Cruise Missiles (Referendum)

– in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 20th April 1983.

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Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru 3:32 pm, 20th April 1983

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for a referendum on whether cruise missiles should be located within the countries of Great Britain. No greater isue faces humanity than that of avoiding a nuclear war and securing a stable and permanent peace in which nuclear weapons have been abolished. All parties subscribe to that aim, although there are bitter differences about the means of securing such an objective.

I make it clear from the start that I am totally and unequivocally opposed to cruise missiles, and I seek a referendum on the issue so that the people may be able to veto the declared intention of this Government. The next general election may not take place — who knows?—until May 1984, and by then it will be too late. Later this year, the first of the 160 ground-launched cruise missiles that the United States intends to station in the countries of Britain will be located at Greenham Common, unless the Government can be persuaded to change course. These cruise missiles represent an infinitely more horrific version of the Nazi doodlebug, with a range of at least 1,500 miles and a speed of 0·7 mach. Each warhead will have the strength of 200 kilotonnes—10 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. In peace time, they will be held in the shelters currently being built at Greenham, but at a time of crisis they would be dispersed by road to hidden field locations 150 miles or more away from Greenham. With developing technology, those 150 miles will undoubtedly be stretched, and very soon it will be possible to deploy cruise missiles to virtually any field or forest on the British mainland.

The advantage of cruise missiles, as seen by the strategists, is that they are less vulnerable than fixed missile bases. The enemy would not know where to attack to knock them out. However, that very fact underlines the way in which cruise missiles make much more likely a general nuclear attack on the countries of Britain, rather than a limited attack aimed at knocking out retaliation bases. If an enemy thought there was no way of knowing from where cruise missiles would be fired, the logical response would be to hit Britain with everything at once, as a pre-emptive strike, and by multiple overkill to ensure that everything was knocked out. That is the horrendous nature of the escalation of the nuclear arms race that cruise missiles represent. They are not just a modernisation of existing weapons; they are a quantum jump. That is why there has been such a massive protest against them by the women of Greenham Common, to whom I pay tribute, and by people elsewhere on mainland Europe.

Cruise missiles were originally seen as a means of containing a war to the "European theatre". Some saw them as a means of giving a limited nuclear response to hold back the greater conventional strength of the Warsaw pact forces. That implies, of course, that NATO could be the first user of nuclear weapons in such a limited war—something which I believe is totally unacceptable to the vast majority of thinking people. We should commit ourselves irrevocably to not making the first strike with nuclear weapons, and to do that, we should not start down the road which makes such a declaration more difficult.

In any case, the strategy of a limited theatre war in Europe is utterly abhorrent. If either Soviet Russia or the United States of America thinks that it can have a mini-nuclear punch-up contained in Europe, it can think again. Other strategists have seen the deployment of cruise missiles in several European countries as a sort of "nuclear glue" that helps to cement the countries of Europe into the American strategic camp, ensuring no move towards European strategic independence and, in particular, towards a nuclear weapons-free Europe. That would be to freeze the cold war impasse. Perhaps the countries of Europe — I mean a broader Europe than just the European Community—should get together and tell both the Soviet Union and the United States that we want nothing of their missiles or their war machines. This is a challenge to European statesmen, and the cruise issue, given its European dimension, may be a suitable starting point for such a new strategy.

In recent months, we have heard some people argue that cruise missiles are objectionable on the ground that only President Reagan has his finger on the button. The implication is that the missiles would be acceptable if the Prime Minister also had her finger on a similar button. That I utterly reject, for to give a key to the Prime Minister who ordered the sinking of the Belgrano adds little to any confidence in the proposition that two cowboys are better than one.

I shall now say a word about a referendum to decide issues such as this. In Wales, as you know, Mr. Speaker, we have had some experience of referendums, and many of us have doubts about the methods of ensuring that referendums are fairly conducted. The Bill will spell out the exact form of the question that will be asked, and will draw up tight rules for the conduct of the referendum.

In certain circumstances, I believe that it is right that the people should be able to veto the intentions of a Government, particularly in a case such as this, when the decision was taken — by whichever Government —without reference to Parliament, when the Government of the day had no mandate on the issue, and when public opinion is against the Government's proposal and cuts across party lines.

In its 1979 general election manifesto, the Conservative party did not spell out its policy on cruise missiles. All it referred to was the importance of ensuring the continuing effectiveness of Britain's nuclear deterrent". That could mean anything or nothing. It is not a licence to permit cruise to be located in the countries of Britain.

As for public opinion, successive opinion polls have shown that the public are strongly against cruise missiles coming here. The Gallup poll survey a few months ago showed that 58 per cent. were against cruise missiles, while only 31 per cent. were in favour. Even among Tory voters there is a split down the middle, with four Tories opposed to cruise for every five who are in favour. In those circumstances, even the forthcoming general election can hardly be taken as giving a go-ahead on cruise missiles. In Wales, opinion is particularly strong, as might be expected in a country that last year declared itself to be a nuclear weapons-free area. In a recent house-to-house survey in a town in Gwynedd—in a Conservative-held constituency—78 per cent. of the people were against cruise missiles.

I have had a large volume of correspondence on the Bill and virtually every letter has been in favour of my proposal. The letters range from trade unionists and church denominations to the United Nations Association. The sponsors of the Bill include Labour, Liberal, SNP, SDP and Plaid Cymru members.

If a referendum is deemed to be suitable for issues such as the opening of pubs on Sundays, Welsh and Scottish assemblies, and the EEC, how much more important is it to have one on this infinitely more critical question before rushing to escalate nuclear tension. Many people will be looking to Parliament today to see which way their Member votes on this important issue. But whatever happens to the Bill today there are many hon. Members who are determined to turn every stone to ensure that cruise missiles do not come to Britain. If Parliament is unwilling to provide such a referendum we shall be seeking ways of undertaking a referendum ourselves, and other steps to block cruise missiles.

To my mind, nuclear war is not an acceptable policy option and the only way of being certain of avoiding nuclear war is to do away with nuclear weapons. No conceivable cause could justify the destruction which a nuclear war would bring about. Securing nuclear disarmament is the most vital issue before us today. Disarmament is not achieved by introducting new, expensive and more deadly nuclear weapons. It is obtained by first stopping, and then reversing, the nuclear spiral. By stopping cruise missiles, we shall be taking a first step in that process and I invite the House to show that they trust the people by giving leave for the introduction of the Bill.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I understand that the hon. Gentleman seeks to oppose.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch and Lymington

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I did not know whether the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) was going to make a speech about cruise missiles or a referendum or both. I assumed that it would be both. The House will not want to hear, and I shall not be able to make, a long speech. I have encapsulated in a short verse my feelings on this matter: 'Disarm,'" cried a cleric called Kent. The same message nice Andropov sent: 'Just lay down your arms,Embrace Socialist charms,Then wonder where your freedom went.' I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's arguments at all. He talks about a quantum jump, but if there is a quantum jump it is provided by the SS20s. I wonder whether, among the letters he has received from trade unionists, he has had one from Mr. Terry Duffy. Freedom is a word which is used often by those who have it but it has a very different meaning to those who do not. Freedom to Monsignor Kent is different from freedom to Archbishop Glemp. If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance in a nuclear age, that vigilance is expensive and I for one am prepared to pay the price of that vigilance.

I understand that pacifists will not fund freedom. I understand that one-sided disarmers will not fund freedom. The hon. Gentleman has put himself among them. However, I am willing to pay the price to maintain the freedom for which people have fought and died for this country.

The British people well understand, and they remember. They remember what happened in Hungary in 1956. They remember what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1958. More recently, they remember what happened in Afghanistan and what is happening now in Poland.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch and Lymington

Those countries have no independent deterrent and they have no freedom.

Nobody in his right mind wants war. What we are discussing is whether we are able to prevent war in the first place and the purpose of a deterrent is to deter.

CND and the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. Hon. Members must not shout from a sitting position.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch and Lymington

The hon. Gentleman makes my next point. CND and those who think like it are very happy to put forward their arguments. However, when the Secretary of State for Defence makes a proper, sensible and relevant point about the Berlin wall they become upset. The fact is that CND and people who think like the hon. Gentleman are the ones who believe in unilateral criticism: they believe that they have the right to criticise the Government's defence policy but they become angry when anyone criticises them. They show an arrogant assumption of a monopoly of morality and virtue when discussing these matters—which, of course, concern us all.

The hon. Gentleman said little about the referendum. He will recall that on 19 April 1978 he and I were in the same Lobby voting against a referendum on the Wales Bill — [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah "] On that occasion he, like me, believed that Parliament was the place where such issues should be decided. If we are to have a referendum, why does the hon. Gentleman think that it should be limited to the issue of cruise missiles? Many of my constituents would like a referendum on capital punishment. Who will decide the issues on which we should have a referendum? Perhaps we should have a referendum to decide on which issues we should have referendums.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that on 12 April 1938 there were two referendums, one in Austria and one in Germany, on the question of the annexation by Germany of Austria. The organiser of that little show was one Adolf Hitler and there was a 99 per cent. "yes" vote. That shows that, if one is not careful, referendums can be the tools of tyrants.

The hon. Gentleman does not only want a referendum: he wants the right to frame the question too. I have jotted down some notes. There are various ways of putting such a question. For example, one question might be: "Do you wish to encourage a nuclear war by the provocation of the peace-loving Soviet Union which would follow the stationing of cruise missiles in Britain?" Perhaps that is the way in which the hon. Gentleman would frame the question. Another way might be to ask: "Do you believe that it is sensible to defend ourselves from the fate that has overtaken Afghanistan by maintaining an effective deterrent against the missiles that the Russians have already installed against Europe? Or should we let the Russians think that we have lost the will to defend ourselves?"

Propaganda is all-important in the activities of CND and those who think like the hon. Gentleman. We have heard a great deal about the 40,000 women who arrived at Greenham common on Easter Saturday. But 46,000 turned up at White Hart lane two days later to see Spurs play Arsenal. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Who won?"] There was a fairly rough element among that lot, too. The hon. Gentleman says that those women are brave. They travelled all the way from Dorset to Hampshire, braving the Easter traffic. By God, it is a dereliction of our duty to the English language to call such people brave. I shall spend a lot of time here defending the right of such people to march, but do not try to tell me that those common women of Greenham are brave.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch and Lymington

There is now no need for them to pollute the countryside in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson). All they have to do now is to campaign for the Labour party and, presumably, Plaid Cymru, which is supporting CND policy.

The propaganda exercises continue. There is the disgraceful advertisement by CND about the £4,030,000 spent by the Ministry of Defence and the £23,000 spent by the CND. The figure of £4,030,000 which CND implies is spent on nuclear propaganda, is the entire public relations budget of the Ministry of Defence, including such things as displays at the Ideal Home exhibition, the boat show, in Hong Kong and Cyprus, and the cost of every public relations man from Catterick camp to Aldershot. To try to put it over to people that those figures are comparable is a disgraceful lie and nothing else.

I gather that there are only eight people in the Ministry of Defence whose activities are related to public relations on the Government's nuclear policy. There are 26 people working full time for CND on propaganda, but CND would have us believe that its total budget is £23,000. If it can employ 26 people for £23,000 it must be paying slave wages, which would perhaps be suitable for an organisation whose actions will enslave us all in thrall to the Soviet Union.

We are here as Members of Parliament to do what is right, not what is easy, cheap or popular. I finish as I began, with apologies to the House, with a few words of verse that I have penned: What's good for Scargill, Kent and Foot,For Ruddock and for BennIs good for Andropov, as wellAs Livingstone, our Ken.They'd vote for young Caernarvon's BillIf they could frame the question,But if you value freedom stillThen vote down this suggestion.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The House requires me to put the question now. I shall take the point of order afterwards.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and Nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):

The House divided: Ayes 87, Noes 253.

Division No. 121][3.50 pm
AYES
Abse, LeoAlton, David
Allaun, FrankAshton, Joe
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N)McKelvey, William
Bidwell, SydneyMcNally, Thomas
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertMcTaggart, Robert
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)McWilliam, John
Buchan, NormanMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Canavan, DennisMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Carmichael, NeilMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Coleman, DonaldMorton, George
Cowans, HarryOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)O'Brien, Oswald (Darlington)
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)Park, George
Cryer, BobParker, John
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)Parry, Robert
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)Pavitt, Laurie
Dixon, DonaldPenhaligon, David
Dunlop, JohnPitt, William Henry
Eastham, KenPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)Richardson, Jo
English, MichaelRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Ennals, Rt Hon DavidRoss, Ernest (Dundee West)
Flannery, MartinSever, John
Garrett, John (Norwich S)Short, Mrs Renée
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Silverman, Julius
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)Skinner, Dennis
Hardy, PeterSpellar, John Francis (B'ham)
Haynes, FrankSpriggs, Leslie
Healey, Rt Hon DenisStallard, A. W.
Home Robertson, JohnStewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Homewood, WilliamStott, Roger
Hoyle, DouglasTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Johnson, James (Hull West)Watkins, David
Kinnock, NeilWhite, Frank R.
Lambie, DavidWilson, William (C'try SE)
Lamond, JamesWinnick, David
Leighton, RonaldWright, Sheila
Lestor, Miss JoanYoung, David (Bolton E)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Litherland, RobertTellers for the Ayes:
Lofthouse, GeoffreyMr. Gordon Wilson and
McCartney, HughMr. Dafydd Wigley.
McKay, Allen (Penistone)
NOES
Adley, RobertBuck, Antony
Alexander, RichardBulmer, Esmond
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBurden, Sir Frederick
Ancram, MichaelButcher, John
Atkins, Robert (Preston N)Campbell-Savours, Dale
Atkinson, David (B'm'th,E)Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Baker, Kenneth (St. M'bone)Cartwright, John
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Banks, RobertChapman, Sydney
Beith, A. J.Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Bendall, VivianClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Benyon, Thomas (A'don)Clegg, Sir Walter
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Cockeram, Eric
Berry, Hon AnthonyCope, John
Bevan, David GilroyCorrie, John
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnCostain, Sir Albert
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnCrouch, David
Blackburn, JohnDickens, Geoffrey
Blaker, PeterDorrell, Stephen
Bonsor, Sir NicholasDouglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Boscawen, Hon RobertDover, Denshore
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Boyson, Dr RhodesDunn, Robert (Dartford)
Bradley, TomDurant, Tony
Braine, Sir BernardDykes, Hugh
Bright, GrahamEden, Rt Hon Sir John
Brinton, TimEdwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Brittan, Rt. Hon. LeonEggar, Tim
Brooke, Hon PeterEllis, Tom (Wrexham)
Brotherton, MichaelEmery, Sir Peter
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n)Eyre, Reginald
Browne, John (Winchester)Fairgrieve, Sir Russell
Bryan, Sir PaulFaith, Mrs Sheila
Farr, JohnMartin, M (G gow S'burn)
Fenner, Mrs PeggyMather, Carol
Fisher, Sir NigelMawby, Ray
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Forman, NigelMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMayhew, Patrick
Fox, MarcusMills, Iain (Meriden)
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir HughMiscampbell, Norman
Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Moate, Roger
Freud, ClementMonro, Sir Hector
Fry, PeterMontgomery, Fergus
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Gardner, Sir EdwardMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Garel-Jones, TristanMorrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Glyn, Dr AlanMudd, David
Goodhew, Sir VictorMurphy, Christopher
Goodlad, AlastairNeale, Gerrard
Gorst, JohnNeedham, Richard
Gow, IanNelson, Anthony
Gower, Sir RaymondNeubert, Michael
Grant, Sir AnthonyNewton, Tony
Gray, Rt Hon HamishOsborn, John
Greenway, HarryPage, John (Harrow, West)
Grieve, PercyPage, Richard (SW Herts)
Griffiths, E.(B'y St. Edm'ds)Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)Parris, Matthew
Grist, IanPawsey, James
Gummer, John SelwynPercival, Sir Ian
Hamilton, Hon A.Pink, R. Bonner
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Pollock, Alexander
Hannam, JohnPorter, Barry
Haselhurst, AlanPowell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Hastings, StephenPrentice, Rt Hon Reg
Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelPrice, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Hawkins, Sir PaulPrior, Rt Hon James
Hawksley, WarrenProctor, K. Harvey
Hayhoe, BarneyPym, Rt Hon Francis
Henderson, BarryRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hicks, RobertRathbone, Tim
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Holland, Philip (Carlton)Rees-Davies, W. R.
Hordern, PeterRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyRidley, Hon Nicholas
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)Rifkind, Malcolm
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hunt, David (Wirral)Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Rossi, Hugh
Irvine, RtHon Bryant GodmanRost, Peter
Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickRoyle, Sir Anthony
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Jessel, TobySainsbury, Hon Timothy
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelSt. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithSandelson, Neville
Kaberry, Sir DonaldShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Kershaw, Sir AnthonyShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knight, Mrs JillShepherd, Richard
Knox, DavidShersby, Michael
Lamont, NormanSilvester, Fred
Lang, IanSims, Roger
Lawrence, IvanSkeet, T. H. H.
Lawson, Rt Hon NigelSmith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Lee, JohnSmith, Sir Dudley
Le Marchant, SpencerSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lester, Jim (Beeston)Speed, Keith
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Rutland)Speller, Tony
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Loveridge, JohnSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. DicksonSproat, Iain
Macfarlane, NeilSquire, Robin
MacGregor, JohnStanbrook, Ivor
MacKay, John (Argyll)Stanley, John
Macmillan, Rt Hon M.Steel, Rt Hon David
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
McQuarrie, AlbertStokes, John
Madel, DavidStradling Thomas, J.
Major, JohnTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Marland, PaulTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Marten, Rt Hon NeilTemple-Morris, Peter
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.Wellbeloved, James
Thomas, Rt Hon PeterWells, John (Maidstone)
Thompson, DonaldWheeler, John
Thornton, MalcolmWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)Whitney, Raymond
Trippier, DavidWiggin, Jerry
Wakeham, JohnWilkinson, John
Waldegrave, Hon WilliamWinterton, Nicholas
Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.Wolfson, Mark
Waller, GaryYounger, Rt Hon George
Walters, Dennis
Ward, JohnTellers for the Noes:
Warren, KennethMr. Neil Thorne and
Watson, JohnMr. Peter Viggers.
Weetch, Ken

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Mr Michael Hamilton Mr Michael Hamilton , Salisbury 4:02 pm, 20th April 1983

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that an hon. Member of this House obtained tickets to the Gallery for a party that has just caused a demonstration. I should be grateful if you felt able to inquire into that.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

As a matter of form, when there has been trouble from another part of the building I always look to see on whose ticket it was, if a Member brought people in. I think that it is right and proper that that should be known.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was somewhat surprised, as you may have been also, at the very large attendance on the Conservative Benches and the large Conservative vote. I raise this on a point of order as I suspect — indeed, I know — that there was a Whip out for 3.30 pm. On a private Member's Bill, it is the tradition if not the rule that there should be no whipping. Do you think that it is in order for the rule, or at least the tradition, to be broken on this occasion?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I am afraid that there is nothing that I can say about that because any Whips circulating, official or unofficial, are always beyond my knowledge.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that you will not allow the House to be misled by the suggestion that the surprise was all on one side of the House when so few Labour Members took part in the Division.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

That is not a point of order.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would you and the House care to speculate on what would happen to the so-called peace women if they attempted a similar demonstration in the Soviet Union or other Communist countries?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

No, I shall not be tempted by the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Jock Stallard Mr Jock Stallard , Camden St Pancras North

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I assure you that I am not interested in what you would do if people complained in the Soviet Union. I appreciate that that is outside your jurisdiction.

You will recall that on a previous occasion when some women were evicted from the Gallery there was discussion about the imprisonment of some of them in Westminster hall and the punishment meted out to them during the day. They had to remain here until 10.30 pm, cooped up in a small room upstairs. [Interruption.] I have no intention of appealing to the compassion of Conservative Members. As a number of children are involved on this occasion, I hope that when the trial takes place some time this afternoon that fact will be borne in mind and the ladies released as soon as possible to rejoin their children in the Lobby.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I should say to the House and to anyone who hears us that I take a very serious view indeed of anyone trying to hold up the proceedings of Parliament. This is the heart of our democracy. Whatever demonstrations take place, they should not be such as to try to prevent the House from getting on with its business. I have had a report about ladies being detained. I have not heard any report about children, but I shall look into the matter. I must say, however, that we have one rule for anyone who disturbs this House and it must apply to all.