HC Deb 23 February 1967 vol 741 cc1958-75
Mr. Heath

Would the Leader of the House kindly 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, 27TH FEBRUARY: In the morning—

Sunday Cinematograph Order.

Second Reading of the Teachers Super-annuation Bill [Lords], which is a Consolidation Measure.

In the afternoon—

Debate on a Government Motion to approve the White Paper on Defence (Command No. 3203), which will be concluded on Tuesday, 28th February.

At the end on Tuesday, remaining stages of the General Rate Bill [Lords], which is a Consolidation Measure.

WEDNESDAY, 1ST MARCH: In the morning—

Sugar Beet (Research and Education) (Increase of Contributions) Order and the Fishing Vessels (Acquisition and Improvements) (Grants) Scheme.

In the afternoon—

Supply (10th Allotted Day):

Navy Estimates, 1967–68, Vote A.

THURSDAY, 2ND MARCH: Supply (11th Allotted Day):

Debate, until Seven o'clock, on an Opposition Motion on the refusal of the Secretary of State for Scotland to grant the N.A.L.G.O. pay award.

Afterwards, a debate on emigration from Scotland, on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY, 3RD MARCH: Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 6TH MARCH: The business proposed:

In the morning is—

Double Taxation Relief Orders relating to Canada, Trinidad and Tobago and Singapore, and the Central Banks (Income Tax Schedule C Exemption) Order.

In the afternoon—

Supply (12th Allotted Day):

Army Estimates, 1967–68, Vote A.

It may be convenient for the House to know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget on Tuesday, 11th April.

Mr. Heath

Would the right hon. Gentleman confirm that on the Service Estimates he will follow the normal custom and suspend for two hours to give the House extra time for debate? Secondly, on the Defence White Paper, can he confirm that the Government Motion will be the simple one to approve the White Paper?

Mr. Crossman

On the first question, if it is for the convenience of the House—I think that it usually is—I would agree to the extra two hours on each of the three days. On the second question, I do not think that a decision has finally been reached on the Government Motion.

Mr. Thorpe

Would the right hon. Gentleman, possibly even by next week, look into the incredible situation of voting on the matters which we take in the morning sittings? Yesterday it was thought so inconvenient to vote at noon on a matter debated in the morning that we had to wait until after one o'clock the next morning to take the vote. Could not these matters be voted on in the afternoon after the public business?

Mr. Crossman

I thank the hon. Gentleman. We should learn by experience of our morning sittings. We shall certainly consider whether the procedure can be changed and at what time it will be convenient for the House to have its Divisions.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to early day Motion No. 427, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Urwin) and one or two others? Can he offer us any time in the near future to debate it?

[That this House takes note of the exploratory nature of the visits to West European capitals by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary; regrets the activities of those who have seized this occasion to intensify their demand that Her Majesty's Government should apply unconditionally for entry to the European Economic Community; deplores, in particular, the speeches in which the Leader of the Opposition has invited Her Majesty's Government to break its pledged word to the electorate and to other peoples of the Commonwealth; and declares that Great Britain, in consultation with her European Free Trade Association partners, should be ready to enter the European Economic Community only if essential British and Commonwealth interests can be safeguarded.]

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that it will be to the surprise of my hon. Friend when I say that I do not think that there is much time in the near future to debate this or any other Motion. We have a lot of work to do on our Defence Estimates. It has been made perfectly clear that these visits are strictly exploratory.

Mr. McMaster

As more than 100 Members have signed Motion No. 426 on rising unemployment, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his view that there are more important topics than employment and the Government's mishandling of the economic situation? Will he provide time to debate this important subject?

[That this House views with dismay the high rate of unemployment in the economically weaker parts of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to take immediate and effective steps to halt the alarming rise in the numbers out of work in those areas.]

Mr. Crossman

I do not recollect expressing the view that unemployment was an unimportant subject. We are approaching the time of year when the House spends quite a number of days on economic affairs. But I will bear the request in mind.

Mrs. Renée Short

Does my right hon. Friend think that the House has had enough time to digest the Plowden Report? May we expect an early debate on it?

Mr. Crossman

I recognise the great interest in the Plowden Report, but until we have completed our work on the Estimates the Government certainly will not be able to give time to debate it next week or, I think I can say, the week after.

Mr. Sandys

In view of the fact that the Prime Minister has wrongfully accused me of hawking about a confidential official document to the Press, and in view of the wide publicity which this has received, would the Leader of the House ask the Prime Minister whether he will be good enough to answer orally a Question which I have tabled for next Tuesday asking him what evidence he has to support this very serious charge?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly communicate that message to the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, I would respectfully suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the simplest thing would be for him to tell the House how he did get it.

Mr. Hamling

Reverting to the matter raised by the Leader of the Liberal Party, would my right hon. Friend re-examine the whole question of morning sittings, particularly with a view to relieving the burden on the servants of the House?

Mr. Crossman

We are always meditating and reflecting on the experience we have week by week. I think that we are moving well. We are certainly moving with more celerity than at other times. We are doing business well. But I would not like to think that we should come to a conclusion on morning sittings for quite a long time.

Mr. Turton

Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision not to allow a separate debate to take place on the Select Committee's recommendation for urgent and topical debates in the light of the fact that crises such as that concerning Malta clearly cannot be fitted in to the present rules and precedents?

Mr. Crossman

What I think I said was that I felt that there was no time in the near future for a debate, and I thought that that matter might be taken in conjunction with the Select Committee's report on finance. We have not yet seen that report. We had better make up our minds when we see it. I do not think that we shall be able to have a debate on the recommendation about the topical nature of debates in the near future.

Mr. Gardner

In view of the strong feeling expressed in the House during the passage of the London Government Bill, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is likely to hear anything next week about the exercise of democracy in Brierley Hill.

Mr. Speaker

I am not sure that that is a business question. I do not understand it even.

Sir D. Glover

Both sides of the House are very worried about the right hon. Gentleman's leadership. May we have a debate on procedure at a very early date? The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) has already asked a question on this matter. Yesterday we debated for 15 hours on a day when we were supposed to finish at 9.30. It is obvious that the right hon. Gentlman has lost control of the proceedings of the House. Therefore, could we have—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must not argue at business question time. We must just ask for time for debates.

Mr. Crossman

If that is the hon. Gentleman's view about my leadership, there is a very simple way by which he can get a debate on the subject.

Mr. Rose

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Opposition are making a deliberate and concerted attempt to sabotage the concept of morning sittings? Would he deal with the problem by taking on Tuesday and Thursday mornings all business normally taken after ten o'clock in the evening?

Mr. Crossman

As my hon. Friend will appreciate, all we are doing for the most part is to take in the morning the business normally taken after ten o'clock. I notice that the time that we spend on it varies from day to day but it is not very greatly different; so that we are taking business from the evening to the morning with useful results.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great deal of interest on all sides of the House on the question of decimal currency, not so much on the principle but on whether the Government are picking the right unit? Can he find time for an early debate on the matter and assure us that it will be on a free vote?

Mr. Crossman

The Government's decision has been already announced, and I can now say that legislation is expected in the not too far distant future. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to challenge the issue or the decision of the Government, that is something which he can do on a Supply Day.

Mr. Moyle

Will my right hon. Friend find an early opportunity to debate the Bill for the control of unregistered and unlicensed clubs, in view of the drain on police manpower being caused by policing these clubs under the existing law?

Mr. Crossman

I would ask my hon. Friend to give me notice of that question. I cannot tell him exactly when we can expect that Bill.

Mr. Iain Maclod

If I may return to the subject which I raised, which is in no sense a party one, would the Leader of the House recognise that, if he intends to go ahead with legislation, inevitably that means putting the Whips on and, therefore, this decision has been taken? But as it is in no sense a party matter and is something which affects the country for decades and perhaps for centuries, would he not be well advised to take the free opinion of the House in advance?

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has put that to me. This is a very important issue and one which matters for the long-term future. If there is a feeling that it is something which should be discussed, certainly we can discuss it through the usual channels, and I hope that the Opposition will be forthcoming in the time that they will contribute to this end.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

Does the Leader of the House realise that a Government Whip, the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie), blocked the Livestock Import Control Bill last Friday? Is it the Government's intention to block that Bill continually, or will the right hon. Gentleman protect the rights of back benchers?

Mr. Crossman

The answer to the first part of the question is, yes. Since the question was raised last week, I have considered this carefully with my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary. We have come to the conclusion that, regardless of how Administrations in the past may have contrived to have objection voiced to Private Members' Bills—because this is not the first time that it has been raised—the Government should, where appropriate, overtly take action to prevent automatic undebated Second Readings.

Mr. Peyton

Does the Leader of the House not think that it is time that we had a debate or at least a statement on wages, so that the obscurity which now surrounds Government policy can be dispelled and this very damaging factor removed from industrial relations?

Mr. Crossman

The answer which I gave just now about unemployment applies in this case. We shall be debating economic affairs in the future, and opportunities will come. But I do not see a chance in Government time for a debate on the subject.

Mr. Heath

As the whole House attaches great importance to the question of decimalisation, we would agree to accept the offer of the Leader of the House, and we will provide half a day out of Supply time if the Government will provide half a day without the Whips on.

Mr. Crossman

The exact timing we can discuss through the usual channels. However, I must remind the House that we have a programme to get through. This will be discussed through the usual channels.

Mr. Clifford Williams

May I ask my right hon. Friend when we can expect the Second Reading of the Leasehold Reform Bill?

Mr. Crossman

Week by week I hope to make a business statement on it, and now the hope is nearly reaching fulfilment.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Does the Leader of the House realise that many private Members are dissatisfied because, although some business has been transferred from the evenings to the mornings, we are losing half a day of debate on the major issues which are discussed in the afternoons and evenings? Since one of the objects of this reform was supposed to be to give the House the opportunity of debating broad general issues of importance, is this not retrograde, and will he not consider it further?

Mr. Crossman

Certainly I will. We are also gaining a little time in the afternoon by our habit of taking Ministerial statements in the mornings which would otherwise postpone the start of debates. For example, we had a statement on foot-and-mouth disease yesterday morning.

Mr. Driberg

Would the Leader of the House take some other opportunity of making a fuller statement on his announcement about Government Whips blocking private Members' legislation? Many such Bills are sponsored on an all-party basis, and usually it has been considered undesirable for Government Whips to intervene.

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that I would add anything. I made a precise statement. I said that there were times when it was felt that action of this sort was necessary. What I would like to say is that this, after all, is permitting a Bill to become law sometimes virtually without any discussion on it. [Interruption.] It can also be done on Committee stage. A Bill can get through virtually with no discussion. It is the Government's view that this is a rare exception and that normally Bills should be debated fully and should not automatically get some privilege over those which are debated.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

I desire to ask a question which may not come under the heading of business, Mr. Speaker. I should like your guidance about the ability of private Members to put down Questions to the Prime Minister. At what point should I raise this matter?

Mr. Speaker

This is difficult. The procedure for getting Questions to the Prime Minister is governed by the rationing of time which, I believe, is agreed between both sides. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should put his Question to them.

Mr. Crossman

If the hon. Gentleman has suggestions to make about Question Time, we like to discuss such matters through the usual channels, since it is a matter purely for the convenience of the House.

Mr. Costain

When the Leader of the House makes a statement about Private Members' Bills, is he aware that the Road Safety Bill went through the House on the nod and has resulted in the saving of many lives? Would it not be wrong to block Bills simply because the Whips do not like them?

Mr. Crossman

If the hon. Gentleman reads in HANSARD what I said, I did not say that it should never occur. I said that there were times when Bills were unsuitable pieces of legislation to go through without any debate.

Mr. Fowler

To put the matter in the form of a business question, can the Leader of the House find time to debate the failure of the Opposition to move the Writ for Brierley Hill, which is depriving that constituency of representation?

Mr. Crossman

It is a subject on which we can all reflect with some degree of interest and pleasure, but I doubt whether we shall have time to debate it.

Mr. Hooson

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to Early Day Motion No. 415 on U.N.E.S.C.O., in the name of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), myself and other hon. Members, and supported by 100 hon. Members of all parties? In view of the fact that there are so few debates on international institutions and their work, can he promise a debate on it in the fairly near future?

[That this House, noting that 20 years have now elapsed since the foundation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and noting the increased nationalism and rising tensions throughout the world which have occurred in the absence of any significant action by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to encourage a sense of world community, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to propose at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation a programme to encourage a dual perspective in education, world as well as national, so that opportunity is given in the curriculum for balancing national loyalty with a measure of conscious loyalty to the human race as a whole in all its diversity.]

Mr. Crossman

Certainly, I will consider this and discuss through the usual channels the extent of the interest in having this particular aspect of foreign affairs singled out for debate. There are a number of other aspects of foreign affairs which have been put to me as Urgent, and I should not like to say that this particular one should take precedence over them.

Mr. Cant

Do I understand that, in accepting the offer from the Opposition of time for discussion of decimalisation, the Leader of the House offered to withdraw the Whips?

Mr. Crossman

I made no such offer. [Interruption.] I heard an interesting offer from the Leader of the Opposition on the subject, to which I replied with a decent reticence.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is the Leader of the House aware that in recent months there has been a real deterioration of trade in the textile industry? A number of mills have closed down and a great many men and women are out of work. In view of the desperate situation in my part of the country, will the right hon. Gentleman give time to debate the subject at an early stage?

Mr. Crossman

This is exactly the kind of matter which the Opposition should raise in their own time.

Mr. Hector Hughes

In view of the forthcoming debates on the Budget, which the Leader of the House has announced, and which usually involve late night sittings, will my right hon. Friend find time next week to debate the morning sittings with a view to preventing the House from burning the candle at both ends?

Mr. Crossman

I hesitate to correct my hon. and learned Friend, but it is my impression that the Budget is a period when sometimes ordinary Members can go to bed at a reasonable time. If my hon. and learned Friend is thinking of the Finance Bill later, I can tell him that I am looking forward to the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure on the treatment of Finance Bills, and I hope to see some helpful proposals from it.

Dame Irene Ward

In view of the fact that a week on Monday the Leader of the House is to consider extending the hours of sitting for a couple of hours on the Army Estimates, may I ask him whether, in the interests of the staff, we could not nip that off Monday morning and not have an interminable sitting from 10 a.m. until half past 11 or 12 o'clock on the Monday night? Would this not be an opportunity to do something decent to try to relieve the terrible strain under which the staff have to work?

Mr. Crossman

I am glad that the hon. Lady agrees. I have been pointing out to the House the problems which the staff have in our long periods of sitting. Nevertheless, I do not think that it would really be the wish of the House that these traditional extra two hours on the three Estimates should all be deducted from other debates.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Can my right hon. Friend say whether there is any precedent for the Opposition lining themselves up with the trade unions in demanding an increase in pay, as they are doing in the N.A.L.G.O. case? Can my right hon. Friend mark this historic occasion by leaving it to a free vote of the House?

Mr. Crossman

My hon. Friend always makes very constructive suggestions. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has listened to what he said about the originality of this debate, but I doubt whether my hon. Friend's views will be accepted, at least in their practical conclusions.

Sir J. Eden

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to give a much better answer to the question first put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton)? Is he not aware that the whole wages front and the position of negotiations is in a state of chaos? Surely the House has a right to expect a statement on Government policy before the Budget?

Mr. Crossman

There is no sign as far as I know that the wages front is in chaos. On the contrary, what is true is that extremely important negotiations are taking place and it would be quite unsuitable to have a debate until there is a conclusion.

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider his reply apropos Motion No. 427? Will he acknowledge that the terms of this Motion are of vital importance to the nation and ought to be debated at an early occasion?

Mr. Crossman

I would not agree with my hon. Friend. I think that we debate or discuss this Motion twice a week at the Prime Minister's Question Time. Clear statements have been made by the Government on Government policy, and I think that my hon. Friend has had all the answers that he could conceivably want to every aspect of this question.

Sir J. Rodgers

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he intends to reveal to the House information about his wages policy which has already been given to the T.U.C. and the C.B.I.?

Mr. Crossman

If the hon. Gentleman is asking me whether a statement can be expected from my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State, I shall ask him about it.

Sir Knox Cunningham

With regard to the blocking of the two animal welfare Bills, the Leader of the House said that the Government had come to the conclusion that it would not be right for a Bill to go through on the nod and take precedence over other Bills. Does that mean that the Government's new policy will be that in general all Bills will be blocked by Government Whips and not go through on the nod?

Mr. Crossman

I hesitate to indulge in otiose repetition. I have twice stated in precise terms the Government's view, which is that there are occasions when certain Bills are not suitable for nodding through. The instances which the hon. and learned Gentleman gave are instances of Bills which we, rightly or wrongly, thought were unsuitable to be nodded through.

Mr. Ogden

Will my right hon. Friend say on how many occasions next week it is the intention of the Government to move to exempt business after Ten o'clock?

Mr. Crossman

I think that I should like notice of that question.

Mr. Hirst

Is the Leader of the House aware that it is not always and only the Government who may think that a Private Members' Bill is unsuitable to go through on the nod, but indeed other private Members?

Mr. Crossman

Of course I am.

Mr. G. Campbell

On the question of decimal currency, is the Leader of the House aware that in the only debate in this House since the Government's White Paper, a Christmas Adjournment debate initiated by me, the Chief Secretary gave an assurance that there would be a full debate on the matter before the Government's preferred method was adopted?

Mr. Crossman

I was not aware of that, and I shall certainly look it up, but I think that this matter can be satisfactorily dealt with through the usual channels by the suggestion put to me by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. McNamara

With regard to the important question put to him by the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham), would not my right hon. Friend agree that it might be more important to change the conventions of the House to discuss the affairs of some of the depressed citizens of the country—although we regard animals as very important—and discuss Ulster before animals?

Mr. Crossman

I take my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Kershaw

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answers about the wages policy get worse and worse? He has now said that there is no point in the House of Commons discussing it until everybody else has been told and made up his mind, and therefore there is no sense in having a debate. Will he reconsider the matter and realise how important it is to know something about this before the Budget?

Mr. Crossman

It seems that my answers were inaudible. I thought that I made the position clear. First, when I was asked about a statement, I said that I would ask my right hon. Friend to make one when he found it suitable. Secondly, I said that from the Government's point of view important negotiations were going on and the time for discussion was not now in the middle of them. Thirdly, I said that if the Opposition wanted to raise this issue in a polemical way they had their opportunities for doing so.

Mr. John Lee

With regard to Motion No. 427, will my right hon. Friend take it upon himself to send a copy of it to Sir Patrick Riley, who seems to be in some doubt about the Government's policy?

Mr. Goodhew

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House is becoming weary of his refusal to give straight answers to questions at business time? If the right hon. Gentleman is unable to protect the rights of back benchers, is it not time that he made way for someone who is?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not exactly a business question.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) is not clear, that employers and trade unionists throughout the country have no idea what wages policy the Government have in mind after the period of severe restraint—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are drifting into argument again.

Mr. Webster

Further to the excellent point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw), may we have an opportunity to debate Government policy on wages? It is Government policy. Cannot we have a satisfactory answer?

Mr. Crossman

I think that the hon. Gentleman misunderstands the use of this time. We are discussing business. I have made it clear that the Government are not going to provide Government time. If he wants to discuss it with his right hon. Friend in Supply time, let him do that upstairs.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the vote at the end of the defence debate on Tuesday will be a free vote?

Mr. Crossman

I think I can confirm that it will not be.

Mr. Nott

Reverting to the question of the wages policy, it is future Government policy which is being debated widely in the Press. Every newspaper is carrying reports of the Government's policy and the discussions taking place. Why cannot he find time to debate this in the House?

Mr. Crossman

I am in some danger of tedious repetition, because I get asked the same question time and time again, and I have to make the same reply. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] In that case I shall answer with repetition. We regard this question as unsuitable for debate in the immediate future. If the Opposition wish to attack the Government's position they have their own time to do so.

Sir C. Osborne

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will reconsider the decision to find early urgent time to discuss unemployment, in view of the fact that in recent weeks 50,000 Lancashire textile workers have lost their jobs, another 100,000 are threatened with unemployment, and to the unemployed the only thing that really matters is their jobs? Cannot we have—

Mr. Speaker

Order, the hon. Member is drifting into argument.

Mr. Crossman

The answer is the same as that which I gave 25 minutes ago. This subject deeply concerns the hon. Member. Certainly we shall look ahead, but I see no chance this week or next week—or before Easter, really—to get a whole day of Government time for this subject, so I must repeat that the Opposition have their opportunities to discuss what they want to put on the agenda.

Mr. James Griffiths

On a point of order. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you have noticed that in recent weeks business questions have taken up more than half an hour of the valuable time of the House? Will you give consideration to the need for protecting hon. Members who want to take part in an important debate?

Mr. Speaker

This is a difficult matter. I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman, but this matter is in the control of the House and not in the control of Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Heath

There are two points which the Leader of the House may be able to clear up. First, as the Prime Minister was good enough to answer the original Question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) after Questions, will the Leader of the House bring to the Prime Minister's notice the fact that it would be desirable also to answer this one after Questions?

Secondly, is it really in keeping with the progressive, radical, reforming outlook which the Leader of the House is so anxious to bring to our deliberations that the House—not even some of his hon. Friends below the Gangway—should not be able to discuss the whole question of wages policy before the Government make their decision?

Mr. Crossman

On the first point, I will communicate to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the anxieties of the right hon. Gentleman about the Question of the right hon. Member for Streatham. As for his second point, the issue is for me. We think that on the whole we have enough business for the next fort- night which we are determined to get through. [Interruption.] If the Opposition feel that they want a debate on this subject, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will stage a debate for the benefit of both sides of the House.

Mr. James Johnson

On a point of order. Is it a fact, Mr. Speaker, that if any hon. Member gets up and asks a Question about business this discussion can go on interminably?

Mr. Speaker

Theoretically, it is possible for the discussion to continue until the 629 right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have put their business questions. I hope that that is only the theoretical position.

Mr. James Griffiths

Further to my point of order. With respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I have never before understood that business questions could go on interminably, without being brought to an end. If they can, will the Leader of the House submit this matter for consideration to the Committee on Procedure? It could result in the House being placed in an intolerable position if, week after week, we spend half an hour or three-quarters of an hour discussing business.

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate my right hon. Friend's difficulties. The last thing that I want to do is to give the impression that I am not prepared to answer business questions, because I am. It is difficult to give much variety in answering questions which are repeated time after time, in almost identical form.

Mr. Speaker

I was addressed on a point of order by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths). This is a matter which the Committee on Procedure might look into.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Surely last week, after the publication of the estimates of expenditure, it was agreed that we should have a general economic debate before the Budget. The right hon. Gentleman said that he would have discussions about this. Is he now saying that there will not be discussions about it?

Mr. Crossman

On the contrary, I said that I thought that there were opportunities before the Budget of debating economic affairs, which could be discussed through the usual channels.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

In view of the experience we are having this afternoon, which is very like the experience we had last Thursday afternoon and the Thursday afternoon before that, is there not rapidly building up an almost unanswerable case for transferring business questions to Wednesday mornings?

Mr. Crossman

I thank my hon. Friend, but I want morning sittings to be a success. I would rather keep business questions to this period.

Sir J. Rodgers


Mr. Speaker

Order. I am not prepared to allow second questions on business.