HC Deb 09 November 1967 vol 753 cc1252-64
Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of House to state the business of the House for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Richard Crossman)

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

MONDAY, 13TH NOVEMBER—Supply [1st Allotted Day]:

Debate on a Motion to take note of the Fifth Report and the First and Second Special Reports from the Public Accounts Committee, Session 1966–67.

Prayers on the Grading of Produce Regulations relating to Apples and Pears.

TUESDAY, 14TH NOVEMBER—The first of two days' debates on Procedure.

Prayers on Amendments to Rules on Patents and Trade Marks.

WEDNESDAY, 15TH NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.

THURSDAY, 16TH NOVEMBER—Supply [2nd Allotted Day]:

Until 7 p.m. a debate on the Rights of the Teachers at Court Lees School.

Thereafter, debate on the Siting of the British Museum Library.

These topics will arise on Opposition Motions.

FRIDAY, 17TH NOVEMBER — Second Reading of the London Cab Bill and of the Trustee Savings Banks Bill.

MONDAY, 20TH NOVEMBER—The proposed business will be: Remaining stages of the Family Allowances and National Insurance Bill.

Afterwards, Motion on the British European Airways Corporation (Borrowing Powers) Order.

Mr. Heath

Can the Leader of the House assure us that the Foreign Secretary will make a further statement on Aden next week? Secondly, will the Government end their state of indecision on Stansted Airport in time either for the President of the Board of Trade to make a statement or for the Order on Stansted to be laid?

Mr. Crossman

I am glad to reaffirm the undertaking of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to inform the House as soon as he has decided the precise date of independence in South Arabia, There is nothing in this week's business statement about Stansted for next week. The Government will lay the Stansted Special Development Order as announced, but it has had to be delayed for some weeks because consideration is being given to possible runway alignments which would greatly reduce the amount of disturbance from aircraft noise in Bishop's Stortford and elsewhere. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing wishes to consult local authorities and other bodies about these changes in the draft Order. After that, it will be laid as soon as possible.

Mr. Heath

If I may return to the question of Aden, the Foreign Secretary said that the statement would be made at the middle of the month, and the end of next week is the middle of the month.

Will the statement definitely be made next week?

Mr. Crossman

My right hon. Friend said that he would make his statement as soon as he had decided the precise date. I do not think that there is any change in his plans in that respect.

Mr. Michael Foot

In view of the profound differences of opinion which obviously exist in the House about the meaning of the Governor of the Bank of England's speech about unemployment, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer persists in saying is Government policy, will the Leader of the House rearrange the business for next week to ensure that we can debate this matter at once? Would not this be a practical example of the reform in procedure advocated by my right hon. Friend to secure an early, topical and controversial debate?

Mr. Crossman

The Prime Minister has done even better, because we have had a series of lengthy interjections and altercations this afternoon at Question Time on this subject. I would not do as my hon. Friend suggests. When we discuss the amendment of Standing Order No. 9, I hope that the House will accept my suggestion that we should accept it and improve our position. No doubt, if we had already amended that Standing Order, its provisions might have been available to my hon. Friend. They are not available today or next week.

Mr. Jopling

Will the Leader of the House give time to debate the Report of the Select Committee on Agriculture? Will he realise that this is particularly important in view of that part of the Report which pointed out the serious interference and hindrance which the Committee had from the Government last year?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that we are likely to find time for that. I would like to tell the hon. Member that the Treasury reply to the Agriculture Committee will be published as a White Paper in the very near future. When the House has read it, we can then reconsider whether it needs to be debated.

Dr. David Kerr

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on the Sainsbury Report on the pharmaceutical industry, so that some of us can demonstrate how it leads ineluctably to the nationalisation of that industry?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly consider the possibility of an early debate but I had not considered it up to now. I am, of course, aware that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is considering that Report in conjunction with his Bill, but I will certainly consider the possibility of a debate.

Mr. Lubbock

Can the Leader of the House amplify what he said about the two days of debate on procedure and explain which matters will be dealt with on the first and second days, respectively?

Mr. Crossman

I have already put down a number of the Motions which we wish to take on the first day. I have sought to avoid the unsatisfactory kind of debate which we had last Session. It is difficult to know in advance, but I thought that we would try to sort out the less controversial Motions—in a sense, the minor recommendations of the Select Committee—and put them down on the first day. I had thought of reserving for the second day anything which I knew to be controversial and to debate such matters one by one, with, no doubt, a Division where necessary. That is to say, we would have a type of Second Reading debate on the first day, say, up to 10 o'clock and then take the Motions, hoping that the House will not spend too long before it says "Yes" or "No" to each of them.

Mr. Shinwell

In the course of next week's debate on procedure, shall we have a full explanation of the reason why morning sittings have been abandoned, why they were initiated and why there was not effective and efficient preparation in advance before they were begun? Is it not time that we had an explanation of why our time was wasted?

Mr. Crossman

I am glad that my right hon. Friend has anticipated that it is unlikely that the subject will not be referred to in the course of the debate next week either from the Front Bench or from the back benches.

Mr. Godber

Will the Leader of the House assist his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture by providing time for a debate on the Wise Report on smallholdings? Will he also reconsider the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling)? We shall certainly wish to debate the Select Committee's Report on agriculture.

Mr. Crossman

In reply to the second point, may I say that we have these Specialist Committees and I had not assumed—but we can consider it further, perhaps, in our procedural debates —that we would regularly debate all the reports of all the Specialist Committees. When we debate the Reports of our Select Committees, we sometimes have a very small attendance, and I would want to think carefully about this. Concerning the Report in question, I suggest again that we should wait until we see the Government's reply and see whether a debate is necessary. I will certainly bear in mind what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the Report of the Wise Committee.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

May I ask my right hon. Friend a friendly question? Is he aware that there is great public interest, not all of which is critical, in the contribution which is made to the economy by nationalised industries? Will we have an early opportunity to discuss the review of the economic and financial objectives of the nationalised industries, especially as all price increases are now referred to the Prices and Incomes Board?

Mr. Crossman

My hon. Friend is referring, I think, to the White Paper published last week. Certainly, I will consider that. We have, I expect, before Christmas one day which is traditionally allotted to the nationalised industries. I would like to consider this matter with the Chairman of the Select Committee. We might well devote time to this extremely important White Paper.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Reverting to the right hon. Gentleman's answer about Stansted Airport, would Ministers use the interval which the Leader of the House has indicated in studying the Report of the South-East Economic Planning Council and note the observation that such a siting would impose major difficulties on the strategic planning of the area, and come to the conclusion—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot argue the merit of the matter now, on the Business Statement.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

No. I was just about, with respect, to say—that by not laying the Order they could save a valuable day's Parliamentary business and a good deal of embarrassment to Ministers.

Mr. Crossman

I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman misheard what I said. I said that my right hon. Friend would lay the Order as soon as necessary changes, which arise out of possible realignment of the airport runways, had been introduced into the Order. There is no question of the Order not being laid.

Mr. Mikardo

Reverting to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), is my right hon. Friend aware that the series of interjections by the Prime Minister to which he referred did no more than make confusion worse confounded, underlining the manifest differences, at least of emphasis, between his interpretation of the Governor's speech and that of the Chancellor? Would it not be a good idea if we had a short debate, to clarify this cloudy matter?

Mr. Crossman

This is something that we could always consider, but I would suggest to my hon. Friend that it may be possible in another place upstairs that he and I might—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] —in different conditions—[HON. MEMBERS: Oh."]—to concert our views on this subject before further discussion here.

Mr. John Smith

Since it will alter the way in which Parliament and about 10,000 civil servants work, and hence will affect the whole future of government, can we please debate the Whitehall Plan before it is too late?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that there is any great risk of our being too late in discussing the Whitehall Plan.

Mr. Atkinson

In view of the ruling which the Leader of the House has just given that it is necessary to discuss upstairs a subject before it can be discussed in the House, will he reconsider that reply, and take into account the number of speakers who have not been able to be called in recent economic debates and the amount of representation which has been made to his colleagues in the Cabinet, and consider having a debate in the following week, as early as possible in that week?

Mr. Crossman

If, of course, HANSARD were to show that I said it was necessary to have a debate upstairs, that would be a grossly improper remark. What I suggested was that it might be a good idea to have one, including the possibility of having a debate on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

May I refer the right hon. Gentleman to a matter I raised last week and remind him that since this Government have been in power we have had only three days on the Floor for Welsh affairs? Can we have a day to discuss the Welsh Plan, or is the Government's intention to bury it?

Mr. Crossman

I know what I said last week, but I think that before we have the debate I would like to have the usual discussions through the usual channels.

Mr. James Griffiths

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that for many years there has been a debate every year on Welsh affairs. Can my right hon. Friend arrange to have one this year?

Mr. Crossman

Yes. We recently had a debate on Aberfan—

Mr. Gibson-Watt

That was a separate matter.

Mr. Crossman

I quite appreciate the point. I said that I wanted to have this discussed through the usual channels before we make the decision.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

Is it still Government policy to block Private Members' Bills next week or later in the Session?

Mr. Crossman

I thought that this was explained in the last Session. I thought that what happened then was, if I remember rightly, that instead of there being what might be called a covert noise an overt noise was introduced, to the general satisfaction of the House. The practice will be necessary wherever it is felt that these Bills should not be given the privilege of undiscussed entry into the House. I think that this word will be used from time to time this Session, as in the last.

Mr. Dickens

Following the characteristically clear, straightforward replies of the Prime Minister on unemployment this afternoon, does my right hon. Friend not appreciate that what is involved in our request for a debate next week is nothing less than the assertion of the supremacy of Parliament over international financial institutions which have forced the Government to adopt a policy of deflation, and deliberately to create a high level of unemployment?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member cannot now enter into the merits of the matter.

Mr. Crossman

There are quite a number of assumptions and presumptions in that question, to which I cannot reply on the Business Statement. There is no chance, in the business next week, to discuss this topic. Although it cannot be discussed then, I am prepared to discuss it later.

Mr. Blaker

If the right hon. Gentleman will not arrange a debate on unemployment next week, perhaps it would help if he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a statement to clear up the confusion left by the Prime Minister.

Mr. Crossman

I think myself that the best thing would be for the hon. Gentleman and the House to study carefully the text of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's answers today, and after that, if there is any further need for elucidation, after the clarity which my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens) so rightly recognised in my right hon. Friend's statement, we can have further discussion.

Mr. Bob Brown

In view of the extreme concern being felt in mining communities about the future, will my right hon. Friend make an early opportunity to debate the future of the coal mining industry?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, I think that there will be an early opportunity. I think that the long-awaited White Paper on Fuel Policy will be published next week. I am expecting that it will be possible to find proper time after that to debate the Coal Industry borrowing Powers Order, which will afford the proper facility of a whole day in which to debate fuel policy and the mining industry.

Mr. Emery

Will the right hon. Gentleman recall his answer to me last week, particularly bearing in mind what the Prime Minister said about his desire to deal with unemployment in our underdeveloped areas and his undertaking to look at the need for a debate on the South-West Planning Council Report, the Tress Report? If we cannot have it next week, please can he guarantee that we can have a debate before Christmas?

Mr. Crossman

No. I cannot guarantee a debate on that subject, but I am prepared to have this suggestion discussed through the usual channels.

Mr. Moonman

In view of the rumours and anxieties among the printing unions —indeed, in Fleet Street generally—about the future of at least one national newspaper, would my right hon. Friend consider having a debate on Motion No. 2.

[That, in view of the continuing reduction in the number of national newspapers in Great Britain, and in the light of the condition of the communication industry in general, underlined by the recent Report (No. 43) of the National Board for Prices and Incomes, a Select Committee be set up to examine the probable scale of the newspaper industry for this country during the next 10 years, with reference to both the national daily and Sunday Press, and to give consideration to the experience of other countries, management-trade union relations, and the question of advertising revenue in relation to total revenue.]

Mr. Crossman

I very much doubt whether a debate in the House would be particularly welcome to the printing industry at this moment. I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said about the whole question of the participation of this House in the consideration of the future of the industry.

Mr. Marten

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that since this Government have been in power we have not had a debate on space, not in all that time? As it is becoming an increasingly important subject, will he give consideration perhaps to having an early debate on the Estimates Committee's Report?

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's interest in the matter because of the formidable nature of the Report for which he is largely responsible. Certainly I will consider the possibility of a debate on the subject.

Mr. Heffer

As the debate on unemployment is bound to go on upstairs anyway. would my right hon. Friend please look once again at the situation and at the feeling which exists about the importance of having the debate to get some public clarification as early as possible of the Government's attitude to the question?

Mr. Crossman

I think that public clarification can best be done by a statement. I think we have gone a good way towards it this afternoon.

Mr. Faulds

In view of the disturbing reports that the Government are considering changing their policy in regard to the supply of certain types of military equipment to South Africa, will my right hon. Friend consider the desirability of debating this fundamental change in Government policy? Are we not entitled to consider in this House yet another possibly catastrophic Government gaffe?

Mr. Crossman

We are always entitled to consider anything. No Leader of the House can stop that. But I think the question was not about what people were entitled to consider, but what was intended to be debated, and I would suggest that, if the request for a debate is on the assumption that there has been a catastrophic change of policy, this is not justified.

Sir A. V. Harvey

The Leader of the House referred, quite rightly, to possibly having a debate upstairs among his hon. Friends and other so-called hon. Friends, but is he aware that as Leader of the House he has a responsibility to all parties in the House, and that the Labour Party has no prerogative about unemployment? We are just as interested, and we think that the subject should be fully explored on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Crossman

That is why I am sure that the question of a debate on unemployment is one that we can consider further through the usual channels, since both sides of the House are interested.

I am glad to hear for the first time that hon. Gentlemen opposite are.

Mr. Newens

Does my right hon. Friend's answer on the siting of the third London airport indicate that the Government have now decided not to hold a further inquiry despite the facts, including that the original ground—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know the hon. Gentleman's keen interest in this topic, but he must ask now only for time to discuss it.

Mr. Newens

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since this matter has not been the subject of an announcement by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, is it not in order to clarify what exactly is the significance of the statement by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House at this time?

Mr. Speaker

It may be in order to clarify it, but not at Business Question time.

Mr. Awdry

In view of the previous misunderstandings on the Government's economic policy, will the Leader of the House arrange for a joint statement to be issued by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer early next week?

Mr. Crossman

I shall certainly put that suggestion to both my right hon. Friends.

Mr. Roebuck

May I revert to Motion No. 2? Would my right hon. Friend take into consideration that the possibility of a reduction in the number of newspapers is a matter of national importance and not just of importance to the printing unions and the newspaper proprietors? In view of that, will he reconsider his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Moonman)?

Mr. Crossman

All I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Moonman) was that I did not think that a debate in the House in the near future would help a great deal in the difficulties of the printing unions. If I am asked whether we should take the subject as one for an early debate, I repeat that I doubt whether we should get great advantage out of an early debate, but I am willing to listen to the views of both sides of the House on whether they really want one. We had one which I looked at with interest, but I am not sure that we need to debate the subject too often.

Mr. Peter Mills

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his attitude to a debate on Professor Tress's Report on the South-West, particularly as we are concerned about many aspects of the Report and want action from the Government?

Mr. Crossman

This is the first time I have said this at Business Question time today, but I remind hon. Members opposite that they have their own opportunity to choose topics for debate. If they feel that this subject is very important they have their own time in which to debate it.

Mr. Pavitt

In view of the present struggle between A.E.I. and G.E.C., which may well affect employment in my area, will my right hon. Friend consider having a debate on the Monopolies Commission at an early date?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly consider such a debate. This question was put to me in the last Session. It is a subject worth considering.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Has the Government's decision to reaffirm the Stansted decision next week and to bring forward the Order been taken in the light of the fresh evidence by the Noise Abatement Society or in ignorance of it?

Mr. Cross-man

We are at Business Question time. I stretched business by announcing this. I thought that it was for the convenience of the House to say that the Order was being laid. For further information hon. Members must go to the Ministers concerned and not to me.