HC Deb 05 November 1964 vol 701 cc363-9
Sir Alec Douglas-Home

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

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Bowden)

The business for next week will be as follows:

The debate on the Address in Reply to the Gracious Speech will be continued On MONDAY, 9TH NOVEMBER, and brought to a conclusion on TUESDAY, 10TH NOVEMBER.

Afterwards, on Tuesday, Second Reading of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and the Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

ON WEDNESDAY, 11TH NOVEMBER—My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will make a Supplementary Budget Statement, which will then be debated.

ON THURSDAY,12TH NOVEMBER—Conclusion of the debate on the Budget statement.

ON FRIDAY, 13TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Travel Concessions Bill, and of the Superannuation Bill, and Committee stage of the Money Resolutions.

Sir A. Douglas-Home

I have two points to make on business. Will the Leader of the House understand that we really cannot accept that two days is necessarily enough for the Budget statement. We will have to judge when we see what the Government's proposals are whether or not that is sufficient—I very much doubt it. I should very much like to reserve our position until we hear what the Budget statement is. We should also very much like a debate on foreign affairs and defence during the next two or three weeks. The Prime Minister probably wishes to go to Washington some time early in the New Year, and there are many matters we should like to discuss. I do not think the time is quite ripe, but if we could have time for a debate later we would be very much obliged.

Mr. Bowden

On the right hon. Gentleman's first point, I think that we had better see the Budget Resolutions first before coming to a decision. I appreciate that, normally, Budgets have 15 or 16 Resolutions, when more time is necessary, but we had better wait until we hear the statement.

As to foreign affairs, we are only half way through the debate on the Queen's Speech, and during the last ten years there has been an overseas debate on every Queen's Speech at the request of the Opposition. It is a matter for the Opposition. If they prefer not to select a debate on foreign affairs during the debate on the Address, we will, of course, consider the position a little later—on, perhaps, a Supply day. On the question of defence, there is an opportunity for debate on the Continuation Orders, which come up before Christmas.

Sir A. Douglas-Home

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will very seriously consider my request for a debate on foreign affairs. There are very many issues that we should discuss in a coherent debate on foreign affairs which is not interrupted by a whole lot of other subjects. There is the multilateral force, and there is the position in the Middle East and in Malaysia. It would really be much more satisfactory if we could have a day or two days on foreign affairs, at any rate, before Christmas.

Mr. Bowden

Of course, debates on foreign affairs have not been interrupted in the last ten years by other subjects chosen for the debate on the Address, and this has been found satisfactory. Nevertheless, we are quite prepared in the next few weeks to look at the question of a Supply day and the possibility of a day on foreign affairs.

Mr. W. Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, according to the order of Questions, the House will be sitting up to 24th December? Would it not be a good idea to have a foreign affairs clay on Christmas Eve?

Mr. Grimond

Did the Leader of the House announce the business of the House for Monday week? If not, could he do so?

Mr. Bowden

I am afraid I cannot do so on this occasion, but I would hope to do as the former Administration did on most occasions. It was not general, but they did it on most occasions, and I shall endeavour to do the same.

Mr. Grimond

It is greatly to the convenience of the House if the Leader of the House can do this, and I hope that the normal custom will be that it is done.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

The Leader of the House will have seen the Motion on the Order Paper in the names of a number of my hon. Friends and myself regarding the conduct of the Prime Minister.

[That this House regrets the action of the Prime Minister on the first day of this Parliament in describing as a Parliamentary leper an hon. Member who had had no opportunity of making his maiden speech, thereby implying that he should be universally shunned in this House although duly elected by the people of Smethwick; and further regrets the refusal of the Prime Minister to withdraw that expression although repeatedly urged to do so.]

Now that he has had time to think it over, would the Prime Minister do the decent thing and make a statement next week making a full and straightforward withdrawal of his reflection on my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths)?

Mr. Bowden

That question has nothing to do with me or with the business for next week. In regard to a debate on the Motion to which the right hon. Member has referred, I announced yesterday 14 occasions which could be taken for a debate if the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends should so wish. If, on the other hand, the official Opposition agree to make representations to debate this Motion and agree to adopt it, we can consider making time available on Supply or in some other way.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Could the Leader of the House tell us when we may expect a Bill on law reform measures and on the question of an Ombudsman? Are there to be two Bills or one Bill, and when will it come?

Mr. Bowden

Certainly not next week, but work is being done on these Bills. They are being drafted. I doubt whether they will come before Christmas, but if we can get one of them we certainly will.

Mr. Shinwell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, while none of us wishes to take up the time of the House or to interfere in any way with Government business, some of us would be delighted if an opportunity could be afforded to debate the Motion, in the names of some members of the Opposition, to which reference has been made?

Mr. Bowden

It may be for the general convenience of the House, if the official Opposition would wish to debate this subject, to debate the Motion and the Amendment, and also the second Motion at the same time.

[Line 1, leave out from "House" to end, and add "regrets that the Leader of the Opposition after repeated invitations has failed to dissociate himself from the racialist activities of the Smethwick Conservatives".]

[That this House regrets the action of the Prime Minister in describing the Member for Smethwick as a parliamentary leper, thus casting a cruel and unmerited slight on lepers.]

Mr. Webster

On next Tuesday's Questions, who is to answer for technology in the absence of any Minister in charge of that subject in this House?

Mr. Bowden

The Prime Minister himself is answering Questions on this subject on Tuesday.

Mr. Ridsdale

Why are the Government so anxious to put off a debate on foreign affairs? Many of us on this side of the House who have a certain knowledge of what is happening in South-East Asia and other parts of Asia and Africa are most anxious to have an early debate on foreign affairs, and we do not believe that the debate on the Address is a satisfactory method of debating foreign affairs.

Mr. Bowden

I repeat that it has proved to be a satisfactory method over the last ten years and that we could still make the necessary changes for a debate if that were proposed, not conveniently for today, but certainly for tomorrow, Monday, or Tuesday.

Mr. Lubbock

May I ask if the Minister of Aviation will be seeking an opportunity next week to make a statement on discussions with his French opposite number on the position of the Concord agreement?

Mr. Bowden

I understand that my right hon. Friend is likely to be making a statement tonight.

Sir R. Dudley Williams

While appreciating the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman in his reply to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, am I to assume from his remarks that if, after the Budget Resolutions are known, there is a demand by the Opposition for an extension of time for debate on them, it will be granted?

Mr. Bowden

This is a matter for the usual channels. We do not, of course, forecast what the usual channels will be likely to do.

Mr. Galbraith

I do not know if the Leader of the House has any influence here, but I notice that according to the order of Questions Scottish Questions will not be reached for six weeks. When English hon. Members have an opportunity of asking Questions on housing, roads and health, is it not quite wrong that Scottish Questions should be so far down on the list? Will the right hon. Gentleman please look into this?

Mr. Bowden

I nearly said, "This is where we came in". The order of Questions, I agree, is not sacrosanct. It may be altered to suit the House, and I am always prepared to receive representations, but it does follow the new idea started in the last Session—which I thought at that time a good idea, and still think so—whereby there is one day per week for each Department. It does not mean that there are fewer opportunities. Although there is only one day, in fact the turn for Questions comes more quickly. I would hope that the House would agree to continue this, but we can look at it again.

Mr. Galbraith

I am not objecting to the one day, but I am asking that the Scottish day should come a little earlier. It will be 20 weeks since we last had Scottish Questions.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

The Leader of the House said that a statement might be made about the Concord tonight. Would it not be convenient to the House, as we are to discuss science and technology this afternoon, if the statement could be incorporated in the opening speech?

Mr. Bowden

The request was for a debate on technology. We thought it would be advisable and would meet the convenience of the House if the Minister of Aviation wound up the debate and told the House the position.

Sir T. Beamish

A terrific song and dance was made by the party opposite, when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was in another place, over the appointment of the Foreign Secretary. We are to have foreign affairs Questions next week, but now we have the situation in which the Foreign Secretary is not a Member of either House. May I ask when he will be found a safe seat?

Mr. Bowden

Until such time as my right hon. Friend returns to this House—which will not be very long, of course—the Minister of State or one of the other Ministers of the Foreign Office will reply. Our objection at the time referred to was to the Foreign Secretary being in the House of Lords. That will not be the position within a few weeks.