HC Deb 06 July 1967 vol 749 cc1993-2002
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, 10TH JULY—In the morning—

Prayers relating to the Training of leachers Regulations and the Carcinogenic Substances Regulations.

In the afternoon—

Motion on the Prices and Incomes Act, 1966 (Commencement of Part II) Order.

Remaining stages of the Prices and Incomes (No. 2) Bill.

TUESDAY, 11TH JULY—Supply [25th Allotted Day]:

Debate on The Care of the Elderly, which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Remaining stages of the Greenwich Hospital Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 12TH JULY — In the morning—

Remaining stages of the Control of Liquid Fuel Bill.

Second Reading of the Welsh Language Bill [Lords].

Motions on the Civil Defence (Public Protection) Regulations for England and Wales and for Scotland, and on the Civil Defence (Casualty Services) Regulations.

In the afternoon—

Progress on the remaining stages of the Companies Bill [Lords].

THURSDAY, 13TH JuLY—Supply [26th Allotted Day]: Debate on The Effect of Government Policies on the British Aircraft Industry and the Royal Air Force, which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

Afterwards, we propose to provide a further opportunity for completion of the remaining stages of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

FRIDAY, 14TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Criminal Law Bill [Lords].

Motions on the Material Development (No. 2) Regulations for England and Wales and for Scotland, and on the Betterment Levy (Minerals) (No. 2) Regulations for England and Wales and for Scotland, and the related Opposition Prayers.

MONDAY, 17TH JULY—The proposed business will be:

In the morning—

Second Reading of the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust Bill [Lords].

Remaining stages of the Welsh Language Bill [Lords].

In the afternoon—

Private Members' Motions until seven o'clock.

Afterwards, Motion on the Coal Industry (Borrowing Powers) Order.

Mr. Heath

Is not the Leader of the House being rather over-optimistic in thinking that next Monday afternoon the House can complete the Motion on the Prices and Incomes Act, 1966, and the remaining stages of the Incomes and Prices (No. 2) Bill? This is especially so in view of the very large number of Amendments which have been placed on the Notice Paper by Members on his own side of the House.

Secondly, can the Leader of the House now tell us whether there is to be a Government White Paper on Defence?

Mr. Crossman

On the first question, we had better wait and see how we get on on Monday. I am very hopeful of doing what we set down.

On the second question, I can tell the Leader of the Opposition that there will be a Government White Paper on Defence. I hope that it will be published, I am not quite sure yet, early in the week after next, and that there will be at least a week before a debate is held on it so as to give an interval for study.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have an important debate ahead. I hope that hon. Members will ration their questions.

Mr. Mikardo

Does my right hon. Friend recall that there are before the House two very important documents on the Post Office—the White Paper and Report of the Select Committee? Does he think that there will be an opportunity in the reasonably near future for debating these, either separately or together?

Mr. Crossman

I do not underrate the importance of the documents for a moment, but I must tell my hon. Friend that between now and the Summer Recess we have very little Government time for general debates. The question of time for general debates is in the control of the Opposition.

Dame Irene Ward

With reference to the debate on my Motion on Monday, 17th July, "The Rights and Liberties of the Subject", are the Government to put the reply co my Motion in the hands of the Paymaster-General?

Mr. Crossman

If the hon. Lady would like that, I will put that suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General.

Mr. Mendelson

Although there may be little time for general debates, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the need for a discussion on foreign affairs before the House adjourns for the Summer Recess, in view of the many urgent problems that the House ought to discuss?

Mr. Crossman

We are bearing that in mind. I feel that we ought to get a day for this before the Recess.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that last week he went out of his way to emphasise that the Government were neutral on the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill? Does the fact that further time is now being arranged by the Government for the Bill mean that the fig-leaf of neutrality has been dropped?

Mr. Crossman

I would not say that. I would say that the Government neutrality remains immaculate. What we are doing is simply to provide further time for the House to come to its own decision. The interest of myself as Leader is solely in the hope that the House should not waste hour after hour on discussion from which no conclusion comes. I would like to see the House come to a decision on this matter.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

While agreeing with my right hon. Friend that it is right that the House should come to a decision on the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, may I ask whether the House should not also come to a decision on my Employment Agencies Bill, which had its Second Reading on 24th June, 1966, and is, therefore, much the oldest of any Bill which has been before the House?

Mr. Crossman

As I said to my hon. Friend last week, I have a good deal of sympathy with him, and I am still hopeful that we shall be able to find time for his Bill, too.

Mr. Sandys

Now that the Prime Minister has decided to set up a Committee to give Colonel Lohan an opportunity to answer the charges which the Prime Minister made against him, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a White Paper to be published with the reports of the proceedings of this Committee?

On another matter, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that there will be a debate on Lord Alport's conclusions?

Mr. Speaker

Order. One Business question is enough for each hon. Member.

Mr. Crossman

I said last week that we had better wait until Lord Alport gets back from Rhodesia, as the Prime Minister pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman a few minutes ago.

The right hon. Gentleman's first point is a question for the Prime Minister. The first thing is to have an inquiry.

Dr. David Owen

Could the Leader of the House say whether he sees any hope of having a debate on the Ministry of Social Security's Report on Circumstances of Families, which reveals some rather alarming facts?

Mr. Crossman

We have just received this Report, which is several hundred pages long. We had better look at it first. I shall try to digest it over the weekend. I would have thought that some aspect of it would be in order on one of the Supply days next week, when the care of the elderly is being debated. I give that as an example.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Is it not absolutely unfair and utterly ridiculous to force all-night sittings on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of this next week? Is it not most unfair particularly to the staff and the policemen of the House?

Mr. Crossman

The question of all-night sittings depends on how long the discussion takes. This is particularly so with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, which has already had a good many hours. I am hopeful that next Thursday some better progress will be made than was made on the last occasion. It is perfectly neutral to say that we want a decision on the Bill one way or the other.

Mr. Whitaker

May I thank my right hon. Friend for his decision on behalf of my constituent the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) because it will enable his arguments to be evaluated in the Division Lobby?

Sir Knox Cunningham

Has the right hon. Gentleman made any special arrangement for the staff of the House in the early and late hours of Friday morning? Are the Galleries to be closed again?

Mr. Crossman

We have discussed this with the Serjeant at Arms. We shall have much the same arrangement as last time. The arrangements worked very satisfactorily throughout the night.

Hon. Members

Where was the Leader of the House then?

Mr. Mayhew

Will the Leader of the House give the assurance that the forthcoming Defence White Paper, unlike the last one, will be made available to Members of the House at least as soon as it is made available to Press correspondents, including correspondents for Communist countries?

Mr. Crossman

I have not forgotten the complaint of my hon. Friend on the last occasion. I will certainly bear it in mind.

Mr. Lubbock

Would the Leader of the House say when the Minister of Power is likely to be making a statement on the Government's energy policy? Since the Conservative Opposition's Supply time has now been exhausted, will the Government give time for a debate on this matter?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that Conservative Supply time is wholly exhausted. As for my right hon. Friend's statement on fuel, he will be making a statement on the Motion for the debate on the coal industry on Monday week.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Can the Leader of the House say what arrangements he is making for a debate on the two very important White Papers on Britain's application to join the Common Market which have been tabled since the debate which concluded on 10th May?

Mr. Crossman

We have not considered further a debate on entry to the Common Market, but if there is a demand for it, after we have studied my right hon. Friend's speech in The Hague, we will consider the possibilities. There will be an opportunity to discuss this in the foreign affairs debate, but I would not have thought that at present there was enough novel matter to justify a debate on this matter at this time of pressing business.

Mr. Evelyn King

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us on what date we are likely to reassemble after the Recess?

Mr. Crossman

No, Sir.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Has my right hon. Friend reconsidered the question of a debate on overseas aid, and, if so, with what effect?

Mr. Crossman

I have borne that question in mind. There are few opportunities, but I am hopeful for a whole day's debate on foreign affairs when speeches on overseas aid will clearly be in order.

Mr. Montgomery

In view of the large number of problems in education, can the right hon. Gentleman hold out any hope of having a debate on education before we rise for the Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I fear not. I see no prospect of it unless. the Opposition choose to debate the subject on one of their remaining Supply days.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Would the right hon. Gentleman look again at the question of time for Monday's business and bear in mind that normally the affirmative Order alone would be a day's business, let alone the Report stage and Third Reading? Would he take into account the fact that the First Secretary of State had to annul four Orders today because of the decision in the Court of Appeal and the inadequate consideration given to the Bill a year ago?

Mr. Crossman

Certainly. We will discuss it through the usual channels, but there are special reasons for urgency about the timing of this debate.

Mr. C. Pannell

Would my right hon. Friend appreciate that, in giving time next Thursday night to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, it is not the Bill which is at stake but the right of the majority of hon. Members on both sides to prevail? Would my right hon. Friend be encouraged by the fact that it has the overwhelming majority not only of the House, but of the country behind it?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are straying into merits.

Mr. Crossman

I think that I should be straying from neutrality if I were to comment on the second part of my right hon. Friend's question. On the first part, it is worth remembering that a majority of hon. Members want the proceedings to take place on Thursday evening.

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

In view of the importance of Thursday's debate, is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the very earnest wish of many hon. Members on this side of the House that the Minister of Defence should reply first for Her Majesty's Government and not run away and speak last like the Prime Minister did in the debate on D Notices?

Mr. Crossman

If hon. Members opposite have wishes to put to my right hon. Friend, I will communicate them. I should have thought that in this case most hon. Members would like to hear a statement of the position from the Secretary of State for Defence at the beginning, and I will bear that in mind.

Mr. McNamara

As it is the right of hon. Members to oppose legislation which is proposed legitimately in the House, can my right hon. Friend say whether there is any alteration in the date when the House will rise for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that I have announced the date for the rising of the House. It will depend on how we get on with our business.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the objection of very many hon. Members is not to giving time for discussion of the abortion Bill, but the time of day, or rather of night, which has been fixed, which is greatly inconvenient for many hon. Members and surely not a suitable time to discuss issues of this gravity?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware that the time is not as convenient as other times, but I think that the majority of hon. Members feel that the inconvenience would be worth while if we could get a decision on the Bill.

Mr. Hogg

Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that Parliament is about discussion as well as voting and that the quality of discussion tends to deteriorate when the House is subjected to ordeal by all-night sitting?

Mr. Crossman

I would remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that perhaps in 10 days' time we shall be having what is almost certainly a traditional all-night sitting on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I was requested by the Leader of the Opposition the other day to give an assurance that I would not closure the debate on that Bill. Apparently, there are some all-night sittings which hon. Members like and some which they do not like.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Once again, may I ask my right hon. Friend to give time next week to discuss my Motion about giving seamen facilities to come home to visit their wives and families? Would it not be decent to do that, the Government having given time for the homosexual Bill last week?

[That this House is of opinion that for social, family, economic and other reasons the withdrawal by British Railways of the cheap fare railway vouchers hitherto available to seamen and their families is wrong as it frustrates family reunions, deprives British Railways of fares, diminishes British Railways income and now calls upon Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Transport, by legislation or otherwise, to restore to British seamen and their families the relevant facilities which they have hitherto enjoyed.]

Mr. Crossman

There is never a Thursday afternoon when my hon. and learned Friend does not think up a newer and more moving reason for my doing what I cannot do for him.

Sir W. Teeling

As the referendum in Gibraltar will be held between the rising of the House and October, will the right hon. Gentleman try to find time in which we can discuss this matter before we rise? The people in Gibraltar are absolutely at sixes and sevens about what we are offering them.

Mr. Crossman

I cannot accept the second part of the question. But I should have thought that this was another subject which could be mentioned in the debate on foreign affairs, if we have it.

Mr. John Wells

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed Motion No. 371 standing in my name and the names of all Kent Conservative Members and a great many Members from rural areas in other parts of the country? He half promised time to debate the Motion earlier in the year. Can he find time to debate the problems of gipsies before the Summer Recess and preferably next week.

[That this House urges tier 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 assimiliated into rural schools.]

Mr. Crossman

It was in a soft moment—I happen to be interested in gipsies, too—when I suggested the possibility of a debate a good many months ago. But I cannot give any assurance that the gipsies will be discussed before the Recess.

Sir F. Bennett

On next Thursday night's business, and speaking as one who has taken no active part in the debates on the Bill, will not the right hon. Gentleman have another look at the matter? The Government, by their conduct and blatent unneutrality, are stimulating controversy and delay rather than achieving the opposite.

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that there is anything in that question which makes me add anything which I have said before without getting away from neutrality.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that when he announced the procedural reforms early this Session he gave a promise that Members would get away from the House at 9.30 on Thursday nights?

Mr. Crossman

The promise which I gave was that the business under the Government's control would be taken at a reasonable time on Thursdays. This has regularly been the case. The real problem is whether we should, after that, provide an opportunity for those hon. Members who want to stay—that is a minority—to discuss an important Measure. I do not think that that in any way violates the pledge which I made about the Government's business.