HC Deb 23 May 1963 vol 678 cc641-9
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. lain Macleod)

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

MONDAY, 27TH MAY—Finance Bill.

Further progress in Committee.

TUESDAY, 28TH MAY—Remaining stages of the Television Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 29TH MAY—Private Members' Motions until seven o'clock.

Finance Bill.

Further progress on the Committee stage, which it is hoped to complete on THURSDAY, 30TH MAY.

FRIDAY, 31ST MAY—It will be proposed that the House should rise for the Whit-sun Adjournment, until MONDAY, 17TH JUNE.

Mr. H. Wilson

First, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that although we will facilitate, as far as it is reasonable, progress on the Television Bill, there cannot be any guarantee that the proceedings will be completed in that one day?

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman now take account of the fact, in planning next week's business, that tonight we shall table a Motion of censure on the Home Secretary in respect of his gross misleading of the House?

Thirdly, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman about the possibility of a statement next week in view of the fact that Ministers, at private meetings upstairs, have been giving information about proposed dockyard cuts?

Sir K. Pickthorn

How does the right hon. Gentleman know?

Mr. Wilson

Nothing done by this Government fails to get into the Press within the hour.

In view of this highly improper leakage to certain hon. Members, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a general desire in the House that a full statement should be made to the House and the country so that people in these areas can be informed? Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore give an undertaking that a statement will be made on this question during the course of next week's business?

Mr. Macleod

First, on the Television Bill, I understand, of course, that it is the usual position that there cannot be any guarantee, but no doubt those in charge of the Bill on both sides of the House will consult as we go along. We will see what progress is made.

The third point which the Leader of the Opposition made is a matter which I shall be discussing with my noble Friend and the Civil Lord. I cannot give an undertaking, in the sense that the right hon. Gentleman asks for, but I will see that the point is considered.

On the right hon. Gentleman's second point, I heard the exchange that took place on Question No. 40 and the announcement of the Leader of the Opposition. I should like to make a short business statement tomorrow at eleven o'clock in the light of that announcement and its effect upon next week's business. We would, of course, wish to take up at once the quite unwarranted attack which the right hon. Gentleman has made on my right hon. Friend.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Is my hon. Friend in a position to add to the information which he gave last week in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) about the possibilities of a debate on Commonwealth trade and the G.A.T.T.? Is he aware that there is on the Order Paper a Motion on this matter, standing in my name and in the names of a large number of my right hon. and how Friends?

[That this House, mindful of the importance of maintaining and strengthening the economic links of the Commonwealth, particularly having regard to the position created by the breakdown of the Common Market negotiations, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to raise at the forthcoming General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade conference, and at the meeting of Commonwealth Trade Ministers prior thereto, the desirability of an amendment of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, so as to remove obstacles to the expansion of Commonwealth trade and to the formulation of a policy that will assist home and Commonwealth agriculture without unnecessary cost to the Exchequer.]

Mr. Macleod

Only to the extent that immediately following the business question on which we are now embarked, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will be making a statement on the G.A.T.T. negotiations and, as I said last week, we can consider future events in the light of that.

Mr. Grimond

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether it is the Government's intention to amend the Customs regulations as they affect sugar? Is not the high price of sugar to a large extent due to the technical difficulty in the re-export preventing the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement working?

Mr. Macleod

As the right hon. Gentleman will recall, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland made some reference to this last night in his winding-up speech. I am not ready yet to go beyond that, but if necessary a statement will be made to the House.

Mr. Webster

Can my right hon. Friend say when we shall have a debate on the Rochdale Report?

Mr. Macleod

I hope reasonably soon after we have returned from the Recess.

Mr. Mendelson

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House some information about the timing of the debate on the Ottawa Conference and the discussions on the reorganisation of N.A.T.O. nuclear weapons? Does he not think that a debate has now become very urgent in view of the confusion in which the Minister of State, Foreign Office, left the House and the country the other day when he answered Questions?

Mr. Macleod

Unquestionably, this is an urgent matter, but, clearly, there is no opportunity to discuss it before Whitsun. I gave an undertaking to the Leader of the Opposition last week, on business questions, that we would discuss the possibility of a debate which would embrace this matter, presumably fairly soon after we have returned.

Sir G. Nicholson

Would my right hon. Friend say whether, before the House is actually asked to debate a Statutory Instrument, it shall be informed whether or not it has been passed by the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments? I do not mean before it is put on the Order Paper, but before the House is asked to discuss it. Should not the Select Committee's Report be properly laid on the Table before such a discussion takes place?

Mr. Macleod

I should like to consider that point. I think that it has more repercussions than my hon. Friend suggests. He is quite right that if any question were raised such an Order would not be taken until the point raised by the Select Committee had been disposed of. But it is common form to announce that, subject to no point being raised such an order will be taken. Perhaps my hon. Friend will be good enough to discuss with me the technical aspects of what he is suggesting.

Mr. A. Roberts

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been drawn to a Motion in my name, and supported by many of my hon. Friends, on the supply of two-seater cars for disabled people?

[That this House, believing that similar disability whether arising from war service, industrial employment or other causes, should be assured of equal treatment, calls upon the Government forthwith to provide two-seater cars for paraplegics and other persons now qualifying for tricycles under the National Health Scheme.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if the Government are in any doubt on this matter we should be allowed some time to debate this very human problem?

Mr. Macleod

I have, of course, studied the Motion. This matter could have been raised in the recent discussions we had on a number of Ministry of Health Votes. As for the future, I take note of what the hon. Member has said.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the general desire for a debate on Welsh affairs on Monday, 17th June?

Miss Herbison

The Leader of the House will be aware that yesterday the Law Reform (Succession, etc.) (Scotland) Bill was read the First time. As this is a long and complicated Bill, can the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea of a timetable for it? Do the Government expect, even with the best cooperation from us on this side of the House, to get the Bill through by the end of the Session?

Secondly, what help will we on this side of the House have on this complicated legal Bill, since we have no Law Officers to help us in the House?

Mr. Macleod

I am sorry that I was slow to catch up with the suggestion that we should have a discussion on Welsh affairs on the first day when we return after the Recess. No doubt if that is a Supply day the Opposition will take note of it, and I do not suppose that there will be violent competition for that day.

On the point raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), I agree that it is extremely late to introduce such an important Bill. When the hon. Lady uses the word "timetable", we are not using it in the traditional guillotine sense, but in the sense of whether it is possible for the Bill to go through both Houses before the first day or so of August. Frankly, that is unlikely. I have no wish to try to push it through, but I think that because this is such an important Bill it is right to bring it forward so that it can be seen and discussed. If it is possible to pass it into law this Session so much the better. If not, we would have to take it and complete its progress next Session.

Miss Herbison

Does not that prove that the mere presenting of the Bill is a piece of propaganda, the bringing forward of something which the Leader of the House knows can never be put on the Statute Book this Session?

Mr. Speaker

Regardless of anxieties of a nationalistic kind or otherwise, we must confine the time for business questions to business.

Mr. J. Griffiths

When the Leader of the House is considering what time will be devoted to Welsh affairs, will he ensure that he is not unduly influenced by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell), who was the Member for a Welsh constituency for two months and was then contemptuously ejected?

Mr. H. Wilson

While the Leader of the House is thinking out an answer to that, will he, so that there is no suggestion of a precedent being created, correct the answer which he gave a few moments ago when he suggested that the Opposition might wish to use a Supply day for a debate on Welsh affairs? Does not he recollect that the day for Welsh affairs is a day allocated to Wales as of right and that it does not depend upon Supply days? Will he be very careful not to affront the feelings of hon. Members who feel very strongly on this subject?

Mr. Macleod

There is no answer to the point made by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). I concede the point straight away; it was a pleasant jest.

In answer to the Leader of the Opposition, I must ask him not to take everything quite so seriously.

Mr. Wade

Will the proposed Bill relating to reform of the House of Lords be introduced before the Whitsun Recess?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir, I hope so. All the decisions on principle and policy have been taken, as I have announced to the House. The only difficulty is a purely technical drafting one. I hope that it will be possible to present the Bill before Whitsun.

Mr. Snow

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to the publication in yesterday's newspapers of a news item that the first lists of stations to be closed under the Beeching plan have now been communicated to the transport users consultative committees? Since this affects hon. Members, and since there is only six weeks' notice before an actual closure can take place, can the right hon. Gentleman help hon. Members in being informed of the details of the proposals?

Mr. Macleod

I can only help, I think, not in the context of next week's business but in my capacity as Leader of the House. I will see whether there is any way in which I can help hon. Members by discussing the point, if, indeed, it be true—I have no personal knowledge of it—with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Marsh

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall the recent short debate, which ended in some confusion, about a constituency for Mr. Speaker? In view of the fact that my Bill was supported by hon. and right hon. Members on both sides, does the Leader of the House intend to give time for a debate on the subject, or does he think that it might be possible and logical to leave it over until next Session?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. This is a difficult problem on which, as the hon. Gentleman has good reason to know, contrary views are held. I have no state- ment to make about time to discuss it or about whether it might be more appropriate, perhaps, for a Select Committee or a suitable body to consider it. It is a matter which I am studying.

Mr. Pavitt

On a rather narrower question affecting the railways, can the Leader of the House say whether the Minister of Transport will make a statement next week about the possible closure of the Broad Street-Richmond line? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in spite of the opportunity which the Minister had to make a statement in the Adjournment debate last Friday, there have been Press reports that this line has been reprieved? Is it not consistent with the dignity of the House that such statements should be made here?

Mr. Macleod

Obviously, it would not be right to leap to assumptions before one has definite knowledge. I have had no indication of such a statement. I will inquire whether what the hon. Gentleman says is correct.

Mr. Popplewell

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow), will the Leader of the House consider introducing a short Measure to ensure that, before any branch lines are closed, Orders are introduced, under either the negative or the affirmative Resolution procedure, so that the House may discuss closures before they take place but after they have been considered by the transport users consultative committees?

Mr. Speaker

That is very wide of next week's business. It is a matter for legislation or policy.

Captain Orr

Can my right hon. Friend say when the ecclesiastical jurisdiction Measure is to come forward?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. As my hon. and gallant Friend knows, this is not Government business. Notice is given in the ordinary way. We should merely try, if we possibly could, to take it at a day and time convenient to the House. It will certainly be some time after Whitsun.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his decision about the Law Reform (Succession, etc.) (Scotland) Bill, which is much wanted? It is a very good Bill. There is a great demand for it, particularly in Scotland. Will he see that it is taken before the Recess?

Mr. Macleod

In some respects, what the hon. and learned Gentleman says is a little contradictory of what was said a few minutes ago by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison). I think that it is an advantage, particularly in a complicated legal matter, to have a Bill such as this produced and discussed. Of course, there are doubts about its future progress, but I have given my answer about that in response to the hon. Lady's question earlier.

Mr. Ronald Bell

At some time during next week's business, will my right hon. Friend find time to tell the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) that Newport is in England?

Mr. Speaker

This is the time for business questions, not badinage.