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Point of Order

3.31 pm

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that, some weeks ago, the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) raised the issue of the six Conservative Members who have been identified as a security risk by the Security Service. You will recall also that I have raised this matter repeatedly--at column 866 on 24 January, column 1041 on 25 January, columns 1185 and 1204 on 26 January and column 122 on 30 January. You have given me rulings on this matter several times. The first time you advised me to go to the Leader of the House. He told me that he could not answer questions on matters of security. I accept the answer that he gave me. You then ruled on a further point of order which I raised with you, and said that I should take the matter to the Procedure Committee. I went to the Procedure Committee, and I have to advise you of its reply. It said :

"It was the unanimous view of the Procedure Committee that in no way could consideration of this, or any matters concerned with security, fall under the normal interpretation of the terms of reference of our Committee."

You will understand, Mr. Speaker, that my case has always been that if Members of Parliament are not fit to be Ministers because they cannot be trusted with classified material, which was the effect of the statement made by the hon. Member for Thanet, South, members of Select Committees who may have been subject to the same scrutiny should not have access to classified information. I have identified in the Chamber at least two Committees to which classified material is made available. Indeed, this afternoon, in the Public Accounts Committee, we shall once again be examining classified material. May I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that we need a ruling whereby this matter can be opened up?

As you will understand, I am not satisfied if some Members of this House whom the security services do not regard as trustworthy are to be given access to classified material. We know that at the moment there are six such Members. We know not who they are ; we know only that they are Conservatives, and in saying so, I am not scoring political points-- [Interruption.] It was the hon. Member for Thanet, South who said that these six Conservative Members had been identified by the security services.

All I want is a ruling whereby we can move forward. Will you please consider this matter, Mr. Speaker, and tell me to which Committee I can go next to have it examined further?

Mr. Speaker : I do not think I can help the hon. Member. I have given him two suggestions, but, as he well knows, it is not my role to indulge in giving advice as to tactics. I can only suggest that he might now seek to win time for a private Member's motion, which might enable him to develop the matter further. I cannot give a ruling on something over which I have no authority.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : You suggest, Mr. Speaker, that I should seek to win time for a private Member's motion in a ballot of potentially 640 Members, to deal with an urgent matter concerning Committees of this House. However, today, and over the next few weeks, classified material will be examined. Surely it is wrong for the House to have to wait for some form of adjudication on these

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matters. That material may fall into the hands of Members whom the security services have identified as unreliable. This is a matter for the House of Commons, not for the Government, and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to give us a ruling as to which Committee we can go to next.

Mr. Speaker : The hon. Member must pursue this with the Leader of the House. He cannot pursue it with me ; it is not a matter for me. He has taken it to the Select Committee, which has said that it is unable to deal with it. I cannot deal with it either.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Mr. Speaker, you could advise me--

Mr. Speaker : I cannot, and there is no point in the hon. Gentleman's pursuing the matter. I have no authority to do it.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : In your reply, Mr. Speaker, you referred to the need for me to go to the Leader of the House. The Leader of the House has said :

"The hon. Gentleman knows the answer that he will get. I am not prepared to comment on matters of security, but, as the hon. Gentleman will be well aware, it is ultimately for the House to decide on membership of Select Committees."--[ Official Report, 26 January 1989 ; Vol. 145, c. 1185.]

The House cannot decide upon this matter because the House does not have information as to who these six Conservative Members of Parliament are-- nor, indeed, does the Committee of Selection. We cannot just allow this matter to fall by the wayside. It is important. We are talking about classified material. We are talking about information relating to defence contracts, perhaps even contracts such as the one on which you, Mr. Speaker, had to rule a year and a half ago--the Zircon project. How do we know that those six Conservative Members of Parliament do not have access to that information? We know that they could not get it as Ministers, because, according to the hon. Member for Thanet, South, their appointments were blocked by the security services. I am trying to find out--

Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Member is taking up private Members' time. This matter arose in a speech made by the hon. Member for Thanet, South, (Mr. Aitken). I have no idea whether the hon. Member was right or wrong. What he said was his responsibility not mine. I have no authority to do as the hon. Gentleman wishes me to do. He must find ways of pursuing this matter other than through the Chair.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : There is another way that I can pursue the matter, but the problem is that because I do not have a name and therefore cannot approach one of the Members, perhaps privately, to make a complaint to the Select Committee on Privileges, I am not in a position to press the matter. You could advise the Select Committee on Privileges to examine this matter in a general sense without any Member having to lodge a complaint.

Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman knows the rules about that. If he maintains that it is a matter of privilege, he should raise it in the appropriate manner, which is to write to me about it. Before he does so, however, I have to say to him that I cannot be held responsible for what hon. Members may allege in the Chamber, provided that what they say is in order. The hon. Gentleman is being very unfair to his colleagues by

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taking time out of private business. [Interruption.] There may come a day when he finds himself in a similar position.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : You say that the hon. Member for Thanet, South made a statement that perhaps was unsubstantiated. He said : "Just in case Labour Members think that these kinds of mistakes are totally confined to their side of the House and to Labour Prime Ministers, they may perhaps be interested to know that I was told reliably".--[ Official Report, 17 January 1989 ; Vol. 145 c. 190.] The hon. Gentleman said "reliably," so it was not a question of conjecture. He made a specific allegation.

Mr. Speaker : Order. Very frequently hon. Members allege that they have reliable information and very frequently it turns out to be highly unreliable.

Mr. Campbell-Savours rose --

Mr. Speaker : Order. I do not intend to hear any more about this matter.

Mr. Campbell-Savours rose --

Mr. Speaker : I have already told the hon. Gentleman that I do not intend to hear any more about this matter.

Mr. Campbell-Savours rose --

Mr. Speaker : I have already dealt with the matter.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : I am dealing with classified material.

Mr. Speaker : Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : I am dealing with classified material.

Mr. Speaker : Again I ask the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat. Mr. Campbell-Savours rose--

Mr. Speaker : If the hon. Gentleman will not resume his seat, I shall have to ask him to leave the Chamber for the rest of this day's sitting.

Mr. Campbell-Savours rose--

Mr. Speaker : Order. I order the hon. Member to leave the House for the remainder of this day's sitting.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Am I being asked to leave the Chamber?

Mr. Speaker : Yes.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : I shall be back.

The hon. Member then withdrew.

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Moral Values

3.41 pm

Sir Hal Miller (Bromsgrove) : I beg to move,

That this House recognises the different but complementary roles of the Church and State in our society ; and calls on all sections of the Church, including that by law established, to fulfil their leading role in the promotion of moral values.

I move this motion with some diffidence, as I have no wish, nor is it any part of my purpose, to give offence. I am conscious that I am one of the frailer vessels on the Ecclesiastical Committee and I am most grateful that other hon. Members are to take part in the debate. I very much regret the absence of the Ecclesiastical Committee members. The Committee is to meet the archbishops later today. In particular I regret the absence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) who has provided me with much help, encouragement and information, and who, I know, wished to take part in the debate. I acknowledge also my debt to the Earl of Lauderdale and my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer). None of them wishes, of course, to take any responsibility for my remarks.

All four of us are members of an organisation called Church In Danger, but the debate purposely goes wider than the Church of England, as is recognised by the presence of the Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten) who I am sure will lend wit, wisdom and a wider perspective to our deliberations. Despite the advice and fears of many of my hon. Friends about my temerity in raising the subject, I felt that I should take this opportunity to air matters that have been giving me cause for much concern.

Dame Elaine Kellet-Bowman (Lancaster) : And many others, too.

Sir Hal Miller : The origin of the concern in my own case is the growing perception that Church spokesmen are speaking with a great deal of certainty in the realm of politics but with increasing uncertainty in the realm of things of the spirit. Thus, in the past year one diocesan newsletter in my diocese was headed "Tax Cuts are Immoral". Another was devoted to a consideration of our nuclear defence policy. Other bishops have attacked the deregulation of buses and the proposals that schools should opt out of local authority control and, most recently, I heard one bishop looking forward to attacking the proposals in the White Paper on health.

I am not, of course, objecting to the clergy's right to have political views or to express them, but they should not express those political views in their guise as clergymen or bishops, with the sacred authority thus implied. In other words, I do not believe that they have the right to speak on such matters from the pulpit or the throne. I find it odd and offensive that clerical spokesmen can, apparently, deny the basic beliefs of the creed, contemplate the ordination of divorced people--I speak as a divorced person--and purport to celebrate homosexual marriages.

It seems that the church is becoming a battleground--I nearly said playground--for activists with distinctively minority views. Labour Members are only too panfully aware, as reselection looms, of what that involves, and the Synod of the Church of England is in danger of attempting to give some of those views an elective authority that

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cannot stand comparison with the authority of this House. We ceded authority to the Synod to manage Church affairs without interference from the House, not to run political campaigns, however sincerely felt. I shall come back to the question of establishment later. I have been a Member of Parliament for 15 years, during which time I have seen at least three political theories in action. I ask myself how the Church can safely abandon the eternal for the obviously temporal.

Mr. William Powell (Corby) : Will my hon. Friend give way?

Sir Hall Miller : No, as I am still in my introductory phase. This apparent increase in the Church's concern about the political has been accompanied, in a curious transposition of roles, by an increase in state concern for the moral, such as state insistence on religious education in schools, which was questioned in the House of Lords by one of the Lord bishops. There has also been state insistence on the responsibility of the individual in a variety of spheres, in which my hon. Friend the Minister of State has played a part.

Mr. William Powell : Is it my hon. Friend's experience that those churches where the strongest spiritual message comes from the leadership are the fullest and those where the political message is most enhanced are the emptiest?

Sir Hall Miller : My hon. Friend has made his point. My understanding is that the churches where there are enthusiastic beliefs have full attendances.

I want shortly to turn to where I see the solution lies to the seeming contradictions, but I want first to deal with the moral basis of our present system of democratic capitalism. I speak as one who was originally reared on the Christian Socialism of F. D. Maurice and R. H. Tawney, supplemented--almost redeemed, I might add--by William Temple. We are now seeing the worldwide realisation that Socialist centralised planning and Socialist management have not only failed to deliver the economic goods and the means of ministering to the poor, but that the price in terms of human rights has been too high to pay for illusory equality.

In Russia, we see a move to provide greater rights, but political freedom may give rise to more demands than the still shackled economy can meet, while in China, economic processes are being freed first, giving rise to greater political demands than the state can perhaps meet. Therefore, we should be thankful that we and other advanced economies are living under a system of democratic capitalism. A free economy is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for a free society. By itself, a free economy is not a sufficient condition for a free society. Just as I have departed from Socialism in advocating a free economy, so I am departing from libertarianism.

The individual in the free economy needs to recognise his responsibilities as well as his rights. Here we see the field of play for moral values. The Socialist will seek to impose such values, but the libertarian will deny them. History ruefully records that states are no more moral than individuals' actions. I speak as a former civil servant. There is no greater morality in public rather than private expenditure, and state monopolies are no more admirable

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and no more conscious of their customers than are private monopolies. We are up against the problem of self-will. As William Temple reminded us

"There is no Christian solution to the problem of self-will." It is what distinguishes us from the rest of creation. If we seek to deny it, we deny our creation. We have therefore to inform and guide it. That is the supreme role of the Church.

Too often, we politicians are presented with imperatives--for example, on abortion. I do not believe in abortion, and I hope that I would be able to sustain that belief in my own family life. But, as a politician, I must recognise not only that there is a minority of Church believers in this country but, more important, that there must be a policy to deal with situations in which abortions would otherwise be carried out in back streets, at high cost and with even greater danger to health.

Surely the Church can recognise original sin and self-will. How can the Church want us to legislate it away? We know that individuals have the potential for good and evil. Surely we should aim to increase the field of action of the good. Is it not our experience that individuals and small units--small groupings of people--when giving rein to the good, gain added strength? Should we not welcome possibilities for the provision of more flexible, more local bus services, for example, or return to schools more control over their own destinies? Should we not try to do the same thing in the Health Service? There should be more funding, certainly, but there should also be more say to those providing the service and more tapping of local enthusiasm, initiative and loyalty. Again, if tax cuts yield more revenue for more such expenditure, as has already happened, what is immoral about that?

As we achieve more economic freedom and more choice, the Church needs to remind us more of our responsibilities--our individual responsibilities. In our diversity of callings, we need the light of faith and the standards which the Church can provide.

So I come finally to the position of the Church of England, by law established. It is in a unique position to understand and minister to our needs, embedded as it is in our national life, being the result of the Act of Settlement 1700. As such it has a wider role than any other Church and in a real sense belongs to more people than merely to its members. Of course, it may, in effect, opt out of that position and responsibility. However, its schism would contain the potential for greater rifts. Therefore, I very much hope that its leaders will pull back from the merely partisan and the temporal and continue to promote the beliefs to which they gave express assent, as well as continuing to minister to us who have such need of them. 3.55 pm

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : I welcome the fact that we are discussing this matter today. Although the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sir H. Miller) has been moderate--I appreciate the fact that he says that he comes from a Christian Socialist

background--unfortunately some of his colleagues, including some of his hon. Friends, still consider the Church of England to be the Tory party at prayer. They believe that politics should be left to Tory politicians and that only they have the right to be concerned with such matters. They believe that the Church of England should be concerned only with the saving of individual souls.

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Their objective is either to maintain the status quo--as long as that equates with the present economic capitalist system--or, if changes are to take place, to remove the welfare state, trade union rights, the National Health Service, council house building and local authority rights in the interests of business, especially big business.

As somebody who was born into the Church--I am sure that I will die a member of the Church--I am passionately concerned with the interests of my Church. I believe that the Church has a right to involve itself in politics. Indeed, it has a duty to do so. The politics of the Church should be the politics of the early Christians. As Bishop Sheppard of Liverpool said in his book, there should be a "Bias to the Poor".

The hon. Member for Bromsgrove referred to Archbishop William Temple who said--I agree with him--that Christianity must

"criticise actual institutions in the light of its own social principles, because it aims, not at the salvation of individuals one by one, but at that perfect individual and social welfare, which is called the Kingdom of God or the Holy City".

The arguments that we shall hear today against the bishops--we hear them regularly from Conservative Members--were used against Archbishop Temple in the past. I would like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that in 1934 William Temple wrote to The Times urging Neville Chamberlain, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, not to decrease income tax but to restore cuts which had been made in unemployment benefit. Neville Chamberlain was furious. That is perhaps a mild word to use. He was absolutely mad. He wrote to The Times :

"When I read that letter I thought it was a pity that the Archbishop should suggest, as it seems to me he did by implication, that MPs require to be reminded of humanitarian feelings which otherwise would not occur to them."

The archbishop was right to send his letter. Members of Parliament, certainly some in the House today, have to be reminded of humanitarian feelings. If Christians are not genuinely concerned with the spiritual welfare of people, they must be concerned with the material needs of people. There is no contradiction in that. Let me recall again the words of the Magnificat. It is much more revolutionary in some senses than the Communist manifesto. The Magnificat reads :

"He hath shewed strength with his arm ; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

He hath filled the hungry with good things ; and the rich he hath sent empty away."

That does not fit in with some of the concepts which Tory Members may accept.

There was an interesting and great Roman Catholic professor of political economy of the university of Naples in 1890 who said in his book on Christian Socialism :

"According to St. Jerome, opulence is always the result of theft, if not committed by the actual possessor, then by his predecessors. That is not much different from what many Socialists have said in the past. I believe that to be true.

We should also remember that Acts 4, 32 states that the members of the first Christian communities were

"of one heart and of one soul, neither said any of them that aught of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common."

St. Cyprea in "Of Works and Arms" said :

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"When at the first beginnings of the Church the mind flourished with great virtues, when the soul of the believers burned with a glow of faith yet new, then they had all things common, they initiated the divine law, the equality of God the Father."

I believe that. That was why I am both a Christian and a Socialist. I do not find that the concepts I hold as a Socialist are any different from the beliefs I was brought up with.

Many Tory Members have got away from the basic concepts of the Christian Church. They have forgotten how it started and what it is about. It is true that at some stage it became the state religion, so turned into its opposite, like Marxism in Russia. It, too, became the opposite of what it began as. That is not new--unfortunately, it happens too often--but that does not mean that those who began the process--the early Christians and early Socialists--were wrong. It means that those who came afterwards distorted what those who began the process believed. That is what I have always thought. I see no difference between the two, and I find it difficult to understand the arguments of some Tory Members.

I do not disagree with what the Church has been doing recently. In the past I have been a critic of our bishops. Their report on the bomb was excellent. I am only sad that the Synod has overturned it. Fair enough, that is a democratic decision. I fully agree with chapter 3 of "Faith in the City" which deals with theological priorities. Paragraph 3.3 states :

"In this country we are confronted by an acute form of relative poverty-- officially recognised as multiple deprivation'--that is particularly concentrated in the Urban Priority Areas, and that is caused to a great extent by circumstances beyond the control of those affected by it. There is a clear Christian duty to respond to this situation and remember the poor' in our urban priority areas." Can anybody disagree with that?

The report continues :

"It is against the background of the excessive individualism of much Christian thinking in the nineteenth century that we must place Marx's perception that evil is to be found, not just in the human heart, but in the very structures of economic and social relationships. This perception is also found to a notable degree in the Old Testament [from which ... Marx may have derived it] where there is explicit recognition of the inevitable tendency of the rich to get richer and the poor poorer unless some constraint is imposed to limit the freedom of individuals to profit without restraint from a market economy."

That is the right approach for my Church.

Today in Latin America, Asia and Africa there is a growth is what is called liberation theology. "Faith in the City" states : "To all of us, the example of Liberation Theology opens up the possibility that new priorities, as well as new methods, can restore to us a theology, that is truly relevant to the needs and aspirations of people today. Therefore we have to apply the new theology to the situation that exists in Britain today."

I accept that. We cannot talk about liberation theology only in Latin America. Hon. Members who saw last night's programme about the Sudan will have been made ill. Everyone who is a genuine Christian must have felt sick, seeing the poverty and misery that exists in the Sudan, Ethiopia, Latin America and various parts of Asia. What about our poverty? We cannot act to solve the problem too quickly. We are a rich nation. What about our poverty? We have to do something about it. Therefore, I agree with "Faith in the City" that we must concern ourselves equally with what is happening in our own country.

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One example is housing. When I think of the Government's record and policy on housing, and of the needs of our people, I remember what the report says about housing. In the section headed "Public Housing : the Way Forward", paragraph 10.72 on page 250 states :

"The great importance of the public housing ideal was that it broke the link between poverty and living conditions. The poor did not have to live in poor housing. But this link is now being re-established Net capital spending was cut by 44 per cent. in volume terms between 1975-76 and 1979- 80 and by 52 per cent. in cash terms between 1979-80 and 1984-85. The result is that the number of new homes started in the public sector has dropped over the last decade from 174,000 in 1975 to 38,000 in 1984. At the same time there has been a shift in expenditure away from the metropolitan districts and London in favour of the shire districts."

In the conclusion to the chapter on housing, the report states : "What is beyond dispute we believe is that a continuing emphasis upon home ownership alone will not solve the housing problems of the urban priority areas."

That is liberation theology as argued by the Church in Britain, and I believe that it is absolutely right.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne) : The passage which the hon. Gentleman, perfectly understandably, has just read to the House is the best illustration that one could find of where the Church--the best motives--is commenting upon matters that are very much within the judgment and responsibility of politicians, whether at local or at national level. Some of us would have been much happier if "Faith in the City" had directed its attention to saving the souls of the people rather than making political judgments on how housing might be improved.

Mr. Heffer : I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman said that, because he has made my point for me. If they want to save souls, they had better house the people properly. If they want to save souls, that had better give the people decent jobs and full employment. If they want to save souls, they had better become concerned with personal relationships and what is happening at home. That is what Christianity and Socialism are about. The hon. Gentleman has attacked the report, just as some of his hon Friends have attacked the bishops, precisely because they have asked vital questions that are apposite to the needs of the people. I believe that the Church has come down, rightly, on the side of doing something about the problems. In his book "Essays on Christian Politics and Kindred Subjects", William Temple said :

"It is not possible to limit Christianity to the individual alone. Christianity appeared in the world as a society. It was not indeed a society with a finished constitution presenting what officers it should have, or what its specific aims should be."

I agree with that.

Unlike some people in Moslem and other countries, I do not believe that Christians want to have a theocratic state. I do not agree with the Christian Democrats in Europe, who wish to involve themselves in political affairs and say, "This is what we shall impose on society." The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) is as good a Christian as I am. I accept that people who have different political views are sincere Christians. We may argue about our interpretation of Christianity, but I do not want us as Christians to say that we shall impose our views on other people. I am sure that most other hon. Members will accept that. It is a question of our basic ideals of Christianity.

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