Business of the House

Part of Orders of the Day — Adjournment (Spring) – in the House of Commons at 10:18 pm on 25th May 1982.

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Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry 10:18 pm, 25th May 1982

No. Given the occasion I would defend those actions. As a Treasury Minister I was a party to them. I am certain that that, along with all the other considerations, will be properly and fully debated. As I say, I look forward to that proceeding in the months ahead.

May I make one final point on the question of the railway workshops? The hon. Member for Derby, North spoke as though it were a debate by proxy for one that might have been. I was sensitive to the comments that he made. I hope that when we return from the recess the pressures on debating time that have inevitably resulted from the Falkland crisis will be eased so that there will be some early allocation of Supply time for the debating of those issues that are of rising concern on the Opposition Benches.

We have had a traditional debate, ranging from the personal questions of Mrs. Tait and the important general proposition that can be deduced from such individual circumstances to the railway workshops and the National Health Service. However, the Falkland issue is the one that overshadows all others.

The speech made by the hon. Member for Walsall, North on the Falkland issue was challenging, radical and, broadly speaking, aggressive. That is as it should be. It was always intended that in Parliament, even in circumstances such as this, the voice of dissent should never be snuffed out. If the hon. Gentleman believes that there is a scheme for a snap election which could be exploited to the benefit of the Treasury Bench, one flippant reply is that I simply do not believe that the Conservative Central Office could seize the opportunity even if it were pressed firmly into its hands.

A more serious reply is that that kind of analysis really derives from British society as it was two generations ago. Perhaps in the spirit of Mafeking, the Boer War and so on, such an analysis could be made. It could be said that a certain pattern of political behaviour could then be traced. It is unthinkable that there could be any attempt to politicise the South Atlantic conflict by trying to secure some quick electoral advantage. May we lay that ghost, because there are many more real things that we can argue about?

Perhaps the most damning comment that I can make to the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) is that he made a speech that was characteristically thoughtful and absolutely in the spirit of dissent that must be accepted and accommodated within our society. I shall certainly ensure that all of his points are put to the Foreign Office. He mentioned the problems of political instability in Argentina, and they are just the type of issues that deserve the consideration of the House.

The hon. Member for West Lothian will probably still have opportunities to contribute to debates on this issue in the weeks ahead. I shall try to secure opportunities for him to conduct his campaign of dissent, but—to invert Voltaire—I would defend to the death my right to disagree with him.