HC Deb 03 March 1966 vol 725 cc1489-96
The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Bowden)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, perhaps I may inform the House of the arrangements for next week.

MONDAY, 7TH MARCH—Supply [10th Allotted Day]: Report when, if the House agrees, the Questions will be put forthwith.

There will follow a debate on an Opposition Motion on Defence, which, subject to the House agreeing to take formally the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, will be continued on Tuesday, 8th March.

WEDNESDAY, 9TH MARCH—Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill: Remaining stages.

The day will be available for the discussion of topics which private Members may wish to raise. It may perhaps suit the convenience of the House to conclude the proceedings on the Bill at a reasonable hour.

THURSDAY, 10TH MARCH—The House will meet at 2.30 p.m.

Prorogation will follow immediately after Prayers.

Mr. William Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend say when the Geddes report on the shipbuilding industry will be published?

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade received this report on 27th February, a few days ago. It will not now be possible to publish the report before the Dissolution of the House. Nevertheless, my right hon. Friend is aware of the interest among hon. Members to see it as soon as possible, and he is making arrangements to lay a White Paper in dummy form. [Laughter.] This will enable the Report to be published and is the necessary procedure if the House wishes to have the Report. If the House does not want to receive the Report, there is no need for it to do so.

Mr. R. Carr

Would the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement next week to remove the anxiety which has been caused among all those who work in the aircraft industry and among the communities and the hon. Members of the areas concerned by the suggestion that, after consultation with the Government, B.O.A.C. has firmly decided to cancel its outstanding order for Super VC10s?

Mr. Bowden

I will certainly convey the right hon. Gentleman's comments to my right hon. Friend. I cannot firmly promise a statement, but I will discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Lipton

What does my right hon. Friend mean about finishing at a reasonable hour next Wednesday? Assuming that there are no Divisions, can we not go on to an unreasonable hour instead?

Mr. Bowden

I thought that it would be for the convenience of hon. Members, on the last day before Prorogation, that we did not sit beyond, say, midnight, so that hon. Members could get to their constituencies and we could have Prorogation at 2.30 the next day.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

May we take it from what the right hon. Gentleman has failed to say that the double taxation agreement with the United States will not be signed before 31st March, thus avoiding a debate on a most disastrous agreement?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot add to what I said last week to a number of questions on this issue.

Mr. Mayhew

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been a general welcome for the Prime Minister's suggestion that before decisions are taken on Britain's rôle in the 1970s, there should be a nation-wide debate? Will not the arrangements suggested by the Opposition for Monday and Tuesday ensure the decision being taken on strict party lines, with a three-line Whip, a way which will not reflect opinion in the country or in Parliament? Is not this attempt to fit these big issues into the framework of party politics lamentable evidence of the lack of good sense in the Opposition?

Mr. Bowden

I note my hon. Friend's lack of interest in party politics. It is quite usual for the House of Commons to debate the Defence White Paper on two days. On this occasion, the Opposition are providing the time out of Supply time. This has been necessary because of the importance of getting Supply to permit the proceedings of the House to come to a conclusion. What the Prime Minister obviously had in mind was that these discussions would take place outside the House after Dissolution.

Mr. Heath

Will not the right hon. Gentleman make it absolutely plain that this was the Government's original proposal and that what the Opposition have done is just to fit in by providing Supply time? This is not the way for the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) to work his way back.

Mr. Maxwell

Would my right hon. Friend tell the House whether an opportunity can be given to me to introduce a Ten-Minute Rule Bill on Tuesday and Wednesday about fairer compensation to tenant-farmers whose land is being expropriated—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is asking a business Question and cannot make a Ten-Minute Rule speech.

Mr. Maxwell


Mr. Speaker

The question has been asked.

Mr. Bowden

My hon. Friend had better consult the Order Paper. If there is a space on Tuesday or Wednesday, he would be entitled to seek to introduce such a Bill.

Sir F. Bennett

Can the right hon. Gentleman promise a Ministerial statement next week on the threatened bus strike, or have we to wait until 30th March for the Prime Minister to announce a personal settlement?

Mr. Freeson

Can my right hon. Friend assure us that next week he will give us a statement on the business of the House for the week we return?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. That is not usual. I have already announced the dates on which Members will be sworn in and I have already announced the date on which Her Majesty will make the Speech from the Throne. I cannot at this moment anticipate its contents.

Mr. Farr

Is the right hon. Gentleman's hint that business will terminate early on Wednesday a suggestion that Opposition Members will be unable to raise certain important matters which they would have wished to do?

Mr. Bowden

I was sincerely of the opinion that this would have met with the wishes of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen from both sides of the House. If the House prefers to go through the night, so be it. I must advise the House that the Government will have to get the Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill before Prorogation.

Sir D. Renton

Will hon. Members be given access to the precincts of the Houses of Parliament on Friday of next week so that an opportunity for clearing up and removing papers—[Interruption.]—may be given to those hon. Members opposite who will not be returning.

Mr. Bowden

I am sorry, I did not hear the last part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question. The arrangement will be as usual. Should Her Majesty see fit to dissolve Parliament on Thursday evening of next week, there will be no Members of Parliament on Friday. Former Members will have the facility of coming within the precincts to collect mail and papers from their lockers, but not to conduct any business.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Would the Leader of the House consider giving time for an emergency debate on rates in view of the Prime Minister's rates proposals, which give no relief whatever to the vast majority of ratepayers this year and places them in a position of expecting at least 5 per cent. increases for the years which follow?

Mr. Bowden

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we were forced to give the last five days, because they were Supply days, to the Opposition. In accordance with custom, it is for the Opposition to choose subjects which they wish to discuss, rates or anything else. They could have raised this subject on any of those five days.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Leader of the House aware that next week we have been threatened with a mass lobby of bookmakers, wanting to put money on the return of the Labour Government. How can we be protected against this?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Will the Minister of Public Building and Works be making a statement next week about the Building Control Bill? Will the Leader of the House also ask him, in view of the concern which has been expressed, to say something about the overstocking of bricks in February, since the January figures look like being 700 million of overstocking, or enough bricks to build 47,000 houses?

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works will be making a statement on Monday or Tuesday of next week. I will discuss the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question with him and see what he has in mind.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Will the Leader of the House consider publishing in the OFFICIAL REPORT the details of those parts of the Government's legislative programme which will be lost by Dissolution?

Mr. Bowden

There is no reason to publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the legislation which falls because of the Dissolution of Parliament. If the hon. Gentleman would consult papers already in the Vote Office he will see which Bills will obtain the Royal Assent by Tuesday of next week, and by subtraction, will see those which will not.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Can the Leader of the House say how many more White Papers are to be published in the final week of Parliament and what the subjects will be?

Mr. Bowden

At the moment, I could not answer that question with certainty, but I think that there are no further White Papers to be published before Dissolution.

Mr. Godber

Will the Leader of the House tell us what arrangements will be made for the publication of the Agricultural Price Review? Will there be a White Paper, and, if so, will it be published after the Dissolution?

Mr. Bowden

I answered this last week. The Review will come out at the usual time, mid-March. It is often the case that Parliament is in recess at this time. Parliament will not be sitting when it is published, because of Dissolution.

Mr. Hirst

Can the Leader of the House assure hon. Members that no further "Brown" Papers like "Upswing" will be published, also?

Mr. Channon

Does the Leader of the House recall that his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave an undertaking on Tuesday to consult the Minister of Public Building and Works about the Building (First Amendment) Regulations, which are considered by a large number of hon. Members to be ultra vires? Can he say whether the Minister is to make a statement?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I cannot at this stage.

Dame Irene Ward

On the question of the dummy White Paper, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether we are to have an outline of the Geddes report. If so, will this be available in plenty of time for discussion during the election campaign?

Mr. Bowden

May I make it absolutely plain to the hon. Lady that it is necessary to lay a dummy White Paper—

Dame Irene Ward

I understood that, thank you.

Mr. Bowden

I am very glad to note it. Having laid the dummy White Paper, the Report should be printed and available about 20th or 21st March.

Mr. Ridsdale

Can the Leader of the House say whether there will be an interim statement on the Wise Committee's Report on the subject of smallholdings? The Government said that this was received on 16th February and would be published almost immediately. I now learn that it is not to be published until after the General Election. What are the Government trying to hide?

Mr. Bowden

I am certain that the Government are not trying to hide anything in this respect. I am not aware of the reason for the delay in publication, but I will inquire.

Mr. Onslow

To return to the matter of the Super VC10s, will the Leader of the House represent to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation the importance of making a statement in a form in which he can be questioned upon it in this House, and of not following the deplorable example of his predecessor by contriving to have it made in answer to a Written Question on a Friday?

Mr. Bowden

I have already said that I will discuss this with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation.

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