HC Deb 19 January 1967 vol 739 cc654-68
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, 23RD JANUARY—Progress on the Report stage of the Iron and Steel Bill.

TUESDAY, 24TH JANUARY—Further progress on the Report stage of the Iron and Steel Bill, which it is hoped to obtain by seven o'clock.

Afterwards, the remaining stages of the Parliamentary Commissioner Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 25TH JANUARY Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Land Commission Bill.

THURSDAY, 26TH JANUARY—Completion of the remaining stages of the Iron and Steel Bill.

FRIDAY, 27TH JANUARY—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 30TH JANLTARY—The proposed business will be: Supply [7th Allotted Day]:

Debate on a subject to be announced later.

At ten o'clock the Question will be put from the Chair on all outstanding Votes.

As to tomorrow, the House should know that the Industrial Development (Variation of Rate of Grant) Order has been added so that the business then will be:

Second Reading of the Post Office (Borrowing Powers) Bill and of the Export Guarantees Bill.

Motion on the Industrial Development Order.

On quite a different matter, I think the House would like to know that during the course of Mr. Kosygin's visit it is hoped that he will be able to meet Members of both Houses in the Royal Gallery, on Thursday, 9th February.

Mr. Heath

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that he has given undertakings in the past about debates on the White Paper on Transport and the White Paper on Broadcasting and on prison security following publication of the Mountbatten Report. Can he confirm that we are to have debates on those matters? We would like to have them in the comparatively near future. There is also now the question of a debate on the Plowden Committee's Report. Can he assure the House that the Government will provide time for that, and that it will not be too far away?

Mr. Crossman

I think that hon. Member's should have time to digest the Plowden Committee's Report. As to transport, broadcasting and prison security, I think that the last is the most urgent of those and I hope to have an announcement to make in the near future. As for the other two matters, we will bear them in mind. The pledge will be honoured.

Mr. Heath

There is one other point I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman. I understand that when the morning sittings begin the public will be admitted only to the Special Gallery and not to the Strangers' Gallery, which will be closed for morning sittings. Surely this is undesirable?—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Surely if we are to have morning sittings, ought not members of the public who wish to come in, be allowed in, in so far as capacity allows? Can the right hon. Gentleman say this matter will be looked at?

Mr. Crossman

I expected this. In tact, I have two Questions to answer about it on Monday, and I should like then to deal with this in detail. Perhaps I can anticipate by saying that we are going to arrange accommodation which is normally provided for such non-contentious business later in the evening, and that will be available in the mornings. This temporary expedient is entirely due to the problem of staff here and the number of hours they work.—[HON. MEMBERS: "0h."] I should like to answer this question fully on Monday, if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me.

Mr. Heath

The right hon. Gentleman should realise that this is a very serious matter.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] Is this a question of staff not being available, or of the Treasury not being able to provide the money to pay the staff? In any case, ought this not to have been thought of and arranged before the Government extended sittings hours?

Mr. Crossman

I will answer this in detail on Monday, but yes, this was thought of, and the Serjeant at Arms very properly informed us of this. The matter has been discussed by the Services Committee at some length and the decision is the result of the Services Committee's discussions.

Mr. Dalyell

Could my right hon. Friend say when he hopes to set up the Science and Technology Committee?

Mr. Crossman

Yes. I hope that both the new specialist Committees, that for agriculture, and that for science and technology, will be at work next week.

Mr. Thorpe

Reverting to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition, the accommodation for the public, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give serious attention to this matter? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the only occasions when the public were excluded from the House were the secret sittings in wartime, which were very exceptional, and that this would be a complete departure from precedent?

Mr. Crossman

The hon. Gentleman would not be right in saying there is any intention to exclude the public. If there were, I entirely agree with him that that would be a grave situation. Nor is there any expectation that the amount of accommodation will be less than required. If it were it would have resulted from a miscalculation by members of the Services Committee.

Mr. Heffer

In view of the serious situation developing in Vietnam, and of the concern which was expressed in the House yesterday, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be an early debate on the whole question of Vietnam?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot give that assurance to my hon. Friend. I think I am right in saying that we discussed it for a long time on the Adjournment and for half an hour after Question Time yesterday, but unless there is a drastic change in the situation I could not give high priority to another debate.

Mr. Godber

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why he is not taking the Third Reading of the Agriculture Bill next week? It is most discouraging to hon. Members on both sides of the House who have expedited the progress of that Measure.—[Laughter.] Oh, yes. We expedited progress on it and completed the Committee proceedings on it before Christmas and we sat up all night on Tuesday considering it on Report and got the business done. It is most unfortunate that now there is no news of further progress.

Mr. Crossman

I accept the very collaborative frame of mind of the right hon. Gentleman, and I can tell him that I hope to make an announcement on the matter in my business statement next week.

Mrs. Renée Short

Could my right hon. Friend tell us when we shall have an opportunity to discuss the Plowden Report?

Mr. Crossman

As I said to the Leader of the Opposition, I think that we should be wise and would do better to allow time for the digestion of this formidable Report I cannot give any precise indication now when we shall discuss it.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Following the visit of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs to Malta, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he is aware of the great concern by the friends of Malta and people generally in this country, and in Malta itself, at the treatment being meted out to Malta? Could the right hon. Gentleman arrange for his right hon. Friend at least to make a statement at an early date?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly communicate to my right hon. Friend the hon. Gentleman's views on the need for a statement.

Mr. Mendelson

Does my right hon. Friend recall that the President of the Board of Trade said just before the Recess that the Government would be willing to arrange for a debate on the Press? Can he say how the Government are proceeding with that arrangement?

Mr. Crossman

Since my right hon. Friend spoke we have had the welcome publication of the formidable Report of the Economist Intelligence Unit. I think that it would be wise to wait to see what the N.P.A. does in response to this very challenging Report before we debate this subject.

Mr. Bryan

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the debate on Second Reading of the Marine Broadcasting Offences Bill will come before or after the debate on the White Paper on Broadcasting?

Mr. Crossman

I think that we had better wait. I will make an announcement about broadcasting. It does not arise out of business for next week.

Mr. Roebuck

Does my right hon. Friend recall that just before the Recess it was said, in an Answer to me and when it was known that the Economist Intelligence Unit Report was about to be published, that there would certainly be an early opportunity for a full debate on the Press? Can we look to him to arrange for a debate before some newspaper closes? Is he aware that a debate has already been arranged in another place? Why should another place have all the best debates?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that my hon. Friend is quite correct in saying that this statement by the President of the Board of Trade was made when it was known that this Report was to be published. It was known only a recent time ago that it was to be published. Publication of the Report has, I think, fundamentally changed the situation, and we should now wait, I think. The Report is of a very formidable character and I should like to give the Press time to think and do something about it before we discuss it. However, if it were true that a paper were to close, that would be a very different situation.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

Would the right hon. Gentleman ask the Minister of Agriculture to make a statement about foot-and-mouth disease? The Minister has not yet informed the House what steps he has taken to ensure that any future slaughterings will be carried out efficiently and humanely so that there is no suspicion at all of unnecessary suffering and cruelty to animals.

Mr. Crossman

I would have thought that that was a matter which could have been mentioned during the protracted discussions on the Agriculture Bill, but I will certainly pass it on.

Mr. Ellis

Would my right hon. Friend say when the House is to have an opportunity to debate the Third Report of the Estimates Committee on the Meteorological Office?

Mr. Crossman

No, I do not think that I can; but my hon. Friend may anticipate that it will come in the near future.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Reverting to the right hon. Gentleman's statement about the proposed closure of the Public Gallery during the morning sittings, is there any precedent for this, apart from the secret sittings? Does his answer to the Leader of the Liberal Party mean that, if the public turn up in sufficient numbers, he will reverse his decision and open the gallery, or does he think that there will be so little public interest in the morning sittings that it is not necessary?

Mr. Crossman

I explained this before, but I shall repeat it. We have great problems now, with our officials working very long hours in the day, and the morning sittings will impose further burdens on the staff. In view of that, it was felt that as a temporary measure we should close part of the galleries, on the view, which I think we will find to be correct, that there will be plenty of space for anyone who is likely to attend. We have observed how much attendance we get on this kind of non-controversial business. If it were found that there were people actually excluded, the measures that we are taking to ensure that we have sufficient space would be accelerated. This is a purely temporary measure while extra staff is recruited.

Mr. Frank Allaun

In view of his recent past, the Leader of the House will have read with interest the Report by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on our older houses. As this intimately affects the lives of 10 million people who are without baths, hot water or inside lavatories, can we have an early debate on this subject, and, better still, Government legislation to implement some of the recommendations in that Report?

Mr. Crossman

I shall not attempt to answer the second part of the question. As to the first part, if the hon. Gentleman can show that there is widespread interest in this very important subject, we can consider it as a possible subject for a debate, as the Report is an extremely important one.

Mr. G. Campbell

Will the Leader of the House give time for a debate on the United Nations so as to provide the Prime Minister with much more time than he had today to explain his interpretation of Article 27 of the United Nations Charter, which provides that decisions of the Security Council on all matters, other than procedural matters, require the concurring votes of all five permanent members?

Mr. Crossman

I will always consider the possibility of a foreign affairs debate. However, I would remind the hon. Gentleman that on the last occasion when we had a debate, after steady demands for a two-day debate, the number of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House who listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was, I think, 18. We have to calculate the demand for foreign affairs debates partly in terms of reality.

Mr. Winnick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on this side of the House, though apparently not on the Opposition side, there is a strong desire to have a debate on Vietnam because of the events at present taking place?

Secondly, could he tell us when it is likely that we shall be able to debate the Select Committee's Report on Standing Order No. 9?

Mr. Crossman

1 have already replied that we are unlikely to have another debate on Vietnam. We had a lengthy discussion at Question Time yesterday, and on the Christmas Adjournment we had a considerable debate. Unless the situation changes substantially, I see no need for another debate on the subject.

I agree that Standing Order No. 9 is an important Order. I shall try to hasten consideration of it and hasten a decision on it as soon as possible.

Mr. Goodhart

Following recent changes in Ministerial responsibilities in the Ministry of Defence, can the Leader of the House now say whether it is proposed to make any change in the traditional form of our forthcoming defence debates?

Mr. Crossman

That is a new point which I am prepared to discuss with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Michael Foot

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the answer which he has given to the House about Vietnam? Will he not recognise that there is strong feeling on this side that we should have a debate on the subject before Mr. Kosygin's visit to this country, particularly in view of the fact that there have been grave developments since the debate to which he referred, which reveal that there are heavy civilian casualties in North Vietnam as a result of the bombing, when the Foreign Office at that time was say- ing to us that there was nothing of the kind?

Mr. Crossman

1 am always prepared to consider suggestions from my hon. Friend on this subject, as on any other. I will discuss this with the Foreign Secretary. However, I must say to my hon Friend that the chance of devoting the time of the House before 9th February for any debate on the subject would be very small unless he could give me very powerful reasons, which he has not yet done, for changing our minds.

Mr. David Howell

Reverting to the subject of the new Science and Technology Committee, can the Leader of the House assure us that the new committee will have a really effective secretariat, so that it can do a proper job of work?

Mr. Crossman

The problem of staffing of our Select Committees is very acute. I am actively engaged now with the Services Committee in considering the problem of the recruitment of staff.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

In view of the regrettable failure of my right hon. Friend and the Foreign Secretary to reaffirm the Prime Minister's condemnation of the bombing of Hanoi, can we not have a debate, so that we can go into the matter in greater detail?

Mr. Crossman

I got the impression that this point was made more than once during the exchanges at Question Time yesterday.

Mr. Stodart

Does the right hon. Gentleman not recollect the assurance of high priority which he gave before the House rose on the subject of the Agriculture Bill? Can he assure the House that it is not being elbowed out by other business?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, I can.

Mr. Rankin

Reverting to the subject of Vietnam, my right hon. Friend has said that he needs to be convinced that there is a big demand for such a debate. If we produced a demand with 100 signatures attached to it, would that be a sufficient reason for having a debate on Vietnam?

Mr. Crossman

In view of his own experience, it is not for me to advise my hon. Friend on how to exert pressure on Ministers.

Sir D. Glover

I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to think again about the closure of the Public Gallery during morning sittings. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman does not spend enough time in the House. In the mornings on Mondays and Wednesdays there are hundreds of people who go over the line of route. They will be deprived of that. Where does the right hon. Gentleman think they will go? Members of Parliament will tell them that they will try to get them into the gallery. It is essential that the full public accommodation is open as soon as morning sittings begin.

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to all hon. Members who have participated in this discussion. It is something which the Services Committee was actively considering only yesterday. As I have said, there are a number of serious problems involved in the new situation of morning sittings with which we are trying to deal. Certainly, I will bear in mind what has been said. I shall be replying to Questions on Monday, and by then I shall have digested all that has been said by the hon. Gentleman and other Members.

Mr. Molloy

What my right hon. Friend is saying is that, because of the shortage of staff and for other reasons, the ordinary general public part of the Public Gallery may not be open, while the privileged sectors seem to be assured that they will be all right. Will he accept that there are many hon. Members on this side of the House who find that totally repugnant?

Mr. Crossman

I would ask my hon. Friend to wait until I make a full statement, because that is not the intention of the Services Committee. The intention is to admit the general public. We felt —and I think that our calculation is correct—that the amount of space allowed for that purpose would be sufficient. If it were not, I agree that that is something which we could not permit.

Mr. Farr

In view of the disturbing and increasing number of foreign takeovers of industrial concerns in this country, would the right hon. Gentleman arrange for an early debate on the subject?

Mr. Crossman

I do not see the prospect of that happening next week. However if it is a broad subject of that kind it is something which we can discuss through the usual channels.

Mr. Manuel

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the White Paper on Transport was published in July of last year? Is he aware of the growing concern in many local authorities, trade unions and large sections of the public that it should be debated? Now that there is support from hon. Gentleman opposite for my repeated pleas on this subject, can he arrange for a debate in the near future?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware that the demand for such a debate does not come only from the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters, but from our side as well. Clearly, this is a debate which should have priority. and it has been unduly delayed.

Mr. Biffen

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to Motion No. 302, suggesting the annulment of the Salop (No. 2) Order, 1966. Could he confirm that it is his intention that it shall be debated, and say whether or not such a debate might take place next week?

[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Salop (No. 2) Order 1966 (S.1. 1966, No. 1529), dated 6th December, 1966, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th December, be annulled.]

Mr. Crossman

Yes, I know of this Prayer. We ought to leave this to the normal channels to arrange. I can see the point. There are six Prayers of this kind, and I would like to have them discussed through the usual channels. The last thing that I want to do is to suppress the discussion of Prayers.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Can my right hon. Friend say when a debate can be arranged on the development areas? Does he not agree that it is vitally important for the House to examine as soon as possible the effect of economic policies on those areas with regard to the nature and degree of hardship suffered, and also examine the success or otherwise of policies relating to the channelling of resources and development into those areas?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly bear my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Can the Leader of the House say why it was necessary to arrange for morning sittings at such an early date that it has not proved practical to allow the public to see them in their gallery? Surely, this is a complete break with all the traditions of the House.

Mr. Crossman

Again, I suggest that the hon. Member awaits my Answers on Monday.

Mr. McNamara

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the important recommendations of the Estimates Committee with regard to the fishing industry? Can he tell us whether we will be able to have an opportunity of an early debate on this matter?

Mr. Crossman

I ought to warn my hon. Friend that an early debate is unlikely, but I will certainly consider the demand.

Sir C. Osborne

In view of the disturbing announcement this morning that national productivity has fallen by 2¼ per cent., making the productivity of the nation now less than at any time in the last two years, and that this and the economic position are likely to get worse, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a debate, not on economics generally, but on the question of productivity, because unless this issue is faced everything else will fall? Can we have a debate on the problems of national productivity?

Mr. Crossman

I would not accept the hon. Member's diagnosis, but in view of the tenor of his remarks I would point out that there is a Supply Day on Monday week which could be adequately filled by his demand.

Mr. Judd

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that we shall have an early opportunity to discuss the rather disappointing White Paper on Overseas Aid and Development, published during the Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I know that there is interest in this subject and I have seen the Motion on the Order Paper. I will bear this matter in mind.

Mr. Prior

Is the Leader of the House aware that his reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) about foot-and-mouth disease was most unsatisfactory? Will not the right hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to come to the Dispatch Box next week an answer some of the allegations that have been made and reassure the public that nothing of the same sort will ever happen again?

Mr. Crossman

I never want to be discourteous to any hon. Member. What I wanted to suggest was that as agriculture had been under discussion for many hours on Tuesday night and again late last night, it was just possible that the issue could have been raised then—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—or directly with the Minister of Agriculture. I have no objection to communicating to my right hon. Friend the wishes of the hon. Member, but I am dealing with the business for next week.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

In view of the unemployment uncertainties which still exist in the motor industry, and the latest American take-over bid, will my right hon. Friend consider whether he can provide an early debate on the future of this industry?

Mr. Crossman

I have, of course, seen the terms of the early-day Motion, which, I think, my hon. Friend has signed, and it looked to me as though most of the points raised were covered in the very full debate we had in question and answer on Tuesday. If my hon. Friend's suggestion is for a much wider debate on the problems of the industry as a whole, that might be something which we could consider at a later date.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

In the light of the right hon. Gentleman's assurances before the Recess, can he now say when the Geddes Report on Shipbuilding will be published and debated?

Mr. Crossman

No, I cannot.

Mr. Eyre

Is the Leader of the House aware of the growing concern among the professions at the enormous complexity of the Land Commission Bill and that the Minister concerned was petitioned again this week asking for further postponement of the first appointed day? As the explanatory booklet which was to assist the professions in dealing with these complexities has still not been issued, will the Leader of the House allocate time next week for this specific issue of postponement to be discussed before it is too late?

Mr. Crossman

It is not for me to advise the hon. Member on how to use his Parliamentary opportunities, but I suspect that without stretching the rules of our Standing Orders on Wednesday, when we shall be considering the Lords Amendments, he might conceivably find it possible to drag in this subject.

Mr. Ridsdale

In view of the apparent queue for Adjournment debates, will the Leader of the House consider finding extra time for debates on the Adjournment? Could we possibly have two a night instead of one?

Mr. Crossman

We are to have them in the morning as well; but I will certainly bear the hon. Member's suggestion in mind.

Mr. Jopling

Reverting to the question of foot-and-mouth disease, does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is because of matters which were raised on Tuesday night by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton), and again last night, that it is essential that we have a very early statement from the Minister of Agriculture about his intentions concerning the allegations which were made on those occasions?

Mr. Crossman

I am sure that my right hon. Friend—whom the hon Member knows as well as I do is not the kind of person who shirks discussion or is not prepared to make a statement—will read HANSARD. I will certainly communicate to him the number of hon. Members opposite who feel strongly that a statement is required.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance, on the business to be taken at morning sittings, that he will not include any important agricultural business, because he will be shutting out of the gallery many people from the country who might like to come up and hear it? The right hon. Gentleman may not have realised that quite a lot of visits to London have now had to be postponed or cancelled because constituents cannot go round the whole line of route. They would certainly wish to be able to go into the gallery. Places which would normally be available will not be available for them, but they would particularly like to come if business of interest to the countryside were being taken.

Mr. Crossman

I am not prepared to communicate to the hon. Member any kind of statement about what business we will select for morning sittings and what we will not. Certainly, I will not say that agriculture will never be mentioned at morning sittings. Of course, I appreciate that hon. Members wish, as I wish, the general public to attend more than they do this normal non-controversial business. I am delighted to find this keen interest by the Opposition in attendance at morning sittings. I hope that we shall have the public there on top and the Opposition down below.

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