HC Deb 31 January 1967 vol 740 cc250-2
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Richard Crossman)

Following the exchanges after the Private Notice Question yesterday, I should like to make a short statement about the business announced for Thursday, 2nd February.

The proceedings on the Road Traffic Bill will be postponed.

Until about 7 p.m. there will be a debate on Malta. This will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House and will be followed by the remaining stages of the West Indies Bill and the Road Safety Bill.

Mr. Heath

I am sure the House will agree that the Leader of the House is right in arranging this debate for Thursday. We are grateful to him for it. It will enable the Government to explain their position and hon. Members to comment on the matter and consider where we go from there.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will the Leader of the House take note of the fact that there is widespread interest among hon. Members on both sides of the House about the problems of Malta? When account is taken of the Front Bench speakers, what time will be left for back bench Members to express their views on this very important matter?

Mr. Crossman

As I put it to the House in reply to the Private Notice Question, we sometimes have a choice between an early and topical debate on an important subject, and all the time we want. I would have thought it wise to have the debate as early as possible, even if it were short. I hope that it will be possible to get some back benchers in.

Sir C. Taylor

Surely, on the subject of Malta, which has provoked widespread interest throughout the country, the House should have a full day's debate.

Mr. Deedes

Do I understand that we are to have the remaining stages of the Road Safety Bill on Thursday? There is an enormous amount still to discuss on that Bill.

Mr. Crossman

The proposal that I read was that we should do the West Indies Bill and the Road Safety Bill.

Mr. Fisher

If we cannot have a full day's debate on Malta, may I suggest for the right hon. Gentleman's consideration that as it is only half a day we should have only one Front Bench speech from each side instead of two?—otherwise back benchers will not get in at all.

Mr. Crossman

That is a point which we could perhaps consider through the usual channels. Certain suggestions were made, including one that there should be two Front Bench spokesmen, because some people felt that they wanted to hear not only from the Commonwealth Office but from the Defence Ministry. I understand the difficulties, however, and I promise to give this matter thought through the usual channels.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that just hoping that some back benchers might get in is not good enough on a subject like this and that the business of the House must be arranged in such a way that it is certain that some back benchers will get in?

Mr. Crossman

If that is the hon. and learned Gentleman's interpretation, I cannot have made it clear enough. Of course, that is the intention. We are now considering—and I said that I would consider it through the usual channels—whether we can ensure adequate debate with one Front Bench speaker on each side. There are advantages and disadvantages there, and I should like to consult through the usual channels.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that we can move on.

Sir Harwood Harrison

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Second Reading debate on the Road Safety Bill was curtailed by the Government, that we feel that this is an important subject and that it should be given adequate time on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Crossman

I will bear that in mind.

Mr. Mapp

Would my right hon. Friend reconsider his position over the Road Traffic Bill? There is a series of Amendments which cut across political issues. In view of the lateness of the hour on a Thursday evening, the House will not be able, with the departure of provincial Members, to go on. I hope that he will reconsider and put it on later next week.

Mr. Crossman

I could not have made myself clear. The Road Traffic Bill is postponed. We shall not discuss it on Thursday. It is the Road Safety Bill which we are having.

Mr. Deedes

We must get this clear. That is the Bill in question.

Mr. Crossman

I have said that there are two Bills. One is the Road Traffic Bill, which is postponed. The other is the Road Safety Bill

Mr. Deedes

That is the important one.

Mr. Crossman

—which will be taken, and which we hope to complete, on Thursday evening.

Mr. Awdry

The right hon. Gentleman still has this wrong, with respect. There will be a great deal of discussion on the Road Safety Bill. Would it not be more sensible to postpone it altogether—it is bound to go on a few hours—and deal with the other very vital matter which concerns all hon. Members?

Mr. Crossman

I think that the arrangement over Malta is satisfactory, but if there is strong feeling we shall certainly consider it through the usual channels.