HC Deb 07 December 1967 vol 755 cc1668-78
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, 11TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the National Loans Bill.

Motions on the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Incomes) (Netherlands) Order and on the Broadcasting of our Proceedings.

TUESDAY, 12TH DECEMBER—Second Reading the Education Bill, which it is hoped to obtain by about seven p.m.

Motions on Sessional and Standing Orders relating to Public Business, or, if I may simplify it, procedure.

WEDNESDAY, 13TH DECEMBER—Supply [5th Allotted Day].

Debate on the Economic Problems in the North-West, which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

Opposition Motion on the Prices and Incomes (Continuous Review) (No. 1) Order.

THURSDAY, 14TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Mauritius Independence Bill.

Remaining Stages of the Teachers Superannuation (Scotland) Bill.

Motions on the Rate Support Grant (Increase) Order, the Summer Time (No. 2) Order, the Civil Defence Regulations, and on the Raw Cotton Commission Order.

FRIDAY, 15TH DECEMBER—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 18TH DECEMBER—The proposed Business will be:

Private Members' Motions until 7 p.m.

Afterwards, remaining stages of the Administration of Justice Bill, of the Trustee Savings Banks Bill and of the London Cab Bill.

May I say that subject to progress of business we shall propose that the House should rise for the Christmas Adjournment on Thursday, 21st December, until Monday, 22nd January, 1968.

Mr. Heath

Can the Leader of the House promise a debate before Christmas on the Government's White Paper on Fuel Policy? Also, can he say when the Industrial Expansion Bill, which was promised by the Prime Minister last Tuesday, will be presented to the House?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that it is likely that we shall be debating fuel and power before Christmas, but I promise that the matter will be considered after Christmas.

The Industrial Expansion Bill is not in next week's business, but, as the Prime Minister made clear, it will come after the Recess.

Mr. Winnick

Can the Leader of the House say whether it is still intended to have a debate on foreign affairs before the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I am not quite sure about the business for the last week before we rise, but I am hoping that part of the time will be devoted to foreign affairs.

Sir C. Osborne

Since exports are the most important problem facing the nation, without a solution to which nothing else can go forward, will the Leader of the House try to find time, immediately after Christmas, to discuss the problem of getting the extra £500 million exports which the Prime Minister has promised?

Mr. Crossman

I will consider it, but I think that if the Bill to which the Leader of the Opposition referred is down for debate, the Second Reading would give a good opportunity.

Mr. Roebuck

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this morning, in company with some of my hon. Friends representing London constituencies, I tabled a Motion deploring the proposal of the Greater London Council to increase rents excessively, and calling on Her Majesty's Government to take immediate action? In view of the fact that the proposals of the Council constitute an act of sabotage against the Government's economic policy——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman can ask for time, but he cannot argue.

Mr. Roebuck

Will my right hon. Friend rearrange the business for next week so that this important matter, which affects the livelihood and living conditions of many thousands of people in the Greater London area, can be debated?

Mr. Crossman

I have not seen the text of the Motion. This is a matter of great interest. I think that my hon. Friend should seek every opportunity to raise it here, but I cannot give him any guarantee that the increases, if they are as suggested in the evening papers, will not be referred to the Prices and Incomes Board.

Mr. Peyton

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made next week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the speech yesterday by the Chairman of the Prices and Incomes Board? Perhaps the Chancellor would also say who speaks on behalf of the Government concerning the future of sterling. Some of us think that too many cooks spoil the broth.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should ask for time at Business time.

Mr. Peyton

I was asking for a statement to be made, Sir.

Mr. Crossman

If I understand the hon. Gentleman, he is asking me to communicate to the Chancellor his desire for further elucidation of the remarks on devaluation made by the Chairman of the Prices and Incomes Board. I will pass the message on to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Orme

Will my right hon. Friend note that it is not just the Leader of the Opposition who is interested in the Industrial Expansion Bill? Many hon. Members on this side want to see it very soon. Will he be more explicit about when we will see the Bill that we have been promised?

Mr. Crossman

I am supposed to be dealing with next week's business. I promised the Leader of the Opposition that in the new year he would be able to see the Bill to which he is looking forward so much.

Mr. Clegg

Could the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the fishing industry before the Recess?

Mr. Crossman

No, I really do not think I could.

Mr. J. T. Price

On the business set down for next Wednesday, the deferred debate on the economic problems in the North-West, will the Leader of the House confer with his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to ensure that, when that debate takes place, his right hon. Friend is suitably briefed with information for those north-western Members, including myself, about the Government's proposals for what are termed the grey areas—which, incidentally, include large parts of my own constituency—which have very special economic problems which up to now have not received the attention that they require?

Mr. Crossman

In view of the ominous nature of that question, I will warn my right hon. Friend of the atmosphere in which he is likely to be making his remarks.

Mr. James Davidson

Has the Leader of the House yet had an opportunity of asking his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland when time will be allotted for a debate on the Halliday Report, particularly relating to the injustices of the feudal system in Scotland?

Mr. Crossman

I realise the importance of this, and for the Scots to come into line with the English and abolish feudalism. This important subject should get high priority. I will consider the possibilities.

Mr. Steele

Has my right hon. Friend noticed a Motion for the introduction today of a Bill dealing with transport. If so, can he say whether we are likely to have the Second Reading debate before the Recess? If so, may we have two days for it?

Mr. Crossman

I think that my hon. Friend had better await my Business statement next week. We shall definitely be having the Second Reading before the Christmas Recess.

Earl of Dalkeith

With regard to the Summer Time Order, now that the Government have made such an awful mess of every aspect of national life, could not they leave the time alone?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that this Order has quite the drastic implications of the Bill which we shall be introducing later.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that wide-ranging foreign affairs debates are really unsatisfactory, and that the debate which he has promised ought to be limited to Vietnam, or at least to South-East Asia?

Mr. Crossman

I shall certainly bear that in mind. It is my impression that there are two major interests, one the Middle East, and the other Vietnam. I shall certainly consider the possibility of having them dealt with separately, and not as a conglomeration.

Sir A. V. Harvey

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that last Thursday I asked for a statement about the possible strike by B.O.A.C. pilots which is to take place tomorrow. Surely he recognises that Parliament and the people ought to know what the Government are thinking and doing about it?

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate this, and I shall pass the hon. Gentleman's message to my hon. Friend, but it is not always necessarily true that statements reduce the risk of strikes.

Mr. Hazell

Can my right hon. Friend say when time will be found to debate the Specialist Committee's Report on Agriculture, and the subsequent replies from the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food?

Mr. Crossman

I am glad that my hon. Friend has had time to see the replies to this Committee. I shall consider time for this, because I think that each of the Reports of Specialist Committees should have time if we can possibly find it.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Further to the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) about the debate on fuel policy, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that when he appeared before the Select Committee on Science and Technology the Minister of Technology said that he was anxious to make a statement as soon as possible about the future of the nuclear reactor industry? Are we to have that statement before Christmas? If we are, whenever we have it, may we have an assurance that we shall be able to debate the Report of the Select Committee?

Mr. Crossman

I think I expressed the view last week that this is an important Report, but there was some criticism of my suggestion that we should debate the Report and the White Paper on Fuel Policy simultaneously. Now I have a further request for a further statement by the Minister. I shall tell the Minister about the statement, and consider again how best we report the two important documents.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Can my right hon. Friend say when we are likely to have a debate on Rhodesia, in view of the Commonwealth Secretary's visit there, so that we may lay before the Government our ideas about what the next step should be?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that there is any likelihood, as far as I see it now, of the Government providing time for a debate before the Christmas Recess.

Mr. Ridley

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the reason we are not having the Industrial Expansion Bill before Christmas is because it has not been approved by Mr. Schweitzer?

Mr. Crossman

I would not have thought that that was the conclusion one should draw from the decision to postpone it. I think it more likely that the White Paper and the Bill have been reviewed in the light of devaluation.

Dr. Gray

As my right hon. Friend has found time to discuss Welsh and Scottish affairs, and now the affairs of the North-West, will he try to find time in the near future to discuss the problems of East Anglia?

Mr. Crossman

All regions of England are longing to get equal rights with Scotland and Wales.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Will the right hon. Gentleman make time next week for Motion No. 14, on the important subject of the Munich air disaster?

[That this House regrets the publication by the Board of Trade of the report of the second German inquiry into the Munich air disaster and the memorandum by the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, relating thereto, in such a form as to leave unchallenged the errors of fact and the unsubstantiated assumptions contained in the former, and to cast doubt upon the expertise of the latter; and calls upon the Minister, in the interests of aircraft accident inquiry procedure, and in fairness to Captain Thain, to publish the report of his accredited representative at the second German inquiry, as a preliminary to a full, impartial and final examination of of all the evidence now available.]

I ask that in view of the interesting public comments by the Prime Minister last Saturday that he always had much sympathy with the predicament of the pilot of the plane. Now that I have secured all-party support for this Motion, will the right hon. Gentleman find time for it to be discussed?

Mr. Crossman

This is the first time that I have heard any suggestion that we should find Government time for this Motion. I am prepared to consider it, but I would have thought that the hon. Member would find it easier to get a debate in time of his own making. There are possibilities for private Members to do this.

Mr. Moonman

In view of the increasing alarm about the newspaper industry, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that there are more than 100 names to Motion No. 2?

[That, in view of the continuing reduction in the number of national newspapers in Great Britain, and in the light of the condition of the communication industry in general, underlined by the recent Report (No. 43) of the National Board for Prices and Incomes, a Select Committee be set up to examine the probable scale of the newspaper industry for this country during the next 10 years, with reference to both the national daily and Sunday Press, and to give consideration to the experience of other countries, management-trade union relations, and the question of advertising revenue in relation to total revenue.]

What action does he propose to take? We would be grateful to be taken into his confidence.

Mr. Crossman

I have to repeat to my hon. Friend what I have said to him on more than one occasion. Because of my background, I am interested in the newspaper industry, but I remember our last debate on it, and I ask myself whether we get very much by debating the industry. It really is better to debate things about which we not only can, but feel we should, do something.

Mr. G. Campbell

The right hon. Gentleman announced that on Thursday of next week the House will consider the Rate Support Grant Increase Order. Will there be an equivalent Scottish Order to consider at that time, or will a Scottish Order be considered later?

Mr. Crossman

I must honestly tell the hon. Gentleman that he had better ask me that question behind the Chair. I do not know the answer at this moment.

Mr. E. Rowlands

Will my right hon. Friend say when the House is likely to debate the important proposals for the reorganisation of local government in Wales? Will he give an assurance that on that occasion, like last Thursday's debate on Welsh affairs, every Welsh Member will have an opportunity to speak on the matter?

Mr. Crossman

I think that every English Member would like an equal privilege to speak on this subject, too.

Mr. David Steel

As the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to debate things that we can, and should, do, will he arrange for a debate on the Report of the Services Committee about the new building in New Palace Yard, and allow the House to come to a decision on it?

Mr. Crossman

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. This is a matter of great importance. I hope that all hon. Members have studied the Report, because it is extremely important for the Services Committee to get a clear reaction from the House about the practicability and desirability of its proposal. Perhaps one way to do this is to have a debate. I shall certainly consider that.

Mr. Alfred Morris

May I ask my right hon. Friend what arrangements he has made for an early debate on the E.E.C.? Will he arrange this as soon as possible, if only for the sake of the former chairman of the Conservative Party, and other recent converts?

Mr. Crossman

I am always prepared to consider the most erudite reasons for having a debate. I had not thought of that one. I do not think that we are likely to have a debate on this subject before Christmas, but I will not go further than that.

Mr. Onslow

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are important and much overdue decisions to be taken on the future of the British aircraft industry? Can we expect a statement from the President of the Board of Trade next week about B.E.A.'s future fleet purchases?

Mr. Crossman

I shall communicate with my right hon. Friend, and he will make a statement if it is desirable.

Mr. Ogden

Can my right hon. Friend say whether next Wednesday's debate on the North-West will be on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House, or on congratulating the Government on the efforts which they have made there so far? Will he also consider, through the usual channels, an extension of time until at least half-past eleven, bearing in mind that there are at least 57 Labour Members from the North-West?

Mr. Crossman

I very much hope that it will be on a Motion approving the Government's policy, but as the debate will be in Opposition time, I am rather dubious about the chance of obtaining that.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Bearing in mind next week's business and the right hon. Gentleman's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), if devaluation has brought about the postponement of the Industrial Expansion Bill surely the same consideration, as lots of public money is involved, should bring about a postponement of the nationalisation of road haulage and buses.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member can ask for time. This is Business Question time.

Mr. Crossman

At last I understand the point of the question. We have decided to keep the Transport Bill for consideration for the week after next.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Can my right hon. Friend be a little less vague about the Industrial Expansion Bill? Are we to have a debate in the near future, or is it to be shelved, perhaps due to I.M.F. strings?

Mr. Crossman

I thought that I answered that question in another form when it was put to me from the benches opposite. It is being postponed because it is being reconsidered in the light of new circumstances. Certain modifications may or may not be introduced in the draft. As for the timing of the postponement, I can only say that when we come back from the Recess we can all look forward to an interesting debate.

Mr. Webster

In view of the Minister of Transport's undertaking that the local authorities concerned will have the right to object to the terms of the White Paper on Public Transport before the Bill is published, will the right hon. Gentleman defer publication of the Bill until we have discussed this in the House?

Mr. Crossman

It is not in next week's business. We will see to it when we come to the week after next.

Mr. Lipton

If the savage rent increases proposed by Greater London Council are not to be referred to the Prices and Incomes Board, can my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that this very serious issue will be debated before the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot give that undertaking, but I remind my hon. Friend that he has his devices and possibilities—and I am always trying to increase them—for raising matters of great topical importance.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Is the Leader of the House aware that yesterday at Question Time hon. Members on both sides of the House expressed alarm about the increase in crimes of violence in Scotland and the apparent complacency of the Government about it? Could we have a debate on this before the Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I was not aware of that, but in view of it I shall consider the possibility.

Mr. Small

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider, in considering business for next week, the length of the Christmas Recess? This seems to be rather leisurely in the light of the atmosphere in the country at the moment. Will he try to shorten it a little?

Mr. Crossman

That is a matter we can discuss when we debate the Adjournment for Christmas.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Can the Leader of the House now find time next week for my Motion to give sailors coming home from the sea an opportunity to see their wives and families at Christmas?

[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 reunions, deprives British Railways of fares, diminishes British Railways income and now calls upon Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Ministry of Transport, by legislation or otherwise, to restore to British seamen and their families the relevant facilities which they have hither-to enjoyed.]

Mr. Crossman

I was rather hoping that there might possibly be a chance, when we debate the Adjournment for Christmas, of having a fierce attack from the bench behind me for failure to find time to debate that Motion.