HC Deb 16 May 1963 vol 677 cc1545-52
Mr. H. Wilson

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, 20TH MAY—Supply [18th Allotted Day]: Committee, which, if the House agrees, will be taken formally to allow debate on the Opposition Motion on Consumer Protection.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Protection of Depositors Bill.

TUESDAY, 21ST MAY—Finance Bill: Further progress in Committee.

Motion on the Pedestrian Controlled Vehicles Regulations.

WEDNESDAY, 22ND MAY—Supply [19th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate on Agriculture, which will arise on the appropriate Votes.

Motions on Schemes for the United Kingdom on Grassland Renovation, Ploughing Grants, Winter Keep and Fertilisers.

THURSDAY, 23RD MAY—Finance Bill: Further progress in Committee.

FRIDAY, 24TH MAY—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 27TH MAY—The proposed business will be: Finance Bill: Further progress in Committee.

Mr. H. Wilson

Since the last item which he announced is for the beginning of the week before Whitsun, is the Leader of the House now able to say what the Government's intentions are about the adjournment for the Whitsun Recess?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that as soon as we come back after the Recess there will be a very strong desire from this side of the House, and perhaps on the opposite side, too, for a full-dress debate on foreign affairs and disarmament?

Mr. Macleod

I shall make an announcement about the Recess as soon as I can. We hope that with reasonable progress, particularly with the Finance Bill, the Recess will he two weeks and a weekend—17 or 18 days as the case may be.

I take note of what the Leader of the Opposition has said about the business after we come back. We can, of course, discuss that.

Sir G. Nicholson

On the Order Paper no fewer than nine statutory instruments have been set down for consideration, each of which has the note that it has not yet been considered by the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments. How has that irregularity taken place? Are they all of such urgency that they cannot be first considered by the Committee?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. The Committee is meeting on Tuesday, the 21st. This is quite normal, as reference to previous business statements would assure my hon. Friend. If any irregularity were found in them, the business of the House which I have announced would have to be altered, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will find, if he looks it up—and he knows about these matters very well indeed—that this is a normal form of announcement.

Mr. Fletcher

May we take it from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that there is no intention of taking any of these Statutory Instruments until the Select Committee has met on the 21st?

Mr. Macleod

That is so; and if anything were found in them which was unsatisfactory the business would have to be altered accordingly. I am glad to have the opportunity of making that clear.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Having regard to the Motion on the Order Paper in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir D. Walker-Smith) concerning Commonwealth trade, can my right hon. Friend assure me and the House that we shall have an opportunity of debating the important consequences for this country of the E.F.T.A., Commonwealth and G.A.T.T. conferences?

Mr. Macleod

I cannot give that assurance, but I have announced business up to Monday of the week in which we rise for the Whitsun Recess. Naturally, there are matters which we shall have to take in that week.

As to the point raised by my hon. Friend, I think we ought to wait and see how matters at present being discussed turn out. Then in competition with other claimants, I shall consider his suggestion.

Mr. Shinwell

Since the Leader of the House made his statement yesterday on the proposed legislation on House of Lords reform, no doubt he has had time to reflect on it. Can he therefore now tell the House when the Bill will be presented and when a debate on it will take place?

Mr. Macleod

I can answer the first point fairly precisely, but not the second. It is not a difficult Bill to draft, but there are one or two rather complicated purely drafting matters to give effect to the joint Report of the two Houses and the statement I announced yesterday. I hope—it can be no more—that the appropriate Minister will be able to present the Bill to Parliament before Whitsun if this goes well. If not, it will be immediately afterwards, but I hope before.

I cannot say when we shall debate this matter, but, as I said yesterday, we should like to get the Bill this Session.

Mr. McMaster

In view of the continuing seriously high level of unemployment in Northern Ireland, can my right hon. Friend find an early day, or half a day, to discuss its affairs, as was agreed at the end of the last debate on Northern Ireland?

Mr. Macleod

There will be such an opportunity. The precise timing I must leave for the moment.

Mr. D. Foot

Will the Leader of the House say whether his attention has been drawn to the Motion which appears on the Order Paper today in my name and the names of 100 hon. and right hon. Members drawing attention to policies being pursued by the South African Government and calling upon Her Majesty's Government to propose at the United Nations a general embargo upon the shipment of arms or military equipment?

[That this House condemns the policy of apartheid pursued by the Government of South Africa, the denial of elementary human rights to the great majority of the South African people and the series of enactments whereby the South African Parliament have abrogated the rule of law and transformed the Republic into a police state; further condemns the refusal of the South African Government to accept and act on the opinion of the International Court on South West Africa; and, having regard to the views expressed on 6th November 1962 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to propose to the United Nations a general embargo upon the export of arms and military equipment to South Africa.]

In view of the great concern which is felt, particularly over arms shipment to South Africa, among the African members of the Commonwealth, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a debate on this matter at an early date?

Mr. Macleod

I have, of course, studied that Motion. Every hon. Member holds views and they do not differ, I dare say, from the views of many hon. Members opposite about the policy of apartheid in South Africa. That is not in dispute. What is in dispute is whether the methods of the Opposition are wise or not—and we think that they are not. I could not undertake to find Government time to debate the Motion.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that while we all may on our lips express detestation of apartheid, there is all the difference in the world between those who are accessories after the fact and those who are not?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must administer a reproof to myself and to others. We must confine business questions to business.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Will my right hon. Friend say when he expects to proceed further with the Television Bill? Will he bear in mind that the Thursday before Whitsun will be a most inconvenient day for further consideration of such an important Measure as that?

Mr. Macleod

We shall be bringing the further stages of the Television Bill before the House as soon as is reasonably possible and appropriate. Some Amendments have been tabled by my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General. But the Bill is not included in the business which I have announced.

Answering the question which the Leader of the Opposition raised about time to discuss these matters, I shall pay more attention to what he says when I hear him making exactly the same answers in relation to other and Communist countries whose methods we deplore.

Mr. Wilson

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that we do not ship arms to Communist countries?Is he further aware—

Mr. Kershaw

On a point of order—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that everybody is to blame, probably including myself. We cannot relate this to the business for the ensuing week. As the servant of the House, I am trying to manage the business of the House for it, and I am sure that it is in the common interest to keep the business questions to business, otherwise the discussion ranges too wide.

Mr. Hector Hughes

When will the Government find time for further progress in respect of the Wills Bill, which is much desired?

Mr. Macleod

I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Member is referring to the Bill on intestacy, in which there is a considerable amount of interest. If so, I can tell him that there is a chance that it will be introduced into the House at a very early date.

Mr. Hector Hughes

I was referring to the Bill which is designed to repeal the Wills Act of 1861—a very useful Bill which was introduced last November and opposed by some hon. Members opposite, but which has at last been given a Second Reading and which is now due for the Committee stage. When will he find time for the Committee stage?

Mr. Macleod

I was not clear whether the hon. and learned Member was referring to that Bill or to the Bill on Intestacy, about which I made an earlier answer. I am sorry if I misunderstood him. The Bill to which he now refers will have to take its turn with all the other Private Members' Bills.

Mr. Grimond

May I pursue the question asked by the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot) and ask the Leader of the House whether he wishes to correct one impression which he has given? If the House wants to debate a controversial matter, as arms to South Africa certainly is, does he not agree that that is an additional reason for debating it and that as Leader of the House of Commons, and not as joint head of the Conservative Central Office, it is his business to serve the interest of the House and not to make party points?

Mr. Macleod

If there are opportunities which the official Opposition wish to take to debate this matter, they can find them, but in these matters it would be quite wrong to provide Government time for such a Motion as that on the Order Paper.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of hon. Members on this side of the House would like to discuss the whole problem of the export of armaments, including the wisdom of sending military aircraft to countries such as Indonesia?

Mr. W. Hamilton

Will the Leader of the House tell us whether the Government will be making a statement on the suggested rundown in the dockyards, details of which appeared in the Press this morning? Is he aware that there is considerable anger on this side of the House about the way in which this matter has been handled in that the Minister has seen Conservative Members affected, but has not seen hon. Members on this side of the House?

On another point, will he make arrangements for the annual report of the Duchy of Lancaster to be available in the Vote Office? I am informed that that office has never seen it there, although the right hon. Gentleman said that the Treasury presented it to the House.

Mr. Macleod

I will first answer the second of those two slightly unrelated points.

As the hon. Member knows from his inquiries, the Duchy of Lancaster is not a Government Department and does not have a Parliamentary Vote, but every year the Treasury presents its accounts to Parliament. I will see whether there is any way in which they can be made more conveniently available.

Answering, next, the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, there is no intention of making a statement on the matter to which the hon. Member referred within the compass of the business statement which I have announced.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Does the Leader of the House recollect that several months ago he gave a promise that he would inquire into whether hon. Members who abstain from voting and wish to have their abstentions recorded in HANSARD shall have the right to do so? I do not ask him to make a statement next week, but will he promise to give the matter his early attention?

Mr. Macleod

I have been looking at that and a number of other matters, and I am at the moment in negotiation as to the matters—there are at least a dozen of them—which are possible candidates which might be considered by the Select Committee on Procedure.

Mr. H. Wilson

May I refer to the questions asked by the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) and to next week's business? Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that when we debated the position arising out of the break- down of the Brussels negotiations, on 11th February, the Prime Minister made a great point of the Commonwealth Trade Ministers' conference in May—the conference which was held this week. Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that we shall have a full statement made to the House on this week's conference as part of next week's business, so that the House could then consider whether we ought to devote some time to debating the whole position of Commonwealth trade?

Mr. Macleod

Without giving a specific undertaking about that, I should like to consult my right hon. Friends most concerned and to put that point to them.

Mr. Willis

When a statement is made about the future of the dockyards, will it be made in the form of a statement to the House and not in answer to a Question which limits the possibility of further questions?

Mr. Macleod

There is no immediate intention of making an announcement in either of those forms, but I will keep that point in mind.

Miss Vickers

In view of that answer, may I ask whether there is any intention to take action about the reports in the Press which appeared before a statement was made?

Mr. Macleod

I do not think that the responsibility for Press reports comes into the question of the business announced for next week.