HC Deb 07 March 1963 vol 673 cc646-52
Mr. H. Wilson

May I ask the Leader of the House to 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, 11TH MARCH—Supply [9th Allotted Day]: Navy Estimates, 1963–64, will be considered in Committee on Vote A.

TUESDAY, 12TH MARCH—Second Reading of the Town and Country Planning Bill, and Committee stage of the Money Resolution, which it is hoped to obtain by seven o'clock, when the Chairman of Ways and Means has set down opposed Private Business.

Motion on the Prison Commissioners Dissolution Order.

WEDNESDAY, 13TH MARCH—Remaining stages of the Weights and Measures Bill.

THURSDAY, 14TH MARCH—Supply [10th Allotted Day]: Army Estimates, 196364, will be considered in Committee on Vote A.

FRIDAY, 15TH MARCH—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 18TH MARCH—The proposed business will be: Supply [11th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Service Money Votes.

Mr. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is highly optimistic if he thinks that we can conclude all the remaining stages of the Weights and Measures Bill on Wednesday? Will he recognise that we are giving no commitment or understanding that, in the course of that day, all the remaining stages will be completed?

Mr. Macleod

I take note of that and, of course, at the appropriate stage those who are handling business on the two sides of the House will no doubt consult and see how we can get on.

Sir G. Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend be a little clearer about the Prison Commissioners Dissolution Order? How long does he think will be set aside for the debate on it on Tuesday? Is he aware that there is some feeling of need for elucidation of the reasons for the Order?

Mr. Macleod

I understand that point. As my hon. Friend will realise, it is not possible to be precise as to how long, for example, opposed Private Business will take. But I think it reasonable to put the business for that day in the order I have announced, and I hope that we will be able to embark on discussion of the Order at a reasonable hour. I realise, of course, that I have given undertakings on this matter to the House.

Mr. Grimond

The right hon. Gentleman has told the House the Government do not intend to take action on the reform of the House of Lords before the House has had a chance to debate the Report of the Select Committee. As this has not been included in the business for next week, can he give us an assurance that there will be opportunity for debate before Easter?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. I am almost certain that there will be a debate before Easter. I hope to get it in before the end of this month.

Sir A. Hurd

Does my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food hope to be able to make a statement soon on the outcome of the Farm Price Review?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. I understand that he will be making a statement on Wednesday of next week.

Mr. W. Hamilton

Is the right hon. Gentleman yet able to say when the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Prime Minister will make a statement on the urgent measures needed to reinvigorate the Scottish economy? Is he aware that he, probably unwittingly, misinformed the House on this point last week when he said that discussions had been taking place between the Secretary of State and my right hon. and hon. Friends on this matter?

Mr. Macleod

I think that last week, when the hon. Gentleman put a similar point, I did misunderstand. I apologise. There are, of course, the usual opportunities on Supply days, on the Floor of the House and upstairs at a later stage in the Session. I have not anything to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on Tuesday in answer to Questions.

Sir W. Robson Brown

May I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the Motion, standing in my name and the names of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, calling for a new Select Committee, with wide terms of reference, to consider the procedures of this House and other related matters? Will he give an early date for debate on this matter?

[That this House, believing that reforms in Parliamentary procedure are urgently required, urges Her Majesty's Government to appoint a new Select Committee on Procedure with wide terms of reference, and that in particular consideration should be given to which detailed business should be removed from the Floor of the House to standing committees and to the appointment of all-party committees to consider matters of economic, industrial, technical and scientific importance.]

Mr. Macleod

These are very important matters indeed, and, of course, are worthy of the fullest consideration. I am very anxious to find a solution to them, although, as my hon. Friend will understand, I am not attached to any particular solution at the moment. As I have previously said to the House, one matter that is now under urgent consideration is the question whether we might be able to introduce a little flexibility into our programme by taking at least part of the Finance Bill in Committee upstairs.

Mr. Swingler

Will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement on the ever-increasing practice of calling Standing and Select Committees to meet at four o'clock in the afternoon? Is he aware that this is extraordinarily unfair on quite a large number of hon. Members and that he will not have any hon. Members available to attend business announcements very soon if the Government go on calling more and more Committees for this time of day?

Mr. Macleod

If the hon. Gentleman has a particular point he would like to put to me, perhaps he would do so. We always try to adjust the time of the Committees upstairs, if possible, so that there will be no clash. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is thinking of Tuesday's business. This procedure has been followed with the London Government Bill.

Mr. John Hall

The Motion calling for a new Select Committee to examine our procedure goes a little beyond the question of taking the Finance Bill upstairs.

Mr. Macleod

Naturally, I recognise that it goes far beyond that particular subject, which I only mention as an example. Many much wider matters are raised, but I would rather not make at this time a statement on individual Motions, particularly on one that goes as wide as that.

Mr. Awbery

In view of yesterday's statement about the Rochdale Committee and of the urgency of the matter, can the right hon. Gentleman say when we are likely to discuss the Rochdale Report?

Mr. Macleod

Not in the immediate future. It is a matter which the House, naturally, wishes to discuss and examine. Through my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport yesterday, I gave an undertaking that an opportunity for debate would be given in due course.

Sir H. Oakshott

Can my right hon. Friend give any news of the return of the Colonial Secretary from East Africa? Will he be able to make a statement about East Africa, and Kenya in particular, next week?

Mr. Macleod

I believe that my right hon. Friend is returning on Monday or some other time early next week. I have already conveyed to him the request for a statement in the House.

Dr. Mabon

May we take it that the Government do not intend to introduce a Bill dealing with the Rochdale Committee's recommendations this Session, and that this is why the debate on the Report is being delayed? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider giving an early day for a debate on the Report?

Mr. Macleod

It would be wildly optimistic to think that legislation can be brought in this Session. But, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport said yesterday, a great deal can be done in advance of legislation. He announced the setting up of a Council, and quite apart from that there will be opportunity later this Session, although not before Easter, to debate the Report.

Mr. Eden

Will my right hon. Friend draw the Prime Minister's attention to the Motion, signed by a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, calling for a communications satellite system? Can he say whether we might soon debate a statement of Government policy on this subject out of which a debate could arise in the House?

[That this House, recognising the vital importance to our defence and trade interests of a British space communications satellite system, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to ensure that one Minister is responsible for co-ordinating research and development on such a project and urges them immediately to place the relevant study contracts with a view to establishing a system based on cooperation with the Commonwealth and in association with British industry.]

Mr. Macleod

This is certainly a matter of the greatest importance. I know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has seen the Motion. But I cannot now add to what was stated in a Written Answer by the Postmaster-General about a fortnight ago.

Mr. Lipton

In view of the grave issues affecting the freedom of the Press which follow from the imprisonment today of two journalists, will the House have an early opportunity of discussing that problem? Or shall we have to wait until we get the report of the Vassall Tribunal before having an opportunity to deal with the matter?

Mr. Macleod

These certainly are grave issues. Anything which affects any issue of conscience naturally is. When the Report, or as much of it as security conditions allow—and, of course, I have no knowledge of this at all—is laid before the House, hon. Members will wish to debate it and we will try to find time for a debate.

Sir T. Moore

I must again refer to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) about the abolition of the Prison Commission. A great number of hon. Members feel very strongly on this matter and would like fully to express our views to the Government. To take the risk of introducing this Order at possibly a late hour would really not be treating the House with the courtesy which we invariably get from my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Macleod

I can assure the House that I will not introduce the Order at a very late hour. That is the object of the undertakings I have given. One must make forward assumptions, as it were, about business and it looks to me reasonable to have put it down for Tuesday; but we must see how Tuesday's business goes.

Dr. King

In view of the growing concern of members of all political parties about the rate burden, concern about which is exemplified in the Motion standing in the names of many of his right hon. and hon. Friends, will the Leader of the House give consideration to the possibility of our discussing this important topic soon?

[That this House, conscious of the necessary changes under the rating revaluation of premises due to come into force in April, 1963, believes that the time has now arrived for the rate burden to spread more fairly amongst all citizens, for the financing of education to be transferred, by stages, to the national Exchequer, whilst retaining local control, and for a full inquiry into possible new methods of raising revenue for local government services.]

Mr. Macleod

I cannot take that matter any further, particularly at business time, than the Minister of Housing and Local Government did this afternoon.

Mr. P. Williams

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the House would be serving the nation very well if we found more time in which to debate major principles, such as that involved in the Motion on satellite communications, to which reference has already been made? This is not just a question of the Government taking a decision, so can my right hon. Friend undertake to find time for matters of this nature to be discussed in the House?

Mr. Macleod

If I may say so, this is one of the reasons why many people would like to see more time made available so that some such matters could be discussed. But on the general question in relation to policy decisions about satellites, I cannot add to what has been said by my right hon. Friend in the House.

Sir G. Nicholson

I am sorry to have to refer once again to the subject of the Prison Commission, but is my right hon. Friend aware that even half a day—that is, if the whole half-day were given to it—would not be thought by many hon. Members to be enough time in which to discuss this matter?

Mr. Macleod

I do not wholly accept that, but, in any case, this is, of course, exempted business. No "chopper" comes down on it, so it will depend on what time it starts as to whether this meets the convenience of the House.