HC Deb 16 November 1967 vol 754 cc637-47
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, 20TH NOVEMBER—Debate on the Latey Report on the Age of Majority, which will arise on a Motion to take note of Command Paper No. 3342.

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

TUESDAY, 21ST NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Administration of Justice Bill.

Motions on the Double Taxation Relief Orders relating to Malaysia and Belgium, and on the Mink and Coypus (Importation and Keeping) Orders.

Prayers against the New Towns Order, and the Building and Buildings Regulations.

WEDNESDAY, 22ND NOVEMBER—Supply [3rd Allotted Day]:

Debate on the Economic Problems in the North West, on an Opposition Motion.

Prayer on the Prices and Incomes (Continuous Review) (No. 1) Order.

THURSDAY, 23RD NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the Family Allowances and National Insurance Bill.

FRIDAY, 24TH NOVEMBER—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 27TH NOVEMBER—The proposed business will be:

Debate on a Motion to approve the Statement on Fuel Policy in Command Paper No. 3438.

Mr. Heath

Could the Leader of the House say why he has found it necessary to change the business for Monday from that which had previously been annouced? Could he also say when he proposes to have the Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill?

Mr. Crossman

In answer to the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I thought that it was for the convenience of the House if we had first, on Monday, 27th November, the debate on the fuel policy Command Paper and followed it next day with the Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill, so that the two went together and we had the two days together. I thought that that would suit the logic of the House.

On the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I apologise to the House for any inconvenience I have caused. I gather that my right hon. Friend has some late Amendments and that it would be for the convenience of the House to see them in due time to debate them.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it the Government's intention, for the debate on the fuel policy White Paper on Monday, 27th November, to put down a Motion to approve the White Paper or merely to take note of it?

Mr. Crossman

I thought that I had made it clear that the debate would be on a Motion to approve the White Paper on fuel policy.

Sir G. Nabarro

Having regard to the fact that it is estimated that more than 80 hon. Members will wish to speak on the White Paper on Monday, 27th November, and/or on the Coal Industry Bill the following day, would the right hon. Gentleman undertake to suspend the rule on both days so that no hon. Member on either side is frustrated from a free expression of opinion on this fundamental issue?

Mr. Crossman

I am certainly not prepared to give that kind of blank cheque, nor is it in my power so to do. But I shall consider the possibility. I think that we had better see how Monday goes, and how the speakers are going on Monday. I shall certainly leave it open.

Mr. Swain

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House why, although the Motions concerning the last few White Papers on major policy, particularly that on transport, were to note the White Paper, the Motion on the fuel and power White Paper is to approve it? Is he aware that there are quite a few of us in the House who do not approve now, and will not be ready to approve a week on Monday?

Mr. Crossman

It was a matter on which some feeling had been brought to my attention. My hon. Friends question about the drafting of the Motion is not strictly about the business of next week.

Mr. Webster

When will the House have an opportunity to debate the White Paper on the transport of freight and to debate the chairmanship of the British Railways Board?

Mr. Crossman

I think that the White Paper is being published this afternoon, if I remember rightly, and I should have thought that we should look at it first. It is the third of the White Papers. When we have seen them together we can consider how best they shall be discussed.

Mr. Rose

In view of the importance of human rights, would my right hon. Friend consider setting aside a full day for a debate on Britain's contribution to the upholding of the United Nations Charter on Human Rights?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly consider demands from all sides. I am not at present aware of the matter justifying a full day's debate, but I should like to bear the point in mind.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

On the purely hypothetical supposition that some money may be loaned to this country from overseas, can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that there will be a full opportunity for an immediate debate and vote on the issue as we had on the issue of the American loan in 1945?

Mr. Crossman

We had better discuss the business for next week, and not the hypothetical business for next week.

Mr. Mendelson

In view of the strategic policy discussions which are going on now with Washington about the Vietnam war, will my right hon. Friend undertake to set aside one full day for a debate on that dangerous situation, so that the House can express its view, and so that the many expressions of opinion in the country, which have been made known in recent weeks, that the British Government should dissociate themselves from American policy there, can find Parliamentary expression?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of the increasing demand for a debate on foreign affairs before the Christmas Recess. I will bear in mind the need to make room for it.

Mr. James Davidson

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he will give time for a full debate on the Halliday Report on the inadequacies of the conveyancing system in Scotland?

Mr. Crossman

I always find that in the end I have time to read all the papers that the Government publish. When I have studied this Paper—now that I have had it brought to my attention—I shall reply to the hon. Member.

Sir G. de Freitas

Does my right hon. Friend remember that twice last Session I asked for a debate on the work of the Council of Europe? Is he aware that Her Majesty's Government have the unique record of using the Conventions of the Council of Europe more than all but two or three of the member countries, which number 18, and yet they have never provided time for a debate? Will my right hon. Friend do better after the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly bear that point in mind. If we have a debate on foreign affairs it is a subject which can be referred to by hon. Members, but if my hon. Friend feels that it is a topic which should be discussed on its own we can discuss the question through the usual channels.

Mr. Heath

The House has been very patient with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Leader of the House this afternoon—quite rightly—but I must press the Leader of the House, in the general form, that if there should be any major development in international finance which affects this country he should be ready to rearrange business at short notice.

Mr. Crossman

On the question put in that form, I can give an unequivocal affirmative answer.

Dr. David Kerr

Can my right hon. Friend say when we may expect the second half of the debate on procedure? When we do, will he frame the references so that we can discuss Members' remuneration?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that there is any question of my framing any references. As the House knows, we have on the Order Paper a number of Motions which we need to discuss. They are mostly controversial, and I propose that in our next debate on procedure we should take them seriatim and discuss and vote on them one by one.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether we are to have an early debate on the brain drain and on the Jones Report? Does he recall the Motions of censure on the Government of the day, moved by his party when the brain drain was a mere trickle compared with the present flood?

Mr. Crossman

I can remember distinctly the speeches I myself made on that subject. I always take an interest in the subject, but I do not think that there is any likelihood of that debate occurring before the Christmas Recess.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to Motion No. 33, calling for Specialist Committees for Scottish Affairs?

[That this House calls for the appointment of specialist committees for Scottish affairs.]

Will he consider, before the next debate on procedure, giving further consideration to this matter so that Scotland will have an opportunity of receiving the same treatment in regard to Specialist Committees as does England?

Mr. Crossman

As far as I am concerned, Scotland always has an equal opportunity, but I have to consider not only what I think about it but what the Scots think. I think that my hon. Friend and I have moved forward. We will be having a Specialist Committee on the Department of Education, which will cover the activities of the Scottish Education Department, so we are proceeding step by step.

Mr. Carr

In view of what was said by the Minister of Labour at the close of his statement on Monday, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that there will be a further statement on the position in the Royal Docks at the beginning of next week if, alas, the strike is not settled by then?

Mr. Crossman

I shall certainly bring that point to the attention of my right hon Friend.

Mr. Sheldon

Can my right hon. Friend say whether an opportunity will be given both for a debate and a vote on the possible loan being raised with foreign bankers?

Mr. Crossman

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor answered that question so far as it could be answered. As for a debate, I gave a specific undertaking to the Leader of the Opposition which, I think, covered the point raised by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Tudor Watkins

May I ask my right hon. Friend when we are likely to have a debate on Welsh affairs?

Mr. Crossman

I hope to make an announcement on that subject next week.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

What are the Government's intentions with regard to the Stansted Order?

Mr. Crossman

I think that I reported last week that that Order is to be considered. It will be some weeks before I can make a statement.

Mr. Gardner

Can my right hon. Friend say when he will put down a Motion for the reappointment of a Select Committee on Agriculture and, at the same time, will he say what consultations he has had on the recommendation by the Committee that it should be appointed by Standing Order rather than Sessional Order?

Mr. Crossman

I think that we shall get the Committee in due course. These are questions for discussion through the usual channels.

As for the second part of my hon. Friend's question, I think that I made it clear in the procedure debate that this is still an experimental Committee in its second year and that we shall, as a House, consider what we should do after the Committee has completed its second year on agriculture.

Mr. Turton

On next Monday's debate, is it the intention of the Government to put a Motion on the Latey Report?

Mr. Crossman

It is not our intention to put down a Motion, but it is our intention to have a general debate so that the views of the House on this very important question can be ascertained by the Government before they make up their mind on the whole question.

Mr. Ogden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his proposals to have two separate one-day debates on fuel policy and on the Coal Industry Bill are both welcome and wise? Will he give urgent consideration to the question of allowing extended time for debate on both occasions?

Mr. Crossman

As I told a previous questioner, we had better wait to see how we go on Monday. It may be that we shall need extended time, and if the House wishes it I shall not oppose it.

Mr. John Wells

When may the House expect to have a debate on the coloured Paper about gipsies? A debate was promised during the last Session, but was never forthcoming. Now we have this illustrated White Paper. May we have a debate?

Mr. Crossman

I must say that I also admired the taste of the Paper and found it very interesting, but I cannot promise that this Blue Paper will have an urgent topical discussion by the House.

Mr. Baxter

May I add my voice to that of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and ask my right hon. Friend to give special consideration to the appointment of a Specialist Committee to look after the affairs of Scotland? Notwithstanding the fact that my right hon. Friend has taken steps, they are both too short and too slow, and if he does not take action immediately on this matter he will be swamped by the flood of public opinion.

Mr. Crossman

I am not going to plunge into a discussion of Scottish politics of that kind, but I had the idea that there was an institution called the Scottish Grand Committee.

Mr. Peyton

Will the right hon. Gentleman be more specific than he has been so far? In the event of there being a debate on any international financial arrangements, can he assure the House that there will be a vote?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot add to the completely clear understanding that I gave to the Leader of the Opposition. If there were to be a change in the international situation the House will be able to consider it and come to a conclusion.

Mr. Barnett

My right hon. Friend has said that the House can have a debate, but will the House have an opportunity to say whether or not it agrees with the Government's taking an additional loan? We do not want a fait accompli; we want the House to have an opportunity of saying whether or not we should take the loan, before the Government take it.

Mr. Crossman

My hon. Friend must not put words into my mouth. I said that if the international situation so developed there might be a debate. I made no reference to a loan, of which I know nothing.

Mr. Lubbock

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the answer he gave to the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing), in which he said that we could not have a debate on the Jones Report concerning the brain drain between now and Christmas? He has found time for a debate on mink and coypus, but we have far more important matters to consider. The Minister of Technology yesterday referred to the stealing by Westinghouse of the lifeblood of this nation, in trying to get nuclear engineers at Dounreay to go to the United States.

Mr. Crossman

I must correct the hon. Gentleman. I do not find time for it. The Opposition have a Prayer on this subject.

Hon. Members


Sir G. Nabarro

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the House has just made a grossly misleading statement. The business to which he refers is an affirmative Order and, therefore, business arranged by him. Will he, therefore, abjectly withdraw and apologise?

Mr. Crossman

I do not know about the abjection, but I will make the withdrawal. Yes, it is true that we have to debate it. The answer is that this affirmative Order has to be debated and will be debated in due course. I was asked whether we would find time for a debate in general on the subject, which is important, and the answer is that I do not think we can do so; but that Opposition Members have their facilities.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on my Motion about the threat to sell three British ships to foreigners, thereby causing great unemployment and loss here?

[That this House, recognising that the threatened sale by Cunard to foreigners of three more British passenger ships will put those ships in rivalry with British trade, industry and employment and that if such a sale is to take place the British Government should take urgent steps to assist the sale to British owners or, alternatively, to ensure that those three ships are not sold to foreigners to compete with British ships but should be sold for scrap and the Government should make up the difference in price to the Cunard Company.]

Mr. Crossman

I doubt whether I can find time, but I think that all hon. Members apprehend the importance which my hon. and learned Friend attaches to this subject.

Mr. Hastings

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a complete discrepancy between the answer that he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) and the answer that he has given to his hon. Friend about the question of a debate on a possible foreign loan? If there is to be a debate, will the House be enabled to come to a conclusion and vote upon it before the Government take a decision?

Mr. Crossman

I can only say, for the third time, that I gave the Leader of the Opposition what was required and what was necessary, and I think that the House must leave it at that.

Mr. Roebuck

Has my right hon. Friend given further consideration to the possibility of a debate on Motion No. 2, with regard to the Press, in view of the continuing anxiety in Fleet Street and the country?

[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 continue to give consideration to the subject of whether we should debate the Press and to feel that this is one of the subjects which do not at the moment take a very high priority compared with the brain drain, because it is something about which the Government and the House can do comparatively little.

Dame Irene Ward

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed the Motion standing in my name, regarding his conduct? May I ask whether he accepts the terms of my Motion and if so, whether he will act on them?

[That in the opinion of this House no alteration in the official dress of servants of the House should take place without consultation with and the consent of Mr. Speaker, who is charged with the protection of the traditions and liberties of the House and its Members; and considers that the Leader of the House is not empowered to take individual action on matters affecting the tradition of the House without consultation and with the agreement of Mr. Speaker.]

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman would be out of order if he accepted the hon. Lady's invitation. She can only ask for time to discuss her Motion.

Mr. Crossman

If the hon. Lady is asking for time to discuss a Motion about wigs, I think that it would be better to wait for the next debate on procedure. This is one of the Motions on the Order Paper, and if it is reached it will be discussed and voted on. As I made clear, as Leader of the House I am neutral in this matter.

Dame Irene Ward rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. There can be no second round on Business Questions.

Dame Irene Ward

Then may I move the Adjournment of the House?

Mr. Speaker


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