HC Deb 06 May 1965 vol 711 cc1562-70
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, 10TH MAY—Second Reading of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

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

TUESDAY, 11TH MAY—Supply [17th Allotted Day]: Committee.

There will be a debate on Rising Prices.

Motion on the Functions of Traffic Wardens Order.

WEDNESDAY,12TH MAY—Lords Amendments to the War Damage Bill.

Remaining stages of the Firearms Bill.

THURSDAY, 13TH MAY—Supply [18th Allotted Day]: Committee.

A debate will take place on Broadcasting.

Motion on the Cinematograph Films (Collection of Levy) (Amendment) Regulations.

FRIDAY, 14TH MAY—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 17TH MAY—The proposed business will be: Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Committee [1st day].

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference is to assemble soon after we return from the Whitsun Recess. Could the Government provide time for a debate on Commonwealth affairs before that conference takes place?

Mr. Bowden

I will certainly consider the right hon. Gentleman's request, but he will be aware that between now and Whitsun almost the whole time will be taken up with the Finance Bill.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Last year we had, to some advantage, a debate in the House before the Prime Ministers' conference. If the right hon. Gentleman would give this serious consideration, the whole House would be grateful.

Mr. Bowden

I will certainly consider it.

Mr. Grimond

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what form will the debate on broadcasting take?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot say at the moment. The subject has been suggested by the Opposition. It is a Supply day. It is their day. I cannot say at this stage whether it is to be on the Postmaster-General's Vote, or on a Motion.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Will the Leader of the House give us, say, a half day's debate soon on the Second Report from the Select Committee on Procedure on the matter of Question Time, which is of concern to both sides of the House? The Report contained the recommendation that there should be a debate. It actually suggested the terms of a Motion. It would be for the convenience of both sides of the House to have this debate, I suggest for only half a day, at an early date.

Mr. Bowden

I have read the Select Committee's Report. I agree with a great deal of its findings. That is a personal view. I think that it would be of greater advantage to the House if, as soon as possible—it would have to be after Whitsun—we could have a debate on both Reports, with perhaps the proposals which the Government may submit for any changes.

I appreciate that between now and then we have to consider the roster of Questions between Whitsun and the end of July. I think that through the usual channels we could perhaps have another and completely fresh look at this, if that is the wish of the Opposition, but perhaps leave the debate and then we can look at the wider field.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I am all for consultations through the usual channels. I have had some experience of how valuable they can be. However, this is a matter upon which back-bench Members should have an opportunity to express their opinions as well.

Mr. Bowden

I agree absolutely; that is so. However, a roster of Questions cannot be arranged through a debate in the House. It can be done only through the usual channels; and is difficult enough then.

On the question of any changes in procedure which may arise out of the Report of the Select Committee, I feel that it can best be dealt with by a debate in which the Government bring forward some proposals, and I would propose to do this as soon as possible after Whitsun.

Mr. Steele

As this was a question that I had intended to put, may I, from this side of the House, say that the House itself was anxious that the Select Committee should report quickly upon the matter of Questions. We are anxious to have some remedy. Surely my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House should give the House either an opportunity to debate the matter quickly, or bring forward proposals himself.

Mr. Bowden

I can only repeat what I have already said. If it is the general wish of the House—this can be conveyed through the usual channels—I can alter the roster between Whitsun and the end of July; but as for a general change in our procedure, on Questions or on anything else, it had better await the proposals of the Government and the full debate.

Mr. Kershaw

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there will be general disappointment that there will not be time next week for a debate on housing n Gloucestershire? Will he make sure that when a debate arises hon. Members representing Wales and Scotland, as well as Northern Ireland, are not allowed to come in?

Mr. Warbey

My right hon. Friend will be aware that his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary undertook to consult him about making a further statement on the situation in the Dominican Republic. Can my right hon. Friend say when that statement is to be made and whether we shall have an opportunity of debating it and indicating our opposition to the action of the American Government in disguising an act of aggression under an implausible pretext?

Mr. Bowden

There are two Questions down which we have not yet reached and perhaps it would be a good idea to see the Written Answers tomorrow morning. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made a statement within the last few days. If necessary, he will make a further statement. I will consult him.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I apologise for returning to this matter of the Second Report of the Select Committee on Procedure, but this is not a question of the roster. As the Committee's Report points out, there are matters of restricting the length of Questions and Answers, and the rules of order relating to supplementary questions and the automatic right to ask supplementary questions. These are matters for the whole House and not for the usual channels. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this point.

Mr. Bowden

I accept exactly what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said. This is a matter for the whole House and I promise that the whole House shall consider any proposals arising from the Committee's Report or any that the Government bring in. We cannot possibly do this before Whitsun, but in the general interest of the House, if hon. Members want to alter the pro- cedure of the roster, we can perhaps do it as an interim measure.

Mr. William Hamilton

Would my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of debating this subject one morning? We have already established the principle of morning sittings. [HON. MEMBERS: "Friday morning."] On Wednesday's business, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that we shall have enough time to discuss the Lords' Amendments to the War Damage Bill, in view of the fact that several of my hon. Friends now express great interest in these matters and there are many Burmah Oil shareholders in the House who, I am certain, would want to declare their interest in view of what happened in another place when the matter was debated there?

Mr. Bowden

I have placed the Lords' Amendments to the War Damage Bill as the first Order on Wednesday and I think that there should be adequate time.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke

Will the Leader of the House give consideration at least before Whitsun to a debate on early day Motion No. 192, which has now been signed by 120 hon. Members on this side of the House?

[That this House, having noted the remarks of the Minister of State for Disarmament in the Disarmament Committee of the United Nations on 28th April, 1965, deplores this further example of the denigration of Great Britain now becoming habitual with Her Majesty's Government.]

In coming to his decision, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that whilst all of us would zealously guard our right to go hammer and tongs at each other on national affairs here at home, it has been the tradition over the years that at international conferences, and so forth, everybody speaks for Britain regardless of what party may be in power at the time and that there is general concern that this principle is being infringed?

Mr. Bowden

That is a very good principle, but there have been many occasions on which it has been infringed in recent years. I do not accept that my noble Friend the Minister of State for Disarmament infringed it. I have reread what he said this morning. What he did was to point out the differences between us and the former Administration on nuclear policy.

Mr. Allaun

Is my right hon. Friend aware that next Thursday is the date of municipal elections, when many hon. Members on both sides of the House like to attend and feel that it is their duty to attend in their own constituencies? When my right hon. Friend was approached by the Opposition for a Supply day on this occasion, on the subject of broadcasting on which there may be or may not be a vote, was this point borne in mind by both sides, particularly in view of the fact that in previous years it has been fairly customary for there to be non-controversial business on that day?

Mr. Bowden

Whatever may happen about a vote on Thursday is not a matter for me. That is a matter for the decision of the House, but I should have thought that quite possibly—I put it no more strongly—in view of the subject laid down for debate on Thursday it may be regarded as an occasion when a three-line Whip may not be necessary. I do not know. That is a matter for Members of the House and not for the Leader of the House.

Mr. Hooson

May I invite the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to early day Motion No. 180 in favour of a World Security Authority, which is supported by hon. Members of all parties?

[That this House, noting with interest the establishment by the United Nations of a 33-nation committee on peacekeeping, believes that United Nations efforts in this field would be more effective, were they to be within the framework of law enforcement known in advance, and to this end urges Her Majesty's Government to propose in the committee that it supports the creation of a permanent force with an individually recruited personnel owing allegiance direct to the United Nations and paid by it, and whose prime purposes, in areas where it was directed to operate, would be the enforcement of laws, preventing the ownership, use or manufacture of arms or the incitement to such except by consent of the United Nations, or to act to prevent violation of frontiers; and that Her Majesty's Government should announce in advance that if acceptable pro- posals were to result, it would give its support and supply bases and personnel.]

Can the right hon. Gentleman hold out any hope of a day's or a half-day's debate on this important matter before the Whitsun Recess?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot hold out any hope before the Whitsun Recess. I know that the last opportunity would have been 1st April, which is a rather long way off. I will bear in mind, after Whitsun, the hon. and learned Member's request that a debate should take place.

Mr. Tinn

Will my right hon. Friend consider the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) that the Second Report of the Select Committee on Procedure might be debated at a morning sitting?

Mr. Bowden

I have already committed myself in the House to saying that there would be no additional morning sittings without the decision of the House.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will the Leader of the House be making any revised statement about the business of the House in the coming week consequent upon tonight's vote, either tomorrow morning or on Monday, should the occasion arise?

Mr. Bowden

I have no reason to think that tonight's vote will make the position any different from that of any other night.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Early this week the Foreign Secretary undertook to make a statement on the results of Mr. Gordon Walker's visit to the Far East. Could the right hon. Gentleman see that the House and the public have this statement at an early date?

Mr. Bowden

I will certainly consult my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Blaker

On the question of the Dominican Republic, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the reply given by the Foreign Secretary last Monday referred to the safety of British subjects whereas what the House would like to hear is a statement of British Government policy towards the situation in the Dominican Republic? Will the right hon. Gentleman look at this matter again?

Mr. Bowden

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to look at the replies to Questions Nos. 45 and 46 today.

Mr. Maxwell

Will my right hon. Friend be willing to provide time to debate early day Motion No. 200?

[That this House deplores the action of Mr. Justice Stamp in committing a person to prison in private during the week beginning 26th April, 1965, in view of public concern at this flouting of the principles of English justice and the liberty of the subject.]

This relates to the silent disappearance of a person behind bars at the order of a judge of the High Court. In view of the considerable disquiet and unhappiness about this in the House and the country, would my right hon. Friend not consider it a subject for which it would be worth while providing time?

Mr. Bowden

There are Questions down to the Attorney-General for 14th May. I think that we had better await the replies to those Questions before we consider a debate.

Captain Orr

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we may expect a second debate on Northern Ireland, and whether or not English Members on his side will be encouraged to take part?

Mr. Bowden

The actual dates might be discussed in the normal way through the usual channels. I will do my best to see that some English Members are present.

Mr. Braine

Following the provocative and partisan remarks of the Prime Minister a little while ago on the representation of one part of the United Kingdom in this House, may I ask whether, in view of the fact that there are many English Members representing constituencies of 80,000, 90,000 and even 100,000 electors, the right hon. Gentleman would arrange an early debate to discuss the need for a fairer distribution of seats?

Mr. Bowden

I doubt very much whether a debate at present would be of value, because the Parliamentary Boundary Commission has started work.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must have regard to other business.