HC Deb 01 December 1966 vol 737 cc629-37
Mr. Heath

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

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Richard Crossman)

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

MONDAY, 5TH DECEMBER—Further progress with the remaining stages of the London Government Bill until about 7 o'clock.

Thereafter, remaining stages of the Arbitration (International Investment Disputes) Bill [Lords], of the Education Bill and of the Tribunals and Inquiries Bill [Lords].

TUESDAY, 6TH DECEMBER—Debate on Foreign Affairs.

Remaining stages of the Bus Fuel Grants Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 7TH DECEMBER—Supply [6th allotted day]: Committee.

The debate on Foreign Affairs will be concluded.

Afterwards, any Amendments to the Local Government Bill, which may be received from another place.

THURSDAY, 8TH DECEMBER—Completion of the remaining stages of the London Government Bill.

Progress on the remaining stages of the Agriculture Bill.

FRIDAY, 9TH DECEMBER—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 12TH DECEMBER—The proposed business will be: Second Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Motion on the Police Pensions Regulations.

Mr. Heath

As the Leader of the House is aware, circumstances which we very much hope will be favourable, may require the subject of Rhodesia to be debated. If so, will the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to alter the business some time next week?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Criminal Justice Bill is a long and complicated Bill, in which many hon. Members have a great interest, and that is one to which, I believe, the Government attach very great importance? Could the give consideration to having two days for the Second Reading of the Bill?

Mr. Crossman

On the first point, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. We had better wait until Monday to see exactly when to have the Rhodesia debate. I would assume that it would not be wanted by the Opposition on the first day after the Prime Minister's announcement.

Mr. Heath indicated assent.

Mr. Crossman

I assume that the Opposition would like some time.

Dealing with the Criminal Justice Bill we do not often have tremendously successful two-day debates on the Second Reading. I would have thought that it might be possible, if there was a demand for it, to have an extension of the time on Monday. But if the Opposition wanted to give a day, then we may consider it.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House when we may expect the Housing Subsidies Bill?

Mr. Crossman

We expect it before Christmas.

Mr. Ridley

In view of the fact that this Session has another nine months to run, can the right hon. Gentleman say why it is necessary for Standing Committees considering Bills to sit two mornings, three afternoons and three nights a week at present?

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate the strain under which members of the Standing Committee on which the hon. Gentleman is serving are working. I gather that satisfactory progress is being made and that there is hope that things will be consummated in due course and at the proper time.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

When will the promised debate on procedure take place? Will it take place on specific proposals by the Government, and, if so, can they be put on the Order Paper in plenty of time so that they can be properly considered?

Mr. Crossman

The debate will take place on specific proposals. I give the assurance that they will be made known in plenty of time, since they are liable to be complex.

Mr. Ford

May I direct my right hon. Friend's attention to Motion No. 277 standing on the Order Paper, in connection with the sound broadcasting of the proceedings of the House? Would he provide time for a debate, particularly since the conclusions of the Committee were based on incomplete technical information?

[That this House is of the opinion that provision should be made for its proceedings to be broadcast in toto via a sound-radio channel reserved for this purpose.]

Mr. Crossman

No, I cannot give any assurance about finding time, but I am prepared to consider possibilities about sound broadcasting as distinct from the decision on television and sound broadcasting together.

Mr. Godber

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurence on Thursday's business, when we are to start dealing with the remaining stages of the Agriculture Bill? He will be aware that this is a long and detailed Bill. Will we have adequate time on another day to carry on the discussion?

Mr. Crossman

I think that I can give that assurance.

Mr. Roebuck

Would my right hon. Friend consider finding time for a debate on Motion No. 271, standing in the names of the hon. Members for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) and Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant)?

[That this House welcomes the independent mindedness of the busmen of the Harrow Weald London Transport Garage in passing a resolution that members of their branch of the Transport and General Workers Union shall be provided with the forms and facilities to contract out of the political levy and commends similar action by other trade unionists before 31st December to join the 1,556,000 of their colleagues who contracted out previously in the belief that the trade union movement would serve its members better by being independent of party politics.]

In considering the desirability of such a debate, would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the men of the Harrow Weald bus garage, which is in my constituency, are being incited to contract out by a former Communist Party candidate and that this matter would make for a most interesting debate in view of the unholy alliance with hon. Members opposite, particularly since the Government are no longer tapping their telephones?

Mr. Crossman

The reasons why hon. Members desire this subject to he debated are many and subtle. I had not thought of the reason which my hon. Friend gave. I will certainly give it full consideration.

Mr. Lubbock

First, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the devotion of two further half days to the London Government Bill—a Measure of limited scope which has already received more than adequate discussion—is a serious waste of Parliamentary time? Secondly, would he give an assurance that the White Paper on decimal currency will be debated this side of Christmas?

Mr. Crossman

I can give no such assurance on the second point. On the first point, tastes vary about the importance of Bills. I gather that there are right hon. and hon. Members who attach importance to the Bill and are determined that it should be debated at some considerable length.

Mr. Pavitt

Can my right hon. Friend say whether we shall have a debate on the Health Service before Christmas? Is he aware that we have had two very short debates on Prayers?

Mr. Crossman

I have not had that proposal made before. I will consider my hon. Friend's suggestion. But I can tell him that there is no prospect at all of a debate on the Health Service before Christmas.

Mr. Deedes

Reverting to the Criminal Justice Bill, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, while I accept his point about two-day debates on Bills, the Bill contains a number of widely different parts—it is about four Bills in one—and that this has some bearing on the value of a two-day debate?

Mr. Crossman

I will bear that in mind. I realise that it is a complex and very important Measure, on which we want full and adequate discussion. I was questioning the wisdom of allocating two full days to it. I am prepared to consider the possibility of extending the time on Monday if there is a demand for an extension from both sides of the House.

Mr. Victor Yates

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a considerable number of hon. Members on this side of the House who will want to take part in the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill? After all, it is the biggest Bill of its kind since 1948. I think that one day is totally insufficient to discuss this Measure, and I hope that an arrangement will be made to enable hon. Members on this side as well as hon. Members opposite to take part in the debate.

Mr. Crossman

I think that I have made it clear that I am willing to consider opinion on both sides of the House. We will discuss the possibilities through the usual channels, but I would still prefer the alternative of extending the time on Monday rather than devoting two whole days to consideration of the Bill.

Mr. Berry

First, would the right hon. Gentleman appreciate, in connection with Monday's business, that there are hon. Members who consider that a Bill which takes away from London electors their democratic rights for a year deserves full consideration in the House? Secondly, would he allow time between now and Christmas for a debate on traffic in London, which, I think he will agree, is particularly relevant at this time of year?

Mr. Crossman

On the first part, I do not accept the imputations, but I recognise that there is strength of feeling on the London Government Bill. On the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I do not see any prospect of a debate being held before Christmas.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

With regard to the debate on procedure, which may easily cut across party lines—many Members are interested in it, and there are many reports to be considered—may I ask the right hon. Gentleman very respectfully whether he would, in consultation through the usual channels, give the longest possible notice of the day when that debate will take place and of the Motion to be debated?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I share his view entirely. This will be an important debate. I give the assurance that we shall give plenty of time to get the Motion on the Order Paper. I will try to give the longest possible notice. We had intended to have that debate this week, but we have had special emergencies which postponed our intention, and which I regret as much as the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Manuel

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the intense interest among wide sections of the population, among motoring organisations, and local authorities about what is contained in the White Paper on Transport? Would he consider allowing the House time to debate this very important White Paper?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot give an assurance that there will be a debate before Christmas. We can reconsider the matter after that.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

May I back up the plea for extra time to debate the Criminal Justice Bill, not only because of its complicated character, but because of the very grave constitutional changes which it proposes?

Mr. Crossman

I have taken note of the strength of feeling on both sides of the House. We must reflect on the best way to meet it.

Mrs. Anne Kerr

Has my right hon. Friend yet had time to see Motion No. 281 on the Order Paper?

[That this House calls for an immediate withdrawal of dangerous toys by wholesalers and retailers according to the standards laid down by the British Safety Council; and asks for legislation to ban the import, manufacture and export of such toys, also for legislation to ban the import, manufacture and export of war toys and of horror toys, such as doll guillotines and mini-Chambers of Horror, thereby not only increasing the physical safety of children, but also helping to improve the quality of their lives.]

Would my right hon. Friend find time between now and Christmas—in fact, as soon as possible—to permit the House to debate the very crucial question of dangerous toys, horror toys and war toys?

Mr. Crossman

I realise, especially at this time of year, that people are interested in this subject. I remind my hon. Friend that the Home Secretary already has power to deal with these toys. But certainly it is to be considered whether further powers are required.

Mr. Hogg

I am very sorry to press the Leader of the House further on the subject of the Criminal Justice Bill, but will he recognise that additional time late at night for discussing it would not satisfy a great number of Members on, I think, both sides of the House? It is not a question of wanting to divide on the Bill, or anything like that. It is a question of it being a very complex Bill on which there is a wide range of expert opinion in the House which would want to express itself on a number of quite diverse and separate topics.

May I press the right hon. Gentleman to revert to what I think would have been the universally accepted practice before the war, namely, that on a Bill of this stature we should have a two-day debate?

Mr. Crossman

I am willing to look at the precedents before the war, but I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would agree that after the war it would be a very unusual occurrence to have a two-day debate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not added to the views of Members on both sides of the House which I have promised to consider.

Mr. Hector Hughes

In view of the importance of the Criminal Justice Bill and the great number of hon. Members who want to speak on it, will my right hon. Friend consider having a timetable so that speeches will be short and effective and the Bill can be dealt with quickly?

Mr. Crossman

I might consider it, but it would not be for me to decide.

Mr. Mapp

Bearing in mind the amount of time generously given to such subjects as Scotland, Wales and, in the present case, London, does my right hon. Friend agree that discussion on the planning reports of the North, West Yorkshire and Humberside and the North-West might profitably be included in our time schedule of debates during the next two or three months?

Mr. Crossman

As a representative of the West Midlands, I agree that that is also an area which we might debate.

Mr. G. Campbell

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the first rate support grants will come before the House, since the General Grant Orders which they replace were normally considered in December and the two new Local Government Bills have not completed their stages through Parliament?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of the urgent need for the rate support debate. We usually have it in December. I gather that my right hon. Friend the Minister is still in negotiation with the local authorities. I hope to make a further statement on this subject next week.

Mr. Ronald Bell

If the debate on procedure is to take place on specific proposals put forward by the Government, will there be any opportunity for hon. Members to discuss other proposals which are not being espoused by the Government or the general considerations which are canvassed in the Report of the Committee?

Mr. Crossman

That is a very good suggestion, on which we ought to reflect, because I would like to have a wide-ranging debate dealing not only with the specific matters, but with the general question of Parliamentary reform. We will bear it in mind.

Mr. Crowder

I am sorry to raise again the question of the Criminal Justice Bill, but as this is such a highly complex matter, on which many hon. Members wish to speak, and as there will be no Division, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman could, perhaps, arrange the business in such a way that a two-day debate on this matter could be concluded on a Friday?

Mr. Crossman

That is a new point. I am certainly prepared to reflect on that suggestion, which had not occurred to me before.

Mr. Carlisle

While the Leader of the House is reflecting on this matter, as he has said he will, may I draw to his attention the fact that the Bill easily falls into two parts: criminal procedure, on the one side, and the treatment of offenders and prisoners, on the other? Will he look at the matter in this light and see whether he could not make a quite good two-day debate of it?

Mr. Crossman

Certainly, I will look at the question in all lights and from all points of view.

Mr. McMaster

In view of the situation facing the British shipping and shipbuilding industry, and the redundancies which have been announced and are likely to be announced, which will be particularly severe in areas of already high unemployment, will the Leader of the House consider setting aside an early day for a debate on this subject?

Mr. Crossman

No. I do not see any possibility of having such a debate before Christmas.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must get on.

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