HC Deb 08 April 1965 vol 710 cc668-76
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. As already announced, the general debate on the Budget Resolutions and the Economic Situation, will be brought to a conclusion on MONDAY, 12TH APRIL.

Second Reading of the Dangerous Drugs Bill [Lords], and the remaining stages of the Industrial and Provident Societies Bill [Lords], which are consolidation Measures.

TUESDAY, 13TH APRIL—Report stageof the Budget Resolutions. Debate on the official Opposition Motion of censure.

Lords Amendments to the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland)Bill.

Motion on the Land Drainage (Scot-and) Amendment Order.

WEDNESDAY, 14TH APRIL—Remaining stages of the Control of Office and Industrial Development Bill.

THURSDAY, 15TH APRIL—It is expected that the House will meet at 11 a.m., that Questions will be taken until 12 noon and that the House will adjourn at 5 p.m.

In view of the desirability of finding time to debate the Opposition censure Motion, it will be necessary to ask the House to return not on Tuesday, 27th April, but On MONDAY, 26TH.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I have few comments on the business for next week except to say that I hope that the last few words of the right hon. Gentleman do no. suggest that there is anything reprehensible in the Opposition moving a Motion of censure in what they consider to be the national interest and haling with a matter in which thousands of people are very much concerned.

We are quite prepared to give up a day of the Recess to debating an issue which we consider to be of concern to the national interest. I am bound to add that I think that it must convey to the House that the Government's business is in a pretty good mess if they cannot do it otherwise.

What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do about Questions on Monday, 26th April?

Mr. Bowden

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that on Tuesday evening I said that the Government would be prepared to find time for what was then the proposed Motion of censure by the Opposition, and that we have done. It has meant an adjustment in the time for the Recess. There is nothing sacrosanct about coming back on a Tuesday after the Easter Recess. We have come back on other days on other occasions, although certainly not for very many years.

It is felt that it would be in the best interests of the House to follow the roster of Questions for 12th April, which is Monday of next week, or anyone who subsequently had a Question would be disadvantaged. I have said before about the Government's business, and I now repeat, that we have enough business for five years.

Mr. Shinwell

What business is it proposed to take on Monday, 26th April?

Mr. Bowden

At this stage, I cannot say what business will be taken that day. It will be announced on Thursday, or another day, of next week and it will he legislation.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Leader of the House aware that on a day upon which the First Secretary is about to make an announcement on more work for more pay it cannot be wholly inappropriate that the House should be asked to do a little more work, considering it has just had a lot more pay?

Sir B. Janner

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that more than 70 hon. Members have added their names to my Motion about appointments to watch committees? Is he aware that there is considerable concern throughout the country about this matter? Can he find some time so that we can discuss the Motion?

[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

I promised on a previous occasion to draw this matter to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, which I have done. This proposal needs an amendment to legislation which has not yet been tried, and I think that it is the view of my right hon. and learned Friend that we should at least see how the new system works.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Can the right hon. Gentleman clear up what he meant about Questions on 26th April? Am I right in understanding him to mean that the Order of Questions which he intends to take on that day is that which would normally have arisen on 3rd May.

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. The order of Questions on Monday 26th April, will be precisely the same as on Monday, 12th April, that is to say, it will start with the Ministry of Labour, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources. This is the only way in which it can possibly work without anyone being disadvantaged.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend consider that it would be more convenient for Members who live outside London to sit on Good Friday rather than on Monday, 26th April? Can he say by what authority the Government and the Opposition Front Bench between them decided on the change in the rota of Ministers answering Questions? Would it not have been desirable, right and proper that the House should have been consulted before this decision was taken?

Mr. Bowden

Having had a long experience in trying to work out Question rotas, I assure my hon. Friend that the worst possible thing would be for the House to try to decide how it should be done. This is an experiment. I am hoping that during the six weeks between Easter and Whitsun we shall reach every Minister at least once.

Lastly, I am sure that it is the wish of the whole House that we should not sit on Good Friday.

Mr. Ridsdale

May I press the right hon. Gentleman to suspend the rule for today and on Monday because there are many hon. Members who want to speak in the Budget debate and, indeed, on Tuesday and Wednesday? Six hours—almost a whole day—have been occupied by four Front Bench speeches and the best of them—that of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—took only 20 minutes.

Mr. Bowden

It was probably the best speech from the Opposition Front Bench. However, I do not think that we can increase the number of days from four.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Reverting to the order of Questions for 26th April, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the repeat order which he has selected is in accordance with the precedent to which he referred and how old this precedent is?

Mr. Bowden

Not without notice. It takes some doing to carry in one's memory Order Papers of the last 30 years or so.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Would my right hon. Friend consider devoting part of Monday, 26th April, to discussing the Government's most valuable and interesting White Paper on the future of the arts?

Mr. Bowden

I have not lost sight of the importance of a debate on the arts, but I have already said that legislation will be dealt with on that day.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

In view of the quite remarkable achievements of the United States and the Soviet Union in space during the last week or so, would the right hon. Gentleman consider providing time for a debate on this country's activities in space research and development?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise anything firmly at this stage.

Sir D. Glover

May I have confirmation of the right hon. Gentleman's promise that there would be no other business going on in the House when we debate the Committee stage of the Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) Bill on Wednesday next week? Last Wednesday there were two Committees sitting and we had Divisions at the same time. Can the right hon. Gentleman see that this does not happen again?

Mr. Bowden

No, I cannot give that promise. When we debated this matter in the House, it was made absolutely clear that there might be other Committees sitting on Wednesday mornings.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Would the right hon. Gentleman convey to the Secretary of State for Defence that the debate on Tuesday will be much more enlightening if the full facts are given at the opening of the debate by the Government spokesman and we do not have to read them in he next day's newspapers or on the tape while the speech is being made?

Mr. Bowden

As this is a Motion of censure, the opening speaker will be from the Opposition Front Bench. However, I am sure that my right hon. Friend who will follow will give all the details required.

Mr. Woodburn

In view of the breakdown of the negotiations in Vienna to get a uniform colour television agreement, is it the intention of the Postmaster-General to give the House some information next week on the prospects for the future?

Mr. Bowden

I am not aware of any such statements at the moment, but I will convey the wishes of my right hon. Friend to the Postmaster-General.

Mr. Gresham-Cooke

Would the right hon. Gentleman have a look at early day Motion No. 119, which is about the transfer to the Exchequer of some of the rate burden in residential areas where there is not very much industry?

[That this House deplores the delay of the Government in bringing about an early transfer of at least part of the educational rate from the local authorities to the central Exchequer; draws the attention of the House to the burden this is placing on the retired and others, especially in areas with little industry; and urges the Government to take urgent action to remedy this.]

Would he note that there are now over 50 signatures to this Motion, and could he say whether it is likely that there will be a debate on it in the near future?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise that there will be a debate in the near future, but I have already promised a debate on it. I thought at the time that we might take the Allen Report with it.

Mr. Lipton

In connection with my Protection of Deer Bill, which aims to make stag hunting with hounds illegal, has my right hon. Friend noted that on the last two Fridays the only Member to shout "Object" to the Bill was an official Opposition Whip? Is this in accordance with the best traditions of the House on Private Members' Bills? If so, what will my right hon. Friend do about it?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that the question whether it is in accordance with practice relates to the business for next week. I do not know about the rest of it.

Sir Rolf Dudley Williams

Is the Leader of the House aware that yesterday morning there was chaos throughout the Palace of Westminster? There was a Committee upstairs considering a Private Member's Bill and a Committee of the whole House was considering the Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) Bill. In view of this confusion, which was directly the responsibility of the Leader of the House who has made a muck of the Committee stage of the Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) Bill, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for Standing Committee C to meet on Mondays at 10.30? After all, Members of the House are now paid adequately and there is no reason why they should not come back on Sundays, so that they might start work early on Mondays?

Mr. Bowden

I understand the hon. Gentleman's difficulty. He wanted to be upstairs in Committee and downstairs in Committee at the same time. However, the Bill on which he was serving has, I understand, been Reported, so he will be quite free to come down here next Wednesday morning.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Reverting to the Wednesday morning when the Government business was taken through the House under the guise of a Private Member's Bill, will the right hon. Gentleman have a word with those nominally in charge of it and convey to them the fact that it arouses very deep-seated and genuinely felt feelings and that to move the Closure on every major and important Amendment at the earliest possible moment is not the right way to deal with a Bill of this kind?

Mr. Bowden

The question of when or when not to accept a Motion for the Closure is a matter for the Chair and not for me.

Mr. Marten

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that last Thursday I expressed anxiety that the statement on the TSR2 might be wrapped up in the Budget? He said to me that he could not understand why I had this anxiety and gave me an assurance that the statement on the TSR2 would be made in the House. It was, in fact, made in Committee and not in the House. I understood "in the House" to mean in the House—and there is a difference.

Mr. Speaker

We are trying to deal with the question of business now. I gather that there is to be a Motion of censure, in which all that would seem to be relevant.

Mr. Marten

I was wondering whether the Leader of the House could next week make a statement explaining why his assurance given to the House was dishonoured by the Secretary of State for Defence?

Mr. Bowden

This is the last part of the Motion of censure. I should have thought that every detail of it could be adequately debated at that time. I gave an assurance that a statement would be made in the House, and it is perfectly true that when the House is in Committee within this place it is in Committee and not in the House. But I certainly meant here and not upstairs in Committee.

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

Reverting to the order of Questions to be answered by Ministers, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware of the concern, particularly of Scottish Members, that the Secretary of State for Scotland would have less opportunity of answering Questions under the new system than he had in the past? Will my right hon. Friend give a guarantee that he will examine the matter after this period of Questions has passed?

Mr. Bowden

I do not think that that is quite the case. Questions for the Secretary of State for Scotland are now taken on Wednesdays and he will certainly be reached once and probably twice in six weeks, which is doing pretty well.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

We should be trespassing on other business if we continued with this.