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Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend will, I trust, convey my congratulations to Hayes football club on its undoubted success. The detail of how the FA makes its decisions is up to it, but we have encouraged it, in its democratisation process, to make real change. The FA's structure has been modernised over the past year or so, and that is extremely welcome.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is a substantial point of order in relation to the procedure for electing your successor as Speaker. It follows points of order raised on Thursday and by me yesterday.
My credentials for raising the matter are that, under the present rules, if the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Sir J. Morris) were in any way indisposed or unable to be present, the task of pointing to a colleague on 23 October would fall to me.
The task would be invidious to the point of being impossible. It would be deeply unsatisfactory to leave the crucial running order of choice to the prejudices, predilections and taste of myself or, much more likely, the taste that the right hon. Gentleman or my right hon. and learned Friend may show towards the candidates for the Speakership.
I have been involved in the choice of Speaker since Horace King succeeded Sir Harry Hylton-Foster all those years ago--in the first instance in the very lowly capacity of parliamentary private secretary to RHS Crossman.
The situation that confronts the House on 23 October 2000 is totally different from anything that has gone before. It is entirely novel because there are a multiplicity of credible candidates--at least a dozen at the last count. I know that the Canadian House of Commons has a system whereby everyone is a candidate unless they rule themselves out. [Laughter.] I make it clear that I fall into the latter category.
If the established rules are to be changed, it will have to be done in the next couple of days. There is no solution that any of us can see that does not have some downside, but perhaps the least bad would be a secret ballot by elimination so that three candidates are left who would then be submitted to the established procedures of the House. In such a situation, under the existing rules the person acting as Father of the House would have the guidance of colleagues on what to do.
My point is that at least the matter ought to be discussed; it should not be a matter that is undiscussed. The only practical way of doing so, Madam Speaker, is for you to postpone your date of going until early November, so that the House can make up its mind in a sensible fashion.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. You will recall at the last election of the Speaker in 1992 that, although an hon. Member was proposed and there was an amendment--proposing yourself--it was generally regarded that there was at least one other candidate who was talked about as being in the running. Yet, the matter was settled and you won with a handsome majority of--I think--372.
It is true that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has said, there will be more candidates in the field this time. I do not know how the problem can be resolved. There is one way if there are
The alternative, which you have probably looked at, is a little more messy. If the Father of the House calls first one candidate, then the second and there is an amendment, the net result would be people having to sit on their hands, abstaining, until we reached the final candidate. A Speaker might eventually manage to get elected at the end. That is the alternative to having different desks for fewer than six candidates and dealing with the matter in a subsequent ballot.
Mr. Martin Bell (Tatton): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. It might help the House if you shared with us your assessment of whether you believe that a democratic and fair system is in place for the choice of your successor.
Madam Speaker: To answer the last point first, yes, I do believe that a democratic system is in place. I also believe that all Members of Parliament are sufficiently experienced to carry out that procedure and I am sure that they will eventually arrive at the right choice.
The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) makes a rather unique suggestion, which I find interesting. To respond to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), I am aware of the concern felt on both sides of the House that hon. Members should be informed about the procedure for the election of my successor. I have been using my best endeavours, and shall continue to do so, to ensure that, before we rise for the summer, each individual Member of Parliament receives a letter that fully sets out the procedure for the election of the Speaker. I want to do that as soon as possible. The matter does not rest wholly with me, but I have the responsibility for it. I want each and every Member to have a letter, couched in the simplest possible language, explaining the procedure.
I assure the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Bell) that the process will be democratic. The House has long experience of electing Speakers and I like to think that, throughout our history, we have always come up with the right person.
Mr. Dalyell: Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. However great the wisdom enshrined in the letter, ought not the matter to be discussed by the House? We face a novel situation and no one can think of an answer that could be embodied in a letter, however learned those who write it--even one that will, no doubt, be signed by you. Should there not be a debate in the House of Commons, so that views on the procedure of the election can at least be aired? In the circumstances, I ask you, quite seriously, to consider postponing by a few days your departure from us.
Madam Speaker: The wisdom of the House will enable it to follow the procedures. The situation is not unique. The hon. Gentleman tells me that there are many candidates. I read the newspapers as much as he does, and I do not know whether they are right about all of the names that have been bandied about in recent days, but there is some time to go yet and the House should await the letter that is coming to Members. That letter will not be signed by me, as, according to existing procedures, the election will not be my responsibility. I am as concerned as the House to ensure that we carry out the proper procedures and I am doing everything I can as quickly as possible to achieve that end.
Madam Speaker: Order. I shall only take a point of order that does not relate to the previous one, because there is nothing more that I can say about that matter. We await a letter being sent to all hon. Members explaining the procedures, and I cannot take the matter further at this stage. It is not for me to change the business of the House: that is a matter for the Leader of the House, in accordance with the will of the House.
Buying British should be a sign of quality--an act whereby people can be assured of certain standards, especially animal welfare standards in the case of meat and dairy produce; an act in support of British jobs and investment; an act wherein one can be reasonably sure whence the product comes. However, the act of buying British is becoming increasingly confusing and difficult. British companies wanting to promote the British origin of their goods are increasingly being frustrated, and my Bill seeks to address that problem.
My scheme should not be confused with previous attempts, particularly by Governments, to launch variations of buy British campaigns. Back in 1968, a few weeks after devaluation, Harold Wilson produced the "I'm backing Britain" campaign. That campaign was made that much easier because the pound bought less overseas. People were encouraged to sport tee-shirts and badges emblazoned with "I'm backing Britain" over a union jack. A group of Surbiton secretaries worked an extra half an hour a day for free and many thousands followed in the teeth of great opposition from trade unions. The Duke of Edinburgh even lent his support.
We're all Backing Britain.
The Feeling is growing,
So let's keep it going,
The good times are blowing our way.
Predictably, the campaign failed, as did Harold Wilson's re-election prospects. A rival campaign set up by the late Robert Maxwell under the title, "Help Britain, Help yourself" was also a failure. How prescient that was.
There have been no fewer than seven exasperated attempts by Trade Secretaries of State over the past 20 years to promote buy British campaigns to reverse accelerating current account deficits. In 1985, support was given to the "Think Britain" campaign, which was fronted by David Jacobs and Ernie Wise. More recently, Lord Feldman promoted a "Better Made in Britain" campaign
In 1997, the comments of Lord Haskins at the Labour party conference that the British brand is irrelevant in international markets and should be ditched hardly helped the cause. Most recently, such campaigns have been thwarted by the potential to fall foul of article 6 of the European Community treaty that forbids discrimination on the ground of nationality. Rather closer to home, we are aware of the recent lawsuit against the House because of the choice of a British-led contractor to provide the bronze cladding for Portcullis House, which allegedly constituted a buy British policy, which was not allowed.
I gather that an attempt to make a "Made in France" label compulsory was ruled out in a European court case because it would enable British consumers to exercise their natural prejudice against French goods. With notoriously misnamed goods such as French golden delicious apples, surely the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 would do the trick perfectly effectively.
A few months ago I was approached by a company in my constituency in Worthing. ETI is a leading manufacturer of quality temperature-measuring instruments. The directors wanted to include a logo on their products to indicate that they were made in Britain. They were proud to promote British products as a major provider of local jobs in Worthing, and because the made-in-Britain tag is seen as a sign of quality, particularly overseas. The directors saw it as a good marketing tool.
When they made inquiries to the Department of Trade and Industry about what made-in-Britain logos were available and what the Department would recommend, they were told, "We don't really go in for that sort of thing." Instead, they were steered towards using "Product of the EC" labels. Subsequently I tabled a parliamentary question to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I asked
That is not good enough. Besides, we are missing a trick. The National Farmers Union has recently launched its red and blue tractor logo to act as a guarantee of high standards, farm assurance and competitive pricing on British agricultural products. My hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) tried to initiate something similar in his private Member's Bill earlier this year. I commend the NFU and we can learn much from its scheme, but foreign-grown produce complying to British standards can still use the mark even if it is only finished off in the UK. We rely solely on the good will of multiple retailers to police the system. That is independent of Government enforcement.
My Bill, therefore, will establish a standard "Made in Britain" logo. It could be the equivalent of the simple lion mark on eggs or a union jack-vested British bulldog, for example. I suggest a national competition to come up with an appropriate and high-profile symbol. The logo would be administered by the Department of Trade and Industry, and firms with predominantly British-produced items could apply to use the logo on payment of a small subscription fee to cover the running costs.
The definition of "Made in Britain" would be determined by reference to the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 or the North American Free Trade Agreement's de minimis customs provisions, for example. The scheme would be entirely voluntary, but subscribing firms would have to undertake to maintain their qualifications for using the logo, and that would be policed by the DTI.
I believe that my scheme could operate without infringing single market competition law. It would have minimal cost, but the potential gearing effect for British firms could be considerable. The scheme has gained the support of the Federation of Small Businesses and other trade bodies, and the NFU has raised no objections.
My Bill would enable the British public to make informed choices and would encourage British firms to promote the Britishness of their goods as a strong marketing tool, both in the UK and overseas. I commend the Bill to the House.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Tim Loughton, Mrs. Angela Browning, Mr. James Gray, Miss Julie Kirkbride, Mr. Stephen O'Brien, Mr. Robert Syms, Mr. Peter Bottomley, Mr. Nicholas Soames, Mrs. Ann Winterton, Mr. Andrew Tyrie, Mr. Andrew Robathan and Mr. Graham Brady.