HC Deb 10 December 1964 vol 703 cc1819-29
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, which takes account of changes announced during yesterday's sitting, will be as follows:

MONDAY, 14TH 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.

Motion on the Immunities and Privileges Order

TUESDAY, 15TH DECEMBER—General Orders for England and Wales and for Scotland.

Motion on the National Assistance Regulations.

WEDNESDAY, 16TH DECEMBER—Supply [2nd Allotted Day]: Committee.

If the Committee agrees the Winter Supplementaries will be passed formally to allow a debate to be opened on Foreign Affairs.

THURSDAY, 17TH DECEMBER—Conclusion of the Debate on Foreign Affairs.

Motions on the Double Taxation Relief (Southern Rhodesia) and (Sweden) Orders.

FRIDAY, 18TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Ministerial Salaries and Members' Pensions Bill.

Motion on the Remuneration of Members of this House, and Expenses of Peers.

Remaining stages of the Superannuation (Amendment) Bill, and of the Remuneration of Teachers Bill.

MONDAY, 21ST DECEMBER—The proposed business will be: Second Reading of the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill.

It may be convenient for the House to be aware that while the date of adjourning for the Christmas Recess must depend on the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should resume on TUESDAY, 19TH JANUARY.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the General Grant Orders were laid only yesterday and that copies are available only today, which gives us very little time? I make this point so that, in future, he may protect us a little more and give as much notice as he can, as this is a complicated matter.

May I echo what was said just now by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). I hope that the usual channels will be able to arrange for a statement by the Prime Minister so that it is given in good time for the foreign affairs debate.

Mr. Bowden

I appreciate that the usual amount of notice has not been given of the General Grant Orders, but, as the right hon. Gentleman realises, it helps local authorities in the preparation of their rate fund for next year to have these Orders before Christmas.

On the right hon. Gentleman's second point, my right hon. Friend has not yet returned from Washington, but I shall convey the right hon. Gentleman's remarks to him.

Mr. Wilkins

Has my right hon. Friend now given full consideration to Motion No. 27 on the Order Paper, standing in the names of 62 of my hon. Friends and myself? Will he treat this as a matter of urgency and, in so doing, bear in mind that Parliament, which is, or ought to be, the nation's workshop, is dependent for its service very largely upon back bench Members who are alleged to be professional politicians? Will he take into account the requirements of these Members as distinct from, and perhaps without consideration for, the interests of professional people who do their work outside and come here as a spare-time occupation?

[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 7.0 p.m.]

Mr. Bowden

I promised last week to look at the Motion, since which time an Amendment has been put down. I would not attempt to decide between full-time or part-time professional politicians. We have both. But this is an important matter. It is a matter for the House, not for the Government, and it must be considered by a Select Committee on Procedure at some point. I hope that a Committee will be set up fairly soon, when this would be one of the priority items.

Mr. Maudling

As the Chancellor's recent statement about the corporation and capital gains taxes seems to have left the situation even more confused, will the Government take an early opportunity for this matter to be clarified, preferably by a debate?

Mr. Bowden

The right hon. Gentleman knows probably better than anyone else in the House that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot make his next Budget speech now. As the right hon. Gentleman will also appreciate, there are many precedents for making statements of this sort before a Budget. If there is a real demand for such a debate, there are plenty of opportunities on Supply between now and April when it could be raised.

Mr. Wilkins

Did my right hon. Friend's reply to me mean that he proposes to refer this question to the Select Committee on Procedure?

Mr. Bowden

Yes, Sir.

Mr. R. Carr

Is the Leader of the House aware of the frustration we suffered yesterday in trying to obtain basic information about the functions of the new Ministry of Overseas Development and its relations with other Government Departments? Does he know that the Government spokesmen could not even reply to a request for publication, in due course, of a White Paper setting out the functions? In the circumstances, will he find time for an early debate on the subject of overseas development, allowing his right hon. Friend the Minister to come to the House to explain these matters and have them discussed?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot make any firm promise for between now and the Christmas Recess, but I note what the right hon. Gentleman says.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Is the Leader of the House aware that export consignments sent from Birmingham to London are now being returned to Birmingham after a wait of three or four fruitless days in the queue at the docks and that the sense of frustration among Birmingham exporters is rapidly mounting to a sense of desperation? Will he find time for an urgent discussion of this critical situation?

Mr. Bowden

Not before the Christmas Recess, but I shall speak to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport about it.

Mr. Warbey

With reference to next week's foreign affairs debate, will my right hon. Friend take steps to ensure that hon. Members are in possession of the necessary documents, including the official text of the Washington communiqué? Is he aware that I have made inquiries in the Library and that the Library has been informed that neither the Foreign Office nor the Cabinet Office has official copies available so that they can be passed to hon. Members? Further, is he aware that the only official text which I have been able to obtain is one supplied by the American Embassy in London and dated yesterday?

Mr. Bowden

I shall look at that point.

Mr. Fell

The Leader of the House will recall that he courteously but firmly suggested last week that it would not be in the interests of British subjects in the Congo to press for an immediate statement, on the situation there and that he was backed in this, quite obviously, by the Prime Minister and by other right hon. Gentlemen. Has not the time now come to make a statement, particularly as there is to be a foreign affairs debate next week, although the Government have refused a debate on this specific matter? May we have an early statement setting out just what the Government have done throughout, whether they tried to see President Tshombe in Paris, and all such matters?

Mr. Bowden

There is a point when it is dangerous to hostages to make statements of that sort in the House. I have already spoken to my right hon. Friend about it and he has given me an assurance that, as soon as it is possible to make a statement, he will be prepared to do so.

Mr. Wall

When can we expect a statement on Aden? I was informed that Question No. 85 would be answered today.

Mr. Bowden

I understand that a statement is to be made tomorrow.

Mr. Alfred Morris

My right right hon. Friend will have seen on the Order Paper the Motion about the detention by the Burmese authorities of Mr. Kyi Nyunt. Can he say when there will be an opportunity to discuss it?

[That this House notes with deep disquiet the detention, on unspecified political grounds, of Mr. Kyi Nyunt by the Burmese authorities; and urges the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to use his good offices to press for Mr. Nyunt's immediate release.]

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise any opportunity to discuss it. Much as some of us may regret the detention of this gentleman, he is, after all, a Burmese citizen and this is a matter for the Burmese Government.

Mr. Wiliam Clark

Reverting to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), has not the Chancellor's recent statement anticipated the next Budget, and has not the uncertainty arisen for this reason? Will the Leader of the House explain why representations can be sent to the Inland Revenue at Somerset House yet Parliament is not, apparently, to have an opportunity to debate the matter? Will the right hon. Gentleman look at the question urgently and consider whether we could have a debate on both the corporation and capital gains taxes?

Mr. Bowden

If the hon. Gentleman reads HANSARD he will see quite clearly that I have not said that we shall not debate the matter. I have said that the official Opposition might agree to use one of its Supply days.

Mr. Maudling

As the confusion is damaging both the Stock Exchange and the foreign exchange markets, and this arises from the exceptional action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is it not the responsibility of the Government to get the matter cleared up?

Mr. Bowden

We cannot move from the position I have taken on this. I do do not think that there is any value whatever, at this stage, in further debating my right hon. Friend's statement, which was detailed and very long.

Sir F. Bennett

Reference was made at Question Time about a statement by the Prime Minister on the Washington talks. Will that be made before the foreign affairs debate? There are, obviously, important matters to be cleared up, particularly the widespread American suggestion that we have agreed to commit troops to Vietnam?

Mr. Bowden

The Prime Minister returns tonight. I have not spoken to him, but it depends whether he makes a statement before the debate or not.

Sir. F. Bennett

That is what I was asking.

Mr. Lagden

Can the Leader of the House say when we are likely to have a statement or a chance to debate the position in Gibraltar with regard to the border practically being closed?

Mr. Bowden

Certainly not next week.

Mr. Emery

Would the right hon. Gentleman use his good offices to ask one of his right hon. Friends whether, early next week, we could have a statement on the apparent decrease of credit facilities for industry and private individuals, since it appears that we are starting on a new credit squeeze?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise a statement next week.

Commander Courtney

We quite realise that the Army and Air Force Acts must be debated for legalisation purposes, but can we have an assurance that the terms of Monday's debate will extend wide enough to include questions touching on the Royal Navy?

Mr. Bowden

The whole purpose of taking these Orders formally is that the Navy can be included in these debates.

Mr. Lubbock

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall the assurance given by the Prime Minister to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Party that matters affecting Ministers' and Members' salaries would be subject to discussion in advance of any published proposals in this House? Can the right hon. Gentleman therefore say why it is that the proposals for Ministers' and Members' salaries include payments to persons who have never been named hitherto? Why were we not consulted about that?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot recall any promise having been made in terms that the House would be consulted beforehand, but I recall that my right hon. Friend said that he would accept Lawrence in principle. I agree that these proposals were not contained in Lawrence, although they were mentioned.

Mr. Ogden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, if some hon. Members opposite abandoned their tactics of deliberate obstruction, the House would get a great deal more done in much less time?

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is difficult to relate that question to the business for next week.

Mr. Hirst

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not good Government policy to dismiss the pleas of the Opposition with reference to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement on the ground that it was long and detailed? It has made confusion worse confounded. The Government have a duty to the nation and the world to make their position clear.

Mr. Bowden

These representations ought to be made to the Opposition Front Bench. I have already said that we will make a Supply day available if the Opposition say so.

Mr. William Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Select Committee on Procedure will be set up before the Adjournment for the Christmas Recess? Is he aware that there is a great volume of opinion on this side of the House that the procedure of the House must be modernised and modernised immediately, and that it must be done within the next three or six months? Will my right hon. Friend take note to the pressure of opinion on this side to prevent the kind of tactics that we have had from the Opposition during the last two weeks?

Mr. Bowden

I can promise that the Select Committee on Procedure will be set up before the Recess. I cannot promise that it will start its work before the Recess.

Mr. Marten

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the Motion on the Order Paper, standing in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends, calling upon members of the Government who were previously against the establishment of the Polaris missile base in Holy Loch to "come clean" about it? Does not he agree that they should now make a statement in order to help our allies? Will a statement be made next week?

[That this House welcomes the Prime Minister's statement that the United States Polaris base should remain in Holy Loch; and calls upon those Ministers in Her Majesty's Government who signed the Amendment to the Address in November, 1960, opposing the establishment of the base to declare forthwith their wholehearted support for this clear statement of Government policy.]

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already made a clear and concise statement about Holy Loch. There will be further opportunities to debate it and of enlightening the hon. Member next week, on Wednesday and Thursday.

Captain Orr

Has the right hon. Gentleman any more to tell us about the prospects of a debate in Government time on the affairs of Northern Ireland? Is he aware that his predecessors always gave us a firm assurance that, some time during the Session, we would have at least one full day or two half days for that purpose? There is considerable anxiety about the effects of the Government's deflationary policy on our employment and expansion and we would welcome an assurance that we shall soon be able to debate the situation.

Mr. Bowden

I can give an assurance that, some time during the present Session, there will be a debate on Northern Ireland.

Mr. Driberg

Can my right hon. Friend say whether there is any possibility some time of a debate on the Crathorne Committee's Report? Can he repudiate the suggestion which is being put about that this fairly valuable Report is being shelved because it is controversial, since, clearly, any debate on it would culminate in a free vote?

Mr. Bowden

The Report has only very recently been made and the House and the country should have the opportunity to study it before we decide on the debate.

Mr. Box

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the Motion, standing in my name, which discloses a serious difference of opinion between the Minister of Power and his Parliamentary Secretary about the timing of steel nationalisation? Will the right hon. Gentleman allocate time so that this matter can be debated and the Government can express their intentions definitely, or, better still, will he advise the Prime Minister to withdraw this contentious legislation, for which the Government, quite obviously, have no clear mandate?

[That this House notes that the answer given by the Minister of Power in a written reply indicating that a bill to nationalise the steel industry will be introduced as soon as practicable appears to conflict with the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power at a press conference at Port Talbot on Saturday 5th December that such a bill will be introduced within a year and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to clarify the position.]

Mr. Bowden

There is nothing at all inconsistent between the two statements to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. I can assure the hon. Gentleman—and no doubt the House is very interested—that the necessary legislation will be laid as soon as practicable.

Mr. Awdry

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider extending by two hours the time allotted to the debate on the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill, since so many hon. Members would like to speak?

Mr. Bowden

I have not received any representations on that at the moment, but I am quite prepared to consider it.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

With regard to the question about the capital gains and corporation taxes, would the right hon. Gentleman make the helpful suggestion to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he could clarify the situation if he would introduce a second autumn Budget next week?

Sir F. Bennett

With regard to the question on the economic situation, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Emery)—I could not hear the reply, if there was one—are we to have no Government statement at all about why this new credit squeeze is not a credit squeeze?

Miss Quennell

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether we may expect a statement about Channel Island milk before the House rises?

Mr. Bowden

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is seeing both producers and distributors next week.