Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-Lines Bill (Allocation of Time)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th July 1975.

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Photo of Mr Peter Rost Mr Peter Rost , Derbyshire South East 12:00 am, 7th July 1975

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.