HC Deb 27 April 1967 vol 745 cc1827-40
Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business 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, 1ST MAY—In the morning—

Second Reading of the Live Hare Coursing (Abolition) Bill.

In the afternoon—

Supply [18th Allotted Day]

Debate on an Opposition Motion on the F111K Aircraft Contract.

Resumed debate on the Motion on Finance Bills.

TUESDAY, 2ND MAY—Second Reading of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 3RD MAY—In the morning—

Second Reading of the Fishing Vessel Grants Bill.

Motions on the Ploughing Grants Schemes and the Fertilisers (United Kingdom) Scheme.

In the afternoon—

Supply [19th Allotted Day].

Prices and Incomes Prayers—

Until 7 p.m., Electrical Contractors in Scotland.

Thereafter, Employees of the Royal Burgh of Rothesay.

Completion of the Second Reading of the Post Office (Data Processing Service) Bill.

Motions on the National Insurance (Earnings) Regulations, the Anti-Dumping Duty Order and the West Midlands (Amendment) Order.

THURSDAY, 4TH MAY—Debate on a Motion to take note of the Fourth Report from the Estimates Committee, Session 1966–67, on the Government Statistical Services and the Ninth Special Report relating thereto.

FRIDAY, 5TH MAY—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 8TH MAY—The proposed busines will be:

In the morning—

Remaining stages of the Dangerous Drugs Bill.

In the afternoon—

Supply [20th Allotted Day].

Debate on a subject to be announced.

The House will wish to know that it is intended to propose that the House should rise for the Whitsun Adjournment on Friday, 12th May, until Wednesday, 31st May

Mr. Heath

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when he hopes to bring before the House the Motion of congratulation to be sent to the Canadian Parliament on its centenary?

Secondly, can he say what arrangements the Government have made to inform the House about the basis of their Common Market policy? Can he say when the Prime Minister's speech to the Labour Party tonight will be published in its official form, and whether questions and answers will be attached as well?

Mr. Crossman

On the first part of the question, since my answer on Thursday last I have learned that it would be more convenient if the Motion could be delayed for some days. In consequence, it is now proposed that it should come before the House on Tuesday next.

With regard to information for the House on the Common Market, the right hon. Gentleman will realise that it is a little difficult to talk about this, because the date of the announcement, or an announcement, is still not settled. Every preparation is being made, in the event of an announcement, for two stages. In the first stage, before the debate, it is hoped that all possible material will be got together at relatively short notice. After the debate it will be possible to have a much more massive documentation, which is now under preparation.

As for the Prime Minister's speech, I take note of what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I would like to have a word with the Prime Minister before I answer that question.

Mr. Rankin

My right hon. Friend told us that there would be a debate on Monday on the F111K aircraft. Will copies of the original contract be available for hon. Members, along with any variations of that contract?

Mr. Crossman

I will bear my hon. Friend's request in mind and put it to the Secretary of State for Defence.

Sir A. V. Harvey

The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government would consider publishing the Prime Minister's speech on the Common Market, which would be available, of course, to the House and the public. In view of the tremendous interest in this matter throughout the country, surely the country is entitled to hear the other side of the story from the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and others who will be called.

Mr. Crossman

It would be difficult for me to anticipate what is likely to happen at a meeting which has not yet occurred.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

When will the Government give us time for a debate on any of the foreign affairs questions which urgently need our attention?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot talk with complete confidence about the last days before the Recess, for obvious reasons, but it is unlikely that there will be a general foreign affairs debate before the Recess. The two major controversial subjects have recently been discussed in other debates.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Reverting to the question of the information to be made available before the debate on the Common Market, surely it is very unsatisfactory and of doubtful constitutional propriety that the only material which the Government can put before Parliament should be statements made at private meet- ings of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Would the right hon. Gentleman not think it proper to produce proper material on which the House can make an informed assessment of these problems before the debate?

Mr. Crossman

Apparently, I did not make the Government's position clear to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I was asked a special question about the Prime Minister's speech upstairs, which he had already assured the House would be available to hon. Members. I was also asked about a possible White Paper, on which I said that there would be two stages—one which would take place before the debate, and the more massive stage after the debate. Every effort will be made before the debate to provide information on all the topics relevant to the decision, whatever it may be. On the last occasion when a decision on this kind of subject was taken, there was no such White Paper, so we are trying to do a very difficult job.

Mr. Heath

I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, but could he clarify the position a little further? Is he saying that the White Paper will be published before the Prime Minister makes his announcement or that the Prime Minister will announce his intention to negotiate, then the White Paper will be published and then the debate will take place?

Mr. Crossman

All I had better say is that the White Paper will be announced in time to be useful to hon. Members in the debate.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend, in the coming week, find time for my Motion No. 510, on the withdrawal of railway vouchers to seamen coming home who wish to visit their families, which is a very serious matter?

[That this House is of opinion that for social, family, economic and other reasons the withdrawal by British Railways of the cheap fare railway vouchers hitherto available to seamen and their families is wrong as it frustrates family re-unions, deprives British Railways of fares, diminishes British Railways incomes and now calls upon Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Transport, by legislation or otherwise, to restore to British seamen and their families the relevant facilities which they have hitherto enjoyed.]

Mr. Crossman

We all recognise the importance of this question. I am glad to say that two Questions have recently been answered on this by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport. This subject could perhaps be dealt with directly between by hon. and learned Friend and her.

Sir T. Beamish

Why is not a free debate being allowed this evening on the Government side on Clause 10 of the Criminal Justice Bill, in the light of all the appeals? What possible justification is there for the Government's attitude?

Mr. Crossman

As I often have to remind hon. Gentlemen, this is a matter for the Patronage Secretary, but I should not be surprised if certain differences of practice occur this afternoon.

Mr. Francis Noel-Baker

In view of the very welcome announcement of the President of the Board of Trade yesterday that the Government are at last getting down to the question of the advertising industry and the effect on the public and consumers, will my right hon. Friend say when we can have a debate on the whole issue?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly consider that. It is an interesting subject. We will bear it in mind, but I can give a categoric assurance that a debate will not take place next week.

Dame Irene Ward

In the event of a debate on the Common Market, will the right hon. Gentleman consult the Prime Minister so that we may have information on the next occasion that he answers business questions, to ensure that, when and if a debate takes place, we can have a free vote on a matter which is of vital importance to the country?

Mr. Crossman

This is very much a matter for the Patronage Secretary and his opposite number and is a highly hypothetical question.

Dame Irene Ward

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman himself act?

Mr. Grieve

Would the right hon. Gentleman find time for an early debate on Motion No. 519, in the names of a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, which notes … the grave disruption of the lives of the workers at the Royal Mint which would result from its removal from London … and says that the appropriate place for this great national institution is the capital … and deplores the decison of the Government to remove it …".

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman should give a short summary of the contents of the Motion, rather than read it.

Mr. Crossman

If I understand the purport of the question, I have nothing to add to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on Tuesday.

Mr. Burden

Would the right hon. Gentleman turn his attention to Motion No. 39, of 2nd December, 1965:

"That this House takes note of the Report of the Brambell Committee, congratulates them on the thoroughness of their investigation into the welfare of animals kept under intensive livestock husbandry systems, and urges Her Majesty's Government to arrange for an early debate on their recommendations."?

It is signed by 79 hon. Members and asks for a debate on the Brambell Committee's Report which his predecessor said would shortly take place. A long time has gone by. Would he please give some hope of an early debate?

Mr. Crossman

Having reached Motion No. 519, I am ill-briefed for a reply to that question.

Mr. Maxwell

If circumstances arise which make it impossible for the Cabinet to come to the House with an announcement about the Common Market before the Whitsun Recess, has my right hon. Friend made arrangements to recall Parliament, so that a statement may be made to the House?

Mr. Crossman

I can give the House an assurance that our Recess will be, in that respect, undisturbed.

Mr. Peyton

Would the right hon. Gentleman arrange an early debate on Anglo-American relations? The Prime Minister was so strangely touchy on the subject of the special relationship the other day that a debate is clearly necessary.

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's sensitivity to all these questions. I. will put the point to the Prime Minister to see whether he shares the hon. Gentleman's anxiety for such a debate.

Mr. Brian Harrison

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has given time for a Bill on live hare coursing, would he assure us that he will give equal consideration to one about children, such as that introduced by the hon Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) last Monday?

Mr. Crossman

I take the hon. Gentleman's question in all seriousness, because which of these Bills is given favour is an important issue. I will bear his question in mind and give him a considered reply to it.

Mrs. Anne Kerr

In view of the tremendous historic importance of the decision of the House on whether or not to join the European Economic Community, would my right hon. Friend reconsider his assessment of the necessity to give only two days to the subject and, instead, give a full week, so that the points of view of all sides may be very fully put and debated?

Mr. Crossman

It may be that I am too hardened a Member of the House, but I have a suspicion that those who have been here as long as I have would view the prospect of a full week's debate with something approaching horror. I have made no statement about the length of the debate, and I would not like to until and unless a firm decision is taken on the subject.

Sir C. Osborne

Why are we being given such a long Whitsun Holiday, when the most important—

An Hon. Member

Come off it.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House must listen to unpopular opinions.

Sir C. Osborne

—when the most momentous decision facing the country for centuries is before us? When questions on the Common Market will need to be asked in all seriousness from both sides, why is the right hon. Gentleman sending us away? To gag us?

Mr. Crossman

I should not have thought that last suggestion worthy of the hon. Gentleman. We had better wait and see what kind of pronouncement is made before making up our minds on this issue.

As for the length of the Recess, the hon. Gentleman is right. It is just slightly longer than the average time for the Whitsun Recess—one day longer. This is for the convenience of hon. Members, because I thought that travelling on a Bank Holiday would be inconvenient, so we will start again on Wednesday rather than on Tuesday. If the hon. Gentleman begrudges us that, let him say so on the Adjournment Motion.

Mr. Tapsell

As it involves no party political point, will the right hon. Gentleman please consider further his reply to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) about the future of the Royal Mint? Would he consider whether, before any irrevocable decision is taken, we may have a debate, particularly bearing in mind that all the points which the Chancellor gave as having led to this decision can be produced in the opposite sense?

Mr. Crossman

I will communicate to the Chancellor what the hon. Gentleman says, but I must make it clear that the Chancellor announced a decision.

Mr. Raymond Fletcher

Could my right hon. Friend now give a public reply to my private request for an urgent and early debate on the Suez affair of 1956, in the light of the very damaging revelations which have appeared in book form today and will start running through The Times from Saturday morning onwards, and as these allegations concern the personal conduct and honour of right hon. Members of the House?

Mr. Crossman

As for the privacy of my hon. Friend's communication I was, of course, glad to read it in The Times before it reached me.

On the serious question, those of us who no longer have the anticipation which goes with being book-reviewers had better have a chance of reading the book to see whether what appears in it is worthy of debate or not.

Sir J. Eden

Would the right hon. Gentleman look again at the series of answers which he has given on the question of supplying the House with information about the Common Market? Since the Government have been perfectly ready to table what they call a Green Paper on a lunatic suggestion to make regional employment premiums—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have debate. The hon. Gentleman must ask a question.

Sir J. Eden

Cannot the Government, on this important issue, summarise some of the major points so as to make the information available early to hon. Members?

Mr. Crossman

I do not want in any way to mislead the House by underrating what we are trying to bring out in time for a debate which may or may not occur. Everything possible will be done to summarise the major points in the way the hon. Gentleman suggests if the debate takes place. I added that the massive documentation which I think the nation deserves must be postponed to somewhat later, but a considerable job is now being done to help the hon. Gentleman in the way he wants.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Does my right hon. Friend recollect his past assurance about the House debating the Report of the Ministry of Overseas Development? When will we be given time for a discussion of this very important subject of overseas aid?

Mr. Crossman

I agree with what my hon. Friend says. I will bear it in mind, but we shall not see a debate this side of the Whitsun Recess.

Mr. Hastings

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the apprehensions expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) about the deterioration of Anglo-American relations are widely felt on this side of the House, that many of us hold that it is the attitude of his hon. Friends to the American effort in Vietnam which is—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman may ask for time for debate; he cannot argue now.

Mr. Hastings

Would the right hon. Gentleman afford time at an early date for a debate on this important aspect of foreign affairs?

Mr. Crossman

I hesitate to say something so obvious to the hon. Gentleman, but this kind of subject would be natural for a Supply day.

Mr. Webster

In view of the exceptional facilities which the Government are giving the Live Hare Coursing (Abolition) Bill, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that no Private Member's Bill dealing with the relief of hardship to animals will suffer as a result?

Mr. Crossman

I would not dream of giving an assurance that anything will suffer or not suffer as a result of the debate on the Live Hare Coursing Bill on Monday morning, but I will assure the hon. Gentleman that I will take each Bill on its merits. That is the only way in which we can look at the vast number of Private Members' Bills and judge which of them we try to help through to fulfilment and which we do not.

Mr. Bob Brown

Animal lovers throughout the country will applaud the Government's decision to provide time for the Live Hare Coursing (Abolition) Bill, but will not my right hon. Friend reconsider the cruel reply which he gave in respect of the Brambell Report?

Mr. Crossman

I did not think that my reply was cruel. I was asked a question about Motion No. 39. I think that that Motion was tabled before I became Leader of the House. I said that I was not prepared to answer at the moment.

As for the Brambell Report and its future, I think, if my memory is not wrong, that we ought now to expect legislation on this subject and that we are expecting a debate to take place on the legislation; but if that is considered unsatisfactory, I shall be perfectly glad to reconsider the matter.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

In view of the extraordinary importance of the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon to the Parliamentary Labour Party, would not it be a useful reform to allow the Press and Conservative hon. Members to be present?

Mr. Crossman

I am always willing to consider all forms of Parliamentary reform before rejecting some of them.

Mr. Rasmden

Is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to tell the House why he is making it the practice to put down controversial business for discussion at morning sittings, contrary to the undertaking which he gave on 14th December last?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that I have anything to add to what I said last week on this subject. It is for the Leader of the House to carefully weigh what business he puts down. I have looked at this matter closely since I was questioned about it.

I should have thought that, for example, the Sheffield Order, which I put down for morning business, was highly controversial in one sense—it aroused deep feelings among the people living in Derbyshire and Sheffield—but not controversial, by my definition, from the point of view of party controversy.

Equally, I should have thought that the Order dissolving the Ministry of Aviation was cortroversial in one sense, but did not involve direct party controversy. I could give a number of important examples of subjects which have been discussed in the morning and which are controversial in a way which does not violate certainly the intention of the statement which I made—which, by the way, was complemented by a further statement in which I said that, broadly speaking, we would take in the mornings the kind of business that we had been taking after 10 o'clock at night. That business is, mostly, as I have described—controversial, but not major issues of party controversy.

Sir R. Russell

Reverting to the question of the Brambell Report, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many hon. Members would like to debate this subject before legislation is introduced?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly bear that in mind and will consider it.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Concerning business conducted at morning sittings, will the right hon. Gentleman now answer a question which, last week, he specifically invited me to ask him, namely, on what principle are the Government working in giving time for a Bill to which the House had not yet given approval in principle?

Mr. Crossman

I do not quite follow the purpose of the hon. Gentleman's question. Is he referring to the Live Hare Coursing (Abolition) Bill?

Mr. van Straubenzee indicated assent.

Mr. Crossman

I think I am right in saying that the Bill was put forward under the Ten Minute Rule and was not opposed, and that it was the subject of an early-day Motion, which a large number of hon. Members supported and which no hon. Members opposed. I do not quite understand, therefore, the meaning of the hon. Gentleman's question.

Mr. Evelyn King

In the light of the continued presence of the Minister without Portfolio in Aden and of the recommendations which, presumably, he is about to make, coupled with the fact that murders are still taking place there at the rate of one per day, may we be assured that a statement on Aden will be made—and, if possible, a debate held —before we rise for the Whitsun Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I would like to consult my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary about that. I think I am right in saying that my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio should be back in this country relatively soon.

Sir Knox Cunningham

In regard to the proposed debate on the Common Market, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the information which will be given to hon. Members and the public will be that contained in a private speech made by the Prime Minister in a Committee room upstairs? If so, is he aware that this is a method which has been described by the Committee of Privileges as "a gross breach of confidence"?

Mr. Crossman

I seem to recall that the hon. and learned Gentleman made the same point last week to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The information which we are giving is the factual information about such subject as agriculture and the mobility of labour—the main topics on which decisions must be taken. That is the information being collected. In addition to that information, the Prime Minister said that, because Members were so interested in these two particular speeches of his and of the Foreign Secretary, they would be made available to the House. But the hon. Gentleman should not confuse that with the information that is being given in the White Paper.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that we have important business to do.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Would the Leader of the House bear in mind that if the decision the Prime Minister announces is to apply for membership of the Common Market, then a debate which lasts for only two days would be entirely inadequate and inappropriate, remembering that we think it appropriate to allow four days to debate the Budget and since our decision in this matter will affect our future for a very long time?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly bear in mind the views that have been expressed by hon. Members on this subject. This is a hypothetical question. We will have to consider this when we know what sort of statement is being made.

Sir C. Osborne

The Government have made up your mind, have they not?

Mr. Channon

Having announced the date for the Whitsun Recess, would the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not it will remain the Government's hope in future always to beam the Recesses in this way—backwards from the new Whit-sun holiday?

Mr. Crossman

This is a point which should be discussed through the usual channels. It is entirely a matter for the convenience of hon. Members. I am aware of the conflicting interests that exist, particularly in relation to school holidays. I should be able to give a considered view about this after there has been more consultation between the two sides of the House.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the Secretary of State for Scotland held out to us the expectation that there would be a debate this month on the First Annual Report of the Highlands and Islands Development Board? As we do not appear to be having that debate—we have not even had the Report yet—will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend to make a statement on the reasons for the delay?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, Sir. I will certainly convey that message to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

As next week will be a busy one for the House, would the right hon. Gentleman consider saving a whole day on Wednesday by trying to persuade his right hon. Friends to withdraw the two Instruments which deprive electricians and local government officers of equal and fair wages in Scotland?

Mr. Crossman

The hon. Gentleman must remember that the decision to table these two Prayers was made by the Opposition. As they have chosen this subject for a Supply day, it is hardly likely that the Leader of the House would intervene in their decision.