Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he telephoned any of the British Telecom shareholders instead of sending them letters that invaded their privacy for the sake of party political propaganda? I have had letters from my new constituency in Devon, from professional people, objecting very much to this unsolicited mail. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there was any public expense involved in that, or was he behaving purely as a party-political hack?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has had complaints from professional people and, that being so, they are professional complainers. As Members of Parliament we have all known those in our time. Of course, facilities for the Government that are provided by the taxpayer are not used by the party. The two things are kept entirely and completely separate. The hon. Gentleman asked about invading privacy. There are many complaints about direct mail. For example, my friend the chairman of the National Union was a little disturbed the other day when he received a begging letter from Mr. John Pardoe asking for funds on behalf of the alliance.
A few years ago there were great queues to obtain telephones, but telephones are now freely and readily available and the service is very good. On the generality of the case, very few companies that have been privatised have not improved their performance. Perhaps the most marked improvement of all is in the National Freight Corporation, which was sold to its employees. I trust that the Opposition are not threatening to re-nationalise that, for a start.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on getting his lines right this time. Is he aware that there is considerable misgiving about the way in which he has used his dual offices—one party political and the other in government — to browbeat and bully people into being afraid of what an alternative Government would do to Telecom shares and at the same time asking for finance for his party? Is that not something that his Government and people in his job should avoid doing in future?
Come, come I think, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman is being a little silly about these things. All that I have done in any of the many offices that I hold is to make sure that the public are well aware of Opposition policies. Provided we stand on our record as a Government and set out the Opposition's policies as against ours, we shall have no problems whatever about walking the next general election, whenever it comes.
Would my right hon. Friend care to say whether any of the telephone conversations that he has had were with Langbaurgh town hall, where the police have been called in to investigate the activities of the Labour-controlled housing department? They were called in by the Labour leader of the council, who is one of seven deselected Labour councillors who will fight as individual Labour against official Labour in the local elections in just over a week's time.
Fortunately, I am not responsible for the Labour party's internal affairs. If I were, I should have to agree with the hon. Member, not for South Hams, but for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton), who, in the Daily Telegraph not so long ago criticised the intolerant and bigoted attitude of the Labour party, but that was when he was writing articles about why the Labour party must change, with the hon. Members for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) and for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) — somewhat peculiar company for the hon. Gentleman to keep.