HC Deb 02 February 1967 vol 740 cc777-88
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, 6TH FEBRUARY: In the morning—

Resumed debate on the Motion on the Ministry of Aviation (Dissolution) Order.

Motion on the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources (Dissolution) Order.

In the afternoon—

Second Reading of the Fugitive Offenders Bill, which it is hoped to obtain by about 8 o'clock.

Motions on the Southern Rhodesia (Prohibited Trade and Dealings) Orders.

TUESDAY, 7TH FEBRUARY—There Will be a debate on the Press, which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

If necessary, completion of consideration of the Motion on the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources (Dissolution) Order.

Motion on the Hartlepool Order.

WEDNESDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY: In the morning—

Motion on the Carriage by Air Acts (Application of Provisions) Order.

In the afternoon—

Remaining stages of the Housing (Financial Provisions &c.) (Scotland) Bill and of the Local Government (Termination of Reviews) Bill.

Motions on the Sea Fisheries Order and on the Exchequer Equalisation Grant (Scotland) Order.

THURSDAY, 9TH FEBRUARY—Debate on a Motion to take note of the First Report and the Fifth Special Report, 1966–67, from the Estimates Committee on Police.

FRIDAY, 10TH FEBRUARY—Private Members' Motions.

The Business proposed on

MONDAY, 13TH FEBRUARY: In the morning—

Second Reading of the Plant Health Bill [Lords] and the Forestry Bill [Lords], which are Consolidation Measures.

Remaining stages of the Export Guarantees Bill.

In the afternoon—

Supply [8th allotted day]:

Debate on a topic to be announced later.

Mr. Heath

I thank the Leader of the House for that statement. There does not seem to be any provision in next week's business for taking the further stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill, should the right hon. Gentleman be successful in getting the Second Reading today. It is no concern of this side of the House, of course, if the Government do not want it, but I think that the right hon. Gentleman should consider that in his own interests.

Secondly, we are deeply concerned with the situation in Aden and would very much like to debate it, and the situation in the Middle East generally, at as early a date as possible.

Finally, can the Leader of the House tell me when the Defence White Paper will be published, and can he give us an assurance that there will not be delay, as there was last year?

Mr. Crossman

On the last point, I hope to make a firm statement on the date next week on business. As to Aden and the Middle East, I will certainly bear the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion in mind. As for the Consolidated Fund Bill, we hope to get the Second Reading today.

Mr. John Hynd

I had the impression —it may be wrong—that last week we were promised a debate on transport next week or the following week. Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether the debate will take place?

Mr. Crossman

I did not make such a promise. I listed transport among the subjects on which I know there is widespread interest. It remains in the list. I warned the House that Malta seemed to me to have top priority this week, and I felt that I must give time to the Press next week and that the others must take their course. We still have not debated the Mountbatten Report on prisons, and I think that this has a high degree of priority.

Mr. Turton

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he proposes to discuss the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure on urgent and topical debates, bearing in mind that there is a Motion on the Order Paper dealing with part of the Report which the House has had no opportunity of discussing.

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of the problem. I have been thinking it over. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Select Committee on Procedure is now also concerned urgently with the propositions about the Finance Bill. I think that the wisest course would probably be to wait and see these and then take the two together, rather than have the time of the House spent on two separate debates. That is my present thought on the subject.

As for the minor subject which the right hon. Gentleman raised, I am still discussing it through the usual channels. I rather believe that the suspicions that hon. Members had about this proposal of the Select Committee are somewhat abated, and I hope perhaps to be able to persuade people that it is a reasonable proposition from which right hon. and particularly hon. Members will benefit.

Mr. James Griffiths

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he proposes to make any change in today's business?

Mr. Crossman

My right hon. Friend may have observed that there is a Motion on the Order Paper about business today, which has been put down by my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip.

Mr. Peter Walker

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is now more than six months since the publication of the White Paper on transport and that, in spite of repeated promises from himself on the proposal, we have never had a debate?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware that there is a demand on both sides of the House in this regard, but I explained that I have to choose the subject, and I thought that I had the consent of the House to my feeling that Malta had to be brought forward this week. I believe that there will be widespread support for the view that we should have the debate on the Press next week.

Mr. Coe

Might I press my right hon. Friend for an early debate on the Government's decision to raise fees for overseas students? Is he aware that there is a great deal of feeling on this side of the House about this question?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware that there is a great deal of feeling on both sides of the House and outside the House also. I gather that the Secretary of State is receiving a delegation in the near future, and I think that we had better await the result of that.

Dame Irene Ward

Could the right hon. Gentleman explain what was in his mind when on the first day on which the Government arranged for a morning sitting to enable hon. Members to get home at a reasonable time the Government put down a Bill which could have run all night? Was it not really a cuckoo decision?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must look to the future not the past. We are asking questions about next week's business.

Mr. Orme

Might I follow the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Coe) about fees for overseas students? As my right hon. Friend has already acknowledged, there is much feeling outside the House among the universities and among the people generally. Could he not consider having a debate on this important and topical subject at one of the morning sittings?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly bear that suggestion in mind. I regard the subject as important. It is one which interests both sides of the House.

Mr. Stodart

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the exchanges that took place on Tuesday night on the Agriculture Bill on the undertaking of the Minister of Agriculture to make a statement to the House about the handling of the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Northumberland? Will he impress on his right hon. Friend the importance of making a statement next week?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly mention that to my right hon. Friend. I should imagine that he is aware of the feelings of hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will my right hon. Friend say when we are to have the long-awaited debate on shipping and shipbuilding, in view of the very grave urgency of the implementation of the Geddes Report and other matters connected therewith?

Mr. Crossman

As I said last week, it is a question not only of debate but of legislation. I hope to make a statement on it shortly.

Sir E. Boyle

With regard to the fees for overseas students, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was genuine disappointment on both sides of the House that this subject could not be raised yesterday on the Consolidated Fund Bill, and that many of us would be ready to take part in a debate on the subject at any morning or afternoon sitting? Also, can the right hon. Gentleman say anything about a debate on the Plowden Report? There is some feeling that the Government are not too eager to have a debate on it, but we think that they should have one.

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman should make any such imputations. If the right hon. Gentleman feels strongly about this, as I am sure he does, there is, as I have said, always the opportunity of a Supply day.

Dr. David Kerr

As my right hon. Friend has given time for a debate on the Press, and, presumably, the Monopolies Commission's Report on the Press, would he now consider letting us have an urgent debate on the problems of the film industry, which was the subject of another Monopolies Commission Report, about which many of us have grave doubts?

Mr. Crossman

The appetite for debates is voracious; the more one gives, the more is demanded. We had better look at next week's business and be content that we have the debate on the Press next wek.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I do not know, Mr. Speaker, whether this is a point of order or a matter for next week's business. However, when will the Division take place on the Travel Trade Registration Bill?

Mr. Crossman

I do not want to evade the question, but I think that that is a point of order which it is not really in order for me to answer.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Perhaps I might intervene and say to the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) that I shall deal with that particular question at the appropriate moment

Sir B. Janner

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, in view of the grave anxiety expressed on all sides of the House in relation to the treatment of the Jewish community in Russia, and in view of the fact that the Russian Premier is coming here next week, it would be possible to have a debate on this subject now and see whether something cannot be done with regard to that position?

[That this House notes with concern the continuing difficulties confronting Jews in tile 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.]

Incidentally, may I—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman cannot make a speech at this point.

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of the interest in this subject. I think that the Motion has more names of hon. Members attached to it than any other single Motion. I should have thought that that was sufficient for the moment. We have the visit of the Russian Premier next week, and I think that he will take notice of it.

Mr. Hastings

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen Motion 368 on the subject of the Egyptian aggression and gas war in the Yemen, which stands in the names of about 62 of my hon. Friends? In view of the confirmation that the Prime Minister seemed to give to the House on Tuesday last, and of the need to do something quickly if it is to be effective, will he consider arranging a very early debate?

[That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to raise in the United Nations Security Council the threat to peace presented by the United Arab Republic's extension of the Yemen war to Saudi Arabia, and the use of poison gas against the Yemen and Saudi civilians, contrary to the Geneva Protocol, to which Egypt is a signatory.]

Mr. Crossman

I know that there are a number of Motions on this subject. The Prime Minister has made clear that the Government share to the full the feelings of hon. Gentlemen. That is all I can say at the moment. I do not see any prospect of an immediate debate on the subject. Reverting to what I said to the Leader of the Opposition, the subject of the Middle East—he mentioned it to me—clearly is one of the subjects that we must now consider as becoming urgent.

Mrs. Joyce Butler

Has my right hon. Friends' attention been drawn to early-day Motion 333 calling for the ending of legal, social and economic discrimination against women, a subject of great concern to many hon. Members on both sides of the House and to at least half the population of the country? Could he find time for an early date on the subject?

[That this House welcomes the importance attached by Her Majesty The Queen to the rôle of women in public and social life when she made her Christmas Day broadcast one hundred years after the first efforts to obtain women's suffrage in this country, and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to ensure that women's remaining legal disabilities are removed in the present Law Commission Review of legislation, that Government social programmes and policies are directed towards ending social discrimination against women, and that equal pay for women is ensured when approval is given to wage increases under the prices and incomes policy.]

Mr. Crossman

As my hon. Friend knows, the Government have accepted the principle of equal pay. There are certain technical and economic difficulties. Frankly, I see no prospect of a very early debate on the subject.

Sir J. Rodgers

May I ask the Leader of the House if Her Majesty's Government would facilitate the passage through the House of a Private Member's Bill introduced by one of his hon. Friends, the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt), to safeguard the welfare of the deaf?

Mr. Crossman

The dead? [Laughter.] Necessary as the action may be for us all, I would like to have notice of that question in order to consider the possibilities. I do not think that there is any chance of our giving time for a debate at present.

Mr. John Fraser

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the amending Bill dealing with certain loopholes in the Rent Act (Amendment) Bill? Can he find time for this Measure, or promise Government legislation in the near future upon which it would be possible to graft this Measure, for instance the leasehold reform Measure?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. There is one point in the Bill particularly interesting to everyone concerned with the working of the Rent Act, and I will certainly make sure that the Minister of Housing consults on this point.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Bearing in mind the horror of poison gas warfare, does the right hon. Gentleman think that his reply on early-day Motion No. 368 was really adequate? Can we please have a statement from the Government next week in advance of any Middle East debate, because the Prime Minister's reply on this question was quite callously inadequate?

Mr. Crossman

I entirely repudiate the idea that Her Majesty's Government have not rejected this idea with horror. They are deeply disturbed and I am perfectly clear that this view is shared by the whole House. What I was asked to say was whether we would have the debate next week, and I have replied to that. As to the question of the statement, which I had not been asked about before, I will draw that to the attention of the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. John Wells

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day Motion No. 371, in the name of myself and nearly every hon. Member representing Kent con-stituencies—

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to instruct all county councils who have considerable populations of gipsies and other travellers to provide suitable sites for the accommodation of these people so that they do not move from county to county becoming a burden on the ratepayers of those counties who take an enlightened view of this problem and that sites provided should be small enough so that a few families are accommodated per parish and can be easily supervised and assimilated into rural schools.]

—concerning the problems of gipsy caravan sites and housing? As it is a long time since we have had a debate on the gipsy problem, can we have one in the near future?

Mr. Crossman

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that a Circular has been issued by the Ministry of Housing to local authorities. This is a subject of considerable social importance, and I will certainly bear it in mind as one which we should debate.

Viscount Lambton

Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that any statement made by the Minister of Agriculture about foot-and-mouth disease will be made in this House and not in reply to a Written Question?

Mr. Crossman

The assurance I gave was that I would bring to my right hon. Friend's attention the desire of hon. Gentlemen opposite for a statement and I will do so.

Sir F. Bennett

Is the Leader of the House aware that many of us have felt from the very beginning that a three-hour debate on Malta would be grossly insufficient? Is he aware that developments here, procedurally, and in Malta politically, make this view even stronger and that we shall press strongly for another debate?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of this. It was quite right to have a debate today because it is a matter of the greatest importance for the people of Malta that we should have this debated in a serious way as they listen carefully to what we say. It is of the greatest importance that the right things should be said today from both sides of the House.

Sir C. Taylor

On that point, can the Leader of the House say whether he is prepared to extend the debate on Malta beyond 7 o'clock, because otherwise we shall have only about two hours' debate or less?

Mr. Crossman

We shall have to see how business goes.

Mr. Pardoe

Does the right hon. Gentleman's reply to an earlier question, that he cannot find Government time for a discussion on the Plowden Report, indicate the low priority that the Government give to primary education?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have political arguments at business question time.

Mr. Prior

Referring once again to foot-and-mouth disease, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister of Agriculture said in this House, "I shall make a full statement"? If he is not to make a statement to the House, where will he make a statement? Would it not be better if he made it here?

Mr. Crossman

We have an excellent opportunity for such a statement in our morning sittings, and I shall call the attention of my right hon. Friend to the suitability of the morning sittings for such a statement.

Mr. Channon

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to the fact that on Monday and Wednesday there is important business to be discussed and it is most unlikely that the House will be able to rise at 9.30 p.m.? Was it not the Government's case, in introducing morning sittings, that the House would get up at that hour?

Mr. Crossman

Each of us must estimate the time which we should take, but I would have thought that on Wednesday and Thursday, if the House shows reasonable despatch, we can expect to have a reasonable bed-time.

Mr. Blaker

With regard to the alleged use of gas in the Yemen and Saudi Arabia, is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the reason for having a debate about this, or clarifying the Government's position, is that the Prime Minister gave the impression on Tuesday that he was washing his hands of the whole business? Is he aware that this involves a much wider issue than merely the Middle East, and covers the whole world?

Mr. Crossman

I am sorry if that is the impression which hon. Members gained from the Prime Minister. I certainly did not gain it and I entirely repudiate any such meaning in my right hon. Friend's speech.

Sir D. Glover

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman when he will let us have a debate on the procedure of this House, because after one morning sitting it is quite obvious that we have got ourselves into an awful tangle? At present we have a Bill in suspended animation—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not go into detail. He must just ask his question.

Sir D. Glover

Could we have an urgent debate on this matter?

Mr. Crossman

I am well aware that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would like to put every obstacle in the way of the success of morning sittings, but I am fairly confident that after two or three weeks of alarums and excursions we shall settle down and do a lot of useful business in the mornings which would otherwise be done late at night, and that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who always oppose any such idea, will gradually come to take the credit for inventing this system.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Mrs. Hart, statement.

Forward to