HC Deb 18 February 1965 vol 706 cc1363-72
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, 22ND FEBRUARY—Debate on Northern Ireland, which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

At seven o'clock, as the House is aware, the Chairman of Ways and Means has set down opposed Private Business.

TUESDAY, 23RD FEBRUARY—Debate on Fifth Report from the Estimates Committee of 1963–64, relating to Treasury Control of Establishments, and the relevant Special Report.

Afterwards, Motion on the Prayer Book (Alternative and Other Services) Measure.

Motion on the Civil Defence (Emergency Feeding) (Amendment) Regulations.

WEDNESDAY, 24TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Overseas Development and Service Bill.

Motion on the National Insurance (Mariners) (Amendment) Regulations.

THURSDAY, 25TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Bill, and of the Backing of Warrants (Republic of Ireland) Bill [Lords].

Remaining stages of the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Bill, and of the Administration of Justice Bill [Lords].

FRIDAY, 26TH FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 1ST MARCH—The proposed business will be: Supply [7th Allotted Day]: Committee stage of the Civil Estimates and Defence (Central) Estimates Vote on Account, 1965–66, when a debate will arise on Civil Airlines.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I should inform the Leader of the House that we are today tabling a Motion of censure on the Home Secretary over his action in introducing political considerations into the Home Office practice on the fixing of local authority boundaries. Would he make arrangements for this to be debated?

Mr. Bowden

I note that the Opposition are tabling a Motion of censure on a subject which was debated as recently as yesterday, without a Division. But, of course, in accordance with the usual practice, we shall have discussions through the usual channels to arrange a debate as early as possible.

Mr. Lubbock

Would it be in order to discuss this matter in the debate on Northern Ireland on Monday week?

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Does my right hon. Friend recall that it is now a considerable time since the House of Commons has had an opportunity of debating any question of foreign affairs, and that in view of the fact that there are now proceeding in the world a great many matters, some of which are the subject of Motions on the Order Paper, which are causing great anxiety in all parts of the world, can he hold out any early hope that the House will have an opportunity of discussing them?

Mr. Bowden

One of the difficulties is, of course, that we are running into the period of the year when we have six days at least on defence, but I appreciate the importance of a foreign affairs debate, particularly in view of the situation in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the United Nations. We will have a look at what can be done in this field.

Sir F. Bennett

In support of the last question, I asked last week whether we could have a debate about Vietnam. Does the Leader of the House think that he could go a little further? This is a serious situation. Despite the fact that no fewer than half of his hon. Friends, back-benchers, have signed a Motion criticising the Government, is he aware that he can count on our support in a debate of this kind?

Mr. Bowden

There are consultations going on at present between the Government and the United States about Vietnam. I think that it would perhaps be unwise to promise a very early debate, but the House can be assured that as soon as there is anything to be said a statement will be made.

Mr. Arthur Henderson

In view of the serious developments which are taking place in the United Nations, and pending the arrangement of a debate as suggested by my right hon. Friend, may I ask whether a statement could be made next week on the crisis at the United Nations?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise that it will be next week, but it will be as soon as it is possible to make that statement.

Mr. Chichester Clark

Is the Leader of the House aware that, while the debate on Monday on Northern Ireland will do nothing to clear up prejudice, it may possibly do something to diminish ignorance?

Mr. William Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend say how flexible the timetable for Tuesday's business is, particularly with regard to the first half? Do the Government expect the debate on the Estimates Committee's Report to be completed by seven o'clock or will it be allowed to continue?

Secondly, can my right hon. Friend say when he intends to make a statement on the control of the Palace of Westminster?

Mr. Bowden

It is hoped that the debate on the Estimates Committee's Report on the Treasury Control of Establishments will not take the whole day, and to provide an adequate time for a debate on the Motion on the Prayer Book, in which there is a great deal of interest. We shall have to see how this goes. If the first Order takes the whole day, there might be some adjustment later.

On the question of the control of the Palace of Westminster, as soon as it is possible to say anything, a statement will be made, but it will be appreciated that this is not entirely a matter for Parliament.

Mr. Frederic Harris

In view of the numerous references in the Press and on the radio that a reduction in the import surcharge is imminent, could the Leader of the House arrange for the First Secretary of State or the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make an early announcement of what exactly the Government have in mind, and thus help the business houses, who do not know where they are until the position can be made clear?

Mr. Bowden

Any statement on reduction of the 15 per cent. surcharge will be made at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place.

Mr. Hector Hughes

In view of the recent visit to this country of Mr. Ian Smith and the discussions about the constitutional position in South Africa, will the Leader of the House make it possible to have a debate upon that constitutional question, with a view to clarifying the situation?

Mr. Bowden

I think that my hon. and learned Friend is referring to Rhodesia. He will be aware that the Lord Chancellor and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations are about to visit that country.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

In view of the importance to Britain and the Commonwealth of the coming into force of the new Part Four of the G.A.T.T., can the Leader of the House offer some hope of our being able to debate this, or of a debate within which this subject can be discussed?

Mr. Bowden

It could be very adequately discussed on a Supply day. There are a number of Supply days coming up.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask my right hon. Friend a question on a matter which is causing me considerable apprehension? Can he say whether the statement which has been made, and which is in the nature of a forecast, by the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour), who is the owner of the Spectator, I believe—a very interesting periodical—that there will be an election in March, is accurate?

Mr. Bowden

I think that before committing myself I had better have a discussion with the hon. Member referred to.

Sir D. Renton

The right hon. Gentleman kindly said a fortnight ago that he would consult the Minister of Housing about the possibility of a debate on the development of the South-East, following the Minister's important statement. Is the right hon. Gentleman now in a position to tell us when we may have such a debate?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise anything at the moment.

Mr. Noble

Has the Leader of the House seen the Motion in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends on the subject of the difficulty of potato growers in selling their potatoes and the Government's refusal to give the Potato Board any facilities for support buying? As the Board has given a tremendous amount of help in evening out the rises and falls in the potato market, and as this affects a great many constituencies, will he bring it to the attention of his right hon. Friend and give us time to debate it?

[That this House views with great concern the present state of the potato market; and deplores the refusal of the Government to authorise support buying by the Potato Marketing Board.]

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has already said that he is keeping the potato market under review. I understand that the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Sir Richard Glyn) has given notice that he intends to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Shepherd

As we are still awaiting legislation on monopolies, mergers and restrictive practices, will the Leader of the House tell the House why the Government accord this legislation so low a priority?

Mr. Bowden

I shall be as pleased as the hon. Member when the legislation is brought forward. It will not now be long delayed.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Will the right hon. Gentleman give a clear assurance that any alteration in the import surcharge will first be announced in the House?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I cannot give that assurance.

Mr. Bessell

In view of the great anxiety felt in the South-West and elsewhere as a result of the announcement of Dr. Beeching's latest proposals, will the Leader of the House make time available for a debate on this subject? Is he further aware that a Motion has been tabled today on this matter in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and myself?

Mr. Bowden

I am sorry, but I have not yet seen that Motion. Perhaps I had better see it first.

Mr. Strauss

When may we expect the publication of the White Paper on the Government and the Arts? May we assume that the House will have an opportunity of debating it?

Mr. Bowden

I hope that the White Paper will be available next week. As for a debate, we had better see how we get on after the White Paper has been laid.

Mr. Heath

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the question of the change in the surcharge is of the utmost importance and that it is appropriate that it should first be announced to the House of Commons? Will he reconsider this matter? When the surcharge was first announced the House was not sitting. The announcement was made in a White Paper. But surely, when the House is sitting, the announcement should be made in the House.

Mr. Bowden

There are difficulties about this, which the right hon. Gentleman himself appreciates, but I take the point that the announcement should be made here first—because, in the general interest of the country, it should be made here first. We will bear that in mind.

Dame Joan Vickers

In view of the fact that for the first time all the Armed Services will come under the Ministry of Defence, when will the right hon. Gentleman be in a position to announce how the Estimates will be taken this year?

Mr. Bowden

I should like notice of that question. So far as I know, the Estimates this year will be laid in the same form as previously.

Mr. Charles Morrison

Has the Leader of the House taken note of Motion No. 94 on the school building minor works programme, standing on the Order Paper in my name and the names of a large number of hon. Members? Will he be able to find time for debate on this subject, which is causing the gravest concern to local authorities throughout the country?

[That this House notes the termination by the Government of the scheme whereby local education authorities enjoyed discretion to proceed with improvements to school buildings where the cost of the improvement was less than £2,000; regrets that this action by the Government will mean considerably less being spent on school building improvement in 1965–66 than in 1964–65, and will also result in unnecessary administrative delays in the commencement of important improvement projects; and shares the deep concern already expressed by teachers, local education authorities and chief education officers throughout the country as to the damaging effect that the Government's action will have on the programme to modernise schools.]

Mr. Bowden

I have seen the Motion and the Amendment to it—and they cancel each other out. In fact, minor works have been increased. The Secretary of State for Education and Science has made a statement about it.

Sir Rolf Dudley Williams

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider telling us next week when legislation in respect of consumer protection is likely to be introduced by the Government?

Mr. Bowden

Any statement about future legislation is made at this time, on a Thursday, in the normal way.

Sir Rolf Dudley Williams

That is why I asked.

Dame Irene Ward

In view of the dispute with the doctors, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware of the anxiety which is felt among a large section of the public, particularly those living on small fixed incomes, about what is to happen to them? As there was no reference at all to them yesterday, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman when the Government will be making a statement about that section of the community, who are suffering great anxiety?

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health made a rather full statement in the debate yesterday, and there is a further opportunity of debate on this subject tomorrow.

Mr. Chataway

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the answer which he gave to the request for a debate on Motion No. 94, to do with school building? Does he realise that the answer which he gave is erroneous, because a Written Answer given to me yesterday, from the Secretary of State for Education and Science, admits that this amounts to a reduction of £1 million? In view, of the fact that—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not wish to single out either side of the House, but if we discuss questions of fact on the business question, it becomes much too long an interchange.

Mr. William Clark

If the statement on changes in the surcharge is not to be made in the House, will the right hon. Gentleman say where it may be made?

Mr. Bowden

I have not said that it will not be made in the House. I said that it is desirable to make such statements in the House whenever that is possible, but that there are difficulties. I will go a little further and say that I think that in this case it almost certainly will be made in the House; but there are difficulties.

Sir C. Osborne

In view of the fact that the Governor of the Bank of England, for the second time in 10 days, has warned that the 3,000 million dollar loan will not be renewable in a short time unless there are great cuts in expenditure, both centrally and locally, will the right hon. Gentleman give time to debate this very urgent question, since it will affect all social services?

Mr. Bowden

The Governor of the Bank of England and the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) have been warning all Governments for a very long time about this. It would be an ideal subject for a Supply day.

Mr. Urwin

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House whether it is the Government's intention to provide time to debate the important subject of housing, which has not received as much time as it is entitled to receive?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise any immediate debate on housing.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that two of his Ministerial colleagues from that Dispatch Box gave us an assurance that we should have a debate on the arts early in the new year? Is he aware that on the last occasion that he answered a Question from me on this subject he hoped that we might have a debate. Today, he has been even more indefinite. In view of the disquieting rumours about the content of the White Paper on the Government and the Arts, can he give a more firm assurance now?

Mr. Bowden

We must see the White Paper first. I have said that it will be laid next week. We can then see afterwards what will happen about the debate.

Mr. Webster

Turning to next week's business and to Monday's debate on the Welsh Shipping Agency Bill, will the Leader of the House ensure that there is a free vote on this subject?

Mr. Bowden

It is the usual procedure on Private Business.

The Earl of Dalkeith

In view of what the Leader of the House said about legislation on monopolies, will he assure the House that full consideration will be given to B.E.A.'s future monopoly position? Will he give time in the near future to debate this matter?

Mr. Bowden

That would be quite in order on the business already announced for Monday week.

Mr. William Yates

Although the Leader of the House last week said that he was aware of Motion No. 80, and although no doubt he has paid attention to the Prime Minister's statement that Britain is not in a position to consider entering the European Common Market, is it not time that the House had a two-day debate to discuss questions concerning our relationship with the Commonwealth before we open fresh negotiations with Europe?

Mr. Bowden

We cannot possibly promise any such debate at present.

Mr. Box

May I ask about Questions next week? As today is the first occasion since Christmas on which the First Secretary has had the opportunity of answering Oral Questions, and as he will not come up to answer Oral Questions again for nearly another two months, will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether he can rearrange Questions next week so that the First Secretary will be available to answer Questions? Or is this deliberate policy by the Government to protect the First Secretary from Oral Questions from my hon. Friends?

Mr. Bowden

The First Secretary needs no protection from anyone. Nevertheless, I am rather concerned about Questions. The system adopted in the last Session, which I approved and which I still think is the right system, whereby we have one Department once a week, which means seven per day instead of eight, ought theoretically to mean that Departments come up for Questions rather more quickly.

But what has happened, in addition, is that we are taking much more time over supplementary questions and much more time over supplementary answers. We have in being a Select Committee on Procedure, which could probably look at this question. If it does, it will find from its researches, as I have found from mine, that in the last 25 years we have fallen from 80 Questions a day to 33.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Will the Government, if they make up their mind next week to, for example, purchase TFX aircraft from America, give an assurance that such an announcement will be made to the House rather than being grapevined to Members through the Exchange Telegraph?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That question appears to have a hypothetical basis and to be remote from business.

Sir A. V. Harvey

If, unfortunately, the dispute with the doctors should deteriorate, will the Minister of Health and, if necessary, the Prime Minister keep the nation fully informed as to what people should do and what progress is being made?

Mr. Bowden

I would have thought that this is so important a matter that the House and the nation would be advised if the situation should deteriorate.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Following the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (The Earl of Dalkeith), is the Leader of the House aware of the Motion which has been tabled today in my name and in the names of some of my hon. Friends drawing attention to the very grave threat to Scotland's air communications created by the statement made yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Aviation? In view of the alarm and concern aroused in Scotland by that statement, will he provide time for an early debate on that Motion?

Mr. Bowden

I read at some length the statement of business for next week and the proposed business for Monday of the following week. I indicated, I hope clearly, that the Opposition Front Bench had chosen this subject for the debate on Monday week.