HC Deb 04 May 1967 vol 746 cc743-53
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, 8TH MAY—In the morning—

Completion of the Second Reading of the Fishing Vessel Grants Bill.

Remaining stages of the Dangerous Drugs Bill and of the National Health Service (Family Planning) Bill.

Second Reading of the Air Corporations Bill [Lords], the Development of Inventions Bill [Lords] and of the Industrial Injuries and Diseases (Old Cases) Bill [Lords], which are all consolidation Measures.

In the afternoon—

Opening of a three-day debate on the Common Market, which will arise on a Government Motion to approve the statement in the White Paper on Membership of the European Communities. (Cmnd. 3269.)

Afterwards, Lords Amendments to the Housing Subsidies Bill and to the Road Safety Bill.

TUESDAY, 9TH MAY—Supply [20th Allotted Day]: Continuation of the Common Market debate.

WEDNESDAY, 10TH MAY—In the morning—

Motion on the Carriage by Air Acts (Application of Provisions) (Overseas Territories) Order.

Remaining stages of the Air Corporations Bill [Lords], the Development of Inventions Bill [Lords] and of the Industrial Injuries and Diseases (Old Cases) Bill [Lords].

In the afternoon—

Conclusion of the Debate on the Common Market.

There will be a suspension of the rule until 11 o'clock.

THURSDAY, 11TH MAY—Remaining stages of the Shipbuilding Industry Bill and of the Fishing Vessel Grants Bill.

Motions on the Ploughing Grants Schemes and on the Fertilisers (United Kingdom) Scheme.

As the House knows, it will be proposed that on FRIDAY, 12TH MAY, the House should rise for the Whitsun Adjournment until WEDNESDAY, 31ST MAY.

It may be convenient to the House if I announce now that the business for the first week after the Adjournment will be as follows:

WEDNESDAY, 31ST MAY—In the morning—

Second Reading of the Anchors and Chain Cables Bill.

In the afternoon—

Finance (No. 2) Bill: Committee stage.

THURSDAY, 1ST JUNE—Further progress with the Committee stage of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

FRIDAY, 2ND JUNE—Private Members' Bills.

Mr. Heath

Can the Leader of the House tell us when the White Paper on Agriculture, relating to the Common Market, will be published?

Mr. Crossman

I am glad to say that it is now available in the Vote Office.

Dr. Winstanley

Is the Leader of the House aware that Mental Health Week takes place immediately after the Recess, and that on the first day of that week the Minister of Health is at present placed fifth in the order of Questions? Can nothing be done to elevate him in the batting order, so as to give publicity to this important event, which has Government support?

Mr. Crossman

I doubt whether it would be possible to organise our Question Time to coincide with certain events, even with such an important event as that.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, in view of the fact that in the debate on the Common Market there will be no official Opposition operating, he can give any information as to the number of Government speakers who will address the House from the Front Bench, and whether they will include the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Transport, and any other right hon. Members associated with the Government who have expressed in public and, of course, in private, opposition to British entry into the Common Market?

Mr. Crossman

It is news to me that there will not be an official Opposition functioning during the debate. As for my right hon. Friend's question about who will be speaking from the Front Bench, I do not think that it is normal to give all of the names. I give him this assurance—he will find that a fair proportion of those whose names he mentioned might well be speaking from the Front Bench.

Mr. Thorpe

May I ask a slightly less controversial question on the three-day debate? Is it the intention of the Leader of the House to suggest to the House that certain different topics, related to the Common Market, might be taken on different days—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] May I ask the Leader of the House to reply, and not his supporters?

May we have an indication from the Leader of the House which particular Ministers are likely to reply on which days, so that the House will know the way in which the Government are planning the debate? Do we take it that guidance will be given to hon. Members opposite, or that this will be a matter for a free vote?

Mr. Crossman

I am certainly willing to discuss the division of the debate. A three-day debate is a very long affair. I would have thought that we should leave right hon. and hon. Members free to speak when they wish. It will, in due course, be announced which Government spokesmen there are to be. There will be spokesmen from different Departments on certain days, and no doubt Members will notice that they are speaking then, and that a reply on that subject will be vouchsafed.

Mr. Whitaker

In view of the very serious allegations which have been made against certain right hon. Gentlemen concerning not only the operations in Suez, but also collusion with the C.I.A. in Guyana, and in fairness to those right hon. Gentlemen, so that they can have an opportunity to deal fully with these allegations, may we have an assurance that, as soon as possible after the Recess, we will have a full day's debate on each matter?

Mr. Crossman

I would like to have notice about Guyana, which, I would not have thought, we needed to debate at all.

On the subject of Suez, we have all read with interest the articles in The Times, but I still think that it is important that we should wait and see the whole book, when it is published, before we decide how the House should deal with it, if it should.

Sir E. Boyle

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, before Whitsun, we shall have an official statement from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Education and Science about the school-building programme for next year, bearing in mind the concern felt by many local authorities following the shock announcement about the Birmingham programme yesterday, and the fact that each successive slice turns out to be more disappointing than the one before?

Mr. Crossman

I certainly do not accept all the imputations of the question, but I will put to my right hon. Friend the desire of the right hon. Gentleman for further information on this point before the Recess.

Mr. Mendelson

Is it not a fact that apart from the question of entry into the European Economic Community, there are many other burning problems, such as the dangerous situation in Vietnam and South-East Asia, which the House ought to consider? Would my right hon. Friend transpose the Motion for the Whitsun Recess to the Thursday afternoon, so that the traditional right of Members to deal with grievances and to point out dangers can be fully unheld and ample time for debate provided?

Mr. Crossman

I think that my hon. Friend may find that my mind has anticipated his on the timing of the debate on the Adjournment for the Whitsun Recess.

Mr. Turton

Can the Leader of the House say when he intends to put the Government Motion on the Common Market on the Order Paper? Can he further say whether, before the debate, there will be a White Paper on the constitutional consequences of entry? May I also ask him whether another statement on the economic consequences of entry, in addition to what is in The Times of last Monday, will be made?

Mr. Crossman

My right hon. Friend made clear what the intentions of the Government are. The Motion has been tabled today, and the first White Paper, which includes simply the text of his statement, is available now. There is also available the first of a series of detailed White Papers, which, as he said, is on agriculture. Others will follow in due course.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

As, in these great economic debates, it is customary for the Secretary of State for Scotland to explain the relative advantages and disadvantages of any policy, will my right hon. Friend be here to explain how Scotland is to gain or lose by going into the Common Market?

Mr. Crossman

I can assure my hon. Friend that I will pass his message of solicitude to his right hon. Friend.

Mr. Neave

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen Motion No. 518, on Sachsenshausen Concentration Camp, which has now been signed by 275 Members of all parties, and I expect that there will be many more? Is he aware that many feel that there has been a tragic miscarriage of justice in this case? Could he provide time for the Foreign Secretary to answer a debate?

[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 grateful to the hon. Gentleman for talking to me before putting his question to me this afternoon. I have looked at the Motion and the substance of it, and I have suggested to the hon. Gentleman that, in the first instance, he might consider that this is a suitable case for the Parliamentary Commissioner to investigate—[HON. MEMBERS: "A debate."] This is a suggestion which one hon. Member could put to another. As for the chances of getting Government time for this, they are small, but there are other opportunities open to hon. Gentlemen, including Opposition time and private Members' time.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Turning to the more intimate and heart-rending Motion of mine, would my right hon. Friend find time to discuss Motion No. 510 about the withdrawal from seamen of 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

When my hon. and learned Friend put that point to me last week, I told him that the Minister of Transport had answered a Question on it. Since then the President of the Board of Trade has answered a question on it. I should not have thought that there was time before the Recess for a debate.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Referring to Motion No. 518, would the Leader of the House look into the fact that it is quite likely that, because of the time which has elapsed since the awards were made to other prisoners of war, the matter would be outside the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner? In view of the number of Ministers in successive Governments who have handled this matter, would he not agree that, since there are nearly 300 signatures to the Motion, he has a duty to the House to provide time for a debate?

Mr. Crossman

I have considered this case with great seriousness. By the way, it is true that there would have to be a special dispensation for the Parliamentary Commissioner to enable him to look back beyond a certain point in time. That needs to be clarified. I repeat what I have said: I do not think it likely that there will be Government time in the near future to debate the matter, but if hon. Members feel strongly about it, there are other methods of dealing with it, either in private Members' time or in Opposition time.

Mr. Ginsburg

I refer the Leader of the House once again to Motion No. 518, about Sachsenshausen Concentration Camp. Is not he aware of the very strong feelings on this question shared by hon. Members of all parties? Should there not be an early debate? The Leader of the House has made a suggestion concerning the Parliamentary Commissioner. May I make another suggestion to him, namely, that he asks the Foreign Secretary to look at this matter again and to ensure that justice is done to the men concerned?

Mr. Crossman

I will consider all that my hon. Friend has said. I have consulted my right hon. Friend again today. I think that there is no doubt that, whether it is right or wrong, the Foreign Secretary has come to a firm and clear decision on this matter. If hon. Members feel that they want to undo that decision, and to debate or protest against it, let me say again that there are methods open to them in the House either in private Members' time or, if the Opposition wish it, in their own time.

Mr. Bryan

When are we to have the debate on the White Paper on Broadcasting, which was promised some months ago?

Mr. Crossman

We have had at least two debates relating to broadcasting. I will bear in mind the need for a debate on the rest of the White Paper, but I cannot promise an early debate.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Will there be time to debate Motion No. 524, dealing with the alleged statement by the Leader of the Opposition insulting the majority of the British people? Would he give consideration to making time available for a Bill for the protection of apes against exploitation for political purposes?

[That this House deplores the reporting in a London newspaper of a statement alleged to have been made by the Leader of the Opposition attributing ape-like qualities to his political opponents, most of whom are happily married to human beings, and commiserates with him on publicity being given to yet another example of his political shortsightedness.]

Mr. Crossman

The question of legislation would have to be postponed to a later time, but, clearly, this is a subject of importance to hon. Members. Of course, the whole question of a debate could be foreshortened if the Leader of the Opposition would tell us whether what he said at the Royal Academy was an aesthetic judgment, a scientific judgment, or just a plain piece of political prejudice.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are drifting into discussing merits rather than asking business questions.

Mr. Peyton

In his last reply on the Motion concerning Sachsenshausen Concentration Camp, the right hon. Gentleman said that there were means open to Members to raise the matter if they wished. What more effective device can they resort to than 300 of them putting their names to a Motion of this kind? Will the right hon. Gentleman give the matter his attention?

Mr. Crossman

I am sure that I need not advise the hon. Gentleman that when he puts down a Motion there are further actions which he can take to impress his views on the Government. There are many actions one can take to create the occasion for a debate.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Would my right hon. Friend consider favourably giving Government time, either next week or as soon after as possible, for the Employment Agencies Bill, which has to complete its passage through the House?

Mr. Crossman

I was distressed at what happened to the Bill last Friday, and the way in which it happened, but I cannot give my hon. Friend very much hope of time being found for it.

Sir T. Beamish

May I ask the Leader of the House what sort of standards he applies in deciding when to provide Government time to discuss important questions in which both sides of the House are interested? Why was a whole morning provided to debating the Live Hare Coursing (Abolition) Bill and no time for a Motion dealing with human beings?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have ruled that we cannot discuss merits at this time. The hon. Gentleman must ask for time to be given to a specific matter in which he is interested.

Sir T. Beamish

I understand that, Mr. Speaker. I was simply pressing the right hon. Gentleman to realise the great importance of this question and the immense interest on both sides of the House and urging him to provide time for a discussion of this matter.

Mr. Crossman

If I am to take that as a definite proposition that the hon. Gentleman would like time to be found in a morning sitting, I will take it into consideration.

Dame Irene Ward

On a point of order. Could you tell me, Mr. Speaker, when back benchers take over from the Executive?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know that in the minds of some hon. Members that is a consummation devoutly to be wished. I see no sign of it in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Molloy

May I add my contribution to those already made concerning Motion No. 518? Does not my right hon. Friend feel that, since there are so many signatures to the Motion, there should be a debate? May I suggest that some time might be saved by the Leader of the Liberal Party and his colleagues not participating in the Common Market debate, because they would crawl in with no conditions whatsoever, and that time to debate Motion No. 518 might be taken from the debate on the European Economic Community?

Mr. Crossman

I am prepared, through the usual channels, to discuss with the Leader of the Liberal Party the possibility of debating Motion No. 518.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

May we hear something more next week from the Government about the plight of British subjects and Commonwealth citizens for whose protection Her Majesty's Government are responsible who are detained in Zambia and elsewhere in Africa?

Further, when will the Motion for the Adjournment for Whitsun be introduced? Some of us might feel disposed to oppose it unless we hear something more satisfactory from the Government on this matter.

Mr. Crossman

I will communicate the hon. Gentleman's anxiety to my right hon. Friends. I indicated some minutes ago that I expected the Motion to be taken on Thursday next. The hon. Gentleman would then have an opportunity of raising the matter.

Mr. Michael Foot

May I revert to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) requesting a debate on the allegations of lying in the House made by a former Minister of the Crown in The Times? Would my right hon. Friend consider whether it is sufficient to say that we should postpone consideration of this matter until the book is published? Have not the allegations now been made? Will not my right hon. Friend undertake to discuss this matter immediately through the usual channels to see whether the Opposition propose to set down a debate so that we can clear up the matter? Lying to the House of Commons is a very serious question—lying on a matter of major consequence——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is drifting into the merits of the case. He has made his point.

Mr. Foot

I was distracted, Mr. Speaker, because the Leader of the Opposition did not seem to regard this as a serious matter. Will my right hon. Friend discuss it through the usual channels and report to us next week about time for a debate?

Mr. Crossman

I remind my hon. Friend that an assurance was given by my predecessor that there should be a debate on Suez. I repeated the assurance in my first appearance at the Dispatch Box as Leader of the House. Now we have a new element. The book has not yet been published. I said, not unreasonably, that we might wait until the book is published, or at least until the serial is completed in The Times, before making up our minds about what to do.

Mr. Dean

Reverting to the topic of the Common Market debate, can the Leader of the House give us an assurance that there will be a clear indication from the Government, on the first day, of those subjects which they feel do not need to be negotiated before we enter the Common Market? Is he aware that there are some hon. Members who attach great importance to the Government's views on this matter?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly communicate that to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who, I think, will be opening the debate on the first day.

Mr. Winnick

Has my right hon. Friend seen Motion No. 507 on the colour bar, which has now been signed by over 150 hon. Members? Can he tell us whether the Government will allow time for a general debate on colour discrimination in the near future?

[That this House, aware of the widespread discrimination against coloured people in this country which has now been confirmed by the Political and Economic Planning Report, calls on the Government to extend the Race Relations Act to cover employment, housing and insurance.]

Mr. Crossman

There is no intention to have it before the Recess, but I will bear in mind the demand of the House for a debate on the subject.

Mr. Lipton

As most of us have forgotten what the last one was about, will my right hon. Friend say when we can have the next Budget statement?

Mr. Crossman

The certain answer is, not before the Whitsun Recess.