HC Deb 02 July 1964 vol 697 cc1554-66
Mr. H. Wilson

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he will state the business of the House for next week?

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

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

MONDAY, 6TH JULY—Debate on a Motion to approve the White Paper on Monopolies, Mergers and Restrictive Practices (Command No. 2299).

Remaining stages of the Fishery Limits Bill.

TUESDAY, 7TH JULY—Second Reading of the Zambia Independence Bill.

Remaining stages of the Obscene Publications Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 8TH JULY—Supply [22nd Allotted day]: Committee.

Debate on Transport.

Motions on the Police Pensions Regulations and the Street Sunday Cinematograph Order.

THURSDAY, 9TH JULY—Second Reading of the Spray Irrigation (Scotland) Bill [Lords], and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

Motions on the Local Government Burton upon Trent, and the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Orders.

At seven o'clock, opposed Private Business.

FRIDAY, 10TH JULY—Second Reading of the Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Bill [Lords].

Remaining stages of the Zambia Independence Bill.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Housing Bill.

Motion on the Furniture Industry Development Council (Amendment No. 2) Order.

MONDAY, 13TH JULY—The proposed business will be: debate on Accommodation.

Mr. H. Wilson

On Thursday's business, the Motion on the Local Government Burton upon Trent Order, on the merits of which, obviously, one does not express any opinion at this stage, is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware of suggestions that this may well be sub judice in view of an action in the High Court challenging the powers of the Minister in this respect? Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman look at that point carefully and consider whether we ought to be debating it at all?

Secondly, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether he is prepared to find Government time next week for the consideration of the Bill, most unfortunately wrecked last week by hon. Members opposite, which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) to increase widows' 10s. pensions and to abolish the earnings rule for widows? Is this not one of the most important pieces of legislation that Parliament should be passing at this time?

Mr. Lloyd

In reply to the right hon. Gentleman's first question, I was aware of the point. I do not think that it is a matter of fact for me to decide, but account has been taken of it. It is a matter which can be argued at the time but it is not for me to decide this matter. It is a matter for whoever is the occupant of the Chair at the time.

The right hon. Gentleman's second question involves certain policy matters, but, so far as Government time next week is concerned, the answer is, "No".

Sir Knox Cunningham

Is my right hon. and learned Friend now able to say when the debate on Northern Ireland will be held?

Mr. Lloyd

I hope early in the week beginning 13th July.

Mr. Mitchison

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Burton upon Trent Order may be concerned with a document which the court will declare invalid because there has not been sufficient compliance with the provision for a statutory inquiry beforehand? Do the Government think it right to bring before the House for discussion a document the validity of which as an Order is at present being challenged and falls to be decided upon by the court?

Mr. Lloyd

I quite agree that this is an important matter. It has, of course, certain implications and it can be discussed at the time, but I repeat that I do not think that it is for me to pronounce on this. If one possibility is that one might hold up an Order coming into operation simply by issuing a writ, that would have certain implications for the Executive.

Mr. Mitchison

But is not the practical difficulty that the Government must consider whether it is proper, in the light of relations between the House and the judiciary, to bring forward an Order to be given effect at the moment when the whole question is before the court? Of course, the matter may be raised again on a point of order when the Motion comes before us, but the Government ought first to consider their own duty to the House.

Mr. Lloyd

My own view is that the time for this to be further discussed is when the Order comes before the House.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Has my right hon. and learned Friend studied the Motion on the Order Paper, signed by a great many right hon. and hon. Members on this side, dealing with the grave news that this country has lost orders from the Spanish Government? Work on these orders might well have continued for a great many years. The manufacture of turbines and electronic equipment could have been of great help to the development districts and to tens of thousands of British people who are concerned about their prospects of employment.

[That this House recognising the vital importance of exports to our economy and to the maintenance of full employment, deplores the cancellation of a substantial export order to Spain, involving no question of British security, as a result of the irresponsible and doctrinaire intervention of the Opposition.]

Mr. Lloyd

There was a good deal in what my hon. Friend says. In view of the very strong line taken by the Leader of the Opposition, I was waiting for a proposition from the Opposition on the subject.

Mr. Brockway

In view of the nearness of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference, will the Leader of the House now grant facilities for my Bill against racial discrimination?

Mr. Lloyd

I have nothing to add to what I have said to the hon. Gentleman on earlier occasions.

Mr. Jennings

Will the Burton upon Trent Order be debated early in the evening? Further, is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the dangerous precedent in regard to the validity of tabling this Order, having regard to the fact that, on a previous occasion when the South Staffordshire authorities were affected in similar circumstances, and writs were issued against the Minister, the Order was not laid?

Will my right hon. and learned Friend, as Leader of the House, inquire closely into the reason why Burton has been so insidiously singled out for treatment in isolation?

Mr. Lloyd

The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's Question is, "I hope so". I shall certainly consider what he said in the second part, but, at present, I have nothing to add to what I have said already.

Mr. M. Stewart

The Leader of the House has twice suggested that the validity of the Burton upon Trent Order could be discussed when it comes before the House. Does not he agree that, when the Order comes before the House, the House ought to be free to discuss its merits, and its legal validity is a question for the courts? Is there not a danger, therefore, of wasting the time of the House by asking us to discuss and, perhaps, approve or not approve an Order which may subsequently be declared invalid?

Mr. Lloyd

I have said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) that I shall consider this matter. What I was trying to say earlier was that I did not think that the interpretation of the sub judice rule was a matter for me.

Dame Irene Ward

Can my right hon. and learned Friend give us an assurance that, when we debate transport next week, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will on that day be able to announce whether we are to have a nuclear-powered merchant ship, as an undertaking was given earlier today at Question Time by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science that we should have a statement before the House rose, and we should like to debate it?

Mr. Lloyd

I shall convey to my right hon. and learned Friend what my hon. Friend has said.

Sir B. Janner

Has the Leader of the House considered Motion No. 106 on the Order Paper about compensation for victims of Nazi persecution, to which I and over 100 hon. Members on both sides have put their names? Will he give time to debate the matter, particularly as the Federal German Government are susceptible to understandings and opinions coming from this country about those who suffered under Nazi persecution? As time is running out for many of those widows who would receive pensions if what we are asking for were granted, will the Leader of the House do something about this matter and ensure that those who suffered distress, imprisonment, and so forth, are in some way encouraged to realise that we are thinking of them at this time?

[That this House, noting the final amending law in respect of restitution and compensation to the victims of the Nazis is now under consideration by the Federal German Parliament, expresses the hope that provision will be made for the inclusion on equal terms of entitlement to compensation of the thousands of victims who through no fault of their own and by the application of arbitrary time limits for claims are excluded under the present law, and is encouraged in this hope by the fact that such inclusion and more liberal grants of compensation generally would not constitute a significant burden on the continued thriving economy of West Germany.]

Mr. Lloyd

I shall bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman said towards the end of his question. As regards the possibility of a debate, I think that the right thing now is for claims for compensation to be submitted.

Mr. Webster

Is Wednesday's debate on transport to be a wide-ranging debate, embracing rail and road haulage, the threat to nationalise road haulage, and compensation?

Mr. Lloyd

The debate will arise on a Supply Day. Whether the Opposition will decide to concentrate upon the question of nationalisation, I do not know.

Mr. Lee

It is now three weeks since the Minister of Aviation received Sir Giles Guthrie's report about the cancellation of the VC.10 orders. On a number of occasions we have asked about the statement which the Minister will make on the matter. Can we now have an assurance from the Leader of the House that it will be made next week?

Mr. Lloyd

No, not next week, I think.

Mr. Farey-Jones

With further reference to the cancellation of the order by the Spanish Government, is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that a most gratuitous insult has been offered to a great, proud and friendly people by the Leader of the Opposition? Does my right hon. and learned Friend realise that there is grave danger—

Mr. C. Pannell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are we not discussing the business for next week? How far are hon. Members of the Opposition—[Laughter.] I am sorry that I anticipated a few months. How far are hon. Members opposite permitted to go on debating now an issue which might very well come up later? Is this not an abuse of the business question procedure?

Mr. Speaker

I always encourage the whole House to confine business questions to business. I do not think that either side, or, indeed, I myself, was ever blameless in the matter, but we ought to try to do that.

Mr. Farey-Jones

As I was asking when I was so crudely interrupted, will my right hon. and learned Friend provide at the first possible opportunity a full day when the House can discuss this whole subject?

Mr. T. Fraser

Can the Leader of the House say whether there will be a statement next week on the ruling by the Restrictive Practices Court on steel prices? Further, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman arrange for the public- cation of a White Paper, setting out the ruling of the Court, so that hon. Members and the general public, who are entitled to know, may see precisely what the Court said about competitive private enterprise in this industry?

Mr. Lloyd

My reply to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is, "Not without notice". The matter which he raised in the second part is not for me, but I shall convey his request to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Montgomery

When can we expect a statement from the Government on concessionary fares for pensioners? [Laughter.] I do not know what the Opposition find so funny in that. My question refers to an experience which many people in this country have. May I remind my right hon. and learned Friend that he seems to show sympathy in this matter, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in reply to a recent supplementary question, promised to look at the anomalies in this situation? Yesterday, however, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport gave a very unsatisfactory reply to a question put to him. In the circumstances, will my right hon. and learned Friend find out what it is in the Ministry of Transport that is proving so difficult in this matter, and straighten it out?

Mr. Lloyd

Answering the question on business, as far as that is the content of my hon. Friend's question, I have nothing to add today to what I have said before. I will see that the other matter which my hon. Friend raised is brought to the attention of my right hon. Friends who are concerned.

Mr. Short

Will the debate on transport be wide enough to include concessionary fares? If not, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman ask the Prime Minister to let him see a letter from an old-age pensioner which I sent to him three weeks ago and to which he has not even had the courtesy to reply?

Mr. Lloyd

I said that the debate on Wednesdy will be a Supply Day and that the choice of topics and the terms of the Motion are for the Opposition.

Mr. W. Clark

May I again press the question of an urgent debate on trade with Spain? Has my right hon. and learned Friend noticed various Motions on the Order Paper signed by many hon. Members? Does he not agree that it is essential for this matter to be debated—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—so that we may know the difference between supplying frigates to Spain and supplying jet engines to Russia in 1946?

Mr. Lloyd

As my hon. Friend knows, there is a shortage of Government time at this time of the year, but the enthusiasm with which his suggestion for a debate was received on the other side of the House leaves me very confident that the topic will be chosen for an Opposition day.

Mr. Morris

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman ensure that the Minister of Aviation makes a statement to the House next week on his proposals to bombard over the next three months eight counties of Wales and the Border with 75 echo flights in an attempt deliberately to break the sound barrier?

Mr. Lloyd

I will see that my right hon. Friend is aware of what the hon. Member has said.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

As one of the sponsors of a Motion on trade with Spain, to which reference has been made, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether there is a method by which we could all meet the convenience of the House in this matter? Could he say whether on Monday's business, the debate will be wide enough to include the discussion of restrictive practices by the Opposition, interfering with international trade?

Mr. Dalyell

To facilitate a more informed debate on Monday week on accommodation, would the Leader of the House make available for hon. Members a full list of the varied uses to which the 1,500 rooms in the Palace of Westminster are put, both in theory and in practice?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that the hon. Member has asked me to undertake a very substantial task indeed.

Mr. Fell

I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend and the House will forgive me for referring again to the Burton upon Trent Order, 1964. A number of hon. Members are extremely worried about this Order and about our freedom to be able to debate it fully when it comes up for debate. In spite of what my right hon. and learned Friend said, I do not think that any of us is quite clear what will happen when this matter arises for debate next Thursday. May we have an assurance that it will be possible to debate it? If not, would it not be a good idea to withdraw it and to put it down another day?

Mr. Lloyd

It will be exempt business.

Mr. Fletcher

May I ask a question about next Wednesday's business? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that generally when Police Pension Regulations are brought up they have been uncontroversial but that on this occasion the Police Pensions Regulations which the Minister is bringing forward next Wednesday have not yet been agreed with the Police Council, particularly that part of them which deals with the gratuities which should be paid to the widows of policemen who are killed while on duty?

In those circumstances, will he consider the advisability of postponing the Regulations so that those parts which are non-controversial could be relaid and the others deferred until they have been agreed with the Police Council?

Mr. Lloyd

I will consider what the hon. Member has said, but there is, I understand, an urgency about this matter. We had better see how we get on next Wednesday.

Mr. Fell

I am grateful for another opportunity of asking the same question. My right hon. and learned Friend did not understand me at all. Perhaps that was due to the way in which I put the question. I am asking whether the debate on the Order will be limited owing to the fact that it may be ruled that a debate on it is sub judice.

Mr. Lloyd

I have said that I will consider that matter. I said previously that I did not think that it was for me to rule whether certain Orders were ruled out of order because they were sub judice.

Mr. W. Hamilton

When the right hon. Gentleman arranged the business for Tuesday afternoon did he realise that the Government have arranged that the Scottish Standing Committee should meet on Tuesday afternoon for the fourth sitting of the Committee, at 4 p.m. to discuss the Divorce (Scotland) Bill and that a dozen Scotttish hon. Members will, therefore, have a conflict of duties between whether to attend the Obscene Publications Bill down here or upstairs?

In view of the obvious importance which the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Government attach to the business in the House on Tuesday afternoon, and also in view of the fact that the Bill upstairs was a Private Member's Bill, will the Government now drop the Bill which we are discussing upstairs so that we may pay attention to our duties on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Lloyd

No, Sir.

Mr. Milne

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the tremendous inconvenience which is being experienced by British holidaymakers as the result of the activities of some unscrupulous travel agents in Britain? Will he provide Parliamentary time to introduce legislation to protect them from these experiences?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot promise any time for that next week.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In view of the concern of hon. Members who signed the Motion about trade with Spain, could the Leader of the House say whether he has had any request that an official invitation should be given to General Franco to pay a visit to this country so that he may inspect the very large number of obsolete naval vessels which are at our disposal—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that that comes within a discussion of next week's business.

Mr. Mitchison

I am sorry to revert again to Thursday's business, but may I ask whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that the question which he is being asked is about the proper performance of his duties as Leader of the House in arranging the business which comes before us. As far as I can see, the question either today or when the matter has to be ruled upon on Thursday is not under the sub judice rule. It is a question of the relations between this House and the judiciary.

Mr. Lloyd

I have said that I will consider that matter. The scope of the debate is not a matter for me.

Mr. Thorpe

So that the Leader of the House shall not feel that the request for a debate on Spain comes only from one side of the House, may I urge him to give consideration to the possibility of a debate on this matter? Is he aware that it is firmly felt that the cancellation of this contract may lead to grave economic consequences, and possibly a flight from the £ and mass unemployment, unless this country can continue to trade in arms with Fascist countries?

Since it is a long and honourable tradition of the Conservative Party to supply arms, for example, to Mussolini up to three days before the outbreak of the war, is it not right that this matter should be debated urgently?

Mr. Lloyd

It would be a very good thing if it were debated early so that some very foolish statements could be corrected quickly.

Mr. Ross

Is the Leader of the House aware that when there is an afternoon sitting of a Committee, it is very rare and usually takes place towards the end of a Bill? It is not a situation with which we are usually faced when a Bill starts going through Committee. Will he consider the application of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton)? Does he appreciate that there is no fixed time for ending a sitting which starts at 4 p.m.? A morning sitting must finish at 1 p.m., but if the Committee meets at 4 p.m., no time is fixed at which it must end. The last Committee which we had sitting in this way, for Scottish Members, ended at 12.37 a.m. the next day.

Does he therefore appreciate the difficulty of Scottish Members in relation to two important Bills, one being dealt with on the Floor of the House and one in Committee? Are the Government prepared to steamroller this through to the extent of keeping Scottish Members till unreasonable hours in Committee on Tuesday?

Mr. Lloyd

The reason I said "No" to the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) was that he asked me whether I would arrange for the Bill upstairs to be dropped. The answer to that is, "No". I realise that there are sometimes conflicts of duty which involve hon. Members in inconvenience. I will see whether there is anything that I can do about it, but I rather doubt it.

Mrs. Castle

May I reinforce the plea for an early debate on the subject of arms for Spain, so that the Government can explain their policy on arms exports, their current embargo on the export of arms to 14 countries, including Cuba, and the action they intend to take to replace the exports and employment lost by that embargo?

Mr. Lloyd

I note the hon. Lady's interest. Perhaps she will address her advocacy to those who still have four Supply Days available.

Mr. Lipton

May we expect a statement from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food about the suspicious details surrounding the relationship between the Egg Marketing Board and the Western Egg Pasteurisation Company, Ltd.? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Minister, despite urgent requests from this side of the House, failed to deal with this subject during our debate on agriculture on Monday? May we, therefore, have a statement, to clear up a very unsatisfactory situation?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot answer that question without notice. But the hon. Gentleman has a perfectly obvious way of getting the information he wants. He can put down a Question.

Mr. Steele

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you say how long business questions will continue? It is now ten minutes past four and we are hoping to have a Scottish debate on education today.

Mr. Speaker

I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman and I would like to get to it. So far, I have adopted the practice of treating business questions as the back benchers' opportunity to raise any topics which interest them and I have called all those who have risen. But I shall not be able to continue to do so if the occasion is abused

Sir B. Janner

I am sorry to have to raise this point again, but is the Leader of the House aware that he has mistaken the purport of the Motion to which I referred concerning compensation? While I appreciate that he is sympathetic to those who are making claims, is he aware that the Motion refers to those who are at present not making claims because they are debarred from doing so? They were behind the Iron Curtain before and up to 1953 so that they were unable to do anything about their claims.

In these circumstances, and in the light of his sympathetic answer, will he reconsider whether the Motion can be given a place for discussion so that the West German Government may realise that the victims concerned were, through no fault of their own, unable to put in their claims by October, 1953?

Mr. Lloyd

I am aware that this subject commands great interest and sympathy on both sides of the House. I will consider what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. C. Johnson

We are to have a debate on accommodation in the Palace of Westminster. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall that, a few weeks ago, I drew his attention to the fact that most Reports by earlier Select Committees on Accommodation were out of print? Since it may prove to be essential to refer to some of these Reports during the debate, has he been able to make arrangements for them to be available to hon. Members who wish to take part?

Mr. Lloyd

I was not aware that the hon. Gentleman would raise the matter again today. I will look into it again and send him an answer.