HC Deb 28 July 1966 vol 732 cc1899-909
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. Herbert Bowden)

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

MONDAY, 1ST AUGUST—Selective Employment Payments Bill.

Completion of the Committee stage.

TUESDAY, 2ND AUGUST—Supply [5th Allotted Day]: Committee.

There will be a debate on the Problems of the Development Areas, which will arise on the appropriate Votes.

At 9.30 p.m. the Questions will be put from the Chair on the Vote under discussion and on all outstanding Votes, under Standing Order No. 18.

Motions on the Motor Vehicle (Tests) (Extension) Order, the Variation of Speed Limit and the Speed Limit on Motorways Regulations.

WEDNESDAY, 3RD AUGUST—Supply [6th Allotted Day): Report.

It will be proposed that the Questions should be put on all outstanding Votes so soon as the Orders of the Day are entered on.

Second Reading of the Consolidation Fund (Appropriation) Bill, which, if the House agrees, will be taken formally to allow debate on an Opposition Motion on the Procurement and Sale of Arms and Aircraft.

Second Reading of the Singapore Bill [Lords].

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Building Control Bill and to the Docks and Harbours Bill.

THURSDAY, 4TH AUGUST—Selective Employment Payments Bill.

Report and Third Reading.

FRIDAY, 5TH AUGUST—Remaining stages of the Singapore Bill [Lords].

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Reserve Forces Bill.

Motions on the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Order, the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Amendment Order, the National Insurance (Mariners) Amendment Regulations and the Solus Petrol Orders.

Completion of the remaining stages of the Criminal Appeal Bill [Lords].

MONDAY, 8TH AUGUST—The proposed business will be: Committee and remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.

There will be a debate on Crime until about eight o'clock, to be followed by subjects which hon. Members may wish to raise.

As to the Recess, it may be helpful for the House to know that it will be suggested that the House should return on Tuesday, 18th October. This will result in a shorter Summer Adjournment than usual, but I am confident that this will be acceptable to the House.

Mr. Heath

Is it not extraordinary that the Leader of the House gives us the date on which we will return after the Summer Recess without having given us the date on which we shall rise for the Recess? Here is another example of the Government working back to front, and standing on their heads. Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that this demonstrates the extraordinary congestion of business into which the Government have got themselves, and the confusion that exists over it when, at a time when the House would normally be going into recess, we cannot be told the possible date? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the whole handling of the Government's business at this stage is making the situation impossible for hon. and right hon. Members?

Is he not aware that if what his right hon. Friend the First Secretary said in winding up last night's debate is correct we shall be asked to consider in Committee, and later in this House, Amendments to the Prices and Incomes Bill which make it a Bill of very different character from that which was given a Second Reading? Does he not agree that if both Houses are to carry out their proper legislative functions, they must be given the proper facilities and time in which to do it, especially when dealing with Measures of such immense importance?

Mr. Bowden

I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition should be concerned about sitting a day or two longer when only a few days ago his right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) wanted to sit into September. I am sorry that I am still not able to tell the House the precise date of rising, but I said on Thursday of last week that we hoped to rise on the 9th or 10th in the hope that all business would have been obtained by that time

Following upon the statement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and in the national interest, it is now felt necessary to obtain a strengthened Prices and Incomes Bill and to place it on the Statute Book before the House rises. This, therefore, will entail the House sitting one, perhaps two, days longer than was envisaged last week.

Mr. Heath

Far from criticising the Leader of the House, I was asking that he should give an assurance that there will be proper time both in Committee upstairs and on the Floor of the House to consider a Measure which was always important, but which the Amendments proposed by the First Secretary last night make a Bill of a different character, with far more fundamental changes, which ought to have proper and full consideration.

Mr. Bowden

The right hon. Gentleman, as a former Chief Whip, will know that one does not usually discuss allocation of time across the Floor of the House. We might do this through the usual channels.

Mr. Shinwell

Is there any reason why the request of the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) should not be acceptable? Is it not a shame to disappoint the right hon. Member? If he asks that the House should sit in September and even October we could meet again on 18th October and could still meet on 17th October. Why should we not do so? Why disappoint the right hon. Member?

Mr. Bowden

Quite apart from any personal difficulty that I or any other hon. Member may be in, I think that if we endeavour to keep the House sitting up to the second week of August it will be generally acceptable.

Mr. Bessell

In view of the Government's publication of the White Paper on Transport, could be have a debate on this subject before the Recess?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir, I should think that quite unlikely.

Sir R. Cary

Has the Leader of the House seen an all-party Motion on the Order Paper in my name and the names of hon. Members of all three parties which concerns limbless ex-Service men and the rate rebate scheme?

[That this House regrets that, by legislation passed in the last Parliament, war disability pensions were included as income in connection with the Rate Rebate Scheme; and calls upon the present Parliament to revise that decision, thereby restoring the traditional disregard which hitherto has always been given to disability pensions arising from war service.]

In the last Parliament the Department concerned, in conjunction with the Treasury, directed Parliament to break a trust with limbless ex-Service men which had been observed since 11th November, 1918. In this Parliament the matter could be dealt with by administrative Order if the House so directed. May we have an early chance of discussing the matter? Parliament has never been short of compassion for limbless ex-Service men.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot argue the merits at this moment.

Mr. Bowden

I fully understand and appreciate the problem raised by the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary). I cannot promise a debate before the Recess, but I find that there is a Question down for 8th August which will be answered in the House and which may bring him some immediate answer.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Can my right hon. Friend say whether in the foreseeable future we can have a debate on the Brambell Report, or is that Report to be shelved indefinitely?

Mr. Bowden

No. I have promised a debate on the Brambell Report and it will be debated, but I do not think that it will be before the Recess.

Mr. R. Carr

Can the Leader of the House say when the Minister of Aviation will be making a statement on the Government's decisions on the Plowden Report and procurements problems of British European Airways and British Overseas Airways, both of which are extremely vital and urgent?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot give a firm answer, but I will write to the right hon. Member.

Mr. Molloy

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance to the House that we shall have an early debate on the transport White Paper, because the whole country will acknowledge that this is a remarkable piece of work by my right hon. Friend. [Laughter.] Oh yes, it is—

Mr. Speaker

Order. No argument on merits. This is a business question.

Mr. Molloy

I can understand the chagrin of hon. Members opposite, because they did nothing about this matter. Is my right hon. Friend prepared to say that we can have an early debate on this very interesting White Paper?

Mr. Bowden

There is no doubt about the quality of the White Paper; this is an excellent programme. But I cannot promise a debate before the Recess. If my hon. Friend means early in the sense of being fairly soon after we resume, I shall do my very best.

Mr. Biffen

Does the Leader of the House recall that at this time last week I asked him when a White Paper would be published on the Prices and Incomes Bill? Is he aware that so far that has not been published? Will he tell the House when it will be possible?

Mr. Bowden

The hon. Member asked me last week whether it would be published before the debate on economic affairs and, of course, that debate has taken place. I told him that I could not promise it firmly, but it will be published very quickly now.

Mr. Orme

Can my right hon. Friend say why there is this terrific urgency to get the Prices and Incomes Bill through? When are we to see the Government's proposed Amendments? It is not only the usual channels which are concerned. Many hon. Members on this side of the House want to see the proposals. Surely we are entitled to see them as soon as possible.

Mr. Bowden

The new Government proposals on the Prices and Incomes Bill arise out of the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and strengthen the Bill in relation to the first six months and the second six months envisaged in that statement. The Amendments will be available later today.

Mr. Sandys

It is customary to have a debate on Commonwealth affairs before the meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. The Commonwealth has seldom faced greater difficulties than now. Are we to have such a debate?

Mr. Bowden

I should think it unlikely before the Recess.

Dame Irene Ward

Before the right hon. Gentleman commits himself to a debate on the White Paper on Transport, will he remember that he has already given a pledge that we shall have a debate on the Geddes Report on Shipbuilding? Will he remember that that has priority in regard to transport, because shipping and shipbuilding problems relate to transport? When can we have a debate?

Mr. Bowden

The hon. Lady will be aware that it cannot be before the Recess, but I have promised a debate on the Geddes Report.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

The Leader of the House will be aware that today the Welsh Office has published the consultants' Report about the new town in mid-Wales. In view of the fact that the Government have suppressed this Report for seven months, may we now be told when there will be a debate on it?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot accept for a moment that the Report has been suppressed. There will be the normal opportunities in Welsh Grand Committee and in the House during the current Session.

Mr. Mendelson

In view of the fact that the Prices and Incomes Bill, in its original form and in its now promised further extension, introduces radical changes in industrial relations, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that no matter how long the House has to sit this Measure will not be rushed, so that we can consult our constituents, who have never given approval to this Measure, and that we can consult the trade union movement in the country, and that there will be every opportunity to oppose the Bill by those who wish to oppose it?

Mr. Bowden

I have already said that adequate time will be available.

Mr. Jopling

Has the Leader of the House seen Motion No. 160, in my name and the names of more than 100 hon. and right hon. Members, asking that the agricultural industry should have greater opportunities for production in view of the balance of payments crisis?

[That this House, having noted the Prime Minister's statement containing the emergency measures to meet the present economic crisis, expresses disappointment at its, generally negative tone and, in particular, is concerned that he did not make use of the opportunity to provide new incentives to the agricultural industry to increase production, whereby the industry's magnificent record of increased productivity, which the Prime Minister has himself publicly acknowledged, could be harnessed to save food imports, and tints make an important contribution to the balance of payments situation; and urges him to open immediate talks with the industry's leaders towards this end.]

In view of the very conflicting statements made by the Minister of Agriculture on Tuesday morning and the First Secretary of State last night, will the Leader of the House give time for a very urgent debate on this matter, so as to reduce the uncertainty in the agricultural industry?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise time in addition to the two days we had when it would have been in order to discuss the matter. I cannot promise more time this side of the Recess.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Since the long list of delayed Amendments to the Prices and Incomes Bill seem likely, as far as we can tell, to be a radical departure from the present Bill, would it not be more in keeping with our constitution that those Amendments should be embodied in a new Bill and that the House should be given an opportunity for a Second Reading debate upon them?

Mr. Bowden

These Amendments must be acceptable to the Bill and in line with its Long Title, or they would not be introduced in that way.

Mr. Godber

Further to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling), will the Leader of the House consult the Minister of Agriculture with a view to seeing that at the very least we have a statement to clear up the confusion between what the Minister of Agriculture and the First Secretary said about the National Plan, which made complete nonsense of the Minister's attitude?

Mr. Bowden

I will see whether there is any confusion and I will consult my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.

Mr. McNamara

In view of the penal Clauses in the Prices and Incomes Bill, can my right hon. Friend say when we can expect to receive the Bill dealing with imprisonment for debt?

Can my right hon. Friend also give an undertaking that if there is any proposed settlement made with the illegal regime in Rhodesia he will seek a recall of Parliament?

May I also urge that at the earliest possible moment after the Recess we should have a debate on the excellent White Paper on Transport?

Mr. Bowden

I have already replied to the request for a debate on the White Paper on Transport.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations has already said that there will be a debate in the House before any decision is taken arising out of the position in Rhodesia.

The question of the abolition of the imposition of imprisonment in cases of debt is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I will communicate with my right hon. Friend and let my hon. Friend know the outcome.

Mr. David Steel

Would the Leader of the House consider a one-day debate after the Recess on the Government's policy on Southern Africa, following the decision of the International Court at The Hague on South-West Africa?

Mr. Bowden

I will certainly consider that, but I would not hold out any hope for such a debate immediately after the Recess.

Mr. Evelyn King

Has the Leader of the House read on the tape the recently announced news that Mr. Hill, of the South-West Economic Council, has resigned and that the chairman has threatened to resign, owing to the fact that they have not been in any way consulted about the Government's economic policy? In the light of the collapse of regional economic policy in Dorset and the South-West, may we have a debate on the matter?

Mr. Bowden

I have not seen the tape. I cannot promise an immediate debate. Had the facts to which the hon. Gentleman refers been known, he could have raised the whole of this matter in the two-day debate on the economic situation.

Sir D. Glover

There is no doubt that the Government are drastically altering the purpose of the Prices and Incomes Bill. Will the Leader of the House consider recommitting the Bill to the House so that the House can have an opportunity of debating these alterations? [An HON. MEMBER: "That question has been asked already."] I know it has, and we received an unsatisfactory answer.

On Tuesday the House debated the Basutoland and Bechuanaland Independence Measures until 3 o'clock in the morning. The remaining stages of the relevant Bills are to be debated tonight. It is obvious that the House is seized of the very important problems involved in these two Measures. Will the right hon. Gentleman provide more time for the consideration of these Measures by the House?

Mr. Bowden

I have already twice answered the question about the Prices and Incomes Bill. The Select Committee of Procedure is currently considering the questions of hours of sitting. One of the proposals before the Committee is one I put myself—this is why I am aware of it—that these matters could perhaps be taken at morning sittings.

Sir G. de Freitas

If we cannot have a debate before the Recess on Commonwealth affairs before the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference is held, may we have one as soon as possible afterwards—in other words, very soon after we return?

Mr. Bowden

I should have thought that after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference, as is usual, a statement will be made in the House. We can then discuss whether a debate should take place.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Would the Leader of the House agree that it might be for the convenience of the House that, when we discuss the double taxation agreement with Finland tomorrow, we take also the double taxation agreement with New Zealand, which I believe is also on the Order Paper? It is of some importance that these should be accepted before the House rises for the Recess.

Mr. Bowden

Yes. That is a very reasonable request. I will put it in order for tomorrow.

Sir T. Beamish

Will there be a statement on the strength of the B.A.O.R. and on the cuts the Government are contemplating in our overseas defence costs before the House rises for the Summer Recess, in view of the very great importance of these matters, and since this decision should not be taken unilaterally without the House having the opportunity to discuss it?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise a statement before the House rises. The matter is under deep consideration at the moment, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

is the Leader of the House aware that he is proposing to bring the House back immediately following what will be a very enthusiastic Conservative Party conference? Will not this depress his back benchers even more than they are at the moment?

Mr. Bowden

The hon. Gentleman should be grateful to me that I am not bringing the House back in the middle of the Conservative Party conference.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

The Leader of the House will doubtless be aware that the South-East Report on Hampshire by Professor Buchanan was published yesterday. As this Report contains a great many serious and practical proposals, affecting the whole of this area, is the House to be given an early opportunity to discuss it after the Recess?

Mr. Bowden

As the Report was published only yesterday, perhaps we had better have a longer look at it before we talk about a debate.

Mr. W. Baxter

When are we likely to have a debate on Scottish affairs, as such a debate is somewhat overdue?

Mr. Bowden

There are the usual occasions for debates on Scottish affairs on the Floor of the House in addition to those which occur upstairs in the Scottish Grand Committee. We can discuss after the Recess whether we can bring one of the two days forward.