HC Deb 20 October 1966 vol 734 cc402-15
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, 24TH OCTOBER—Supply [1st Allotted Day]: Committee, which if agreed to, will be taken formally to allow a debate on Redeployment, which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Afterwards, consideration of the Motion on the Import Duties (General) (No. 6) Order.

TUESDAY, 25TH OCTOBER—Motions on the Prices and Incomes (Commencement of Part IV) Order, and on the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Denmark) and (Norway) Orders.

WEDNESDAY, 26TH OCTOBER—Report stage of the Land Commission Bill, which it is expected will be completed on Thursday, 27th October.

FRIDAY, 28TH OCTOBER—Second Reading of the New Towns Bill, and of the Barbados Independence Bill.

MONDAY, 31ST OCTOBER—The proposed business will be: Third Reading of the Land Commission Bill until 7 o'clock.

Thereafter, opposed Private Business.

Mr. Heath

When will a statement be made about the future of the Ministry of Aviation, so that the uncertainty in the industry can be removed?

Mr. Crossman

I can give no precise time. It will be made as soon as it is ready.

Mr. Dalyell

In view of the recent publication of three major reports on science—the Reports of the Willis Jackson Committee and the Swan Committee, and the first annual Report of the Science Research Council, may we have an early debate on science problems?

Mr. Crossman

We have all seen the arrival of these great reports with interest. They have only just been published. I think that we should give the House time to digest them before we decide to debate them.

Mr. Graham Page

As to the Report stage of the Land Commission Bill, is the Leader of the House aware that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Land and Natural Resources tabled 24 pages of Government Amendments only yesterday? The right hon. Gentleman has tabled another 24 pages of Amendments today. As the Minister gave 67 undertakings in Committee, I suppose there are still more to come. Does not the Leader of the House think that it is something of a contempt of the House to rush on the Report stage of this monstrous nationalisation of land and heavy taxation Bill at such very short notice?

Mr. Crossman

I think it important not to confuse one's personal feelings about the Bill with concern about procedure. We have decided to have two full days for Report and then half a day on Third Reading. I consider that to be wholly adequate.

Mr. Strauss

Can my right hon. Friend now say when he proposes to bring forward his measures for Parliamentary reform?

Mr. Crossman

As I told my right hon. Friend yesterday, I am hoping to have first the debate on the television experiment, which we will get before the end of November. Then the debates on the three Reports of the Select Committee on Procedure will follow fairly quickly.

I should like to take this opportunity to remove a misapprehension which, I am afraid, has arisen as a result of my reply yesterday to my right hon. Friend's supplementary question. My right hon. Friend asked me whether the Whips would be off on both these topics and I said "Yes". This answer holds good for the television debate, but in the case of the Reports of the Select Committee on Procedure, where it is likely that I shall be proposing a complex package Motion, I am not in a position to give an omnibus assurance to my right hon. Friend about a free vote.

Dr. Winstanley

Is the Leader of the House aware of the presence on the Order Paper of Motion No. 213, which calls for the continuation of British Summer Time in order to keep us in line with Europe?

[That this House, recognising the success of the experimental extensions to the period of British Summer Time and that reversion to Greenwich Mean Time will unnecessarily hamper commercial communication with Europe, urges Her Majesty's Government to bring Great Britain into line with Europe by adopting British Summer Time, mid-European time, throughout the whole year.]

Is he aware that nobody wants to put the clocks back on Sunday? Will he give us an early opportunity to discuss the matter?

Mr. Crossman

I never believe in the universality of the rationality of human nature, but I know what the hon. Gentleman means. I think that when he has time to read the Answer of my right hon. Friend, he will get reasonable satisfaction from it to the Question which was not reached.

Sir B. Janner

Has the attention of my right hon. Friend been drawn to the present position of the Jewish community in the U.S.S.R.? As 180 hon. Members from both sides of the House have signed Motion No. 99, and the position is very serious there now and is being considered by the United Nations Assembly, will he provide at an early day a debate on that Motion?

[That this House notes with concern the continuing difficulties confronting Jews in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to use its good offices to secure for them the basic human rights afforded to other Soviet citizens.]

Mr. Crossman

We all know of my hon. Friend's passionate interest in this subject, which I share. I shall discuss this with the Foreign Secretary. I should have thought that this is a subject to be raised in our next foreign affairs debate.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Is the Leader of the House aware that during the past two years only one day has been given for the discussion of Welsh Affairs on the Floor of the House? Could he now tell the House when a day will be given to discuss these matters?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot say. It certainly will not be next week.

Mr. Driberg

Did my right hon. Friend say that the debate on televising Parliament will take place "before the end of November"? Can he be a little more precise and, if posible, a little more urgent—since, if a certain decision were to be taken on a free vote, certain technical arrangements would have to be made before and during the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I am well aware of the urgent necessity to get this forward. However, many things have to be done about this. I said "before the end of November" for the reason that my hon. Friend has given. We have to give time to the authorities if we make the decision to take the experiment, on which, of course, a free vote will be taken.

Sir F. Bennett

In view of the continual deterioration of the situation in Gibraltar, can the Leader of the House say when we may expect a debate on this matter? I hope that he will not talk about having no debate while the present talks are going on, because Her Majesty's Government like having time limits and there should be one on this.

Mr. Crossman

The hon. Gentleman can always anticipate the rational when I say it. That is exactly what I will say to him.

Mr. Coe

The Royal Commission on Local Government which my right hon. Friend so sensibly set up as Minister of Housing and Local Government is receiving a lot of new evidence from local authorities and elsewhere. Would he consider it right that the House should have a chance to express its opinion on the reform of local government before the Commission reports?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot consider the possibility of a debate on Local Government before the Commission reports, and as it is not expected to report before the winter of 1968 there is a little time ahead of us.

Mr. Sandys

Will the right hon. Gentleman provide time to debate Motion No. 211, calling for capital punishment for the murder of police and prison officers, which is supported by over one quarter of all hon. Members, including members of all parties?

[That this House, mindful of the special dangers to which they are exposed, calls for the restoration of capital punishment for the murder of police and prison officers.]

Mr. Crossman

I had the impression that the right hon. Gentleman intended to seize an opportunity for a Ten-Minute Rule Bill to test the atmosphere of the House after the great events at Blackpool. If he does not get enough chance in 10 minutes, I suggest that the Opposition give themselves some time to reconcile the disagreement between hon. Members above and below the Gangway.

Mr. English

Now that the premises of the House are under its control, would my right hon. Friend consider instituting the custom of having at least one small debate a year on the activities of the House of Commons Services Committee?

Mr. Crossman

Certainly I will.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Will the Leader of the House reconsider what he said about the Land Commission Bill? Is he aware that this is an immensely complicated Measure? A large number of Amendments are down, and I understand that more are to come. Does he think that it will be satisfactory to deal with a Bill of this importance and complexity in the middle of the night with the aid of Closures and other very unsuitable expedients to apply to a Measure of this kind? Will he at least keep an open mind?

Mr. Crossman

The right hon. Gentleman and I have in our time discussed equally difficult Measures. Each time he has expressed the deepest alarm and despondency about the time allocated. In the first half we have gone very slowly and then, mysteriously, the Report stage has been completed in reasonable time. I have a feeling that sanity will again prevail, and that we shall go through very happily on this long, complicated and important Measure.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Will my right hon. Friend say whether the House will have the opportunity in the foreseeable future of discussing the Brambell Report?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware that my predecessor promised a debate. Consultations are still taking place and we still cannot talk about giving a definite time for it.

Mr. Fisher

The Leader of the House gave rather a frivolous reply to a serious question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). Does he not consider that a Motion signed by 170 Members of all parties deserves discussion? Even if he does not agree with the Motion, will he give time?

Mr. Crossman

I did not give a frivolous reply, but if the hon. Gentleman wants me to reply not in terms of what happened recently at Blackpool, but in terms of the House, I can see no early opportunity in Government time of reopening a question which the House decided by a large majority on a free vote recently.

Mr. Hastings

On the question of the reform of Parliament, would not the Leader of the House agree that it is the effectiveness of the House about which many hon. Members on both sides have the gravest doubts and that this is more important than televising it? Why does his priority seem to be the other way round?

Mr. Crossman

A priority of time does not mean priority of value. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the matters we shall discuss when we debate the three Reports of the Committee on Procedure are basically more important than the issue of television, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) explained, there are technical reasons why, if we want the experiment, we have to allow the authorities enough time to provide it. That is why I gave temporal priority to something which, I agree, is of secondary importance.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

Can my right hon. Friend now say when the Bill for the reform of leasehold will be published? Will he bear in mind that it is now nearly two years since he undertook to the House that those who are still in occupation of their homes when the Bill became law would have the benefit of its provisions?

Mr. Crossman

I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that the excellent progress which was being made while I was Minister of Housing and Local Government has been accelerated since I left, and that the Bill is now under way.

Mr. Lubbock

Reverting to the question asked by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), does the Leader of the House recall that in the Report of the Select Committee on Broadcasting the Proceedings of the House of Commons all three Chief Whips gave their opinion that an experiment of this kind would be favoured? Is it not therefore a fair inference that the House will come to this decision when the mater is debated? [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."] If the right hon. Gentleman agrees with this, could not the television authorities at least be allowed to make such technical arrangements as are necessary to allow the experiment to proceed after the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Crossman

The noise that the hon. Gentleman has heard showed how wise I was not even to consider the possibility of assuming that a Chief Whip of either the Conservative or Labour Parties is as totalitarian in his calculation of public opinion as the Chief Whip of the Liberal Party.

Mr. Tomney

Will my right hon. Friend consider, or reconsider, his reply to the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys)? He must be aware—if he is not, he is completely insensitive—of the tremendous feeling in the country regarding the brutal murder of three policemen, committed in my constituency.

My right hon. Friend will be tragically overtaken by events if he is not careful. He should give time for this Motion at once. People in the country want the Government and the House of Commons to be given the chance to reverse their previous lunacy.

Mr. Crossman

While I respect the feelings expressed by my hon. Friend in the first part of his question, I cannot accept his views about ourselves in the second.

Sir E. Bullus

I support the request that Government time be found for a debate on that very important Motion in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). May I also ask the Leader of the House to find time to debate a Motion standing on the Order Paper in my name critical of the Home Secretary for rejecting the recommendations of his own Commissioner in regard to the re-warding of boundaries in the Borough of Brent and accepting the Socialist majority's gerrymandering scheme?

[That this House deplores the decision of the Secretary of State for the Home Department once again to disregard the advice of his Commissioner and accept the proposals of a Labour-controlled local authority for ward boundary alterations, in this case for the London Borough of Brent; and further deplores that the Minister should announce his decision within a few days of Parliament rising for the long summer recess, and especially when it would have been more logical to await the decision in regard to the parliamentary boundary alterations for the same Borough.]

Mr. Crossman

Dealing with the second part of the question first, by some miracle I have in my mind the subject to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman alludes, and all I can tell him is that I have nothing to add to the Written Answer given on 11th August by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, which seems to me to be a satisfactory answer which the hon. and gallant Gentleman should accept.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

As unemployment in Birmingham has trebled in the last month, and the motor industry has been thrown into disorder, will the Leader of the House consider having an urgent debate on whether the severity of the squeeze on our greatest exporting industry should be relaxed?

Mr. Crossman

It is my impression that the Opposition have selected for next Monday a topic for debate somewhat akin to the one which the right hon. Gentleman mentions.

Mr. Hogg

In view of the widespread anxiety, felt on both sides of the House, about crimes of violence, can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Criminal Justice Bill is likely to come forward for debate?

Mr. Crossman

No, I cannot give a date. I can say that progress is being made. It is a very ambitious and major Measure; it is going forward and will come before the House in due course.

Mr. Pavitt

Will my right hon. Friend find time and opportunity for hon. Members to discuss the hanging of pictures in the Palace of Westminster? Is he aware that in one Minister's room there are 33 Victorian pictures and——

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman may not discuss the merits of the subject which he raises. He must merely ask for time to discuss it.

Mr. Crossman

I have already said that we shall consider the possibility of a debate on the work of the Services Committee; no doubt, the hanging of pictures falls into that category.

Mr. Peyton

The Leader of the House has dodged the question which was originally raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). The very complicated hotch-potch Land Commission Bill is having injected into it at the last minute a series of complicated Amendments. Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it would be in accordance with the demands of courtesy, if nothing else, that the House should be given adequate time to consider these before coming on to the Report stage?

Mr. Crossman

We have discussed this and considered it through the usual channels, and I am convinced that the time allotted—two whole days for the Report stage and one half-day for the Third Reading—is adequate.

Mr. Peyton

That is not the question. The question is——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Only one question per hon. Member at business question time.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the extraordinarily vague and imprecise reply which he gave just now on the question of leasehold reform to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin)? Cannot he give the House some more practical and precise information about the Government's intentions in the matter? Will he consider bringing it forward the week after next, if not next week?

Mr. Crossman

No Sir. As a novice in my present responsibility, I know that caution is wise in giving assurances. However, I can go a little further and say that the Bill will be ready in time and will be introduced in this Session. It is there, but it will not come in the next week or two.

Mr. Grant-Ferris

When does the Leader of the House expect to be able to give time to debate the Government's White Paper on Transport?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot discuss this yet.

Dr. David Kerr

In view of the widespread demand from both sides of the House for the liberalisation of some of our laws, will my right hon. Friend consider the reply given by his predecessor to a question I put on progress with the Sexual Offences Bill, introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse)?

Mr. Crossman

I am hopeful that a reply more satisfactory to my hon. Friend can be given in the relatively near future.

Mr. Longden

I am sorry to delay proceedings further, but the right hon. Gentleman has three times misconstrued a question. We are not complaining about the time allotted for the Land Commission Bill. We are complaining about the short delay between the tabling of Amendments and the Report stage. Will the right hon. Gentleman think about this again?

Mr. Crossman

I have thought about it. I think that the difficulty or differ- ence between us is that the hon. Gentleman—I appreciate this—is saying that because of the nature of the Amendments which have been tabled, the interval of time is too short, and he holds very strongly that these Amendments make such big changes in the Bill that we ought to have a longer time. This is a point of argument about the policy of the Bill and the business of the House. We on this side are convinced that that argument is not true and that reasonable time has been given.

Mr. Ogden

Will my right hon. Friend agree that 10 days' notice of future business causes difficulty and inconvenience to many hon. Members? Will he consider trying to extend the period of notice a little, or say what his intentions may be?

Mr. Crossman

I shall give consideration to that, but there are two opposite dangers here. It is nice to know three weeks ahead what business is to be discussed, but it is also good to be fairly topical in what we discuss. We have to bear in mind the advantages and disadvantages of each side there.

Mr. Mayhew

My right hon. Friend referred to decisions on capital punishment taken at Blackpool. Has his attention been drawn to decisions on defence taken at Brighton? When are we to have a debate on that subject?

Mr. Crossman

I think that my proper answer is, "In due course and at the right time".

Mr. Heath

Returning for a moment to the question of the Land Commission Bill, the Leader of the House has said that there have been consultations through the usual channels, but is he aware that the last wodge of Amendments, about 20 pages of the Notice Paper, has been put down since yesterday when the consultations took place at the normal time, and that this, therefore, gives only a very short period for consideration before the debate starts on the Bill next Wednesday? Could the Leader of the House look at this further and also give a clear undertaking that there will not be still further Amendments put down between now and the beginning of our debate?

Mr. Crossman

I was not aware of that fact. We will certainly have further negotiation and discussions through the usual channels, but we are convinced that the time is adequate and will be wisely used.

Mr. Peyton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would you say whether a Motion under Standing Order No. 9 is appropriate to draw attention to the fact that a Minister has been five times asked a question and has answered another?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman will have to ask leave to submit to me a Motion to seek the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9. I cannot tell him what my answer will be until I have it.

Mr. Driberg

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A few minutes ago you said, "One question per Member", which seems fair enough. May I ask you, with great respect, whether you are laying down an absolute and immutable Ruling which will be binding on your successors, since the question I now wish to ask is directed merely to correcting a misstatement of fact by the Leader of the House?

Mr. Speaker

This is a question of practice rather than a rule. If I may, as a precedent, quote myself a year ago, I said then that I did not want to call a second round of business questions unless I was instructed by the House otherwise. I would always accept instructions from the House and, if the House felt that it would be advantageous that the business question period should include any number of questions by an hon. Member, then I would accept the instruction of the House.

So far, the House has concurred in the practice—in my opinion, it is a good practice—to have one question per Member at business question time. Otherwise, the business question period would extend too much into the business of the House. But I am willing to accept correction from the House at any time.

Mr. C. Pannell

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I remember this question being considered over a long time, and it was the practice of Mr. Speaker Morrison to call only those Members who had risen immediately on the reply giving the business of the week. I had a conversation with him about it afterwards. We were thus usually able to get business questions over by about a quarter to four, and we never extended it. But a practice is now growing up for Members to feed on other Members' questions, and without any anticipation. There is abuse here by extravagance. I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, with the greatest possible respect, that some of us feel that you are rather too generous in the allocation of questions at this time of the week.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Speaker Morrison must have been a very clever Speaker if he was able to recognise at the conclusion of the business statement everyone who had stood at that precise moment. I see no harm in the present practice. It is possible sometimes that the answer of the Leader of the House to an hon. Member may give rise to trepidation or to a desire by other hon. Members to press the Leader of the House on the same issue. If it were to be abused, I would certainly stop that.

Mr. Michael Foot

Further to the point of order. Will you take into account, Mr. Speaker, that although taciturn fellows like my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) may think that you are too generous in allowing us to speak, the rest of us do not?

Mr. Speaker

I thank the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) for completing the double-handed compliment.

Mr. Driberg

Further to the point of order. I am sorry to take up more time. I merely wanted to save the time of the House, Mr. Speaker, by correcting a misstatement by the Leader of the House, because if it is not corrected in this simple and informal way he will, no doubt, wish to come and make a statement to the House tomorrow to correct it, thereby taking up more of the time of the House.

Mr. Speaker

Will the hon. Member say exactly what he has in mind?

Mr. Driberg

It is simply to ask my right hon. Friend whether he is not aware that the hanging of pictures in the Palace of Westminster has nothing to do with the Services Committee, but is the concern of an advisory committee of the Minister of Public Building and Works.

Mr. Crossman


Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a justification of one question per hon. Member.