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On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I refer to paragraph 8 of this motion, which states:
8. Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business) shall not apply on an allotted day.
You may remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that in 1972 there was a good deal of discussion on whether this sort of guillotine motion should kill Ten-Minute Rule Bills. Certain assurances were given in 1972 by the then Leader of the House, and on the last two guillotine motions it has become an established practice of this House to protect back bench Members' time by leaving out any paragraph of this kind. Many of us on both sides of the House were of the opinion that this was, indeed, the established practice of the House. Can you give us any guidance as to why established practices and the rights of back bench Members have been suddenly eroded?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I say a word in explanation'? I think a number of factors are involved. First, there is the need to hold a balance between private Members' time and the rights of Members who wish to speak under this timetable motion. I think it is a very careful balance between private Members' time and the rights of Members who wish to speak under this timetable motion. I think it is a very careful balance, and it is my duty as Leader of the House to ensure that the maximum time is avail-
In view of the lateness of the Session and the importance of the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-Lines Bill and my desire to give as much time as possible to that Bill, I decided on this occasion to insert the part of the motion to which exception is taken and which would exclude private Members' Ten-Minute Rule Bills on two days. I do not think that is asking too much of a sacrifice from private Members.
Further to that point of order. There is a point of principle here. Almost every change which takes place in parliamentary procedure is designed to facilitate the executive. This is a tendency which I personally find very objectionable, and it is one to which Oppositions particularly would wish to object. I think the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) has raised an important point of principle. I do not know whether you will select his amendment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I wish to point out that this is a matter on which the Opposition take a very serious attitude.
|5||Report and Third Reading|
|2.—(1) The Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in two allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at Seven o'clock on the second of those days; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the Proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.|
|10||(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House their resolutions as to the Proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those Proceedings and Proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the second day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.|
|15||(3) The resolutions in any report made under Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) may be varied by a further report so made, whether or not within the time specified in sub-paragraph (2) of this paragraph, and whether or not the resolutions have been agreed to by the House.|
|20||(4) The resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which proceedings on Consideration of the Bill are taken.|
|Procedure in Standing Committee|
|25||3.—(1) At a Sitting of the Standing Committee at which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the Proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.|
|30||(2) No Motion shall be made in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a Member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who makes, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.|
|4. No Motion shall be made to postpone any Clause, Schedule, new Clause or new Schedule but the resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are to be taken in the Standing Committee.|
|35||Conclusion of Proceedings in Committee|
|5. On the conclusion of the Proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.|
|40||6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, Proceedings on the Bill shall be made in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.|
|Extra time on allotted days|
|7.—(1) On the first allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the Proceedings on the Bill for one hour after Ten o'clock.|
|45||(2) Any period during which Proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the period under this paragraph.|
|50||(3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the Proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the period during which Proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under this paragraph, and the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall also be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on the Motion.|
|Standing Order No. 13|
|8. Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business) shall not apply on an allotted day.|
|65||9. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by the Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill or, if those Proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the completion of those Proceedings.|
|Conclusion of Proceedings|
|70||10.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr Speaker shall forthwith proceed to put the following Question (but no others), that is to say—|
|(a) the Question or Questions already proposed from the Chair, or necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including, in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);|
|75||(b) the Question on any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that amendment or Motion is moved by a Member of the 80 Government;|
|80||(c) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded; and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.|
|85||(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph shall not be interrupted under 85 any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.|
|90||(3) If, at Seven o'clock on an allotted day, any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time have not been concluded, any Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) which, apart from this Order, would stand over to that time shall stand over until those Proceedings have been concluded.|
|95||(4) If a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over to Seven o'clock on an allotted day, or to any later time under sub-paragraph (3) above, the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day at any hour falling after the beginning of the Proceedings on the Motion shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on that Motion.|
|100||11.—(1) The Proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and the last foregoing paragraph shall apply as if the Proceedings were Proceedings on the Bill on an allotted day.|
|105||(2) If on an allotted day on which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.|
|12. Nothing in this Order or in a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee or the Business Committee shall—|
|(a) prevent any Proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution, or|
|115||(b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such Proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.|
|120||13.—(1) References in this Order to Proceedings on Consideration or Proceedings on 120 Third Reading include references to Proceedings, at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequences of re-committal.|
|125||(2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted to any Motion to re-commit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.|
|14.—(1) In this Order—|
|130||'allotted day' means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to 130 the Proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;|
|'the Bill' means the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill;|
|'Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee' means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;|
|135||'Resolution of the Business Committee' means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.|
The timetable motion follows the normal pattern. The objective is to make it possible for the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill to be brought back to this House not later than 15th July, and also to provide that the Report and Third Reading should be conducted in one and a half days, terminating at 7 o'clock on the second day.
In that connection perhaps I should tell the House that we are aiming, as far as we can, to bring forward the amendments which the Govenment would wish to establish, some of them in response to points that have been made in Committee and that we would publish those amendments as early as possible to give Members of the Committee and other interested Members an opportunity of seeing them in advance.
This timetable motion will permit the Bill to pass through all its stages in this House this month and, if their Lordships so decide, to return for enactment during the present Session. I believe that the provision that we have made, which will allow 25 sittings to take place on this Bill, is reasonable.
If the House at 10 o'clock tonight determines that this timetable motion should be passed there will be the normal Business Committee, and it will be the Government's intention to offer the greatest flexibility to the Opposition on the Committee to allow them to deal with the remainder of the Bill in Committee, and indeed flexibility in the times and number of sittings, so that the timetable may be executed with the maximum facilities for the Opposition in Standing Committee.
Perhaps for the record—I will not make too much of this—I might report progress on the work of the Committee. There have been 19 sittings occupying 60 hours, and there have been 19 clauses and one schedule dealt with out of a Bill which has some 49 clauses and four schedules. There were 500 amendments tabled, and those amendments are consequential on I must qualify that by saying that many of the prime amendment. Of the 500 amendments that have been tabled, 230 with their consequentials have been dealt with. There were 100 Government amendments of which 30 were—
Thirty of them were substantial and the rest were consequential, and some of them met points raised by the Opposition in Committee.
Clause 1 alone occupied eight sittings of the Committee and 19 hours of debate. Clause 2 occupied two and a half sittings and eight hours of debate, and Clause 3 occupied five hours of debate. It is no part of my purpose to make a complaint about the conduct of the Opposition. I shall come back to the attitude that the House might adopt to the timetable motion
This is a very important Bill. Some of its provisions are complicated. Speaking as a newcomer to the issue I must make it clear that I find it a difficult Bill. I say that candidly. I am fortunate, as all Ministers are, in being well briefed in detail by officials on the meaning of all the clauses and the way in which they would operate, and, of course, well briefed, as any Minister is, on the meaning of Opposition amendments.
As I say, it is no part of my purpose to make a complaint, but this is an essential Bill and I shall come to the reasons why we regard it as essential. Long before the guillotine proposal was considered by my colleagues I had tried to be candid with the Committee and make it clear that we hoped and needed to get the Bill cleared through the Committee by the middle of July, and then go to Report and Third Reading by the end of the month so as to allow the other place to complete its discussions.
The right hon. Gentleman a moment ago gave figures of the number of amendments which have been tabled and dealt with, including Government amendments. Can he say whether the figures of Government amendments which he gave include the further 12 amendments, none of which is consequential on another, which have been tabled today?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for drawing my attention to that matter. Those amendments are not included in the figures that I gave. I made it clear that we have undertaken to make amendments public as early as we can, even where we have passed that part of the Bill and would really be giving advance notice of the likelihood of amendments on Report.
I realise that most hon. Members present are members of the Committee. Therefore, what I have to say now about the rôle of the Bill and its structure will be known to many hon. Members present. However, perhaps I may remind the House very briefly of the five Parts of the Bill.
Part I seeks to establish the British National Oil Corporation. There are aspects of that structure which are novel and that in part is why we took so much time in the early days on the Bill. There will be two civil servants on the board, powers of specific directive and special provisions for safeguarding the National Oil Account.
Part II, which we have been discussing recently, deals with the existing licences, namely, the licences that have already been granted by previous Governments. We are seeking to make some changes by the introduction of depletion control, determining the rate of exploration, providing for royalty in certain circumstances to be taken in kind, and making legislative provision for dealings in existing licence rights.
Part III of the Bill deals with pipelines and provides for control over routes, and for the sharing of certain pipelines to avoid unnecessary duplication, and it also provides that pollution risks should be minimised. It also deals with the control of pipelines and safety. This part of the Bill lies ahead of the Committee, but to a large extent it is non-controversial. I am not saying that it does not raise important matters, but it is not very controversial.
Part IV of the Bill deals with the refinery policy and authorisations. When the Committee comes to deal with this part, although there will be important technical points that hon. Members may wish to raise, it should not arouse anything like the same amount of debate as Part I or Part II, which deal with the BNOC and provisions for existing licences.
Part V and the Schedules deal with miscellaneous matters.
The Bill is very important. Although it was introduced rather later in the Session—I have no doubt that this point will be made by the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton)—than is altogether desirable, because all Ministers are eager to get their Bills out early, the Bill deals with policy matters which have been fully anticipated in our policy statements and discussions about the North Sea and oil exploration. I certainly do not have to remind the House that with 20 per cent. of our import bill coming in imported oil—
I am trying to answer the hon. Gentleman's question. I am the godfather of the Bill. I hope that term is not improperly understood by the House. I am not claiming paternity of the Bill, although I am happy to adopt it as a foster child. Therefore, I cannot give to the hon. Gentleman what one might call the Crossman-type recollections as to what actually happened at various stages and that prevented the Bill from coming forward, except to say that the hon. Gentleman will know that the Bill touches on very important matters of policy and the Government obviously wanted to get it right in detail, as far as that was possible, before it was published.
In recommendation of the Bill—which I am seeking as modestly as I can—security of energy supplies is also a factor that any Government of any political complexion would be bound to have very much in mind. That lies behind our own thinking in proceeding with our proposals. The Government regard it as essential to have the necessary control over this new resource, and particularly the participation discussions that are now in progress will require the enactment of the Bill. The Government believe that adequate controls over the rate of production are necessary.
Those controls also hinge upon the enactment of the Bill. As has been made clear in many of the discussions that have taken place in Committee, we also think it very important, as a host Government of these reserves of oil, that the BNOC should be available to acquire knowledge and know-how in this important field. That too, hinges upon the enactment of the Bill.
We cannot make adequate progress with the next round of licensing, which will be watched with keen interest by the House, unless we have the Bill on the statute book. We must be able to settle the pipeline policy and safety factors. We want to be able to implement our refinery policy which also bears upon the benefits that might flow from the discovery of the oil. The Bill also makes possible loans and guarantees and gives parliamentary approval to the Burmah support operation which arose last winter.
It is not my intention to detain the House too long, because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak, and, no doubt, many of the points that I have mentioned will be dealt with by them. However, I should like to say a little about the attitude of the House of Commons to timetable motions deriving, in my case, from 25 years in the House, because there has undoubtedly been a fairly considerable change in attitude towards such motions. Anyone who has read his parliamentary history will know that when Mr. Gladstone, a great Liberal leader, first found it necessary to introduce any limitation in parliamentary debate there was no English word to cover what he had in mind. The French word cloture was used to cover something that was so foreign in its concept that Parliament did not really know how to handle it.
Since then there has been a long series of arguments about whether it is ever right in any circumstances to limit parliamentary debate. Certainly the early guillotine motions that I remember from when I was a new Member of the House—and they continued until quite recently—were usually characterised by charges of obstruction by angry Ministers and charges of dictatorship by angry Oppositions. However, as Parliaments came and went, it became common for people to quote one another's speeches, and Oppositions would quote what the previous Government had done and vice versa. My own view—and I can only put it to the House for consideration in voting on this motion—is that there has been a changing parliamentary mood about timetable motions.
The House and the country—in so far as it observes our procedural discussions—increasingly recognise that what is really at issue in all debates about timetables is whether the provision of time is genuinely reasonable. There is a growing disenchantment with the idea of the all-night sitting as an alternative to a sensible timetable motion. There was a time when one could not even get colleagues to consider the possibility of a timetable until one had proved one's virility by sitting up all night. However, that is not the best way to get serious consideration of important Bills. It is very hard on the staff of the House. As hon. Members recently discovered, there is not much Press coverage of their impassioned speeches in the early hours of the morning. A speech has to be very dramatic to penetrate the PA tapes. On the whole the House and its Committees want to look more seriously at legislation. Therefore, I think I am right in saying that the mood is shifting towards sensible timetabling as against the old method of—
I shall come to that point in a moment. As I expect the House has guessed, I shall not devote all my attention to the problems of timetables and when they should be applied.
It is true that the case for timetable motions on the part of whatever Government happen to be in power is that, where a major Bill in the main programme is likely to be lost through undue delay in Committee, for whatever reason, the Government are bound to turn their minds to means by which the Bill can be brought back to the Floor of the House to have its Report and Third Reading.
On the other hand, the problem here is that, if a timetable comes late in the progress of a Bill, it tends to distort the amount of time devoted to the earlier rather than the later clauses. This is where I come to the point that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) may have had in mind. It is certainly not for me to float at this Dispatch Box on a single timetable motion matters of main parliamentary procedure, but I have a feeling, certainly from the brief discussion that we had on the timetable in Standing Committee on a motion "That further consideration of the Bill be now adjourned", that a rather different attitude would have been adopted had it been possible to see a timetable from the beginning, so that, perhaps, the Committee would have been able to divide its time slightly differently by agreement within the total time in order to allow full examination of all parts of the Bill.
That is for others to consider, not for me. I am trying to read the mood of the House and that of the Standing Committee and to invite the House tonight, leaving that aside, to look at the timetable motion that we have brought forward, allowing for all the circumstances that I have described and the urgent necessity for the Bill this Session. I invite the House to recognise that the Government have sought to be reasonable, and that in the Business Sub-Committee which will meet after the vote tonight, if the Government's view prevails, we shall hope to accommodate the Opposition as best we can to permit a wise and sensible conclusion of the examination of this Bill.
I would not like to break with precedent tonight and fail to welcome the right hon. Gentleman on making his maiden speech—I must say that he is no maiden, but nevertheless, on making any maiden speech—at that Dispatch Box in his new capacity.
The right hon. Gentleman modestly confessed that he was doing so on a guillotine motion. I can only hope that such a monstrous example will never be repeated. Nevertheless, I am bound to say to the right hon. Gentleman that he conducted himself in his most quiet and beguiling fashion tonight. He sought by his manner to be totally unprovocative and left all the provocation to the proposal that he launched at the House.
The right hon. Gentleman said in a very quiet way that it was no part of his case to complain about the Opposition's conduct. I should hope not. I have had a look through the proceedings on the Bill. The Opposition have behaved themselves in the most modest fashion. If I had been upstairs and sitting on the back benches, with which I am more familiar than the Front Benches, for obvious reasons, I should have been saying some sharp things to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) for his restraint, patience and tolerance.
The right hon. Gentleman said, very modestly, that he had been well briefed by officials. I know not whether this means that officials are in some way to be held specially responsible for this measure. I very much hope that they are innocent of conception.
I have spared myself the pain of looking at past guillotine debates. On this point I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. It is an utter waste of time, and I personally was not prepared to subject myself to such a dreary ordeal.
I was moved, as, I am sure, were my right hon. and hon. Friends, by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had kind thoughts on behalf of the staff of the House of Commons. So often Ministers garnish their speeches with these nice feelings and do nothing to give way to them afterwards. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have a brief conversation with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Local Government and Planning, or whatever his title is now, about his handling of the Community Land Bill, which seems to me, from what I have heard, to be absolutely flat contrary to the nice principles enunciated by the right hon. Gentleman.
I of course accept that these are occasions when we normally go in for a sort of ritual explosion of wrath which fairly rapidly afterwards gives place to reasonable discussion. The right hon. Gentleman referred to changing attitudes to the guillotine. I do not believe that the attitudes have changed all that on the part of the public. I believe that the attitude changes on the part of Members who move from this side of the House to the Government side of the House.
The right hon. Gentleman has a particular facility for believing that anything that he is putting forward has a peculiar justification arising out of that fact. He cannot expect the House wholly to share that view.
This motion is necessary, not because of any action or tactics on the part of the Opposition but because of Government incompetence and Government delays. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman wholeheartedly on the modesty with which he sloughed off responsibility on to his predecessor, where of course it properly belongs. On 8th November the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Secretary of State for Industry—we will not go into that now; it is too painful—said that the Bill would be published in a matter of weeks. On 9th April it was published. On 30th April we had the Second Reading. On 13th May the Bill went into Standing Committee. That is a very leisurely progress.
It is only now that the whip is out when we are in the straight and the House of Commons has got to adjust itself. The Standing Committee has got to move at the pace required by the administration—at the pace dictated by the executive. There is to be no consideration for the convenience of the House of Commons—or the convenience or rights of Parliament.
It would be wrong to suggest that all opposition to this sort of handling comes from this side of the House. The hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) said this in Standing Committee:
I do not want to be here as a Member of Parliament in 10 years' time saying that we made a damned mistake because we hurried the Bill to satisfy the scheduled plans of the Government. … Some of my hon. Friends may not like what I am saying, but they must keep quiet, and I will tell them why. If they were on the Opposition benches they would make the longest speeches against this kind of decision."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 10th June 1975; c. 223–34.]
What a pity the hon. Gentleman is not here tonight to repeat that charge.
I think that I should rehearse, even if only very briefly, the main dramatis personae who have taken part in this rather ugly passage. First, there is the right hon. Gentleman now Secretary of State for Industry. He did not play any very great part. I think I am right in saying that he appeared three times before the Standing Committee, made speeches on a sittings motion, and took part in a debate about the name of the British National Oil Corporation, but on no other occasion did he make any noticeable entry into the proceedings.
My right hon. and hon. Friends who are on the Standing Committee were devastated with disappointment by the fact that the niceties of the constitution prevented the presence of Lord Balogh, whom some of us regard as the parent of this measure, and they would have been delighted beyond their wildest dreams had it been possible for the noble Lord to be present and to explain what is possibly his child.
The Under-Secretary of State deserves a particular accolade. It was he who said—
one cannot paint the picture as clearly as one would wish".—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 15th May 1975; c. 63.]
In that sentence the hon. Gentleman got the whole spirit of the Government's approach to the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman then went on to say, with that optimism which wears off when people cease to be Under-Secretaries, that the arrangements had been "made clear" in the Bill. The truth is that the Bill is one which exhibits most of the unpleasing characteristics of modern legislation: it is diffuse, it is obscure, and in no case does it deserve compliment for making anything clear to anyone. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, as it is flatteringly called, is more noteworthy for its concealment than for what it reveals.
The right hon. Gentleman, arriving late on the scene, charmingly modest and restrained as he has been tonight, is so sure that his objectives are right that he sees even the most dubious means of achieving them as being not only relevant but even sanctified—a view which not all of us can share. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that it is necessary to get the Bill, as he put it, by the end of July. To say that does not establish the rightness of the Bill. All that it establishes once again is that the Government were incompetent in not bringing this nasty mess before the House in time, and in not thinking out their proposals with greater clarity before producing them. The motto which the Government seem to follow in their legislative policies is "Slap some proposals before the House, then hope for the best; we shall get them through in the end".
In a pious and pleasing manner, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the importance of the security of energy supplies. I do not think that anyone would challenge that with particular force, but what we still wait to have explained to us is how this wretched measure contributes in any way to the security of our energy supplies. No such thing has yet been done.
There is one other quotation I should like to make, because it is especially spine-chilling, coming from the right hon. Gentleman as it did. On 17th June in the Standing Committee he said:
The only real way for a nation to find out how to do a job is to do it itself, particularly in something as great as these oil developments."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 17th June 1975; c. 420.]
It is quite expensive teaching that we are going in for, as if we had not had a basinful of that sort of thing in the past.
It would be wrong for me to concentrate too much on Ministers. This unfortunate Standing Committee has had other difficulties. It suffered from a lack of Official Reports of its own proceedings. It had the wrong room, at least to start with, and it suffered various other disadvantages. It is only right to say that the Clerks concerned did their utmost to remedy the deficiencies.
This Government are making a pernicious habit of overloading Parliament. Whether they do it purely out of optimism, just hoping that they will get it all through, or because they wish to inflict lasting damage upon Parliament I do not know, and I refrain from making a judgment at this stage. But 185 Members of Parliament are now serving on Standing Committees. At this point in the Session there are nine Bills still before Standing Committee, and two are waiting for their Committee stages.
What we all cry for is less legislation. In our view, the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill is wholly unwanted, save by Marxists or romantics who can still believe in the efficacy of public ownership and State control. Into which category the right hon. Gentleman falls—Marxist or romantic, or a bit of both—I do not know. But at no point have the financial implications of his Bill been clearly explained. All that is clear is that there may well be upwards of £2,000 million of public money involved, and this money will be applied not to reducing the huge borrowing requirement which is exercising the mind of at least part of the Government today but to buy out oil companies which will undoubtedly go and invest that money elsewhere in the world.
I believe that the Government's policy in this Bill is wholly irreconcilable—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is a frequent interrupter and every time he opens his mouth he reveals more of his character. As I was saying, in our view, the Bill is wholly irreconcilable with the grave statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week, and we cannot understand how any responsible Government could think of pressing on with such half-baked proposals now.
It is worth mentioning in passing that their plans seem to be very much half finished. They have not been able to secure either a chairman or a chief executive for the British National Oil Corporation. The word is noised abroad that £80,000 is the salary offered, a figure which has not been denied by the Government. Perhaps the hon. Member for Bolsover should be considered for it. At least that would relieve us of his presence. Alternatively, if not the hon. Member for Bolsover, perhaps one could go to Sir Don Ryder—or Lord Ryder, whatever he calls himself—who has at least shown a willingness to oblige the Government when asked.
I end on this note. The Government have contributed to this affair the ingredients of dogma, uncertainty and incompetence, and they have once again proved that, when the crunch comes, Socialism overshadows the national interest on every occasion. I have no doubt that my right hon. and hon. Friends will wish to vote against the motion with all their hearts tonight.
All Opposition Front Benches are heavily dependent on patronage, and all courts need a jester. I must say that the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) does his appointed task rather better than do most of his colleagues on the Front Bench, and I suppose that due credit must be given to him for that.
I shall crave your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and that of the House this evening because I wish to direct certain specific observations to the guillotining of this Bill, and in the circumstances I shall wish to pay more attention to my notes than is my custom in the interests of both brevity and accuracy, which are not always forthcoming in speeches off the cuff.
I shall vote tonight for the guillotine on this Bill in much the same spirit as the more enlightened revolutionaries voted for the use of the same instrument in 1789—a spirit of reluctant acquiescence that recognises the practical necessity of assisting the forces of progress to get on with their job with due dispatch.
Our debates on guillotine motions usually arise as a consequence of parliamentary mischief, either by a contemptuous Government, as was frequently the case between 1970 and 1974, or by a verbose Opposition. But the villain of tonight's piece is not the people involved but the system which we persist in trying to operate.
The Government did not introduce the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill at a late stage in the parliamentary year for any malevolent reason, and the Opposition have not shown undue prolixity or bloody-mindedness in their consideration of the Bill. We may well say that frequently they have talked nonsense, but they have been good enough to talk nonsense with reasonable and commendable brevity. No—the reason for this guillotine motion is the system itself.
The Bill is exceedingly complex. It called for particular delicacy of drafting. It has been produced by a Department which, by the very nature of our times, has frequently had other and urgent preoccupations during the past 16 months, and it is of elementary essence to the Labour Party's programme, to the Labour Party manifesto, and to the prosperity of our economy. These are the reasons for the Bill being produced late in the legislative year and they are precisely the same reasons for the Opposition's attitude to the guillotine.
This Bill must be considered with urgency because it is of direct importance to the way in which we conduct our political and economic affairs and it is an inordinantly important Bill. The Government want the Bill and have to use every available parliamentary procedure to get it. The Opposition quite rightly carry out their constitutional duty of wanting to put the Bill through the finest possible legislative strainer or to bring it grinding to a halt.
The system we continue to operate does not allow Governments or Oppositions to do their job properly. The incompatibility of policy we see in our conflicts in this Chamber and in committees is a demonstration of honest politics. It is about fundamental differences of opinion on the way we should approach North Sea oil and public ownership. We can manage honest politics in argument and debate and in a political and parliamentary fashion, but we cannot introduce a Bill which is both urgent and important because of the existing system. We have to accept that urgency and importance of legislation are incompatible except in dramatic emergencies, when the House responds well.
For weeks past, our Committee has been sitting for 14 hours a week. Other committees have been sitting for an even longer period and for many more hours. This means that hon. Members are kept from other parliamentary obligations such as meeting constituents and dealing with their problems ranging from employment to widows' pensions and invalid vehicles to prison parole briefing themselves and conducting the minimum research for taking part in Select Committees, on which many hon. Members also sit, or participating properly in debates in the Chamber. Activities such as speaking to party meetings in the country, writing articles or attending our own back bench interest groups are unknown luxuries while we are locked in the convent of a Standing Committee. The so-called scrutiny stage restricts the other parts of an hon. Member's parliamentary life.
The frustration and immobilisation of hon. Members in Standing Committee could be accepted as part of the job if one felt at the end of a Committee that long deliberations had produced something which justified the length and depth of consideration. Of all the sensations I feel on a Standing Committee, in Opposition or in Government. a sense of achievement is not one.
We have heard the Government's case on the Committee put forward by Ministers and my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith) has been the soul of patience. The Opposition's case has also been put with due insistence. But essentially it has been a repetitive rehearsal of elementary differences of opinion spiced with a few detailed explanations of specific matters. This is not the fault of the Chairman, the Opposition or the Government. It is the fault of the system. We should now be changing that system so that we do not have to go through the same charade whenever an important and urgent Bill comes before the House. I want the Bill to be enacted and even improved and I want to retain the direct principle of public ownership of North Sea oil.
The issue we are debating tonight is whether we are doing our job of presenting alternative arguments and conflicts in a way that can be comprehended by ourselves and the people we represent and in a way that will ensure good government in this country. We have been treading water in our Committee over the past weeks. Our system of scrutiny and the way our business is conducted is evidence that the system is in great danger of breaking down. I would welcome that because I have never been a great respecter of the conventions and traditions of this House simply because they are conventions and traditions. Once they become outdated—and for some of them that was a long time ago—they should be discarded and replaced by something more relevant.
The weight of legislation and the inadequacy of facilities is crushing Parliament and all the pejorative descriptions of this place as a talking shop housed in a sausage machine are gaining justification.
Some hon. Members say that this is not new, that it has been happening for decades or generations. That may be the case, but Members of Parliament of all ages are now insisting that, whatever has happened before, however acceptable it has been, it has to stop in our time. The insane hours we work must stop. The ludicrously inadequate facilities with which we work have to stop. The self-delusion that good legislation can be produced from a ramshackle machine has to stop. Many vested interests in the political establishment and the establishment generally would like to see us go on gathering cobwebs and earning the incomprehension and contempt of people outside. If we have no democratic force coming from this place, a change is desperately needed.
We require a major reorganisation of the procedures of legislation and immense changes in the conditions of work for Members of Parliament. Among the changes in legislative procedures, there needs to be a timetable for the introduction of major policy Bills or the abolition of the requirement that Bills cannot outlive parliamentary Sessions. We need to change Committee stages almost out of recognition by formalising the inquiry and informatory features under a new procedure which resembles a Select Committee, while retaining the opportunity for argument of principles.
Much of that idea is old hat. It has been rehearsed repeatedly. There has been the odd experiment. However, none of it, whether we adopt that system or leave things much as they are, can be separated from the need to give backbench Members the means to operate an improved system. Without the facility of someone to continue with the ordinary work—what might be called the mundane work—of Members of Parliament while they sit on Committee, and without the facility of researched advice for use in Committee, even a change in procedures would be a mere change of form and would do nothing to change the substance. We should still be in the position where the bland—Ministers, civil servants or experts drafted in from outside—would be scrutinised, examined and questioned by the blind or, at the very least, the partially blind, by which I mean the Members of Parliament.
The situation now is one in which very few of our constituents have any idea what a Committee sitting means. My understanding of it before I came to this House was of the vaguest. All I knew was what I had managed to cull in a civics lesson in the fifth and sixth forms. And if I as a political activist did not understand it, I am sure that only a tiny proportion of my constituents do. Small wonder that they complain when the call goes out for Members of Parliament to have more pay or additional allowances. If they do not understand what we are doing, how can we justify the difference in the way in which we are paid for the job.
We have the situation in which the various interested groups brief the Opposition, the Minister answers the Opposition case, a debate is conducted in time-consuming parliamentary style and concluded with a parliamentary vote. Win, lose or draw, the very same advisers, Opposition and Government, the very next day continue their business of discussion and argument, of concession, of give and take, win and lose, as though the previous parliamentary consideration had never even taken place.
We now have the situation in which the only means of expediting contentious and important legislation is to use the guillotine to bring a peremptory end to our parliamentary meanderings. It is not good for government and it is not good for legislation, and it would be stupid and short-sighted to think that it can inspire trust or understanding among the people we represent or bring anything but disillusionment and furious frustration to Members of Parliament.
I agree with much of what the hon. Member says. Does he not agree that Government backbenchers also have a part to play in the scrutiny procedure? If so, why in our present procedure on this Bill have the Government backbenchers stayed silent throughout?
If after four years in Parliament the hon. Member does not understand that, he does not understand anything. I am not being contentious. I fought two elections last year and part of what I fought on was the introduction of a major State interest and involvement in all spheres of North Sea oil. Indeed, I want to go a great deal further even than the Government. I know that my participation in Committee at any length would inhibit the possibility of the principles in which I believe becoming law. As a result I have accepted, as do most Government backbenchers, which ever Government is in power, that in exchange for my relative muteness I expect to have relative dispatch, but that does not mean that I agree with the system.
I have listened with interest to what my hon. Friend said in what I hope is not a brief handed out to him by the Leader of the House. I do not wish to infer that I worry about serving on Committees because of the pay. I am quite happy to serve on even more Committees at the same rate of pay, as my hon. Friend doubtless is, too. Will he consider the different ways and means by which the Committee structure can be improved? It is not enough to say, as he does, that the system should be changed and that these abstract notions should be ventilated and looked at. Does he not accept that when controversial measures are introduced the best way to get them through and scrutinised is to introduce a timetable motion at the beginning? Let us have three or four months allotted. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is what he was saying."] As a result of that both sides could partake in the debate and the Bill would be better as a result.
I think that I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. I do not recall my precise immortal phrase, but I think I said very briefly a short time ago that we could give ourselves the alternative of either allowing Bills to outlive Parliaments, or, right at the outset of a major contentious Bill, specify how long it should be considered by the House. That appears to confirm the idea of a timetable which my hon. Friend has put forward—
Pay in that respect is irrelevant. My main contention about pay and facilities is that if I am to put either a fine needle or a pile driver into those who get about the business of ruling the country over our almost dead body, I require a great deal more support and facilities than I have at present.
I go so far as to say—and I hope that my wife does not read Hansard tomorrow—that I would be prepared even to accept the present situation of our pay if someone could give me a guarantee that next week, the week after and the month after that I would not have to put up with the continuing frustration and embarrassment of knowing that I cannot do my job properly because of the distractions of the way in which we now try to work. The pressure which is building about Members' salaries and conditions will make a contribution to the changes in legislative procedure which both my hon. Friend and I would like to see.
There will always be a method of curtailing consideration of legislation, and no one can object seriously to that. The argument is not about the principle of curtailment but about the inadequacies of Parliament which make such a curtailment a miserable and inevitable necessity. Last week, departing from my usual temperate deportment, I called in the Committee for a parliamentary revolution. A Conservative Member of the Committee was kind enough later to explain that I had no hope of gaining Tory support for such a movement but that I should seek to attain the same end by pleading for change in the name of tradition, and that is what I shall do.
The tradition of this House is that the vote of an hon. Member should follow his voice. The reality of this House at the moment for Government backbenchers is that even with the benevolent Whip that we have on this Committee, a most understanding Whip—and I am not looking for a pair—what is required from backbenchers on the Government side is their vote and certainly not their voice. The tradition is that all hon. Members have the right and duty to represent constituency, parliamentary and party interests, but the present system prohibits the exercise of such duties by anyone sitting on a Committee on a major Bill. The tradition of this House is that tradition is acceptable only for as long as it is useful, and the tradition of Standing Committees is now contrary to everything that makes Parliament worthwhile.
Mr. Speaker, fellow revolutionaries and traditionalists, it is time for a major change. It is time for a guillotine on our present parliamentary procedures, and, as inadequate as my knitting is, I am quite prepared to play the Madame Defarge of that particular change.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) on a most enjoyable speech. I understand that one member of his family is celebrating his birthday today.
I share some of the discontent expressed by the hon. Gentleman, but I do not agree about its cause or cure. The fundamental business of Parliament is to represent the grievances of our constituents, harry the Government, get them to explain what they are doing and attempt to get them to mend their ways. I do not deny that we might be better equipped than we are to do that job, but however much we change the machinery we shall not get over bad management of the business of the House of Commons and too much legislation. Candidly, our difficulty tonight is due to bad management of the business of the House of Commons.
I think that if we were to ask our constituents what at the moment, apart from inflation and unemployment, is the most general complaint against the Government, we should discover that it is the absolute flood of legislation and all that goes with it, the enormous increase in the Civil Service, and so on, which is resented throughout the country.
The hon. Member for Bedwellty attempted to deal with the reasons why the Bill was introduced so late in the Session. He said that it was a matter of drafting, that it required delicate drafting. All I can say is that if that is what it required it did not get it.
The hon. Gentleman then said that this was part of the Labour Party manifesto. This is the great modern excuse for everything that the Government do. They say it is part of their manifesto. If we put more and more into our manifestos and claim that all that is in them must be got through in one Session of Parliament, no change in the machinery will deal with that situation. If something in a manifesto is so important, the measure should be introduced into the House early in the Session.
The hon. Gentleman then claimed that it was important to him and others that the oil industry should be in public ownership. But there was public ownership. The Gas Corporation and the National Coal Board had their share and, as I constantly say, there was a 49 per cent. holding in BP.
The fundamental reason why we are debating this motion tonight is the gross mismanagement of Government business. They introduced not only this Bill but many others far too late in the Session. I thought that the Secretary of State adopted rather a detached attitude about this. He spoke as though it was nothing to do with him, but he is the representative here of the Government, and he advanced no reason why we should be flooded with Bills in July. What is more, there are two other measures still to go into Committee.
This is not an urgent Bill. It is possible to argue that there should have been more legislation concerned with oil two or three years ago. I would accept that, but at the moment there is no overriding urgency about the Bill. It will not assist unemployment. It will not stop inflation. But it will increase the borrowing requirement, and it will increase the number of officials, and everybody is agreed that those are two things that we cannot afford.
I come then to the question of the general argument for a timetable at the beginning of legislation. Like others, I think there is a case for this. There are objections, but I think one can make a case for this procedure.
I asked the Leader of the House, and I asked in Committee, what the Government's proposals are about the Session. There is nothing God-given that the Session has to end at the end of July. There is nothing God-given that the Session cannot be continued in the autumn. I have received no answer to my question. There was no attempt to introduce a timetable at the beginning of the Bill, even of the vaguest sort. Whatever reason there may be for having a timetable at the start, the worst of all worlds is to wait until the Bill gets half-way through and then introduce one.
The only justification for taking such action is obstruction by the Opposition, but no one has suggested that the Opposition have obstructed the Bill. The only filibuster—and I agree it was a small one—was carried on by Members of the Labour Party because they did not have enough people present in the Committee to have a vote. Otherwise no one has suggested that we have unduly delayed the business of the Committee. The failure of the Government to get the Bill through its Second Reading into Committee in good time is no reason for introducing a guillotine half-way through the consideration of the Bill.
Let us look at what happens to Parliament when a guillotine is introduced at this stage of the Bill. To begin with, it distorts discussion. It wholly changes the nature of our discussion once the guillotine is brought down. Since the Bill entered Committee about 100 Government amendments have been put down It is true that many amendments are consequential. But many of these are, of course, of considerable importance. Many refer to later clauses and schedules. I do not take the view that the first clause is the only important clause in the Bill.
We are now told that we must finish the Bill by 15th July, including all those amendments put down by the Government themselves, who presumably want discussion of them. One must remember the situation of back benchers, A grave disadvantage of a guillotine motion is that back benchers are not represented on the Business Committee. I agree that they all cannot be, but back benchers represent their constituency points of view and often they have points to put in Committee which otherwise would not be brought to the notice of the Government. Therefore, the whole procedure at this stage is liable to be unfair to back benchers and to distort debate.
There is then the position of Government back benchers. I do not know what will happen, but I hope that there will be time for back benchers to take part in the debate. The hon. Member for Bedwellty need no longer fear that he may be depriving himself of his heart's desire if he says more than a few words. Government back benchers should be able to give us the benefit of their experience.
I believe that there is value in the democratic element, the non-expert element, which comes to this place and says, "I am not completely informed about this, but this is where the shoe pinches, as I know from my constituents. This is what they would like to say about the Bill". Even though the amendments may not be accurately drafted, this is an essential part of the democratic process.
How long should we spend on a Bill? The Secretary of State mentioned that we had spent 19 hours on one clause. What is the correct time for an important Bill? I do not think that we spend too long on them. I would go some way with those who say that the results may not always measure up to the energy displayed, but I do not agree that one is left totally frustrated. In many ways the public derive more benefit from what is said in Committee than from general debates in this Chamber. Sometimes in Committee valuable progress is made, and I would find difficulty in saying that 19 hours is too long to discuss a matter of maximum importance.
I very much regret that we have not had more contributions from people who know intimately how the nationalised industries work and about such proposals as having civil servants on the board of a company. I do not think that we have spent anything like too long on that. This is an important and a disastrous initiative by the Government, and it should be considered in great detail.
I agree. The point I was making is, was it too long? Have we spoken for too long? I do not think we have. I quite agree that there were Second Reading speeches made but that is part of the democratic process. I do not believe that on the whole we have spent too long in discussing important changes in legislation. It has to be remembered that one fault of our system is that we seldom look back on legislation to see whether it was right or wrong. It takes some time to alter legislation. Most people would agree that we have made grave errors, particularly in legislation which affects nationalisation. It may have been the fault of those on the Committees. No one can say that we have so certainly got nationalisation legislation right that nationalisation measures can now sweep through the House in four or five hours.
Let us look at what the country expects of us. First, it is that we should reduce the amount of legislation. I cannot overemphasise that. The amount of fresh legislation is breaking the backs of business, industry and the ordinary people. Second, legislation should be considered at a reasonable time of day. Thirdly, no doubt, more advice should be available to back benchers. It must be considered in an orderly fashion. It would have been possible for the Government to come forward at the start and said, "We want this Bill by a certain time. Can we agree upon a general programme for it?" They did not do that. They never did.
We therefore have the position when the public will see that the earlier part of the Bill has been looked into but will possibly feel that the latter parts were not sufficiently considered. Whatever case there may be for a timetable from the start this is the worst of both worlds. This is the way in which Parliament should not conduct its business. I do not believe that all will be put right by changing our procedures. I am as keen as anyone to change certain of our procedures but it would be possible to put this situation right by a few simple actions on the part of the Government. If they wanted a timetable they should have said so much earlier. Further, they should introduce their legislation earlier in the Session.
In Committee the Government must make sure that they can answer legitimate questions put by members of the Committee. Without any disrespect to the Ministers, it cannot be said that at the beginning of our proceedings we were given vital information, on the financial aspect alone, which was so necessary to enable us to do our job. not only for ourselves but for the public generally.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and his argument for changes in the system—points which were taken up to some extent by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). This timetable motion is needed to push Government business, to meet the Government's timetable. The Secretary of State has told us that this legislation is of particular importance to the Government, repeating, as he and his colleagues have done with great consistency, that this is an important part of the Labour Party's manifesto and therefore its commitment to the country.
It is not unusual for Ministers to push Government business through the House and to take the attitude that their priorities must be met. It can hardly be in the best interests of Parliament and the people that Government business should be pushed through and parliamentary scrutiny cut short. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give some consideration to the effect that this move has on Parliament and parliamentary scrutiny. Someone should be arguing the case to show how this affects the business of Parliament, which is equally important. Parliament is being asked to set up a new nationalised industry. With the experience of existing nationalised industries behind us this should be a thought-provoking exercise for all hon. Members.
In Committee we tried to encourage, indeed induce, Labour Members to discuss with us the running of a nationalised industry, how nationalised industries might be improved and how we might learn from experience. There has not been a word from the Labour Party. There have been no new ideas, except the attempt to centralise even further the grip of Government and Ministers on the day-to-day running of nationalised industries, including the placing, for the first time ever, of civil servants on the boards of companies. In Committee Ministers have pressed their case for the BNOC as if the National Coal Board and British Railways were shining examples of good customer service, high productivity, good industrial relations, innovation and energy.
The right hon. Gentleman has pressed his case as if he had a creditable track record of successful Government intervention in industry. This is far from the case. The Scottish Daily Express said on Saturday in its main leading article:
It is time the public was given an account of what is actually happening at the three
Benn flops—the motor-cycle plant at Meriden, the engineering factory at Kirkby, and the Scottish Daily News in Glasgow.
I did not read the article to which the hon. Gentleman has referred but it will be interesting to know whether the Daily Express drew attention to the fact that the co-operative in Glasgow came into being because it decided to pull out from publishing the Scottish Daily Express there with practically no notice to the workers concerned.
That may be so. The proof of that pudding will be in the eventual success or otherwise of the Scottish Daily News. It is not for me to deifend the actions or attitude of the Daily Express in this connection. I have to ask the Minister whether he now feels as satisfied with the public investment he has made as he did when he made it. Since he has intervened earlier perhaps he will consider that point worthy of a reply later.
This debate requires us to look beyond the failings of any Secretary of State and any Government to the failings of Parliament itself. It cannot be Parliament's job meekly to implement the manifesto whichever party is in power. I do not think that is why any hon. Member decided that his career lay in this House. It is our job not to legislate for the reign of a particular Government, as has become the practice, but to place on the statute book legislation which has stood the test of political compromise within the House and which may as a consequence last for decades or even generations.
Incredible as it may seem to some hon. Members, simply implementing the party manifesto is not what the country expects of Parliament or of us. This House is not just an extension of the party conference. It is not for us to adhere, right or wrong, to our manifesto commitments, particularly those which show that there has been no attempt to learn from contemporary experience. There can be little satisfaction to hon. Members in enacting legislation today which the House may reverse after the next election. I hope that from a parliamentary point of view, if the guillotine is falling tonight, it will fall on this "Grand old Duke of York" act which takes us up the hill in this Parliament and down again in the next. This is not the way to improve Britain's economic performance. Nor is it likely to improve our industrial reputation either at home or abroad. Above all, motions such as this damage Parliament immensely. For that reason I oppose it.
I believe that the motion is necessary. For far too long the nation has lived on parliamentary etiquette and Erskine May. The Bill is about industry and the new technologies in oil, and we should proceed as fast as we can. The argument is about the possession of oil. It is not about the law, which is incidental. The collapse of the Tory Party in Scotland—and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) should recognise this more than anyone else—is due to the attitude of the Scottish National Party that North Sea oil is Scotland's oil. Whether the SNP wants total public ownership is a different question. We are dealing with a sleeping warrior who has awakened.
I shall not debate that question. If I were to do so it would take me outwith the rules of order. However, I hope that the Scottish Conservatives will make a braver show than they made in the last election.
The problem about the Bill is that it is a hybrid Bill, and all hybrid Bills are complicated.
There has been much talk about who the chairman of the British National Oil Corporation is to be. Whoever gets the job should be granted parliamentary confidence because the appointment will be made via Parliament. When the chairman is appointed, he will be entitled to the respect due to anyone who serves the nation. I do not like to hear hon. Members opposite doing a knocking job on the chairmen of nationalised industries who are doing their best to satisfy the nation's needs. I detest the provocative technique of hon. Members opposite. To talk about it not being possible to buy a chairman for £80,000 a year is nonsense. When the chairman is appointed, his value to the nation will be such that he must be respected by the people whom he serves.
Another argument that we have had on the Bill has related to the headquarters of the BNOC. They have to be where? Do I hear any voices?
In fact, they are to be in Glasgow. As a Glasgow Member, I welcome that. It is another reason why I am in a bigger hurry than other hon. Members who have spoken to get the Bill on the statute book.
During the Han dynasty, 2,000 years before Christ, there were arguments about salt. It was said that the only thing which would sustain the people of China was salt, so it became a monopoly. I hope that the oil which has been discovered around our coasts will become a national monopoly and that the Government will take the lot over in time.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) is not present because he said much with which I am sure hon. Members on both sides agreed. There is no doubt that some of his remarks were relevant to the workings of Parliament. Much of what he said has a direct bearing on the few Members in the Chamber at present.
There is no doubt that the House of Commons has lost its relevance. Until we look seriously at our procedures, that situation will continue. I believe in timetable motions. I believe that every Bill should be timetabled at the outset. We have committees of selection which are advised, through the usual channels, about the Members from each side of the House who wish to serve on committees. We leave it to them to decide who shall serve. I see no reason why we should not have a similar committee, composed of experienced parliamentarians and advised by experienced Clerks of the House, which, after studying a Bill and referring to precedents for similar legislation, would decide the appropriate number of sittings on a Bill.
If that were to happen, a Bill would be dealt with in a straightforward manner. The important parts of it would be given ample discussion, whereas at present many important clauses in Bills are not discussed at all because the Government introduce a guillotine motion, as they are perfectly entitled to do, because we all know that the Government will get their business. If they believe it necessary to resort to introducing a guillotine motion, they have the right to do so, and they will do so. For that reason, it would be much better for the House, for the name of Parliament and, in the long run, for the quality of legislation if each Bill were subject to a timetable motion from the outset.
However, we must play the game by the rules laid down. At present Bills are not subject to early timetable motions and therefore the question whether the Government will negotiate with the Opposition and introduce a voluntary timetable or impose their will on the House and guillotine a Bill is virtually in the hands of the Government.
We know the history of the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill. It was promised as long ago as November 1974 by the then Secretary of State for Energy, who said that it would be published within a matter of days. In fact, it was not published until 9th April 1975. It received a Second Reading on 30th April and proceeded to Committee, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) said, in a leisurely fashion. There was no degree of urgency on the part of the Government about getting the Bill through.
On 1st July, the present Secretary of State for Energy adjourned the Committee at midnight. I was surprised that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) should have complained about delays in Committee because the Committee had to be adjourned at midnight on 1st July because of the antics of his hon. Friends in the House. After a short discussion with the Under-Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman returned and announced, so willingly, that it would be reasonable to adjourn the Committee. He must have known that there would be a guillotine motion. After he saw the Chief Whip he must have known that it was only a matter of time before the guillotine would be inflicted on us.
After what I heard about his performance in Committee I was staggered at his affable approach to the situation. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I said to my hon. Friends "We have misjudged the Secretary of State—he is much more reasonable than I assumed". Little did I know that by that time he had, tucked away in his pocket, the assurance of the guillotine motion.
The Industry Bill was guillotined after 40 sittings. The Committee reached Clause 21 of a Bill containing 28 clauses after 28 sittings. We should compare that with the excellent progress which this Committee achieved. At this stage there had been only 19 sittings. The Opposition made constructive contributions throughout. The only filibuster speeches were those made by Government supporters when Government backbenchers were reluctant to attend. This was before the Secretary of State joined in. Those Government supporters were so reluctant to uphold Government legislation and to have it passed by the House that they did not even come to the Committee. The Government started a filibuster to keep the Committee going and to avoid a vote until the Whips could rope in Government supporters.
That is why I believe that it is wrong for the Government to guillotine the Bill. The Government are at fault. They have dilly-dallied and delayed presenting the Bill, and in giving it a Second Reading and bringing it to Committee. The Government have failed to achieve any urgency.
That is not a failure of the Opposition. We have fulfilled our part in improving this legislation, yet the Government are now desperately attempting to force through Parliament a succession of highly controversial nationalisation Bills by one means or another. That is the reason for urgency. It is not that the Bill is desperately needed. The BNOC is not likely to get off the ground for a considerable time. The Government are unable to find a chairman and the other people needed to operate the BNOC. That is why it is wrong that the Bill should be subjected to a guillotine.
In Committee I noted the apprehensions of certain Government supporters The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Ellis) expressed extreme doubt about the way in which nationalised industries were moving and the controls needed within them. There was no question of filibustering. He expressed genuine fears. I hope that those fears were passed on by the Under-Secretary.
The hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) expressed great fears and vigorously opposed the suggestion that the Committee should sit in the afternoons as well as in the mornings. I wonder what the hon. Gentleman will do tonight. Will he come into the Lobby with the Opposition and oppose this measure? The Secretary of State smiled sweetly at the hon. Gentleman when he entered the Chamber. He was probably trying to persuade him that he must not be led astray by the Opposition. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have the courage of his convictions. He made a brave speech in Committee, for which we all admired him. I hope that he will follow that by opposing this motion.
The Bill will not make a rapid contribution towards overcoming the inflation with which the country is now faced. It will merely involve the country in additional huge borrowing, nationalisation and vast expenditure of public funds. We believe that there is no hurry for the Bill. That is why we shall vote against the guillotine motion.
I agree that our business should be carried out in the most expedient way. I was heavily involved in local government at a high level. It took not too long to make policy decisions. That seems to apply to parliamentary procedures. When a political party has won a General Election on the basis of a manifesto, the sooner it can put the priciples contained in the manifesto into operation the better. We have heard too much about political parties having little regard for the manifestos on the basis of which they have won General Elections. One of the excuses used in the past was that the parliamentary timetable could not accommodate the legislation that was promised in the manifesto.
There have been contradictions running through the debate. Hon. Members have spoken about expediting the business and in the next breath have objected to the timetable motion. The debate is about the timetable motion, but many right hon. and hon. Members have used it as an excuse to debate parts of the Bill that have already been dealt with. The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) touched on important parts of the Bill that have already been dealt with in Committee. With some of them he was off the beam.
The Secretary of State made the issue clear in opening the debate, and it was made clear in the Second Reading debate and in Committee, that we wanted the Bill. It is one of the main pillars of our policy. It is no secret that the Labour Party wanted the Government to take a major stake in the North Sea oil.
Slurs have been cast on the sincerity of the £80,000-a-year chairman. Hon. Members have asked what he would do. Are Opposition Members convinced that the chairmen of the massive multinational companies act on the basis of what is best for the British people? I am sure they do not. One has only to look at decisions which were taken not so long ago in the private sector to see that.
The Bill was given a high priority. It may have been delayed, but there is ample time to get it through. Hon. Members have said that there has been no time wasting, but that depends upon the criteria one uses. There have been many time-wasting procedures in Committee. For example, there was the repetitiveness of Opposition Members when the Bill was first introduced in Committee. Almost every Opposition Member repeated what had been said by his hon. Friends. The language might have been different but the effect was the same.
I probably wasted a day's sitting when I intervened to ask the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) whether he was aware that, although the population of Scotland is 13 per cent. of that of the United Kingdom, Scotland attracted 33 per cent. of all development grants. It was like throwing a ball to a kennelful of greyhounds. Almost every Opposition Member referred to it.
Last Thursday in Committee there was a debate on the location of the headquarters of the BNOC. I thought that parish pump politics operated only at parish pump level, but parish pump politics were certainly brought into that debate. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Wilson) defended Scottish interests because Glasgow is a chosen area and Hamilton is in that conurbation. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) made a claim for Aberdeen. Not to be outdone, the hon. Member for Dundee, East made a claim for Dundee, East. My hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) was tempted, but he did not go quite that far.
The debate on the location of the headquarters in Scotland and the debate that I triggered off developed into what was almost a debate not on BNOC but on devolution. I utter a word of warning to the hon. Member for Dundee, East. Hon. Members representing various areas of Scotland wanted the location of the headquarters to be not Glasgow but their constituency. At successive General Elections the Scottish National Party has preached the togetherness of the Scottish cause, but that debate demonstrated the divisiveness of this proposal. It exposed the division in Scottish politics.
After the main strategy of Government decisions, the overwhelming loyalty in politics is to the area for which one has been elected. Representing a Leeds constituency, I have to do my best for Leeds. It is assumed that if a Scottish Assembly were given power to decide these things, decisions would be made in the best interests of small areas of Scotland, but that assumption is nonsense. What would happen has been demonstrated by that debate in Committee. Regardless of the system, the overwhelming majority of electors in Scotland would come from the Glasgow belt in the west, and they would have very little regard to the problems of other areas of Scotland. That is what politics is all about. In the main, representatives will subscribe to national decisions, but when they can get something copper bottomed for their areas, that is what they will do.
I am delighted that once again the hon. Members has fallen into the trap of speaking about devolution. Would he not agree that what he has described happens world wide? What he suggests might happen in Scotland might happen elsewhere and the assumptions that he has made about Scotland could be made about the United Kingdom.
I agree, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that the decisions that would be made by any Scottish Assembly might not be to his satisfaction. He might be getting a fairer crack of the whip for his area now by having decisions made here rather than in Scotland.
In Committee and again today there have been references to the weaknesses of nationalised industries. It would be foolish to pretend that those weaknesses do not exist. However, after long experience in local government and now in this upper level, as it is supposed to be, I take exception to suggestions of corruption and to veiled hints of corruption. People in public life, whether elected or officers, get a bad image because of the way the media exploit the situation.
It is to be regretted that hon. Members sometimes use loose terms about groups of people. If I worked in a nationalised industry and there were references to corruption—it might mean a girl collecting money or dealing with the payments of bills—I would resent the suggestion that I was part of a corrupt organisation. The more we leave that type of language out of our debating chambers the better our image will be served. That approach has been badly overplayed in the past.
This is the first major Committee on which I have sat, and it has highlighted the different ideologies between the two sides of the House. I respect the Opposition for their views. I expect them to act in a particular way and to speak for a particular faction. I make no apology for believing in public control in the public interest where it is an essential commodity—namely, a commodity that is essential to the nation's survival. That typifies what the Bill is all about.
We are dealing with the exploitation of the new-found wealth in the North Sea. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) obliquely referred to the fact that there is no need for the Bill. It is true that we already have holdings in the North Sea by virtue of the National Coal Board and the gas board. That may be regarded as rather a hollow joke in that the boards' holdings in the North Sea are minuscule in comparison with what will happen as regards the development of North Sea oil. That must be so when we compare those holdings with the new and massive undertakings that are going ahead.
It is our case that we need to have the holdings completely under our control. To be frank, we do not trust the multinational oil companies, to which some Conservatives pay lip service, to have control.
This has been an interesting exchange of views on a timetable motion. I hope that some system may be found that will allow decisions to be reached within a matter of weeks. It is surely one of the most frustrating things for people to read in the Press or to hear from the broadcasting services that the Government have made certain decisions and to expect instant politics when Parliament works in the opposite way. Instant politics will never be achieved by Parliament. However, I hope that in the near future we can arrive at a system of debating major Bills that will allow them to pass through their different stages, receive the necessary Assent and become law as quickly as possible.
Reference has been made to the time-wasting processes of Parliament. In a sense, it could be said that this debate is one of the rituals in that process. In looking around, I see that most of the Members who are present are those who normally serve in Committee on the Bill. We might be serving a better purpose if we were in Committee discussing the details of the Bill rather than a guillotine motion. However, many Members have had their say, so why should I deny myself the same opportunity?
This debate is taking place principally because the Government want the Bill to pass through Committee. It has been suggested that the Government could extend the Session into October or November. It is said that if they did so there would be no difficulty because progress is undoubtedly being made in Committee. However, we must remember that the Bill had a slow start on Clauses 1 and 2.
On these occasions when the Government seek to get a Bill through in time, the Opposition tend to indulge in chest beating just to show how virile we are. We create a tremendous amount of noise; we vote against the motion and then we get back to business in whatever time remains to the Committee. It might have been simpler if we had taken the vote at the beginning of the debate for all the difference it is likely to make in the end. Both sides of the House obviously look on these matters from different points of view. If there were to be a change of Government, the arguments would be put the other way but the vote would still take place.
Why do the Government want to push through the Bill, apart from reasons of face saving? The first relates to the participation and the benefits which might flow from it. We know that in regard to existing licences the Government are committed to a "No gain, no loss" strategy. If there is to be no gain to the country it causes some of us to wonder why the Government are engaging in this exercise. That being so, why is it that we are pushing through the legislation with all possible speed. It is not as though there is a tremendous flood of oil gushing out of the N nth Sea. That may well happen when the Forties field comes into production. We are perhaps as much as two months away from that or, at the earliest, six weeks away.
The participation element is being taken care of separately and negotiations are taking place separately between the Government and the oil companies. Therefore, we know that there will be no gain in such a situation, which is hardly any inducement for hurry in any circumstances. If there is to be no immediate gain by participation and by getting the Bill through Parliament in the next three or four months, I do not see that there is a compelling argument to support the Government's motion.
Let us turn to the question of completion. The Government have made a statement on completion with regard to the existing developments. I sympathise with the control they want over the Bill, but a delay of three or four months will do no harm to the completion arrangements. The effect of the new model clauses will be felt several years hence, particularly if the Government adhere to the statement made in December last year by the former Secretary of State for Energy. Therefore, again there is no hurry from the point of view of completion.
Let me turn to the question of the pipelines themselves. Again I see no cause for difficulty. Certain pipe-lines are under construction. I doubt whether any oil company, faced with the provisions of the present Bill, would go ahead with any pipe-line development at present without considering what the Government attitude was likely to be. The company concerned would wish to discuss the matter with the Government and obtain agreement in advance about pipeline capacity, terms and so on.
I turn to the question of the refineries. We shall be interested to discuss this subject since there is now over-capacity in the refineries. There is certainly no question of rushing ahead with refinery developments. I am sure that Government will want to consider the effects which additional refinery capacity would have on areas such as Grangemouth or the new refinery, if it ever goes ahead, in areas such as Ross-shire. Again I do not see why the Bill should be brought out of Committee for any reasons of urgency.
We return to the question whether there is any need for such a motion. The view is that the Bill, regardless of the content, must be taken through this House and then sent to the Lords as quickly as possible. I regard the Committee process—and I speak from experience of having served on two Committees this Session—as a quality control circuit. If the Bill comes from the Civil Service, it goes into Committee, not to be argued over on principle, but more to deal with the nitty-gritty of content—the phrase by phrase, subsection by subsection approach.
Here we run into the real weakness in the whole system, and that is the volume of legislation which is pouring through. It is the same for all of us. One can cope with things and deal with detail, getting everything nicely tabulated, provided one is running at a reasonable pace. But there is always the problem that if there is a terrific upsurge of work and it floods over, it is necessary to get the major part of the work done regardless of many of the finer points. That is what has been happening this session.
My experience of Parliament does not go back beyond February of last year, so I cannot comment on the work that was done before, but, as a lawyer, I have looked at some of the statute books and I have been horrified at the way in which they have got thicker and thicker with the passing of the years. This leads me to ask how it is possible to control the quality of the legislation. None of us sets out to become a parliamentary draftsman. Of course, when one moves an amendment one usually prefaces it with the remark that if there is any fault in the drafting the Government can redraft it. That means that with collective minds —and that includes Government as well as Opposition Members of the Committee—points may be found in an amendment which may not have occurred to the civil servants or to the Government. But if the circuit is overloaded, we lose control over quality.
Studying the two Committees on which I have served—the Committee considering the Oil Taxation Bill and the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-Lines Bill —I have found that as the work on a Bill progresses, members of the Committee, having started raw—and this is particularly true of the Oil Taxation Bill which was hideously complicated—begin to pick up knowledge as they go along, but unfortunately by the time they have done so the earlier parts of the Bill on which that knowledge could have been applied have been passed.
It occurred to me that there is in operation a Swedish system which, I imagine, takes almost the same form as a Select Committee, although I have never served on a Select Committee. A committee of the Swedish Parliament considers legislation at a very early stage—almost as a preliminary Bill—before the Government have set it in concrete and one has to chip bits off it much against their will. What is interesting is that the members of that committee go out and take evidence from the various parties who are interested in it. In other words, they are exposed at a very early stage to all the lobbyists.
As we all know, the CBI, the TUC, the interested bodies in Scotland, the oil companies and others are all hammering at the doors of the various ministries. Discussions take place until this nebulous creation which is to take the form of legislation begins to define itself. Would it not be better in a sense if Members of Parliament were able to listen directly and cross-examine those who have expert evidence to give, how it might affect them, perhaps personally, or how it might affect the jobs of those working in the industry, and then come back and give guidance to Parliament, perhaps in brief written form, about the format of the legislation?
I am throwing this out as a suggestion, following what has proved to be a very enlightening debate and not full of the sound and fury which have occasionally occurred in previous debates on guillotine motions. This perhaps sums up the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-Lines Bill Standing Committee. It has been a very good-humoured Committee, apart from the second and third sittings when certain hon. Members forsook their normal good humour and unjustly attacked a member of the Committee.
Here we are yet again lined up in what could be termed different ranks ready to vote on the motion. What saddens me is that there may well be some good contributions which could be made on many important clauses of the Bill. Looking at it from the Scottish point of view—which I am always keen to support—there are some extremely important amendments coming up on the question of the National Oil Account about whether any of the funds should be side-tracked to Scotland. I should not like the Committee to be unable to discuss that matter, especially as the Conservatives and the Liberals are in favour of direct hypothecation of Scottish oil and revenues and the profits which will be obtained, or some part of them, going to Scotland. I should not like to see that argument lost sight of.
Standing the fact that the Bill has many important clauses which will affect Scotland—some beneficially and some adversely—I should not like to condone any attempt to curtail or guillotine the discussion at this stage, especially as the Government have not produced any reason for bringing the Bill out of Committee. Legislation is coming which is equally important. There is the Divorce (Scotland) Bill which will come from the House of Lords. I should not like to see that dropped out of sight, either. This is the perfect opportunity, given the pressure of legislation, the amount ready to go into Committee and the important Bills to come, to extend the Session to November or December. There seems to be a growing all-party agreement that that would be the most sensible course for taking care of the situation. Therefore, this guillotine motion is ill-advised and unnecessary.
I am grateful to be able to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is not very often that I have had the opportunity of speaking in the House this year, mainly because I have been closeted away on various Committees in the House and have not had the opportunity to speak in this Chamber in which, after all, most of us have spent most of our lives trying to speak.
I had a delightful experience when I listened to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) who made, if I may say so, a brilliant speech about the shortcomings of the parliamentary system. We should advise our colleagues who were not present during the debate to read my hon. Friend's speech and we should perhaps send a copy to the Lord President of the Council so that he can dwell upon it and possibly recommend it to his Cabinet colleagues in order that the system which we operate in the House may be changed or modified.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty that generally this is a debate in which many back benchers can air their grievances about the way we conduct our business in the House. I shall not go as far as my hon. Friend because I think that some of the traditions that we have in the House are worthy of preservation. Indeed, I shall be sad to see many of them disappear.
However, there is a need for change and I am sure that that change will come because, like everything else, Parliament is changing, especially in its membership. An examination of the age range of Members of Parliament who came into the House in 1970 shows that there is a definite shift to people of my generation who like to see change happen a little more quickly.
I agree with my hon. Friend that Members of the House will not earn any more respect either from the public or from their constituents if they are closeted away in Committees sitting all day, all night and all day again. I have seen dawn rise over the spires of St. Thomas's on a number of occasions and, if I may use a phrase without being out of line —an Anglo-Saxon phrase—it is a quite knackering experience. It does no good whatsoever. It does not help Parliament or our system. It just makes the Members of Parliament, the Ministers, the officials and everybody else that much more tired and that much more distressed that all they want to do is to crawl home and go to bed. It does nothing for the system and it does not make us any more efficient. We need to organise ourselves to perform our functions as Members of the House and this legislature to carry out our business in a civilised manner.
There have been some 19 sittings of the Committee. I should not be so presumptuous as to suggest that Opposition Members, many of whom I have come to know personally over the past 15 months as I am involved in the Department of Energy, have been filibustering, although from time to time we have been subjected to speeches from the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) which could only be described as Gladstonian in length. The right hon. Gentleman has a habit of assiduously quoting every newspaper that is printed between here and Panama.
The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) seems to want to prove his virility by speaking on every amendment moved from his side of the Committee.
The hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Moore), who is a very good friend of mine, treated us to an erudite discussion on nationalised industries which I thought was superbly delivered. In a different place I would have gladly joined issue with the hon. Gentleman and argued the virtues or non-virtues of nationalised industries.
I think that we could have made more progress on the Bill than we have made. I may have been a junior midwife at the delivery of the Bill, but I believe it to be important, not only because it is a manifesto commitment that is being met. but because it comes at a time when Britain and the Western World are facing a very serious energy crisis. It comes at a time when we need as a national Gov- ernment to be able to supervise, organise and legislate for our energy resources. It is because of the degree of importance that my hon. Friends and I attach to the Bill that I believe that it is necessary to have a guillotine motion on the Bill so that we can have a living reality of the Bill at the end of this Session.
I hope that we in the House learn our lesson and that, if we cannot have a change in the system, at least the two Front Benches or the back benchers can agree on a voluntary timetable on Bills which go into Standing Committee so that we can work saner hours and serve our constituents in the best possible way.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) paid a very generous tribute to his hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). Many of us on this side would agree with that tribute, for the hon. Member for Bedwellty made a brilliant speech. What he said about the system was well said.
However, it is not because the system is wrong that we are debating this motion. The system is wrong and it was no doubt a useful occasion to go into the demerits of the system. We are discussing this motion because the Government have mishandled the system as it stands.
That is a simple point to prove. On 4th November the right hon. Gentleman then in charge of the Department of Energy said that he would bring the Bill in within a matter of weeks. In fact, not only was it not brought in within a matter of weeks—it was not until 30th April that we had the Second Reading. It was not until 13th May that the Bill went into Committee. No one could say that two months was a reasonable time in which to discuss the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray) rightly said in his very interesting contribution that it should be possible for the usual channels to decide what is a reasonable time for the discussion of a Bill of this complexity and magnitude. Whatever that time is, it is not two months. It was the Government's fault that we had only that short time. It was not the shortcomings of the system that led to our having that brief time.
It is no use the Government bringing the Bill in late and then blaming the Opposition because the Bill is not finished sufficiently early. That is the nub of our criticism. My right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) talked about the indignation that we feel. The Secretary of State talked about occasional ritual indignation. I assure hon. Members opposite that it is not ritual indignation that we feel. Our indignation is not felt at the moment against the contents of the Bill. We have felt and expressed that indignation elsewhere and this is not the place to express it tonight. The indignation which we feel tonight is not against the ideological content of the Bill, and it is not against the principle of guillotining a Bill as such, which we accept. It is against guillotining this Bill in this way. That is what we object to.
We object because the Bill will not have proper scrutiny. It is an extremely complex measure. Already, many of us have felt time's winged chariot hurrying behind us. Only the other day, we did not discuss certain amendments at length in the way which we thought necessary, purely because we then knew that the guillotine was at our backs.
Bills are often improved in Committee. One has only to think of the Oil Taxation Bill, which was dramatically improved in Committee, to see how the Committee stage may work to advantage. There are many parts of this Bill which I and others should like to discuss at length. For example, I am concerned about the relationship of the Bill to the fishing industry, which is almost of as great importance to my constituents as the oil industry is. There is an entirely non-party point here which should be gone into in detail, but I greatly doubt, whatever amendments I may put down, that it will be considered in sufficient detail.
I do not for a moment accept that we have been dilatory in Committee. If we had been, that would, no doubt, be excuse enough for a guillotine. In fact, we have in no sense been dilatory. Remembering that it is upon our resources of North Sea oil that the industrial future of our country will to a great extent depend, remembering the importance that both we on this side and hon. Members opposite attach to the whole concept of nationalisation, and remembering the important part that the size of the borrowing requirement which the Bill will entail must play in our present consideration of the economic crisis—remembering those three important factors, just three which I have chosen at random, no one can say that we have been dilatory in the Standing Committee.
Many of my hon. Friends and the Secretary of State himself have said that there are advantages in timetable motions. I readily accept that, and I think that ideas of the sort put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty as well as by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) and the hon. Member for Bedwellty should be looked at extremely carefully. But whatever advantages there may be in timetable motions, one can have those advantages only if two premises obtain.
First, there must be enough time overall to discuss the Bill. I have already shown that two months is not enough time for the Committee stage of a Bill of this complexity. Second, we must know at the start what the time will be so that we may give proper priority to each part of the Bill. Neither of those two premises has obtained in this case.
It is no use, therefore, the Secretary of State saying that we all agree that there are advantages in timetable motions and everyone ought accordingly to support this one. That was the effect of his argument, and we reject it completely.
At the end of the day we shall have a Bill worse than it need be. We on this side always knew that it would be a bad Bill, but it will be even worse than it need have been because of the inadequate time given to its scrutiny. By proceeding in this way, we do the Bill no good, and we do Parliament no good. I very much hope that, even if we lose the Division on the motion tonight, the bad example of this Bill and the pressure of the speeches of hon. Members on both sides in the debate will prod the Government to look again at the way in which we treat major pieces of legislation.
I beg to move, as a manuscript amendment to the motion, to leave out lines 57 to 59.
The effect of the amendment is to delete paragraph 8 of the motion. As a complete newcomer to pipelines, I apologise for joining in this private fight, but I am moving what I regard as an important amendment which concerns the fundamental rights of back benchers, and I hope that I may have a minute or two to explain some of the history of this matter.
It was traditional at one time, before 1972, that guillotine motions should contain a paragraph of this kind although such a paragraph effectively removes back benchers' rights to move for leave to introduce Ten-Minute Bills on days when the guillotine is in operation. There was considerable discussion of this matter in 1972. When the right hon. Member for Carlshalton (Mr. Carr) was Leader of the House, he said:
I doubt whether it is necessary to have this restriction.
He went on to say that although he could not make any arrangements for that particular timetable motion
I will take this point carefully into account and see whether we can avoid this unfortunate effect in future."—[Official Report, 25th May 1972; Vol. 837, c. 1706.]
Many hon. Members may remember that in March last year when a guillotine motion was introduced in respect of the Finance Bill, I was allowed to move a manuscript amendment. I was personally involved because my Mentally Retarded Persons (Evidence) Bill would have fallen. That amendment was supported by both Front Benches and by hon. Members of all parties.
When another guillotine motion was introduced without the restriction, many of us assumed that the backbenchers of this House had won one of those minor victories we gain over the years and preserved our Ten-Minute Bills against erosion by Government power. But now the Leader of the House has slipped this wretched little clause back into this guillotine motion. All it does is to pinch six or seven minutes from the precious time of backbenchers. I very much hope that hon. Members from all sides will support me in the lobbies. The amend- ment makes no difference to the operation of the guillotine, but it does protect backbenchers.
It is absurd that the full might of the Government should be used to smash this tiny privilege of hon. Members. On points of order earlier, the Leader of the House made a mini-speech setting out his reasons for the petty little trick of slipping back this clause. His main reason seemed to be that as we are so near the end of a Session—at least we assume it is near the end, but the Session could go on for another year yet—no Private Members' Bills introduced next week could possibly get through to become law. With the greatest of respect to my right hon. Friend, that is not the point. This procedure gives hon. Members the opportunity to get publicity for a Ten-Minute Bill and it is often the germ of legislation which might not come to fruition until years later.
I take some little pride in the fact that last year, although my Adult Literacy Resources Bill did not become law, the Government devoted £1 million in additional resources later in the year and started some real provision to help deal with this problem. By slipping back this nasty little paragraph, the Government is saying that two backbenchers will be denied the opportunity of initiating ideas or seminal legislation.
That is not the sort of thing that any hon. Member wishes to see, and I invite the House to join me in the Lobby in support of the amendment tonight.
This wretched Bill was not given a Second Reading until 30th April, and it did not go into Committee until 30th May. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) understated his case when he said that it had been in Committee for two months. It has not, because there was a two-week recess during that period. It has been in Committee for only six weeks and the first two and a half of those were for morning sittings only. Afternoon sittings began on 10th June after the recess. Only a week or so ago the Government tabled 100 amendments, very few of which have since been debated. Several hundred amendments will not be debated if the guillotine is put into effect. Many of those amendments will have been tabled by the Government. We know what that will do to improve the standing of Parliament and the standing of the Government. if they have any standing left.
We must therefore consider why we are being asked to support the motion. Is it because the Bill is urgent? There already are adequate controls over North Sea oil resources, with adequate taxing and participation. No one could maintain that there is a need for urgency. The Bill will certainly not help solve the energy crisis, and it is completely irrelevant to the major crisis facing the country.
We are not being asked to guillotine the Bill because the Opposition are attempting to filibuster it. Even the Government have not suggested that. The reason we are being asked to vote for the guillotine is that it happens to suit the Government to continue their steamrollering process to get the legislation through by the middle of this month. There is no other reason or justification for their action.
The Government want to clear the decks before the back-bench rebellion gets going when the statutory incomes policy legislation is introduced in a week or so. The Government are also determined to push through their nationalisation proposals regardless of the national crisis and the national interest.
Therefore this legislation and the motion should be rejected. The legislation is irrelevant and damaging and costly. It is irrelevant because it creates no new wealth for the nation. It will not provide new jobs and it will not help to stem inflation. It certainly will not help to improve industrial relations or productivity. In other words, it does nothing to help the major problems facing us today. It will not even produce the oil more quickly, and it will certainly not produce more oil.
The Bill has already shaken confidence in the industry, a confidence we cannot do without. In spite of the desperate efforts of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to restore confidence in the industry through negotiations, his efforts are being undermined. Confidence has once again been shattered by the Government's arrogant approach to this legislation. They are seeking to push it through without the second half of the Bill having been seriously discussed. Many important aspects of the legislation will not be debated at all.
Next, the Bill will be costly because it will divert vast sums of money, which ought to be going to the Exchequer, to promote Socialist ambitions for a nationalised oil industry. It will aggravate inflation rather than help cure it. It will be costly because it will continue the programme of nationalisation and give the wrong priority to public spending. And this at a time when other Ministers are making vague noises about having to cut public expenditure, and some are even coming forward and doing so.
We are getting cuts in the expenditure on local government. We are getting cuts in the education programme, so the education of our children will suffer. The National Health Service is in a state of collapse. The building programme is grinding to a halt. Social services are suffering from a lack of finance. All this because the Government are finally having to wake up to their vast overspending over the past 16 months and take some action to curb inflation. Against that background, we have the continued programme of nationalisation proceeding regardless.
How on earth do the Government expect to retain the support and confidence of the nation if, on the one hand, they are proceeding with these extravagant programmes of spending on the extension of nationalised industry and, on the other, they are having to cut public spending in other directions? What the Government do not seem to have accepted is that not only will the Bill, if it is rushed through, aggravate inflation, but it will increase unemployment, because to finance this nationalisation of the North Sea cuts in other directions will have to be even worse than they would otherwise be, and this will mean jobs having to be sacrificed.
I suggest that those who vote for this motion tonight will not only be voting for an irrelevant, costly and damaging speeding up of a piece of legislation that will add to the problems facing the nation but they will be sanctioning an extension of unemployment and increasing the problems of inflation instead of facing them as we ought to be doing. Above all, the manner in which we are being asked to do this will add to the contempt for Parliament that is being shown by the Government. The Government are showing contempt for Parliament, for the realities of the national crisis and for the national interest.
We are being asked to agree to this motion by a Government who are hellbent on a further Socialist suicidal path. That is my justification for asking the House to reject this motion.
I look back with some satisfaction, as some hon. Members will anticipate, to the speech I made at the fifth sitting of the Committee when I warned what would happen to this Bill. It is worth quoting what I said then:
Shall I have to sit here and after the sixth sitting, when we have said very little
—I was referring to Government Members—
and the hon. Members opposite have talked their heads off, and after the seventh, eighth and ninth sittings, the Government will say. Ah, but we want our Bill—Let's have a guillotine on it'?
The significance of those words will be clear to all.
At that sitting the Secretary of State had said that terribly slow progress was being made. It seemed that I had the right to express my concern about the motion then before us, which was to sit on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at half-past four without any definite finishing time, as well as sitting on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I was saying that it seemed rather ludicrous, after only four sittings, to begin pursuing the conventional processes which would involve the early introduction of the guillotine. Later in that same speech I went on:
I would rather he more honest. I would rather the Government said from the begin-nine, 'This Bill has 50 clauses and we shall have no more than 30 sittings or whatever the number is. It should be done through the usual channels."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 10th June 1975; c. 236–7.]
I was making it clear that the whole procedural business of this House was being shown to be inadequate to meet the needs of a Government pushing through too much legislation. I understand that. the right hon. Member for
Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) made some reference to me earlier in the debate. I do not quarrel with that.
When a Member of Parliament becomes embarrassed that is the time for him to retire. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. He quoted me correctly. Others have referred to what I have said. The House is not served well when an important item of Government policy, of which I approve, is forced through in such a way that neither side is satisfied that business is being carried out efficiently. I object strongly to business of this importance being brought before us late in the Session, taken into Committee and then a guillotine being imposed within a short time so that instead of debating 50 clauses we shall be debating only 30. The remainder of the clauses and the schedules must be dealt with by 15th July. Everyone must accept that this cannot be the right way to conduct our business. I do not particularly criticise this Government. My comments in Committee referred to practices common to all Governments.
Let me describe the major objection. We have these preliminary conventional processes moving towards a guillotine. During that time those Members on the Government side of the Committee must sit down and keep quiet. If they do otherwise the suggestion is made that they are taking up valuable time needed by Members of the Opposition. When the Government change, those who once were silent become the Opposition and the same procedure applies. Those who originally advocated one kind of process change their attitude because they have moved to the other side of the Committee. That means that until a guillotine is introduced there is a tendency for the business not to be debated properly.
In Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Ellis) said, referring to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson):
Does he not accept that we have spent half the time of the Committee on a wide-ranging debate on the principles of Scottish nationalism, which, important though they may be, are
hardly appropriate to the Committee".[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 10th June 1975; c. 240.]
I do not blame the hon. Member for Dundee, East. He was using an archaic procedural nonsense to promote his pet hobby and, because of the procedures, we could not get him off his feet. As I have said, I do not quarrel with the fact that the hon. Gentleman did that. What I am criticising are the procedures which allowed it to happen.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way and even for the bone of comfort which he threw me. I put forward pertinent amendments in Committee relating to the construction and organisation of the British National Oil Corporation and how it should be divided into component parts. Also, does the hon. Gentleman realise that over 800,000 people in Scotland voted for the hobby to which he has referred?
I shall not be diverted, but I recall the hon. Gentleman talking about Scottish oil in Scottish territorial waters only to discover that there is no such thing as Scottish territorial waters.
I took a stand very early on in the Committee proceedings. If hon. Members take the luxury of falling in line with the view which I advocated then in my protest, we shall have taken a step in the direction of convincing the House of the need for procedural reform so that Standing Committee work may be arranged from the beginning by timetable. The advantage of an arranged timetable as against the present procedure is that it imposes a time limit, which any private enterprise business would do. If private enterprise, a nationalised undertaking, a public utility or a local authority adopted the procedures which we adopt, it would be bankrupt in double quick time.
If there were a timetable motion from the beginning, and if, after due consideration between both sides, it was understood that 30 sittings would be sufficient to deal with amendments to 50 clauses, there would be time for Members to discuss the Bill. We should not have the nonsense of hon. Members on one side sitting quietly while hon. Members on the other side used all the time to make virtually Second Reading speeches—although I am not prepared to admit that too many Second Reading speeches were made in the Committee on this Bill. I found all the Committee contributions by right hon. and hon. Members opposite which I heard very interesting and worthy of attention. I do not say that out of a desire to plead for support from the Opposition. I state it as a fact.
We have not had much time to deal with the Bill in Committee. The Bill should have been introduced earlier. There should have been a timetable from the beginning, in which case the Bill would have proceeded much further than it has.
We listened to the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) with interest. We look forward to seeing whether his feet carry him where his voice has gone.
I assure the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) that my speech on this occasion will be far from Gladstonian, as I shall ration myself to 10 minutes.
We accept the arguments of the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price). We hope that he will press his amendment to restore the small allocation of Private Members' time which the motion proposes to remove. If he does, the Opposition will support him, notwithstanding the fact that the allocation comes out of the limited time for report and Third Reading allowed in the timetable motion.
Some guillotines are made necessary by the nature of the legislation which a Government try to pass through the House. In such cases a timetable motion from the beginning may be inevitable. That did not apply to this case, where the Government's handling of their business was leisurely, not to say lackadaisical, from the outset. Some guillotines may be inevitable because of the nature of the debates, an Opposition filibuster and obstruction, or where there is a determination to deny the Government any progress. No one has suggested that that is the case with this guillotine. Many hon. Members have gone out of their way to say how relevant and modest have been the Opposition contributions.
Some guillotines come about as a result of the incompetence of the Government in managing their business, leading to their running out of time. That is the kind of guillotine with which we are now faced.
The policy of this Bill was announced on 11th July 1974. My hon. Friends have drawn attention to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, the Secretary of State for Industry, on 4th November 1974. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Bill would be coming
within a matter of weeks, and certainly in the New Year".—[Official Report, 4th November 1974; Vol. 888, c. 824.]
It was five months before the Bill was published. This is a major measure, by any standards. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor described it on Second Reading as
one of the most important ever to be brought before Parliament."—[Official Report, 30th April 1975; Vol. 891, c. 482.]
Yet it started five months late—too late to reach the statute book without a guillotine. That is the reason for tonight's guillotine. It is a disgraceful reason. In an intervention my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) asked the right hon. Gentleman why it was so late. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to disclaim any responsibility. He described himself as the godfather of the Bill. His guillotine motion is an invitation to Parliament to accept an offer which it cannot refuse—like other godfathers.
Given that the Government were late across the starting line I should have thought that they would crowd on sail from the beginning. A number of suggestions were made to that effect. That would have been necessary to enable the Government to catch up on the timetable. The Government agreed before Whitsun that there would be no afternoon sittings. When we moved to afternoon sittings the Government agreed that we should rise at dinner time. The Government only obtained agreement to that sittings motion because, having made a deal, the Opposition Front Bench stuck to it and abstained on the Division. As if that were not enough, on more than one occasion the Government adjourned, prematurely, for their own purposes.
Until now the Government's attitude to the Bill has been leisurely. Yet we have made excellent progress. In 19 sittings we covered 19 clauses and one schedule. We are already half-way through a complex and technical schedule. Dilatory motions have been few and short and points of order have been very limited. The Opposition have acted with great restraint, great responsibility and considerable forbearance, but it is all in vain. Responsibility has been rewarded with a guillotine.
The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) talked of the virtues of parliamentary reform and of timetables from the outset: but the essential fact must never be lost sight of, that with a Government deaf to rational argument, time is an Opposition's only weapon—time to debate, time to dissent and time to press and press the case. All guillotines dash that weapon from an Opposition's hands. I recognise that some guillotines are necessary to overcome obstruction, but a guillotine the only reason for which is Government incompetence is fundamentally undemocratic.
The case against this guillotine goes much further. It is that much of the Bill is not only unnecessary but is deeply damaging to the national interest. It is being said that this week in politics is one of the most important in our post-war economic history. As my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) said, inflation is 25 per cent. and rising, unemployment looks like reaching 1½ million by next year, the borrowing requirement is £12 billion and rising and the Government are at last beginning to face the horrifying reality of the crisis which confronts us.
Yet the Bill proposes to add certainly £2 billion and probably more to the Government's borrowing requirement. It is not merely the £900 million of the borrowing limits in Clause 6. It is far higher than that. It includes the £500 million or £600 million of royalties being siphoned off to finance the BNOC, and it includes an equivalent sum through the exemption of the BNOC from petroleum revenue tax. The Government in Committee have totally failed to convince anyone that the existence of the National Oil Account provided for in Clause 40 has any purpose other than to fudge the true size of the borrowing needed to put the BNOC in funds. That would be bad enough in normal times, because it makes a monkey of parliamentary control of spending, but in times of desperate economic crisis the irresponsibility is terrifying. At the very least it must be debated and debated fully.
Clauses 40 and 41 dealing with the National Oil Account have yet to be reached. That is probably the biggest single tranche of new Exchequer funding of a public corporation in the entire history of Parliament, and it will be debated with all the stultifying constraints of a guillotine because the Government have got their legislative programme in a mess. We shall not be able to do what the Under-Secretary of State did on the debate on petroleum revenue tax exemption. He adjourned early because he said:
I want to give careful consideration to some of the points that have been made."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 26th June 1975; c. 940.]
The Government cannot do that when they are operating on a guillotine.
So far we have debated about one-third of the Bill. We have yet to deal with the new model Clauses 15 and 16 with their extremely damaging restrospective powers to limit production and, indeed, to limit the powers of industry to raise finance. We have to deal with pipelines and the inadequate protection for the large sums of money involved, refinery control, the National Oil Account, the guarantees to Burmah and all the rest. All this is against the background of activity in the North Sea slowing down, of platform yards desperately searching for orders and the near cessation of the financing of development programmes on the Continental Shelf. Offshore oil is Britain's life-line, not in perpetuity but over the next 15 to 20 years. If this Labour Government through a mixture of incompetence and intransigence continue to put it at risk, they will be condemned not only in the House of Commons but by the whole country.
We come to the end of what has been an unusually good humoured and relaxed debate on a timetable motion. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set the tone for the debate by the way in which he proposed the motion. It has been not accusation and counter-accusation, but serious consideration of an important matter.
Perhaps I should say at the very start that the Government propose to accept the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price).
In this short debate we have had an opportunity to consider the wider question of how Parliament goes about its business. In Committee, when we had a short discussion about the Government's decision to move towards a guillotine motion, I was struck by how many Members on both sides of the Committee took the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the way in which Standing Committees operated and the way in which Parliament went about its business in Committee. This discussion has continued tonight and many hon. Members in all quarters of the House have taken the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the way in which Parliament presently organises itself.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), in a speech of particular note, expressed with clarity and conviction his feeling that we had to think very carefully about altering our procedures. That was echoed by my hon. Friends the Members for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) and Leeds, West (Mr. Dean) and by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray), who, unfortunately, had to make a good speech from the back benches, but who has now been restored to favour on the Front Bench that he generally graces. He said that he had no objection in principle to timetable motions, a thought that has occurred in many speeches.
It would not be possible for any party that has held office in this country to object to timetable motions in principle, because it would have behind it a record of its own activities when in office. That applies to my own party as well as to the Conservative Party. There is a growing conviction that to make too much fuss about a timetable is indulging in a certain amount of hypocrisy. I must say, to be fair to the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), that we got a slight whiff of grapeshot when he expressed his opposition in almost uncharacteristically moderate terms.
This has been the way in which the debate has been handled. It signals the changing mood of Parliament and a much greater readiness on the part of hon. Members on both sides to question the way in which we go about our business. A welcome opportunity has been taken by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen tonight. They have seized in the best parliamentary manner on a particular matter to raise a general question.
That is the first ill-humoured note that we have had in the debate so far. It is strange that we should get it from the right hon. Member for Yeovil, whose attention to Parliament is so detailed that he wandered out of the Chamber when he had finished his speech and returned only at the end of the debate, whereas other hon. Members have sat here throughout the debate. If I am to be taught any lesson in parliamentary manners, I shall require a better teacher than the right hon. Gentleman.
It has just been observed to me that that is the kind of conduct that my right hon. and hon. Friends have had to endure from the Under-Secretary throughout the Committee stage of the Bill. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that he is doing his reputation no good.
I should have thought that if the right hon. Gentleman were so sensitive, he would reflect that it is unusual to make the opening speech for the Opposition and then wander out of the Chamber for all the debate and return only at the end. There may be very good reasons for that—I do not know—but it is certainly unusual.
The reason for this motion is that we want to finish the Committee stage of the Bill in the House of Commons by the middle of this month so that the Bill may go to the other place and go through the procedure that is required there.
It is a very important Bill. It sets up a new public corporation, the British National Oil Corporation, which will hold the State's share, which will be achieved through participation negotiations, and which will be available to receive a share of the licensing in future licensing rounds.
It also introduces very important depletion controls in the North Sea and for the whole of our Continental Shelf. Conservative hon. Members have complained that the Government have been slow to bring forward this measure given that they announced certain basic items in their policy in July 1974. Of course, as those Members who have served in Committee will know, it is a complex and detailed Bill. There was a great deal which the Government had to do and a great deal of precise legislation which had to be formulated.
I am sure that hon. Members who have not served in Committee, and who perhaps have not watched developments in this area with great care, will be surprised to know that the Government inherited a situation in which there were no depletion controls over the exploitation of the North Sea. We were told by the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) in his closing sentences that North Sea oil is this country's lifeline. If it is such an important part of our economic future—and I accept that it is—it is surprising that there should be no power given to the Government regarding the rate at which such an important asset should be used. However, we inherited that deficiency and we intend to put it right by means of the Bill.
If the Government are not to exercise any of these controls for years and years according to the answer given on 6th December, why do the Government need the Bill now?
We need to put it on the statute book so that it will be clear that the Government have the necessary controls. I find it surprising that although the Opposition spent two years in Government reviewing North Sea oil policy we inherited no taxation proposals, no proposals for participation and no proposals for depletion.
Surely the Minister will recognise that he has not completed negotiations and that negotiations will not be finalised until the end of the year. Further, he will recognise that he is culpable of breaching contracts, an extremely serious matter. These issues must be discussed properly in Committee.
With four at the moment, and discussions are proceeding with the others. One of the things that makes me wonder about the genuineness of some Conservative opposition to the Bill is the Opposition's refusal to rule out participation as a policy. It seems that they would adopt it themselves in future licensing rounds. We know that every producer country, with the exception of the United States, adopts a policy of participation towards the exploitation of offshore oil. Therefore, the Government have not devised a unique policy. It is a policy which has found acceptance in many countries throughout the world.
I think that the hon. Gentleman must concede that I have been reasonably generous in giving way to him already. Indeed, I have been doing so throughout our proceedings in Committee. The great silence of the Conservative Party as regards future licensing rounds and whether it would adopt participation is interesting. Right wing Governments in other countries have adopted it. There is a certain amount of suspicion as to the genuineness of the opposition to some parts of the Bill.
The Labour Party was committed to the Bill in two General Elections. We have made it the basis of our policy for a long time. We believe that it is vital that sufficient public control over such a vital asset as offshore oil, which will be
of such great importance to the nation's future, plays an important part in our legislation. That must be so when we are dealing with fossil fuels which can be used only once. It is essential that the Government have proper controls over their use, otherwise, at an important period in their development, we might fritter away the assets with which this country has fortunately been endowed.
It cannot be argued that this is not an important Bill. It features an important part of the Government's legislative programme. We have already had very full discussion in Committee on the setting up of the British National Oil Corporation. I do not believe that the Opposition can say that they have not had a good chance to discuss the matter in detail. However, we need to consider the rest of the Bill as well. It is for those reasons that the Government put forward this motion.
I hope that the House will be wise enough to accept the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West and the main motion so that we can bring consideration of the Bill to an end during the course of this Session, and so that we can see established very soon Britain's own national oil company and the Government endowed with the controls that the Conservative Party—
|Division No. 275.]||AYES||[10.00 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Bidwell, Sydney||Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)|
|Allaun, Frank||Bishop, E. S.||Campbell, Ian|
|Anderson, Donald||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Canavan, Dennis|
|Archer, Peter||Boardman, H.||Cant, R. B.|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Booth, Albert||Carmichael, Neil|
|Ashley, Jack||Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Cartwright, John|
|Atkinson, Norman||Bray, Dr Jeremy||Castle, Rt Hon Barbara|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Clemitson, Ivor|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)|
|Bates, Alf||Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Cohen, Stanley|
|Bean, R. E.||Buchan, Norman||Coleman, Donald|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Buchanan, Richard||Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Concannon, J. D.|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Corbett, Robin||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Radice, Giles|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Cronin, John||Judd, Frank||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Kaufman, Gerald||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Cryer, Bob||Kelley, Richard||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Kinnock, Neil||Rooker, J. W.|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Lambie, David||Roper, John|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Leadbitter, Ted||Rose, Paul B.|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Lee, John||Rowlands, Ted|
|Deakins, Eric||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Ryman, John|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Sandelson, Neville|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Lipton, Marcus||Selby, Harry|
|Dempsey, James||Litterick, Tom||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Doig, Peter||Lomas, Kenneth||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Loyden, Eddie||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Luard, Evan||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Edge, Geoff||McCartney, Hugh||Sillars, James|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||McElhone, Frank||Silverman, Julius|
|English, Michael||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Skinner, Dennis|
|Ennals, David||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Small, William|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Mackintosh, John P.||Snape, Peter|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Maclennan, Robert||Spearing, Nigel|
|Faulds, Andrew||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||McNamara, Kevin||Stallard, A. W.|
|Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)||Madden, Max||Stott, Roger|
|Flannery, Martin||Magee, Bryan||Strang, Gavin|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh)||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Marks, Kenneth||Swain, Thomas|
|Ford, Ben||Marquand, David||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Forrester, John||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Maynard, Miss Joan||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Meacher, Michael||Tierney, Sydney|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Tinn, James|
|George, Bruce||Mendelson, John||Tomlinson, John|
|Gilbert, Dr John||Mikardo, Ian||Tomney, Frank|
|Ginsburg, David||Millan, Bruce||Torney, Tom|
|Gould, Bryan||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Gourlay, Harry||Miller, Mrs. Millie (Ilford N)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Graham, Ted||Molloy. William||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Moonman, Eric||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Moyle, Roland||Ward, Michael|
|Hardy, Peter||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Watkins, David|
|Harper, Joseph||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Watkinson, John|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Newens, Stanley||Weetch, Ken|
|Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Noble, Mike||Weitzman, David|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Oakes, Gordon||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hatton, Frank||Ogden, Eric||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Hayman, Mrs Helene||O'Halloran, Michael||White, James (Pollok)|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Orbach, Maurice||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Hooley, Frank||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Horam, John||Ovenden, John||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Howell, Denis (B'ham Sm H)||Owen, Dr David||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Padley, Walter||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Huckfield, Les||Palmer, Arthur||Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)|
|Hughes, Rt Hon C (Anglesey)||Park, George||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Parker, John||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Parry, Robert||Woof, Robert|
|Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Pavitt, Laurie||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Peart, Rt Hon Fred||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Pendry, Tom|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Perry, Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jeger, Mrs Lena||Phipps, Dr Colin||Mr. John Elllis and|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Mr. David Stoddart.|
|Adley, Robert||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Alison, Michael||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Morgan, Geraint|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Gray, Hamish||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Arnold, Tom||Grieve, Percy||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Griffiths, Eldon||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|Baker, Kenneth||Grist, Ian||Neave, Airey|
|Banks, Robert||Grylls, Michael||Neubert, Michael|
|Beith, A. J.||Hall, Sir John||Newton, Tony|
|Bell, Ronald||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Nott, John|
|Bennett. Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Benyon,W.||Hampson, Dr Keith||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Hannam, John||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Biffen, John||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Pardoe, John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Mist||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Blaker, Peter||Hastings, Stephen||Pattle, Geoffrey|
|Body, Richard||Havers, Sir Michael||Penhaligon, David|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hawkins, Paul||Percival, Ian|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hayhoe, Barney||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Henderson, Douglas||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Heseltine, Michael||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Brittan, Leon||Higgins, Terence L.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Holland, Philip||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hooson, Emlyn||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hordern, Peter||Raison, Timothy|
|Buck, Antony||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Rathbone, Tim|
|Budgen, Nick||Howell, David (Guildford)||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Burden, F. A.||Hunt, John||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hurd, Douglas||Reid, George|
|Carr, Rt Hon Robert||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Channon, Paul||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Churchill, W. S.||James, David||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Jessel, Toby||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Clegg, Walter||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Cockcroft, John||Jopling, Michael||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Cope, John||Kershaw, Anthony||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Cordle, John H.||Kilfedder, James||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Cormack, Patrick||Kimball, Marcus||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Costain, A. P.||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Crawford, Douglas||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Critchley, Julian||Knight, Mrs Jill||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Crouch, David||Knox, David||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Lamont, Norman||Shepherd, Colin|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Lane, David||Shersby, Michael|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Sims, Roger|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lawrence, Ivan||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Durant, Tony||Lawson, Nigel||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Le Marchant, Spencer||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Emery, Peter||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Sproat, Iain|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Loveridge, John||Stainton, Keith|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Luce, Richard||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Eyre, Reginald||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||McCrindle, Robert||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Macfarlane, Neil||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Farr, John||MacGregor, John||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Fell, Anthony||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Stokes, John|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Madel, David||Tapsell, Peter|
|Fletcher, Alen (Edinburgh)||Marten, Neil||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Mates, Michael||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Mather, Carol||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C't'd)||Maude, Angus||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Fox, Marcus||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Freud, Clement||Mayhew, Patrick||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Trotter, Neville|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Mills, Peter||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Miscampbell, Norman||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Viggers, Peter|
|Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Moate, Roger||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Molyneaux, James||Wakeham, John|
|Goodhew, Victor||Monro, Hector||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Montgomery, Fergus||Wall, Patrick|
|Gorst, John||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Walters, Dennis|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Watt, Hamish||Wiggin, Jerry||Younger, Hon George|
|Weatherill, Bernard||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Wells, John||Winterton, Nicholas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Welsh, Andrew||Wood, Rt Hon Richard||Mr. Adam Butler and|
|Whitelaw, Rt Hon William||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)||Mr. Fred Silvester.|
2.—(1) The Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in two allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at Seven o'clock on the second of those days; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the Proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.
(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House their resolutions as to the Proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those Proceedings and Proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the second day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.
3.—(1) At a Sitting of the Standing Committee at which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the Proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.
(2) No Motion shall be made in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a Member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who makes, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.
(3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the Proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the period during which Proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under this paragraph, and the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall also be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on the Motion.
8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by the Standing Orders, he considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill or, if those Proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the completion of those Proceedings.
9.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith proceed to put the following Question (but no others), that is to say—
(3) If, at Seven o'clock on an allotted day, any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time have not been concluded, any Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) which, apart from this Order, would stand over to that time shall stand over until those Proceedings have been concluded.
(4) If a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over to Seven o'clock on an allotted day, or to any later time under sub-paragraph (3) above, the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day at any hour falling after the beginning of the Proceedings on the Motion shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on that Motion.
10.—(1) The Proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and the last foregoing paragraph shall apply as if the Proceedings were Proceedings on the Bill on an allotted day.
(2) If on an allotted day on which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.
11. Nothing in this Order or in a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee or the Business Committee shall
13.—(1) In this Order—
allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;
the Bill" means the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill;
Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the Business sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;
Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.