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I do not think that the 1989 policy review was fashioned while the hon. Member for Bolsover was the comrade chairman of the Labour party. In any case, instead of undertaking to scrap all four Trident submarines, the Labour party now wants to scrap one.
Mr. Gow : I fully appreciate that the hon. Gentleman disagrees with the policy in the 1989 document. Part of the reason for this debate is to underline the continuing disagreement among the Opposition on the crucial subject of defence.
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : Perhaps my hon. Friend has left the subject of the retirement of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) prematurely. He said that the hon. Gentleman was five years nearer retirement than himself, but has he thought of what will happen at the next general election, which will be fought on the policies that my hon. Friend is describing?
The Labour party will be forced to fight the election on the disastrous, stupid and loony policies that my hon. Friend is describing. He has not yet mentioned local government, but we must remember the lunatic and wicked policies of councils such as Ealing. The hon. Member for Bolsover is due for retirement at the next election.
Mr. Gow : That is not so easy when we are considering this document. I do not know how familiar the hon. Gentleman is with it, but I shall lend him a copy, which will show him how far from reality it is.
Column 533that one would deprive the Royal Navy of the minimum number of submarines that is necessary if we are to guarantee that one is on station all the time.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) asked earlier about a person who was sitting in the civil servants Box ; for some inexplicable reason he has now left that Box and is sitting in the Under Gallery. We can only deduce from that that he is not a civil servant. Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, find out who is paying his salary ; from that we might be able to establish who he is--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. This has gone far enough. I understand that the Box referred to is one that is usually available for the officials advising ministers responsible for the business before the House. No doubt the earlier point of order has been heard and responded to and if the person to whom we are referring has been made to sit in some other part of our premises beyond the Bar of the House, that is not a matter for me.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Kenneth Baker) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall be happy to clear this up. The gentleman to whom the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) referred is not a civil servant--I would not have one with me for a debate such as this--but a member of the Conservative research department. I quite agree that it would be inappropriate for him to sit in the civil servants Box, so he is sitting in part of the Under Gallery.
The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) who first raised the matter is the only member of the Shadow Cabinet to attend the debate--
Mr. Campbell-Savours rose --
Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin) : Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is an important matter. Conservative Members have been making great play in recent months of the conflict between party and state in Eastern Europe. We know very well that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is in an ambivalent position : is he in the Cabinet as a representative of the Government in Parliament, or is he there as a party apparatchik? That conflict is reflected in what we have seen today. Was the person in the civil servants Box there as a representative of the party or the state? Who is paying his salary--
Mr. Campbell-Savours : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What has happened today is of constitutional importance. A member of the Conservative party who works in Conservative party headquarters in Smith square has been given access to the Box in which civil servants sit. That is a major development with implications for other debates. In debates on the poll tax
Column 534or the NHS reforms a Conservative party member might be given access to that Box in preference to a civil servant who, in our view, was more entitled to sit there.
I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to ask Mr. Speaker to rule on whether it is in order for a member of the Conservative party to sit in the civil servants Box.
Mr. Kenneth Baker : I should point out on behalf of the official in question that he went to the wrong Box, and I apologise for that. There is no question but that only civil servants should sit there.
Mr. Skinner : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that you would agree with me that those who enter the civil servants Box must do so by a route through which only a few are allowed to pass, because that is a high security area. We hear a great deal of talk from the Government about terrorism and the need for security, yet it seems clear that a person whose convictions border on those of the National Front --he works in Conservative Central Office, which has spawned some Conservative Members of the goose-stepping tendency in the last few years-- has been cleared to go into the Box by the Minister. There should be an inquiry into this affair.
I well remember the full-scale debate in the House on the research assistant of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) ; yet someone who could be a member of the Conservative party Securitate has been allowed into the civil servants Box. I demand a full inquiry and a full debate. If such things can happen to Opposition Members the same thing should happen on the Tory side.
Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If you are minded to order such an inquiry, may I draw to your attention the fact that some Members who arrived in the House for the first time in 1987 were regularly directed by a member of the House of Commons staff to a broom cupboard? Is that member of staff still in the House? If he is perhaps he inadvertently gave wrong advice to the gentleman concerned.
Mr. Madden : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Some hon. Members are trying to treat this matter lightheartedly, but it is a serious matter. It exposes yet again the difficulties of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster about his capacity when he speaks in the House. Clearly- -
Mr. Madden : I think that it does arise because we should know, for instance, how the Chancellor, who clearly intends to intervene in the debate, will be described in Hansard. Will he be called the chairman of the Conservative party, which is clearly his primary responsibility? He has admitted that he is aided today by an official from Conservative Central Office who seems to have been sitting in the wrong place without authority. Serious questions are being asked about the access to sensitive areas that that official might have had. Many of us are cited by the Economic League, the blacklisting organisation, as being subversive--
Column 535Mr Deputy Speaker : Order. Hon. Members must resume their seats when the occupant of the Chair is on his feet. We have taken this matter far enough. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is clearly here as a Member of the House and a designated Minister in the Government, will presumably address the House if he seeks to catch my eye later in the debate. The Minister has explained to the House that the person whose presence gave rise to this exchange was in the officials Box by error because he had been misdirected. That error has been corrected by his withdrawal. That ought to be sufficient explanation and we must get on.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If that is true--and no one wishes to doubt what the Minister said about this chap gaining access by error--he must have shown a pass to a person at the door. I should like to know the form and classification of that pass. Is it a Civil Service pass? How was he able to convince our very effective custodians of the House, who are responsible for security in all sorts of matters, that he had a right of access? When the inquiry takes place and Mr. Speaker inevitably rules next week--as he will now have to do --perhaps he could address himself to that matter in his statement to the House.
Mr. Campbell-Savours rose--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman raised a point of order and now seeks to disregard my comments on it. No doubt Mr. Speaker will read with care the exchanges that have taken place. If he feels that further inquiries are necessary, no doubt he will initiate them. Perhaps we could get back to the debate.
Mr. Gow : The hon. Member for Bolsover told the House that Labour's defence policy had moved on since the 1989 statement "Meet the challenge Make the change" which was no longer the official policy of the party, or at least was not able to secure his support. We know that many of his right hon. and hon. Friends share his view about that matter. Like the two previous attempts, the latest attempt to define Labour's defence policy is designed more to provide a formula with which some of the divided factions of the party can live than to provide proper defence for the British people.
The Leader of the Opposition should consult the Socialist President of France. Mr. Mitterrand has made it clear that he and his Socialist Government will retain France's nuclear capability. That is hardly surprising because there are no unilateralists in the French Socialist party or even in the French Communist party. However, the British Labour party is still riddled with one-sided nuclear disarmers.
Column 536Opposition interventions since then suggests that the subject is anything but boring. In my constituency the Labour party was in a respectable second place until 1983 and held the seat in 1945-50. However, I found that the haemorrhaging of Labour votes at the 1987 election was principally caused by Labour's policy on defence. I am sure that that is still the case in my constituency and in many others.
I shall now turn to another subject that is dear to the heart of the hon. Member for Bolsover. I want to examine Labour policy on nationalisation, a cause of which the hon. Gentleman is still a faithful and principled champion. The 1983 Labour party manifesto said that Labour would :
"Return to public ownership the public assets hived off by the Tories, with compensation of no more than that received when the assets were denationalised. We will establish a significant public stake in electronics, pharmaceuticals, health equipment and building materials, and also in other important sectors, as required in the national interest."
The 1983 manifesto was a blank cheque for nationalisation. In 1987 the language had changed and the manifesto said :
"We shall extend social ownership by a variety of means, ... we will set up British Enterprise, to take a socially owned stake in high-tech industries and other concerns where public funds are used to strengthen investment. Private shares in BT and British Gas will be converted into special new securities."
The 1989 statement "Meet the challenge Make the change" says : "We shall take BT back into public ownership. The speed with which we can act on our commitment to return privatised enterprises to the community will necessarily depend on the situation we inherit in each case and on the constraints of finance and legislative time."
Running through each of those documents of 1983, 1987 and 1989 is a reminder that, certainly for many Opposition Members, clause 4 is still alive. It seeks
"to secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof ... upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange".
On Wednesday in answer to a written question by my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Lee), the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment gave some startling figures about shareholders.
Mr. Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle) : As my hon. Friend has been making his characteristically witty and able speech, he has not had the opportunity that I have had to hear the sedentary interventions of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). According to the rules of order, sedentary interventions are not normally published in the Official Report, but those of the hon. Member for Bolsover reveal the true face of the Labour party. When my hon. Friend was speaking about Trident, the hon. Member for Bolsover remarked that it was only a rolling programme. My hon. Friend then moved on to speak about Labour party policy on clause 4. Perhaps my hon. Friend can ensure that when his speech is printed in the Official Report, the sedentary interventions of the hon. Member for Bolsover appear in the margins, so that all right hon. and hon. Members and the public--
Column 537Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. Interventions should be brief. Sedentary comments are not part of our proceedings.
Mr. Gow : In a written answer this week, my hon. Friend the Under- Secretary of State for the Environment presented startling figures about shareholders in the newly privatised water companies. That matter is relevant because the Labour party's 1985 policy statement made a specific undertaking to take water companies back into public ownership. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary stated : "A total of 37,488 employees, representing 85.57 per cent. of the eligible work force of the 10 companies, have successfully applied for shares in the companies under free and matching offers."--[ Official Report, 17 January 1990 ; Vol. 165, c. 250. ]
He lists each of the 10 companies--nine of them in England and one in Wales --and reveals that in every case, more than 80 per cent. of employees applied for and received shares. I select for particular attention North West Water, not least because my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. Goodlad), the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household, is in his place, and he represents a north-west constituency. Eighty-nine per cent. of North West Water's workers bought shares in that company, and many of them thus became shareholders for the first time in their lives. What will they say when they learn that it is Labour party policy specifically to deprive them of their shares?
One must consider not only the 37,488 water authority workers, because over the past 10 years and more, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have become shareholders in industry for the first time. The Government have applied a dramatic policy of extending opportunities for share ownership to people who have never been offered them before. There is a roll call of honour of industries that were previously in the hands of a small group of fallible men sitting in Whitehall, and which in many cases have now passed from the control of the state and that small group of people into the hands of the workers themselves.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury is among those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have consistently advocated the concept of worker shareholders and the extension of ownership. My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who is also in his place, taught me much about privatisation and other issues. I was a keen pupil, and I sat at the feet of my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary.
I remind the hon. Members for Bolsover and for Brent, East, each of whom is strongly opposed to worker shareholders, and I remind even you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of the full roll call of honour : Amersham International, Associated British Ports, British Aerospace, British Airports Authority, and British Airways under the inspired leadership of my noble Friend Lord King of Wartnaby, who has further service to render in British Airways' continuing improvement. My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary told me that it is called the world's favourite airline. My hon. Friend makes many journeys to Europe, probably in an aircraft owned by my noble Friend Lord King. I could make a long speech about British Airways and even about my noble Friend, but I shall not delay the House.
The roll call of honour continues with British Gas, British Petroleum, British Railways Board, British
Column 538Shipbuilders, British Steel Corporation, British Sugar Corporation, British Technology Group--my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury is smiling, and I am only halfway down the list. It includes also British Telecom, Britoil, and Cable and Wireless.
The hon. Member for Bolsover may want me to pause at this point, because he will recall that when Cable and Wireless was nationalised, the Labour party appointed as its chairman Lord Glenamara, who did not know one end of a cable from another. We have put a stop to such practices. No longer do my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench have the power to make appointments to the boards of such companies. On the contrary, the people themselves have the right to elect their chairmen and board members. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy is in his place, I may add that until we privatised the water authorities, the Secretary of State for the Environment, assisted by the Minister for the Environment and Countryside, made those appointments. Who could believe that my right hon. Friend and I served together in that same Department? When my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy was Secretary of State for the Environment, he appointed every chairman and director for the nine water authorities in England, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales made the appointments in respect of the Welsh authority.
I mean no discourtesy to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy, but in my opinion the water authorities are better managed now that they do not have to refer to the Secretary of State for the Environment every time that they want to spend some capital. Before privatisation, they could not without the consent of my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for the Environment and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, spend a penny piece on improving the quality of services. The authorities can now go to the marketplace, which is a great improvement. That is a major advantage of privatisation, apart from ensuring the wider ownership of wealth.
Mr. Madden : The hon. Gentleman referred to the appointment of water authority chairmen and board members. Earlier, he expressed regret at the absence from the Chamber of certain right hon. and hon. Members. We all regret the absence of the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), who serves on a number of boards of directors. Can the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) say by what method his right hon. Friend was elected to those boards?
Mr. Gow : I give the hon. Gentleman two assurances. A new director may be appointed by the existing board, but he will be subject to election to the board at the next annual general meeting, of which every shareholder --and sometimes there are hundreds of thousands of shareholders--is given notice. That is the procedure followed under company law.
I was contrasting the way in which Lord Glenmara was appointed with the way in which the chairman and directors are now appointed by the shareholders of Cable and Wireless. A large proportion of the workers in that company are now shareholders and they have the opportunity to have a say in appointing directors. Worker shareholders can and do turn up at the annual general meeting and ask questions of the board and, at the end of the day, they have the right to appoint it.
Column 539The Crown Suppliers and the electricity supply industry are two more examples. We have passed the legislation and before this Session comes to a close those who work in the electricity supply industry will have the opportunity to become worker shareholders.
Enterprise Oil, Girobank, the Horserace Totalisator Board, Jaguar, the National Bus Company, the National Engineering Laboratory, the National Freight Corporation--I shall pause there. The Opposition seem to have the view, which is borne out by the commitment that I have just read out, that the National Freight Corporation should be renationalised and run by politicians and civil servants. I have never believed that. It is one of the lessons that I learned from my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary. He used to say to me, "What business is it of the State to own lorries? Why can't private bodies own lorries?" My hon. Friend was perceptive, because when National Freight was owned by the state, and Ministers appointed the chairman and directors, it made a loss. When we were able to restore it to the private sector, on the advice of my hon. Friend, the workers took over ownership of the company. One might have thought that that would have been welcomed by the hon. Members for Brent, East and for Bolsover, but in the Labour policy document there is a commitment to renationalise it. I draw that to the attention of the House because I wonder whether the workers and the worker shareholders of the National Freight Corporation, realise that if there should ever be another Labour Government there is a real prospect that their shares will be taken away from them.
I wonder whether the Economic Secretary remembers that we privatised the plant breeding institute?
Mr. Gow : My hon. Friend says that I am right. Apparently, we also privatised the National Seed Development Organisation. I do not know whether any hon. Members bought shares in those companies. I did not know that they had been privatised.
Two more examples are Professional and Executive Recruitment and Rolls- Royce--that is a marvellous company to have restored to democratic ownership. Rolls-Royce is one of the most famous names in the world, and it is a matter of particular satisfaction to me, following the involvement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who had a hand in bringing the company into the public sector, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) was able to undo the damage that he did.
Mr. Pike : Is it not a fact that if Rolls-Royce had not been taken into public ownership at the time, and if what is now the Rover Group--it has changed its name so many times--had not been taken into public ownership, Britain would not now have an aerospace engine industry with a great worldwide reputation? When the hon. Gentleman goes on about public ownership, will he recognise that many publicly owned industries have served the country well for many years?
Mr. Gow : It is true that many of the industries that were in the public sector, and some of those industries that still are, have served the country well. I mean no criticism of those who work in the industries, but I am critical of the
Column 540whole concept of public ownership. There have been losses in public sector industries, and that was due not to any lack of commitment by the workers but to the intervention and influence of the Government, which had such a harmful effect.
I have no confidence in the presumed superior wisdom of Ministers, or even of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to run an industry. Nor do I have any confidence in the presumed superior wisdom of the Opposition to run an industry. I prefer to leave it to those people who understand the industry.
Mr. Harry Greenway : Before my hon. Friend leaves the principle of moving companies from the public sector to the private sector, will he acknowledge that some 2 million individuals or families have purchased their houses, which were formerly publicly owned, to their enormous advantage, and against great opposition from hon. Members of the official Opposition, who voted against the right to buy, day-in and day-out for weeks on end, when the Government put the matter to the House? Most people who have been able to buy their homes have made palaces of them.
Mr. Gow : Of course, in the 1983 manifesto the Labour party promised to repeal the right-to-buy legislation which was contained in the Housing Act 1980. However, I wish to be fair to the Labour party ; there was no commitment to repeal the right to buy in the 1987 manifesto, or the 1989 policy statement.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) is right to say that the extension of individual choice has characterised the 11-year administration of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Before the Housing Act 1980 tenants did not have a choice, but had to remain tenants for the whole of their lives. We gave tenants the opportunity to convert their tenure and to become owners. We welcome most warmly, do we not, the shadow Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), who has just walked into the Chamber, because he is deeply interested in housing? The weekend seems to have begun for him already. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was wise, because she believed that most local authority tenants would prefer to become owners if they had the choice. Therefore, the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley), who was Housing Minister at the time, gave tenants the choice.
We gave tenants the choice, and we have given workers in the long list of companies that I have mentioned--33 ; I have not quite got to the end yet-- the choice and the opportunity to become shareholders. I am glad that the hon. Member for Blackburn is here so that I can tell him about our astonishing discovery that nearly 90 per cent. of North West water authority workers applied for shares. That is the highest percentage in the country, although some might have expected the highest percentage to be in the south. I see that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster also finds that interesting. Southern water authority, which serves my constituency, had the lowest.
Because my right hon. Friend is so interested, and because he may not have had a chance to study the Official Report of 17 January, let me give him the exact figure :
Column 54189.46 per cent. of North West water authority's employees are shareholders. I think that that is thrilling, and so does the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household. The Southern water authority figure is 80.56 per cent. Hon. Members may think that that is not too bad, but my point is that the North West figure is even better. Before he heard those figures, my right hon. Friend was inclined to agree with what would have been my guess--that the opposite was the case. Mercifully, my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury is also here, and will be able to retail all this to the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he goes off to report our proceedings at the end of the debate.
I had got as far as Rolls-Royce, but there are more companies on the great roll of honour : Rover Group, for instance, and the royal dockyards. That must have given particular satisfaction to the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent, who used to represent Plymouth, Devonport, and who must have been excited by the prospect of his former constituents being able to buy shares in the newly privatised dockyards.
Next on the list come the royal ordnance factories and Sealink. I believe that the hon. Member for Bolsover does not make journeys overseas, so he will not have travelled on Sealink ferries.
May I say how marvellous it is to see the hon. Member for Blackburn seated on the Opposition Front Bench? I hope that he listened carefully to the information that the percentage of workers who bought shares was highest in the North West water authority. He will have travelled on one of the Sealink ferries at some time in his life. I am making a journey myself this evening. I am not going to the Isle of Man ; believe it or not, I am going to make a speech in the Isle of Wight. My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) is here today : I am going to his constituency. I shall travel on a nationalised railway train from London to Southampton, and then on a privatised Sealink boat from Southampton to Cowes. If I ever manage to catch your eye again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall give an account of my journey to you and the hon. Member for Bolsover, who may have travelled on a Sealink boat.
There are only two more names on the list of companies whose workers have become shareholders, and which are under threat from the Labour party.