HC Deb 02 December 1965 vol 721 cc1644-52
Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week?

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

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 6TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Rating Bill, and the remaining stages of the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Bill.

TUESDAY, 7TH DECEMBER—Supply (1st Allotted Day): Motion to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair when a debate will arise on an Amendment to take note of the First, Second and Third Reports from the Committee of Public Accounts in Session 1964–65.

Motions on the County Courts Jurisdiction Order, the Huntingdon and Peterborough (Amendment) Order, and on the Rating of Industry (Scotland) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 8TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Building Control Bill.

THURSDAY, 9TH DECEMBER—Supply (2nd Allotted Day): Motion to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair when a debate will arise on an Amendment to take note of the 1964–65 Report and the Second Special Report from the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries relating to London Transport.

FRIDAY, 10TH DECEMBER—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 13TH DECEMBER—The Business proposed is Supply (3rd Allotted Day): Motion to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair when a debate will arise on an Opposition Amendment on a subject to be announced.

Mr. Heath

Can the Leader of the House tell us whether he can yet propose a date for the foreign affairs debate?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot be absolutely firm about the date, but it will be on the return of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister from Washington—probably in the last week before the Christmas Recess.

Mr. Turton

Can the Leader of the House say when the House will have an opportunity of discussing the very stringent economic and financial sanctions passed last night, particularly the very mean one against pensioners?

Mr. Bowden

Such proposals as will need Orders in Council will come before the House in the normal way. The House must take normal opportunities to debate other proposals, either on the Adjournment or, if the Opposition wish, by means of their request for a debate.

Mr. Edelman

Can my right hon. Friend say when the Plowden Report will be presented to the House and debated?

Mr. Bowden

Certainly before Christmas, but I cannot firmly say that it will be next week.

Mr. Warbey

If the Leader of the House has not been able to take account of the views expressed last week that we should have a debate, at least on Vietnam, before the Prime Minister goes to Washington, will he at least make arrangements to provide time to discuss the Motion standing in my name on today's Order Paper for a Select Committee of Inquiry into the reasons for the breakdown in the peace negotiations over Vietnam?

[That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the circumstances which caused Her Majesty's Ministers to be misled into informing the House and the British public that the Governments of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and of the Chinese People's Republic were solely responsible for the breakdown of all the efforts, during 1964 and 1965, to bring about negotiations for a settlement of the conflict in Vietnam.]

Mr. Bowden

The proposals contained in my hon. Friend's Motion could easily be discussed during the two days that are being set aside for the debate on foreign affairs. I cannot provide any additional time. To correct what may be misunderstood in connection with my reply to an earlier question from my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), I should say that the White Paper will be available before Christmas, but I cannot promise a debate on the Plowden Report before Christmas.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must ask hon. Members not to conduct conversations in the House, or not to remain in the Chamber if they must do so. Business Question Time is an important part of the proceedings.

Mr. Farr

Will the right hon. Gentleman provide time for the House to continue the discussion of the Order in relation to industrial development certificates, which was adjourned last night until another time?

Mr. Bowden

It is on the Order Paper today, and I hope that there will be time tonight for it to be discussed before 11.30 p.m.

Mr. Lipton

Has my right hon. Friend taken note of my Motion on the Order Paper referring to tied houses?

[That this House, in view of the growing extent to which the tied house principle is being applied to on-licences and off-licences, consequently denying freedom of choice to the consumer, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to refer the matter to the Monopolies Commission.]

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Government accept that Motion? If they do it will be necessary to find time to debate it.

Mr. Bowden

I cannot find time anyhow, but I should think that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will have noted the Motion on the Order Paper. If he has not, I will certainly draw it to his attention.

Mr. Peter Emery

May I pursue the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). It appears from today's business that it is extremely likely that the Prayer dealing with I.D.C.s will be squeezed out tonight. Will the Leader of the House say that it will be his practice, as it has been the practice in the past to try to find time to discuss Orders which have been squeezed out in this manner, especially since many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak on this Order?

Mr. Bowden

I still hope that there will be time to discuss it tonight. If there is not, I will certainly do what is usual in these circumstances and try to provide time.

Mr. Bryan

As the Postmaster-General has dodged Oral Questions by giving a Written Answer to a planted Question in order to announce a major reversal of his television policy, can we have a debate on this subject early next week or the week after, so that we may have an opportunity properly to question the right hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Sydney Silverman

On a point of Order. Is it within the rules of order of this House for an hon. Member to accuse a Minister of having dodged something? Is he not implying that my right hon. Friend took an initiative outside the rules of the House in order not to carry out a duty imposed upon him by those rules?

Mr. Speaker

I think that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) is becoming a little sensitive about the kind of controversy that takes place in the House. I have not heard anything out of order up till now.

Mr. Bowden

I cannot accept for a moment that any of my right hon. Friends would dodge anything at any time. In addition to that, I have nothing to add to the reply given by the Postmaster-General yesterday.

Mrs. Anne Kerr

Has my right hon. Friend come to a final decision about the timing of the foreign affairs debate? Together with many other hon. Members on both sides of the House, I feel that there should be a debate before the Prime Minister goes to Washington. May I urge my right hon. Friend to reconsider his decision about this key foreign affairs debate?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. From the information that I have it is the general wish of the House—I do not say it is the unanimous wish—that my right hon. Friend should return from Washington and report to this House, and that we should have a debate at that point.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Is the Leader of the House aware that from the way in which decisions are announced in this House we get the impression that the Minister of Aviation, the Minister of Technology and the Postmaster-General are frightened of the House? If in one year he is not able to change the policy on decisions, will he at least change these Ministers?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot accept for one moment that any of my right hon. Friends is afraid of the House; nor is it my responsibility to change Ministers.

Mr. George Y. Mackie

On Monday last, the Secretary of State for Scotland made an important announcement about the abandonment of certain hydro-electric projects in the Highlands. Such projects have long been important Government policy for the Highlands, and as we only got the report on these projects that day, while the right hon. Gentleman was announcing his decision, can time be provided for this important change in policy to be discussed by this House, or by the Scottish Grand Committee?

Mr. Bowden

I agree that this is an important matter. I cannot provide Government time between now and the Christmas Recess, but there will be opportunities on the day set aside for Christmas Adjournment debates when this subject might well be raised.

Dr. David Kerr

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the widespread disquiet there is over the continued failure to deal with the problem of sick Members, and will he provide an early opportunity for us to discuss the Report on the Select Committee on Procedure in regard to proxy voting?

Mr. Bowden

On the first point, this is a matter for the Services Committee of the House of Commons, which, I hope, will be set up very quickly. On the question of proxy voting, there has been no decision yet to debate the Report on the Select Committee on Procedure.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

In view of the latest measures against Rhodesia, which to many of us seem punitive—contrary to the Prime Minister's assurance that he would not introduce such measures—will the Government give time for discussion of those measures which do not form the subject of Orders in Council? And will he not agree that it is not fair to place the onus on the Opposition?

Mr. Bowden

I think that it is for the Government to find time for Orders in Council which require action in this House. If there are any other matters contained in the report made yesterday by my right hon. Friend, or in the statement made during the speech of my hon. Friend, I am sure that it is a matter for the Opposition to decide whether they want to select one or all of those matters for discussion.

Mr. Ioan L. Evans

May I ask whether my right hon. Friend is giving consideration to the question of holding morning sittings? In view of the heavy legislative programme and the desire for debates on various topics, would it not be more efficient to sit from 10 o'clock or 11 o'clock in the morning until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., rather than to meet at 2.30 p.m. and finish at 2 o'clock the following morning?

Mr. Bowden

The question of morning sittings is still before the Select Committee or Procedure, but I would remind the House that, as Leader of the House —and as long as I am Leader of the House—I must take into consideration that even if it were the desire of the House to finish at 7 p.m. there must be occasions when I would wish to suspend the rule so that we could continue until 11 o'clock or midnight.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Will the Leader of the House treat the way in which the Postmaster-General announced the new policy on colour television in a more serious wav? Will he accept from us that we would like a debate on this matter? Has the manner in which the statement was made any connection with the remarks made by the Postmaster-General at Aberdeen that he realised that it was a handicap to have to answer to Parliament on Post Office affairs——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot argue in detail the merits of the subject for which the hon. Member asks a debate.

Mr. Bowden

I will treat a serious question in a serious way, but I did not get a serious question previously. If the hon. Member feels that the question of colour television should be debated, he can probably discuss it with his right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench through the usual channels, when we can see what can be arranged. But I cannot promise Government time for such discussion.

Mr. English

Will my right hon. Friend provide some time to debate the Motion on the Order Paper, signed by 23 hon. Members and myself, on the decision of the Newspaper Proprietors' Association? Is he aware that, to my knowledge, only one of the Sunday newspapers has so far published any of the reasons for that decision, and even that newspaper has not published all of them; and that unless the decision is debated here, the media of communication in this respect are blocked because of the newspaper proprietors' self-interest?

[That this House takes note of the recent decision of the Newspaper Propritors' Association to publish no newspapers on Boxing Day 1965, deplores the fact that such a decision has been made as a cartel decision rather than left to the discretion of individual companies in free competition, further deplores the fact that a decision of such public interest can be taken in secret and should remain unpublicised by the Press, and accordingly askes Her Majesty's Government to institute an inquiry into the causes of this decision and the methods whereby it was taken.]

Mr. Bowden

I am afraid that I cannot promise time.

Mr. Heath

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the real question worrying my hon. Friends is the fact that yesterday and the day before we had two major statements of policy announced by way of Written Answers: the first on the change in policy on television, and the second on the scope of the Ministry of Technology's Department? Will not the right hon. Gentleman kindly look at them carefully, because these are major items that should be announced by Oral Questions so that Ministers can be cross-questioned?

Mr. Bowden

I am perfectly prepared to look at the two points raised by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Costain

Does the Leader of the House appreciate that the two Bills for Second Reading next week have been put down very shortly after their publication —ten days in the case of the Rating Bill, and seven days in the case of the Building Control Bill? Will he assure the House that this will not be normal practice, but that proper time will be allowed before the Committee stage so that properly thought out Amendments can be put down?

Mr. Bowden

On the contrary, it is normal practice. Ten days is about the usual period. Ten days will have elapsed before we commence on the Committee stage of the Rating Bil, which, I am sure, the whole House wants urgently.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Would my right hon. Friend promise us a debate on aircraft some time before the Minister decides whether to support the British Super VC.10, or go all-American and purchase the Boeing?

Mr. Bowden

A great deal of this is hypothetical. I would be quite prepared to discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend the Minister, but I cannot, at the moment, make any firm statement.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that under the Pensions (Increase) Bill we are not permitted to discuss pension increases for many groups of persons, such as members of the Armed Forces and Post Office workers? Will he find time before the Christmas Recess for a debate on the subject that is vitally important to many thousands of people.

Mr. Bowden

It is quite true to say that there is no need, in a sense, to debate the Royal Warrant, because no action is required by this House, but I have noted that on previous occasions—for instance, in 1962—a short debate of about one hour has taken place. We might look at the possibility of doing this one night.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will the right hon. Gentleman do what he can to get us a debate on a military aircraft procurement before the Prime Minister goes to America, where he will undoubtedly be subject to very heavy pressure to announce an order for the Fl11? It is therefore very important that a military equipment procurement should be debated in this House before the Prime Minister goes to America.

Mr. Bowden

I cannot give that sort of assurance at this stage.

Mr. Biffen

Is the Leader of the House aware that under the proposed changes in power for the Ministry of Technology it appears that a great many of the articles and goods listed in the White Paper on the early-warning system for prices and incomes will now be transferred from the Board of Trade to the Ministry of Technology; and that this alone is a very good reason why the House should hear from the Minister of Technology how he seeks to implement that policy?

Mr. Bowden

I have already said that I am prepared to look at the means by which this information has been communicated to the House. I cannot go beyond that at this stage.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Is the Leader of the House aware of the grave anxiety about the manner of the Postmaster-General's announcement suggesting that colour television was only to be on 625-lines, and therefore only obtainable on B.B.C. 2, which means that the whole country will probably be deprived of colour television? Will the right hon. Gentleman find time for this matter to be debated?

Mr. Bowden

Not before the Christmas Recess, but I am quite prepared to look at it.