HC Deb 19 December 1963 vol 686 cc1452-8
Mr. H. Wilson

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business of the House for the first week after the Adjournment?

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

Yes, Sir. The business for the first week after the Christmas Recess will be as follows:

TUESDAY, 14TH JANUARY—Motion to approve the British Broadcasting Corporation Licence and Agreement.

WEDNESDAY, 15TH JANUARY—Supply [5th Allotted Day]: Report 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 Commonwealth Trade.

THURSDAY, 16TH JANUARY—Second Reading of the Export Guarantees Bill, and of the Shipbuilding Credit Bill, and Committee stage of the Money Resolutions.

FRIDAY, 17TH JANUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 20TH JANUARY—The proposed business will be: Second Reading of the New Towns Bill, and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

Remaining stages of the Defence (Transfer of Functions) Bill.

Mr. H. Wilson

Will the Minister say whether during that week we can expect a statement on, or a debate on, the Monopolies Commission's Report on the electrical equipment for mechanically propelled land vehicles, about which there has been great concern? Is he aware that this reference went to the Monopolies Commission more than six-and-a-half years ago, in April, 1957; that the Report was received in February of this year and that the Board of Trade has sat on it for 10 months?

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman now tell us whether, in his responsibility to this House, he will see that a more urgent approach is made and that we have a chance to deal with this matter during the week when Parliament reassembles after the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot possibly promise that we can deal with the matter during the week when we come back from the Recess. I have announced the business for that week. So far as it affects me, I will carefully consider what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Wilson

Since "carefully consider", in this case, has taken a period, first, of six-and-a-half years and then 10 months, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that this is a point of urgency, and give an undertaking that there will be a statement on the attitude of the Government to this long-delayed Report? Secondly, will he arrange for a statement to be made to this House explaining why the Board of Trade has sat on the Report for so long?

Mr. Lloyd

I will certainly bear in mind what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I am not in a position to give an undertaking

Sir C. Osborne

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to try to find time at an early date to discuss a problem dear to his own heart, that is, the prodigious expenditure proposed in the latest White Paper on Public Expenditure, coupled with the enormous increase in wages, and the effect that these are likely to have on production and the great social injustice to holders of War Loan and Government securities?

Mr. Lloyd

I am certain that within the normal processes there will be opportunities for these matters to be ventilated.

Mr. C. Pannell

Is the leader of the House aware that this week the Ministry of Public Building and Works has put out a White Paper showing the complete reorganisation of that Ministry, and the tremendous advance in its size, which is so much that almost one in eight of the working population is affected? Is he seized of the necessity for a debate on that subject and, if so, can he give a day of Government time to it, bearing in mind that also under that Ministry comes the controversial questions of the rebuilding of the Foreign Office, the Government building extension in Whitehall and the Parliamentary buildings that we want to get on with as soon as possible?

Is not it right that the House should be given an early opportunity to debate this matter? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman also consider the urgency of the need to set up an Accommodation Committee, comprising Members of all parties in the House, to get an opinion on these new buildings on behalf of the House of Commons?

Mr. Lloyd

I intend, very soon after we return from the Christmas Recess, to move in the matter of setting up a Committee to advise on accommodation. The matter referred to in the first part of the hon. Gentlemen's question may be discussed through the usual channels.

Mr. F. Harris

Does the Government intend to issue a statement in the near future about what financial assistance they may consider giving to help Kenya, which has now become an independent country?

Mr. Lloyd

That does not arise on my statement about the business. But I will convey what has been said by my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend who is responsible.

Mr. A. Lewis

Has the Minister seen Motion No. 31 on the Order Paper, about decontrol and creeping decontrol under the Rent Act? If he cannot arrange for a debate during the first week when Parliament returns from the Christmas Recess, can he make a statement along the lines of the Motion and invite the Leader of the Opposition to join him in that statement? Cannot we be given some idea of the view of the Government on that question?

[That this House notes with alarm the serious difficulties being created for tenants by the operation of the Rent Act, 1957, with particular reference to evictions resulting from decontrol and creeping decontrol, and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to make a declaration now that they will not, either during the lifetime of this Parliament, or in the unlikely event of them being returned to power at the next General Election, take any action towards further decontrol and urges the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, as the potential Prime Minister, after the next General Election, to declare that any government which he intends to form will not introduce any measure for further decontrol.]

Mr. Lloyd

I think that the hon. Gentleman is trying to tempt me into making a statement of policy when dealing with business matters.

Mr. Wigg

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that on 9th December I placed a Question on the Order Paper asking the Minister of Aviation to explain how it came about that on 12th March, 1962, he made a statement in this House which was at variance with a statement he made to President Kennedy, and which has now been publicised on a world-wide basis? Is he aware that I wrote to the Minister and gave him these particulars so that he would know exactly what was in my mind? Is he aware that he did not answer the letter and that on Wednesday—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I cannot relate this to the question relating to the next available week's business, and I do not think that we can discuss it on that question.

Mr. Wigg

With respect, Mr. Speaker, in order to explain, I have to give these facts to the House. After all, I have given them privately to the Leader of the House. The point is this. The Minister has transferred the Question. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take steps to ensure that, before the House rises, the Minister of Aviation makes a personal statement because, clearly, the conflict of these statements affects his personal honour? If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not do that, will he move to set up a Select Committee to inquire how these statements came to be made?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman gave me notice of this, but it was not very long notice. So far as I am aware, it was a Question asked of the Minister of Aviation and it was transferred to the Secretary of State for Air because it was considered that the Minister of Aviation's alleged statement was a matter affecting the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Air. I understand that the normal procedure in these cases, if the statement of a Minister is questioned—a statement made on a matter not within the confines of his Department—is to put down a Question to the Prime Minister.

Mr. H Wilson

Since this involves a statement by a Minister—he went out of his way to make it; it was in reply to me on 12th March, 1962—and since there is clear evidence to suggest that he misled the House on this occasion—very clear evidence, if the Norstad Report is to be believed—will not the right hon. and learned Gentleman ensure, at any rate since the "buck" has been passed by the transference of the Question, that in the week when Parliament returns from the Christmas Recess an opportunity will be taken by the Minister of Aviation to clear his position in a statement to this House? We cannot leave in this way a situation —it is bad enough leaving it over the Recess-—where there is strong prima fade evidence of the House having been misled. This must be cleared up at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr. Lloyd

Of course, an allegation against the honour of a Minister is a grave matter, both for the Minister and for those who make it. I will certainly consider how best to deal with the situation.

Dr. Stross

In view of the fact that the Leader of the House has said that conversations will be held through the usual channels with reference to the possibility of a debate on the Ministry of Public Building and Works and the redevelopment of the area in Whitehall, including the Foreign Office, will he please bear in mind that if agreement is come to for a debate for only half-a-day it will be useless and the House will be embarrassed, because many back bench Members who wish to contribute will be unable to do so?

Mr. Lloyd

I am aware of the considerable interest in this matter among hon. Members on both sides of the House.

Mr. Pavitt

Would the Leader of the House try to find time to debate a Motion in my name concerning another way in which there is dissatisfaction about how Ministers are answering Questions? Is he aware that an Oral Answer which I received from the Minister of Health to a Question on 9th December was substantially the same as that which I read in the Press on 29th November? In view of the difficulty, which I appreciate, of finding time for a debate during the first week when Parliament returns from the Christmas Recess, which will be a busy week, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider whether this matter could be referred to the Select Committee on Procedure?

[That this House is of the opinion that Answers to Oral Questions asked by Members should not be given to the Press for publication before the Member receives such Answers; and urges that a Select Committee should be set up to look into the matter.]

Mr. Lloyd

My recollection is that the hon. Member has a Question down to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on this matter. We had better await the answer to that.