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Mr. Adley : I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is a kind and compassionate man. In view of what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has said, I am concerned that it may be argued that the Opposition Chief Whip is not in control of the troops on his own Benches. That has serious implications for this House and the parliamentary procedures which we all follow. I wonder if my hon. Friend would like to turn his mind to that point.
Mr. Marlow : You are right, of course, Mr. Speaker. I am afraid that my hon. Friend was being a little uncharitable. I am sure that the Opposition Chief Whip has total control over his party. The difficulty is knowing what proportion and what part of the Labour party he has control over.
The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) said that, if I were to sit down--my hon. Friends having made their points and Opposition Members having spoken on this important writ, because I am sure that many other Opposition Members wish to make a contribution--
The hon. Member for Cynon Valley said that she wanted me to sit down so that the Opposition could tell us about housing policy. We have now embarked upon an important debate, and it may take a significant amount of time. What will not take a significant amount of time is telling the House about the Labour party's housing policy.
Mr. Favell : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, which I believe he has just done. Has it escaped his notice that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who is opposing this motion, is a Member of the Scottish Labour party? Does he welcome his intervention, as I do, in what is essentially English business, just as English Members try to participate in Scottish business?
Mr. Marlow : That is an important point. As you remind us--often quite rightly--Mr. Speaker, we all stand or sit here as Members of Parliament for the United Kingdom, and we are proud to do so. It is important that Members of Parliament for the United Kingdom are involved in debates on all subjects concerning the whole of the United Kingdom. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing that point to my attention.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) stated in his all-too- brief intervention that the Labour party was concerned because of its defence policy. It was concerned about the date of the writ being moved, and the by-election coming forward, because the Labour party had not quite worked out its defence policy. Members of the Labour party
Column 308have gone to Russia to sort out the party's defence policy ; the party has received its orders from Russia ; but it has not yet put its defence policy together.
Mr. Marlow : I am sure you will acknowledge, Mr. Speaker, that Catterick camp, one of the foremost military camps, is located right in the centre of the Richmond constituency. Defence, therefore, will be on everybody's tongue throughout the by-election campaign. It is an issue which is of the essence. I am sure that it will feature strongly and prominently throughout the whole campaign. If the writ is moved today to the date which my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary has suggested, it will be a relatively short campaign. One might almost say that defence is such an important issue in that constituency that one should be concerned that it is such a short campaign. Labour party's policy on defence is so obscure, convoluted and changing by the day that not only would it take a long time for the Labour party to sort out its approach to that policy, but it would take even longer to explain it.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : As defence is so important to the electorate of Richmond, I wonder whether they listened to the Labour spokesman on Sunday, who outlined a policy that bore no resemblance to Labour party policy. Which is the official policy?
Mr. Marlow : Normally my hon. Friend is extremely charitable--we all try to be charitable about people in difficulties and we particularly try to be charitable about the Labour party. This is an opportunity for the Labour party to clarify its policy on defence before the by-election takes place. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne cogently said earlier on, the time afforded for such clarification is not long enough.
Defence is one of the many policies which will be debated and discussed during the forthcoming by-election, if the motion is carried today. The constituents of Richmond will also need to know about education policy.
Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield) : Does the hon. Gentleman also agree that one of the issues that must be discussed before the by-election is our attitude to Europe, particularly prior to 1992? Bearing in mind the history of the ex-Member of Parliament for Richmond, Yorks who is now the Commissioner in Europe, does he believe that Europe will come to the fore during the by-election? The hon. Gentleman and I are members of the Select Committee on European Legislation, a sitting of which started 21 minutes ago. Does he not believe that he should wind up his contribution to get this matter out of the way so that we may both go upstairs to fulfil our duties?
Mr. Marlow : I second the hon. Gentleman about the importance of Europe and later in my speech I intend to develop my thoughts on that at greater length than I have done thus far. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about the sitting of the Select Committee on European Legislation, which was supposed to start 21 minutes ago. The hon. Gentleman would like to be there, as would many of us. It has been suggested that-- [Interruption.] What is going on on the Opposition Benches, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker : Order. I do not think it matters what is going on on the Opposition Benches. The hon. Gentleman should keep to the question about the Richmond writ being moved ; that is what should be going on.
Mr. Marlow : Yes, but messages have been passed. I suppose that those messages were not from you, Mr. Speaker, but originated from some other power within the House. That is fine. There is a problem. Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh) rose--
Someone has suggested that it may be possible to suspend the sitting of the European Select Committee until such time as this particular issue has been debated. I do not know whether there is a procedure to do so. Is that possible, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Holt : I am grateful to my hon. Friend giving way, as the discussion of European elections gives me the opportunity to discuss the attitude of the Labour party in the neighbouring constituency to mine, which has a Conservative Member of Parliament. What will be the Labour party candidate's attitude at the forthcoming by-election given that in the north-east we fought the two previous general elections on the Labour party's desire to come out of Europe?
Mr. Marlow : May I gently and mildly reprimand my hon. Friend for trying to lead me down a path other than that of righteousness? What he raised is certainly something to which I should not refer at this stage in the debate.
I have already told the House about the problems inherent in the Richmond by-election and in conducting it within a short period of time. One policy of particular importance to Richmond, as it is to my constituency, is education. The Labour party has no defence policy to put before the people of Richmond and I believe that it has no education policy to put before them. Perhaps that is why the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was called upon to move the writ, so as possibly to delay the holding of the by -election. We do not know, but perhaps we should be told. If the Labour party has no proper policy on education, how can it face the electorate of Richmond?
I will take another example out of the hat. Yesterday, we had an extremely important statement from my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health. He set out a brilliant, new, exciting, stimulating and revolutionary policy for improving the Health Service of this country and, among the health services of this country, obviously the health service of Richmond figured prominently in his mind. He wants to improve the health services available to the people of Richmond. Various questions were put by Opposition Members, we had leaks by the Opposition, smothering tactics and misleading statements by the Opposition, but we have had no policy
Column 310from the Opposition. That is the problem. Probably that is another reason why the hon. Member for Linlithgow was called upon to make his speech--because the Labour party does not want the by-election to take place until it has a positive policy on health, education and defence. On that basis, it will be an extremely long time before it is ready to take a by-election in Richmond.
Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch) : I was constrained to join briefly in this debate only by the confirmation by my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) that the Settle-Carlisle railway line runs along the boundary of the constituency.
Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland) rose --
Mr. Adley : This is a serious matter, because the people of Richmond may believe that the Government's decision on whether to keep open the Settle-Carlisle railway line is determined by the timing of the by- election. Therefore, this is an appropriate opportunity to say a few words. I am sure that the hon. Members for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) recognise the relevance of that issue to the by -election and will join me in hoping that, somehow, the holding of the by- election will help to convince the Government of the absolute necessity of retaining that railway line. I am confident that my right hon. and learned Friend the Patronage Secretary, who never speaks, will be silently nodding his head as the River Ribble rises in his constituency.
Mr. Neil Hamilton rose --
Mr. Marlow rose --
Mr. Adley : My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) feels constrained to intervene in my speech, which he thought was an intervention in his speech, but which Mr. Speaker believes is a speech on its own account. I shall give way later to my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton, on the assumption that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North does not wish to make an intervention in what he thought was an intervention in his speech.
I am waiting to decide how to vote on this motion by determinig whether it is better for the people of Richmond, who want to see the Settle-Carlisle line retained, to have a by-election or whether to allow the Government a pregnant pause for thought before that by-election. Perhaps we should restrain our enthusiasm for this by-election. The Government must reach a decision on the future of that railway line by May, and they might be further and better pressurised by not having the by-election and by not moving the writ today.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : I am sure that the House will have great sympathy with my hon. Friend about the possible closure of the Settle- Carlisle railway line. On the question of closures, did my hon. Friend note, a moment ago, that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) shortly intends to move the closure of the debate? Considering that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) instigated the debate in the first place because he believes that the Government have gagged discussion of Westland and so on, does my hon. Friend agree that it is rather extraordinary that his colleague, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, is pursuing the same tactics of which he falsely accuses the Government?
Mr. Adley : I agree with my hon. Friend. It shows, first, that Labour Members have a contempt for democracy, and, secondly, that they have no real interest in the outcome of the Richmond by-election. Perhaps that answers the point that my hon. Friend made so eloquently.
Mr. Conway : I am sure that my hon. Friend will accept that some hon. Members may believe that some off-the-wire filibuster has begun. That is not the case, because some of us have prepared speeches for the housing debate which we hope will follow, and if you, Mr. Speaker, were gracious enough to call me, I would wish to make that speech. Some of us did want, if an early closure motion was not moved, to contribute to the debate. Those of us who have a personal knowledge of Richmond, where my wife went to school and where I did some military training, wished to talk about the excellent constituents who live there. The filibuster was begun by Labour Members who spoke about everything but Richmond and has been continued by the Conservative Members who want to let the electors of Richmond know how concerned and aware we are of their life styles and their interests.
Mr. Holt : I want to remind my hon. Friend about a recent occasion when an Opposition Member spoke on this writ for about three hours. One of the subjects that was vital to that debate was the weather in the area. As I represent the next-door constituency, and live there, I would be able to make a considerable contribution about the weather if the debate were allowed to continue. I remind the House that at that time Mr. Deputy Speaker ruled that, as long as sufficient hon. Members wanted to speak and stood up, the debate would not be curtailed except by the Chair. Therefore, I hope that, when my hon. Friend has sat down, I will have the opportunity to speak at great length on the weather in the area at the moment and the likely weather pattern over the next few weeks leading up to the by- election.
Mr. Adley : In a moment. I should like to comment on an eloquent and eminently acceptable speech made by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bolsover is hiding his head in his hands at the thought of receiving compliments from me, but he is also a supporter of the Settle-Carlisle railway line, so I hope that he will not mind my mentioning his eloquent speech.
Column 312As I have a meeting with my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport at 5 o'clock to discuss the future of the Settle-Carlisle railway line, you, Mr. Speaker, my hon. Friends and Opposition Members will be pleased to know that I shall not continue my speech for much longer.
Mr. Favell : I understand my hon. Friend to be suggesting either that the writ should not be moved until he has received from the Government a decision satisfactory to him about the Settle-Carlisle railway line, or alternatively he intends to continue speaking until such a decision has been taken. Is he really suggesting what is now known in Labour party annals in Yorkshire as doing a Humber bridge?
Mr. Adley : I was going to go straight from the Stockport viaduct to the Ribblehead viaduct, which is the main physical feature of the Settle- Carlisle railway line. Many people in the Richmond parliamentary constituency hope that the railway line stays open and are extremely concerned about that great listed structure immediately adjoining their constituency. I hope that the candidates in the by-election, when it is declared, will turn their minds to the importance of the retention of that line.
At the moment, British Rail is seeking permission to close the line, but the Government have put British Rail in charge of co-ordinating efforts to keep the line open. To my mind, that is rather like inviting Genghis Khan to become the general manager of a refugee camp. Therefore, I very much hope that candidates in the Richmond by-election will give the future of the Settle-Carlisle railway line their absolute priority. By a quirk of legislative fate, the Manpower Services Commission is unable to provide assistance to British Rail, as it is a nationalised industry.
One reason why the future of the Settle-Carlisle railway line is in jeopardy is the state of the Ribblehead viaduct. Over the years, British Rail has exaggerated the cost of repairing the viaduct and is unable to take advantage of the Manpower Services Commission funds because British Rail is a nationalised industry.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : Is my hon. Friend aware that one of my constituents has been instrumental in trying to preserve one of the arches of that viaduct in which the people of Richmond have a legal interest?
Mr. Holt : I was saying that one of the matters which will be germane in Richmond will be whether the A1 road which goes right through the constituency should be made into a motorway. That is of vital importance for the people of Richmond. My hon. Friend would do well to balance his remarks about the railway by considering the needs of road traffic, as the two matters are very much complementary.
My hon. Friend may have heard my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister respond to my question yesterday. I asked her to instruct the Department of Transport to reconsider the comparative criteria which that Department uses in assessing the costs of and benefits to the nation of road versus rail transport. I certainly hope that the candidates in the Richmond by-election will take my point. I do not know the budget of the north Yorkshire constabulary in whose area the Richmond constituency lies. The budget of the Dorset constabulary is £40 million a year. The chief constable does not know, because he has never been invited to find out, what proportion of his budget has to be spent on costs involving roads and road traffic offences. An enormous proportion of any chief constable's budget involves not only policing accidents but dealing with offences, attending court and administration. I am quite sure that the situation in north Yorkshire is exactly the same as that in Dorset. How can any Government accurately assess road versus rail costs unless items such as the policing costs of road traffic and road transport are taken into account?
Mr. Marlow rose --
Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield) rose --
Mr. Adley : While I welcome my hon. Friends' views, in view of my appointment at the Department of Transport, I shall not give way. I would be abusing my position if I were to give way. You, Mr. Speaker, asked me to come to the point about the timing of the by-election. I am not certain whether the future of the Settle-Carlisle railway line is best preserved by an early by-election or a later by-election. In view of the timing of the decision by the Department of Transport in May as to the future of the railway line, it may be better if the by-election is postponed and left hanging over the Government's head until they have made that decision. That is the purpose of my brief intervention in the debate.
Mr. Foster rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
Question put, That the Question be now put :--
The House divided : Ayes 344, Noes 6.
Division No. 69] [4.39 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Column 314Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)
Beith, A. J.
Bevan, David Gilroy
Biffen, Rt Hon John
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Browne, John (Winchester)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Buck, Sir Antony
Buckley, George J.
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Cope, Rt Hon John
Cunningham, Dr John
Currie, Mrs Edwina
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Duffy, A. E. P.
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Emery, Sir Peter
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Fookes, Dame Janet
Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Fox, Sir Marcus
Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Godman, Dr Norman A.
Goodhart, Sir Philip
Gower, Sir Raymond
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hampson, Dr Keith
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Heffer, Eric S.
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Home Robertson, John
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)