenters want to know what these people are getting.

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

My understanding is that the Members of the other place get their allowance only when they actually attend the other place, so they would not be entitled to both their expenses from the European Parliament and their allowance in another place. Our own Members obtain the full allowances to which they are entitled——

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

I have not the actual figures with me. But I do not argue with the hon. Gentleman's figures which, broadly speaking, are correct. These expenses are——

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

They are not tax free, in fact——

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

They are not tax free. They have to be justified——

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

They are to enable Members to pay their legitimate expenses and, as the hon. Gentleman will know, £25 a day may seem a great deal, if that is the correct sum, but, as I understand it from my hon. Friends and from other hon. Members who have been to Strasbourg and other places, it is not by any means a sum which allows for a great deal of extravagance——

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

That is a totally irrelevant remark——

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) will please not make observations from a sedentary position.

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

Finally, when Committees of the European Parliament visit this country, while the European Parliament expects to pay the cost, there will be some expenses which as host country we ought to meet.

These are the main facilities that we have in mind at present. No doubt others will arise in the future.

I am not asking the House to agree to a proposal which is completely open-ended. The motion would allow facilities to be provided only if they were broadly mirrored by those provided by other member countries. Nor will there be duplication of services provided by the European Parliament itself. Of course, the European Parliament provides extensive administrative and clerical supporting services for its Members. For example, three Clerks from this House are now with the European Parliament. But these central services are provided for the European Parliament as a whole, and other countries besides ourselves have found it necessary to supplement them for the specific service of their Members.

I hope that the House will agree to this uncontentious motion, which I believe will greatly help the British Members to make an effective contribution to the work of the European Parliament. As I said at the beginning of my brief remarks, I cannot believe that any hon. Member of this House wishes other than to see that its Members are properly catered for when they are on service abroad in the interests of this country.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow West

I am not clear what the right hon. Gentleman means by the provision of postage to help Members of the European Assembly with their correspondence. Does this mean merely a redirection to Brussels, Strasbourg, Luxembourg or wherever it may be, and then a separate postal service to this country to tie up with the present free postal service, or is it proposed to give additional support to these Members in terms of secretarial facilities which at present are paid for by Members out of their own pockets?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

There will be no additional support in terms of secretarial services for constituency duties.

We wish to consider two possibilities—first, a special air bag service for Members' mail between London and Strasbourg, or, secondly, with the agreement of the French postal authorities, a special data post service between London and Strasbourg while the European Parliament is meeting. Data post is a special international postal service guaranteeing overnight delivery, but at present it operates only between a small number of countries. Those are the alternatives which will be looked at, provided that the motion is passed.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

If this mail comes on a five-day sitting, Monday to Friday—I think there is one coming up in July—it might amount to 200 letters. That is about the average number of letters from constituents in five days. What secretarial help will be made available to Members to deal with that amount of mail while they are abroad?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention, because it shows the difficulties under which Members of the European Parliament have to work. I am not suggesting that the House should provide these services for our Members at the moment. However, I believe that we shall have to see how things work out over the next few months. I want our Members to have the best possible services. They undertake extremely arduous duties. Therefore, it would be in the interests of the House and the country to give them every possible facility. Naturally, this should be done in as economic a way as possible.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

How much will it cost?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

The hon. Gentleman keeps worrying about the cost. He must realise, as I do only too well, that the accounting officer for all the moneys spent in this House, the Clerk of the House, is not one to allow the House of Commons vote to be used in an uneconomic way. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman need have no worry that there is, as it were, free money available for Members who go to Strasbourg.

With those assurances and the undertaking that we shall wish to scrutinise the use of money for this purpose very care- fully, I hope that hon. Members will agree that the motion should be accepted.

10.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

Since the Opposition do not believe in sending a delegation to Europe, one should say that this is a pure example of the right hon. Gentleman giving cash to the Government's supporters.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

It does not add to the confidence of Members of this House or of people outside when they see the body which is described by law in the Treaty of Rome as the European Assembly described by a different title as the European Parliament. We know that that body describes itself like that, quite illegally because it has no power to change the wording of the treaty, but we expect more of a Member of the Government than to use such a term in a motion before the House when he knows it is illegal under the law of the Community which, by act of the Government, is now the law of this land.

I suggest that this is an excessive motion. The right hon. Gentleman said that there will be a check on it and that the services will be broadly equivalent to those provided for the delegations of other member nations. That sounds rational. The right hon. Gentleman said that no Member will want us to have fewer services. But traditionally this House has been more abstemious than other European countries' legislatures. For example, many European Members of Parliament are paid extremely high salaries compared with others. Because their salaries are so high they are expected to contribute to their own political parties. Therefore, there is a concealed subsidy to political parties. Certain practices in other Parliaments—I could list them—have been followed in the European Parliament with, I understand, procedural disadvantages in some cases.

For example, it is quite frequent, as I understand it, for a committee to meet on a given occasion to discuss something, but there is no rule of progress as we have here, so that such a committee may meet on a second occasion to discuss the same thing because some Members were not present previously. The net effect of frequent short meetings is to increase travelling allowances, expense allowances and other items. We all know how it works: if one has a standard rate per day and there is a series of little meetings at different times, one gets rather better travelling allowances than if such a committee were to sit solidly for a good week's work.

It is not sufficient to say that the only control that this House will have over the motion once it is passed is that the amount involved will be broadly equivalent to the amounts for other delegations. In other words, one decision of one member of the Nine will so alter the structure that it will cease to be broadly equivalent. It will probably go up. I cannot imagine that it will go down.

I hope, also, that the right hon. Gentleman will take some care to answer some of the points made in an article by Andrew McEwen in the Daily Mail this morning. There it was stated, for example, that the motion was being introduced because The Treasury has played merry hell by cutting off the MPs' —he means the members of the delegation to the European Assembly— support staff of Civil Servants—secretaries, road managers and breathless young organisers. The Leader of the House said that he would provide some Clerks of the House, who are not civil servants and there may be a mistake there, but one would wish to have an assurance from him that civil servants are not being used for the service of people who are not Ministers of the Crown. If they are being so used it would be a considerable breach of the normal principles of Government in this country.

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

Let me answer at once: we are dealing with Clerks of the House.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

I took it that that was a mistake in the article, but I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his assurance that that is the case.

In addition, and this is of some importance since we are to provide services broadly equivalent to those of others, would the Leader of the House state what his Government's policy is with regard to the siting of the European Assembly? In my view, it is quite clear that it ought to be with the European Commission and Council's headquarters in Brussels, but what no-one can conceivably defend is that it should be in both Luxembourg and in Strasbourg.

I quote again from the article in the Daily Mail:Budget officials tell me that a fixed Parliament would save £260,000 on travelling costs —and that is something that is paid in part by us: £625,000 on rent of buildings, and £195,000 on publications and incidentals. It —that is the fixed European Assembly: could cut the staff by 5 to 10 per cent. It is obvious that the Government ought to have a policy on this issue. We have never heard it expressed: the Government seem to be quite happy with the status quo. When has any member of the Government raised the issue in the Council of Ministers, or when do they propose to raise it? When, for that matter, have the delegations sent by the Conservative Government to the European Assembly raised it in the European Assembly, or when do they propose to do so? As I say, there might be a conceivable argument about the site, although I should have thought it obvious that the site of the executive Government of the Common Market should also be the site of its discursive assembly. Surely no one can defend this extraordinary situation of the officials, staff and meetings being in two places, Luxembourg and Strasbourg, at the cost of the European taxpayers, including our own.

Perhaps I should address another point to the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk), who is sitting behind the Leader of the House. The article goes on to say: Not that the MP's lot is a wholly unhappy one. Once a month Peter Kirk has an airliner all to himself. The MPs charter an Andover plane from the Civil Aviation Authority and on the way back twenty-one get out at Heathrow. The plane flies on to its home base at Stansted with only Kirk and two pretty hostesses in the back. If that is not true, it ought to be denied at once. If it is true, a different situation arises.

Photo of Sir Peter Kirk Sir Peter Kirk , Saffron Walden

It is perfectly true. The airline happens to have this airliner based at Stansted, which is in my constituency. It is a matter of convenience. I fly on from Heathrow to Stansted I pay the difference. There are two very charming hostesses on the flight.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

The hon. Gentleman will realise that I, too, would like the charming hostesses. I am glad that he made the point that he pays the difference. That is the essential difference, which is not made in the article.

Photo of Sir Peter Kirk Sir Peter Kirk , Saffron Walden

We all pay. What is the hon. Gentleman trying to prove?

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

The hon. Gentleman said that he paid the difference. If he is talking about Common Market travelling allowances, out of which this is paid, do hon. Members make a profit or a loss out of it? Let us be quite clear. If it is merely a case of getting a travelling allowance and then using it for such purposes because it is a substantial travelling allowance, that does not mean that an hon. Member is paying. It is the European taxpayer who is paying. Let us be honest about it.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

The workers are paying for it.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

I turn to another aspect of this European Assembly also mentioned in the article, which states: If the Common Maket subsidises butter for Russians, why not holidays for Britons? Indeed it will, if asked nicely. Drop a line to the European Parliament in Strasbourg or Luxembourg saying you'd like to visit, and they will contribute £6 to £12 towards travel expenses, depending on where in Britain you live. Last week there were 1,600 visitors, but none from Britain. They would apparently like to encourage them from Britain, too.

Does this seem a proper use of taxpayers' money? Our taxpayers are part of the European taxpayers. These days, when people are sometimes concerned about Parliament, should not we suggest to them that we would even subsidise their quite substantial rail fares from different parts of the country to see their Members at work in their own Parliament, if we believe this to be true? If we do not believe it to be true or believe it to be unnecessary—we certainly do not do it in Britain—when will our delegates to this Assembly say that some of these things are regarded in this country as a fantastic waste of public money, the public money of European taxpayers, which includes British taxpayers?

Whether it happens to go on the individual delegate or for other purposes, or unnecessary purposes such as keeping this institution in its variety of places, it is of some importance that we should be as concerned about expenditure of taxpayers' money in Europe, because a great deal of it is ours, as we are when we are here.

My final point relates to the fourth service which the right hon. Gentleman has provided. We can understand that he may wish to provide the services of Clerks of the House, either here or abroad. We can understand that he might wish to provide a special mail service, although it is difficult to imagine what happens when someone gets his mail if his secretary is in Britain and if the secretarial service is not allowed to be used for the purpose of answering it.

What is the expenditure incurred by us when a committee of the European Parliament comes here? The institution has its own resources. It wastes its own resources on subsidising visits by anybody and on living in two places. It wastes its resources on a vast scale. Is it not capable of paying for the expenses of its committees? The right hon. Gentleman did not make this clear. He said that it pays for most or some of the expenses of its committees but that we have to pay some. What are the costs that we must incur and why should not they be borne by the institution?

If a Committee of the House of Commons goes to anywhere in the world—I believe a sub-committee of the Expenditure Committee went to Germany—we pay. We do not expect the Germans to pay. Why on earth should we pay when a committee of this institution chooses not to pay some costs but chooses as an institution to waste the public's money on a vast scale?

10.56 p.m.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

Whatever one's view about the Common Market and the work which is being done there, one or two points should be raised tonight, because the way in which the motion has been presented to the House is unsatisfactory.

I agree with the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) about the unfortunate choice of description—"European Parliament"—in a motion on the Order Paper, because clearly it is not the European Parliament. I have received a letter today—I wish I had it here now—from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in which he refers throughout the letter to the "European Assembly". That is the correct title. It is fooling itself to call itself a parliament, because it has no power. However, that is only a small point.

I was somewhat alarmed to see in the proceedings of the Select Committee on Services, to which our attention is drawn in the motion, that in the sentence before the Committee was discussing the attendance of doorkeepers of the House to the European Parliament and recommended that this should be further considered. We should be told en passant by my right hon. Friend why any consideration is being paid to the suggestion of Doorkeepers of the House of Commons being sent to the European Parliament.

The way the motion is phrased is too vague. Some estimate should be given to the House of the sum involved. This is virtually an open-ended cheque which it is possible will be abused. The House must be more precise in expending the public's money than the terms of the motion would secure. For example, we are asked to agree to supporting services broadly equivalent to those provided for the delegations of other member nations". If the other member nations suddenly decided to give all their delegates flats in Brussels——

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

I will take Brussels or Strasbourg for the moment—and we followed suit, under the terms of the motion, it could add up to a great sum, without the control of Parliament. It is very wrong that this should happen.

My right hon. Friend said that cars would be provided. How many cars—one per delegate; or, as with the car system for junior Ministers here, will it be on a pool system? Unless this is tightened up, the scrutiny by the House to which my right hon. Friend referred will be virtually impossible, because this could escalate and inflate without the control of the House.

I also agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Nottingham, West about the absurdity of having two sitting places for the Parliament. Surely Europe is supposed to speak with one voice. If it has one Parliament and one Assembly, surely it is entitled to only one building. It cannot have one voice and two buildings in different cities. True, there are two buildings here—the one in which we are now sitting and the other place—but they are in one major centre. We should take steps to bring great pressure to stop this rather foolish divisive nonsense between what are supposed to be partners among the nine Community countries.

I admire the energy of those who go to the European Assembly. I admire them for the time that they spend there. They spend a terrific amount of time travelling, sometimes in great difficulty, and I take this opportunity of paying a tribute to them. I only wish that they could be more effective. On the one occasion when they could have done something for this country they passed a motion in the Assembly in favour of freezing food prices. But what happened? Food prices were not frozen; they rose. That just shows that so far we have done nothing effective. Nevertheless I congratulate them on all the energy which they put into it, and we are glad to see them back here. When they come back to this country they spend a lot of time in this House, and for that we ought to be very pleased.

11.2 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth

The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) has rightly drawn attention to the question of the wording in the motion about supporting services broadly equivalent to those provided for the delegation of other member nations". This underlines the argument that many of us have advanced during the many debates on entry into the European Economic Community about power slipping away from this Parliament. This wording means that at no time in the future shall we be able in this House to decide on the type of expenses and services to be provided for the European Assembly.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

Surely it will have to be in the House of Commons Vote. Therefore, the House can challenge the Vote at any time, and any supplementary estimate upon it.

Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth

That may be so. It is perfectly correct, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that at some stage we shall be able to challenge what has been done, but the point that I am making is that we shall not be able to decide what is to be done because the amount allowed under the term supporting services broadly equivalent will be determined by assemblies other than our own. The decision will then have been made when we are actually able to challenge it.

Let me assume, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) said, that the representatives of other Parliaments in the European Assembly decide that they are going to increase the amount allowed under the terms of the resolution. By passing this motion tonight we automatically grant that increase as well. If that is not the case, the right hon. Gentleman responsible for this motion should be able to tell us what the cost of these services will be and what safeguards we have over increases in the future.

There has been a tremendous amount of euphoria in the Press about the impact made by our parliamentarians in the European Assembly. One got the impression from reading those articles that this Assembly had been overturned virtually overnight, that Peter Kirk—if I may use that term instead of "the hon. Member"—and his crusaders were completely transforming this Assembly. That is absolute nonsense because the Assembly cannot be transformed. It is not being transformed. Under the agreements that we made and the decision that we took in October 1971 we cannot alter it.

Therefore, on the basis of the proposal before us, the House should refuse to give this particular commitment because we are committing taxpayers' money in Britain to something that we are not completely certain about. As the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) pointed out, we can change this matter in the documents of the House but we can do it only after the action has been taken. This course of action takes us down the slippery slope that many of us foresaw with Common Market membership—the removal of all powers from this Parliament. This may be only a small issue to some but it is indicative of a general trend that has resulted from EEC membership. It is disappointing that it should have been brought on at this late hour because we should have had a major debate.

11.6 p.m.

Photo of Sir Peter Kirk Sir Peter Kirk , Saffron Walden

I shall be brief because I do not want to go as wide as some hon. Members have gone. I merely wish to say on the name of the institution, to which some of us from both sides of the House now go, that it was originally called in the Treaty of Rome the European Parliamentary Assembly. In the 1963 merger treaty it was called the European Parliament and all documents now addressed to it by the Council of Ministers and the Commission are addressed to the European Parliament. I do not want to make anything of this. It is perfectly reasonable for the Government in a motion which it puts down to use the phrase used in the merger treaty.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow West

Will the hon. Member say why the institution was not called the European Parliament in the Treaty of Accession which was approved by this House only a few months ago?

Photo of Sir Peter Kirk Sir Peter Kirk , Saffron Walden

Because the Treaty of Accession referred specifically to the Treaty of Rome and not to the merger treaty. This is a legal matter which I should not particularly like to go into. To try to build up a great case over the use of particular words is not only wasting the time of the House but is unworthy of the hon. Member.

What the Government are asking for tonight, and what I freely admit I have asked the Government to ask the House for, is something that does not apply only to one party in the House. The suggestion was made by the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) that the Government were making available to their supporters services which were not available to others. The reason they are not available to hon. Members on the Labour side is that those hon. Members have not chosen to take advantage of them. The Opposition may have different reasons for adopting that attitude. However, we have a delegation in the European Parliament that consists of Members of the Conservative Party, of the Liberal Party, of an independent party and of a body called the Democratic Labour Party to which it might be indelicate of me to refer in this House in the presence of the Opposition, but which exists on a national and local level.

Any time that Labour Members agree to come along the facilities will be available to them as they are to other international delegations.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

How did the hon. Member get elected?

Photo of Sir Peter Kirk Sir Peter Kirk , Saffron Walden

We were elected by this House unanimously. The hon. Member did not vote against me. I remember the night that we were elected, and the hon. Member was not even here. He was not here, and he did not vote against it. It was a unanimous vote of this House, and of the other place as well.

What we are asking for is something broadly equivalent to what other delegations have. This motion is not providing us with opportunities for riotous living in Strasbourg—which anyone who knows Strasbourg knows is impossible anyway—or, indeed, anywhere else. What we are asking for is simply a form of infrastructure enabling us to have the programme in advance, a process of briefing which will be available to members of all parties, as it is now, a process of normal arrangements for delegations of this House proceeding abroad. Nothing more.

What the cost would be it is not for me to say. I cannot work it out. However, it would be very small. We are not asking for anything which supports party political activities in Europe. That is something which does not fall within the scope of this motion, and could not fall within the scope of this motion.

Whether we are doing a good job, and whether we have been doing a good or a bad job in the last six months, is largely irrelevant in this context. I think we have been doing a rather good job, but that is simply because I am biased in this matter, but whether we are doing a good or a bad job, we are doing a job as a delegation appointed by this House to do certain things—and, in order to do them, we need certain support. This motion asks the House, after six months, to give us that support. This is all that is in question tonight, and I hope the House will accept the motion on that basis.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

Will my hon. Friend answer my question about cars? Is the idea of a pool of cars, or one each, or what?

Photo of Sir Peter Kirk Sir Peter Kirk , Saffron Walden

I am delighted to answer the question about cars. This was the subject of a resolution by this House before we rose for the Whitsun Recess. One is provided for the Leader of the Liberal Party, and one is provided for the rest of my hon. Friends. I myself have a car provided by the European Conservative Group.

11.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Other hon. Members may wish to contribute to the debate, and by rising now I am certainly not wishing to interrupt the proceedings in any sense, but I am wishing to make my comments at this stage. They may, conceivably, influence the comments which may be made by others. Alternatively, it may be the case that they have no influence at all. However that may be, I would like to make my comments at this stage.

I say to the right hon. Gentleman that I missed the first two or three words of his introduction of the motion, and if I missed any factor relevant to what I shall say, I apologise to him. I hope that it will not prove to be the case.

I approach this matter, as I think most of my hon. Friends approach it, as saying that, whatever we may think about the purposes of delegations, whether to the European Assembly or to any other bodies of which we may approve or disapprove, the people we send from this House should be given the facilities which enable them to discharge their duties with dignity and proper support. I have never been in favour of people sent from this House on deputations being put at a disadvantage in discussions with other deputations in the way these matters are arranged. In that sense I am not opposed to the idea of saying that this House should give facilities to those who go to the European Assembly even though I am opposed to Members of this House going to that Assembly—for reasons which I would be prepared to discuss but which are not specially relevant to this motion, but reasons to which I shall refer obliquely in a few minutes. My hon. Friends can do what they wish, but I am not disputing that we should provide some facilities.

However, I must say, listening to the debate so far, that my hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) have certainly made a case about the very vague nature of this proposition. To say that facilities should be provided which are "broadly equivalent" to those provided elsewhere provides such an open door for any kind of facilities that it is almost an incitement to those engaged in the Assembly, Parliament or whatever they like to call it, to get together and raise the stakes. If they collaborate they are assured by this House in advance that we shall provide an equivalent for whatever increase may be made elsewhere, or that the Government would be entitled to provide it under this extremely lax definition.

The Government have not been very clever. I now understand the explanation. It is under the inspiration of the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) that they have introduced the motion, which explains almost everything. But it is an extremely lax proposal.

I know very well what would have happened if the Labour Government had introduced such a motion for ensuring that amounts were to be provided "broadly equivalent". We do not know what the figure is. We do not know what it will be this year, next year or the year after. We have no understanding of what is to be the report to the House as to how it is to be investigated.

When I read the motion I examined the report of the Services Committee, expecting enlightenment there. Anyone who looks at that document will see how flimsy is the information the Committee has given to the House. I am not a member of the Committee, which makes me all the more eager to offer criticisms. If the Committee wants to convince the House, it should produce a better report. Why should the House accept its word on a matter of this kind? That is what we are asked to do. We are not asked to accept any evidence or argument. We are not even told who the Committee investigated or what the figures are. Not within £100 million are we told the figure. We are not even told how the Committee discussed the matter. We have the vaguest possible report saying, "This is what we should do", and the Government have accepted it holus-bolus, without any attempt to justify it in detail.

I hope that, whatever else may be the result of the debate, the Government will never again produce a motion that says that we should merely agree to provide resources that are "broadly equivalent" to those supplied in other Parliaments for the same purpose.

The hon. Member for Saffron Walden has gone far to justify my case in his intervention in reply to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten). He told us how the question of the motor cars that are to be provided was dealt with under a different resolution a little earlier. We have had dribs and drabs of motions brought before the House for providing the amounts required for people who go to the European Assembly.

I approach the matter not as one of tremendous principle but as one of orderly administration, particularly when we are trying to instruct the European Assembly in how it should have control over financial matters. I understand that the hon. Member for Saffron Walden is trying to give its Members elementary lessons in that respect. We should teach them a few elementary lessons here and now. It is not a satisfactory way of dealing with this question that every few months we should be presented late at night with a motion dealing with one particular aspect of the finances and expenses of those who are to go to the European Assembly.

There is the particular question about the hon. Gentleman himself, which I raised when we discussed the delegates being sent to the European Assembly some time ago. We raised it in a most delicate manner, not in an obstreperous way. I said "Here is a matter I should like to return to on a future occasion." I thought we raised it in a way that could not be regarded as discourteous in any sense. I will raise the question again.

The hon. Gentleman and the Government owe us explanations about the matter. Maybe they have a very good explanation. Maybe the Government are now able to tell me that the arrangements which had been made at that time have now been abandoned and that it is thought fitting to have a different arrangement. I remind the House that it was confirmed to me on a previous occasion that the hon. Gentleman had agreed to an arrangement whereby the salary that he was previously receiving as a member of Her Majesty's Government was to be made up by the European Movement to his salary as a Minister. He said that was a reasonable arrangement. I did not think that it was a reasonable arrangement and I told the House that I did not think that it was reasonable. I am prepared to repeat my reasons for thinking that it is unreasonable and so offensive to the traditions of the way we do things in this House.

The European Movement is in the main, although not entirely, dedicated to the idea of a federal Europe, federal government and a federal parliament. That is the Movement's general theme and it is entitled to campaign for it. But if the hon. Gentleman is to be a spokesman in that Assembly he should be clearly representative and he should be paid by this House. He should not be paid by the organisation towards which he has an obligation in these matters. Will he owe any obligation to the people who are making up his salary?

I gave the Government every opportunity to dispose of the matter. I thought that they would have disposed of it by now. If the Government want to deal with it properly, if they want to have a figure built up as the leader of the delegation sent by this House to the European Assembly, it is proper that they should come before the House and say, "We will pay this individual Member of this House a higher salary than he receives as an hon. Member. We will have a Vote as we would have for an ordinary Minister." That is the proper procedure. If that were done we could have a debate on the principles of the matter. I say again, and I say it most politely—next time I may not be so polite—that the Government should deal with the matter in the way which I have described. I am not prepared to tolerate the situation where we are asked to have the hon. Gentleman paid for partly by the House and partly by a propagandist organisation outside which is not responsible to anybody here.

When the right hon. Gentleman gets up and speaks in the European Assembly, does he speak as an hon. Member who is answerable to his constituents, even though like the rest of us he did not ask his constituents whether he should go to the Assembly at Strasbourg, Brussels or anywhere else, or is he answerable to the European Movement when he goes to the European Parliament? Will he declare his interest? Will he say, "I happen to be paid by you. I am making a report just as I make a report to the House".

The right hon. Gentleman is in an extremely invidious position because he has been introduced and placarded all over the country as a great figure in these matters. He has said, which I resent, that he has been sent to get on with the job and to shake things up. Who sent him? He was not sent by us to do that. He was not given any instructions by the House. Those instructions were given to him by the Prime Minister.

We understand that he is the spokesman of the Prime Minister and of the Government in the European Assembly. That is another reason which causes some of us to think that the whole arrangement of the European Assembly is so ridiculous. He is not an independent hon. Member speaking in that Assembly. He is someone who is partly paid by the House, although his salary was originally not arranged for him to go to Strasbourg. He is partly paid by a propagandist organisation and he goes to the European Assembly, on his own confession, to put the case of the Prime Minister and not as an independent Member.

Those are some of the matters which we should have out clearly and openly in this House. The great virtue of this place is that we can discuss some of these matters even when they turn up late at night on curious motions which hon. Members do not believe will lead to such debates. We get such opportunities in this House. That is one of the reasons for causing some hon. Members to think that this House is so different from the kind of institution which the European Movement is seeking to establish. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House thought that the best way to deal with the matter was to make a few taunts—and we have heard many taunts from Government hon. Members—about the Opposition not sending hon. Members to this body in Europe.

The Opposition do not send delegates to the European Parliament, and we are prepared to state to the country why, as we have done on previous occasions. First, we believe that Members of this House should go to other bodies to discharge their parliamentary duties only when they have the sanction and the approval of their own electorates, and not merely the sanction and approval of their parties. Secondly, we believe that the whole question of our entry into the EEC and the European Parliament should have been submitted to the British people. We say that that applies not merely in general but in particular as well.

Other hon. Members may hold different views, but personally I think that it would be wrong for me, having contracted with the people of Ebbw Vale to represent them in this House, to go off to some other body for a week every month in order to perform duties there—for what? The hon. Gentleman's duties are to carry out the Prime Minister's instructions. Whose instructions would I be carrying out? This is the crux of the problem. One cannot have a parliament in which one has members who carry out particular functions of that character. The hon. Gentleman's whole position at the European Parliament is extremely invidious. He should at least start to clear it up. He is paid partly as a Member of Parliament in this House and partly as a propagandist of the European Movement.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, for I hate to spoil his beautiful flow. But does he realise that his case is even more persuasive because we cannot question anyone in this House who is on the delegation? I have inquired of the Clerks of the House whether, for example, the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) could be questioned, and have received the answer that he could not be questioned because lie is only the leader of a party delegation. They thought that the British Vice-President of the European Parliament could be questioned, but no doubt for precisely this reason the Government have carefully made sure that he is a Member of another place.

Photo of Sir Peter Kirk Sir Peter Kirk , Saffron Walden

Lord Bessborough was nominated by me as Vice-President as the best person for the job. It had nothing to do with the Government. Whatever may be the Government's fault, that was entirely mine.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I understand. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) was eager to say that that was a more persuasive point, but I am not sure that it was. I do not believe that it would be a remedy for the situation, as my hon. Friend suggested, that delegates from this House to the European Assembly should answer Questions here. For whom would they be speaking? About what would they be speaking? For what would they be answerable? The whole situation is anomalous.

That is one of the reasons why I do not believe that we could ever have satisfactory arrangements whereby Members of this House are delegates to this Assembly or other Assemblies. Indeed, I think that one disrupts the processes of this House because the more effective the hon. Member for Saffron Walden may be at Strasbourg or Luxembourg, the more he will be wresting powers from this House. If the hon. Gentleman were to carry through the whole programme he has enunciated, he would carry that disruption of this House much further.

That is another reason why some of us oppose on principle the whole business of sending delegates to the European Assembly. We do not think that it was ever thought out. The hon. Gentleman was noticeably absent from our debates when the European Communities Act was going through. He was not here to take part when we had that one-and-a-half hour or two-hour debate on the question of what form of representation we should have in the European Assembly, while the European Communities Bill was passing through the House.

Photo of Sir Peter Kirk Sir Peter Kirk , Saffron Walden

The hon. Gentleman is being unfair to me here. I was a Minister at the time, in another Department and he knows that I could not intervene.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman on that score. I should have remembered that. I fully appreciate that he was debarred from being able to take part and I agree that in that sense what I said was unfair. It does not alter the case which I am making, and that is that the House of Commons was denied by the Government the chance to discuss fully the whole question of what would be the relationship between this Parliament and the Assembly set up in Europe. We had only an abbreviated debate, which the hon. Gentleman was not able to attend because of his Ministerial duties but which many of us thought should have been a full day's debate or even longer. We should have had far more preparation.

This is strictly relevant to the motion. My prophecy is that we will have a dribble of debates of this nature. We have already had a dribble. We had the debate on the sending of delegates. We had another on the motor cars, although we did not have a full opportunity to debate that. We now have this proposition. This motion is drawn in such general terms that if the Government take any notice at all of what the House of Commons is saying tonight they will have to come back and give a clearer account of what is happening in future.

Instead of settling this question of the relationship between this Parliament and the European Assembly before we went in, we are settling it afterwards. I say that that is an extremely unsatisfactory way of doing business. What we are seeking to do—and the hon. Members plays a leading part in this—is to begin an entirely novel process in the history of this country. I am not saying that it is to be objected to because it is novel. We have to undertake novel actions on many occasions. But we ought to appreciate what we are doing.

For us to establish relationships between this Parliament and that Assembly will have a continuous effect on this Parliament as well as on that Assembly. Moreover, we have had disputes—ever since I have been a Member—about the money that is paid to Mem- bers of Parliament, or their expenses. I can remember bitter disputes about that. Some of us in the Labour Party had to argue for many years against Conservative Members about the pay of a Member of Parliament. We always believed that it was necessary for the functioning of the House that their pay should be increased and the facilities should be improved.

As far as I can see, although it is impossible to judge from this extremely loose motion, the facilities that are to be provided for Members of this Parliament operating at Strasbourg or Brussels will be at least broadly equivalent with those of Members here. In some respects they will be considerably better. It is not very easy to judge from the motion. When we dealt with the question of improving facilities for Members there was a Bill. There were a number of clauses to it. The Government brought it forward and it was discussed with Members and the House. The Government even set up the Boyle Committee to look at these matters and to report to the House and say whether what was proposed was satisfactory.

What we have on this occasion is the report of the Services Committee, which is not the same thing. I am not sure whether the House of Commons, certainly Conservative hon. Members, would have accepted a single report, or a single sentence from the Services Committee, dealing with expenses and facilities for hon. Members. I do not propose to vote against the motion. Maybe we should have considered whether to do so more carefully, but certainly we do not regard the present situation as satisfactory, for all the reasons I have tried to elaborate.

I say that partly for the general reason that the relationship between the British Parliament and the European Assembly not only on questions of financing—is becoming a much more dangerous relationship. The European Assembly will be either a farce or a menace. That is the basis on which we should have voted when this matter was in front of us, but it was impossible for us to do so partly because only half the case was presented. We did not have before us the proposals for economic and monetary union and the proposals for paying part of the hon. Gentleman's salary.

The Opposition are dissatisfied with the present situation. We believe that the Government should come forward with a statement of their attitude—not the attitude of the hon. Gentleman; we do not want to hear what he says at second or third hand at Strasbourg on the inspiration of the Prime Minister, as he confessed. We want to hear the Government's policy. The Government are still answerable to the House of Commons on their general attitude to the European Assembly. We want a general debate in which they will explain their attitude, and a much more detailed, comprehensive account of all the money they are proposing to pay out to make this Assembly function. We want to be able to compare the facilities and expenses provided to Members of the House of Commons here and to Members operating in the Assembly. There is nothing unfair about that. We also want to know what facilities of the House are made available to Members who go to Strasbourg.

I am not opposed to the hon. Member for Saffron Walden and other Members having the assistance of Clerks of the House and the experts who play an extremely important part in the functioning of this House of Commons, but I am bitterly opposed to their having greater facilities than are available to other Members who wish to discharge their functions here. If there is to be any increase in the numbers of people assisting delegations going to Strasbourg or Brussels, there must be a much bigger increase in the facilities provided for people who are conducting operations in this House. We hope that there will be no objection from the Treasury on that account.

If we give the opportunity for the passage of this motion, I hope there will not be any objections if we introduce a motion to provide facilities for Members of Parliament here which are broadly equivalent to those they have elsewhere. Why not cross the Atlantic and provide facilities broadly equivalent to those in the United States? Why stop there? Why not cross the Pacific? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House should not imagine that this motion does not raise these wider issues. Although I think that it would be ill-advised for us to press the motion to a Division tonight——

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

It is a free country and a free House of Commons. My hon. Friends may do as they wish. I do not wish to deter them. The Labour Party will return to this subject to debate the essential question how we are to preserve the rights of this House of Commons against this farcical or menacing body in Europe. We shall also return to the question whether Members of this House who stay here to do their duty four weeks in every month are penalised or disqualified compared with others who choose to do their duties elsewhere.

As for the hon. Member for Saffron Walden, I hope that before we have the next debate on any question concerned with the finances of those who are sent from this country to Strasbourg or Brussels this invidious question of who pays whom will be cleared up by the Government.

11.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Hill Mr John Hill , South Norfolk

The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) ranged widely in the questions he raised, and I cannot help feeling that much of his anxious curiosity might have been satisfied previously if only the Labour Party had co-operated in the much earlier suggestion when the project of joining the European Community was first under discussion and if it had supported the offer of an ad hoc committee to consider how all these matters might be inquired into well ahead of the time when they had to be decided. I think that explains a good deal of the hon. Gentleman's uncertainty.

The fact of joining the Community has taken place, and I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale state that in his view delegates from this House should have facilities according to the dignity of the House of Commons where-ever they were sent to serve. Later in his speech he deplored the fact that the salary of my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) has had to be made up by voluntary effort on the part of the Conservative Group for Europe, of which I must declare I am an officer. That action was quite without strings. It arose from our desire to see that Britain was not handicapped at the moment of entry and we were prepared to forgo other important items in our programme to enable Britain to get off to a punctual start.

The real importance of this motion is that it is designed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden has adumbrated, to enable the delegates to act as an effective group. Considered individually, we can all travel to Strasbourg, Luxembourg or Brussels for committees as tourists on holiday, but to be effective as a political group we need a good deal of administrative servicing and underpinning.

There are now 22 Members of both Houses in the European Parliament and they attend meetings in Strasbourg, Luxembourg and possibly some other capital city. Perhaps more important, there are no fewer than 12 committees, plus sub-committees, covering a whole range of subjects which do not coincide exactly with departmental responsibilities in this country. Therefore, there is an immense problem of effective liaison and co-ordination if the British delegation is to act as efficiently as it might. I cannot believe that anybody in this House would wish British representatives to go abroad to any Assembly with less chance of doing their best than they otherwise would have, especially in comparison with other foreign delegations.

First, there is a great problem in arranging travel. It is not just a matter of booking a package holiday. To begin with there is the process of substitutes, and one of the things we need to know individually is who else is likely to be travelling to the meeting. We wish to know whether, for example, we have a full complement for a particular committee. It is obviously more convenient to travel together because one can discuss the business, the agenda and so on on the journey, and there are many ways in which committee representatives can do their job more effectively.

When we are not in the European Parliament or in a committee we are back here as individual Members, and it is not easy to meet as a delegation in this place. Therefore, we always need a reference point that we can contact in order to discover what is happening to the delegation as a whole. This is one of the important functions of the European Office, and that needs some staffing.

In addition to the organisation of our appearance, we need some organisation of the knowledge available. To appreciate that, one has only to reflect how various Government Departments are doing their best to keep us informed on an enormous range of technical matters exceeding the range of such matters that one deals with as an ordinary back bencher. As the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said, these subjects run on for a long time. He rather decried that. But this is the process of government not by the hammer and anvil of Government and Opposition but by the evolution of consensus, and obviously it takes time.

A great body of relevant paper builds up. Some centre has to handle that and make it available. It is small comfort to receive, as I did in my mail this morning, some of the briefs that I was intended to receive before the meeting of the Parliament in Strasbourg last week.

That leads me to the topic of communications. It is not satisfactory to go away, as if on a tourist holiday, cut off both from this place and from our constituencies. It is quite unnecessary, and the idea of instituting, as I should like, a daily courier service between the Members' Post Office and the office of the British delegation is essential. We need information from Departments to catch us up.

Equally I want to know, if any constituent wants to get in touch with me, that there is not more than about 12 hours' delay. That too could easily be arranged, but it needs the authority of this House.

Photo of Mr John Hill Mr John Hill , South Norfolk

These are facilities which are required to give us the chance of being efficient in the business that we have to do. Therefore I hope that this House, which is not usually ungenerous as a House—though individuals may be ungenerous—will realise that it is essential that the British representatives should be enabled to develop such power, knowledge, argument and political force as they can as a group. This motion is necessary to bring that into being.

11.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

The course of the debate has demonstrated clearly what a difficult position this House has been placed in by the Government. It is therefore right that we should take advantage of this opportunity to explain to the Leader of the House and to the Government what these difficulties are.

Before us we have a motion asking the House to agree to supporting services broadly equivalent to those provided for the delegations of other member nations. We look at the minutes of proceedings of the Committee to glean some additional information. All that we find there is a bald recapitulation of the motion. What is worse is that we do not have available the minutes of evidence that show what arguments were presented to the Services Committee, who wanted what, and why. We are up against a blank wall in endeavouring to find out what is going on and the reasons for the motion coming before the House tonight.

I do not object to adequate facilities being provided for the representatives of the British Parliament when they are carrying out their duties in foreign parts, but all I find when I look at the minutes of the proceedings of the Select Committee is that some discussion took place about the attendance of doorkeepers, after which the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) was apparently examined, and the Committee deliberated. That is all we know about the attendance of doorkeepers We then have this motion about supporting services boldly presented and a resolution that Mr. Speaker be advised accordingly.

We then find that another motion was accepted by the Services Committee to the effect that two additional cars should be authorised for the use of our parliamentary delegation. Additional to what? I did not know that motor cars were already provided. We have picked up a scrap of information in the debate about the motor cars that are already available, but apparently two additional cars are now required.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I think that my hon. Friend was present when the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) remarked upon the fact that the Leader of the Liberal Party or the Liberal dele- gation was to get a car and then made a facetious comment about some Democratic Labour delegate. Is he aware that if, as is likely, every party so-called is entitled to a car, we could have the situation that every Member had a car. Therefore, each Member of Parliament here could claim the same.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

That is an additional point that will have to be investigated at some stage.

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for not trying to get this motion through "on the nod", which is what he sometimes tries to do when resolutions from the Services Committee come before the House, and for providing time for the debate. On the other hand, it is fair to point out that the facilities provided for debating the motion will ensure that it gets no coverage in the Press, on radio or television or in any of the media. Therefore, the public will still be completely in the dark about the debate we are having this evening.

It has been pointed out, in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), that if a motion of this kind had been presented by a Labour Government all hell would have been let loose. I cannot imagine any circumstances in which a Labour Government would have the nerve to submit such a sloppy, flabby motion, representing an open-ended commitment broadly equivalent to goodness knows what. We are being asked to buy a pig in a poke. We do not know what the Government are asking us to accept. In those circumstances, I must record the strongest possible objection to the motion. Indeed, if need be, and if there is a sufficient volume of support, I am prepared to carry it to a Division.

11.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Martin Maddan Mr Martin Maddan , Hove

I want to address myself to some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), who seemed to be very upset at what he considered to be improper support for the activities of my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) by the Conservative Group for Europe within the European Movement. I thought it extraordinary, coming as it does from a member of a party about which we all are told daily in the newspapers that that part of it outside the House has a governing influence on the attitudes and policies of that part which is within the House. What the hon. Gentleman had particularly to complain about in the arrangement I cannot imagine. If ever there was a pot which was very black indeed which addressed the kettle, it is the hon. Member.

There are no strings at all attached to the help given by the Conservative Group and the European Movement to my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden, and no attempt has been made by either the Conservative Group or the European Movement to call some tune. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale should understand that the views of those bodies are not necessarily on all fours with those of the Prime Minister who, he seemed to think, was giving my hon. Friend instructions. The views of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister about the distance in the future of any direct elections are not those common in the European Movement, which would like to see such elections very much nearer. I want to put on record the fact that there are no strings whatever attached. The hon. Member knows it, and I do not believe that he should have raised the matter in the terms he used.

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , West Derbyshire

Does not my hon. Friend agree that many hon. Members on the Labour side receive a salary from the trade unions and are called to order by the trade unions to explain their attitude, their voting and their behaviour in the House? Is it not incredibly hypocritical, therefore, for the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) to use those terms about my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk).

Photo of Mr Martin Maddan Mr Martin Maddan , Hove

I agree. I think we have said enough to expose that attitude for what it is worth. But if it was meant seriously, and if it can be taken that the hon. Member at some future time, should the Government of the day decide that the leader of the delegation should be fully and properly remunerated by the House for the responsibility he takes, will join in support of such a proposition, perhaps this present debate has not been wasted.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Had the hon. Gentleman been here on the previous occasion when the subject was debated, he would have heard exactly what I said. I said that if it is believed that the leader of the so-called delegation to the Assembly should be paid a higher amount, the proposition should be brought before the House and the House should be able to discuss it. There may very well be a good case for it, but there is no case whatsoever—I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman, or any hon. Member, cannot draw the distinction—for having a British representative at that Assembly partly for the House of Commons and partly for a propagandist organisation which is not instructed by the House of Commons and which is dedicated in the main to the creation of a federalist Europe. The whole thing constitutes an invidious situation which the Government should hasten to clear up.

Photo of Mr Martin Maddan Mr Martin Maddan , Hove

I thought I had dealt with that point and I shall not repeat what I said. But I was present at the previous debate, when the hon. Gentleman did not reveal what his attitude and that of his party would be if the Government of the day brought forward such a proposition. It would be more constructive if he spent more time giving some indication about that, instead of trying to score points which have no validity whatever and are nothing but hypocrisy coming as they do on behalf of a party whose members find themselves in such a position as they now are.

The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale talked about the European Parliament being either a farce or a menace. I should think that that is exactly what was said by some of Simon de Montfort's opponents over 700 years ago. Of course the European Parliament is not perfect and does not have very much influence. Simon de Montfort's Parliament was not perfect and did not have much influence—but, thank God, it started.

I join in the tributes to my hon. Friends who discharge duties in the European Parliament on behalf of this House and the country as a whole.

12.2 a.m.

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

The House has given the motion very careful scrutiny indeed. I make no complaint about that. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) has pointed out, however, expenditure on the services which we have been discussing tonight will be included in the Estimates which have to be laid before the House and which hon. Members can then question if they see fit. There is no question of a service being approved simply because another country provides it. On a matter of this kind, however, where the sole wish of the Government is to help hon. Members concerned, a reasonable amount of discretion should be allowed to us and to the Clerk as accounting officer.

I find it hard to believe that hon. Members seriously think that this discretion would be abused, but should the House ever think that it was being misused it would have the opportunity of making its views clear.

There is no question of a service being provided just because other Governments provide it. It would be provided only if it was clearly right to do so. This evening hon. Members have made a mountain out of the motion before us.

In reply to the point made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) about comparison with Members' allowances, the facilities which we are suggesting in the motion are supporting services for Members of the European Parliament as a whole. They are not personal facilities to individual Members. They are the equivalent services to those provided for Members in this House, such as the Clerk with his secretarial help assisting a Select Committee travelling abroad. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. John E. B. Hill) dealt with this point. He said that it was an organisation of our appearance and all the information that is available. That is perfectly correct on the interpretation that we place on it.

The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale also complained that we are dealing with this matter in dribs and drabs. He can have it one way but he cannot have it both ways. Either he accepts that the motion will embrace the various needs of Members of the European Parliament as we see them as time passes or he will have to accept that as each occasion arises we shall have to come to the House with a specific motion to deal with a particular issue. I thought that it was much more for the convenience of the House and much more in line with the spirit of the House in wishing to see its Members served properly when on duties outside the House that we should now have a motion of this nature.

A point was raised about the costs of committee visits to this country. The European Parliament expects to pay all the expenses of visits of its committees to this country. It is not unreasonable that some provision should be made for customary hospitality on behalf of this Parliament on such occasions. I do not believe that there is anyone in this House who is so mean as to wish to try to deny that sort of hospitality.

I deal now with the point about doorkeepers. In so far as other members of the Community occasionally loan staff, including doorkeepers, on a short-term basis to attend sessions of the European Parliament, it seems not unreasonable that we should take our part in such loan schemes. If such temporary loans of doorkeepers lead to additional staffing costs in this House, it is intended that this would be covered in the motion now before us.

The hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) mentioned two additional cars. This was a recommendation made by the Services Committee in respect of cars for the delegation to the Council of Europe and has no relevance to the European Parliament or to the motion before us.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

If the motion is carried and the Assembly decides to give every Member a car, does it not follow that we would be expected to accord broadly equivalent services to our Members and that every Member could expect a car?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

If this most unlikely situation should arise, it would still be within the responsibility of the Government and of the accounting officer to provide only such services as we thought were correct and reasonable. This could always be challenged in the House on an Estimate. The hon. Gentleman must have sufficient knowledge of how difficult it is to screw money out of the Treasury, the Government of the day or the accounting officer.

It is greatly to the credit of the United Kingdom Parliament that there is no other Parliament where this matter would be being debated. In every other Parliament it would be taken for granted that these services would be automatically provided. I regard it as a great tribute to the United Kingdom Parliament that it should be prepared to spend about two hours debating what to some may seem a trivial issue but which to others is a matter of great importance involving as it does the scrutiny of the expenditure of public money.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

I take the right hon. Gentleman's point, but will he please leave the accounting officer of the House out of it? The right hon. Gentleman has just suggested that, in spite of the terms of the motion, the accounting officer should not pay something that was broadly equivalent if that something broadly equivalent happened in the future to include other things than that. The accounting officer's duty is to carry out the law and the resolutions of the House. It would be better if the right hon. Gentleman suggested that these things are the responsibility of the Government and of the House and left the accounting officer out of it.

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

I do not altogether agree with that. The truth is that if, as is suggested, Members of Parliament from every other country were allocated cars and it was then considered by our delegation that each United Kingdom Member should have a car, it would first be a matter for the Government of the day to decide whether that was something they were prepared to do. If they were not prepared to do it, that would be an end of the matter. If they were prepared to do it, it would then fall to the duty of the accounting officer to consider whether it fell within the terms of the motion. That is the strict duty of the accounting officer.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

Everything falls within the terms of the motion.

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

The hon. Gentleman must recognise that there is still the responsibility on the Government of the day and on the Minister in charge as to how money under any Vote is spent. After all, we pass motions which have then to be interpreted and carried through by the responsible Minister. He does not have to spend everything that the House grants him or asks him to spend. This is left to his discretion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Maddan) drew attention to the remarks of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale on the subject of my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk). If the occasion arises when the Labour Party joins in sending Members to the European Parliament and at that time it appoints, as it would, a leader to its delegation, I think that would certainly be a suitable time for the Government to ask the House for proper arrangements to be made to cover any salary that the House thinks fit to be paid to the leader of the delegation.

I must tell Labour Members that the Government felt that it would really not be right to ask the House to grant money to the leader of a party delegation, which of course is what my hon. Friend is. He is not the leader of the British parliament delegation. He is the leader of the Conservative Party's delegation to the European Parliament. I think that explains why the Government have so far not thought it right to adopt this policy. But of course as and when—I am quite certain that it is only a matter of time—the Opposition join in sending Members to the European Parliament, that will be the time for us to consider a further motion on this subject.

The hon. Gentleman has described the European Parliament as a farce or a menace. He probably thinks it is both, although I am not quite certain which he thinks is the more evil of those two descriptions. My own view—I think it is the view of many people—is that our delegation has played a very active part in helping the European Parliament over the last few months. I am certain that it is already a far better Parliament as a result of their presence there. I think it will be an even better Parliament when the Labour Party comes to its sense and sends its own Members.

The hon. Member for Brixton said that the debate had demonstrated what a difficult position the House and the Government are in. All I can tell him is that, from all I have heard tonight, it is in nothing like such a difficult position as his own party is in on this matter.

I believe that in one respect the House tonight has shown itself to be a proper and good watchdog of the way the Government spend their money. On the other hand, it has shown itself to be in a pretty mean mood. My own hope is that the meanness shown by some hon.

Division No. 146.]AYES[12.14 a.m.
Atkins, HumphreyLamont, NormanRoberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Carlisle, MarkLe Merchant, SpencerScott-Hopkins, James
Chapman, SydneyMaddan, MartinShelton, William (Clapham)
Chichester-Clark, R.Money, ErnleShersby, Michael
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Montgomery, FergusSpeed, Keith
Clegg, WalterMurton, OscarStanbrook, Ivor
Cooke, RobertNoble, Rt. Hn. MichaelThomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Crouch, DavidNormanton, TomTope, Graham
Eyre, ReginaldNott, JohnWeatherill, Bernard
Fortescue, TimOsborn, JohnWhite, Roger (Gravesend)
Fox, MarcusPounder, RaftonWinterton, Nicholas
Gray, HamishPrior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.Woodnutt, Mark
Haselhurst, AlanPym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk S.)Redmond, RobertTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
James, DavidReed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)Mr. Paul Hawkins and
Jopling, MichaelRhys Williams, Sir BrandonMr. Hugh Rossi.
Kirk, Peter
Mr. Michael English and Mr. Arthur Lewis.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,That, in the opinion of this House and following the resolution come to by the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) on 20th March and contained in the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Committee ordered by the House to be printed on 17th April (H.C. 69-ii), supporting services broadly equivalent to those provided for the delegations of other member nations should be made available from the beginning of this financial year to Members of this House and of the House of Lords who arc members of the European Parliament for the purpose of attending meetings of the European Parliament and of its Committees.