HC Deb 29 April 1965 vol 711 cc630-6
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, 3RD MAY—Second Reading of the Race Relations Bill.

Remaining stages of the Criminal Evidence Bill, and of the Dangerous Drugs Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation Measure.

Motion on the Immunities and Privileges (Amendment) Order.

TUESDAY, 4TH MAY—Remaining stages of the Gas Bill and of the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Bill.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Airports Authority Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 5TH MAY—Supply [16th Allotted Day]: Committee. Debate on Rates.

Motion on the Import Duties (General) (No. 2) Order.

THURSDAY, 6TH MAY—Debate on the the Iron and Steel White Paper, which will be available tomorrow at 3.30 p.m.

Motions on the Agriculture Ploughing Grants Schemes.

FRIDAY, 7TH MAY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 10TH MAY—The proposed business will be: Second Reading of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Remaining stages of the Museum of London Bill [Lords].

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

With reference to the proposed business for next Thursday, does not the Leader of the House think it completely unreasonable to announce the date of a debate on one of the most contentious subjects in this Parliament before the White Paper has been produced? This is treating the House very badly. Why is it necessary to have the debate, following the White Paper, as soon as Thursday of next week?

Mr. Bowden

I do not think it at all unreasonable. The White Paper is being produced tomorrow at 3.30 p.m., just half an hour after the Stock Exchange closes. There will be full opportunity for right hon. and hon. Members to look at it and discuss it over the weekend. It is not a very long document. There are also three days next week before the debate on Thursday. It is surely in the interests of the House and the country that the White Paper should be debated at the earliest possible moment, consistent with adequate time to look at the proposals.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not the jobbers on the Stock Exchange he is concerned with, but the voters in Birmingham, Hall Green? Does not he think it ridiculous that, when the Government have had five months in which to prepare this White Paper, he allows the House only five days before having a debate upon it?

Mr. Bowden

I should think that, after that comment, the right hon. Gentleman's own stock will have fallen. It is true that there is a by-election on Thursday next week, but there is no reason to assume that the result of it is absolutely clear now.

Mr. Grimond

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are relieved to know that the base suggestion that a by-election may have had any influence on the date of the debate is plainly untrue? Is he aware, however, that there is an important meeting in Europe on that day? As we are all now so keen on Europe, what is to happen to that meeting?

Mr. Bowden

I am not quite clear as to how many representatives of the right hon. Gentleman's party from the House of Commons are attending that meeting in Europe.

Mr. Grimond


Mr. Maxwell

Is the Leader of the House aware that because of the action of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite our delegation to Europe is not able to attend? Furthermore, is he aware how grateful the country will be that he is bringing this White Paper to the attention of the House so that we can deal with this matter once and for all in the decisive manner it deserves?

Mr. Sharples

In view of his assurance that the remaining stages of the Firearms Bill would not be started at an unreasonable hour, can the Leader of the House confirm that, if the opposed Private Business today lasts for the full time, it is not the Government's intention to embark on the remaining stages of that Bill?

Mr. Bowden

It is always difficult even to guess how long opposed Private Business will take, but I will give the assurance that if it lasts until ten o'clock, we will not tonight proceed with the Firearms Bill.

Mr. William Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend answer two questions? First, can he tell us when we might expect a debate on the recommendations in the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure about Questions? Secondly, can he tell the House when the War Damage Bill and the Lords Amendments thereto may come back to this House? Can he give an assurance that there will be plenty of time for that Bill, because I have a lot to say about it?

Mr. Bowden

We have only just received the second interim Report from the Select Committee on Procedure and I think that we ought to wait a little while before debating it.

Hon. Members

What about the White Paper on steel?

Mr. Bowden

I said that we should wait a little while.

On the second question, as far as my memory goes, I do not think that the War Damage Bill has yet had its Report stage in another place, but I can assure my hon. Friend that adequate time will be given for the Lords Amendments.

Sir C. Osborne

On next week's business, as a matter of emergency will the Leader of the House try to find time to discuss two important matters which arose yesterday and today? The first is the announcement on the tape that the banks are being compelled to deposit an extra £90 million of special deposits, which will have a deflationary effect of at least £90 million. The second, coupled with it, is the statement at the E.E.C. Monetary Committee in Brussels yesterday that the Common Market central banks would refuse to renew the 3,000 million dollar loan which expires in a few weeks' time.

Those are the most urgent and desperate matters which I have ever known and they should be discussed. May we have time to discuss them next week?

Mr. Bowden

It might be helpful if I were to say a word about the timetable generally. Between now and the period when the Whitsun Recess is normally taken we shall be discussing for almost the whole of those five weeks financial matters in one form or another.

On the specific question, my hon. Friend the Chief Secretary will be winding up the debate tonight on home loans and I think that it would not be inappropriate if he wished to say something about special deposits.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Can we have a foreign affairs debate almost in the next few days on the subject of Vietnam? The right hon. Gentleman must be aware, as his hon. Friends must be, that even today the Australian Government have announced that they are sending Australian troops to that area. For the right hon. Gentleman to tell us that between now and Whitsun we shall not even touch on foreign affairs shows a complete dereliction of his duty to the interests of this country. That is more than borne out by the totally frivolous political measure which is to come before the House in three or four days' time, when we have to consider the steel White Paper although the Government have taken five months to prepare it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take a more responsible attitude than is so far seen from his conduct of affairs.

Mr. Bowden

It was not so many days before the Easter Recess that we had a debate on foreign affairs. I cannot promise time out of Government time between now and Whitsun, but if there is general interest on the Opposition side of the House in a further debate on foreign affairs perhaps we can use a Supply day.

Sir D. Renton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many hon. Members on both sides of the House have meetings in their constituencies tomorrow evening and that to reach them we shall have to leave Westminster well before half-past three? Will he tell the House what steps he proposes to take to ensure that the White Paper on steel is in the hands of such Members so that they may have the advantage of studying at least over the weekend what the Government have had 13 years and five months to consider?

Mr. Bowden

There is an hour tomorrow during which time the White Paper can be picked up in the Vote Office, but my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip is looking at the possibility of a copy being put in the post to every hon. Member.

Mr. Heath

In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne), the Leader of the House said that the Chief Secretary might say something about special deposits at the end of today's debate. Is he aware that this is most unsatisfactory? We are to have only half a day's debate today on home loans, and if the Chief Secretary is to wind up we shall have to carry on the debate in complete ignorance of what he is to say and we shall have no opportunity of putting questions to him.

In these circumstances, can the Leader of the House explain why the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not told the House this afternoon about the special deposits and explained what has happened since his Budget statement to make him introduce this measure today, or, if nothing has happened, explained why he did not put it in the Budget?

Mr. Bowden

The right hon. Gentleman is very well aware that whatever action had to be taken had to be taken promptly and was taken at noon today. Had the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a statement today, that would have been three statements before a very short debate on home loans and there would have been criticism in that direction. I have already said that if he thought it appropriate, the Chief Secretary could say something on the subject during his winding-up speech tonight.

Mr. Sandys

Will the Government take an early opportunity to tell the House about the important proposals which they have made to the Governments of India and Pakistan for a cease-fire?

Mr. Bowden

We hope to be able to do so very soon.

Sir H. Harrison

May I take up the issue raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) and remind the Leader of the House that even if the White Paper on steel is put in the post at half-past three, those hon. Members who live some way from London will not receive it before Monday morning, because they have no postal delivery on Saturday? As most Members of the House will not see a copy until Monday morning, will he reverse his decision about a debate on Thursday?

Mr. Bowden

I thought that we were doing everything possible to help hon. Members over the White Paper. The House sits tomorrow until 4.30. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides must take some responsibility. If they want the White Paper, it is available in the Vote Office. If not, they will receive it by first post on Monday.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The position about a statement on special deposits is not very satisfactory. Something has happened since the Budget which has made this necessary. Surely the Chancellor could have told the House about it. It does not seem to be much help to the House to have the Chief Secretary speak of the matter in his winding-up speech tonight. Does not the Minister of Housing and Local Government know why this has happened? Could he not say something about it earlier in the debate?

Mr. Bowden

I thought that I was being helpful by making this suggestion, but if the House would prefer a full statement to be made tomorrow morning or on Monday we could arrange that.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Is the Leader of the House aware that next Thursday night there is likely to be a very important Division on the White Paper on steel? Is he further aware that only one by-election is in progress at the moment, that at Birmingham, Hall Green, and that in the country the decision to hold the Division on the White Paper will be regarded as a shabby political trick?

Mr. Bowden

The Division at ten o'clock on Thursday night will be affected by one vote, according to who is returned at the by-election.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

I am reminded that we have very little time for the ensuing debate. We shall have to stop these questions.