HC Deb 23 June 1966 vol 730 cc922-31
Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he can 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, 27th June—Finance Bill: Committee stage.

TUESDAY, 28th June—Motion on the Emergency Regulations.

Remaining stages of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 29th June—Finance Bill: Committee stage.

THURSDAY, 30th June—Finance Bill: Conclusion of the Committee stage.

FRIDAY, 1st July—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 4th July—The proposed business will be: Selective Employment Payments Bill: Committee stage.

Mr. Heath

When the right hon. Gentleman mentioned Thursday's business, and referred to the conclusion of the Committee stage of the Finance Bill, no doubt he really intended to say that he hoped to obtain the conclusion of the Committee stage.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that we would like the Supply days which remain to us, by agreement with the Government, to be reasonably spaced throughout the remaining weeks before we rise for the Summer Recess? I do not think that the House would like them all to be crowded together at the end.

Mr. Bowden

I would remind the right hon. Gentleman and the House and that average number of days for the Committee stage of the Finance Bill since the war has been seven. This year, I am allowing eight. That, in my view, is fairly generous. I hope that we can conclude the Committee stage in those eight days without sitting unduly late. I appreciate that it is a Bill which has one Clause which will take up a fair amount of time, but we have made considerable progress. There are not many Clauses left, and three days are available for them.

I have very much in mind the need for an early Supply day, and we shall be having one during the week after next.

Mr. Mendelson

Could my right hon. Friend arrange that the foreign affairs debate should take place before the Prime Minister starts his visit to Washington and that one day should be devoted entirely to the position in Vietnam and South-East Asia, so that the House can express its opinion before the Prime Minister discusses the situation with the President of the United States rather than after- wards, as has happened on the last three occasions?

Mr. Bowden

I am prepared to look at the timing of the debate on foreign affairs. With the usual co-operation of the Opposition, it will be two days, as I said last week.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman for an assurance, since he has said that he hopes to get the Committee stage of the Finance Bill finished on Thursday, that he will leave time for me to introduce my Bill—or is this another sort of sideline to getting rid of my Bill?

Mr. Bowden

To be perfectly frank, I am not quite sure at the moment to which Bill the hon. Lady is referring.

Dame Irene Ward

Then may I tell the right hon. Gentleman that it is the National Insurance (Further Provisions) Bill, which has already twice been dealt with in a very shabby way.

Mr. Bowden

I remember the hon. Lady's Bill now. There is Friday of next week, and it can take the normal time on Friday, from eleven o'clock in the morning until four in the afternoon.

Mr. Woodburn

Since the very number of days in a month or a year determines that debates on the Finance Bill must be limited, is it not possible, through the usual channels, to deal with it in a sensible way, cutting our unnecessary talk and getting the job finished at a reasonable hour during the day?

Mr. Bowden

In the past, there has been co-operation through the usual channels on the actual time allotted to particular Clauses of the Finance Bill. That has worked fairly well. I have already said that we have made reasonable progress. We have dealt with 41 Clauses in five days, and I think that three days will be enough to finish it.

If the House wishes the Select Committee on Procedure to consider again whether parts of the Bill should be taken upstairs—and it has considered that on a number of occasions—it is entitled to do so.

Sir J. Rodgers

May I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to Motion No. 98, in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends?

[That this House requests the Prime Minister to arrange for the House to set up forthwith a tribunal under the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1921 to investigate the allegations, which are as serious as those made before the Bank Rate Tribunal, that a few individuals have brought pressure to bear on a select few on the Executive of the National Seamen's Union, who in turn have been able to dominate the majority of that Union.]

Can he give an assurance that, when the Prime Minister makes a statement next week on the National Union of Seamen, this request will be dealt with fully then?

Mr. Bowden

Yes, Sir. I have noted that Motion. I think that it will be covered by my right hon. Friend's statement on Tuesday.

Sir G. de Freitas

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the many Council of Europe draft conventions and agreements on practical matters such as crime prevention, frontier formalities, and standardisation of motor insurance, which need to be discussed? Will my right hon. Friend try to arrange, in the foreign affairs debate, for some hours to be set aside to enable us to discuss the work of the Council of Europe?

Mr. Bowden

There are so many requests for time in the two-day debate that I think we had better get a little nearer to the actual debate before we decide how to divide it up.

Mr. Burden

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the promise which he gave before the Recess, that there would be an opportunity to debate the Brambell Committee Report? Can he go any further today?

Mr. Bowden

I recall my promise. I still have it very much in mind that we should debate it for at least half a day before we rise for the Summer Recess.

Mr. W. Baxter

In view of the disagreement which there seems to be on both sides of the House about the duties and responsibilities of the arms salesman, as to what he is supposed to sell, and to whom he is supposed to sell it, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will give time for a debate on this very important question? There is a great deal of misunderstanding, and a certain amount of discontent, throughout the country about the idea of even having such a salesman.

Mr. Bowden

Apart from the normal opportunities which are open to backbench Members to raise subjects on Adjournment debates, and so on, I cannot at this stage promise any additional time.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

When does the right hon. Gentleman think that the Government will bring in their legislation on pirate radio stations? Has the right hon. Gentleman noted that Government paralysis has led to raids by boarding parties on one of the forts? When will he do something about it?

Mr. Bowden

It is the Government's intention to introduce legislation. I cannot promise when, but we do intend to legislate on this matter.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

May I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether he will co-operate with the Leader of the House——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman must find some other opportunity for asking that kind of question.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will take an early opportunity of seeking the cooperation of the Leader of the Opposition to arrange that the foreign affairs debate will take place before the Prime Minister goes to the United States and will be arranged as my hon. and right hon. Friends have proposed?

Mr. Bowden

I have already said that I will look at the dates and see what can be done in this respect.

Mr. Sandys

Now that the talks between the British Government and the Federal Government of South Arabia have been completed, can the Leader of the House say whether there will be an oportunity to discuss this matter in the foreseeable future?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I cannot make a firm statement at this stage. I am prepared to look at it and probably write to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Heath

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we will co-operate fully in the request put forward by his right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker), and perhaps, to reciprocate, he will allow me to attend meetings upstairs?

Mr, Orme

Has the Leader of the House seen the Motion, signed by a number of my hon. Friends and myself, asking for a three-day debate on foreign affairs?

[That this House considers that the next debate on foreign affairs should last three days in order to give the many Members who wish to speak a greater opportunity to do so.]

Because of the necessity for an extended debate to consider such matters as Vietnam, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) referred, will my right hon. Friend seriously consider this request? The House does not get enough time to discuss foreign affairs throughout the year.

Mr. Bowden

I cannot go beyond the position that I took last week. At the moment, it is firmly a two-day debate on foreign affairs. On the other hand, should there be any possibility of a bonus of time, we can look at it again.

Mr. Kershaw

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the statement by the Secretary of State for Defence this afternoon raises great difficulties in our relations with the United States and more particularly, perhaps, with Australia and New Zealand? Will he afford an opportunity for his right hon. Friend to make a statement next week to clear up the matter?

Mr. Bowden

I have no doubt that if my right hon. Friend wishes to make a statement next week, this will be arranged.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend find time to debate my Motion, which draws attention to the number of unnecessarily prolonged speeches made on the Finance Bill?

[That this House is of opinion that much of the time now being used by unnecessary speeches on the Finance Bill could be more wisely used by curtailing those speeches so as to provide House of Commons time to debate the great variety of other subjects of national, Commonwealth and international importance which many Members desire to debate before the Summer Recess, and calls upon the Leader of the House to take steps to revise the House of Commons timetable accordingly.]

Long speeches frustrate a great variety of hon. Members who wish to discuss a great variety of subjects. Will he give this great variety of hon. Members an opportunity to debate these subjects?

Mr. Bowden

I dealt with this yesterday, in reply to a Question to myself as Lord President of the Council. There is something in this. If all hon. Members restricted themselves to five-minute speeches, we would get much more done, but this is very difficult to enforce.

Mr. Tapsell

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when a Bill will be introduced to give effect to the proposals contained in the recent White Paper on alleged fugitive offenders?

Mr. Bowden

It is the Government's intention to legislate this Session.

Mr. Turton

Reverting to the right hon. Gentleman's reply to the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter), may I ask whether he recollects that the Select Committee on Procedure, last Session, recommended that parts of the Finance Bill should be taken upstairs, that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have taken no action on that Report, and that the House has had no opportunity of discussing it? Will he afford the House such an opportunity?

Mr. Bowden

This matter is, in a sense, still under discussion by the Select Committee on Procedure, which is discussing the hours of sitting of the House. I take this matter very seriously. I should like to be able to arrange a full day's debate when the Government have come to a decision on what parts of the Select Committee's Report should be implemented, but this is a question for discussion through the usual channels first.

Mr. Winnick

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that if he sticks to a two-day foreign affairs debate many hon. Members will not be able to participate in it, and especially those Members who came into the House two months ago?

Mr. Bowden

I am sorry about this but it is not unusual for hon. Members not to make their speeches during debates. In fact, probably some of the best speeches are those that are not made.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us some indication of the Government's intention about the timing of the introduction of Ten-Minute Rule Bills? Is it his intention to leave the position as at present, of Bills being introduced immediately after Questions, or does he intend to proceed with the Motion to relegate them to the early hours of the morning or the late hours of the night?

Mr. Bowden

I am grateful for this question. It enables me to say that, because the Select Committee on Procedure is reviewing the hours of sitting of the House, for the time being at least it is advisable that we have Ten-Minute Rule Bills at the old time of half-past three, subject to anything that the Select Committee recommends.

Mr. Goodhew

In view of the statement by the Secretary of State for Defence this afternoon, which makes it clear that so long as the war in Vietnam continues the British Government are unable to sell arms to the United States to help offset the dollar costs of the F111A, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to arrange a debate on this subject for next week?

Mr. Bowden

We cannot have a debate on this subject next week.

Mr. Leadbitter

Will my right hon. Friend reflect on his answer about a debate on the arms salesman, to which my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) referred? Will my right hon. Friend realise that on this side of the House we are very badly served indeed, and that if his answer implies that there is a limitation on times the House would willingly accept a morning debate?

Mr. Bowden

The House needs to be reminded on occasions, and I regret to have to do this, that to have a special morning debate needs a Motion of the House, which would probably take a whole day to get through. I am aware of the real concern about the foreign affairs debate. If it were possible to provide additional time I would do so, but at the moment more than two days is not possible.

Mr. Ramsden

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what is happening about the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill? Is it soon to meet? It will have to meet soon if the work is to be completed.

Mr. Bowden

I understand that it is meeting very soon.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Will the right hon. Gentleman be cheered to note that I am not asking for time to debate Motion No. 97?

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government favourably to consider any request from the Kabaka of Buganda, who holds an honorary commission from Her Majesty in the British Army, for asylum in the United Kingdom.]

I am proposing to withdraw it, having regard to the decision of the Home Secretary, for which I am grateful, but in view of the great anxiety which many of us feel about the fate of members of the Kabaka's family may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to request his right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary to do what he can to help, and keep Members informed?

Mr. Bowden

I shall certainly consult my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary on this point.

Sir F. Bennett

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to an all-party Motion, a rather rare phenomenon nowadays, on the question of Gibraltar, which reflects the uncertainty felt on this matter throughout the country?

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to uphold the freedom of the people of Gibraltar by refusing to surrender the sovereignty over the Colony to Spain against the wishes of the Gibraltarians who have constantly reiterated their loyalty to Great Britain and their desire to remain under British sovereignty.]

Will he arrange for a clear statement to be made, or, better still, arrange a debate, so that these doubts can be clarified by everyone knowing what the House of Commons feels, even if they do not seem to know what the Government feel?

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will be answering Questions on Gibraltar on Monday next. We had better await his replies.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Is it not a fact that the statement of the Secretary of State for Defence has inextricably mixed up morality and arms salesmanship? Does the right hon. Gentleman not feel that it would help the House to publish a White Paper setting out precisely what the Government's policy is in this field?

Mr. Bowden

I am quite prepared to suggest this to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.