HC Deb 03 February 1966 vol 723 cc1290-300
Mr. Heath

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, 7TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the National Insurance Bill.

Motions on the Workmen's Compensation (Supplementation) Scheme, and the Pneumoconiosis, Byssinosis and Miscellaneous Diseases Scheme.

TUESDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill, which, if the House agrees, will be taken formally.

Debate on the Situation in South and South-East Asia, which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Remaining stages of the Church of England Convocations Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY, 9TH FEBRUARY—Committee and remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill.

There will be a debate on the National Health Service, which it is thought may last until about seven o'clock, followed by subjects which hon. Members may wish to raise.

Motion on the Commonwealth Teachers (Extension of Financial Authority) Order.

THURSDAY, 10TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Road Safety Bill.

FRIDAY,11TH FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 14TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be: Remaining stages of the National Health Service Bill and of the Universities (Scotland) Bill.

Mr. Heath

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the debate on the Adjournment on Tuesday we would wish to be able to discuss the affairs of the Indian sub-continent? Secondly, can he provide time for a debate on the proposals announced yesterday for a Home Defence Force before the Defence White Paper is published?

Mr. Bowden

On the second point, perhaps we had better have discussions through the usual channels. On the first point, the right hon. Gentleman will have noted that the wording was "South and South-East Asia".

Mr. Victor Yates

In view of the rather serious revelations which have been made by the Chief Constable of Durham, will my right hon. Friend consider asking the Home Secretary to make a statement on this matter and the security of Durham Prison?

Mr. Bowden

Yes, Sir. This would have been in order in the debate yester- day had the statement been made in time. I will certainly consult my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Macleod

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that during business questions last week he was asked about the Government's intentions with regard to the six-month postponement of starts. This is a matter of great importance which affects every local authority, and the road programme. Can he give a definite date on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will make a statement to the House?

Mr. Bowden

It is my right hon. Friend's intention to make a statement early next week. I shall not commit myself to Monday or Tuesday, but it will probably be on Tuesday.

Mr. Alfred Morris

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has seen Motion No. 67, which has now been signed by more than 100 Members?

[That this House views with concern the concentration of advertisement placing, both commercial and official, in fewer and fewer newspapers, to the detriment of the others; draws the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the statement by the President of the Advertising Association, Lord Robens, in the Sunday Citizen on 12th December, 1965, that advertising revenue forms a substantial part of the income of newspapers and periodicals and that advertisers, with their large stake in the fortunes of the Press, must therefore bear some responsibility for maintaining its variety and vigour; and calls upon all national advertisers, including Her Majesty's Government, so to diversify a proportion of their advertising as to make a significant contribution to ensuring the independence of existing newspapers and periodicals and an increasing freedom of choice for the public.]

Can my right hon. Friend hold out any prospects of a debate on this matter?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I cannot promise time for a debate. This question of advertisement placing and independence of the Press was considered by the Royal Commission in 1961–62, and I think that perhaps the normal opportunities available to Members ought to be taken if there is any desire for a debate.

Mr. Powell

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm the indication given yesterday by the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will be making a report on his discussions in America and Australasia on his return on Sunday? May we take it that this means we shall be having a statement from his early next week?

Mr. Bowden

I am not clear when the statement will be made, but I will certainly discuss it with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Warbey

As the Opposition are now running away from a debate on Vietnam, and are seeking once again to submerge this critical and grave issue in a much wider and broader debate, and in view of their past responsibility for the tragic situation in Indo-China, can my right hon. Friend say when we are to have a debate in which we can concentrate our attention on the really key issues and dangerous developments which are taking place in the Indo-China peninsula?

Mr. Bowden

I should have thought that a debate on South and South-East Asia would include Vietnam. It was chosen by the Opposition for a Supply day next week. In the interests of the House, perhaps I might point out that it is exactly nine Parliamentary days since we had a debate on foreign affairs.

Mr. Lubbock

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Chancellor's statement next week will cover the home loans scheme of local authorities as well as other matters?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot do so without consulting my right hon. Friend, but I will do so.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Has my right hon. Friend seen Motion No. 70, which refers to Parliamentary Questions on the London Transport Board?

[That this House believes that the Minister of Transport should answer Questions concerning the day-to-day working of the London Transport Board.]—

and the proposed Amendment to that Motion, in the name of the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker)—

[Line 3, at end add "and of British Railways as was the practice during the last war, with efficient and convenient results for all concerned".]

In view of the great public interest in transport at this time, will my right hon. Friend try to find time for a debate on the Motion?

Mr. Bowden

This is one of those difficult cases in which there is no Government responsibility. This applies to a nationalised industry and its day-to-day activities. I appreciate the importance of the matter, but I cannot promise time at present.

Mr. Sandys

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he has seen Motion No. 91, in the name of the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Jackson) and about 50 other hon. Members?

[That this House deplores the speech of the right hon. Member for Streatham on 31st January designed, it would seem, to offer comfort to the rebel régime of Mr. Smith, insult African Commonwealth countries and delay the return to constitutional rule in Rhodesia.]

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will give time to have this Motion debated? It is entitled "Aiding the Rebels", and makes some very grave accusations against myself, amounting almost to a charge of treason. As my honour and loyalty to the Crown are directly impugned, it seems only fair that an opportunity should be given for the hon. Members concerned to substantiate their charges and for me to reply.

Mr. Bowden

The right hon. Gentleman is aware that there is one Order—and there may be two—on Rhodesia which has to be debated before, I think. 21st February. I am prepared, through the usual channels, to discuss whether the debate should be wider than that, and take a little more time than would normally be given to an Order, which would enable the right hon. Gentleman to make his points.

Mr. Sandys

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a very good precedent for this in the case of the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey), exactly a year ago, and that on that occasion the Lord President of the Council said: I think that the House has a right, as my hon. Friend"— that is, the hon. Member for Ashfield— is of opinion that his honour and integrity have been impugned, to voice its opinion on this.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1965; Vol. 707, c. 619.] Considering that the charges made against me are incomparably more serious, I see no reason why there should not be an opportunity for the House to express itself on this issue—and not by way of incidental speeches as part of a debate on another subject.

Mr. Bowden

I do not think that we can discuss this matter across the Floor of the House. We had better discuss it through the usual channels, in the normal way.

Mr. Heath

We must press the Leader of the House further on this. There is a perfectly clear precedent in the case of the hon. Member whose honour was impugned. The Leader of the House set the precedent himself. He must agree to this request. Time must be found to discuss this item on its own, and not mixed up with many other questions.

Mr. Bowden

I will certainly consider this question sympathetically and see what can be done, but the right hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is considerable pressure on Parliamentary time at the moment. It is not a question whether there should be a debate—I have already agreed that there should be—but let us decide the date through the usual channels, in the normal way.

Mr. Sandys

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that there will be a debate on this Motion, and not on something else?

Mr. Bowden

I am not committing myself to a debate on the Motion. I am committing myself to a debate on the point which the right hon. Gentleman has made, which has arisen from the Motion.

Mr. Sandys

On a point of order. I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, as the protector of hon. Members. It is exceedingly unsatisfactory that grave charges should be expressed in a Motion on the Order Paper and that we should have no assurance that this matter will be discussed and that the hon. Member against whom the charges are made will have the opportunity of making a reply.

Mr. Speaker

I have listened to the grave exchanges between the two right hon. Gentlemen but I am afraid that the issue is not one in which Mr. Speaker can express any opinion. It must be solved between the contending parties in the House, and is a matter for the Lord President of the Council and the usual channels.

Mr. Heath

I give notice to the Lord President of the Council that we shall wish to enter into discussions with him straight away about a specific debate on this point.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a good deal of sympathy on this side of the House for the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys)? Would not a morning sitting be an admirable way of dealing with the matter?

Dame Irene Ward

In view of the fact that last week the Minister of Fuel and Power answered a Question on gas prices, would it be in order, when we debate the Consolidated Fund Bill, to ask for a reply on the increase in electricity prices on the North-East Coast? This is a matter of great urgency.

Mr. Bowden

The hon. Lady will be aware that it is not for me to rule on questions of order, but if there is a Supplementary Estimate which is concerned with gas or the gas industry the point that she has raised would be in order.

Mr. Grimond

Does not the Leader of the House agree that among the matters to be raised this afternoon are matters which could usefully be debated at some stage of the Consolidated Fund Bill? Will he confirm that it is not the intention of the Government, or of official Motions, to remove from back benchers their traditional right to raise various matters which are of importance to them at some stage in our debates on that Measure, and that this stage should not be totally confined to the middle of the night?

There are many matters—including the question of the dissatisfaction of teachers in Scotland—which urgently require to be debated in the House, and the debates on the Consolidated Fund Bill would seem to provide a suitable occasion on which to take up these matters.

Mr. Bowden

I would be the last one to question the right hon. Gentleman's knowledge of procedure, but this Consolidated Fund Bill is concerned only with winter Supplementary Estimates. If there is a Supplementary Estimate which concerns the salaries of Scottish teachers —and I cannot recall one at the moment —it would be in order to raise that point.

Mr. MacArthur

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the deep concern in Scotland about the conflicting statements recently made by the Government on the question of the Scottish economy? Will he find time to debate early day Motion No. 84, which draws attention to this and other problems?

[That this House notes with satisfaction that the social and industrial achievements under the Conservative Government are catalogued in The Scottish Economy, 1965–70, Command Paper No. 2864; deplores the dearth in the same document of constructive and specific plans for achieving further advance in Scotland; regrets the expected sharp decrease in the annual rate of expansion of public investment; and views with astonishment the conflict between this White Paper and Investment Incentives, Command Paper No. 2874, which removes free depreciation and investment allowances while substituting nothing for the service industries upon which the White Paper states that future development in Scotland largely depends.]

Mr. Bowden

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be anxious to debate this White Paper. There are six Supply days in the Scottish Grand Committee and two on the Floor of the House. It is purely a question of deciding this matter in the normal way, through the usual channels.

Mr. Burden

May I draw attention to Motion No. 39, which appeared on the Order Paper before the Recess?

[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.]

May I also refer the Leader of the House to the fact that he said that he would consider very sympathetically the possibility of arranging a debate after the Recess on the Brambell Report on the welfare of farm animals? As this is a matter of very great importance to many people, will he now give sympathetic consideration to it?

Mr. Bowden

I am aware of my promise before the Recess. There are two early opportunities on Private Members' Motions. Two private Members have chosen this subject. If their Motions are not reached we should have to consider the matter again.

Mr. Peter Walker

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 150 hon. Members have now signed the Motion concerning the inaccurate comments of the Prime Minister and the contempt that they have brought upon the House?

[That this House, recalling that on the Third Reading of the 1965 Finance Bill the Chancellor of the Exchequer paid tribute to the manner in which the debates throughout the Committee Stage had been conducted and said, The Opposition Front Bench have gone a good job on the Bill in the interests of everyone, and recalling that the Government moved 440 amendments to the 1965 Bill, regrets that in a speech to the Labour Party rally at the Albert Hall on Saturday, 29th January, the Prime Minister should have stated: We cannot afford the tomfoolery of last summer when urgently necessary measures to streamline the tax system were held up day after day and night after night and our narrow parliamentary majority irresponsibly exploited; and regrets that this completely inaccurate allegation serves only to bring Parliament into disrepute.]

Will the right hon. Gentleman find time next week for the Prime Minister either to make an apology, or for the Motion to be debated?

Mr. Bowden

I can recall the occasion when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister commented upon "tomfoolery". Hon. Members will recall that in our debate on the very long Finance Bill last year, which involved a great deal of work, owing to the large number of Amendments, considerable progress was made on occasions, usually as a result of discussions through the usual channels and that, equally, on other occasions very little progress was made. For instance, there was an occasion in the early morning—at about one o'clock—on 7th July, when, as a result of a successful ambush, certain things took place and I was caught out myself. That could be regarded as tomfoolery.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is the time for business questions, not debates.

Mr. John Wells

Will the right hon. Gentleman again consider the possibility of finding time for a short debate on horticultural marketing?

Mr. Bowden

The hon. Member is concerned, I think, about the Apples and Pears Development Council. This will be the subject of an affirmative Order which will have to be approved by this House.

Mr. Deedes

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Victor Yates) has a point in calling attention to the fact that confusion will have been caused in the public mind by the statement of the Chief Constable of Durham. In view of that fact the Home Secretary might be well advised to make a statement next week, at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Bowden

I have already said that I will speak to my right hon. Friend about this.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen a copy of the speech made by his right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Home Department in Strasbourg? As this appears to take Government policy towards Europe several steps forward, does not he agree that it is time we debated the relations between this country and the Common Market—especially since the last foreign affairs debate contained little material on this important subject?

Mr. Bowden

No doubt this is an important subject, but I cannot promise an early debate on it.