HC Deb 09 March 1967 vol 742 cc1761-72
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)


Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Crossman

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 13TH MARCH—In the morning—

Police Pensions (Amendment) Regulations and the Parking Places (Transfer of Functions) Order.

Remaining stages of the Teachers' Superannuation Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation Measure.

In the afternoon—

Private Members' Motions until 7 o'clock.

Afterwards, as the House is aware, the Chairman of Ways and Means has set down opposed Private Business.

TUESDAY, 14TH MARCH—Supply [13th Allotted Day]: Air Estimates, 1967–68, Vote A.

WEDNESDAY, 15TH MARCH—In the morning—

Motion on the Post Office Accounts. In the afternoon—

Supply [14th Allotted Day]:

Air, Votes 1, 2, 7 and 8;

Navy, Votes 1, 4, 5, 8 and 9;

Army, Votes 1. 2, 8, 9 and 10, Royal Ordnance Factories Defence (Army) Purchasing (Repayment) Service.

I understand that the House may find it convenient to devote two hours to each of the three Services.

Lords Amendments to the Parliamentary Commissioner Bill.

THURSDAY, 16TH MARCH—Supply [15th Allotted Day]:

There will be a debate on the Plowden Report on Primary Education, which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Civil Estimates and Defence (Central) Estimates, Vote on Account, 1967–68, Supplementary Estimates and, if necessary certain Defence Estimates.

At 10 p.m. the Question will be put from the Chair on all outstanding Votes.

FRIDAY, 17TH MARCH—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 20TH MARCH—In the morning a debate will be opened on the Land Commission Orders, which are on the Paper and will be resumed on the following day.

On Monday afternoon—

Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill.

The House will wish to know that it is intended to propose that the House should arise for the Easter Adjournment on THURSDAY, 23RD MARCH, until TUESDAY, 4TH APRIL.

Mr. Heath

As far as the Supply day is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we were unable to use this day for a debate on decimalisation, because there is the Decimal Currency Bill on the Order Paper. As the House obviously still wants to have this debate, so that its views can be expressed before the Government go ahead with the Bill, we would be prepared to delay the debate on Plowden a little if the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared temporarily to withdraw the Bill, so that the House could debate decimalisation and express its view freely. Then, of course, the Government could reintroduce the Bill in accordance with the wish expressed by the House.

We makes this proposal to the right hon. Gentleman across the Floor of the House to be helpful and to avoid the problem which he mentioned last week, that there would have to be two days' debate. which he could not afford. In view of the warm reception which he has received this afternoon, and the strong position which he now occupies with his party, perhaps he will be able to meet this request.

So far as prices and incomes are concerned, as everybody seems to have been told the Government's proposals except the House of Commons, would the right hon. Gentleman kindly arrange for a statement to be made on this at an early date and then for the House to be able to debate it? It is not good enough to wait until the whole thing is settled and then bring it to the House.

Mr. Crossman

On prices and incomes, I hope that my right hon. Friend will make a statement well before the Easter Recess, and I think that there will be a White Paper as well. No doubt, when that has been studied, we can debate it.

On the first point, I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me these interesting offers across the Floor. Naturally, we will have them discussed through the usual channels.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to Motion 459, on the rights of Members of Parliament, which approves of the attitude of Opposition Members in abstaining on the Leasehold Reform Bill?

[That this House approves of the action of Opposition Members of Parliament who abstained from voting against the Leasehold Reform Bill and maintained the rights of Members of Parliament in a democratic Parliament to refuse to vote for what they believe to be wrong.]

If he changes his mind, and agrees to it being discussed next week, will he allow a free vote?

Mr. Crossman

Free or not, the Motion might attract the support of the majority of hon. Members, but it does not arise on the business for next week.

Sir W. Teeling

May I have some guidance from the right hon. Gentleman about Monday? He refers to the opposed Private Business, but did not mention that the only Private Business is the Brighton Marina Bill. He will realise that there are two matters on that. The hon and learned Member for one of the Aberdeenshire seats—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member cannot now argue about the business. He can only ask for time to debate an issue.

Mr. Hector Hughes

On a point of order. The hon. Member was referring to me, but he misstated my constituency, Sir.

Sir W. Teeling

I have not got to the hon and learned Gentleman yet. I understand that a Bill is being opposed and then followed by an Instruction, one by an hon. and learned Member for an Aberdeenshire seat and one by an hon. Member for a Birmingham seat—

Mr. Hector Hughes

On a point of order. He has done it again!

Sir W. Teeling

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long we will be allowed for each?

Mr. Crossman

I think that it is usual when we are discussing the business for next week, for me merely to say that the Chairman of Ways and Means has set down opposed Private Business, but if the hon. Gentleman really wants my guidance of how to act in this circumstance, I suggest that he comes to me and we discuss it, but not across the Floor of the House.

Mr. Roebuck

Would my right hon. Friend give consideration to an early debate on the future of the Commonwealth?

Mr. Crossman

I will give consideration to it, but it is unlikely before the Easter Recess.

Sir R. Cary

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to a most unsatisfactory outcome of the debate last Tuesday concerning the limb-fitters at Roehampton, who could provoke another work-to-rule? I think that the House ought to have an opportunity—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate now a vote and a debate which have taken place.

Sir R. Cary

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, then, whether the House may have an opportunity before the Easter Recess of discussing that most urgent and humane problem again? of the Board of Trade, would not that be thought so. The Prayer was moved in the normal way, and the decision was taken.

Mr. J. T. Price

The Leader of the House has no doubt been informed by his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade of his intention to make a very important statement next week on the present distressed state of the Lancashire cotton industry and the serious unemployment and trade dislocation flowing from that situation.

Can my right hon. Friend tell me this afternoon what day this statement will be made and at what time? Moreover, can he give me an undertaking that the statement will not be made during the Monday morning sitting of the House, when, for physical reasons, it is impossible for large numbers of north-western hon. Members to be present on these benches?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, I can give that assurance straight away. I have always realised that Monday mornings would be a quite unsuitable time for statements of that kind. I cannot tell my hon. Friend on what day it will take place, but will certainly bear in mind its very great importance to hon. Members. It might possibly take place in an afternoon.

Mr. Grimond

Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has given a firm undertaking—I see that firm undertakings are not very well received by him—that there will be a White Paper on the incomes policy and an economic debate before we rise for Easter? If so, will he ensure that there is some explanation in the White Paper of the Government's proposals for a national dividend?

Mr. Crossman

What 1 think I stated, as the right hon. Gentleman will find when he reads HANSARD, was that I expect a statement before the Easter Recess and I added that I thought that there would be a White Paper as well. I gave no assurance of a debate, because we do not have a day for it.

Mr. Coe

May I remind my right hon. Friend that he gave an undertaking to me last week that he would consider the possibility of a debate on the cotton industry at one of the morning sittings? If we are to have a statement from the President

Mr. Crossman

I should not have a convenient time to have a short debate?

Mr. Crossman

That is a possibility worth considering, but I do not yet know on what day the statement will be made. I think that the best thing would be to hear the statement and have question and answer, and then, perhaps, consider what to do after the Easter Recess.

Mr. Iain Macleod

In one respect—I realise that it has always been so—the business statement is incomplete. It includes Government business, Orders subject to affirmative Resolution and the rest, but not necessarily the Opposition's Prayers to annul Orders. The latter, particularly when prices and incomes is a subject of debate, may well be the most important part of the business of a day or even of the whole week. Will he consider whether the House could be given this information in some way on Thursdays?

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate that, and I think that it would be for the convenience of many Members. The difficulty is that I announce our business. It will be a matter for consultation through the usual channels to see whether it would be for the convenience of the Opposition to have their business put on my statement. If it were so, I should myself have no objection.

Mr. Heffer

At Question Time, the Minister of State, Home Office, stated that the Government were sympathetic to my Bill to abolish live hare coursing. Are the Government considering giving time for the Bill? Will my right hon. Friend say what the Government's position is regarding it?

Mr. Crossman

We have not yet seen the terms of my hon. Friend's Bill, but the Government are sympathetic. All I can say is that it does not arise on the business for next week.

Mr. Hastings

Last week, the Leader of the House undertook to speak to the Foreign Secretary about the possibility of a debate on Aden. Many of us still feel that the situation there is desperately dangerous and urgent. When shall we have a debate?

Mr. Crossman

I have spoken to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and discussed the question with him. It is a grave situation, but it is his considered view that the situation would not be improved by a debate during next week's business.

Mr. Palmer

Could my right hon. Friend provide himself with some time so that he could make again in the House the excellent speech which he made at Morden last night?

Mr. Woodnutt

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that at twenty-five minutes past twelve, towards the end of yesterday morning's sitting, we were discussing the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth (Solent Forts) Order, but the debate was adjourned five minutes later. In view of the importance of this matter to the Isle of Wight, which will probably declare its own U.D.I. before the end of the year and because we want these forts, when does the Leader of the House propose to have that adjourned debate resumed?

Mr. Crossman

I am ready to explain the matter to the hon. Gentleman. If he will ask me about it after business questions today, perhaps behind Mr. Speaker's Chair, I shall clear the point up for him.

Mr. Rose

There has been no debate on sport and leisure facilities since 4th December 1964. Now that the first Annual Report of the Sports Council set up by the Department of Education and Science has been published, will my right hon. Friend change his view that this is a matter for private Members' time and afford time for a debate in the House in the near future?

Mr. Crossman

That was not quite my view. What I think I said was that I recognised this as an important subject, but, since we had great pressure on Government time, at least right up to the Easter Recess, I urged hon. Members to take the opportunity of private Members' time or, indeed, the Consolidated Fund Bill. Later, perhaps, we may find Government time, but not in the near future.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

As the Government have said, in effect, that they are blocking the Livestock Export Control Bill because it has not been discussed, will the Leader of the House give time next week for it, and ensure that the Bill is treated in the same way as the Sexual Offences Bill—and, possibly, the anti- coursing Bill as well—for which time was given?

Mr. Crossman

I give the assurance that the Bill will be given no more and no less advantage than any other Bill which comes up in the normal way.

Mr. Parkyn

As the Minister of Technology now has greatly increased responsibilities and the Ministry is one of the largest Government Departments, will the Leader of the House give the House an opportunity to debate the whole subject of technology at an early date.

Mr. Crossman

There is a debate on one important aspect of it today. We had a debate on the brain drain recently. I think that the work of the Ministry comes up in a great many different debates, but I shall bear in mind the possibility of a debate on the Ministry itself.

Mr. Kershaw

Last week, the Leader of the House gave the impression that the Government had made up their mind not to give a free vote on the question of decimalisation. Is that right? Is it still the position?

Mr. Crossman

What I said was that it was not a matter for the business of next week.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

If it is not possible to have a full day's debate on Lancashire's problems before the Recess, will my right hon. Friend favourably consider having one shortly after the Recess?

Mr. Crossman

As I said earlier, I recognise the importance of the matter. A statement will be made, and I am sure that Mr. Speaker will give opportunity for question and answer on it. After the Recess, we must see what the prority is in debates, but there is not much Government time, and I urge my hon. Friends to remember that they have opportunities for debate, such as the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill.

Mr. St. John Stevas

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his decision about an early debate on Aden? How can he justify his extraordinary statement that the situation there would not be improved by a debate in the House? Surely, the purpose of this House is to debate matters—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman may ask for time. He must not argue.

Mr. St. John Stevas

Is it not the purpose of this House to debate matters of urgent importance, such as the situation in Aden?

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate that point. If the Opposition feel that the matter is of urgent importance, they have their opportunities. I said that my right hon. Friend had considered the matter and did not think that it was opportune to debate Aden next week.

Mrs. Anne Kerr

In view of the deep feelings and anxieties, at least on this side of the House, about how we should best help to resolve the war problem in Vietnam, will my right hon. Friend please consider giving at least a full day's debate to this subject as soon as he possibly can, and at least before Whitsun?

Mr. Crossman

That is a long way beyond next week's business.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

Will the statement on the annual Farm Price Review be made next week, and, if so, will the Leader of the House do his best to ensure that it does not clash with any other major statement at 3.30?

Mr. Crossman

I shall bear that in mind. I think that my right hon. Friend intends to make his statement on 15th March.

Mr. John Fraser

My right hon. Friend will be aware that many hon. Members are delighted by the decision to debate the Plowden Report on Primary Education. As there is much more interest in this subject than in some of the Service Estimates, does my right hon. Friend think it possible to find, say, an extra hour on Thursday?

Mr. Crossman

I am prepared to consider that. If there Were a strong demand for an extra hour, this could be discussed through the usual channels, but my suspicion is that it would not be wanted on Thursday. I will consider it through the usual channels.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I must remind the House that there is important business ahead of us. Mr. Stratton Mills.

Mr. Stratton Mills

With particular reference to next week's business, will the Leader of the House bear in mind that, when Ministers are giving details of finance and expenditure, it would be of great value if they would stop the somewhat curious practice of expressing the figures in terms of constant prices?

Mr. Crossman

I shall pass that advice to my right hon. Friends.

Mr. John Lee

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the time is now approaching when there should be another debate on Rhodesia, to discuss the success or otherwise of sanctions?

Mr. Crossman

I shall bear that in mind, but I cannot say that I think that it has particularly high priority.

Sir S. Summers

My right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) drew attention to items of business which are not Government business. During the past ten minutes, the Leader of the House has repeatedly used some such phrase as "next week's business". Next week's business is not confined to Government business. Will he bear in mind that, when he is announcing the next week's business, his statement ought to cover more than Government business?

Mr. Crossman

When the point was put to me, I said that it has been the practice to give Government business. If we were to alter the practice, it would have to be done after consultation through the usual channels. I conform to the normal procedure unless we agree to change it.

Sir F. Bennett

One subject which has not been mentioned today is Malta, about which I tried to ask a question last week. Obviously, we all want to concentrate on a successful outcome, but there is general anxiety about it on both sides of the House. Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that, as soon as possible, we shall have our impatience rewarded by an early statement on this problem, which concerns us all?

Mr. Crossman

I think it probable that my right hon. Friend will make a statement tomorrow morning.

Mr. Goodhew

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, whatever his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs may think, there are hon. Members who believe that the time is opportune for a debate on Aden? In view of the very grave anxieties about the position there, will not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider this matter?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware that there is a difference of opinion about this. The Government believe that, on the whole, the time is inopportune and that we are not able to find Government time to debate this matter. If hon. Gentlemen opposite think differently, they can draw their own Opposition conclusion.

Mr. Biffen

If the statement on the policy of the Government on prices and incomes during the period following the period of severe restraint will be an outline of Government policy, will the right hon. Gentleman reflect on the undesirability of that being announced to the House before Parliament has had a chance of debating the matter, so that the House at least has parity of consultation with the C.B.I. and the T.U.C.?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly bear that in mind. It is one of the problems of parliamentary government. I thought that I had been asked mainly whether I would give an assurance that a statement would be made; and I said that a statement would be made before the Easter Recess.

Mr. Lubbock

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that several weeks ago at business question time he said, in reply to me, that he would consider allowing a free vote on the subject of decimal currency? In view of the extremely welcome remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman yesterday evening, will he now give an assurance to the House that this matter will be the subject of a free vote, that it will not be decided through the usual channels—as he stated in reply to the Leader of the Opposition—and that it will be decided in accordance with the wishes of the House, as expressed by 67 hon. Members in Early Day Motion No. 319.

[That this House welcomes the statement of Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer in Command Paper No. 3164 that the decision of Her Majesty's Government to retain the £ system in a decimal currency is subject to the final approval of Parliament, and trusts that such Parliamentary approval will be sought by a free vote of the House of Commons.]

Mr. Crossman

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am bearing Motion No. 319 in mind. I would only add that the hon. Gentleman's question does not arise on the business for next week.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Lance Percival. [Laughter.] I apologise to the House. Mr. Ian Percival.

Mr. Percival

I wish that the question I am about to ask might provoke the same amusement as did your reference to my namesake, Mr. Speaker, but I must question the Leader of the House on a more serious topic.

Further to the questions and answers which we have already had about the textile industry, is the right hon. Gentleman really aware that there is very grave concern indeed in Lancashire at the rapid and extremely serious deterioration in the position? There is great indignation at the failure of the Government to take action—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is beginning to discuss the merits of the case. If he wishes, he may ask the Leader of the House to provide time for a debate.

Mr. Percival

Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision that there cannot be a debate on this matter before the Easter Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I explained that I could not do so. It is rather difficult to avoid otiose repetition, but I must repeat that my right hon. Friend will be making an important statement on this issue next week. There will then be a chance of putting questions and receiving answers about the matter. I should have thought that that was a satisfactory solution from the point of view of all hon. Members.

Sir J. Rodgers

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that two or three weeks ago he said that he would make representations to his right hon. Friend the First Secretary to make a statement on the Government's prices and incomes policy? Can he name the date on which the First Secretary is likely to make that statement?

Mr. Crossman

I am not, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that I did make representation to my right hon. Friend; and I have announced that the statement will be made before the Easter Recess. I cannot at this point announce the day on which it will be made.