HC Deb 26 January 1967 vol 739 cc1783-96
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, 30TH JANUARY—Supply [7th Allotted Day]. It will be proposed that the Winter Supplementaries should be taken formally with the Question being put on all outstanding Votes to allow debate on an Opposition Motion on Services Doctors and Dentists Pay until 7 o'clock.

Afterwards, a debate on Drugs on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

TUESDAY, 31ST JANUARY—Third Reading of the Agriculture Bill, which it is hoped to obtain by about 7 o'clock.

Afterwards, Second Reading of the West Indies Bill.


Motion on the Ministry of Aviation (Dissolution) Order.

In the afternoon:

Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill.

THURSDAY, 2ND FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill which, by Standing Order No. 89 will be formal.

Remaining stages of the West Indies Bill, the Road Safety Bill and of the Road Traffic Bill.

FRIDAY, 3RD FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 6TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be:

In the morning:

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.

Motion on the Southern Rhodesia (Prohibited Trade and Dealings) Order.

Mr. Heath

Is the Leader of the House aware that his commitments to the House are now piling up heavily? He has promised debates on the White Paper on Transport, on Broadcasting, on the Mountbatten Report and on the Plowden Report. The Commonwealth Secretary indicated that he accepted the necessity for a debate on Malta, which we hope the Leader of the House will confirm. The right hon. Gentleman has not been able to provide any of these debates for next week. Would he now accept pressure to provide them as early as possible and to start dealing with these matters? Would he also undertake to keep up his present record of dissolving one Government Department at every morning sitting?

Mr. Crossman

The answer to the last part is "No". In answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, it is true that at this time of the year, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, there is business the Government have to get through. Most of the discussion takes place on Opposition time or in private members' time. I think I can give an assurance that I see my way to a debate on transport in the near future. I can see some hope for a debate on broadcasting in the near future. I do see the case for a debate on Malta, but I think that it is a little way behind a debate on the Mountbatten Report and prisons, which I think is the third priority. Those are the three matters which I can say we are beginning to have plans for.

Mr. Heath

I am delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he can see forward at all. The question of Malta is a more urgent one, because this involves executive decisions by the Government. I should like him to reconsider that.

Mr. Crossman

This is something entirely for consideration through the usual channels. If it is felt that Malta is a matter of urgency—I personally feel that it is a matter of great importance—I certainly will be sympathetic to rearranging the order of priority in this respect.

Mr. Shinwell

In reply to a Question the other day, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology informed the House that legislation to implement the Geddes Report on Shipbuilding would be forthcoming very soon. When will the legislation be introduced? If the legislation is to be delayed in view of many problems that now confront the British shipbuilding industry, will my right hon. Friend arrange to afford time to enable the House to debate this subject?

Mr. Crossman

My right hon. Friend is obviously very well informed about the progress of the legislation. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology was correct in saying that the legislation would come soon, but I cannot give a precise date. It is possible that it will be delayed for reasons not unrelated to what my right hon. Friend just suggested.

Mr. Hogg

I note that the Leader of the House considers the Mountbatten Report to have third priority. I ask him to look at the supplementary questions and answers which came from all parts of the House at Question Time today before he finally relegates it any lower.

Mr. Crossman

I am not relegating it. I do not want to give that impression. All these four subjects are important. I was asked to bear in mind that a new subject—Malta—had come up. That was the point I was making. There is now a fourth matter of high priority.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to Early-Day Motion No. 340 standing in my name and in the names of some of my hon. Friends, expressing our grave concern at the unacceptable level of unemployment appertaining at the moment?

[That this House expresses its grave concern at the January total of unemployment of over half a million wholly unemployed; feels that this is an unacceptable level; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to adopt measures that will increase production and ensure full employment throughout the United Kingdom.] Will he undertake to make time available for his colleagues in the Cabinet to come to the House and make known their immediate and positive proposals for reversing this trend?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly consider a debate on this subject. I suggest to my hon. Friend that meanwhile opportunity might be able to be found in certain limited regards next Wednesday evening.

Mr. Farr

In view of the further disturbing evidence of a foreign take-over of British business houses and industries which has come to hand today in relation to the Philips/Pye deal, will the Leader of the House consider as a matter of urgency providing time for the House to discuss this series of events?

Mr. Crossman

I would not accept for one moment the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that it is anything but a very healthy change of control which should not be wholly to the disadvantage of anybody, if we are concerned with European relations. As I said before, this is an important subject, and it is one of the general subjects which we might well discuss in a debate devoted to economics, but I repeat that the Opposition also have opportunities for giving time for such debates.

Dr. David Kerr

Would my right hon. Friend note that the continued delay in bringing the leasehold reform Measure before the House is encouraging a good deal of squalid arm twisting by freeholders in respect of leaseholders? Would my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that this Measure will be brought before the House within the next couple of weeks?

Mr. Crossman

I had read in the Press the matters to which my hon. Friend refers. I think that the assurances I gave in a previous capacity, as Minister of Housing and Local Government, may have removed most of the dangers of this kind. Nevertheless, delay is bad and I can tell my hon. Friend that this extremely complicated and important Measure is nearly ready for presentation.

Mr. R. Carr

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the Prime Minister gave a pledge last summer that the Ministry of Aviation would not be abolished until the future structure of the aircraft industry had been settled? How does he explain an Order to dissolve the Ministry when, so far as the House and the country is aware, that question has not yet been settled?

Mr. Crossman

That is the kind of point that the right hon. Gentleman can put when he attends the morning sittings.

Mr. Whitaker

In order that Mr. Kosygin may have an interesting debate to hear during his visit, may be debate the Press while he is in the country?

Mr. Crossman

That is certainly a motive for debating the Press which I had not thought of before. I shall bear the thought in mind when considering the business for the week after next.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Will the right hon. Gentleman look again at today's business? He has put down on the Order Paper as the second Order an important Motion relating to private members' time. That, I take it, is not exempted business, so if the Iron and Steel Bill debate goes to Ten o'clock we shall not be able to debate that Motion. Will the right hon. Gentleman take the Motion off the Order Paper today so that it can be discussed properly on another occasion?

Mr. Crossman

I should be surprised if this Order were something which we wanted to debate for long. It is specifically designed, as the hon. Gentleman knows, to enable back bench Members to have more time in which to choose their subjects and to make them more topical in debate. I had assumed that this was totally uncontroversial and was of assistance to the House. However, if I did find that there were differences in points of view, this is something that I would consider, but I have yet to learn that there are major matters to be debated on what I thought was of self-evident advantage to back benchers.

Mr. Mackintosh

Will the Leader of the House take notice of the two Early-Day Motions on the subject of the raising of overseas students' fees in British universities?

[That this House regrets the decision of the Secretary of State for Education and Science to impose increases of over 200 per cent. in the fees to be paid by overseas and Commonwealth students studying in British universities, deplores the announcement of this decision in an answer to a written Parliamentary Question; and calls upon the Leader of the House of Commons to arrange an early debate on the subject to enable hon. Members to express their views on the matter.]

[That this House believes that the Department of Education and Science should consult with the Ministry of Overseas Development and other appropriate Ministries with a view to revoking the decision to treble fees for overseas students so far as those from developing countries are concerned.]

This, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is causing grave alarm in this country and abroad. We should like time to discuss this matter if it is not possible to do so next Wednesday.

Mr. Crossman

I advise my hon. Friend to look carefully next Wednesday. This is a Supplementary Winter Estimate and, unlike the other two big debates on the Consolidated Fund, this is traditionally narrowly interpreted. He ought to look carefully here to see what he can or cannot debate, since he cannot normally range as widely on this debate as is possible on the other two. I believe I am right in saying that, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Deedes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, on the question of morning sittings, some hon. Members are in Standing Committees on Wednesday mornings and will be in increasing difficulty? Indeed, some Committees upstairs and the proceedings in this House are running increasingly in parallel. Will the right hon. Gentleman give thought to the possibility of arranging some improved voting system for Committees upstairs? This problem will increase.

Mr. Crossman

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for having given me notice of that question. It has given me time to reflect upon it. We chose Mondays and Wednesdays for morning sittings and, although Monday is by no means the most convenient day, it was chosen to avoid coinciding with our Committee work upstairs. I agree that there is a little Committee work on Wednesdays, but not very much. However, I further agree that as we develop this will become a serious problem to consider, and in any plan that I may put forward next Session for a much more drastic reorganisation of our business as a result of the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure, this is the kind of careful timetabling question that we ought to bear in mind. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having raised this point.

Mr. Lubbock

Would the right hon. Gentleman say when he expects to introduce a Motion for the establishment of a new Select Committee on agriculture, science and technology?

Mr. Crossman

I apologise in the case of agriculture. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that a Motion on science and technology is on the Order Paper—

[That, to enable this House to establish more effective scrutiny of scientific and technological matters, a Select Committee, with the normal powers to hear evidence and make reports to the House, should be appointed to examine the annual reports of the Privy Council for Research, the Atomic Energy Authority, the National Research Development Corporation and similar bodies.]

In the case of agriculture there is a little delay in collecting the final names. They are being collected today. I regret I have not been able to keep fully to my pledge of last week.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend find time in the near future to discuss the recent conversations between the Prime Minister of this country and the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic? This has a very important bearing on the trade relations between the five entities of these two islands.

Mr. Crossman

I would not like to under-estimate the importance of the conversations, but I cannot give my hon. and learned Friend any assurance that they will be discussed next week or, indeed, in a fortnight's time.

Mr. Eyre

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last night further last-minute substantial Government Amendments were put down to the Land Commission Bill? In view of the concern expressed by members of the professions who have got to try to cope with this fantastically complicated legislation, will the right hon. Gentleman provide an opportunity next week for the House to debate the urgent matter of the further postponement of the first appointed day?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly not give an opportunity next week. I have a suspicion that the House would like to feel that there would not be too many more hours spent on the Land Commission Bill.

Mr. Chapman

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Committee on Procedure will be pleased that within 10 days of the publication of its recommendations one of the recommendations is on the Order Paper for tonight? Could my right hon. Friend give an assurance that a number of small points in the last Report —for example, the recommendation relating to voting procedure, which is a very simple change—can be taken quickly in this way and, I hope, put through unanimously without opposition?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter. However, one sees the difficulty. I tried to do precisely this this afternoon, and then I find one or two hon. Members who feel that this is a matter that they want to discuss. This is a difficulty when one puts forward something which one believes to be absolutely straightforward. If we are to make these minor changes and then discuss them every time they are introduced, it is difficult to find all the time necessary for discussion. I think the House should sometimes trust the Leader of the House to put on the Order Paper a subject arising from a report if it is wholly of advantage to back benchers. Nevertheless, I take notice of the fact that even on something as uncontroversial as this there will be found among our numbers hon. Members who disagree. This is one of our problems.

Mr. Roebuck

Owing to my right hon. Friend's passionate reluctance to change his mind, it is with diffidence that I ask him to be more specific on the question of a debate on the Press. In the House—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must ask a business question.

Mr. Roebuck

In the light of a debate in the other place yesterday, could my right hon. Friend say when we may have a general debate on the Press?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think we ought to decide our business in the light of business in another place. We decide it according to its merits here. I still think that in view of the publication of the Economic Intelligence Unit Report and the fact that it is now before the owners, it would be wise to give reasonable time. I do not regard the Press debate as of equal importance as, say, transport or Malta.

Mr. John Page

Will the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the great importance which is attached on both sides of the House to the new situation arising in Malta since the statement, and will he try to find a full day not later than the week after next so that the new situation can be fully discussed?

Mr. Crossman

I certainly cannot give any kind of assurance about a full day. We might rather have a quick day than a full day. I shall certainly consider part of a day and I regard it as important.

Sir C. Osborne

Would the right hon. Gentleman look at the whole problem of Questions? Since he and I came to this House 22 years ago the number of Questions has increased enormously. It is almost impossible to get an answer to a Question unless it is put down three weeks before the answer is given. By then the urgency of the matter has often gone. Would the right hon. Gentleman consider this? This affects the rights of back benchers on both sides of the House. I have been cut out twice today very closely—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member has made his point.

Mr. Crossman

I do not see what I can do about the keenness of hon. Members to put down Questions. There is a possibility, which the Select Committee has put to us, and it is one of the matters that I want to consider about Question Time. This is one consideration that we shall bear in mind.

Mr. Iremonger

As the time is now approaching when it would be too late to make any observations on this point, would the Leader of the House look at Early-Day Motion No. 350 standing in my name, about the reallocation of Independent Television Authority contracts, and see whether we can have a short time to debate this in the House?—

[That this House notes with concern the announcement by Lord Hill on 21st December concerning the allocation of new Independent Television Authority contracts from July 1968 onwards, which will create new monopoly situations in the Midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire, and new licences to print money; believes that a better allocation is possible along the lines advocated by the Media Executive Circle and widely accepted throughout the television and advertising industries; and calls upon the Postmaster-General and the Independent Television Authority to reconsider the position before the contracts are due to be advertised in February of this year.]

Mr. Crossman

I did look into this. If I understand the situation aright, the whole question of television contracts is entirely a matter for the I.T.A. I do not think that it is something on which the House would want particularly to intervene.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Has my right hon. Friend forgotten the Brambell Report, or is it still in some obscure pigeon-hole? Will my right hon. Friend find time for debating the Report in the foreseeable future?

Mr. Crossman

I have by no means forgotten the Report. I know that my right hon. Friend is concerned not only to discuss it but to consider what parts of it one should legislate for. That is what he is concerned about now.

Mr. English

Is my right hon. Friend aware that before he announced the business for next week there were approximately 14 subjects down for debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, and will he take steps to ensure that the business for subsequent weeks does not leak out in future?

Mr. Crossman

Perhaps I am slowwitted, but I do not see the imputation. I would have thought it not unreasonable for hon. Members to anticipate here and look at it.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

As the Consolidated Fund Bill is to be discussed in the afternoon of a morning sitting day, what action does the right hon. Gentleman propose to take to make sure that the House rises early, as we understood was the intention on morning sitting days? Even if we do not have regard for ourselves, we ought to have regard for the staff of the House.

Mr. Crossman

That is certainly something which we ought to bear in mind. The aim of morning sittings, as I explained in the debate on procedure, is to reduce the amount of Government business which impose on the House in the evenings after 10 o'clock and to take all that business in the morning. There are three what I might call potential all-night sittings which, as a long-standing back bencher, I would not in any way seek to limit because they come on the Consolidated Fund Bill, the occasion when back benchers traditionally have their rights. I do not think it is at all inopportune to point out that it is not my aim, as Leader of the House, through morning sittings to deny hon. Members the right to debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill any grievances which they have. All I did was to point out, that this is a Winter Estimate, and I reminded my hon. Friends who might not have so much experience that they must be careful, because I understand that Mr. Speaker's Rulings in the past have not been as broad with regard to Supplementary Estimates as they have been with regard to others. We must debate only subjects covered by the Supplementary Estimates. It is worth looking at the list which, although considerable, is severely limited.

Mr. Heath

We are grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's undertaking that in no circumstances will his right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary seek to move the Closure on the Consolidated Fund Bill.

Mr. Crossman

I do not think I said anything of the sort. I was asked whether I would try to stop the proceedings at 10 o'clock that night, and I said that was not the sort of thing that I would do. Perhaps I may say to the right hon. Gentleman that he is very unwise to bring my attention to an inaccuracy in what I said so that I can quickly correct it.

Mr. Bob Brown

Has my right hon. Friend seen Motion No. 346 on the Order Paper? Is he aware that about 215 Members from both sides of the House have now signed this Motion, which has become known as the D'Oliveira Motion? Will my right hon. Friend make time available to discuss the subject, or failing time for an early debate, may we have an early statement on the attitude of the Government towards this quite disgraceful affair which, if not speedily resolved, could become a blot on the history of British sport?

[That this House deplores the colour discrimination introduced into sport by the South African Government and calls on the Marylebone Cricket Club to cancel its proposed tour in 1968–69.]

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for calling my attention to this Motion. We are all grateful to the hon. Gentleman who put it down. I think it represents the views of a very large number of right hon. and hon. Members. Having said that, I would add that I am sure the M.C.C. will pay attention to what Members think. But it is its ultimate decision to take action itself, having, I hope, paid full attention to what is said here. I gather that the Secretary of State for Education and Science has a Question down for Monday. If it is possible, I would hope to have it taken at 3.30, if it is not reached, to ensure that an Answer is given.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Is the Leader of the House, who has the interests of back benchers so very much at heart, aware that one recommendation which achieved unanimous support of both parties at the Congressional Committee investigating the work of the United States Congress was that each member of Congress should be provided with a third legislative assistant? In view of the right hon. Gentleman's own remarks on the relationship between Parliament and the Executive, and in view of the mass and complexity of legislation which the Government are now inflicting on Parliament, will he give us an idea of when Her Majesty's Government will consider providing Members of this House with their first legislative assistant?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that we can complete that in next week's business.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Could the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the choice of a morning sitting day for the Consolidated Fund Bill—it is the choice of the Leader of the House—because it may well mean a 24-hour day for the staff of the House? Would it not be much better to have the Consolidated Fund Bill on a day when there is no morning sitting?

Mr. Crossman

I agree in principle that that is right. We had great difficulty this week. We have a very rigid timetable on the Consolidated Fund Bill, but I will certainly bear that in mind for a future occasion.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's Answer to the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), will he allow some time, perhaps in the morning, for a debate on the savage increase in the fees for university students from abroad which will bring hardship to thousands? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many hon. Members on both sides of the House consider that it was an outrage for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to make his announcement in a Written Answer on the day before the Christmas Recess? Will he allow time for the House to express its views?

Mr. Crossman

The question about Written Answers should be put to my hon. Friend. On the other question, with regard to morning sittings, this is exactly the kind of statement which I would hope that a Minister would make in the morning, with notice, so that supplementary questions could be asked. This is the very purpose of having Ministerial statements in the morning, and I am glad that the hon. Member sees the point of doing it in the morning. As to the actual subject, I realise that there are strong feelings, but I can give no expectation of a debate.