HC Deb 03 November 1966 vol 735 cc659-69
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. Richard Crossman)

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

MONDAY, 7TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Road Safety Bill until 7 o'clock.

Afterwards, as the House is aware, the Chairman of Ways and Means has put down opposed Private Business for consideration.

Motion on the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Switzerland) Order.

TUESDAY, 8TH NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.

Mr. Hirst

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, may I, through you, ask the right hon. Gentleman to make his statement more clearly? He is waffling through it and we cannot hear a word.

Mr. Crossman

I shall go more slowly for the benefit of the hon. Gentleman.

WEDNESDAY, 9TH NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the Local Government (Scotland) Bill and of the Police (Scotland) Bill.

THURSDAY, 10TH NOVEMBER—Motion on the Southern Rhodesia Act, 1965 (Continuation) Order, which, if the House agrees will be taken formally.

Afterwards, it is proposed that there should be a debate on Gibraltar until 7 o'clock and thereafter on the Ministry of Aviation.

These topics will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motion on the Solus Petrol (No. 2) Order.

FRIDAY, 11TH NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the New Towns Bill, the Films Bill, the Veterinary Surgeons Bill [Lords], and of the Family Provision Bill [Lords].

MONDAY, 14TH NOVEMBER—The proposed business will be: Debate on Trade and Industry in Wales.

Mr. Heath

On next Thursday's business, we appreciate that, in the terms of the Southern Rhodesia Act, the Continuation Order has to come before the House before 15th November, when the Act expires. We are also anxious—I think that many hon. Members are anxious—to have a debate on Rhodesia. At the same time, I hope that the House will feel that it might be better for us to delay the debate on the Rhodesian situation for a short time during the present efforts to secure a negotiated settlement.

In these circumstances, I put it to the Leader of the House, and would also advise my right hon. and hon. Friends, that we should take the Continuation Order formally on Thursday, on the firm understanding that when the outcome of the present discussions which are going on between Mr. Smith in Salisbury and the members of the British Administration is clear the Government should provide time to debate the Rhodesian situation. Until then, we would reserve our position and our judgment on what has happened in the present situation.

If the right hon. Gentleman can give us that undertaking, I would agree that we should pass the Order formally and then debate the Rhodesian situation at what I hope the whole House would feel is a more appropriate time.

Mr. Crossman

As I think the right hon. Gentleman knows, that was the understanding which we reached through the usual channels. The reason was appreciated on both sides of the House—that it would be unwise to debate Rhodesia before the publication of Mr. Smith's reply and of the Government's terms. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will find that I gave the absolutely firm understanding in my business statement last week that we shall have a full debate on Rhodesia as soon as those terms are published.

Sir H. Harrison

On next Monday's business, the Road Safety Bill, which is an important Bill, would the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, if some hon. Members still want to speak at 7 o'clock, we will revert to the Bill after the Private business, or will the Closure be moved?

Mr. Crossman

We are assuming—I think that this is probably reasonable—that we can get the Second Reading by 7 o'clock. I will certainly discuss this matter through the usual channels, if there is a demand for more time, but we do not have the impression that there is.

Mr. Winnick

When is it recommended that we should have our next debate on foreign policy?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot give a precise time for that. As I said already, I hope that it will be before Christmas certainly.

Sir C. Osborne

If Tuesday's business—the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill—is suspended business, would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to give an undertaking that the Closure will not be applied early, so that hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate will have a chance to do so?

Mr. Crossman

It is a well understood practice of the House that, on this Bill, there are lengthy debates on matters which hon. Members wish to raise, and I expect that that will occur again this year.

Sir S. Summers

For the convenience of the House and others, would the right hon. Gentleman give information on the following point? Next year, Whitsun falls on 14th May. The Bank Holiday, for the first time, is not that weekend, but 29th May. It will be a great convenience if the Minister could say with which date the Parliamentary Recess will be associated.

Mr. Crossman

I much appreciate the premonitions of things to come. The hon. Member is right in saying that next year, for the first time, we shall have not a religious Whitsun Bank Holiday but a secular spring festival. I have assumed that our Whitsun break will be related to the secular festival and not to the religious one.

Mr. Peyton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Power has now got himself into a horrible disagreement with some of his hon. Friends on Standing Committee D on the Iron and Steel Bill and that so bad have things become that he was led into a sporting metaphor this morning when he said that he had never seen a salmon played in the way that his hon. Friends had been playing. Would he consider this perfectly friendly suggestion—that, to relieve his right hon. Friend from more embarrassment, he should suspend the sittings of the Committee——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a matter for the Leader of the House.

Mr. Sandys rose——

Hon. Members

Sandys the Leader!

Mr. Speaker

Order. Some of the noise in the House does the House no credit.

Mr. Sandys

Further to the question put to the right hon. Gentleman by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about a debate on the renewal of the Rhodesia Act, I understood that the right hon. Gentleman said that there would be a debate in the House when the outcome of the negotiations became clear. Can we have an assurance that there will be a debate in all circumstances before the Government take any steps to ask for mandatory sanctions from the United Nations?

Mr. Crossman

I think that I can give that assurance. The assurance is that we shall have the debate as soon as we hear the terms; the House will want then to discuss them in full.

Mr. Sandys

Before you go to the U.N.?

Mr. Ogden

Has my right hon. Friend noted that when some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen get to the Dispatch Box they seem unable to note the passage of time? Will he therefore try to arrange for a clock to be placed in the centre of that Table so that they know how the time is passing?

Mr. Crossman

That seems to me to refer not to next week's business, but to all business.

Mr. Onslow

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that, at Question Time today the Prime Minister dropped a hint that the current troubles in the motor industry were in some part due to the activities of a tightly-knit group of politically motivated men. Would he agree that this kind of government by insinuation is most undesirable——

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is an abuse of business questions.

Mr. Onslow rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I called the hon. Gentleman to order.

Mr. Evelyn King

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed Motion No. 235?

[That this House noting that Her Majesty's Government has between April and July 1966 increased the number of civil servants employed in the Departments of Agriculture, Defence (Army), Defence (Air), Foreign Affairs, Education, Health, Home Affairs, Housing and Local Government, Labour, Technology, Trade, Transport and the Treasury, mistrusts in such circumstances the effect of any appeal to private industry to make a more economic use of manpower and believes the settling of such an example in the face of such an appeal diminishes the prestige both of Parliament and of Government.]

The Motion draws attention to the appeal of the Government to persuade industry to make the maximum possible economic use of manpower, but notes that the Government themselves have increased manpower in 13 Departments to the tune of 19,500 people and suggests that such an example can only make a mockery of the appeal. On what date could we debate that Motion?

Mr. Crossman

I have studied the Motion. I would suggest that the point was fully dealt with during Report stage of the Selective Employment Payments Bill, on 4th August. If the hon. Gentleman would reread that excellent passage, he will find that I have nothing to add.

Mr. Speaker

Order. When an hon. Gentleman refers to a Motion on the Order Paper at business question time he should do so briefly, without quoting its full content.

Mr. G. Campbell

When may we debate the White Paper on the Scottish economy, sometimes known as the Scottish Plan, since it was published in January as a Government White Paper and we have so far had no opportunity of discussing it?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that I can give a definite date. It certainly will not be next week. As it is Scottish business, perhaps it might be debated in the Scottish Grand Committee.

Mr. Whitaker

In view of the great interest in the subject of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, could my right hon. Friend say when the debate on the events whose tenth anniversary we are commemorating this week—namely, the Suez operation—will take place?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot say that we have a date fixed for it, but I can give an assurance that a debate will take place. I gather, also, that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) will have an opportunity to raise the issue when seeking to introduce a Ten-Minute Rule Bill.

Mr. Thorpe

May I revert to the question of Thursday's business, discussed by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the House? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the suggestion that these matters should be taken formally does not necessarily commend itself to the whole House? Is he aware that there are some who would wish to have a discussion of sanctions with particular reference to——

Hon. Members


Mr. Thorpe

Indeed, from the tribal noises around me, it is clear that there are high feelings on this matter. Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware—[An HON. MEMBER: "Just a tiny bomb."] Apart from this evidence of un-suitability for majority rule, is he aware that there is some anxiety about the manner in which the present talks are being conducted? Is he therefore aware that this will not meet with the overwhelming support of the House?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of this fact and also that hon. Members have their rights. All I said was that, through the usual channels, we had discussed this matter. I feel very strongly that it would be much wiser to postpone the debate on Rhodesia and that we are unlikely to get much profit out of a debate next week. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, whose views on Rhodesia I know, would, on reflection, share that view.

Dr. Kerr

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members on this side regard the recent report of the Monopolies Commission on the film industry as a very disappointing affair—more gums man teeth? In the light of this, will he give an early opportunity to the House to discuss the whole working of the Commission?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot give any assurance of an early opportunity, but I will think over my hon. Friend's proposal.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Would the right hon. Gentleman, in his capacity as Leader of the House, consider taking time next week to place on the record that the House re-establishes the rule that when a Minister is being questioned in a special debate on the way he runs his Department he replies to that debate early so that his explanation can be examined, instead of allowing acrimony to develop outside, which brings the House into disrepute?

Mr. Crossman

That question is very far removed from next week's business. All Ministers threatened with censure must have the right to decide when they will reply to the censure.

Mr. Bryant

Can the Leader of the House give us any news on the White Paper on broadcasting? Does he appreciate the importance to hon. Members of that White Paper being published well ahead of the Second Reading of the Marine &c. Broadcasting (Offences) Bill?

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate that fact, but I cannot give any more precise information about when the White Paper will be published.

Mr. Hastings

While I agree entirely that it would not be wise to have a debate next week on Rhodesia which might prejudice agreement there, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind the need for a debate before any change of policy is proposed by Her Majesty's Government? Is he aware of the need not only to debate the Rhodesia position, but the situation in the whole of Africa, and particularly in Zambia, which is causing alarm?

Mr. Crossman

I can only repeat what I said to the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), that I think that that assurance can be given.

Mr. Hogg

Can the Leader of the House give us any news about the publication of the Criminal Justice Bill; and also of any proposals there may be to deal with gambling and clubs?

Mr. Crossman

I think that I can say that we expect publication of the Criminal Justice Bill before Christmas. We are still considering the possiblity of legislation on gambling and clubs at an early date.

Mr. Dance

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to Motion No. 209 on the Order Paper? In view of the widespread concern of the public and the anger of police and prison officers over the fact that there is no effective deterrent to long-term prisoners committing crimes of violence, will the Leader of the House find time to discuss this vitally important subject?

[That this House deplores the Home Secretary's refusal to confirm a birching sentence on Roger Maxwell and calls upon him to state what new deterrents he proposes to prevent violence by prisoners serving long sentences.]

Mr. Crossman

I think that I am right in saying that there were Questions down for answer on that subject today, but that they were not reached. I suggest that the hon. Member looks at the Written Answers.

Mr. Mathew

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to Motion No. 219, which refers to an inaccurate article in a Sunday newspaper about the Government of Bahrain? Will the House have a chance to discuss the Motion, so that the allegation may be repudiated?

[That this House deplores an article entitled, Pure Greed and Impudence, published by the Sunday Mirror on 16th October, 1966, and greatly regrets its tendentious and misleading account of the State of Bahrain, which is calculated to give a wholly false impression of His Highness The Ruler of Bahrain, his Government and family, whose administration is one of the most socially progressive and forward looking in that part of the world.]

Mr. Crossman

I cannot give any time for discussion, but I am glad to take the opportunity to say that I agree entirely with the hon. Member that the article referred to was utterly deplorable. The Foreign Office has drawn the newspaper's attention to inaccuracies in the article, and to the effect that it had in Bahrain, and I hope that we can now consider the incident closed.

Mr. Dean

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen Motion 234, which states that unemployment in the South-West is at a higher level than in any previous October since the war? Does he recollect that Ministers have frequently stated in the House that the development areas would not suffer under the Government's economic policy——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are drifting into argument. The hon. Member must ask questions on business.

Mr. Dean

May we have an early opportunity to debate this situation?

[That this House notes with great concern that the number of people unemployed in the South-West is higher than in any previous October since the war and that the percentage of people unemployed has risen more in the last month in the South-West than in any other region of Great Britain, and urges Her Majesty's Government to take urgent action to deal with this deteriorating situation, including the removal of the selective employment tax or at least a lower rate for the South-West; the restoration of the cuts in the South-West road programme; the restoration of effective investment incentives to the tourist industry; and measures to deal with the sharp drop in livestock prices for farmers.]

Mr. Crossman

My attention has been drawn to the Motion. On the last part, I can only say that we are having an agricultural debate today when, subject to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, some of the points might be put.

As to the rest of the Motion, I suggest that it could best be dealt with by Questions to Ministers.

Mr. Monro

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Scottish Grand Committee has two blank days next week? Could we not discuss the Scottish National Plan then?

Mr. Crossman

That is a question for the Scottish Grand Committee. I gather that there is discussion on it. I myself would not like to give any assurance on the subject at all.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Referring to the Scottish Grand Committee, may I ask whether the Government's unwillingness to discuss the Plan means that there is something to hide? Have they abandoned the Plan, or what?

Mr. Crossman

The hon. Gentleman should put that question to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Ridley

Since the Employment Agencies (Regulation) Bill has now become a Government Measure, and a contentious one at that, will the Leader of the House have it removed from Standing Committee C to a Government Standing Committee? Otherwise, three Private Members' Bills that are much desired, the Abortion Bill, the Civic Amenities Bill and the Merchant Shipping Bill will all be badly held up?

Mr. Crossman

It is not my impression that the hon. Member states the facts correctly. I do not think that the Employment Agencies (Regulation) Bill has become a Government Bill.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must get on.