HC Deb 12 March 1964 vol 691 cc663-72
Mr. H. Wilson

May I ask the Leader of the House 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, 16TH MARCH—Private Members' Motions until seven o'clock.

Completion of the remaining stages of the Harbours Bill.

TUESDAY, 17TH MARCH—Supply [13th Allotted Day]. Report stage of the following Supplementary Estimates:

Class I, Vote 3, Ministers without Portfolio: Salaries.

Class VII, Vote 4, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

Class IX, Vote 2, Public Buildings, etc., N.E.D.C. findings on Building Industry.

Class IV, Vote 10, Transport Economics.

Class V, Vote 7, Agricultural and Food Services.

At 9.30 p.m. the Questions will be put from the Chair on the Vote under discussion, and on all outstanding Votes, under Standing Order No. 18.

Motions on the Agricultural Marketing Order, and on the Police Pensions Regulations.

Remaining stages of the Licensing Bill [Lords], and of the Television Bill [Lords], which are consolidation Measures.

WEDNESDAY, 18TH MARCH—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill, which it will be proposed should be taken formally to allow debate on an Opposition Motion on Housing.

Motion on the Post Office Accounts.

THURSDAY, 19TH MARCH—Remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.

The Opposition propose to debate Local Unemployment, until about seven o'clock.

FRIDAY, 20TH MARCH—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 23RD MARCH—The proposed business will be: Committee stage of the Resale Prices Bill: First day.

The House will wish to know that it is intended to propose that the House should rise for the Easter Adjournment on Thursday, 26th March, until Tuesday, 7th April.

Mr. H. Wilson

When we come to the business for Monday, 23rd March, will the House have the privilege of the attendance of the Prime Minister? If not, may we be told whether he will be absent, paired, and, if so, with whom he is to be paired?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not really think that the right hon. Gentleman's question is worthy of an answer. I am perfectly certain that my right hon. Friend will be present when it is appropriate for him to be present.

Mr. Graham Page

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether he can find time for a debate on the Motion on the Order Paper in the names of myself and of hon. Members who are members of the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, calling for the withdrawal of the Statutory Instrument which was reported to you, Mr. Speaker, as making unexpected use of Ministerial powers?

[That this House approves the resolution of the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments regarding the Weights and Measures (Equivalents for dealings with drugs) Regulations 1964, contained in their Second Report, regrets that the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland have together made unexpected use of the powers conferred on them by statute, and calls on them to withdraw the present Regulations and to substitute others.]

Mr. Lloyd

I have seen the Motion. All I can say on its merits is that I will convey to my right hon. Friends responsible what my hon. Friend has said.

With regard to the procedural aspect of the matter, I think that the procedure for dealing with Prayers—that they should continue until 11.30—has, on the whole worked fairly well over the last 10 years. But it was always envisaged that if that procedure meant that, for other reasons, a Prayer would be squeezed out from consideration there should be the possibility of suspending the rule in regard to that particular Prayer. Unfortunately, this case was never brought to my attention.

One of my predecessors as Leader of the House—the late Lord Crookshank—said that there could be difficulty in the new experiment and that special measures might have to be taken to deal with particular cases. I am sorry that I have not had a chance of considering this matter

Mr. Shinwell

Has the Leader of the House considered introducing emergency legislation before the Easter Recess to enable his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to vote at a General Election this year? Is he aware that his right hon. Friend is not qualified to vote at a General Election unless that election takes place after 10th October of this year? Does he intend to introduce emergency legislation to enable his right hon. Friend to vote in a General Election, or does he intend that the election shall not take place until after 10th October?

Mr. Lloyd

There will be no such legislation next week.

Mr. Wade

Will the Leader of the House say how many days will be devoted to the Committee stage of the Resale Prices Bill? Can he give a firm assurance that there will be no use of the Guillotine?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot say how many days—that will be a question for the House. There is no proposal next week for the Guillotine. I have not considered the matter.

Mr. F. Harris

Does the delay in discussing the Resale Prices Bill until Monday week indicate any lack of keenness on the part of the Government in proceeding with it?

Mr. Lloyd

I thought that it would be the general wish of quite a number of hon. and right hon. Members to have time to consider the Bill, so that they might put down such Amendments as they thought best.

Mr. Wigg

When considering the Resale Prices Bill, will the Leader of the House recollect that his right hon. Friend the Minister for Education—as I think he now is—once informed the country that a three-line Whip is not an order to vote, but only an order to be present?

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. If there was a possibility of an answer to that question because it was in order on business I would have allowed the opportunity, but I could not, in the circumstances.

Mr. P. Williams

Referring to Thursday's business, can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether there will be the chance of discussing Her Majesty's Government's more positive policy—[An HON. MEMBER: "What is that?"]—in relation to the settlement of local employment, rather than the negative policies of the Opposition, talking about unemployment?

Mr. Lloyd

Of course, this will be a debate on the remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill and, although it is not for me to say, I should have thought that anything would have been in order in that debate.

Mr. Fletcher

I want to revert to the question asked by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). As the Leader of the House has recognised, a very serious problem has arisen in the breakdown of the machinery of the House for dealing with Prayers. The only way in which this can now be raised is by allowing time for the consideration of the Motion in the names of a number of hon. Members on both sides—most of them being members of the Select Committee.

Does the Leader of the House think it right to allow this Motion, challenging the action of the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland in making unusual and unexpected use of the powers granted to them by Parliament, to remain on the Order Paper without the House having an opportunity to discuss it?

Mr. Lloyd

The ground of criticism, if it is a criticism, was that the Instrument appeared to make unexpected use of the powers conferred. The suggestion in the Motion is that the Regulations should be withdrawn, and that others should be substituted. That is a suggestion which I shall certainly convey to my right hon. Friends concerned for their consideration. I do not regard it as a matter for me. After what I have said, I do not think that if is necessary to debate the procedure of the House. I think that there is a real point here that we have to consider. If there is any chance of it arising again I shall certainly do my best to see that there is an opportunity for debate.

Mr. McMaster

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider giving Government time to debate affairs in Northern Ireland, as was done this time last year, in view of the continuing heavy unemployment there and the threat announced yesterday of severe redundancy at Short Bros. and Harlands in the next 12 months?

Mr. Lloyd

There will not be an opportunity other than those which I have already mentioned for discussing these matters next week.

Mr. Diamond

The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the Easter Recess. Can he say whether there will be an opportunity before we rise for Easter of discussing the Lang Report, which deals with the methods of the Ministry of Aviation in allotting contracts?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot say today. Obviously, there are very few remaining days unallotted, but we shall have to consider in due course what use should be made of the week after next.

Sir G. Nicholson

Has my right hon. Friend considered carefully the effect of what he said about the Statutory Instruments position? Does he recollect that it was the intention of the Select Committee which recommended the new procedure that critical comment by the Committee should receive the almost immediate attention of the House? In view of what my right hon. and learned Friend said about getting out of the difficulty by getting his right hon. and learned Friend to withdraw the Statutory Instrument in question, does he not think that that goes contrary to the original, expressed intention of the Select Committee and of the House?

Mr. Lloyd

With respect, I do not think that it does. I realise the difficulties and I realise that it takes time sometimes for departmental memoranda to be put to the Committee, and so on, but if we are warned in advance of the possibility of the necessity for a debate we shall handle the situation.

Mr. Fernyhough

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that he will not in any circumstances deny his hon. Friends all the time they require to modify the Resale Prices Bill and that he will in no circumstances contemplate introducing the Guillotine, or, as Press reports say he might, keep them here through the night to force upon them something which they do not want?

Mr. Lloyd

I have already answered that question. Anyway, it would seem to be hypothetical.

Mr. Mellish

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House have given an undertaking about completing the remaining stages of the Harbours Bill, but that now some of his hon. Friends have put down Amendments? If those Amendments are called by the Chair, any undertaking that we have given might not be realised and, if so, we shall need extra time. Will he take a note of that?

Mr. Lloyd

We must see how we get on.

Mr. Taverne

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the House will have the opportunity in the near future of discussing the new franchise proposals to be published in Aden? In due course an Order in Council will be published. Would it not be desirable for the House to debate the matter before publication?

Mr. Lloyd

All I can say is that there is no prospect next week.

Dr. King

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Motion on the Order Paper on Public Service and Armed Forces Pensions has now been signed by 200 hon. Members from both sides of the House? That being so, will he give the House an opportunity of debating it?

[That this House, recognising the hardships of public service pensioners and those retired from the armed forces, and especially of the older pensioners in these groups, whose pensions bear no relation to similar pensions now obtaining in the public service and the armed forces, urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce special provisions to improve such pensions.]

Mr. Lloyd

There will be obvious opportunities of discussing that kind of matter in tie not too distant future.

Sir H. Butcher

Will my right hon. and learner Friend bear in mind that the present arrangements for dealing with Statutory Instruments are so much more acceptable to the House than those obtaining up to 10 years ago, and that he will be putting the House very much in his debt if he makes sure that the arrangements envisaged by a predecessor of his, the late Lord Crookshank, are fully implemented?

Mr. Lloyd

I am certainly aware of that. I remember those nights when we sat very late—an arrangement which was agreeable to some and not agreeable to others. I Clink that this experiment has worked very well. Unlike other experiments it has lasted and worked well for 10 years. I think that we have to try to maintain the position, but I shall do everything I can to see that a Prayer is not squeezed out because of pressure of business.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the Leader of the House aware that in sporting circles there is great concern about the financing of the British scheme for the Olympic Games at Tokio and that we have reports that the Government have offered very limited help? Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman therefore kindly ask his right Ion. and learned Friend the Lord President of the Council to state in the House what the Government are doing so that we may have the opportunity to debate the matter or to ask questions?

Mr. Lloyd

I will certainly convey the point to my right hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. V. Yates

The Leader of the House referred to what he described as a hypothetical question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough). Is it correct, as we read in the Daily Telegraph, that it is the Government's intention to devote three days from Monday week to the Resale Prices Bill that is, the whole of the Parliamentary time before Easter, and that the House will sit late? We are entitled to know, because it would be a rather unfair attempt on the part of the Government to force through a Measure without adequate and proper consideration.

Mr. Lloyd

I have dealt in some detail with business for next week. The hon. Member asked me about the week after next. I have said that on Monday we would take the first day of the Committee stage of the Bill. Perhaps next Thursday, if the hon. Member asks me again, I shall have more to say.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to a Motion on the Order Paper expressing the grievances of the farmers with the Government, and especially the milk producers? While not pressing for a statement next week, may I ask whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman will give an assurance that we shall have a full opportunity of voicing the grievances of the farmers before Easter?

[That this House regrets that the Prime Minister should have given his approval to the recent statement made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the subject of farm incomes; calls attention to the fact that the real incomes of milk producers have recently shown an alarming fall, that in real terms their incomes are estimated to be 30 per cent, lower than they were eight years ago, that many are probably worse off now than at any time since the 1930's, that the number of cows has decreased, that milk producers are giving up milk production, and that there is concern over the possibility of a milk shortage next year; and urges Her Majesty's Government to take measures which will give greater confidence to dairy farmers and the agricultural community.]

Mr. Lloyd

I can certainly promise the hon. Member that he will have an opportunity of listening to a statement which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture hopes to make next week.

Mr. O'Malley

Is the Leader of the House aware of a Motion on the Order Paper, signed by a number of my hon. Friends and myself, dealing with Government expenditure on support for music and the arts. In view of the extremely difficult situation in which the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic find themselves, can he say whether there is any possibility of the Motion being discussed?

[That this House, gravely concerned that the Philharmonic Orchestra is threatened with extinction and at the consequences of this both for amenity at home and for Britain's international prestige in music and the arts, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to offer forthwith a grant to the orchestra sufficient to meet its immediate financial difficulties; and urges it to review the whole of government expenditure on support for music and the arts with a view to substantially increasing the present parsimonious level of assistance and making facilities more freely available to all sections of the community and particularly to the younger generation.]

Mr. Lloyd

I have seen the Motion and I gather that it was a private individual, the managing director, who took this decision. I cannot hold out any prospect of debate, but I am certain that my right hon. Friend who is concerned with these matters will have regard to what is happening.

Mr. A. Lewis

In view of the fact that a week before the Leader of the House announced the date of the Second Reading of the Resale Prices Bill the Daily Telegraph prophesied the exact date, and that the paper has now said that the Bill will be three days and nights in Committee, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman at least give an assurance that before coming to any decision on the Committee stage he will ascertain through the usual channels the view of the Opposition on the question of keeping us up at night to debate the Bill?

Hon. Members

Which Opposition?

Mr. Lloyd

No decision has been reached yet and no decision will be reached until there has been the usual opportunity for discussion, but the art of prophecy is still lawful.

Mr. Wigg

Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that he will tell the House when he takes a decision before he tells the editor of the Daily Telegraph?

Hon. Members