HC Deb 17 February 1966 vol 724 cc1540-9
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 (Mr. Herbert Bowden)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows: MONDAY, 21ST FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Companies Bill.

TUESDAY, 22ND FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Commonwealth Secretariat Bill [Lords].

Motions on the Wool Textile Industry (Scientific Research Levy) and (Export Promotion Levy) Orders, and on the Functions of Traffic Wardens (Scotland) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 23RD FEBRUARY—Debate on the Welfare State, on a Government Motion.

THURSDAY, 24TH FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Rating Bill, and also of the Statute Law Revision Bill [Lords] and the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Bill [Lords], which are consolidation Measures.

FRIDAY, 25TH FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 28TH FEBRUARY—The proposed Business will be: Debate on Leasehold Reform, on a Government Motion.

Mr. John Hynd

On a point of order. May I be permitted to ask the Leader of the House whether his attention has been called to a report in today's Evening Standard which gives the business for next Wednesday and the following Monday, and to ask whether it is in order for the information to be released before it is given in the House?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order for me. The hon. Gentleman can put his question as a question to the Leader of the House in the ordinary course of business questions.

Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House for an assurance that when the Secretary of State for Defence returns from his visit to Washington he will then immediately make a statement to the House about that visit?

Secondly, we notice that in the business which the Leader of the House has announced there are debates on Wednesday of next week and on Monday of the following week. Despite all the pressure of legislation before the House, and also the immense pressure from various right hon. and hon. Members for debates on their own specific subjects, the Government are taking time for these two debates, one on the Welfare State, and the other on leasehold reform.

While we particularly welcome the debate on the Welfare State, in answer to the initiative that we have taken on this side, can the Leader of the House say whether White Papers are to be presented before each of those debates on which the House can base its discussions, or what is to be the procedure? Can there possibly be any other ulterior motive?

Mr. Bowden

The right hon. Gentleman is obviously rather worried. On his first question, I will ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence if he is prepared to make a statement when he returns about his discussions on N.A.T.O.

Secondly, it is because of the pressure of business, as the right hon. Gentleman will probably realise as a former Chief Whip, that at present, with seven Standing Committees, it is easier for me to get over promised debates and return to legislation a little later. For that reason, we are taking the debate on the Welfare State on Wednesday and the debate on leasehold reform on Monday of the following week.

The debate on leasehold reform will take place on a White Paper which, I hope, will be available tomorrow.

The debate on the Welfare State will be on a Government Motion. It is hoped during that debate that we shall elicit from the Opposition their views on the Welfare State, following their recent publication.

Mr. Heath

I offer my apologies to the Leader of the House. I had not realised that the Government's legislative programme was so far behind. We welcome the debate on the Welfare State, following up the initiative that we have already taken. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when the Defence White Paper will be available, in order to clear up the uncertainty?

Mr. Bowden

Yes, Sir. It will be available on Tuesday of next week.

Mr. John Hynd

May I ask the Leader of the House whether his attention has been drawn to today's Evening Standard announcement that the Cabinet decided yesterday that the business for next Wednesday and the following Monday would be as announced in the House today? Will he tell us how that information came to be released to the Press before his statement in the House?

Mr. Bowden

I can assure my hon. Friend that the business had not been decided by the Cabinet yesterday. I cannot be responsible for any information that the Press might glean as to what is likely to take place.

Dame Irene Ward

Arising out of Wednesday's proposed debate on the Welfare State, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we may expect the result of the Government's review on all the social services? Are we to have a White Paper on that ready for the debate on the Welfare State, because without the facts from the Government how are we to debate the subject properly?

Mr. Bowden

I think that the hon. Lady should await the Government's Motion. I have said that there will not be a White Paper for Wednesday's debate.

Mr. Rose

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Motion No. 135, in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and a number of my other hon. Friends?

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to set up a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Government of Ireland Acts 1920–1949, with particular reference to electoral franchise, boundaries and malpractices, the continued operation of the Special Powers Act, and religious discrimination in housing and employment; regrets the inaction of past Governments in relation to industrial development in Northern Ireland; and deplores the opposition of Ulster Unionist Members of Parliament to much needed measures of social legislation introduced by the Labour Government and not applicable to Northern Ireland.]

Because of constitutional conventions this matter has not been discussed within the scope of other debates on Northern Ireland. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a full debate on this important topic?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I cannot promise time. I think that we had better leave the position where it is, because successive Governments have decided not to intervene here. It would need a major overhaul, probably a Royal Commission. Nevertheless, it is a fact that 12 Northern Ireland Members take part in our deliberations and vote on matters with which Northern Ireland is not concerned.

Mr. Thorneycroft

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that on 7th December last he gave an undertaking to give further consideration to a debate on the White Paper on the Parliamentary Commissioner, in advance of legislation being framed? The Government have now published the Bill without any further consultations or debate in the House. Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this falls a little below the level of courtesy which the House has a right to expect?

Mr. Bowden

I recall making that promise, but I was not aware at that time how near the Bill was to publication. I intended to take the debate on the Second Reading of the Parliamentary Commissioner Bill the week after next. We might discuss this through the usual channels. If the right hon. Gentleman would still prefer to do it on a White Paper, that may be done.

Mr. Palmer

May I draw my right right hon. Friend's attention to Motion No. 71, which deals with a Select Committee on Scientific Policy? It is in my name and that of other hon. Members of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, and is now supported by 53 hon. Members on both sides of the House.

[That, to enable this House to establish more effective scrutiny of scientific and technological policy, a Select Committee, with the normal powers to hear evidence and make reports to the House, should be appointed to examine the annual reports of the Councils of the Privy Council for Research, the Atomic Energy Authority, the National Research Development Corporation and similar bodies.]

Can my right hon. Friend say whether time can be provided for a debate on this subject, or, alternatively, whether any progress has been made through the usual channels?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise a debate. Discussions are taking place, and have done, through the usual channels. There are physical difficulties about setting up another Select Committee. One suggestion was that we might add to the terms of reference of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries. That is one way of dealing with it, but no firm decision has been taken.

Mr. Ramsden

Is it proposed to have a separate day's debate next month on each of the three Service Estimates, as in previous years?

Mr. Bowden

The usual procedure is a two-day debate on the Defence White Paper about 10 days after publication, then a day on each of the Services, and a fourth day on the Service Money Votes.

Mr. Duffy

Will my right hon. Friend consider having an early debate on regional economic development? It is two years since the House had its last debate on this subject, and since then the state of the Yorkshire economy has weakened and is now a matter of special concern to Yorkshire Labour Members.

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise a debate on that. It might fit in during the Easter Adjournment debates. Perhaps we can consider that.

Mr. William Clark

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the various leaks to the Press about the proposed double taxation agreement between this country and the United States? Is he further aware that this is causing considerable difficulty in the City and in the professions? Would it not be better to have the agreement put before the House next week, rather than have this dribbling out of information from the Government through the Press?

Mr. Bowden

I would prefer to check on that before making any comment at all.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Has my right hon. Friend given earnest consideration to the possibility of having a debate in the not-too-distant future on the Brambell Report?

Mr. Bowden

The House has had one short debate on this matter. There was to have been another one tomorrow, but it has been withdrawn. I have promised to try to arrange a half-day debate. I shall keep to that, but I cannot promise anything immediately.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Last week, on the ground that he had no time available, the right hon. Gentleman rejected a request to gratify the Minister of Housing and Local Government's apparent desire to try to vindicate himself in respect of the censure imposed on him by the Council on Tribunals in the Islington case. As he now obviously has plenty of time for general debates, can he arrange this?

Mr. Bowden

It is a matter of opinion—and it is not mine—whether the Government have plenty of time. We have not. I cannot move from the position which I took last week. I cannot at the moment promise a debate on this matter.

Mr. Atkinson

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing anxiety throughout the country in connection with the Press and advertising? May I ask whether his attention has been drawn to Motion No. 67, 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 promise a debate on this subject?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I have replied to this point on two previous occasions. I cannot promise a debate. The matter has been looked at by a Royal Commission, and we will have to leave it there at the moment.

Captain Elliot

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was widely understood, both in the House and in the country, that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, backed by all the Government's resources, was engaged on an exhaustive study of the social services? Is it not, therefore, extraordinary that we in this House are not to be given information about the results of his work before the debate on Wednesday, so that we can take advantage of his investigations and have a sensible debate?

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend is still engaged in his studies, but no doubt during Wednesday's debate the House will learn a little more about the progress which is being made.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is my right hon. Friend aware that although there is not an early-day Motion calling for a debate on the North-West Study, many hon. Members on this side of the House would very much appreciate an early opportunity of discussing this important Report?

Mr. Bowden

I shall bear that in mind, along with many other requests.

Mr. Goodhew

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted Motion No. 125, on the Defence Review, which is signed by 175 of my right hon. and hon. Friends?

[That this House deplores the alarm and uncertainty which have been created both in the services to the detriment of morale and recruitment and also among the general public, by the Government's protracted delay in announcing crucial defence decisions and by the consequent continuing spate of humours regarding their intentions.],

Can he give an assurance that we will have an opportunity to debate the Defence White Paper in this Parliament?

Mr. Bowden

That Motion, Motion No. 126—

[That this House deplores the impending destruction of Great Britain's naval capacity both at sea and in the air, which safeguard this country's essential interests and those of Commonwealth and other allied countries throughout the world.]—

and a number of others on defence will be in order during the debate on the Defence White Paper.

Mr. Hawkins

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to Motion No. 128 on alleged steering defects in B.M.C. cars?

[That this House, aware of the public disquiet over an alleged steering defect of Austin 1100's, urges the Minister of Transport to undertake an immediate inquiry into the true facts.]

In view of the grave disquiet in the country due to the Ministry's statement about having warned this company in May, 1964, will the right hon. Gentleman provide time for a debate on this urgent matter?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise a debate, but I realise the urgency and importance of this matter. At this moment—and I mean today—a full investigation is being carried out by the Ministry of Transport, B.M.C., and other interested people, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will make a statement immediately a report is issued from that meeting. In view of its urgency, my right hon. Friend will make the report to the Press if the House is in recess over the weekend when the investigation is complete. It is extremely urgent that this matter should be resolved one way or the other.

Mr. Brace-Gardyne

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what the Government's plans are for the introduction of legislation on the early-warning system, or has this been abandoned?

Mr. Bowden

The Bill will be presented on Thursday of next week.

Mr. David Steel

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he will encourage a debate in the Scottish Grand Committee on Motion No. 124 about a Royal Commission on government in Scotland?

[That this House, noting the Prime Minister's announcement of a separate Royal Commisison on Local Government in Scotland whose terms of reference are not yet determined, calls instead for a wider Royal Commission to examine the whole structure of the government of the people of Scotland, including not only local government reform but the structure of possible regional government within Scotland, the relationship between Scottish administration and the United Kingdom Exchequer, and the case for establishing a Scottish parliament for Scottish affairs.]

If this is not possible, will he convey to the Prime Minister the terms of the Motion, together with yesterday's editorial in the Scotsman commending our suggestions?

Mr. Bowden

On the question of a debate in the Scottish Grand Committee, perhaps through his Chief Whip the hon. Gentleman will communicate through the usual channels, and we will see what can be done to help.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

When do the Government expect to receive the Geddes Report on shipbuilding? In view of the serious position in the industry, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us of an early debate after its publication?

Mr. Bowden

We had better await the Report and talk about a debate afterwards.

Mr. McMaster

Can we conclude from the right hon. Gentleman's earlier reply that it is the intention of the Government to set up a Royal Commission to inquire into the rights of Ulster Members? If there is to be such a Royal Commission, will the Government, at the same time, set up a Royal Commission to inquire into the rights of English, Scots and Welsh Members to debate and vote on matters which are the exclusive concern of each group?

Mr. Bowden

I have not announced that the Government are likely to set up a Royal Commission on Northern Ireland or on the other parts of the country.

Mr. Bessell

Further to the point raised by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. William Clark) on the problem of double taxation, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there is a possibility of a Government statement on this at an early date, because this is causing anxiety not only in the City, but in the United States, and may well be damaging Anglo-American trade relations and preventing the investment of dollars here which would be valuable to our economy?

Mr. Bowden

I have already said that I will look at this and do what is possible. I appreciate the urgency of the matter.