HC Deb 06 April 1967 vol 744 cc456-65
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, 10TH APRIL—In the morning—

Remaining stages of the Commonwealth Settlement Bill and of the Merchant Shipping (Load Lines) Bill.

In the afternoon—

Debate on a Motion to approve the White Paper on the "Torrey Canyon" (Command No. 3246).

TUESDAY, 11TH APRIL—As already announced, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget on Tuesday, 11th April.

The general debate on the Budget Resolutions and the Economic Situation will be continued on Wednesday, 12th April, and Thursday, 13th April, and brought to a conclusion on Monday, 17th April.

FRIDAY, 14TH APRIL—Private Members' Bills.

As to the mornings—

On WEDNESDAY, 12TH APRIL, the business will be:

The Valuation (Water Undertakings) (Scotland) (No. 1) Order and the Industrial Development (Eligible Assets) Order.

Remaining stages of the Uniform Laws on International Sales Bill.


Second Reading of the Royal Assent Bill [Lords].

The Import Duties (General) (No. 3) Order.

Mr. Heath

The Leader of the House will be aware that there is very serious continuing anxiety about the situation in Aden. Could he therefore give an undertaking that the Foreign Secretary will keep the House informed? Will he also give an assurance that as soon as possible after the Budget debates have finished we can have a full day's debate on the situation in Aden in accordance with the undertaking given by the Foreign Secretary in discussions on the Consolidated Fund Bill?

Mr. Crossman

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right; my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave an explicit undertaking for a debate, which I repeat here. The right hon. Gentleman will be kept informed and a debate will take place.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Can my right hon. Friend say what part the House will be playing in the great debate about Britain and the E.E.C. in the foreseeable future?

Mr. Crossman

The House seems to debate this subject at Question Time with the Prime Minister almost twice a week. We shall have to look forward and decide what we can do. I can assure my hon. Friend that, of course, there will be a full debate on this great issue.

Mr. Hogg

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Criminal Justice Bill has finished its Committee stage. The Government have promised a number of Amendments. Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to convey to his right hon. Friend the urgent necessity of getting those Amendments down early, in order to enable us to frame our own Amendments to the Bill?

Mr. Crossman

I am very much aware of this problem, and I will give the message to my right hon. Friend. We shall try to take very good care that adequate time is given for hon. Members to see the Amendments before the debates take place.

Mr. Hooley

When will the House have an opportunity to discuss the latest Reports of the Select Committee on Procedure?

Mr. Crossman

I am hoping that we can have a day's debate during the next few weeks.

Mr. Lubbock

Will the right hon. Gentleman find time for a debate on the recent Report by the Services Committee of the House of Commons, which revealed very serious mismanagement of the catering services? Has the right hon. Gentleman had an opportunity of considering the possibility, which I suggested, that the Treasury's Report should be placed in the Library of the House?

Mr. Crossman

The question of a debate is a matter to be discussed through the usual channels. I am not completely convinced at present that the House feel's that we should give time to this subject, but I shall certainly consider that further.

On the second matter, I apologise to the hon. Member. I will give him an answer if he comes to me afterwards.

Mr. Rhodes

Is my right hon. Friend aware of Motion No. 478, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and the names of 86 of my hon. Friends?

[That this House regrets the convention which prevents hon. Members from questioning the Home Secretary on the activities of so-called Republican Clubs alleged to be carrying on illegal activities by the Northern Ireland Home Secretary; calls upon the Northern Ireland Home Secretary to produce evidence justifying the banning of these organisations and asks him to take legal action against those individuals alleged to have committed offences or alternatively to revoke his decision; further expresses its concern at the growing arbitrariness of Government action in Northern Ireland; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take immediate action to ensure democratic government in the six counties.]

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his promise of a possible debate on Northern Ireland is inadequate, because normally it would be a debate on the Adjournment, which would not take in these factors? In view of the alarming situation in Northern Ireland, will he arrange for a debate on the Motion?

Mr. Crossman

I shall certainly consider the possibility, but I repeat that we have a day's debate on Northern Ireland and I am not convinced by what my hon. Friend says that all that he wants to say would be out of order on that occasion.

Sir H. Harrison

On Monday's debate, the Leader of the House will be aware that that is a day when we have a morning sitting and back-benchers lose half an hour's time. In view of the fact that many hon. Members have a constituency concern in this matter, will he recall the debate on the great flood on the East Coast in 1953, which was rather a similar debate, and consider the case for extending the time for debate by one hour?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of the widespread constituency interest in this matter, as well as the general principles involved. I shall consider the question through the usual channels, but my own first impression is that a full day will be adequate for this subject.

Mr. Whitaker

Has my right hon. Friend seen Motion 471?

[That this House congratulates the Leader of the House on the firmness and courtesy he invariably displays in the face of petulant provocation by Members of the Opposition; and fully supports his courageous attempts to overcome the difficulties of modernising the outdated procedures of Parliament.]

Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of having a debate in the near future on the problems of world hunger, which are more important than many matters which we discuss in this House?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, I have had time to see the Motion and I welcome the support given to it by my hon. Friends. I am prepared to consider the second subject, but I do not think that it can be in the near future.

Dame Irene Ward

Will the right hon. Gentleman suggest some action to be taken by the Government to deal with the British Theatre Museum? Will he consider some action on some of the Motions on the Order Paper so that we can reduce them and save a bit of paper?

[That this House deplores the imminent closure of the British Theatre Museum; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to initiate urgent discussions with the Arts Council in order to avert a loss to historians, students and the general public]

Mr. Crossman

I have, of course, studied the Motion about the Theatre Museum. This is something which the Government take quite seriously, but I do not see any chance of removing the hon. Lady's demand for action by immediate action within a matter of weeks.

Mr. Michael Foot

Referring to Monday's debate, would my right hon. Friend undertake to place in the Library a copy of the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition on this subject a few days ago, just in case the right hon. Gentleman is not able to participate in the debate and the same point is not pressed on Monday?

Mr. Crossman

I would not myself have thought that it was necessary to place a copy of that historic speech in the Library for us all to know what was said in it.

Mr. R. Carr

Would the Leader of the House ask the Minister of Technology, or, even more appropriately, the President of the Board of Trade to make a statement next week about the Concord, so as to clear up the uncertainty caused by the widespread reports yesterday of statements alleged to have been made by the Chairman of B.O.A.C.?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly pass this request on to my right hon. Friends.

Mr. John Fraser

Will my right hon. Friend very seriously consider having the Finance Bill sent to a Standing Committee?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly consider this suggestion, but I think that my hon. Friend will find, when we come to the debate on procedure, that there is a Report by the Select Committee on Procedure with a unanimous proposal by the Committee which is more likely, I think, to receive the acclaim of the House.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that, if the House accepts the proposals made by the Select Committee on Procedure on financial processes, these will be operative this Session? Will he give a further undertaking that the debate on procedure will be rather wider than the two recent Reports of the Select Committee on Procedure implied?

Mr. Crossman

We had better wait for the debate before we decide what the House is going to do about it. I think that the debate should be wider; though it certainly has to cover the three Reports which are now outstanding, I think that the debate ought to range wider than that. We might well consider, on the present experience, how we are doing in the matter of morning sittings, for example.

Mr. John Lee

Quite apart from the Bristol Siddeley affair, my right hon. Friend will be aware that there is widespread uneasiness on this side of the House about Government contract procedure. Can we have a debate on this subject on a very wide Motion some time in the near future?

Mr. Crossman

It is an important subject. It might well be debated, but I cannot hold out any prospect of having the debate in the near future.

Mr. David Howell

Does the Leader of the House recognise that the "Green Paper" put out by the Department of Economic Affairs is a rather new approach to public policy taking? Is he satisfied with the arrangements for the House to take part in this debate? Does not this reinforce the case for an all-party Committee on economic affairs so that we can discuss the very complex economic judgments contained in a document of this kind?

Mr. Crossman

We had better wait. We shall have the debates following the Budget. I have no doubt that in the course of those debates the "Green Paper" will be discussed. When we have seen how far that general discussion goes, it would be relevant to consider what is the next stage of detailed discussion which should take place on this extremely important proposal.

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the reply he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose)? I feel sure that many of us were shocked by my right hon. Friend's statement that we shall not be inhibited in the ordinary debate on Northern Ireland.

Mr. Crossman

I said that we have a day's debate on Northern Ireland. I will consider the possibility of having a debate on the Motion, on which I know that a great number of hon. Members feel strongly, but I can give no assurance that such a debate would take place in the near future.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

When is the second instalment of the Government's statement on prices and incomes policy to come? Is it to be a separate statement, or is it to be wrapped up in some way in the general Budget debate?

Mr. Crossman

I can give the hon. and learned Gentleman the explicit assurance that it will be after the Budget debate.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Quite apart from the debate on the Budget next week, will the Leader of the House find a morning to discuss the urgent problem concerning seaside resorts as a result of the pollution of the beaches, hotel booking cancellations, and other damage caused by the disaster off Cornwall?

Mr. Crossman

I recognise that this is an important subject. We had better wait and see how Monday's debate goes. My hon. and learned Friend might be interested in the terms of the Motion which the Government table on that occasion.

Mr. Pavitt

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the Motion standing in the names of some of my hon. Friends and myself on the question of democracy in Sierra Leone?

[That this House, being interested and concerned with the economic and social welfare of Sierra Leone as a valuable member of the Commonwealth, expresses the hope that Siaku Stevens and other trade union leaders may soon be released to play a full part in the progress towards the restoration of a democratically elected Government.]

If it is impossible to arrange a debate in the near future, would it be possible to have a wider debate on the Commonwealth and possibly on the Commonwealth Secretariat?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly consider that as one possibility.

Mr. Nott

Is the Leader of the House aware that N.E.D.C. and the regional councils will be able to examine the "Green Paper" on the S.E.T. in great detail, whereas it appears that the House will be able to do so only in the Budget debate? Would he think again and consider giving us a full opportunity to discuss this extremely important matter?

Mr. Crossman

I am afraid that I did not make myself clear. I thought that I had said in reply to the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. David Howell) that we had better wait until we had had the Budget debate and then consider what further means we should use of discussing this in detail in the House. We should be very careful before deciding how we are to do this.

Mr. Orme

In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), my right hon. Friend said that in the normal debate on Northern Ireland we would not be inhibited from discussing general Northern Ireland issues. How has my right hon. Friend arrived at this decision?

Mr. Crossman

When my hon. Friend reads HANSARD he will find that I did not say that. I said that I did not think that the general debate would exclude all the things my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) wished to say.

Mr. Ogden

Why does my right hon. Friend think it necessary to spend four days debating the Budget proposals, at the end of which time we shall all have said our little piece but very little will have been changed? Will my right hon. Friend make it clear to his colleagues in the Government that some of us like not only to talk about things, but to arrive at decisions? Why spend four days debating proposals?

Mr. Crossman

I am an ardent Parliamentary reformer, but still a traditionalist about the Budget debate. I think that usually the House finds the days well filled. They are a great opportunity for a general discussion on economic affairs, as well as on the Budget. I should have thought that it would be a mistake to change this tradition of the House.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Has the Leader of the House noticed Motion No. 488, "Paymaster General and the Prime Minister"?

[That this House, noting that the Paymaster General seldom answers questions in the House of Commons except to say, 'No, Sir', deplores his action in supporting the Prime Minister through the medium of an open letter to his constituents in which he attacks the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South West, who was quite properly concerned to show that the cats which the Prime Minister leaves around are as troublesome to the nation as the Prime Minister's dogs are, apparently, troublesome to him.]

Since the Paymaster-General is obviously frustrated, and has no chance to speak in the House but has to issue statements to his constituency in support of the Prime Minister, could the Leader of the House offer an early debate on this Motion, which would give us a chance to hear the Paymaster-General at the Dispatch Box for a change?

Mr. Crossman

I have, naturally, studied this Motion. Indeed, I have actually discussed it with my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General. The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to know that the Paymaster-General regards it as one of the most important Motions which has appeared for some time. Greatly venturing, I should like to suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he might encourage the Leader of the Opposition to settle his differences with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) by allotting a whole Supply Day to this.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

How will the arrival of the Budget papers be heralded in the House this year? Will it be by discreet action by the Patronage Secretary, or by the waving of a white handkerchief from the Box behind Mr. Speaker's Chair?

Mr. Crossman

In order not to remove all drama from our proceedings, it is better to wait and see how it will happen this year.

Mr. Lomas

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Motion No. 460 standing in the names of myself and 54 other hon. Members?

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce in this session permissive legislation allowing the use of reflective number plates as an aid to road safety.]

In view of the coming holiday season, when tragedies once more will occur on the roads, will my right hon. Friend consider having an early debate on this matter and on the whole question of road safety?

Mr. Crossman

I understand the importance of this matter. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport is studying this question. I cannot promise Government legislation this Session, but there are other methods open to private Members.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker