HC Deb 24 January 1963 vol 670 cc283-8
Mr. G. Brown

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

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)

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

MONDAY, 28TH JANUARY—Second Reading of the National Insurance Bill, and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

Remaining stages of the Commonwealth Scholarships (Amendment) Bill.

TUESDAY, 29TH JANUARY—Second Reading of the Contracts of Employment Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 30TH JANUARY—Second Reading of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill [Lords,]and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

THURSDAY, 31ST JANUARY—A debate on Defence, which will arise on a Government Motion.

Consideration of the Motion on the Import Duties (General) (No. 14) Order.

FRIDAY, 1ST FEBRUARY—Consideration of private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 4TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be: Supply [5th Allotted Day]:Committee stage of the Supplementary Estimates presented on the 17th December, 1962, which it is proposed to take formally.

A debate on Unemployment and the Government's Economic Policy, which will take place on an Opposition Motion.

Mr. G. Brown

I am not quite clear when the First Secretary is expected back from his trip to Africa. If he does get back next week, will the Leader of the House arrange that we may have a statement from him?

Secondly, will the Leader of the House put it to the Prime Minister that, although we are to have a statement today from the Lord Privy Seal about the Common Market negotiations so far, if there is any development next week, when the talks are resumed, we ought to have an assurance that the Prime Minister will give us a statement immediately then and we should have an opportunity of considering whether we should arrange to have a debate on the situation?

Mr. Macleod

My right hon. Friend the First Secretary will, I think, be back in the House on Monday, 4th February. I shall, of course, convey to him the point the right hon. Gentleman makes about a statement on his visit to Central Africa.

On the Common Market, perhaps we should hear the statement which my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal will be making presently, and we can then discuss the position, if necessary, through the usual channels.

Sir H. Butcher

My right hon. Friend says that on 4th February the Supplementary Estimates will be taken formally. May we take it that he is not suggesting that the right of Members to raise matters on the Estimates is in any way abrogated?

Mr. Macleod

No, of course not. The words I used were "which it is proposed to take formally". It often happens that it is convenient for the House to take them in that way.

Mr. G. Brown

Will the right hon. Gentleman make clear, so that there is no misunderstanding, that there are further days available to the House— three in all, I think— on which these particular Supplementary Estimates may be discussed, so that the House would be losing no rights if it decided on this occasion to take this stage formally so that we may have the more important wide-ranging debate on unemployment?

Mr. Macleod

It is, of course, true that these Estimates require a special Consolidated Fund Bill and that on that Bill further opportunities for debate will arise.

Mrs. Hart

In view of the fuel crisis through which we are at present passing and the statement just made by the Minister of Power, will the right hon. Gentleman consider providing time for a full debate on the crisis and the future capital investment programme which is required?

Mr. Macleod

I cannot see an immediate opportunity for that, but, of course, there are a number of opportunities on Supply in the period into which we are just moving when it might be appropriate.

Mr. B. Harrison

Would it be possible for my right hon. Friend to arrange for an extension of time for Thursday's debate, so that hon. Members on this side who find that they cannot support the Government will have an adequate opportunity of expressing their view?

Mr. Macleod

That is the least attractive reason for a suspension that I have ever had to consider. If it were the general wish of the House that we should suspend the Standing Order for an hour, perhaps, conceivably, we could do so; but I know that Thursday is a particularly difficult day for this.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Will the Leader of the House consider, before the debate on the Nassau agreement about Polaris, putting a model of a Polaris submarine in the Library, or somewhere in the building, with an estimate of what it now costs and what it is likely to cost us by 1967?

Sir C. Osborne

Will my right hon. Friend consider finding time to discuss the very serious statement issued last night by the chairman of Richard Thomas and Baldwins in which he stated that his company had borrowed no less than £70 million during the year from the Ministry of Power, that its borrowings had increased to £132 million, that its profits had fallen—

Mr. Speaker

Order. These are business questions.

Sir C. Osborne

I am asking a question, Mr. Speaker,—

Mr. Speaker

It is the method of asking which seems to wander rather far from pure business.

Sir C. Osborne

With very great respect to you, Sir, the statement was that the company had borrowed £70 million, which, I should have thought, was a matter of very great importance to all hon. Members. I am asking whether—

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps I can assist. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is asking whether we may soon have an opportunity of discussing this statement of that chairman.

Sir C. Osborne

I am much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for putting me right on that matter; but, with respect, am I not entitled to put the reasons why I ask for a debate?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman will understand the difficulty. If we have matters of emphasis so stretched as that, we use too much time on the business questions.

Mr. Macleod

Whether I am replying to my hon. Friend, or, with respect, to the Chair, I think that the answer is, "Not next week".

Mr. Lipton

Will the Leader of the House say whether the Government have deliberately brought forward the National Insurance Bill to Monday next with a view to diverting attention from the Widows' Pensions Bill which I am to introduce tomorrow and which is designed to make certain provisions which are not included in the Government's Bill?

Mr. Macleod

Such a thought never crossed our minds.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Will my right hon. Friend recall that by the time the debate on Thursday has been opened and closed by four right hon. Gentlemen and contributed to by at least three other right hon. Gentlemen, the amount of time left for back bench opinion on both sides in one of our most important debates will be very small? If my right hon. Friend is not impressed by the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison), will he be enticed by the argument that if he gives more time for back bench opinion, which may be very dubious, from behind him to find expression he may find more hon. Members behind him entering the Lobby at the end of the day?

Mr. S. Silverman

While appreciating that it is not for the Leader of the House to decide who shall speak, or when, or for how long, will he consider that, having regard to the fact that Thursday's debate is likely to be the most important defence debate that we have had for many years, or will have for many years to come, it may be advisable to have a second day's debate so that a wider representation of opinion in the House is feasible?

Mr. Macleod

Naturally, I take into account everything said from both sides of the House on this matter, but I must not be taken as giving any encouragement to the thought that it would be possible to find two days for this debate.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

When will the long-awaited statement by the Government on their attitude to the Rochdale Report be made? Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to arrange a day's debate on it before Easter?

Mr. Macleod

Taking one thing at a time, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will wish to make a statement to the House, and I hope to give hon. Members reasonably early notice of this.

Mr. Milne

Could arrangements be made next week for the Minister recently charged with responsibility for the North-East to make a progress report? If so, who will make it?

Mr, Macleod

It has been arranged —and I think that an order of Questions has been circulated which has been discussed in the usual way—that Questions referring to this problem shall appear in our roster for, I think, Mondays. General questions about the problems of the North-East and of other areas which experience particular difficulty are bound to be within the ambit of the Motion which the Opposition will in due course table, although I have not seen the terms of it yet.

Mr. Jay

Does that mean that Questions on employment in the North-East should be no longer directed to the President of the Board of Trade?

Mr. Macleod

No. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear that Questions would fall, under ordinary Departmental responsibility, to the Board of Trade or the Ministry of Labour, as the case may be, but that when they covered the whole regional responsibility of my noble Friend they should be put down in this special way.

Mr. Jay

If the two responsibilities are the same, how does one know to which Minister one should put Questions?

Mr. Macleod

That is a matter for the right hon. Gentleman to work out in consultation, if necessary, with the Table.

Mr. Morris

In view of the long practice of the Government in announcing the sale of publicly-owned steel firms when the House is not sitting, may I ask the Leader of the House whether we can have a debate soon on the steel industry, particularly with regard to the under-used capacity of the industry and the take-over bid of Stewarts & Lloyds for the Whitehead Iron and Steel Company?

Mr. Macleod

I have no undertaking to give about that, but I will convey the point to my right hon. Friend.