HC Deb 03 December 1964 vol 703 cc756-63
Sir Alec Douglas-Home

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

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Bowden)

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

MONDAY, 7TH DECEMBER—Private Members' Motions until seven o'clock.

Afterwards, the remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

TUESDAY, 8TH DECEMBER—Remaining stages of the Protection from Eviction Bill.

Motion on the Gas (Borrowing Powers) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 9TH DECEMBER—Remaining stages of the Machinery of Government Bill.

THURSDAY, 10TH DECEMBER—Consideration of the Motions on the Army Act, 1955 (Continuation), and the Air Force Act, 1955 (Continuation) Orders, which if the House agrees, will be taken formally to allow a wider debate on the Services on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY, 11TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Science and Technology Bill.

MONDAY, 14TH DECEMBER—The proposed business will be: Supply [2nd Allotted Day]: Committee stage of the Winter Supplementary Estimates, when a debate will take place on a subject to be announced later.

Sir A. Douglas-Home

May I ask a question about Wednesday's business? The Leader of the House will be aware that we are tabling important Amendments to the Machinery of Government Bill, which have considerable constitutional implications. At present, I do not see how we shall finish the Bill in one day.

Mr. Bowden

It is appreciated that on the Bill there are points of interest to both sides of the House, and no doubt many Amendments will be put down. But it should also be appreciated that this is an extremely important Bill from the Government's point of view, and I am quite sure that the Opposition would not wish to delay it unnecessarily.

Mr. Grimond

Will the Leader of the House tell us more about what is proposed for the business on Thursday? Is the debate to be confined to matters arising on the Army and Air Force, or will it include all three Services? Will it be in order to discuss bases? How far is the debate intended to be limited?

Mr. Bowden

In accordance with the normal custom, the debate is agreed between the usual channels. My understanding is that it will be a rather wider debate on the Services than that which normally takes place. It will include all the Services.

Mr. Popplewell

Has my right hon. Friend seen the Motion on the Order Paper and, if so, will he say—

Mr. George Thomas

Which Motion?

Mr. Popplewell

If I am given the opportunity, I will say which Motion.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether he proposes at any time to debate the Motion, or to make a statement about the suggested alteration of the meeting times of the House to bring them into a more sensible and commonsense arrangement?

[That this House, appreciating the fact that Parliamentary work is now a full-time occupation for back-bench Members as well as Ministers, urges Her Majesty's Government to consider the introduction of more appropriate hours of sitting, and suggests that the House should meet daily at 10.30 a.m., take Parliamentary Questions for one and a half hours and proceed with normal business until 7.00 p.m.]

Mr. Bowden

I have seen the Motion this morning. It is a Motion which I read with a great deal of interest, particularly after an all-night sitting. I think that it is too soon for me, as Leader of the House, to say anything about it other than that I will give it full consideration. There are many ramifications to this matter. I do not object to the idea—I think that there is a great deal in it—but there must be consultations through the usual channels before any firm action is taken.

Mr. Maude

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to a notice of Motion standing on the Order Paper in my name and that of 75 of my hon. Friends about the future of the aircraft industry? In view of the urgency of this matter, if he cannot find time for it to be debated next week, can he arrange for the Government to make the interim statement for which the Motion calls?

[That this House deplores the damaging state of uncertainty which now surrounds the future of the British aircraft industry, and the lack of confidence which has been created by the hasty and confused statements of Her Majesty's Government; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to repair as much of this damage as possible by giving an immediate assurance that no major projects will be cut without full discussion in Parliament.]

Mr. Bowden

I do not think that there is any possibility of debating this before the Christmas Recess. I have already announced the business up to 14th December, and one more business statement will bring us up to Christmas Eve. There is, therefore, hardly any time. But I fully appreciate the importance of the Motion, and I will speak to my right hon. Friend concerned and ask him whether he will make a statement at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Shinwell

Before my right hon. Friend decides to find time for a debate on the Motion referring to the sittings of the House, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell), will he consult some of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches to find out whether it would be embarrassing for them to avoid their duties outside the House?

Mr. Bowden

I have already said that there would have to be consultations through the usual channels, and I should have thought that the usual channels on the other side of the House would be well aware of the views of their Members.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

In view of the deplorably weak reply just given by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to a Private Notice Question from his hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas), will the Leader of the House kindly arrange for an early debate on the means necessary to secure reciprocity reciprocally throughout the Commonwealth justice and fair treatment for the persons, property and liberties of British subjects and Commonwealth citizens?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot provide time for that this side of Christmas.

Mr. Rankin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the draft undertaking between the Secretary of State for Scotland and the North of Scotland (Orkney and Shetland) Shipping Company takes effect from 1st January, 1964? Will he consider providing time, which the Conservative Government failed to provide, so that Scottish Members may discuss that undertaking?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot hold out any hope of time between now and the Christmas Recess, but I will certainly talk with the Secretary of State for Scotland about it.

Dame Irene Ward

When is it the Government's intention to table the Order under Customs and Excise regarding shipbuilding, which is required under the Finance Bill? If he can give me that information, can he also give me an assurance that, in the interests of the shipbuilding industry, there will be an opportunity to debate the order?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot give any such assurance.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend find time next week to debate the Motion standing in my name, based on a petition signed by 10,000 Aberdonians, protesting against a monopoly imposed on taxi users in Aberdeen whereby one firm is allowed access to Aberdeen Station to pick up passengers and all the other taxi owners are excluded? It is a very important matter.

[That this House notes that a petition signed by 10,000 citizens of Aberdeen, protesting against the taxi monopoly enforced by British Railways in Aberdeen, whereby all except one of the Aberdeen taxis are debarred from picking up passengers at Aberdeen Joint Station, was presented to the Prime Minister on 26th November; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take steps to end that monopoly and allow freedom of transport to persons in Aberdeen requiring transport from Aberdeen Joint Station.]

Mr. Bowden

I appreciate the importance of this matter to 10,000 Aberdonians, but it has nothing to do with the Government. It is a matter between British Railways and the people concerned.

Mr. Fell

Has the Leader of the House had time to notice the Motion on the Order Paper concerning the safety of British subjects in the Congo and methods of saving them? The Motion is in my name and that of 144 right hon. Members from this side of the House. If so, and in view of the extraordinary fact that there has still been no statement, in spite of reports of meetings between the Prime Minister and Mr. Spaak yesterday, will he please arrange for a very early debate on this matter?

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to save the lives of British subjects who are held in the rebel areas of the Congo.]

Mr. Bowden

I have seen the Motion. I should think that it is a Motion with which not only 144 but 630 Members would agree—at least in respect of the contents and terms of the Motion. But I very much doubt whether any value would be obtained from a debate on this matter, or that any help would be given to the hostages by debating it. Conversations have taken place, as he rightly said, and the House and the country ought not to assume that nothing is being done. This is a very difficult problem, as he will appreciate. A statement may not help. Everything possible is being done.

Mr. William Hamilton

May I ask three fairly short questions? First, what date has my right hon. Friend in mind for the Christmas Adjournment? Secondly, when does he intend to set up the Select Committee on Procedure, because there is a good deal of dissatisfaction in the House as to the existing procedure. Thirdly, can he give an undertaking that one of the three days allocated each Session to the Reports of the Estimates Committee and the Public Accounts Committee will be given before Christmas?

Mr. Bowden

I shall announce the date of the Christmas Recess a week today.

Answering my right hon. Friend's third question about the debate on the Estimates, I cannot give a firm assurance before Christmas.

My hon. Friend asked about procedure. Here, again, there are difficulties about the order of precedence of the items which will be referred to the Committee. I said last week that it will be a combination of two things—a general review and items referred to the Committee in order of precedence on which we should hope to get interim reports.

My hon. Friend will have noticed on the Order Paper a Question about different sittings of the House. That might well go to the Committee and be given some sort of precedence.

Mr. R. A. Butler

We all realise the extreme delicacy of the situation in the Congo, but the Minister of State said that he would make a statement when he was ready. May we have an assurance that such a statement will be made either in the next few days or when we have a foreign affairs debate?

Mr. Bowden

I will certainly convey to my right hon. Friend that he should make a statement when it is safe to do so in the interests of the hostages.

Mr. J. H. Osborn

In view of the fact that Question No. Q17 from the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt)—about strikes during the election—was not reached today, may I ask whether the Leader of the House is aware that hon. Members would welcome an answer to that Question from the Prime Minister in the form of a statement before he leaves for the United States?

Mr. Bowden

I will draw that to my right hon. Friend's attention.

Mr. Heath

Is it correct that the Government do not now intend to introduce a major Measure dealing with monopolies, mergers and restrictive practices during this Session, but only to introduce a limited Measure dealing with the size of the Monopolies Commission?

Secondly, the Leader of the House told us last Thursday that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would make a statement this week about the corporation tax and the capital gains tax. The Chancellor has not yet made it. We understand that at the moment he is abroad. Can the Leader of the House tell us when the Chancellor will give to the House the budgetary information about these taxes which has already been conveyed to the Press?

Mr. Bowden

I said last week that we are likely to have a very short Bill on the Monopolies Commission, which is to be followed by major legislation. I have not said that it would not be this Session. The short Bill, of course, will come first.

On the right hon. Gentleman's second point, the difficulty is that my right hon. Friend has been away the whole of this week, as he probably knows, at the O.E.C.D. Ministerial meeting, but an opportunity will be taken for him to say something next week, probably on Tuesday, when there are Questions down to him.

Mr. Tiley

Will there be an opportunity before Christmas to discuss the Lawrence Report on Members' pay and pensions? Would it not be better to discuss this before we discuss hours of work?

Mr. Bowden

I hope that there will be an opportunity before Christmas to discuss that Report and any necessary legislation arising from it. The question of hours of work might be looked at by the Select Committee on Procedure if agreement cannot be reached rather more easily and quickly through the usual channels.

Miss Quennell

Will the Leader of the House emphasise to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture the need to make a statement to the House about the price arrangements for Channel Island milk before the House rises for the Christmas Recess? This matter was referred to yesterday.

Mr. Bowden

I shall advise my right hon. Friend of that.

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