HC Deb 01 April 1965 vol 709 cc1850-8
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, 5TH APRIL—Second Reading of the Rent Bill, and of the Industrial and Provident Societies Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation Measure.

Motion on the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order.

TUESDAY, 6TH APRIL—AS already announced, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget on Tuesday, 6th April.

The general debate on the Budget Resolutions and the Economic Situation will be continued on Wednesday, 7th April, and Thursday 8th April, and brought to a conclusion on Monday, 12th April.

FRIDAY, 9TH APRIL—Private Members' Bills.

The House will wish to know that it is intended to propose that the House should rise for the Easter Adjournment on THURSDAY, 15TH APRIL, until TUESDAY, 27TH APRIL.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Government's decision on the future of the TSR2 will be announced?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I cannot say at the moment. I said last Thursday that the announcement will be made in the House.

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

On business for next week, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman could approach the Prime Minister with regard to the length of time that it takes him to answer Questions. We have spent 16 minutes on the Prime Minister's Questions today and he has answered five. He gave long, interminable answers, in most of which he omitted to include the point.

Mr. Bowden

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will be aware that it is only in recent years that the Prime Minister has come on at 3.15 p.m. We think that this is an improvement on the old position. It means that at least the Prime Minister is reached for Questions, which was often not the case under former Administrations.

I take this opportunity to say that a further experiment is being undertaken between Easter and Whitsun which might result—although I would not promise anything more definite than that—in Departments being reached more speedily. This is by agreement through the usual channels.

Mr. Hamling

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Motion No. 161 on the Order Paper standing in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) and the names of some of his hon. Friends?

[That this House deplores the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in refusing to accept the motion for the adjournment of the debate on the Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill so as to allow a debate on a Private Member's Bill designed to aid elderly persons, and then shortly afterwards closuring the debate.]

Is my right hon. Friend aware that an Amendment to that Motion has been put down by 97 hon. Members of this side?

[To leave out from "House" to end and add "welcomes the action of Her Majesty's Government in increasing retirement pensions, in improving National Assistance rates, maternity benefits, sickness and unemployment benefits, abolishing the widows' earnings rule, trebling the 10s. widows' pension, removing prescript- tion charges, and in undertaking a complete review of the social security system; and deplores the callous neglect of these problems in the last 13 years by the previous administration which could not have been remedied by any private Member's Bill".]

Is my right hon. Friend prepared to provide time to debate the Motion and the Amendment at an early date? If he cannot find Government time, will he prevail upon the Opposition to offer a Supply day?

Mr. Bowden

I have seen the Motion. It is not unusual for a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill to run very late. It is true that this one ran rather later than usual and was closured after 20 hours; but it is not unusual for the Bill to run late. It is an occasion for private Members and running late is the sort of thing likely to happen on every occasion.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an absolute assurance that there is no intention next week to obstruct private Members' time?

Mr. Bowden

I can give the right hon. and learned Gentleman an absolute assurance that when the Consolidated Fund Bill is down for Third Reading the Government of the day will get it. I was rather surprised to find a former Leader of the House attempting to move the adjournment of the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, which he knows, if anyone should know, would have resulted in the Bill not being reached because it had to obtain the Royal Assent on Monday of this week.

Mr. Shinwell

My right hon. Friend referred to an experiment relating to the Prime Minister's Questions and to the usual channels having been informed. Can he explain why the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) is excluded from discussions relating to the usual channels?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that it is the duty of the Leader of the House to do that.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Is the Leader of the House aware that it would have been possible to have completed the debate on the Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill on Monday night?

Mr. Bowden

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is, I should think, aware that on this occasion we had to obtain the Royal Assent to the Bill on Monday.

Sir L. Heald

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Motion No. 161 deplores the conduct of Her Majesty's Government on Friday last in relation to a Private Member's Bill which had been put down for Second Reading by the Leader of the House himself in that capacity? In view of his special responsibilities to the House for the rights of all private Members, irrespective of party, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange a debate forthwith so that the House may be fully informed of the circumstances which led to the blocking of the National Insurance (Further Provisions) Bill, which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave)?

Mr. Bowden

The House would imagine, from the points raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) and other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, that this is the only Private Member's Bill that has ever at any time failed to get a Second Reading. My researches show that, during the 13 years of the former Administration, 43 Private Member's Bills which, to a greater or lesser extent, could have helped the aged and poor, were not given time by the Government.

Mr. William Clark

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already anticipated his Budget to some extent, and as the corporation tax will have a tremendous effect on our economy, can the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to announce the rate of corporation tax rather than wait until 1966?

Mr. Bowden

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I cannot possibly anticipate my right hon. Friend's speech.

Mr. Blenkinsop

In relation to next week's business and not other matters, can my right hon. Friend say whether it is possible to say anything further about a debate on the arts and the Government White Paper on the subject?

Mr. Bowden

My hon. Friend will be aware that I have said on a number of occasions that we hoped to have this debate before Easter. That is not now possible, but it is still very much in mind.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Have the right hon. Gentleman's researches into the fate of Private Members' Bills disclosed any precedent for failure to discuss a Bill which had won first place in the Ballot and was the first Order of the Day?

Mr. Bowden

My researches have found that the right hon. Gentleman himself opposed the Bill.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Let there be a great deal less noise, so that we can get on with business questions.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend take the House into his confidence and tell us exactly what this experiment with Questions is to be? Can he tell us whether the Select Committee on Procedure will be reporting to the House about Questions before Easter, because we are very anxious to put down Questions for July?

Mr. Bowden

Whatever this experiment may do, it does not in any way anticipate anything which may come to us from the Select Committee on Procedure. It is a little difficult to explain in detail, but what is happening is that four Ministers are not attracting many Questions and we are taking them out of the roster and are putting them at a specific point, making more time for the Ministers to whom Questions are addressed.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does the right hon. Gentleman's reply to me mean that in the view of the Government there is no distinction between opposing a Bill and preventing its discussion?

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The House must be sensible, because we will stop these questions very soon and this noise is cutting out a lot of Members who want to ask questions. Nor can we now have a debate on the events of some past day. Were a Motion to be moved, we could discuss it, but not now.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Can the right hon. Gentleman say that, if there is to be an announcement on the future of the TSR2, it will not be included in the Budget speech? Is he aware that if this very important and successful project is cancelled, although that would be very welcome to the United States aircraft industry, it would be deeply resented not only by our aircraft industry, but throughout the whole of our engineering industries and by the scientists and technologists who work in them?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot possibly go further than I have already gone when I promised that a statement on the TSR2 would be made in the House.

Mr. Grimond

Without returning to the events of last week, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are various matters concerned with the procedures of the House to be considered—Questions, the Consolidated Fund Bill and our own Motion on the composition of Standing Committees? Can he tell the House when the Select Committee on Procedure will report? Presumably, this will not be for a very long time. Would the right hon. Gentleman therefore consider whether, in the meantime, we could have a debate on the procedures of the House of Commons?

Mr. Bowden

The Select Committee on Procedure is empowered to make an interim report if it wishes. I am not aware firmly whether one is coming, but I understand that it is a possibility. Having made an interim report, the Committee would, of course, go on to consider further matters. The House could easily debate the early report if it so wished.

Mr. Soames

Following the right hon. Gentleman's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir I. Orr-Ewing), is he aware that we have always considered, in view of what has been previously said about this matter, that a statement on the future of the TSR2 would be made by the Government as a statement on its own? In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, is he aware that if there is any possibility of this statement being wrapped up, as it were, in the statement on the Budget, we would require an extra day to discuss this very important matter?

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that hon. Members opposite who are urging unrestricted public expenditure on the TSR2 are exactly the same Members who are also urging on the Government restrictions on, and reductions of, public investment?

Mr. Speaker

That bears no resemblance to a business question.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Reverting to the forthcoming statement on the TSR2 and the many thousands of workers who are on tenterhooks about whether this project will go on, will the Leader of the House give an assurance that when it is made it will be made separately from any other debate or issue?

Mr. Bowden

I will give an assurance, because of the seriousness of the situation which the hon. Gentleman correctly mentioned, that as soon as possible it will be made in the House. I cannot go beyond that.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Cannot the Leader of the House say that when it is made this statement will be made as a separate statement and not contained or hidden away in some other longer statement?

Mr. Bowden

No, I cannot.

Mr. Michael Foot

On the TSR2, is my right hon. Friend aware that he is setting a most dangerous precedent in gross breach of past practice when he gives an undertaking that an important statement is to be made to the House of Commons first?

Mr. Marten

Can the Leader of the House say that if this statement, which may be about the cancellation of the TSR2, is wrapped up in the Budget, we shall, nevertheless, be able to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9?

Mr. Bowden

I do not know why the House should imagine that this statement is likely to be wrapped up in the Budget. I have said quite firmly that as soon as it is possible to make a statement, a statement will be made, and in the House.

Mr. Spriggs

Can my right hon. Friend say when the Motion No. 132 will be discussed?

[That this House, taking note of and sharing the profound concern and misgivings of the borough police authorities in England and Wales as to the provision made in section 2 of the Police Act 1964 for the appointment of magistrates to police authorities, calls upon the Secretary of State, pending the introduction of amending legislation, to amend the Police Act 1964 (Commencement No. 1) Order 1964 so that the provisions whereby the borough magistrates appoint one third of the watch committee shall not, as thereby provided, come into effect on 1st June, 1965.]

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I cannot give any firm promise, but I will keep it in mind.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House which four Ministers are to appear less frequently at Question Time? Is the Paymaster-General to be included in these four and perhaps to be available only for all-night sitting duty in future?

Mr. Bowden

I have not said that any of my right hon. Friends are likely to appear less frequently. What I have said is that they will appear at a specific point. For the interest of the House, my right hon. Friends concerned are the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Attorney-General, the Minister without Portfolio and the Paymaster-General.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

As the Leader of the House is considering experiments at Question Time, would he consider the experiment of allowing us to put questions to the Leader of the Opposition?

Mr. Peter Emery

Will the right hon. Gentleman do all in his power to see that a statement is made by the Leader of the House next week to ensure that when private Members' time is causing a problem in the House, the Leader of the House will not delegate his responsibilities to the Paymaster-General?

Mr. Speaker

I have already said that we cannot go back to that.

The time has come when we ought to bring this to an end, or we shall be trespassing on the ensuing debate.