HC Deb 15 June 1967 vol 748 cc779-94
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, 19TH JUNE—In the morning—

Adjourned Second Reading debate the Bermuda Constitution Bill.

Second Reading of the Public Works Loans (No. 2) Bill.

In the afternoon—

Debate on Aden on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Second Reading of the Aden, Perim and Kuria Muria Islands Bill.

Adjourned debate on the Gas (Borrowing Powers) Order.

Resumed debate on the Second Reading of the Anchors and Chain Cables Bill.

TUESDAY, 20TH JUNE—Remaining stages of the Leasehold Reform Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 21ST JUNE—In the morning—

Motions on the Agricultural Investment (Variation of Rate of Grant) Order, the Calf Subsidies (United Kingdom) (Amendment) Scheme, and on the Agriculture (Tractor Cabs) Regulations.

Lords Amendments to the Marine &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Bill.

In the afternoon—

Committee stage of the Finance (No. 2) Bill, which it is hoped to complete in time to allow consideration of the remaining stages of the Decimal Currency Bill.

THURSDAY, 22ND JUNE—Debate on a Government Motion on the White Paper on the D Notice System (Cmnd. 3312).

Motion on the Iron Casting Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order.

FRIDAY, 23RD JUNE—Remaining stages of the Sexual Offences (No. 2) Bill and of the Criminal Law Bill [Lords.]

MONDAY, 26TH JUNE—The proposed business will be:

In the morning—

Second Reading of the Public Records Bill [Lords.]

Second Reading of the Advertisements (Hire Purchase) Bill [Lords] and of the Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill [Lords], which are consolidation Measures.

Remaining stages of the Bermuda Constitution Bill.

In the afternoon—

Supply [21st Allotted Day].

A debate will take place on a topic of to be announced later.

At seven o'clock, as the House is aware, the Chairman of Ways and Means has set down opposed Private Business for consideration.

Mr. Heath

Am I right in thinking that it is still the intention of the Foreign Secretary to make a statement about Government policy on Aden on Monday?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Heath

I am glad to have that confirmation. But what is the objection to taking the remainder of the Committee stage of the Finance Bill after the Foreign Secretary's statement on Monday and having the debate on Aden on Wednesday?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware that the Opposition have been pressing for a charge, but, on balance, I think that we have to take into account, on a subject such as Aden, the considerations of the Foreign Secretary as well. His preference is strongly for presenting the whole of what he has to say on Monday, and not, as was previously suggested, for debating this matter on the Second Reading of the Aden Bill, but on a Motion for the Adjournment. I would have thought that to be a satisfactory course to both sides of the House.

Mr. Heath

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the preference of the Foreign Secretary for not giving proper time to the House for consideration of his statement is not sufficient reason to hold an immediate debate on it? Of course, in some circumstances it is inescapable that a Minister must make a declaration of policy in a debate. But I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Prime Minister made a statement on our application to join the European Economic Community and that the debate followed two days later. The right hon. Gentleman has given no reason for not taking that course on this occasion. Will he, therefore, change the business?

Mr. Crossman

I am prepared to talk to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, but this has been discussed through the usual channels and my right hon. Friend did say that he would be prepared, naturally, if this was desired by the spokesman for the Opposition, to see that the basis of his statement was made available on Friday to the Opposition spokesman. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is by no means abnormal for statements to be made at the beginning of the day on which the subject is being debated.

Mr. Heath

I could not quite hear what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Opposition spokesman.

Mr. Crossman

I said that if the spokesman of the Opposition wished—and this point was put through the usual channels—my right hon. Friend would, if possible, give the substance of his statement in advance to that spokesman. [HON. MEM- BERS: "No."] The House will get the statement at the same time as the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Heath

I express our gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for the fact that our Front Bench spokesman can have the statement in advance. But if it can be made available in advance to us, why not to the House?

Mr. Crossman

I said that, as far as possible, the substance of the statement will be made available to the Opposition spokesman. It is clear that the statement will be finalised over the weekend, and, therefore, the issue, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, is whether we should have the statement on Monday followed by the debate or whether we should have the debate on Wednesday instead. I pointed out that it is perfectly normal for a statement to be made at the beginning of the day on which a debate on the subject is to take place.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend at long last find time for a debate on my Motion No. 510 about restoring to British seamen the facilities to visit their wives and families when they return from the sea?

[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 re-unions, 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

If my hon. and learned Friend looks again at the business for next week, he will see that, despite the sympathy I have for his Motion, it is doubtful whether it can be squeezed in. I would again advise him to try to use his opportunities as a private Member to obtain time for a debate.

Dame Irene Ward

If, next week, we are to revert on Mondays and Wednesdays to sitting till 10 o'clock, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us why he has decided to abandon the adolescent sleeping at 9.30 p.m.?

Mr. Crossman

We have discussed this on business questions on two previous occasions and I got the impression that one of the improvements in our arrangements for morning sittings which were almost universally agreed was that we should revert to ancient practice in this regard. We accordingly put down a Motion and were relieved to find that no one opposed it.

Mr. Orme

Will my right hon. Friend accept that many of us on this side of the House see no reason why the procedure for Monday's debate should be altered in any shape or form? If information about the Foreign Secretary's Statement is to be given privately to the Opposition, why cannot it be given to the Government back benches as well?

Mr. Crossman

It was because I got the strong feeling that the back benchers on both sides would prefer it this way that it is this way.

Mr. Peyton

As a very large number of hon. Members may wish to comment on the predictability of the Prime Minister's conduct on the D Notice question, will the right hon. Gentleman consider extending the time for Thursday's debate by one hour?

Mr. Crossman

I am sure that we are all looking forward with keen anticipation to the debate. I will discuss the hon. Member's suggestion through the usual channels, but I have a suspicion that, on Thursdays, Members like to feel that the debate ends and the vote is taken at 10 o'clock.

Mr. Boston

In view of the fact that the Sunday Citizen is to close down on Sunday, does not my right hon. Friend feel that there is an urgent need for another debate on the Press? Does he recall that, on 7th March, the Prime Minister said that if a newspaper was in danger of closing down, and either the industry or the newspaper concerned were to approach the Government, the Government would see whether help could be given whilst maintaining the essential safeguards? Is not a debate necessary, either in the House or outside?

Mr. Crossman

I think that the situation in the industry is still unstable, although I must say that, when we held the debate, it was interesting to note how rela- tively few hon. Members took part. I do not think that there is much to be gained by a debate now. I think that there is more in what my hon. Friend said about further research outside the House.

Mr. Sandys

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that, as Leader of the House, he has duties not only to the Foreign Secretary but to the House as a whole? Does not he think it disrespectful to the House and undignified for it to be asked to debate what the Foreign Secretary has described as a wide-ranging statement covering many different issues without giving hon. Members proper time to consider these important matters? Is it not a fact that the Leader of the House has been put in a fix by what the Foreign Secretary said the other day and that he does not like to let him down?

Mr. Crossman

No, Sir, that is not the case. Of course, a Leader of the House must carefully consider the views of the House and it is clear, apart from what my right hon. Friend has said, that the House prefers the course we propose. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that majorities have their rights as well as minorities.

Mr. Kelley

If my right hon. Friend's attention has not been too diverted from Motion No. 575 by other matters which he may consider of greater importance, may I ask when time will be provided for it? We have before us a certain amount of evidence that requires the House to review the question of a national energy policy. May we have some understanding that time will be provided?

[That this House earnestly requests Her Majesty's Government, when formulating its energy policy, to recognise that while the cheapest form of energy for the nation is essential, they should also take into account the social problems and increasing unemployment in the mining areas that too rapid a rundown of the industry would produce; points out that marginal gains resulting from cheaper energy could be outweighed by the cost to the economy of maintaining a growing number of unemployed workpeople and their dependants in the development areas, of which the coalfields are such an important part; and furthermore, in the light of the recent disclosures by the National Fuel Efficiency Study Group of the enormous Government subsidies given to the nuclear power stations, demands a re-appraisal of the whole fuel policy of this country in the interest of the nation.]

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter. I have talked to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power and he hopes to report to the House his conclusions on the current fuel policy review before the Summer Recess.

Mr. Hastings

Can the right hon. Gentleman ensure that, as soon as Lord Alport returns from Salisbury, and regardless of what is recommended, there will be a full debate in the House in Government time?

Mr. Crossman

No, I think that we had better wait until he comes back to see whether there is any need for a debate.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the vast majority of hon. Members are completely satisfied with the statement which he has made this afternoon?

Secondly, may we know whether the Government will provide extra time for the completion of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill?

Mr. Crossman

I thank my hon. Friend for his first remark. As for the second part of his question, I cannot make any statement on it this week.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

Can the Leader of the House make arrangements for a definite statement to be made about whether the Suez Canal is blocked? Is it not fantastic for the House to be told that the Government do not know?

Mr. Crossman

I listened to the exchanges during the Private Notice Question. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary regrets that he is unable to be here this afternoon. I will pass on to him the request for information, which will be given as soon as it is available.

Mr. Molloy

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early Motion No. 518, concerning British Servicemen in the Sachsenshausen Concentration Camp? I understand that the matter is to be referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner, but irrespective of his findings would my right hon. Friend arrange for it to be debated in the House?

[That this House calls upon the Foreign Secretary to appoint an independent person to investigate the treatment of former British inmates of Sachsenshausen Concentration Camp, civilian and military, who have been refused compensation under the agreement between Her Majesty's Government and the Federal Republic of Germany, signed on the 7th June, 1964, with power to recommend the award of ex-gratia payments in appropriate cases.]

Mr. Crossman

I am delighted that the decision has been taken to have an investigation of this difficult case by the Parliamentary Commission. I am sure that it is a right decision. Since it has aroused widespread interest, it seems clear that it would be proper for me to give the assurance that, whatever the Commissioner recommends, we should consider his recommendation and the situation arising under it. I can give that assurance. I will find time for a debate when we have heard what he has to say.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Do the Government intend to publish a new White Paper on defence, or has that now been abondoned in view of the turmoil in many parts of the world? If it is coming forward, may we have an asurance that it will not be produced in the law few days before the Summer Recess, because any matters put forward in it will need consideration and debate?

Mr. Crossman

Whether there is to be a statement or White Paper, there will be an important statement on defence towards the end of next month—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] On defence, towards the end of July. I am not able to say exactly when it will take place, but I will bear in mind the strong feeling of hon. Members that, if they have an important statement, they like to discuss it as well.

Mr. Pavitt

May I remind my right hon. Friend that in this longer than usual Session we have not yet discussed the National Health Service? May we have such a debate before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I would have thought it unlikely, in view of the other subjects which we have to debate. However, that subject can come on the agenda.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is it not desirable that we should have a thoroughly informed debate on Aden? Despite what has been said, and the heat which has been generated, is it not possible for the Leader of the House to make an exchange of business between Monday and Wednesday and so meet the wishes on this side of the House as well as those of some of his right hon. and hon. Friends?

Mr. Crossman

The House is divided in its opinion. However, I think that the decision is clear, and that we will have the debate on Monday.

Mr. Abse

Does the Leader of the House recall that, last November, the Law Commissioners published a Report on Divorce in which they specifically invited the House to express its views on the various options available? As the Report has been discussed in the House of Lords, and there are disturbing reports that outside bodies are conducting talks with the Law Commissioners, would it not be more respectful to the House if we had an opportunity of discussing these matters and so give the respect to the Law Commissioner's Report which it obviously deserves?

Mr. Crossman

I share my hon. Friend's interest and his regard for the importance of this subject. The Government are actively considering the best way in which this Report can be dealt with in the House. Whether it should be dealt with in Committee in the first instance or on the Floor of the House is something which needs careful consideration.

Mrs. Knight

Although the Leader of the House has said that he is unable to tell us when he proposes to give time for completion of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, may we at least ask for an assurance that, when it is discussed, the Government will not put a Whip of any kind on it?

Mr. Crossman

Yes. That assurance has already been given, and I repeat it unequivocally.

Mrs. Renée Short

In view of the great concern in the House and in Hertford- shire and Essex about the possibility of siting the third London Airport at Stansted, will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate to take place on the subject at the earliest opportunity, because it is high time that the House had an opportunity to discuss it?

Mr. Crossman

Certainly, at the earliest opportunity. I am having the matter discussed through the usual channels, because there are complications about a debate on the Floor of the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Hon. Members should listen to what I have to say. The Government want to get this Order through and have a debate as soon as possible. I accepted last week that there was a general feeling among the Opposition that they did not want to debate just the Order, but the White Paper and the Order. I pointed out the difficulties because of the case which is threatened in the High Court. There are also strong representations from the county council, which does not want the Order pushed through until the legal position is clear. This is a most important Report which must be discussed fully, but there are reasons why we cannot take the earliest opportunity to do so. There may be a delay of a few weeks.

Dr. Winstanley

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to Motion No. 572, referring to the fall in the percentage of registered disabled persons employed by Government Departments? The Motion is critical of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Will he, therefore, provide an opportunity for a debate, so that his right hon. Friend can give an explanation?

[That this House notes with regret the failure of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to reveal to the House in answer to a Parliamentary Question on 13th June the fact that the percentage of registered disabled persons employed by Government Departments has now fallen below the standard three per cent. prescribed by the Minister of Labour, and deplores the Government's failure to take effective steps to remedy the position.]

Mr. Crossman

I would myself maintain that the Government's record in this connection compares very favourably with outside industries. However, I am prepared to say that this is a subject which ought to be debated, though I see no time available in the immediate future.

Mr. Moonman

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his decision not to allocate time to debate the Press? Since the last debate, we find that the Sunday Citizen is to close on Sunday and that two more national papers are likely to close down in the next 12 month0073?

Mr. Crossman

I did not exclude the possibility. I said that it was not the most urgent of subjects. We have a great deal of legislation to debate and complete, and I did not want to give a false impression that we could have a debate in the near future.

Mr. Neave

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House again to Motion No. 518 and ask him whether he is aware that I have submitted this case to the Parliamentary Commissioner today and that he will be reporting in a few weeks? If he does so before the Summer Recess, will the debate about which he has given an assurance take place then?

Mr. Crossman

We must wait and see when the report comes forward. There will be a debate, but I cannot guarantee exactly when it will be.

Mr. John Lee

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider his reply to the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) about a debate on Rhodesia, bearing in mind that Lord Alport's visit, whatever the outcome, is of considerable importance? Will he also give time in the near future for a debate on higher education, since it was—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman had better ask for one subject any one week.

Mr. Crossman

I can only repeat what I said before about Rhodesia. I cannot possibly give a promise about a debate before Lord Alport's return. As for a debate on higher education, I can give no assurance about the immediate future.

Mr. Blaker

Am I right in understanding that the only reason which the Leader of the House has advanced for the procedure which he is proposing for the debate on Aden is that it suits the convenience of the Foreign Secretary? If it is, since it has been said by the Foreign Secretary to be such a very important statement, is that reason good enough?

Mr. Crossman

If the hon. Gentleman gained that impression, it was a false one. What I said was that we have to consider the wish of the House. The House is clearly divided, but it is certain that the majority believe, with me, that we ought to have the debate on Monday after we have heard the Foreign Secretary's statement.

Mr. Mayhew

Will my right hon. Friend say when it is proposed to discuss the general question of the Middle East crisis, apart from Aden?

Mr. Crossman

I gave an assurance last week that, if we needed to have a further debate, we would consider it, but that we must watch the Middle Eastern crisis week by week and judge for ourselves, through the usual channels, if and when a debate was necessary.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the White Paper on Broadcasting was published as long ago as December? As these White Papers are always debated, can he give an assurance that there will be a debate before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. I remind him that we have had Second Readings of Bills which have enabled certain aspects of broadcasting to be discussed. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that certain aspects of this White Paper have not been discussed, but I cannot give him the assurance for which he asks.

Mr. Goodhart

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we can expect a comprehensive statement from the Government on the assistance that is to be given to those British citizens who have been forced to leave Arab countries during the last few days?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting that to me. I shall discuss this with my right hon. Friends and try to see that a statement is made at the earliest opportunity.

Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe

If we cannot have a statement about Aden this side of the weekend, so that it can be studied properly before the debate, could not the text of what the Foreign Secretary will say in the afternoon be made available in the Vote Office on Monday morning? This House cannot debate in a responsible manner a long and complicated statement about Aden unless they have it in print before them.

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly put that to my right hon. Friend, but I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that we have had many previous statements followed by debates, and I add that in the initial discussion, when the Leader of the Opposition put this to me, I think that he said that he wanted a debate and then a statement would be made. I do not want to keep him to his words, but, normally, a statement is male and a debate follows on it.

Mr. Heath

As the right hon. Gentleman has referred to what I said on 11th May, perhaps I might point out that in the two preceding business questions I made it quite plain to him that what we wanted was a statement and an opportunity to consider it, which meant a day between the statement and the debate. This has been made plain to the House and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman recognises it. May I make it plain to the right hon. Gentleman that we think that the attitude of the Foreign Secretary, after the House has displayed the utmost patience over Aden and not pressed for a debate, is arrogant and intolerable. All I say is that is that the Leader of the House has our sympathy in having to put up with such a Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Crossman

I totally repudiate this. I think that we have a perfect right to discuss the merits of the various timings, and that this timing is to the wish of the majority of hon. Members.

Mr. Mendelson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in spite of the synthetic excitement which the Leader of the Opposition has worked up, he and his colleagues regularly resisted any suggestion that was made by us when we were in opposition that a debate should not follow immediately on a statement? The right hon. Gentleman is today controverting his own attitude.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that many hon. Members at least on this side of the House were surprised at the lack of information which the Government have about the Suez Canal? As this state of affairs will not only not assist aid for the refugees, but will be detrimental to the economy of this country, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Foreign Secretary to consult the Israeli Government, who can probably give him as much first-hand information about the state of the canal, what ships have been sunk, who by, and when they can be cleared?

Mr. Crossman

I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the question was about British persons on ships and not about the broad issue of the canal. The Parliamentary Secretary answered that question, I think, thoroughly and then wider questions were asked in supplementaries. These questions having been asked, I have given the assurance that there will be a statement next week when the information is gathered. We have no diplomatic representatives in Cairo. We have to rely on the Canadians, but we will get the information.

Mr. Hawkins

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the Report of the Wise Committee on Smallholdings will be considered before the Summer Recess, in view of the fact that both parts have been published and that smallholdings policy is being held up in the county councils for lack of this report?

Mr. Crossman

Many hon. Members spent last weekend studying this solid document and I am sure that it will be further studied before the Recess; but whether there should be a debate before the Recess is a different question, on which I can give no assurance.

Mr. C. Pannell

Will my right hon. Friend refresh his mind about this before next week so that he will be able to tell the Opposition that the last time we had trouble with the Suez Canal it was closed not for six days, but by them for about six months?

Mr. Speaker

That was not a business question, ingenious though it was.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

If no firm agreement is reached—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are coming to the end of business questions.

Mr. Taylor

If no firm agreement is reached over the weekend between the N.U.R. and the British Railways Board about the Continental terminal depot, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that there will be a statement on Monday by the Minister of Transport, the day on which the terminal is due to be opened?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot give that assurance, but I shall communicate the hon. Gentleman's request to my right hon. Friend. If necessary, I am sure, that she will accede to it.

Mr. Maxwell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we on this side of the House deeply deplore and resent the personal cheap attack by the Leader of the Opposition on the Foreign Secretary? Further, will my right hon. Friend consider making sure that the Foreign Secretary makes it clear that he was pulling the former Administration's chestnuts out of the fire in Aden and that it was because—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is for Monday's debate, I think.

Mr. McMaster

In view of the deplorably high summer rate of unemployment caused by the Government's projected credit squeeze, will the right hon. Gentleman fix an early day for a debate on economic affairs as they affect Northern Ireland?

Mr. Crossman

I shall certainly bear in mind that we owe Northern Ireland a day. We will consider when we can take that day to the convenience of the House.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision not to tell the House the date the Government have chosen for the further consideration of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill since, if every hon. Member is to have an equal opportunity of coming here, the right hon. Gentleman should give as much advance notice as possible? Can he confirm that the date is 3rd July?

Mr. Crossman

There is no question of reconsidering our decision, because the Government have not decided. I said that I could not, on this business statement, give a decision, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that time will be given. We will give adequate notice to hon. Members. It is a reasonable request that everybody should have reasonable time, so that they can attend if they wish. I give the assurance that we will do that.