Motor Industry Reports (Availability)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th December 1975.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil 12:00 am, 15th December 1975

(by Private Notice) asked the Leader of the House whether, in order that they may be of some practical value for tomorrow's debate, he will publish before the House rises today the CPRS Survey of the motor industry and the Government's answer to the Expenditure Committee's Report on British Leyland?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Southwark Bermondsey

In the absence of my right hon. Friend, I have been asked to reply.

The CPRS Report will be available for the debate tomorrow. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] As to the Government's reply to the Select Committee's Report, I explained on 4th November that the Government had to decide the Chrysler issue before replying, and I now hope that it will be possible to make the Government's observations as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

First, when will the CPRS Report be available? I asked that it should be available today, and the right hon. Gentleman evaded that. Second, the Government's reply to the Expenditure Committee's Report has been awaited for a very long time, the need for both documents has been repeatedly acknowledged by the Government, and promises have been made. The right hon. Gentleman will, surely, be aware that there is a grave danger that both he and the Government will be taken as treating this problem and those involved in it in the motor industry with scant regard and treating Parliament with frivolity.

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Southwark Bermondsey

Only the right hon. Gentleman could have made such a silly observation as that. Plainly, the Chrysler situation, with its grave impact upon thousands and thousands of jobs—[Interruption.]—hon. Members should listen— warranted the most careful consideration by the Government. They have now given that careful consideration, and my right hon. Friend will make a statement tomorrow in the debate.

As regards the CPRS Report, I have to say that it will be available in the Library tomorrow at 11 o'clock, and publication of it will be as soon as my right hon. Friend has made his statement. On the question of the Select Committee's Report, it has been said again and again in the House—and I repeat it now—that the Government intended to make their statement on that Report after the Chrysler issue had been decided. The statement on Chrysler will be made tomorrow. It follows logically, therefore, does it not, that the Government's statement will be made after the Chrysler issue has been decided?

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that there will be only one copy in the Library, or what does he mean? I hope that he will clear that up. Perhaps I may add this: the right hon. Gentleman may think that he can hector his own Back Benchers, but the time has come when he should treat Parliament with proper respect.

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Southwark Bermondsey

Again, the right hon. Gentleman is living up to his usual standard of stupidity when he refers to me in those terms. He says that I hector. I do nothing of the sort. He asks whether there will be only one copy. Of course there will not be only one copy. I said "copies", in the plural. As far as I am concerned, that is the answer to the question.

Photo of Mr Patrick Duffy Mr Patrick Duffy , Sheffield, Attercliffe

Will the Patronage Secretary accept that, although I have hitherto always been in total sympathy with him, this reply is not good enough? [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] We are to have a report from what is, in effect, a Government Department but not the reply to a Report of a Committee of the House. Will the Patronage Secretary agree that Back-Bench Members will wish never again to see the Government delay a reply to a Back-Bench Committee's Report simply because it may be a little inconvenient or embarrassing, and will he bear in mind that a discourtesy to a Select Committee of the House is a discourtesy to the House as a whole?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Southwark Bermondsey

The cheers which my hon. Friend got from the Opposition were what he evidently sought. I put this to him: the Select Committee's Report was upon the car industry, and it made certain severe criticisms. That Report must be debated in the House—that I understand and accept—but I hope that my hon. Friend will understand that when the matter of Chrysler came up, as it did in these past few weeks, it was imperative that that matter should be settled before the Government gave observations in reply to the Select Committee on the overall position of the car industry. I should have thought that that was logical, honest and decent, and ought not to be described in the terms which my hon. Friend suggests.

Photo of Mr Richard Wainwright Mr Richard Wainwright , Colne Valley

The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the CPRS document is to be put in the Library tomorrow morning. Will it be the Report precisely as originally received from the CPRS or a revised version resulting from the CPRS being told to have second thoughts?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Southwark Bermondsey

What a nasty mind the hon. Gentleman has. The CPRS Report will be as it was given to the Government. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. Before we have further exchanges, may I remind the House of what is said in "Erskine May"—that good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

The CPRS Report as originally produced reached the Government some months ago. Last Thursday I asked the Leader of the House to put a copy in the Library on Friday so that hon. Members and, if necessary, the Press could know its contents before the debate. How comes it, since that Report has been in the Government's hands for some months and the Leader of the House was requested last Thursday to put a copy in the Library on Friday, that it can be made available in the Library only at 11 o'clock on the day of the debate?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Southwark Bermondsey

I can only tell the right hon. Gentleman that, after discussing the matter and making a decision, the Government decided to make this copy available tomorrow at 11 o'clock. The right hon. Gentleman will know that that is not an uncommon practice for Governments. There will be plenty of time to read the Report before the debate.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

Reverting to the matter of Select Committee Reports, does my right hon. Friend realise that it is not usual for any Government Department, of any party, to make a reply to any such Report within about six months, and that one of the Departments most blatantly to blame in this regard was a Department of the Government when the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) was a member of a Tory Government in his day? We had to wait months before we got replies from his Department. Will my right hon. Friend look into the speed with which Departments give replies to Select Committee Reports since one often has to wait six or seven months?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Southwark Bermondsey

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. Anything he may have to say about the past performances of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) would never surprise me.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. Many hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate tomorrow will be in Standing Committee or Select Committee in the morning and will not be able to go to the Library before one o'clock. Unless there are literally hundreds of copies in the Library, they will not be able to read the Report before Question Time begins at 2.30 p.m. Since the Librarian comes under your direction, Mr. Speaker, I must ask you to protect the rights of Members by issuing an instruction to the Librarian that, when he receives the report at 11 o'clock, he ensure immediately that 500 copies—no, 650 copies—are produced so that all hon. Members may obtain a copy and have an opportunity to read it before the debate begins. That is the only step which it lies within your power to take, Mr. Speaker, so that hon. Members may be properly prepared for the debate tomorrow afternoon.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware that the whole Expenditure Committee has laid on the Table a Report criticising the delay in replying to all its Reports—the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton)? But I fail to see how the delay in replying to one Report is related to Chrysler when none of the Reports we have laid since—

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. I do not detect a point of order in what the hon. Gentleman is saying.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Brighton, Pavilion

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that there is a widespread feeling on both sides of the House that it is rather unsatisfactory that we receive the information so very late, both as to what the CPRS thinks on the matter and as to the statement the Government will make about the Chrysler dispute. Would it not be possible for the usual channels to consider reversing the order of Wednesday's and Tuesday's business? Wednesday's business is of a general character, about unemployment, and there is no need for special preparation as there is for Tuesday's business on the motor car industry. May I put this suggestion to the House?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

The right hon. Gentleman has made his suggestion. We cannot debate the matter further today.

Later

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration and take precedence over the Orders of the Day, namely, the need to provide the House of Commons with the fullest possible information relevant to tomorrow's debate on the motor vehicle industry, including the CPRS Report, before the House rises today". In the exercise of your discretion, Mr. Speaker, I submit that the urgency of this matter justifies your ordering its consideration at 7 p.m. today. The issues involved have already been substantially ventilated in the course of Question Time, so I can be brief.

To the best of my knowledge several matters are to come before the House tomorrow which are concerned not just with one company—Chrysler—but with the whole British motor vehicle industry, the various component parts of which are inter-related, each part being affected by Government action in respect of any one of them. It is, therefore, of crucial importance that hon. Members should have time to read and consider the contents of a Report produced—at great public expense—by the Central Policy Review Staff so that both Government and Parliament can take fully into consideration the factors which appear in that Report before arriving at any policy decision.

Many hon. Members will be unable to give consideration to the Report—or even to read it—if they have to queue for an unspecified number of copies in the Library tomorrow, not when it becomes available at 11 o'clock but when their other parliamentary duties permit them to do so. Those who are serving on Standing Committees or Select Committees will not be able to do so until one o'clock. We do not know how many copies will be there provided or even whether we shall be allowed to remove them from the Library into the Chamber for reference during the debate.

This matter is of public importance because it represents a watershed in public policy on which the House must make its decision, and the contributions to the debate tomorrow need to be made on the basis of the fullest possible information rather than on the basis of hunch guess and hearsay.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. I must first give my ruling. I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) said and also to the earlier exchange. All I have to decide is whether I think it appropriate for this matter to be debated today under Standing Order No. 9. I am afraid that the answer is "No".

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Southwark Bermondsey

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am anxious to help the House. I understand that the phrase "put copies in the Library" is a formal term, but I undertake to see that copies are put in the Vote Office at 11 o'clock.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury for having been reasonably helpful and even moderately courteous.