HC Deb 19 May 1966 vol 728 cc1557-68
Mr. Maudling

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:

MONDAY, 23RD MAY—Second Reading of the Docks and Harbours Bill.

Motions on the Ploughing Grants Schemes and the Fertilisers Scheme.

TUESDAY, 24TH MAY—Second Reading of the Ministry of Social Security Bill.

Remaining stages of the Post Office (Subway) Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 25TH MAY—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

THURSDAY, 26TH MAY—Second Read-of the Local Government Bill.

Motions on the Cereals (Amendment) Orders, and the Eggs (Amendment) Order.

It will be proposed that on Friday, 27th May, the House should rise for the Whitsun Adjournment until Monday, 13th June.

Mr. Maudling

I have four points to raise with the right hon. Gentleman. First, can he assure the House that, in case of need, the House could be recalled urgently during the Recess, should that be necessary?

Secondly, when will the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary make a statement on the negotiations or discussions with Spain about Gibraltar?

Thirdly, as we are having the Second Reading of the Finance Bill next week, when will the Ministry of Labour Bill be published and will the Chancellor of the Exchequer take responsibility for it as it is his policy?

Fourthly, in connection with South Arabia, as we regret that the Prime Minister has not made a statement on his recent Answer to Questions, will he take note that we will have to consider what further Parliamentary action we must take in this matter?

Mr. Bowden

The right hon. Gentleman will, of course, realise that Standing Orders exist for the recall of Parliament if that should be necessary during the Whitsun Recess. If the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the possibility of a Proclamation under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, there is a requirement within that Act that regulations should be approved by both Houses of Parliament within seven days, which might have an effect on the Recess.

To answer his question about Spain, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary opened his discussions yesterday and I understand that certain documents have been laid in the Library. I cannot go beyond that.

The Ministry of Labour Bill will be available immediately after the Whitsun Recess and will be handled by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.

The Motion in the name of a number of Opposition back-bench Members on South Arabia—

[That this House regrets that, in his answers to Questions on 10th May, the Prime Minister failed to reveal that the Government of the Federation of South Arabia had strongly protested against the British Government's decision to withdraw all protection in 1968, thus leaving the Federation virtually defenceless, and that they had accused Britain of dishonouring her word; and calls upon him to give an assurance that, if so requested by the Federal Government after the proposed new elections, Britain will be prepared to give to South Arabia the same assistance in its defence as she gives to several Arab states in the Persian Gulf.]

and the similar back-bench Motion in the names of a number of my hon. and right hon. Friends—

[That this House welcomes the statement of the South Arabian Government on Friday, 13th May, and the positive response of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; regrets the fact that on the eve of important talks on the future of South Arabia the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham should have sought to intervene in ways not conducive to a constructive settlement, and draws his attention to the fact that he is now not a Minister but a backbencher.]

have been signed by a large number of hon. Members, but being back-bench Motions, I cannot provide time for them.

The House may be interested to know that the Foreign Secretary dealt with this very fully on Monday of this week and that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister intends to take the opportunity of Questions next Tuesday to make the the whole position clcear.

Mr. Heffer

Will my right hon. Friend endeavour to provide some time for a debate to discuss Motion No. 62 which is concerned with rising prices and the seamen's dispute, as this is undoubtedly a matter of great urgency and concern to the people of the country?

[That this House, noting the sharp rise in certain retail prices since the inception of the seamen's strike, urges the Government to give evidence of its determination to operate a fair and just Prices and Incomes Policy by freezing all foodstuff prices for the duration of the present dispute.]

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has already answered some Questions on this matter. I cannot go beyond that at this stage and promise time for a discussion before the Whitsun Recess.

Dame Irene Ward

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for time to be provided as soon as he can for a debate on Motion No. 59, in view of the importance of the Motion and the principle embodied in it?

[That, in the opinion of this House, the leader in The Journal, Newcastle-on-Tyne, on 9th March, 1966, headed "Split Personality", and which contained the following: "It is surely indiscreet of Mr. T. D. Smith to let his publicity firm accept paid employment from the Labour Party in this election campaign. As chairman of the Northern Economic Planning Coned he ought to keep himself above partisan politics apart from exercising his right to vote on polling day. Any national or regional body which is set up to serve the general public demands absolute impartiality from its office-holders. Mr. Smith may argue that he is strictly neutral when chairing the regional planning council but this is not enough in itself. If regional government is going to be effective it must be able to operate whichever party is in power at Westminster. In this it is on a par with such institutions as the National Coal Board and the Prices and Incomes Board", is an acceptable and essential basis for the establishment of any national or regional body; and this House therefore calls on Her Majesty's Government to state its agreement with this principle and to take action to ensure now and for the future its adoption.]

If we cannot have a debate, could the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement to be made so that we may know exactly where we stand in regard to payments by the Labour Party to people having public positions in the Economic Planning Council in the north of England?

Mr. Bowden

I have seen the hon. Lady's Motion. Economic planning councils are advisory bodies, not executive bodies. The members of these councils are drawn from all walks of life, from trade unionists and members of all political parties. The public-spirited people who are asked to do this work would not readily undertake to do it if for this unpaid work they had to sacrifice their normal commercial interests. I regret this Motion and the slur on the gentlemen who have performed a very useful public service.

Sir B. Janner

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider his decision on Motion No. 30—

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to amend the Race Relations Act 1965 to ensure that adequate powers are available to the law officers of the Crown to enable prosecutions to be instituted against organisations or persons inciting racial hatred.]

and the amendment of the Race Relations Act, 1965? Will he give an early opportunity for discussion of this Motion, particularly in view of the extremely serious consequences which flow from the indoctrination of Nazi ideas into the head, for example, of the murderer Brady, and the fact that this kind of indoctrination is spreading rapidly through the country and the Nazis are seeking every opportunity of spreading it? Will he give us a chance of discussing this matter with a view to amending the Act?

Mr. Bowden

As I promised, I have had talks from time to time with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General on this matter. There is no doubt about the law under the Race Relations Act, but other legislation is available which can be readily used to deal with arson or incitement to arson, which carries a penalty of up to life imprisonment. There are aspects of the Race Relations Act at which my right hon. and learned Friend is still looking.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to Motion No. 41, standing in my name and the names of 224 of my hon. and right hon. Friends?

[That this House desires that charities should be relieved from paying the proposed Selective Employment Tax in respect of their employees.]

When will time be found for the House to discuss the very important matter of relieving charities from the effect of the Selective Employment Tax?

Mr. Bowden

This, of course, will be in order on the Finance Bill and on the Ministry of Labour Bill.

Mr. W. Baxter

May I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to Motion No. 56?

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to reconsider the appointment of an arms salesman.]

Can time be allocated to discuss it, because there seems to be a grave departure from the precedents of the House? It may be a breach of international agreement, especially G.A.T.T., to make such an arrangement as this.

Mr. Bowden

The Government appointment in connection with an arms salesman has been made absolutely clear, but if my hon. Friend or any hon. Member has specific points to raise on the question of armaments or the sale of armaments to a specific country, they should put down questions to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Mr. Maudling

May I come back to the Finance Bill and the Ministry of Labour Bill because the position now revealed is profoundly unsatisfactory? We are to discuss the Finance Bill next week, but its merits will be bound up with the merits of the Ministry of Labour Bill. How can we discuss this matter without having the necessary material?

Mr. Bowden

We had exchanges on this question last week. While I was not able to promise that the Bills would be available at the same time for Second Readings, at least the Second Reading of the Ministry of Labour Bill and the Bill itself would be available to the House before the Committee stage of the Finance Bill.

Sir G. de Freitas

Is my right hon. Friend aware that nearly every one of the 18 Parliaments in the Council of Europe has regular debates on the work of the Council of Europe? Is it possible before the Summer Recess for us to have such a debate?

Mr. Bowden

Yes, Sir. I should have thought that could be on a general foreign affairs debate before the end of July. If it is necessary to find extra time for it, I will do so.

Mr. Barber

As the question of exempting charities from the Selective Employment Tax arises on the Ministry of Labour Bill, are we to take it that this will not be handled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer but that he has washed his hands of it altogether?

Mr. Bowden

The Bill is being presented to the House by the Minister of Labour, but no doubt my right hon. Friends from the Treasury will be available during its passage.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In view of the fact that the Ministry of Labour Bill will not be available until after Whitsun and disabled persons have a problem in connection with the Selective Employment Tax, will the right hon. Gentleman not arrange for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a statement next week so that the gnawing anxiety hanging over disabled people may be removed?

Mr. Bowden

I shall see that the attention of my right hon. Friend is drawn to the point made by the hon. Member.

Mr. O'Malley

Will my right hon. Friend provide an early opportunity for discussing the general implications of the police amalgamation schemes announced by the Home Secretary yesterday?

Secondly, in view of the replies given yesterday by the Postmaster-General about pirate radio which many hon. Members found unsatisfactory, will the Leader of the House look again at the possibility of an early debate on broadcasting?

Mr. Bowden

A debate on the White Paper on broadcasting will follow, of course, after publication of the White Paper, but the White Paper is not yet ready.

On the question of the statement made yesterday by the Home Secretary about amalgamation of police forces, there is nothing I can say at the moment about a debate, but I shall certainly look at it.

Sir Frederic Bennett

Reverting to the question of Spain and Gibraltar, does the right hon. Gentleman recall that in answer to a Question by me pressing for a debate on this matter he said: I will take note of that view and have a word with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary about this subject. I cannot promise a debate at the moment, but there is something to be looked at here."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May. 1966; Vol. 728, c. 600.] Does the right hon. Gentleman think that his answer today that there is something in the Library is a fair result of that undertaking, in view of the concern felt throughout the whole House, which is growing rather than diminishing on this subject?

Mr. Bowden

Perhaps the hon. Member would prefer to look at what is in the Library, the statement by the Spanish Government and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's comments, before pressing for a debate.

Mr. Abse

Since it has been reported that all the necessary drafts have been ready for some time to amend the coercive Merchant Shipping Act, would that not be a wide step now, so as to demonstrate the concern of the Government with the injustice to seamen, that the Bill should be laid without any delay before the House?

Mr. Bowden

It is advisable to get agreement between both sides of industry before we proceed with legislation.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Can the right hon. Gentleman prevail on the Prime Minister to make his statement today instead of waiting until Tuesday, because the early-day Motions to some extent cast a shadow over his good faith and it is not a good thing that his high office should be left under that shadow in suspense for five days?

Mr. Bowden

I am not quite sure that that is the general opinion of hon. Members, but my right hon. Friend will make a statement on Tuesday.

Mr. William Hamilton

In view of what happened last night, will my right hon. Friend provide an early opportunity for debating the procedures of this House, particularly an amendment of Standing Order No. 31 which, if it had not been as it is, the events of last night could not have happened?

Mr. Bowden

The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) was, of course, well within his right in endeavouring to talk out a Bill, and he did it successfully. On the question of whether or not the Chairman of Ways and Means should be able to accept a Closure Motion, we might look at that in the Select Committee on Procedure.

Mr. Turton

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that if the Finance Bill receives a Second Reading next Thursday the Second Reading of the Selective Employment Tax Bill will be taken before the Committee stage of the Finance Bill is taken?

Mr. Bowden

I should like to check that point. I am not absolutely sure, but I think that that is the position.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Is the Lord President of the Council aware that in many quarters of the House what he has said about the Race Relations Bill will be warmly welcomed and that we are looking forward to the time after Whitsun? Will he reserve days for amending legislation?

Mr. Bowden

I think that we had better first see what my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General finds in his investigation of the existing Race Relations Act, but the earlier points made about it have been cleared up and, as I said, there is some doubt about one part which he is looking at. If necessary, we shall discuss this again.

Mr. Kershaw

Referring to the events of last night, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance to the House that he will not allow his understandable chagrin to let him steamroller the rights of the Opposition or make unfair the rules of the House to cover his own incompetence?

Mr. Bowden

I have already said that the procedure last night was quite in order. The hon. Member for Ormskirk was quite in order in doing what he did. If the House wishes to look at the question of the Chairman of Ways and Means accepting a Closure Motion, we can do so.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Can my right hon. Friend say whether time can be allocated for a discussion of Welsh affairs, as there are a number of matters, particularly the question of transport and employment, which should be discussed at the earliest opportunity?

Mr. Bowden

There are the usual opportunities in the Welsh Grand Committee and the usual occasion on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Ridley

Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that, if any member of the Government is personally criticised in a debate in the House, that Minister will come to the House to answer the debate?

Mr. Bowden

I am not quite sure what the hon. Gentleman is getting at, but I will have a look at it and see what can be done.

Mr. Bessell

In view of the complexities of the Finance Bill, which has now been published, the considerable unrest which there is, which may or may not be justified, regarding the Selective Employment Tax, and the large legislative programme of the Government this Session, is it reasonable that there should be a 15-day Recess for Whitsun? Is this in keeping with modern, dynamic and progressive government?

Mr. Bowden

Without going beyond what I have already said, I do not think that it should be assumed for certain that it will be a 15-day Whitsun Recess.

Mr. Ioan L. Evans

Will the Leader of the House say when we can expect the Consumer Protection Bill? If the delay is due to the heavy legislative programme, is consideration to be given to meeting on Wednesday mornings?

Mr. Bowden

We shall have the Bill. I cannot firmly promise it for this Session. If there is time, we shall certainly have it. As I have said on many occasions, the question of morning sittings is now being considered by the Select Committee on Procedure.

Sir C. Osborne

In view of the very grave warning given last night by the Governor of the Bank of England—who knows the position better than anyone else in the country—about the perils of our present economic position, will the Leader of the House try to find time for a discussion of those issues, which it will not be possible to raise in the debate on the Finance Bill?

Mr. Bowden

The debate on the Budget Resolutions was also an economic debate. It took place over four days, as is usual. Such a discussion would not be out of order on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

Mr. Mayhew

Since we have not had the usual Service Estimates debates this year, what alternative arrangements will there be for surveying the work of the Armed Forces?

Mr. Bowden

The Services debate took place before the dissolution of Parliament, on a Defence Vote on Account. This was quite in accordance with our procedures. There will be further opportunities within the current Session of Parliament to discuss defence matters.

Mr. Worsley

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on E.L.D.O. to take place shortly after the Whitsun Recess so that the Government can make their position on this project clear, in view of its importance to our European policy?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise it at this stage, but no doubt we shall have to see how we get on between Whitsun and the end of July.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the appetising legislative morsel called the Finance Bill to be digested on the Floor of the House, or upstairs? Are we to have a repetition of what happened last year—long, interminable proceedings where groups of experts explain to each other small points while the rest of the Members are trying to sleep outside?

Mr. Bowden

I have a great deal of sympathy with my hon. Friend, but there will be no change in procedure this year.

Mr. John Wells

Will the Leader of the House seek to find time for the half day on canals that he promised he would look into last week?

Mr. Bowden

Yes, Sir. I have this very much in mind and will do my best to find time for this before the Summer Recess.

Mr. English

Now that the House of Commons Services Committee has been appointed, would my right hon. Friend consider referring to it the Motion standing upon the Order Paper in the names of several of my hon. Friends and myself referring to the responsibility of Officers of the House to that Committee or, during a dissolution, to my right hon. Friend?

[That this House considers that its officers ought at all times to be responsible to it through its Services Committee and in particular that, when the House is dissolved, prorogued or adjourned, the Leader of the House, being a Minister in office and ex officio Chairman of that Committee, should be consulted by the officers of the House on matters of policy concerning its internal affairs.]

Mr. Bowden

Yes, this point will be before the Services Committee at its first meeting.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I was not quite sure that the Leader of the House appreciated the importance of the request for a debate on E.L.D.O. All sorts of rumours are going about that this very important European initiative might be dissolved. Would the right hon. Gentleman ask the Minister of Aviation if he could make an early statement, so that we can judge whether a debate may be necessary?

Mr. Bowden

I will certainly draw that to the attention of my right hon. Friend. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, these discussions are proceeding.

Mr. Berry

Will the Leader of the House arrange to find time for the Prime Minister to make a statement next week giving his views on this Saturday's sporting events in the House rather than on B.B.C. television?

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

In view of the latest increase in mortgage rates resulting from the Government's policy, will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that he will endeavour to bring forward the Government's option mortgage Bill as a matter of priority, particularly as the Chancellor told us that this scheme was to be paid for by the betting tax?

Mr. Bowden

While not accepting the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, may I say that it would be in order to discuss part of this in today's debate.

Mr. Jennings

Will the Leader of the House try to find time for a separate debate before the Summer Recess on the whole question of disabled persons?

Mr. Bowden

I cannot promise time, but there are seven Supply days available between now and the end of July, one of which could be used.