HC Deb 12 December 1963 vol 686 cc571-80
Mr. H. Wilson

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business of the House for next week?

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 16TH DECEMBER—Debate on Security and on the Denning Report, which will arise on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motion on the General Grant (Increase) (Scotland) Order.

TUESDAY, 17TH DECEMBER—Motion on the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Dissolution) Order.

Motion on the Building Societies (Special Advances) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 18TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Rating (Interim Relief) Bill, and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

Motion on the District Probate Registries Order.

THURSDAY, 19TH DECEMBER—Supply [4th Allotted Day]: Committee stage of the winter Supplementary Estimates, which subject to the wishes of the House, it is hoped to obtain formally to allow debate on an Opposition Motion on the National Health Service.

FRIDAY, 20TH DECEMBER—The House, if it has been so resolved, will rise for the Christmas Adjournment until Tuesday, 14th January.

Mr. Wilson

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether, in the arrangements for next week, time has been provided for a clear statement from the Government Front Bench on the question of who is to lead our delegation to the Disarmament Conference at Geneva?

Is he aware that the statement made by the Prime Minister the other day, the only statement that we have on the record of the House—and we applauded it when he made it and support it—has apparently been denied—[Interruption.] We want the right answer this time—by the Foreign Office, by an anonymous spokesman? [Hon. Members: "Get on with the question."] Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that whatever his hon. Friends may say, there are certain standards that have to be maintained in this House and that we intend to maintain them whether as the Opposition or the Government?

If I may continue with the question which was interrupted, is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the House will regard any statement made by the Prime Minister as binding upon the Government until it is corrected in this House? Therefore, will he tell us whether the statement which was made is to remain on the record as correct—as we hope—or whether there is to be an official retraction by the Government next week?

Mr. Lloyd

The right hon. Gentleman asked me whether I had arranged for a statement to be made during business next week. If he will put down a Question my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will answer it.

Mr. Wilson

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that this is quite contrary to the precedent of the House and that if we have a statement from any Minister—and goodness knows, we can all, on both sides of the House, make mistakes, and I recognise that—and a slip is made by any right hon. or hon. Gentleman there is an accepted procedure for correcting it?

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware, therefore, that if the Prime Minister stands by the record we are very happy with that? There should not be any secret denials by any Government Department. If the right hon. Gentleman made a mistake, which the whole House recognises is always possible in these circumstances, the right procedure for him is to make a personal statement to put it right, and the whole House will accept that.

Mr. Lloyd

I know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is anxious to deal with this matter as quickly as possible. Whether it is in order for him to make a statement today is not for me to say.

Mr. Speaker

The practice is that personal statements must be first submitted to the Chair.

Mr. W. Yates

Has my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House taken note of what was said by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies concerning the state of affairs in Aden, where paramount British interests are involved? Will he consider arranging either for another statement to be made, or for a debate to be held, because we could not let it be thought that the action of the present Government in Aden with regard to the P.S.P. is designed to break the power of the P.S.P. in Aden at this time? Will my right hon. and learned Friend therefore let us have a debate on the matter?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot say that I will arrange for a debate on this matter in Government time during next week, but I note what my hon. Friend has said about a statement.

Miss Herbison

Since the Minister of Pensions informed the House that legislation will be required before widows can benefit from the provisions announced earlier by the Prime Minister, may I ask whether the Leader of the House will tell us when we can expect this legislation to be brought forward?

Mr. Lloyd

As quickly as possible.

Mr. Gardner

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the growing appreciation in the House for brief speeches? Will he give the most careful thought to the Motion on the Order Paper today, which has the support of more than 100 Members on both sides of the House, that one hour be set aside at the discretion of the Chair for brief speeches during major debates?

[That this House would welcome the implementation of the unanimous recommendation of the Report from the Select Committee on Procedure 1959 that an hour be set aside, at the discretion of the Chair, for brief speeches on the occasions of major debates.]

Will my right hon. and hon. Friend allow this good intention to be tested as soon as possible by a debate on the Motion?

Mr. Lloyd

I have noticed the Motion and also the considerable measure of support which it has received. I think that this is a matter for the House as a whole to consider, but I am studying ways in which this suggestion could be further considered.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman seen on the Order Paper a Motion relating to the advertising of cigarettes on television and through other media, which is supported by 100 Members of all parties who are concerned about the dangers to health of cigarette smoking and the fact that so much cigarette advertising is aimed at young people?

[That this House, gravely concerned at the expenditure of large sums of money on the advertising of cigarettes, and at the impact of such advertising on young people, in view of the proven dangers to health, including cancer, caused by cigarette smoking, urges Her Majesty's Government to stop all cigarette advertising on commercial television as a first step towards restricting such advertising on all media.]

If we cannot have a debate on the Motion next week, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consult the Minister of Health, the Minister of Education and the Minister for Science and give an opportunity for debate early in the new year?

Mr. Lloyd

I have noticed the Motion and the measure of support which it has received. I agree with the hon. Member that it is a candidate for debate either in Government time or at other opportunities available to the House.

Sir P. Agnew

Has my right hon. and learned Friend's attention been drawn to an announcement in this week's all-party Whip about the changes which are to be made in the writing paper supplied to hon. Members? Will he give an assurance that this change, including particularly the one which will drastically reduce the size of the paper allowed for their use, will not be proceeded with until the House has had an opportunity of expressing an opinion either next week, or later, or through the usual channels?

Mr. Lloyd

I am aware of the point that my hon. Friend has made. I think that in the first instance it is a matter for the Select Committee on Publications and Debates Reports. I understand that that Committee is meeting this afternoon to reconsider this question. When I have had the result of that reconsideration I will bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. C. Johnson

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will remember that a fortnight ago I asked him about the publication of the Government's White Paper on compensation to victims of crimes of violence. Is he now able to say when we may expect the White Paper?

Mr. Lloyd

No, Sir, I am unable to add to my previous answer.

Mr. More

Will my right hon. and learned Friend find time before the Christmas Recess to enable the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man) to apologise to the House for the misleading intervention he made in the Press about the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on Tuesday?

Mr. Speaker

That goes beyond the proper compass of a business question.

Mr. Crossman

On a point of order. Where a personal imputation is made against an hon. Member, has he no right to reply?

Mr. Speaker

I am sorry if I was slow in stopping the question. I have been at it now for quite a while. I have ruled it out of order and I hope that it can stop there.

Mr. Warbey

May I ask the Leader of the House when we shall have a debate on foreign affairs, to give the House the opportunity to discuss commitments on Central Europe entered into by the new Foreign Secretary during his recent visit to Bonn?

Mr. Lloyd

Not next week, but I will bear in mind what the hon. Member has said, without accepting his imputation.

Mr. Reynolds

May I ask whether I am right in assuming that the debate on the security aspects of the Denning Report is to be on a Motion for the Adjournment? Are we to treat a report by a Lord Justice of Appeal, who was asked by the Government to go seriously into matters of this nature, just by having a debate on the Adjournment? Can not we have a Motion, or at least take note that the Report is accepted by the House at the request of the Government?

Mr. Lloyd

This matter has been discussed through the usual channels and I thought that it was the wish of the House that the debate should run fairly wide and not be restricted to the Denning Report only. As for comments made last week about the possibility of reference to legislation during a debate on the Adjournment, if hon. Members will look at Standing Order No. 16 they will see that it is unlikely that proposals which would involve the amendment of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, would be out of order.

Mr. Wigg

On this same point, surely it is the Government's duty to seek the opinion of the House on the matter. Such a course will narrow debate quite unnecessarily. I should have thought that the Report itself could be approved by the House and that the Government would welcome that. After all, the Report is critical of the Government in some respects and, therefore, the Government ought to make their own position clear not only to the House of Commons, but to the country as a whole. To seek to avoid a decision on it is surely a clear case of dodging the column.

Mr. Lloyd

This matter has been discussed. I have considered it and in my view this course is in the interests of the whole House.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House have been very accommodating on this? [Hon. Members: "Oh."] Yes; after all, a big song and dance was made about the establishment of the Denning inquiry last summer and we would naturally expect that after that the Government would accept the Report. Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman would satisfy all hon. Members by making quite clear that the Government spokesman in the debate next Monday, whether on the Adjournment—which we are prepared to accept—or on any other basis, will say that the Government accept the Denning Report.

Mr. Lloyd

In answer to a question on business, I would prefer not to anticipate what my right hon. Friend might say.

Mr. Wigg

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. To clear this matter out of the way, would you be good enough to say whether you would allow reference to the amendment of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, because unless hon. Members can refer to that Act, and argue for or against its amendment, we shall be going off at half-cock.

Mr. Speaker

I cannot rule in advance of the particular reference, because under the terms of the Standing Order the degree of reference would be material.

Mr. Snow

With reference to next Thursday's proposed debate on the National Health Service, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that it will be in order to refer to the question of remuneration of family practitioners? If so, will the Government make the present situation clear with special reference to the taxation problems of the family doctor?

Mr. Lloyd

The debate will be on an Opposition Motion, which I have not yet seen, and, in any case, I do not think that it would be for me to say what would be in order on the Motion.

Mr. Cole

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether, early in the new year, he would find an opportunity to debate the parts and the details of the Buchanan Report?

Mr. Lloyd

I will certainly bear that suggestion in mind.

Miss Herbison

Surely, when the Prime Minister makes promises from that Box, the fulfilment of which require legislation, the Leader of the House ought to know definitely when that legislation will be brought forward. Were the promises this week only another piece of heartless propaganda on the part of the Government, with the excuse to follow that they cannot get the legislation before the election?

Mr. Lloyd

I am sure that the hon. Lady knows that, however good the merit of the proposals may be, there are such people as Parliamentary draftsmen and that they must put the thing into legislative form. I cannot say exactly how long it will take.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the House aware that my many friends in the City and on the Stock Exchange are worried about the daily statements which indicate that the Government are moving too far Left and appropriating the programme of the Labour Party? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give them an assurance that he will not make a statement next week announcing the nationalisation of iron and steel before Christmas?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that the hon. Gentleman must sort out with his very many friends in the City the mutual problems that they have.

Mr. Lubbock

There is a Motion on the Order Paper today calling for the appointment of a Select Committee on the Canberra replacement.

[That this House expresses grave concern at the failure of Her Majesty's Government to keep the House informed of the difficulties experienced in the development of the Canberra replacement and calls therefore for the appointment of a Select Committee to examine the planning, development and cost of this aircraft, with the power to call for persons, papers and records.]

In view of the widespread concern at the mounting cost of this project, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make time available for an early debate on this Motion?

Mr. Lloyd

I will take that suggestion into account.

Mr. Mitchison

With regard to the legislation which the Prime Minister has promised about National Insurance matters, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman undertake that Parliament will not be dissolved until that legislation has been brought in and passed?

Mr. Lloyd

That is not a promise that I can give; and as I have said, it is the intention of the Government to proceed with this as quickly as possible. As soon as the proposals have been put into legislative form they will be brought before the House.

Mr. Reynolds

Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that the proposal of the Select Committee on Publications and Debates Reports that, in future, Members should be supplied only with the paper-bound volumes of the annual index to the Official Report—the volume which is used more than any other—will not be put into operation before it has been discussed by the House?

Mr. Lloyd

That is not a matter for me, but I will consider the suggestion.