HC Deb 16 June 1966 vol 729 cc1671-83
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 and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Herbert Bowden)

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


Further progress in Committee.

THURSDAY, 23RD JUNE—Second Reading of the Selective Employment Payments Bill.

Motion on the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (U.S.A.) Order.

FRIDAY, 24TH JUNE—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 27TH JUNE—The proposed business will be: Finance Bill.

Committee stage, continued.

Mr. Heath

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what the position will be about the emergency powers when the Proclamation expires on Thursday, 23rd June, should the seamen's strike continue? Will he take note that if he is proposing to renew these powers I am sure that the House will wish to have a full day's debate on them, in view of the undoubted seriousness of the situation?

Secondly, can he give an assurance that in the situation in which the Government find themselves, where they are under tremendous pressure because of their own business, it will still be possible to provide the Supply days allocated to the Opposition, and to arrange a foreign affairs debate, before we rise for the Recess?

Mr. Bowden

The Government's view is that the remaining five Supply days and the two Consolidated Fund days will be offered to the Opposition before the end of July. We hope that if there is a request for a two-day debate on foreign affairs, in accordance with the usual practice the Opposition will provide one of them.

Under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, the current Proclamation expires on Wednesday of next week. If it is thought necessary to continue it, it will have to be done by the Privy Council on that date, and regulations will have to be approved by both Houses within seven days thereafter. I have noted the right hon. Gentleman's request for a full day's debate on the regulations, and I think that we had better discuss this through the usual channels.

Mr. Dickens

Will my right hon. Friend make arrangements for an early debate on the Government's defence policy in the light of the Prime Minister's statement yesterday, which contained no reference whatsoever to the economic implications of such a policy?

Sir G. Nabarro

On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens) to make reference to a statement by the Prime Minister, other than in this House? Was not the statement referred to, and reported as a matter of speculation, from a Committee Room, unbugged, upstairs, and the reports in the Press due to leaks by hon. Gentlemen opposite?

Mr. Speaker

That is a very long point of order. I think that the hon. Member was referring to statements which, I gather, were in the Press this morning.

Sir G. Nabarro

Not in the House.

Mr. Bowden

My hon. Friend and Members of the House will be aware that almost all the time between now and the end of July, or maybe mid-August, is taken up by the Finance Bill, Supply days, and so on. I shall consider requests for debates, but I can make no further promise.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we are to have a While Paper on broadcasting, and can he give an undertaking that it will come at least before 13th July? Unless it does, we cannot question the Postmaster-General until December. Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that there is a debate on it as soon as it is published?

Mr. Bowden

I recognise the importance of a debate on broadcasting, and the importance of issuing a White Paper. I cannot at this stage promise any firm date, but we will do our best to meet the House in this respect before rising for the Summer Recess.

Mr. Buchan

In view of my right hon. Friend's statement that he will consider giving time for debates, will he keep in mind Motion No. 82, in the names of my hon. Friends and myself, in connection with a move towards possible disengagement within Europe?

[That this House welcomes the policy of the Roumanian Government as expressed in the speech of Mr. Nicolae Ceausescu, calling for the abolition of the Warsaw and N.A.T.O. Pacts and the withdrawal of foreign troops as the necessary basis for a new relationship between the countries of Europe, considers this a positive step towards a European déetente, calls upon the British Government to give the Roumanian proposal its fullest support; and further calls upon the British Government to take a new initiative by again putting forward the Rapacki-Gaitskell proposals, or similar proposals for a Nuclear-Free Zone, and a policy of disengagement.]

May I remind my right hon. Friend that the Rapacki-Gaitskell proposals called for a nuclear-free zone in Europe, and may we also discuss with the same detail our policy west of Suez?

Mr. Bowden

I have said that there is likely to be a two-day debate on foreign affairs between now and the end of July, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs answered Questions at length on this subject on Tuesday.

Mr. Stodart

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that on Tuesday night a Prayer on a most important subject—the Hill Sheep Orders—was unable to be called? Can he say whether he will furnish alternative time for it to be debated, and, if so, when?

Mr. Bowden

I recognise that the Prayer was withdrawn and that there is little praying time left. We will see what can be done to get it in next week.

Mr. Michael Foot

We were all gratified to see the statement issued by the Minister of Power recently about taking the steel industry into public ownership. Can my right hon. Friend say when the Bill will be published, and will he give an assurance that the Second Reading debate will take place before the end of July?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot give a date at this moment. I shall do my best to arrange the Second Reading debate before we rise for the Summer Recess.

Mr. Bryan

May I take it that the right hon. Gentleman's answer to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) about the White Paper on broadcasting policy means at least that we shall have that White Paper for certain before the Recess?

Mr. Bowden

It means that we shall produce the White Paper as soon as possible. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there are some intricate problems of finance involved here, which is the main reason for the delay in producing the White Paper.

Mr. Grimond

Apart from the debates on the different stages of the Finance Bill, can the right hon. Gentleman arrange for an early general debate on the economic situation, in view of the seamen's strike and the balance of payments position?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I cannot promise a full day's economic debate in addition to the one that we had during the Budget, unless the Opposition should choose it on a Supply day.

Mr. Winnick

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the occasional two-day debate on foreign affairs is completely inadequate, and means, in fact, that over a period of time only a very small number of hon. Members are allowed to participate in discussions on foreign policy?

Mr. Bowden

The two-day foreign affairs debate at this time of the year usually proves to be adequate, because there are debates on foreign affairs earlier in the Session on the Queen's Speech.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

With a view to the foreign affairs debate and other discussions on defence and overseas affairs, will the Government please consider publishing as a White Paper the public statement made by the Prime Minister at a private meeting?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I do not think that this is necessarily a subject fir a White Paper. It has been reported in the Press, and that should be sufficient.

Mr. Orme

While welcoming my right hon. Friend's statement giving us a two-day debate on foreign affairs before the Recess, may I ask him to be more explicit about the subjects which will be covered? Many of us on this side of the House would like to discuss specifically the situation in Vietnam.

Mr. Bowden

I am prepared to receive representations from any part of the House about how the two days should be divided up.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask what action the Government propose to take about my Motion which refers to the lack of suitable women on the Royal Commission on Local Government Reform?

[That, in the opinion of this House, the Royal Commission on Local Government for England lacks any representation to fulfil with knowledge an essential in local government, namely, the requirements for the elderly, the disabled, the mentally and physically handicapped, the social services, for children and others, and for health, for family life; that local government without happiness for the community is arid and that to consider local government only through the high technical qualifications of the appointed members without representatives to ensure that social and community needs are equally full explored will provide only a modern shell for life without warmth or security; and requests Her Majesty's Government to add additional members, including more women, to the English Royal Commission.]

I am not asking for a debate, because the right hon. Gentleman can act without one. In view of the fact that the Government are supposed to be interested in having women's views on these important matters—and not just technical women—they should——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady can ask for time for a debate, but she cannot argue the merits of if

Dame Irene Ward

In that case, may I ask for time for a debate? I thought that I was saving the right hon. Gentleman's time by just explaining what I wanted.

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise the hon. Lady time for a debate. I think that her fears are unfounded. The members of the Royal Commission have have been carefully selected, and they provide a wide range of experience.

Mr. Henig

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has seen Motion No. 84?

[That this House welcomes the announcement that the selective employment tax will be repaid in full to charities, but considers that the Charities Act 1960 should he amended to define a legal charity and that all such organisations should be registered under the Act.]

In view of the considerable financial advantage now open to "phoney" charities, will my right hon. Friend find time for the Government to introduce legislation to amend the Charities Act, 1960?

Mr. Bowden

We cannot give time in the immediate future, certainly not during this Session. The 1960 Charities Act was a result of the Report by a Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Nathan. There was considerable discussion on the Bill. I have checked on this, and I doubt very much whether the subject is ripe for discussion and new legislation.

Mr. Peyton

As it was not possible for the Minister of Power to be present yesterday when we had a debate covering many aspects of fuel policy, will the Leader of the House arrange another day when it may be convenient for his right hon. Friend to attend when we can have another debate on fuel policy?

Mr. Bowden

Any further debate on fuel policy other than anything which may arise on the Finance Bill, as was the case yesterday, will have to come out of Supply if it is wanted between now and the end of July.

Mr. Heffer

Would my right hon. Friend reconsider his reply about the debate on foreign affairs? Many hon. Members wish to participate in debates on foreign affairs, but never have the opportunity. It is very difficult to talk in terms of policies east of Suez, Vietnam, the European situation and just about every other foreign question at the same time. The debates are getting into a confused state. Would my right hon. Friend reconsider this matter, so that we can have more specific debates on specific issues?

Mr. Bowden

It ought not to be assumed that the two-day foreign affairs debate which we have at this time of the year and the earlier opportunity in the Queen's Speech are the only opportunities for debating foreign affairs. In fact, there are the normal opportunities of half-hour Adjournment debates and the Recess Adjournment debates. These may always be used for this purpose.

Mr. Jopling

May I again ask the right hon. Gentleman to find time next week for a debate on the Prayer carried over from Tuesday night of this week? This is of vital and fundamental importance to thousands of farmers. I hope that the Government will not evade it in the week ahead.

Mr. Bowden

I am most anxious that, when Prayers are put down, they should be debated. We shall certainly try to find time for it next week. If we should fail next week, if for any reason it is not reached, we will look at the position subsequently.

Mr. Hector Hughes

In view of the unnecessarily prolonged debate yesterday upon this year's Finance Bill, and the number of subjects awaiting discussion, as evidenced by the questions which have just been asked, will the Leader of the House seek an arrangement with hon. Members on the other side to shorten their speeches, so that more time may be allocated to other hon. Members and other subjects before the Recess?

Mr. Bowden

With respect to my hon. and learned Friend, it is extremely dangerous to assume, after the first day, that we will have prolonged discussions upon the Finance Bill.

Mr. Robert Cooke

If we cannot have the White Paper on broadcasting before the Summer Recess, can we have a little leak from the Lord President's Office, perhaps in the House?

Mr. R. Carr

In view of the most important implications of the announcement which we have just had from the Prime Minister about the Ministry of Aviation, on what is probably, after all, the most important industry from the point of view of this country's advanced technology, would the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of producing a White Paper and finding time for a debate, for which I think that there is support on both sides of the House?

Mr. Bowden

I am certainly prepared to look at the question of a White Paper, but, as I have said, almost the whole of the spare time between now and the end of July is in the hands of the Opposition. It may be, as the Prime Minister pointed out, necessary to have Orders or a Transfer of Functions Bill, which would provide an opportunity for a debate. I will look at this matter.

Mr. Iremonger

When does the right hon. Gentleman expect us to be able to debate his Motion on Ten Minute Rule Bills? Would he assure us that it will be debated not after exempted business, but at 10 o'clock or a reasonably early hour? Secondly, has he seen my Motion on "Up the Junction"?

[That this House takes note of the British Broadcasting Corporation's intention of re-showing the television feature Up the Junction which gave offence to certain sections of the public and about which honourable Members are receiving protests from constituents; welcomes the current tendency of the British Broadcasting Corporation to recognise frankly and portray convincingly the realities of contemporary life, some of which are not altogether new, either; and believes such recognition and portrayal to be in the great tradition of English literature and art, but urges the British Broadcasting Corporation to affirm and proclaim through its other programmes the undoubted danger and evil of fornication, adultery and sodomy, not in stale and implausible terms of fire and brimstone, but rather in terms of modern insight into the deepest needs and fullest potential of the human personality; and further urges the British Broadcasting Corporation fully to exploit every opportunity, including its wilting satirical programmes, to uphold and extol the institution of Christian and all other formally constituted and loyally maintained monogamous marriages.]

Mr. Bowden

I understand that the B.B.C. has decided not to proceed with the reshowing of this somewhat interesting programme.

On the hon. Member's first point, with regard to Standing Order No. 13, it is not intended to take it next week.

Mr. Costain

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, during the Committee stage of (the Building Control Bill, it was proved by our side of the Committee to be unnecessary? Does the fact that it has not been included in the last two weeks' business mean that the Government have abandoned it?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir.

Mr. Lubbock

May I return to the question put by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and ask the Leader of the House whether he has noticed Motion No. 86, on east of Suez, signed by my hon. Friends the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) and others, as well as an hon. Member opposite? Does he not think that it would be a good idea to follow the example set by the Parliamentary Labour Party in debating this matter, but on this occasion to have the debate on the Floor of the House? If he is not able to find time for such a debate during the normal sittings of the House, would he not consider having a morning sitting specially devoted to this subject?

[That this House, in order to reduce defence costs, calls for a decisive reduction in our military commitments east of Suez by 1970, including withdrawal from existing bases in Malaysia, Singapore and the Persian Gulf, and for negotiations with Australia and our other allies to provide base and servicing facilities for a mobile British task force if required.]

Mr. Bowden

I always think it worth while to follow the example set by the Parliamentary Labour Party, but I cannot promise time for a debate on the Floor of the House, unless the subject is selected by the Opposition as a Supply subject between now and the end of July. The hon. Member will appreciate that if we were to do this on any Wednesday morning, we should require the day before to get authority to do so.

Mr. Heath

With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's references to the provision of Supply days by the Opposition, as he knows, we usually co-operate on the foreign affairs debate, but is it not unfair to ask us to provide more? Have not the right hon. Gentleman and the Government got their priorities wrong for business before we rise? Why has he promised the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) time for the Second Reading of the Bill to nationalise the steel industry yet refuses the House time to debate the worsening economic situation? Why is he allowing his hon. Friends below the Gangway to damage the economy and preventing the rest of us from having the time to advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer how to put it right?

Mr. Bowden

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that, because of the General Election at the end of March, the Government generously decided to provide Supply time for the Opposition, which was not done on a previous occasion by the Government of which he was a member in 1955, when no Supply time was provided. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to ask for some of that time to be used to debate subjects in which hon. Members are interested.

On the question of my promise, I have given that promise to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), because the Second Reading of the Iron and Steel Bill is part of the programme between now and the end of July.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the Annual Report of British Railways, published earlier this week? It reveals a very alarming financial position and the need for some urgent policy decisions. Will we have an opportunity of discussing this Report, which is serious and alarming?

Mr. Bowden

Three days are supplied in any Session of Parliament for debates on the nationalised industries. This Report could be selected, if it is so wished.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Would the Leader of the House please tell the House when he intends to take the annual debate on Welsh affairs? Would he not tell us that the answer is "In October", as that would be unacceptable?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot help the hon. Member with the date at the moment, but we shall have the debate.

Mr. Whitaker

Would my right hon. Friend please consider making arrangements for the showing to Parliament of the film alluded to in the Motion tabled by the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger)?

Mr. Bowden

The question of showing films is a matter for application to the Serjeant at Arms by individual hon. Members and not by the Government.

Mr. McMaster

In view of the great length of time since the publication of the Geddes Report and its importance, particularly in the light of the Prime Minister's statement today, would the right bon. Gentleman say whether we will debate this Report before the Recess?

Mr. Bowden

I should like to be able to find time, but I cannot give a firm promise.

Mr. Michael Foot rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have said before that, unless the House instructs me otherwise, I do not propose to start a second round of business questions. I hope that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) will understand.