HC Deb 10 February 1966 vol 724 cc621-38
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, 14TH FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the National Health Service Bill.

Motions on the Weights and Measures (Solid Fuel) (Carriage by Rail) Order, the (Exemption) (Milk) Order, and on the Double Taxation Relief Order.

It is hoped that this business will be concluded by about seven o'clock, to allow a short debate on early day Motion No. 91.

TUESDAY, 15TH FEBRUARY—Debate on a Motion to approve the White Papers on Investment Incentives and the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation (Command Nos. 2874 and 2889).

WEDNESDAY, 16TH FEBRUARY—Progress with the remaining stages of the National Insurance Bill.

Motion on the Southern Rhodesia (Prohibited Exports and Imports) Order.

THURSDAY, 17TH FEBRUARY—Completion of the remaining stages of the National Insurance Bill, and of the Universities (Scotland) Bill.

Second Reading of the Statute Law Revision Bill [Lords] and the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Bill [Lords], which are consolidation Measures.

FRIDAY, 18TH FEBRUARY—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 21ST FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be: Second Reading of the Companies Bill.

Mr. Heath

On the second half of Monday's business, on Motion No. 91—

[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]—

does the Leader of the House recall that when, on 18th March, 1965, he announced the arrangements for debating the Motion relating to the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) on a matter which concerned his honour, he said that, as it was a House of Commons matter, there would be no Whips on and that, if there was a Division at all, it would be a free vote?

As Motion No. 91 also concerns the honour of a right hon. Gentleman and is a House of Commons matter, can he give us an assurance that the same arrangements will hold for Monday night's debate as held in the case of the hon. Member for Ashfield?

Secondly, on Tuesday's business, does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that this, of course, does not take the place of the general economic debate for which my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) asked after the Chancellor's statement last Tuesday?

Mr. Bowden

On the second point, I note the request for a general economic debate, which we can probably have during the next two or three weeks.

On the first point, I accept that, in the earlier case, on the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey), the Motion before the House was that the matter should be referred to the Select Committee on Privileges, which was purely a House of Commons matter. The Motion before the House on Monday of next week is whether hon. Members are of the opinion that the speech of the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) did or did not offer comfort to the rebel régime of Mr. Smith in Rhodesia.

This is rather a different point from that which arose on the earlier occasion. It is not for me to say whether my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and the hon. Member for Penrith and the Border (Mr. Whitelaw), who adorn the ends of the Front Benches, will want to have a free vote or not. This is a matter for them, but I think that it is quite a different matter from the earlier one.

If the right hon. Member for Streatham thinks that this is solely a matter of honour—I see his point, to some extent, that to suggest that he is associated in helping the rebel régime can certainly be regarded as a matter of honour, and he may be very upset about this—this could easily be put right by a personal statement in the House. But if this goes to a debate on this Motion, I would think—this is again a matter for the two Members whom I have mentioned—that it would have to be on a normal vote.

Mr. Heath

May I press the right hon. Gentleman further about this? He has given Government time in arranging business for this debate precisely because of the sentence which he has used, that this is a matter of personal honour of a right hon. Member of this House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). In this respect, it is exactly the same as on the previous occasion, which concerned the hon. Member for Ashfield.

I would, therefore, ask him to give us an assurance, which is quite commonly given by the Leader of the House and not by arrangement between the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and the Opposition Chief Whip, that, in his view, this is a matter on which there should be a free vote.

Mr. Bowden

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that, during business questions last week, while I accepted, rightly, that there should be a debate, I was hesitant about accepting that it should take place on this Motion. For that reason, I would have hoped that it could have taken place on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House, when there may or may not have been a Division at the end. However, on this Motion, I think that a Division would have to be taken.

Mr. Sandys

Does the right hon. Gentleman really mean that, having arranged a debate because my honour has been impugned, his party will tell its supporters how to vote before even having heard what I have to say?

Mr. Bowden

The early-day Motion before us on Monday is not concerned directly with the right hon. Gentleman's honour, which might arise out of it. The question in front of the House will be the one which I have repeated, whether or not the right hon. Gentleman's words in his speech at Streatham gave comfort to the rebel régime. That is the issue. I would remind him—

Mr. Sandys

May I correct the right hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Bowden

I will finish, if I may.

I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that, during that debate on Monday of next week, he cannot help—nor can his right hon. Friends who support him; many may not—being completely censorious of the Government's attitude and action over Rhodesia. Therefore, it would be quite impossible for the Government to agree to a free vote.

Mr. Sandys

May I correct the Leader of the House? If he will look at the Motion, he will see that the question before the House will not be whether my words gave comfort to Mr. Smith's régime, but whether they were "designed" to give comfort, which is quite a different matter. That implies that it was my intention to do something which would be regarded as treasonable. If that is not a matter of honour, I do not know what is. All I should like to say to the right hon. Gentleman is that that is the question which I propose to answer and not what is the right policy for the Government to conduct in relation to Rhodesia.

Mr. Bowden

Had the right hon. Gentleman been prepared to make a personal statement afterwards, which no one would have questioned, the position would have been very different. We have now got ourselves into having a debate on the Motion, and I regret it as much as anyone else.

Mr. Sandys

On a point of order. I hope that I am in order, Mr. Speaker, in referring to an inquiry which I made of you before deciding what course to take. I asked you, Mr. Speaker, whether you thought that it would be a suitable matter which I could raise in the form of a personal statement. Your advice to me was that it was liable to be controversial, and that, therefore, it would not be a suitable matter to raise at the close of business as a personal statement.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

The facts are as the right hon. Gentleman stated them. He came to Mr. Speaker for advice. Among the things we discussed was the question of a personal statement. I did suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that this might be a difficult personal statement to make because of the question whether or not a matter of honour came into it might be regarded controversial. That was something on which I was not prepared to adjudicate and on which the House might have differences of opinion.

Mr. Heath

Further to that point of order. I am sure that we are all grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for that help and assistance which you have just given the House, but, in the light of it, may I now ask the Leader of the House to give the assurance for which we have asked in view of the fact that it is now apparent that a debate on this Motion was the only course open to either my right hon. Friend or the House?

Mr. Bowden

The Leader of the Opposition will recall what Mr. Speaker just said; that in his view this is a controversial matter. Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that a controversial matter should be settled in the House on a free vote?

Hon. Members

Why not?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that neither side will endeavour to bring the Chair into issues which divide the House.

Mr. William Hamilton

Would my right hon. Friend answer two questions on completely unrelated topics? First, can he say when we will get the third day during the Session to debate one of the Estimates Committee's Reports and, secondly, will he give an assurance that we will have a very early debate on the Welfare State, in view of the declared intention of the Leader of the Opposition to demolish it?

Mr. Bowden

To answer the first point, I think that we had better make a little more progress before we have the third day. We are already well ahead on it.

To answer the second point, we did have a short debate yesterday on the winter Supplementary Estimates, on the National Health Service. Speeches have been made in the country and publications have been issued and I think that there might be some value in having a debate on the Welfare State, but I cannot promise it for next week.

Mr. Grimond

Would the right hon. Gentleman answer two questions? First, in view of the exchanges earlier today, in which it emerged that there is some doubt about where some people stand on the Common Market issue, and in view of the changes in Europe itself, would the right hon. Gentleman see to it that before Easter we have a debate specifically confined to the Common Market issue?

Secondly, to revert to the question of Monday's debate, is it a proper use of the Notice Paper to put down Motions reflecting on hon. Members which clearly cannot be dealt with by way of personal statements? This, I think, is not the only one on the Notice Paper. Surely, even if this is a controversial matter, is it not a subject on which it would be eminently in order for the House as a whole to decide, without the Whips being on?

Mr. Bowden

I certainly agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is not the only critical early-day Motion on the Notice Paper. There are many of them. As I said earlier in the House, in a debate on procedure, I think that the early-day Motion idea has very long departed from its original intention.

To answer the right hon. Gentleman's question about having a debate on Europe, I think that we must wait a little while, but the right hon. Gentleman will be aware that there will be debates on various Votes and on the Consolidated Fund Bill, and so on, before the end of March.

Mr. William Yates

May I draw your attention to Motion No. 101, Mr. Speaker—

[That this House would welcome an independent investigation to ascertain to what extent the policy of Her Majesty's Opposition on Rhodesia is determined by the fact that very many prominent Tories, including some 41 Members of Parliament, Peers, former Members of Parliament, and Ministers, have directorships of companies with financial interests in Rhodesia.]

and to the fact that an Amendment is on the Notice Paper standing in the name of "Mr. Victor Yates"—

[Line 2, leave out from "investigation" to end and add "on Rhodesia, but thanks the Conservative opposition for at least trying to seek reconciliation between Her Majesty's Government and the Rhodesian Government and people and condemns the adamant attitude of the Labour Government towards Rhodesia and the Senate personally because it is founded firstly on ignorance of the real situation, secondly on really bad official advice, thirdly on a totally wrong and false moral premise, and finally out of an acute race complex which affected the Labour Party after their defeats at both Smethwick and Leyton."]—

when, in fact, the Amendment should stand in my name?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Perhaps the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. William Yates) will raise that as a point of order at the appropriate moment this afternoon. However, he can pursue a business question if he wishes.

Mr. William Yates

Now that there are two complications involving the debate on Rhodesia, may I ask the Leader of the House whether it would not be fair to the House to allow the Motion concerning my right hon. Friend's personal honour to be debated without the Whips being on and then later, on Thursday, to have a full-dress debate on Rhodesia, for that, I think, would satisfy many hon. Members?

Mr. Bowden

As to whether the hon. Gentleman's name has been correctly or incorrectly placed on the Notice Paper, that is a matter for the authorities of the House and not for me.

To answer the hon. Gentleman's question about the debate on Rhodesia, I have already said that my right hon. Friend and the Opposition Chief Whip could discuss that between themselves—but my advice to them would be that this should not be a free vote. I have already said that.

Mr. Woodburn

I appeal to the House not to have two things confused on Monday by having a general debate on Rhodesia and the right hon. Gentleman's opinions on it and any question of personal imputation. I suggest, with great respect, that it would be wise for the House to separate these two matters and to have the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) make his personal statement, about which there would be no debate, and then to have a debate on Rhodesia, about which strong feelings exist on both sides of the House.

Mr. Bowden

Precisely so. The early day Motion on Monday is quite separate from the Orders on Rhodesia, which come later in the week.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

When commenting earlier on the Motion affecting my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) did the Leader of the House really mean to say that a matter which was controversial could not be the subject of a free vote in the House?

Mr. Bowden

I went much further than that, if the hon. Gentleman will recall my remarks. I said that the debate could not take place without it being censorious of the Government's attitude over Rhodesia and, therefore, the Government's policy. In those circumstances, I said that I could not advise otherwise than that the Whips should be on.

Mr. Heath

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept that this does not necessarily follow? The object of the debate is not to move a Motion of censure, or that it should be censorious of Government policy, but to discuss accusations against my right hon. Friend that his speech was designed, an act of will, to give comfort to Mr. Smith's régime, which is a quite clear and separate issue from that of the Government's policy.

Mr. Bowden

I do not dispute that that might be the right hon. Gentleman's view and his hope and objective, but once we get into this debate and begin to quote, as hon. Members must, the speech of the right hon. Member for Streatham, we will be in a much wider debate.

Sir G. Nicholson

More or less as a point of order, has your attention been called to Motion No. 101, Mr. Speaker, in which innuendoes and insinuations are made about the honour of hon. Members of the Opposition? May I ask, with respect, if you are satisfied that there is not the possibility of the Notice Paper being used in an unworthy way in this manner?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for me. Hard words are bandied about on the Notice Paper, by one side of the House about the other. This is not new in history, and it is quite improper to ask Mr. Speaker to express his opinion on any of the Motions on the Notice Paper. If any of them contravened the Orders of the House they would not be there.

Sir G. Nicholson

Without wishing to be guilty of impropriety, Mr. Speaker, is it not clear that in debate we are forbidden from making innuendoes and accusations about people's or hon. Members' honour? It is clear to me that it is going against something which is in keeping with the feeling of the whole House if the Notice Paper is used for a contrary purpose.

Mr. Speaker

I must be most careful to ensure that I express no opinion whatever on anything which might be regarded as controversial. However, I have glanced at Motion No. 101. It is, as I have said, a comment made by one part of the House on another, and such attacks are not unusual. It is not the only one on the Notice Paper.

Sir G. Nicholson

I am sorry to persist, Mr. Speaker, but does this leave an indirect charge of corruption against certain hon. Members? If so, I submit that it is improper—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must accept from Mr. Speaker what I have said again and again in reply. Charges are made against groups of Members by other groups of Members in all kinds of terms—polite, and not so polite. I can express no opinion on the merits of this particular Motion, or any other Motion. If it is out of order, it would not get on to the Order Paper.

Mr. Scholefield Allen

I presume that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is aware of Motion No. 1 on the Order Paper—in which there are no hard words—supported now by 231 hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House and asking for help for a body of pensioners, the railway super-annuitants, who have had no consideration over recent years, and none from the present Government. Will my right hon. Friend arrange either to satisfy this demand, or to have a debate on the subject?

[That this House notes with regret that the Pensions (Increase) Acts still do not provide for railway superannuitants whose pensions fail to match rises in the cost of living, and urges Her Majesty's Government to rectify this anomaly in future legislation or by other means.]

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and learned Member must only ask whether opportunity can be found for debating the Motion.

Mr. Bowden

This Motion was No. 1 in the last Session of Parliament, too. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport made a statement in the House yesterday which goes part way to meeting the signatories of the Motion.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will the Leader of the House tell us whether, before the expiration of the option on the F111 aircraft, this matter will be debated, because it is largely irreversible, and that which follows from it will not be directly confined to this question? Can we have a debate soon?

Mr. Bowden

The hon. Member will be aware that we shall have the Defence White Paper and six days on defence in the normal way before very long.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Has the attention of my right hon. Friend been drawn to Motion No. 108? In view of its uncontroversial nature, does he think that we could have a free vote?

[That this House notes that there was a heavy selling on the New York Stock Exchange of the shares of companies manufacturing bombers, napalm bombs, toxic gas and other weapons being used by the United States forces in Vietnam after a report received from Delhi that Ho Chi Minh had started a peace offensive; and urges the Prime Minister, in his next communication to President Johnson, that he should ask for immediate legislation to prevent further profits being made by United States armament firms out of the cruel and barbarous war in Vietnam.]

Mr. Bowden

I have seen the Motion. No doubt the Prime Minister, who is required to noted the content, has already done so.

Sir F. Bennett

Could the Leader of the House do something to clarify the minds of some back benchers as to Monday's business? Since it is now obvious that the Whips will be on for debate on the Motion which has been mentioned earlier, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in fact, the Government Front Bench will have the courage to sign that Motion, or are they proposing to rely on the unusual precedent of putting on a Whip on a Private Members' Motion?

Mr. Speaker

Order. These are not business questions. Signing a Motion has nothing to do with this.

Mr. Kershaw

Has the Leader of the House seen Motion No. 99, relating to the Reserve Forces, signed by my hon. Friends and myself? If so, can he give an undertaking that there will be an opportunity to discuss the Government's proposals on this subject before we come to the debates on defence?

[That this House, while welcoming the Government's belated admission that the Territorial Army has a vital rôle to play in home defence, deplores the proposal to establish for this purpose a self-contained, inadequately equipped force with separate organisation, thus destroying the structure, morale and organisation of the Territorial Army as a military force available for a wide variety of rôles, and prejudicing the prospects of recruitment.]

Mr. Bowden

As the hon. Member is aware, we have already had a debate on Territorial Associations. As the proposals will need legislation, we shall have debates on the legislation when it arises, but it will be quite in order to raise the subject in the defence debates.

Mr. Bellenger

I should like to put this point to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. He has had some hesitations in answering questions from the Opposition benches as to the form that Monday's debate will take. Obviously, if it includes some censure of the Government's actions we all understand—hon. Members of the Opposition, too—that there must be a Government Whip; but if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) is to lead off by a personal explanation, without criticism of Government action, and the debate takes that form, may it not be possible that no vote whatever is taken, and the expurgation is made which, Mr. Speaker, I gathered you rather suggested could not be made on the Motion, and that we leave it at that?

Mr. Bowden

I would be very happy if there were to be no vote on the Motion at all. My right hon. Friend may recall that in business exchanges last week, I said that I hoped that the debate would be on the Adjournment. But if a vote takes place, the Government's position and that of hon. Members on this side must be absolutely clear. The Government must reserve their own position.

Mr. Stratton-Mills

Can the Leader of the House give a date for the publication of the Bill containing the legislative enactments of the Government's incomes policy?

Mr. Bowden

I am sorry, but I cannot give the actual date. But it will not be presented next week.

Sir D. Renton

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we shall have a debate on yesterday's statement by the Minister of Housing and Local Government about his handling of certain planning applications, which was criticised by the Council on Tribunals?

Mr. Bowden

A debate on this subject will, of course, be in order on an Opposition Motion or on a Supply day. There are a number of Supply days available to the Opposition between now and the end of March. I cannot promise Government time at the moment.

Dr. David Kerr

Would my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate on Motion No. 85, signed by hon. Members on both sides, relating to the establishment of a camp site to serve central London? In particular, some hon. Members will welcome an opportunity to discuss which member of the Government Front Bench would be responsible.

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to sponsor the provision of facilities for overseas camping and caravan holidaymakers in the heart of London comparable to those provided in Paris, Rome and Lisbon.]

Mr. Bowden

I understand that discussions are going on between Departments and the British Travel Association. I think that we had better await the result of the discussions, and talk of debate afterwards.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Referring to the right hon. Gentleman's reply to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), is it not unusual, when a Minister has been censured by a responsible outside body and that Minister has himself stated that he would welcome a debate, for the Government to rely on the Opposition to provide time? Surely, it is up to the Government to provide time.

Mr. Bowden

I cannot provide additional time at present for anything at all.

Captain Litchfield

With reference to Motion No. 85, may I ask the Leader of the House to resist the temptation to waste the time of the House on such a cracked-brained scheme?

Mr. Bowden

That point might well be made in a debate, if we had it.

Mr. G. Campbell

Despite what the Leader of the House said last week, will he find time soon for a debate on the White Paper on the Scottish Economy, as some of the assumptions in it seem already to be altered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement this week?

Mr. Bowden

As I suggested last week, this could be debated rather more quickly in the Scottish Grand Committee if it used one of its Supply days, but there are two days available on the Floor of the House in the current Session.

Mr. Ioan L. Evans

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on Motion No. 67, relating to advertising and the Press, as this is a matter not only of the national Press but, in particular, the weekly and the provincial Press?

[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]

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I cannot find time at the moment. I explained what happened previously on an exchange on this point last week.

Mr. MacArthur

Is the Leader of the House aware that a very large teachers' strike has been called in Scotland later this month, and that this is the first of a series? If the Secretary of State for Scotland does not intend to make an early statement about this grave situation, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on Motion No. 97, which covers the background to the situation and the Secretary of State's unhappy rôle in it?

[That this House deplores the manner in which the Secretary of State for Scotland has treated the Scottish Joint Council on Teachers' Salaries, thus provoking a crisis in Scottish education; regrets in particular his decision on the one hand to refer the matter to the National Board for Prices and Incomes while at the same time apparently prejudging the issue by cutting the unanimous salary recommendation of the Scottish Joint Council; calls attention to the urgent need to restore confidence among teachers, particularly in view of the raising of the school leaving age in 1970; but trusts that teachers in Scotland will reconsider their proposed strike action in order to preserve the high standing of their profession.]

Mr. Bowden

I wonder whether it would be useful to have a debate when the matter is before the Prices and Incomes Board. There will be opportunities later, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, to debate this on Scottish occasions.

Mr. A. Royle

Will the Leader of the House tell us when the Government intend to publish the Bill on leasehold enfranchisement?

Mr. Bowden

I could not promise the hon. Gentleman a date for the publication of the Bill, but the White Paper is not very far away.

Mr. Dance

Is the Leader of the House aware that there is a Motion on the Order Paper, signed by about 80 hon. Members, relating to compensation to police and prison officers? In view of the urgent need for better recruitment to both of these forces, will the right hon. Gentleman give time for a debate on this very serious matter?

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to give urgent consideration to a review of the existing compensation arrangements in the police and prison service with a view to ensuring that in future a widow of a police or prison officer killed in the execution of his duty receives a pension equivalent to that which would have been paid had her husband retired at the normal pensionable age; and that an officer who has to take work at a lower salary because of serious injury in the execution of his duty has that salary made up to the amount he would have received had he remained a police or prison officer.]

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise time at the moment. This matter could, of course, have been raised—in part, if not completely—in the debate on crime.

Mr. Lubbock

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to Motion No. 109, concerning the film "The War Game". Since many hon. Members have had an opportunity to see this film, and are confirmed in the opinions they have expressed, will the right hon. Gentleman find time for an early debate on the subject?

[That this House considers that the British Broadcasting Corporation television programme, The War Game, should be shown as widely as possible, both on its merit as an outstanding example of British film production and as part of the officially approved process of educating the public in the realities of nuclear war; and that, in addition to British audiences, it should also be made available for showing in countries whose Governments possess or are contemplating the possession of nuclear weapons.]

Mr. Bowden

It is rather unusual to be requested to find time to debate a film; we could spend a lot of time in that way. But the question whether the film should have been broadcast by the B.B.C. is within the day-to-day activity of the B.B.C., in regard to which no Government have any power to take any action.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

In view of the fiscal activities of the Treasury, will the right hon. Gentleman consider setting aside one day a week for statements by the Treasury so that we do not have what amounts to a weekly Budget?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir.

Mr. Ridsdale

In view of his attitude to the Motion to be debated on Monday, may I congratulate the Leader of the House on being liberal-minded enough not to remove the inkstands and letter rack from the Table of the House, which were the gift of Southern Rhodesia?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are under pressure for time. I hope that business questions will be business questions.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Reverting to Motion No. 109, will my right hon. Friend take into account that the issue at stake is the discussion of the nature of nuclear war and whether or not the conspiracy of silence there has been over many years should be continued?

Mr. Bowden

As has been explained from this Box on many occasions by the Prime Minister, there has never at any time been a question of censorship of this particular film. If the B.B.C. wishes to show the film, that is a matter for the B.B.C. As to the effects of nuclear war, there has never been at any time—under either Government, I think—an attempt to screen what would be the result of such a catastrophe.

Mr. Goodhew

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett), surely the House is entitled to know whether on Monday we shall be debating a Government Motion or not. If this is to be a debate on Government policy in Rhodesia, may be have a debate lasting longer than from seven o'clock to ten o'clock?

Mr. Bowden

The Motion is on the Order Paper in the name of my backbench hon. Friends. I imagine that it will be debated in that order.

Mr. Buck

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of a Motion signed by 50 of my hon. Friends which calls upon the House to have a series of experiments whereby speeches would be limited to Front-Bench speeches of 30 minutes and back-bench speeches of 15 minutes? Will the right hon. Gentleman do something to see that this is debated, so that we can co-operate with Mr. Speaker in getting the work of the House expedited?

[That this House views with concern the very limited time available in major debates to back-bench Members who are not Privy Councillors, and calls for a series of experiments whereby in debates of a general character, front-bench speakers be limited to a maximum of 30 minutes each and all other speakers to a maximum of 15 minutes.]

Mr. Bowden

In addition to that Motion there was a proposal by the Select Committee on Procedure that speeches should be limited to 5 minutes. There is a great deal of merit in all this, but I do not think that we can make a decision on it at the moment.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Reverting to Motion No. 109 and what my right hon. Friend said in answer to a previous question about there not being ignorance concerning what the effects of a nuclear war might be, is he aware that the film makes clear how little is understood by ordinary people of what the effects of nuclear war would be? Does he not, therefore, think that a debate in this House on this Motion, or something like it, might be useful in spreading knowledge of what people are not allowed to see?

Mr. Bowden

I do not know what my hon. Friend means by "what people are not allowed to see". This is a matter for the B.B.C. The B.B.C. might now decide to show the film; it is a matter for the Corporation. I agree that any information we may glean from films, although films are not always accurate, would be of help.