HC Deb 17 December 1964 vol 704 cc570-80
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, 21ST DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill.

TUESDAY, 22ND DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Cereals Marketing Bill.

As the House is aware, the Chairman of Ways and Means has set down opposed Private Business for consideration at seven o'clock.

WEDNESDAY, 23RD DECEMBER—It is proposed that the House should meet at 11 a.m., that Questions be taken until twelve noon, and that the House adjourn at five o'clock, until TUESDAY, 19TH JANUARY.

In the week when the House returns from the Christmas Adjournment the business will be:

TUESDAY, 19TH JANUARY—Supply [3rd Allotted Day]: Motion to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair, when a debate will arise on an Amendment to take note of the 9th Report from the Select Committee on Estimates on Military Expenditure Overseas, and the Special Report relating thereto.

WEDNESDAY, 20TH JANUARY—Second Reading of the Administration of Justice Bill [Lords], and the remaining stages of the Science and Technology Bill.

THURSDAY, 21ST JANUARY—Supply [4th Allotted Day]: Report stage of the Winter Supplementary Estimates, which, if the House agrees will be taken formally to allow a debate on an Opposition Motion on Comprehensive Education and the Grammar Schools.

FRIDAY, 22ND JANUARY—Remaining stages of the Ministerial Salaries and Members' Pensions Bill and of the Airports Authority Bill.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We are obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Would he say what proposals the Government have for a special marking of the seven hundredth anniversary of Simon de Montfort's Parliament?

Mr. Bowden

Yes, Sir. It is proposed that on Wednesday, 20th January, the House should meet at 11.30 a.m. and that the sitting should be suspended after Prayers and a statement which, it is hoped, you, Mr. Speaker, will then make.

I understand that similar arrangements will be made in another place. Members of both Houses will then proceed to the Royal Gallery.

Mr. William Hamilton

Would my right hon. Friend recall that a protest was made yesterday about taking Supplementary Estimates formally and then proceeding to a debate arranged by the two Front Benches? Does he not recognise that he and the two Front Benches have done precisely the same in connection with the business for the first week after the Christmas Recess and that the back benchers are increasingly concerned about this practice?

Does he not realise that Sub-Committee G of the Estimates Committee has been established for two years now specially to deal with Supplementary Estimates and present reports to this House before the Estimates are debated by the House, and that the whole point of Sub-Committee G is that debate may take place on a report from that Sub-Committee, and that if the Government deliberately ignore this practice, then Sub-Committee G may as well be abolished?

Will he not reorganise the business so that Supplementary Estimates may be debated by the House?

Mr. Bowden

By long precedent arrangements for the debate on Supply days have always been made through the usual channels, with the Opposition choosing the subject. In announcing the business for next week, I said that this would be done if it was the wish of the House.

Although the figure is £60 million, the scope of debate is narrow, because on a procedural debate we can discuss only the additional Estimates, in relation to the original Estimates, and it was hoped that on this occasion it would be convenient to do as the Opposition suggested and debate comprehensive education.

Sir E. Boyle

In view of the widespread interest in the Bill that we shall be debating on Monday, will the right hon. Gentleman consider a limited suspension of the rule for, say, one hour on that day?

Mr. Bowden

I have received representations about this. It is the intention to put down a Motion to suspend the rule until eleven o'clock on that day.

Mr. W. Baxter

Reverting to the question put by the Leader of the Opposition about the celebration of the seven-hundredth anniversary of the English Parliament, am I to understand that the English Parliament is still in continuous being? If so, would that presuppose that the Scottish Parliament could be recalled at any time when Scottish Members so desired? I ask that because it was my understanding that the Scottish Parliament was continued in suspension until there was a dissolution of this Parliament.

Mr. Bowden

As the arrangements for celebrating the seven-hundredth anniversary of Simon de Montfort's Parliament are in the hands of a committee under your chairmanship, Mr. Speaker, I announced what was likely to happen in this Chamber on 20th January, which will be the seven-hundredth anniversary of the actual meeting. If I could go further, it would be to say that perhaps when we reach the Royal Gallery some refreshment may be provided. I assure my hon. Friend that there is no intention of asking the Scottish Grand Committee to meet on that morning.

Mr. Maude

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a fortnight ago, when discussing the business of the House, he made a quite encouraging statement on the question of the necessity for alleviating the uncertainty in the aircraft industry? He did that in relation to a Motion on the Order Paper.

[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.]

Will the right hon. Gentleman please try to see that we get a statement at least on the Concord before the House rises for the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Bowden

Since I made that statement a fortnight ago, in reply to a question, a Committee of Inquiry has been set up, and I think that it would be for the general convenience of the House to await the report from that Committee.

Mrs. Renée Short

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the Motion on the Order Paper which refers to the redundancy and unemployment which hundreds of workers face this Christmas at the Four Ashes Factory, near Wolverhampton?

[That this House, gravely concerned at the threatened closure of the General Electric Company's factory at Four Ashes, near Wolverhampton, and the resulting redundancy of over 700 workers, and disturbed by the short notice given to the men and women employed there and the inadequate redundancy payments offered, calls upon the Minister of Labour and the President of the Board of Trade to investigate the reasons for the closure, and what the management intend to do with the factory, and to take steps to keep the factory working or to take such other steps to ensure that the employment of the workers of the factory is not in any way prejudiced.]

In view of the urgency of this matter, will he give the House some chance to discuss it?

Mr. Bowden

I do not think that there will be any opportunity to discuss this before the Recess, but the Minister of Labour made a statement in the House on, I think, 7th December on this matter, and the President of the Board of Trade is aware of what is happening at this factory.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I thought that on a previous occasion the Minister of Aviation said that none of the particular projects mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on- Avon (Mr. Maude) would be held up pending the inquiry. Can the right hon. Gentleman clarify the position?

Mr. Bowden

My impression was quite different. I thought that the inquiry covered the whole field, but I will certainly have a word with my right hon. Friend to see what is the position.

Mr. Grimond

Reverting to the question of Simon de Montfort's Parliament, now that the Leader of the House has whetted our appetites a little more about the proceedings on the 20th, can he say what will happen in the Royal Gallery besides a modified amount of drinking? Some people may wish to rearrange their engagements in view of what he said.

Mr. Bowden

Mr. Speaker, I understand that your committee will be issuing a Press notice which will give rather more detail. As far as I understand it, the idea is that the main celebration should be later in the year, perhaps in June.

Mr. Shinwell

On the question of the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill, can my right hon. Friend say why, without any consultation with the sponsors, he has agreed to suspend the rule and continue the debate until eleven o'clock? Does he suggest that an extra hour's debate will make all the difference in persuading either side of the House, or any hon. or right hon. Member, to come to a conclusion on the matter? In any event, as this is a Private Member's Bill, is there any reason why its sponsors, of which I am one, should not have been consulted before a decision ,of this kind was taken?

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Before my right hon. Friend answers that question, may I say that any responsibility for not consulting the other sponsors of the Bill is mine, and not my right hon. Friend's. He asked whether I thought there was any objection to extending the time for debate by one hour, in view of the large number of Members who wish to speak, and I informed him, I am afraid without consulting anybody else, that I saw no objection to it.

Mr. Bowden

We thought that the arrangement would be for the general convenience of the House.

Mr. Shinwell

If I may say so with respect to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, this matter is not the concern of the Government. As this is a Private Member's Bill, this is purely a House of Commons matter. In those circumstances, surely the ordinary arrangements should be complied with and the Division should be taken at ten o'clock.

Mr. Bowden

On this occasion I was acting not as a member of the Government, but as Leader of the House. As a result of a number of representations, I came to the conclusion that eleven o'clock was not a difficult hour at which we could come to a decision, and I certainly consulted my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), who is the first sponsor of the Bill.

Mr. Prior

May I ask the Leader of the House whether his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is to make a statement on Channel Island milk? Is he aware that we have been waiting for two months for a statement on this relatively simple subject? Are we to take it that Question No. 30, tabled by his hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) for Written Answer today, is a planted question, which means that we are to get an unsatisfactory reply? Are we to have no chance of debating this matter before the House rises for Christmas?

Mr. Bowden

I have no idea of the contents of the reply, but it certainly will be a reply to my hon. Friend's Question.

Mr. Popplewell

Will my right hon. Friend please say when he hopes to do something about Motion No. 27, which relates to the sittings of the House?

[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.]

My right hon. Friend will remember that last week he suggested that he would consider sending this matter to a Select Committee on Procedure. Is it his intention during next week, or when the House reassembles, that this matter should be so referred?

Mr. Bowden

Yes, Sir. I hope, on Tuesday, to move that the Select Committee on Procedure be asked to look at this and other matters.

Sir F. Bennett

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that last week several of my hon. Friends and I were told, "not this week" when we asked when we were to get a statement on the Government's new credit squeeze. Can the right hon. Gentleman give a more helpful reply this week, or is it seriously suggested that we should adjourn for the Christmas Recess without the Government making their views known at all on this very serious imposition?

Mr. Bowden

I presume that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the question of the capital gains tax, which he raised on a previous occasion. I have nothing further to add on that other point.

Sir F. Bennett

I did not mention the capital gains tax. I referred to the credit squeeze and being told "not this week" when we raised the matter last week. Perhaps I might repeat my question and ask whether we are to get a statement before we rise for the Christmas Recess.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I cannot make the Leader of the House answer something. It is not my responsibility.

Mr. Kitson

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us something about the business on Tuesday? Is it intended to finish the Cereals Marketing Bill by seven o'clock, or are we going back to it at ten o'clock?

Mr. Bowden

We shall have to see how we get on. Business is interrupted at seven, but if we have not completed Government business it normally continues after ten o'clock.

Mr. Longbottom

Is the Leader of the House aware that the very long statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the corporation and capital gains taxes has made the situation even more uncertain than before? Will he consider asking his right hon. Friend whether he will make a further statement on this matter before Christmas?

Mr. Bowden

I do not accept for a moment that my right hon. Friend's statement has made the position more uncertain. In fact, my right hon. Friend did what he was asked to do. He made a statement, and a lengthy one.

Sir Rolf Dudley Williams

May I oppose the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Longbottom)? Every time the Chancellor comes here he makes things worse. May I repeat the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett), who asked if we were to have a statement before the House broke up about the credit squeeze, in respect of which the Government have given instructions? Does not he realise that it is very important that we should know what is going on, and that our constituents should know what is going on?

Mr. Bowden

The answer is "No, Sir".

Mr. Corfield

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the statement that he has just made about the Concord, and the implication that a decision will not be made until after the inquiry reports, will merely add immensely to the anxieties of the aircraft industry? Will he seek an opportunity to make an early statement on the question whether or not this is to be the fact?

Mr. Bowden

I accepted the point earlier that it may not be included in the general inquiry. If it is possible to make a statement before the end of this inquiry, we will certainly do so.

Mr. Galbraith

What is the gestation period between a leak and a statement? In view of the large number of leaks regarding Dr. Beeching, when can we expect a statement to be delivered?

Mr. Stratton Mills

Why are the Government proceeding with the Double Taxation Relief Order, 1964, tonight? Is not the Leader of the House aware that this will have to be completely renegotiated as a result of the corporation tax?

Mr. Marten

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the Motion standing on the Order Paper in the names of my hon. Friends and myself concerning the Polaris base at Holy Loch and the number of Ministers of the Government who are apparently opposed to it?

[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.]

Does he realise that according to my researches four Cabinet Ministers and 10 other Ministers and P.P.S.s are on record as being against the Polaris base at Holy Loch; that the Prime Minister is in favour of it, and the Government are in favour of it? Before we rise for the Christmas Recess can we expect a statement by all these Ministers, clarifying their own positions?

Mr. Bowden

The hon. Gentleman has answered his own question. The Government have made a clear statement on the position of the Polaris base.

Sir C. Osborne

When the right hon. Gentleman is formulating the business for the week immediately after the Christmas Recess will he find time, as soon as possible, to discuss the effect of the 15 per cent. ad valorem duties? This afternoon his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said that those duties would be taken off as soon as possible. They are causing a lot of confusion and anxiety in the business world, and the sooner we know whether or not they are coming off the better. Can he arrange for a statement to be made as soon as possible?

Mr. Bowden

I do not expect one to be made before the Recess, but my right hon. Friend will be made aware of the hon. Gentleman's question.

Mr. William Clark

Can the Leader of the House say something more about the corporation and capital gains taxes? Is he aware that there is a Motion standing on the Order Paper, signed, curiously enough, only by hon. Members on this side, although it is obvious that hon. Members opposite are concerned in this matter?

[That this House deplores the uncertainty created by the recent statements by Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, and calls on Her Majesty's Government to issue immediately a comprehensive statement that will clarify beyond doubt the structure of the proposed corporation and capital gains tax.]

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, when we come back early in the New Year, he will provide an opportunity to debate this matter? If he refuses, I hope that he will not suggest that a Supply day should be used for the purpose, because the idea of having a debate on these two taxes is to endeavour to kill the uncertainty which has arisen as a direct consequence of the action of the Government.

Mr. Bowden

I cannot give any such assurance. As I said last week, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor cannot be expected to make his next Budget statement now.

Mr. Maudling

In view of the fact that the partial disclosure to date by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject of these taxes is doing great damage to the economy, will the right hon. Gentleman represent to the Chancellor the great and real need for urgent clarification of these matters?

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was under great pressure to make a further statement, which he did. I think that his further statement was helpful, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends agree.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Could there be complete silence? I know what will happen. Many hon. Members wish to speak in the foreign affairs debate, if and when we get to it. All the noise and interruptions which are going on now, and all the irregular questions, merely deny these opportunities to fellow Members.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Is the Leader of the House aware that the lack of justification by the Government for their own credit squeeze—

Mr. Shinwell

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, will you be good enough to tell the House whether these questions are directed to business? If not, are they in order?

Mr. Speaker

The difficulty is that I have to listen to them before I can reach a conclusion. So far, the hon. Member is within the rules, which entitle him to emphasise the importance of the topic which he is raising. I have not heard enough of his question to know what it is about.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Is the Leader of the House aware that the lack of justification by the Government for their own credit squeeze is militating against improved production? Will not the right hon. Gentleman ask the Chancellor to make such a statement before the Recess?

Mr. Speaker

What is wrong with that question is that business questions having already been answered are as much out of order as any other questions which have been answered.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman give an answer to the demand of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) for a statement on Dr. Beeching's position, in view of the great interest in this matter? If there is to be an early statement, why cannot he say so?

Mr. Bowden

When the Government are ready to make a statement on Dr. Beeching, or any other matter, they will do so. They are not yet in a position to make a statement.

Mr. Gower

Why does the right hon. Gentleman say "No" to so many helpful questions? Why is he so adament? Does not he appreciate that, in view of the uncertainties which have arisen, the status and standing of the Government depend largely on some clarification of these taxation proposals, either in a debate or in the form of a statement?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir; I do not appreciate that.

Mr. Speaker

It is not in order to ask again a question that has already been answered, or—what is the equivalent for House of Commons purposes—has been refused an answer. That counts as an answer.