HC Deb 24 February 1966 vol 725 cc629-33
Mr. Heath

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

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Bowden)

Yes, Sir. The proposed business for next week is as follows:

MONDAY, 28TH FEBRUARY—Debate on Leasehold Reform, on a Government Motion to welcome the White Paper (Command No. 2916).

TUESDAY, 1ST MARCH—Debate on Economic Affairs, on a Government Motion.

WEDNESDAY, 2ND MARCH—Remaining stages of the Building Control Bill.

THURSDAY, 3RD MARCH—Second Reading of the Parliamentary Commissioner Bill.

FRIDAY, 4TH MARCH—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 7TH MARCH, and TUESDAY, 8TH MARCH—The proposed business will be: Debate on Defence, on a Government Motion inviting the House to approve the White Papers (Command Nos. 2901 and 2902).

Mr. Heath

While thanking the Leader of the House for that prospectus, may I ask whether he could kindly tell the House when his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will introduce his fifth, more commonly known as the April, Budget?

Mr. Bowden

I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that this is not a "phoney" prospectus.

It is much too soon to announce the date on which my right hon. Friend will present his Budget. It could come a little earlier this year—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—because Easter falls rather earlier. But it is not usual to announce the date of the Budget more than about a fortnight before the actual Budget speech, and it is sometimes best to make it three weeks before.

Sir G. Nicholson

Is this shop window week, or sale of bankrupt stock?

Mr. Corfield

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman when he will provide time for his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to reply to the very serious criticisms that have been made against him by the Council on Tribunals? Will he bear in mind that any failure on the part of the Government to provide that time can only be interpreted as an abandonment of the principles that the Council was set up to protect?

Mr. Bowden

I am in difficulties from both sides, because my right hon. Friend wants me to provide time, also. But I cannot promise anything immediately. If the hon. Gentleman could persuade his right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench to provide time on Supply, that could be done.

Sir C. Taylor

So that hon. Members should have an opportunity of making reasonable arrangements for the future, would the right hon. Gentleman now give us the date of polling day?

Mr. Bowden

Not without notice, Sir.

Mr. Thorneycroft

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the grave discourtesy with which he and his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary have treated the House with regard to Thursday's business? He has given two assurances that we can debate the White Paper on the Parliamentary Commissioner before we have the Bill. Despite those assurances, and no doubt knowing that we could preclude such a debate, the Home Secretary published the Bill. This uncertainty turns what ought to be an interesting and important constitutional debate into a political gimmick.

Mr. Bowden

I am aware of my promise to debate this on a White Paper, but the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that under Standing Order No. 11 that is not now possible. I doubt very much whether there would be any greater advantage obtained from a debate on the White Paper than on Second Reading.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Would the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House afford time to debate the double taxation agreement with America? It is a most unfortunate agreement which has been knocking about, unsigned, and it ought to be debated in the House. It does great damage to our whole position. There is plenty of time to debate the matter now.

Mr. Bowden

It is subject to the affirmative Resolution procedure of the House and would have to be debated and approved by the House at some point. I cannot promise any additional time for that.

Sir L. Heald

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has observed in col. 399 of yesterday's OFFICIAL REPORT the statement of the Postmaster-General that the subject of pre-recorded television interviews is one worthy of wide public debate? Will he take prompt steps to ensure that it is debated in the most important public forum—the House of Commons?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I cannot promise time immediately. There will be Government proposals on television generally and the B.B.C., and there are the opportunities on the Post Office Money Bill at a later stage. Beyond that, I cannot promise anything.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the Minister of Defence to make a statement to clear up whether or not it is correct that Sir Solly Zuckerman is in disagreement with the Defence White Paper, and particularly the Government's carrier policy?

Mr. Bowden

It is regrettable that the names of civil servants should be bandied about the House in this way. If the hon. Gentleman wished to do so, he could raise this during the defence debate.

Mr. William Clark

I wish to come back to the point about the double taxation agreement with America. Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it is quite unusual for any Government to issue a Press hand-out about a double taxation agreement? Would it not have been more courteous to have made that Press hand-out available in the Library so that Members could consider it? Would he not agree that any Press handout must add to the ambiguity of taxing arrangements between this country and any other country? Does he realise that it is holding up business between this country and America? Will he make a statement?

Mr. Bowden

The hon. Gentleman may not be aware of it, but it was a joint decision, announced jointly on 5th January both in America and in this country. As I have said already, an opportunity will arise on the affirmative Motion which is required to debate it.

Mr. Lubbock

Further to the question about the action of the Minister of Housing and Local Government in the Islington case, would it not be more productive to have a debate on planning procedures and planning inquiries generally? Is this not a sufficiently important subject for Government time to be found for it?

Mr. Bowden

I certainly think that it would be more productive, but I cannot promise that.

Sir D. Renton

Would it not be more seemly to give the Minister of Housing and Local Government the opportunity of answering the charges made by the Council on Tribunals, instead of spending more Government time in pre-hustings skirmishes?

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend made a statement in the House, which was subjected to the usual questioning. I feel that if hon. Members opposite are not prepared to take the normal methods of dealing with this, they should put down a Motion of censure.

Captain Litchfield

Coming back to the reference to the Chief Scientific Adviser, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that the Government, both here and in another place, have been seeking to put a gloss on the individual attitudes of the Chiefs of Staff? Why, then, should not we know what is the attitude of the Chief Scientific Adviser?

Mr. Bowden

No attempt at all has been made to put a gloss on any view which he has expressed. The whole thing can be thoroughly debated during the defence debate.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Reverting to the right hon. Gentleman's last answer but one, is it not most unusual, when a Minister has been censured by an outside body, for the Government to ask the Opposition to provide an opportunity for that Minister to try to clear himself?

Mr. Bowden

I do not accept that my right hon. Friend was censured by an outside body.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we are likely to have the Second Reading of the Bill which is to be introduced later today for setting up the National Board for Prices and Incomes? Is this likely to be before the General Election?

Mr. Bowden

I have already announced the business for the first two days of the week after next. I think that it is a bit much to expect me to go beyond that at this stage.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Agricultural Price Review statement will be made? Can he assure us that it will as usual be made in the House, and not at a time when the House is not sitting?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot give a date, but the usual period of the year is about mid-March, as far as I can recall.