Below is the text of Mr Major’s interventions during the Housing Bill debate held on 16th April 1980.
Mr. John Major (Huntingdonshire) I am grateful for this early opportunity to bring myself to the attention of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I am sorry that when I have intervened during the Department of Environment Question Time, he has not noticed my interventions. Perhaps that rather faulty memory accounts for some of the matters that he has forgotten during the period of the previous Labour Government. None the less, I shall seek to bring myself to his attention many times during this Parliament.
During the next few moments I propose to adopt the novel concept of speaking to whether there should be a guillotine. There are two specific reasons why I am happy to vote for the Government motion. First, I believe that the Bill needs and deserves to become law at the earliest possible opportunity. Secondly, it is highly desirable that the remaining time available within the Government’s programme should be allocated in such a fashion as to ensure that there is reasoned discussion on all the important parts of the Bill that we have not reached. There are many important points to be discussed on leasehold and other matters, and a reasoned and moderate discussion may be achieved, because the timetable motion is likely to concentrate minds wonderfully.
I understand the view presented by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, and it will no doubt be echoed by his right hon. Friend for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman). They do not like the Bill. They do not agree with the Bill, and they do not like the concept of the guillotine motion. But we have already debated the Bill for more than 100 hours, and there is more debate to come. It will be subject to scrutiny in the other place, and there is a two and a half day allocation for Report and Third Reading. That seems to be a sufficient allocation, even for a controversial Bill.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook blamed the Government for profoundly unreasonable behaviour in guillotining the Bill. I should like to draw to his attention the remarks of his right hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-
We had a frank discussion in Committee, and in the temporary –
I revert to the guillotine for a moment, since this is the subject under discussion. On the occasion of the guillotine in 1976, we had two guillotines for the price of one. On that occasion both measures were guillotined after a discussion lasting for one hour. There was a guillotine on the guillotine.
If the Opposition believe –
Mr. Frank Allaun The hon. Gentleman said that the policy of selling council houses was an election commitment by the Government. However, other electorates have committed their local authorities not to sell council houses. The hon. Gentleman said that for the most part Labour-
Mr. Major This policy was stated clearly to the electorate, and the Government’s prime concern is to honour their election commitment. The circumstances were similar to those surrounding the Education Bill in 1976, when the hon. Member joined his colleagues in overriding the views of many Conservative-
I know that the Opposition have claimed –
In Committee, from time to time we reached especially contentious points. On such occasions the right hon. Gentleman turned loose his hon. Friends the Members for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) and Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley), who have an infinite capacity to speak at moderate length on subjects well within the rules of order. On one occasion the hon. Member for Bootle was on his feet for 28 minutes making one speech –
If there were to be no guillotine, if we were to accept the good will of the Opposition and to decide that no timetable motion was necessary, we would lay open ourselves to the possibility between now and the conclusion of proceedings on the Bill that at any stage the Opposition might suddenly discover something that they disliked to such an extent that they would seek disproportionate delay. The right hon. Member for Ardwick may shake his head, but that may happen. The right hon. Gentleman said in Committee that he had discovered areas in the Bill which were far worse than he imagined they could be. If that is so again, there may be some form of disproportionate delay which I should not wish to try to explain to my constituents.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook claimed that no time had been wasted in Committee and that there were very few indications of exceptionally long, single filibusters. That I accept without question. But time has been wasted in Committee that could have been spent discussing the Bill.
We have spent a substantial time in Committee –
Mr. Straw Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, despite the occasional entertainment that we have provided to Conservative Members, who otherwise have been required to keep their mouths shut and their heads down in deference to the Whips, the Committee has made more progress than any other Committee on any major Bill since the election? Indeed, its progress has been twice the rate of any other Committee on a major Bill.
Mr. Major That is precisely because we have given Opposition Members so much time to speak, about which the hon. Gentleman was sarcastic. As another example of time-
Mr. Frank Allaun Better than Ronan Point.
Mr. Major It may be better than Ronan Point. It may even be better than a number of other things as well. However, even the hon. Gentleman was somewhat puzzled when it occurred to him that a tenant might sublet. A tenant is, of course, very worthy, but if he sublets he becomes a landlord and not at all worthy. It was most painful to see Opposition Members struggling with their psyche during the period when they uncovered this.
Presiding over these delaying tactics with a benign and delightful expression on his face has been the right hon. Member for Ardwick. As a newcomer to the House, it has been a delight for me to observe the tactical manoeuvrings of the right hon. Gentleman. He has the most effective air of injured innocence that I have ever seen. He is perfectly able to crank himself into a position where he can be as thoroughly unhelpful as possible while stating that he is seeking to give every ounce of co-
We have a clear mandate, a clear commitment, for the Bill. We have had long –
Mr. John Tilley (Lambeth, Central) I think that we are now hearing some of the qualities of knockabout humour that Conservative Members were not allowed to indulge in in Committee.
Mr. Major I promise to indulge in them after the timetable motion has been passed.