HC Deb 09 December 1965 vol 722 cc608-17
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, 13TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Armed Forces Bill. Motions on the Army Act, 1955 (Continuation) Order, and the Air Force Act, 1955 (Continuation) Order, which it is hoped to obtain by Seven o'clock to allow a debate on the Aviation aspects of the F.111 Aircraft Option, on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

TUESDAY, 14TH DECEMBER—Motions on the General Grant (Increase) Orders, and on the Reserve Bank of Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia (Bank Assets) Orders.

WEDNESDAY, 15TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Housing Subsidies Bill.

THURSDAY, 16TH DECEMBER—Supply [3rd Allotted Day]: Motion to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair, when debate will arise on an Opposition Amendment on the Territorial Army.

FRIDAY, 17TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Post Office (Subway) Bill. Motion on the Meat Industry (Scientific Research Levy) (Revocation) Order.

MONDAY, 20TH DECEMBER—The Business proposed is a debate on foreign affairs, which will be concluded on Tuesday, 21st December.

The House will wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, it is intended to propose that we should rise for the Christmas Adjournment on Wednesday, 22nd December, until Tuesday, 25th January, 1966.

Mr. Heath

Will the Leader of the House express our appreciation to the Prime Minister that he proposes to make a full statement on the contradictory speeches of members of the Government in both Houses? Will he also ask the Prime Minister to make a full statement at the earliest opportunity about the detailed arrangements now for dealing with pensions payable from this country to residents in Rhodesia? If he could do that tomorrow as well, so much the better.

Will he also convey to the Prime Minister that, in the foreign affairs debate, in view of the fact that this will be the first of the Session and that it has been postponed until after his visit to the other side of the Atlantic, the House will expect the Prime Minister to open the debate so that, for the convenience of the House and, particularly, of hon. Members opposite below the Gangway, the debate can be based on the fullest information available?

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend will make a statement tomorrow morning at 11 o'clock on the alleged contradiction between statements by my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. A Minister will make a statement at the earliest opportunity on pensions for Rhodesia.

As for the foreign affairs debate, perhaps the House has not realised the fact that the Prime Minister is not due in Ottawa until the Sunday for his discussions there. It would be extremely difficult, therefore, for him physically to get back to London by 3.30 on the Monday; but, of course, he will get back as early as possible. The question of when he should speak, whether on the first or second day, or opening or replying, is purely a matter for the Government, just as the order of their spokesmen is a matter for the Opposition.

Mr. Paget

Will time be provided to discuss the Royal Warrant promised on Service pensions? When the matter came up on the Pensions (Increase) Bill, we were told that discussion of the Service pensions was out of order and that we would have to wait for the Royal Warrant.

Mr. Bowden

I mentioned last week that there is really nothing for the House to take a decision about on the Royal Warrant, but there are precedents for a short debate. I will look at the possibility of extending business one night next week so that perhaps we can have a short debate of one hour or so on the Royal Warrant.

Mr. Fell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some hon. Members may be pleased that we are to have an extra long holiday at Christmas. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is the usual."] It is extra long, particularly in view of the fact that the Government could not do anything about steel. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will very carefully watch the situation of the House in regard to Rhodesia, because these will be extremely important weeks for the future of this country and Rhodesia? Will he, therefore, make sure that he calls back the House at the slightest provocation for any statement on Rhodesia—as to how things are going and so on? This Recess has come at a most awkward time. [Laughter.] I see the point, but the timing of this whole matter has really been up to the Prime Minister rather than to Mr. Smith. Will the Leader of the House take particular note of this point?

Mr. Speaker

I think that the Leader of the House has been seized of the point which the hon. Gentleman is trying to make.

Mr. Fell

May I hear that comment again, Sir? I am sorry but I did not hear.

Mr. Speaker

I said I thought that already, by what the hon. Gentleman said, the Leader of the House had been seized of the point he was trying to make.

Mr. Fell

I am most grateful.

Mr. Bowden

Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman thinks, this is not an unduly long Christmas Recess. It is about the average period of time. I am very well aware of the urgency of bringing the House back if anything should arise over the Rhodesian situation which needs immediate attention. The recall of the House is not for me. Under Standing Order No. 117, representations can be made to Mr. Speaker. On the third point, I regret to hear the hon. Gentleman say that Mr. Smith timed his revolution wrongly to coincide with Christmas——

Mr. Fell

No. On a point of order, I deliberately said that the time of this matter [Interruption.]—May I now submit a point of order? The Leader of the House has said that he regretted to hear me say that the timing of this matter was the responsibility of Mr. Smith, when in fact I said nothing of the sort; I said that the timing was the responsibility of the Prime Minister, no one else.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman was not on a point of order. [Interruption.] The Chair is telling the hon. Gentleman that he was not on a point of order. If every hon. Member took as much time as this on business questions we would not get through to the business of the day.

Mr. Fell rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will not hear the hon. Gentleman further on a point of order.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he intends to introduce a Motion to set up a Committee on Procedure, and, if not, why not? Can he say why we have not had such a Committee since the beginning of the Session?

Mr. Bowden

It is intended to set up a Select Committee on Procedure. The Committee has a great deal of work to do; there is a great deal in front of it already. There is a hang-over from last Session. I regret that it has not been possible to set the Committee up earlier. It was a question of getting the names together.

Mr. Thorneycroft

Could I ask the Leader of the House if he could contrive to find an opportunity for the debate on the Government's White Paper on the Parliamentary Commissioner in advance of legislation being framed on this important subject?

Mr. Bowden

I think that this is a reasonable request and we will see what can be done after Christmas.

Mr. Sharpies

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the House is to have the statement on Civil Defence which was promised by the Minister of Defence in July, which he said would be made soon, the absence of which is causing grave disquiet among Civil Defence workers?

Mr. Bowden

I am afraid that I cannot forecast the actual date, but I will certainly consult my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Defence and the Home Secretary.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

As 25th January, the day on which we return, is an important day in Scotland, would the Minister have a word with his right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General to see that sufficient supplies of Burns' stamps are available to Scottish Members?

Mr. Bowden

I rather think that this has been raised in the House before, but I will certainly consult my right hon. Friend.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Has the Leader of the House seen the Early-Day Motions No. 38 and No. 45, concerning the desirability of postponing the purchase of the F111 aircraft? These Motions have been signed by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House. Can we take it, in view of the Adjournment debate arranged for Monday, at a late hour, that no decision will be taken until the general view of the House of Commons has been heard?

[That this House, conscious of the frequent and sustained American efforts on both a governmental and a commercial plane to achieve the substitution of American for European aircraft in service with the armed forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries in Europe, exemplified currently by the transportation to America this week of numerous British air correspondents for indoctrination in the alleged merits of the F111 aircraft, urges the Prime Minister to be on his guard against exceptional pressures directed to inducing him to order this aircraft for the Royal Air Force, thereby strangling the future of joint Anglo-French aeronautical co-operation, committing the United Kingdom to the future expenditure of at least an additional seven hundred million dollars which are uncovered by reciprocal exports, involving the taxpayer in a burden of at least one hundred million pounds more than would be the case were Mirage IV aircraft ordered with the same power-plant as the Phantoms already on order, and taking yet another step along the path leading to the extinction of the British aircraft industry and total dependence upon American equipment in the future.]

[That this House, aware of the need to take a decision soon on the ordering of the F111 aircraft from the United States of America, conscious of the imminent publication of the recommendations of the Plowden Report, recognising that the defence review will have regard to the need to make such orders for aircraft as may be required for our future defence rôle taking into account the strength of our economy, and being aware of the importance of avoiding purchasing United States aircraft which may lead to the weakening of the British aircraft industry, substantial dollar spending, and the jeopardising of Anglo-European co-operation, therefore urges Her Majesty's Government to seek to defer the exercise of the option to purchase the F111 aircraft.]

Mr. Bowden

The object of the debate on Monday is to hear the general views of the House of Commons, and no decision will be taken before then.

Mr. Turton

Can the Leader of the House say when the White Paper on the Territorial Army will be available for Members?

Mr. Bowden

Yes, on Wednesday of next week.

Sir T. Beamish

I was going to ask the same question. May I ask at what time it will be available? The White Paper is due to be published only the day before the debate, and the earlier it is available the better.

Mr. Bowden

I appreciate that it is only the day before the debate. I will try to see what can be done with the printers to get it as early as possible.

Mr. A. Royle

Can the Leader of the House tell us when the Defence Review will be published?

Mr. Bowden

I have already answered this question on two previous Thursdays. The Review has already been published, in the sense that we have dealt with part of it and TSR2. Part of it will be contained in the White Paper which we shall have in the normal way in February.

Mr. Bessell

Can I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has observed the Early-Day Motion in my name, and the names of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, relating to the British Petroleum tanker "British Security", and in view of the very unsatisfactory replies which we received during the debate the other night, whether we cannot have further time to discuss this?

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to prevent the delivery of 12,000 tons of crude oil to Rhodesia in a British ship sailing from a country whose foreign relations Her Majesty's Government control, especially considering that the oil belongs to a company in which Her Majesty's Government have a controlling interest; and recognises that, pending the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolution on an oil embargo, such action by Her Majesty's Government would illustrate the determination of this House that the illegal régime in Rhodesia will not be permitted to succeed.]

Mr. Bowden

We have already debated this on Tuesday of this week, as the hon. Gentleman knows. I am not sure what would be in order next week on the Southern Rhodesia (Bank Assets) Orders. It is a matter for the Chairman, not for me. But the hon. Gentleman might try to raise it on that occasion.

Mr. Lipton

The Leader of the House was good enough to tell me last week that he was drawing the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the Early-Day Motion I put down relating to the tied house and the reference of the tied house principles to the Monopolies Commission. Can the Leader of the House say what the President of the Board of Trade said to him when he brought this Motion to his attention?

[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.]

Mr. Bowden

According to my promise, I wrote to the President of the Board of Trade and, like my hon. Friend, I am awaiting a reply.

Mr. Thorpe

Arising out of the question of my hon. Friend, the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) and reverting to Questions 41 and 43 on oil supplies to Rhodesia, is the Leader of the House aware that there is very great feeling in many parts of the House about this matter? Is he further aware that back benchers have been under the dual disadvantage that at Question Time a supplementary question from the Leader of the Opposition was cut short and was subsequently ruled out of order, thereby preventing further supplementary questions, added to which, with the best will in the world, it cannot be said that the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations gave what was regarded in all quarters as a satisfactory reply? Although we are not asking for a full-scale debate, can we have a clear Ministerial statement on this next week?

Mr. Bowden

I do not think that anything further is necessary after the debate on Tuesday, when at least three hours were taken up on this subject.

Sir F. Bennett

I wonder whether the Leader of the House could see, after we have had the promised statement tomorrow morning and the promised subsequent statement on the question of pensions, whether we could not have a short debate afterwards, as many of us who are quite seriously trying to help the Government find it very difficult to help maintain national unity if there are two quite contradictory policies at one and the same time?

Mr. Bowden

May I correct something which may have been misunderstood from what I said earlier? My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will make a statement tomorrow morning at 11 o'clock on the alleged contradictions. On the question of pensions, I said that a Minister will make a statement. I did not say tomorrow morning, but as early as possible. I do not think that we ought to cut into Private Members' Time beyond the one statement tomorrow morning.

Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House to return to the question of the foreign affairs debate? While we all recognise the importance of the Prime Minister's visit to Canada, either before or after his visit to the United States, and that it is for both parties to arrange the order of their speakers, is he aware that the House have delayed this foreign affairs debate quite deliberately over the weeks until after the Prime Minister's return and until the last two days before the Christmas Recess? Will the Leader of the House recognise the difficulty in carrying on a major foreign affairs debate without the Prime Minister giving us the latest information after these very important talks? It is important that the right hon. Gentleman should give this to the House so that we can base our debate upon it.

Mr. Bowden

There are many precedents for the Prime Minister having returned from abroad and not making the opening speech, but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is anxious to help the House as far as possible. It would mean cutting out his visit to Canada, which he does not particularly wish to do. But if it is the wish of the Opposition and the House that he should not go to Canada, he could be back earlier. On the question of the time at which he speaks, I must leave it as I said before.

Mr. Burden

Is the Leader of the House aware of the Motion on the Order Paper, signed by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, regarding the welfare of farm livestock? May I ask him to arrange a debate on the Report of the Brambell Committee as soon as possible? The right hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, agree that it is necessary for the Minister to obtain the representations and views of animal welfare societies, but will he give an undertaking that a debate on this very important matter will be arranged at the earliest possible moment?

[That this House takes note of the Report of the Brambell Committee, congratulates them on the thoroughness of their investigation into the welfare of animals kept under intensive livestock husbandry systems, and urges Her Majesty's Government to arrange for an early debate on their recommendations.]

Mr. Bowden

There is a great deal of interest in this subject. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is, in fact, receiving representations from organisations which are concerned. There may be advantage in a debate. I cannot promise one firmly at the moment. We might look at the matter again after the Recess.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify what he said about the defence review? Is he saying that, instead of a clear statement about the review being made to the House, it will be made in a series of dribbles and drabbles? Will he make it clear that this statement will be made as a whole before the House of Commons as promised?

Mr. Bowden

There will be a comprehensive statement in the White Paper. Some decisions will be taken beforehand. Some decisions have already been taken. This is a continuing process.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

May I put to the Leader of the House one very narrow point relating to the Prime Minister's statement tomorrow? I am sure that he would agree that all of us in the House have a very considerable duty to discourage hon. and right hon. Members from ever saying things in the House which, if they were said outside, would be actionable by the people affected. I am wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman could ask the Prime Minister to deal very specifically with this issue in his statement tomorrow in view of the fact that a Secretary of State has called another man outside this House a liar and is privileged in saying it.

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has heard the hon. Gentleman's question. No doubt he will take note of it.