HC Deb 18 June 1964 vol 696 cc1482-92
Mr. H. Wilson

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

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

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

MONDAY, 22ND JUNE—Supply [19th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate on Leisure and Sport.

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

Remaining stages of the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Bill.

TUESDAY, 23RD JUNE—Second Reading of the Malicious Damage Bill, and of the Refreshment Houses Bill.

Motion on the Cranbrook Sunday Cinematograph Order.

WEDNESDAY, 24TH JUNE—Completion of the remaining stages of the Hire Purchase (No. 2) Bill [Lords].

THURSDAY, 25TH JUNE—A Motion to take note of the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire, 1963, when it is expected that the main discussion will be on Housing, and on an Opposition Amendment.

Remaining stages of the Emergency Laws (Re-enactments and Repeals) Bill.

FRIDAY, 26TH JUNE—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 29TH JUNE—The proposed business will be: Supply [20th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate on Agriculture.

Remaining stages of the Perpetuities and Accumulations Bill [Lords].

Mr. Wilson

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that on Thursday's business it is the intention of my right hon. Friend to move the Opposition Amendment at the earliest possible stage in the proceedings so as to get the fullest possible debate on it?

Secondly, reverting to a question which I put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman last week, is he yet in a position to tell us when the Minister of Aviation will make a statement on the question of the cancellation of the VC10, in view of his regrettable inability to deal with this question at Question Time?

Mr. Lloyd

I understand the point which the right hon. Gentleman made about Thursday's business. It is hoped that the form of the Amendment will be such as not unduly to restrict the discussion, but will be wide, so that the debate can go as wide as possible on Welsh affairs.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation hopes to make a statement as soon as possible.

Dame Irene Ward

In view of the fact that I was looking forward to my right hon. and learned Friend answering my Motion on the Order Paper today, and that it will not be reached, may I ask whether we may have an assignation for next week so that he can answer my Motion?

[To call attention to the need to speed up the good business of the Government; and to move, That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that there should be a speeding up of legislative or administrative action where good results would accrue to the nation; and in particular that this House would welcome a decision on the provision of higher technological education for the North-East coast as is envisaged through the appropriate upgrading of Rutherford College, particularly in view of the need to convince employers taking advantage of the pro gressive policy of the Board of Trade to establish factories in the North-East that a sufficient number of higher qualified personnel is readily available; that it would further welcome legislative action by Her Majesty's Government prior to the receipt of the Allen Report on rating to relieve local authorities of certain education charges or interest charges on public loans as a means of relieving those living on small fixed incomes of the ever-increasing burden of rates for which, in order to meet their liability, they are quite unable to extend their static incomes; and that this House, which congratulates Her Majesty's Government on providing ever additional financial support for the arts, would at the same time welcome an independent inquiry into the controversy arising over the London Opera Centre, having regard in recent years to the Arts Council's methods of using grants and appointments to protect their own hierarchy and to eliminate those who dare to criticise the policies pursued.]

Mr. Lloyd

I have noticed the terms of my hon. Friend's almost all-embracing Motion. I am not sure, however, that I can promise to meet her request this afternoon.

Mr. J. Hynd

Will the Leader of the House tell us whether the Government intend to hold an early debate on the result and the implications of the recent Geneva conference on world trade and its aims?

Mr. Lloyd

That might be a topic for discussion, and I will consider the matter, but there is no time for it next week.

Mr. Goodhart

In view of the large number of electors already on holiday in the autumn, will my right hon. and learned Friend find extra time for further consideration of the Representation of the People Act 1949 (Amendment) Bill, introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies)? In view, also, of the desirability of getting all-party agreement before changing the rules governing voting, would my right hon. Friend have discussions with the Opposition to see whether they would facilitate the passage of the Bill?

Mr. Lloyd

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that as many people as possible should have the chance to vote. I think that he is quite right in indicating that it would be difficult for the Government to facilitate a Private Members' Bill dealing with the electoral law except after consultation between the parties. That, I think, has been the practice in the past.

I think that there must be some uncertainty about time, but if the Opposition are willing to join in trying to make this a workable Measure the Government will be prepared to consider the question of facilitating its passage further.

Mr. Bottomley

While recognising the need for the Governor to take prompt action during the crisis in British Guiana, may I ask whether the Leader of the House can tell us what has happened to the Statutory Instrument, which does not appear to be laid on the Table and is not available in the Library, concerning the state of emergency in British Guiana?

Mr. Lloyd

If the right hon. Gentleman had given me notice of that question, I might have been able to answer it. I cannot answer it without notice.

Mr. W. Yates

As there is a constitutional discussion concerning South-West Arabia in progress at the moment, in which far-reaching changes are proposed without the consent of the people, will my right hon. and learned Friend allow the House to have time to debate the matter as soon as the results of the conference are announced?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly cannot promise that. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will keep the House informed.

Mr. H. Wilson

May I revert to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's previous answer about consultations concerning one aspect of electoral law reform? Is he not aware that there are very many suggestions from both sides of the House covering a wide area of electoral law reform, covering many subjects, including the legitimacy of certain forms of election expenditure? We are more than willing to enter into discussions with the right hon. and learned Gentleman on all these questions, but is he aware that there would be a general feeling that one should not legislate on this piecemeal by taking so late in this Parliament one item out of the hundreds of reforms that are necessary?

Mr. Lloyd

This is a Measure dealing with one aspect, namely, the ability to vote at the forthcoming General Election, which might be a matter of substantial urgency and importance to certain people. Therefore, I think that a case could be made out for taking this Measure piecemeal and, if the Opposition are willing, dealing with it.

Mr. Wilson

Is it not a fact that none of them would have been on holiday if the Prime Minister had had the courage to face the electorate earlier? [Interruption.] Have it any time you like. Liverpool, Scotland, last week, was quite a good sign.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not know that that particular topic arises on the business for next week.

Mr. Wilson

Mr. Speaker, since you did not stop the intervention of the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), which, I presumed, was equally out of order, I thought it in order to reply to it.

May I, therefore, put this point to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who suggests that we take this one Measure and that Government time be provided for it? Would he, then, be prepared to provide Government time also for a Measure to deal with the question of publication of election expenditure?

Mr. Lloyd

We should have to look at the proposed Measure. With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I suggest that this is not a matter of political debating points. This is the convenience of the electorate.

Mr. McMaster

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider granting an early date for a debate on Northern Ireland, which has been promised?

Mr. Lloyd

I am bearing in mind my hon. Friend's interest in this matter.

Mr. Bowles

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on Motion 124 to see how far the attitude of the Government towards the marriage of Chrysler and Rootes has been affected by the number of Tory MP.s who have been married to American women?

[That this House views with concern the acquisition by foreign investors of controlling interests in key industries such as the motor industry; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to strengthen its powers to prevent such transactions when they appear to be contrary to the national interest.]

Mr. Lloyd

Without commenting on the form of the hon. Gentleman's question, may I say that I know that the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) has a Question on the Order Paper for Tuesday, 23rd June, for answer by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think that we had better await that answer.

Sir G. Nicholson

May I direct my right hon. and learned Friend's attention to items Nos. 19, 20 and 21 of the Orders of the Day, of each of which this is said: This Instrument has not been considered by the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments."? Surely it is a bad practice that there should be put down amongst the Orders of the Day Statutory Instruments which have not been considered by the Select Committee?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that my hon. Friend is on a perfectly good point that these Statutory Instruments should not be taken until there has been a reasonable opportunity for consideration. However, I do not think that there is any suggestion that they should be taken today.

Mr. Wade

May I ask, once again, when there will be a debate on the White Paper on Monopolies and Mergers and Restrictive Practices?

Mr. Lloyd

I answered the hon. Gentleman. Either this month or next month; anyhow, as soon as I can conveniently arrange it.

Miss Vickers

Has my right hon. and learned Friend seen Motion 118, in the name of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) and other hon. Members, on the question of Abortion Law Reform?

[That this House views with concern the present unsatisfactory state of the law in relation to abortion due to difficulties of interpretation and to the uncertainty of the judgment of the courts in particular cases; it deplores a situation in which pregnant women who can afford sympathetic and skilled treatment have the possibility of a legal abortion on health grounds, while those who lack the means or proper advice are driven to take desperate and harmful measures; it therefore calls for revision of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 so as to clarify and liberalise the law with a view to reducing the havoc and danger of illegal abortion.]

Does my right hon. and learned Friend realise that 100,000 women have illegal abortions and at least 25,000 go into hospital, each year. Is there any opportunity in the near future for revising the 1861 Act?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary explained the Government's attitude on this matter in an answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) on 4th June. I have nothing to add to that reply.

Mr. Woodburn

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman reconsider his answer about legislation to meet the urgent problems connected with the electoral register? The law purports to give every young person a vote at 21. As it stands, a large number of people who have been 21 for some months will not be able to vote at the coming election because of the curious electoral registration arrangement. Some of them will not vote until they are 24 or 25. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman intends to legislate for this election, would he consider this very urgent problem?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is a matter for consideration. I would like to see the form of legislation designed to deal with it before answering the latter part of his question.

Mr. Lee

May I revert to the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition? Is the Leader of the House aware that the Minister of Aviation has had Sir Giles Guthrie's Report in his hands for some time now? We are not asking him to wait until his conclusions on Sir Giles's Report are ready. We would prefer to have his report on Sir Giles's recommendations on the VC.10. Is the Leader of the House aware that we understand that the Minister of Aviation's report back to Sir Giles is due on 31st July and that we believe that to be just a little late?

Mr. Lloyd

I will take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said and convey it to my right hon. Friend. I understand that the matter is still under discussion, but my right hon. Friend has told me that he will make a statement as soon as possible.

Mr. Short

Since the travel concessions Bill, which would enable old, blind and disabled people to keep their cheap fares, has been blocked by Tory M.P.s on six occasions, and since the right hon. and learned Gentleman now understands this matter rather better because I have explained it to him, will he say whether the Government will now give time for my Bill, or introduce legislation of their own before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Lloyd

This matter has been discussed with me, not only by the hon. Gentleman but by some of my hon. Friends. I have nothing to add today to what I have previously said.

Mr. Ross

In view of what the Leader of the House said about the Government's willingness to facilitate the passage of one Private Member's Bill before the end of the Session, will he say whether there are any other Bills which the Government are prepared similarly to treat? Could we be told the titles of those Bills?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman must not misrepresent me. I said that these matters of electoral reform should follow consultation between the parties. I said that in this case, if the Opposition were willing to facilitate the Bill, the Government would do the same.

Mr. Ross

Will the Leader of the House answer my question? Do the Government intend similarly to treat any other Private Members' Bills?

Mr. Lloyd

Not at the moment, no.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there have been discussions under the aegis of the Home Office on this question with all the parties represented? Is he not aware that expert opinion is that to give effect to the Bill would mean that the date for registering postal votes would have to be made one week earlier—in other words, almost immediately after the dissolution of Parliament—which would rule out many thousands of people entitled to postal votes so that those going on holiday should be included? Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman avoid committing himself too far on this principle until it has been properly examined?

Mr. Lloyd

The point that the right hon. Gentleman makes has been made before. In my own view, I do not think that it is an insuperable difficulty.

Mr. Monslow

As we have a limited time for the debate on nationalisation which follows shortly, could the right hon. and learned Gentleman set aside—we would welcome it—another day for a debate on nationalisation?

Mr Lloyd

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will use his influence with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, so that the intention of the Amendment in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Godman Irvine) and others on the Order Paper is accepted.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

As that question has been raised, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether he has had any formal response to that invitation, because we are all willing to help the Leader of the Opposition in this matter?

Mr. G. Brown

Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman, even at this late stage, accept the Motion which we have tabled and which would meet everybody's point of view? [That, notwithstanding the Order of the House of 13th November, 1963, relating to the business for Thursday, 18th June, private Members' notices of motions shall have precedence until Ten o'clock on that day.]

Mr. Lloyd

The right hon. Gentleman is making a suggestion in that Motion to increase the amount of time given to private Members. He will recall that he was a member of the Government which, during their six years in office, gave an average of seven days a Session to private Members. We have given 21 days.

Mr. Warbey

May I press the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give time to debate the Government's international economic policy in view of the fact that the Government have committed this country to some fairly far-reaching decisions at the recent conference on world trade at Geneva? Will the Government submit those decisions for the endorsement or otherwise of the House?

Mr. Lloyd

Not next week.

Mr. Rankin

Seeing that the Report on Nuclear Power for Ship Propulsion has been studied by the Government for the last five or six weeks—at least, I hope that they have been studying it—could the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us whether or not he will fulfil the promise which was made and enable us to debate that Report?

Mr. Lloyd

I will certainly bear in mind what the hon. Member has said.

Mr. Dalyell

Is it the intention of the Government to find time to debate the Henniker Heaton Report on day release?

Mr. Lloyd

Certainly not next week.

Mr. W. Hamilton

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) about Private Members' Bills, is it not a fact that all such Bills will be guillotined on 26th June? If the Government seek to facilitate the passage of other Private Members' Bills, does this not mean that there must be some amendment of the Standing Orders or other special Orders before that can be done?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not think so and, in any event, I was dealing with one particular Bill.

Mr. Lipton

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say when we will be receiving the Report of the Committee of Privileges, which seems to be taking a long time to deal with the problem of the Lord President of the Council and Secretary of State for Education and Science?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not think that the hon. Member can have studied the available documents as carefully as one might have expected, because official notification has been given that the Report has been submitted, and it will be published as soon as it can be printed.

Mr. Lubbock

In view of what the Leader of the House has said about amending the Representation of the People Act prior to the next General Election, and of the Government's sympathetic attitude towards the Bill of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and the practical difficulties in the way of implementing his proposals, which have been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, would the Government consider giving time for the Representation of the People Act, 1949 (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, which deals with a more limited section of the electorate, and which is entirely non-controversial?

Mr. Lloyd

I should have to study the terms of that Bill before answering the hon. Member's question.

Mr. A. Lewis

In view of the debate on agriculture which the right hon. and learned Gentleman announced for next week, would he make arrangements for his right hon. Friend to be prepared to tell the House on how many occasions during the last 50 years, other than this week, we have had to import carcase meat at the expense of hard-earned dollars?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not think that that is a question on business.