HC Deb 23 November 1967 vol 754 cc1497-508
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, 27TH NOVEMBER—Motions on the Army Act 1955 and the Air Force Act 1955 (Continuation) Orders.

Prayer on the Peterborough New Town (Designation) Order.

TUESDAY, 28TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 29TH NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the Family Allowances and National Insurance Bill.

Prayer on the Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) (Amendment) Order.

THURSDAY, 30TH NOVEMBER, being St. Andrew's Day, there will be a debate on Welsh Affairs.

Prayers on the Patents (Amendment No. 2) Rules and on the Trade Marks (Amendment) Rules.

FRIDAY, 1sT DECEMBER—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 4TH DECEMBER—The proposed business will be: Supply [4th Allotted Day]: Debate on a topic to be announced later.

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

Mr. Heath

First, concerning the Business for Monday, the Motions on the Army and the Air Force Act, is the Leader of the House aware that, if it is for the convenience of the House, we prefer to take these formally, so that we can have a debate on the Adjournment on defence affairs in general and, in particular, the cuts which have recently been announced as a result of devaluation?

Secondly, could the Leader of the House tell us when the Government White Paper on fuel policy is to be debated? Has it been abandoned or is to be amended, and when shall we have the amended form?

Mr. Crossman

On the first point, if the House has no objection—it is not for me—we on this side will concur in a general debate on the Adjournment.

On the second point, we have postponed discussion partly because the Specialist Committee on Science and Technology has published a formidable report on the subject and we thought that we should digest this for a few days before we looked at the two together.

Mr. Swain

In view of the great interest and, above all, great anxiety which has been shown in the mining industry these last few weeks, could my right hon. Friend give serious consideration to extending the debate on the Coal Industry Bill on Tuesday after 10 o'clock to any hour though it may be opposed by the Opposition?

Mr. Crossman

I have considered this. I know that a number of hon. Gentlemen wish to speak and I suggest, if it is convenient to the House, that we take the vote at 11.30 and not at 10.

Mr. Peyton

Now that the right hon. Gentleman has been battered by his hon. Friends into delaying discussion of the fuel policy White Paper, would it not be proper to postpone discussion of the Coal Industry Bill until after the fuel policy White Paper has been debated? Should not the Government resist their natural tendency to put the cart before the horse?

Mr. Crossman

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am still unbowed in my resolution in having the White Paper discussed. As for the Coal Industry Bill, it is extremely important for technical reasons to get it through before Christmas. As we shall have to deal with the remaining stages on the Floor we need to have it next week.

Mr. James Griffiths

May I ask whether, in view of the recommendations made in the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, and its relevance to important decisions about fuel policy, he will arrange for a debate on that before the House considers the White Paper on fuel policy?

Mr. Crossman

What my right hon. Friend has put to me is a possibility. I must be careful about not promising too many debates on the same subject, but that is something to be considered.

Mr. Peter Walker

In view of the postponement of the debate on the White Paper on Fuel Policy, will the Leader of the House allow a short debate on the White Paper on Freight Transport, which proposes to impose £40 million of extra taxation on road transport?

Mr. Crossman

No, because we were able to get the Motion on the Army Act instead of the fuel policy.

As for the serial story of White Papers on transport, I think that they will culminate in a great debate on Second Reading.

Mr. Mayhew

On the defence debate, is the Leader of the House aware that once again a good deal more information has been given to the Press on this subject than the House? What action is being taken to make available to the House the statement in answer to questions of the Secretary of State for Defence in advance of the debate?

Mr. Crossman

I have no knowledge of what was said outside the House, but I am glad that we are to have a debate on Monday so as to satisfy my hon. Friend.

Mr. Stodart

In view of the Prime Minister's assurance that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would refer to the question of the agricultural expansion programme during the course of his reply last night, and forgot to do so, will he ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to tell the House next week what plans he has for getting this programme under way?

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point. I am sure that it was an omission in the stress of a very exciting debate which meant that that reference was not made. I will ask my right hon. Friend what action he will take to make the situation good for those interested in agriculture.

Mr. Shinwell

In the matter of the deferment of the debate on the White Paper on Fuel Policy, is it not consistent with modern thinking on Parliamentary reform, and with my right hon. Friend's own tendencies, that from time to time it is desirable in the interests of Parliamentary democracy that back benchers should seek to correct decisions taken by the Executive?

Mr. Crossman

Certainly. I am always aware that my right hon. Friend will be able to teach me more about Parliamentary reform than I could ever learn in any other way.

Mr. Lubbock

As it may take some time to recalculate the figures in the White Paper on Fuel Policy in the light of the effects of devaluation and as, meanwhile, the very important report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology dealing with the nuclear reactor industry has been published, would the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be a great mistake to incorporate a debate on the Select Committee's report with that on the White Paper on Fuel Policy? Will he arrange to allocate a separate day for the Select Committee's Report between now and Christmas?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot promise two separate days between now and Christmas. One day may have to be postponed until after Christmas. I think that we shall have to try to do the two separately.

Dr. David Kerr

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to a number of Motions in his name, and supported by right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House, and ask when we can discuss the further reform the House?

Mr. Crossman

I hope to include a statement about the Motions on procedure in next week's Business Statement.

Mr. Jopling

Has the right hon. Gentleman observed in the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, published today, that, as with the Report of a similar Committee on Agriculture, there is serious criticism of the way in which the work of the Committee was interfered with by the Government, and by the Foreign Office in particular? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that we must debate these Reports very soon, particularly as these Committees are being reconvened at the moment, and they must know where they stand?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of the interest in this subject. With regard to the first Report on agriculture, I think I am right in saying that a short Command Paper will be issued shortly, if it has not already come out, giving the Government's reply. Clearly, we cannot debate this kind of issue until both sides of the case have been stated.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Motion No. 35 calling for dissociation from the United States of America on Vietnam?

[That this House notes that leaders of opinion in all walks of life are now calling for dissociation by Great Britain from the bombing of Vietnam, including the following scientists, Sir Christopher Andrewes, F.R.S., Professor Max Born, F.R.S., Nobel Laureate, Lord Boyd-Orr, F.R.S., Nobel Laureate, Sir Wilfred Le Gros Clark, F.R.S., Dr. E. J. H. Corner, C.B.E., F.R.S., Professor C. A. Coulson, F.R.S., Richard Doll, F.R.S., Professor David Finney, F.R.S., Professor S. J. Folley, F.R.S., Professor Roger Gilliatt, Professor William Hayes, F.R.S., Sir Joseph B. Hutchinson, F.R.S., Sir Julian Huxley. F.R.S., Professor H. D. Kay, C.B.E., F.R.S., Professor W. O. Kermack, F.R.S., Dr. Sidnie M. Manton, F.R.S., Dr. D. M. Needham, F.R.S., Dr. Joseph Needham, F.R.S., Professor A. C. Offord, F.R.S., Professor R. E. Peierls, F.R.S., Professor L. S. Penrose. F.R.S., N. W. Pirie, F.R.S., Professor Martin R. Pollock, F.R.S., Professor C. F. Powell, F.R.S., Nobel Laureate, Professor the Lord Ritchie-Calder, Dr. David Shoenberg, F.R.S., Dr. R. L. M. Synge, F.R.S., Nobel Laureate, Professor C. H. Waddington, C.B.E., F.R.S., Professor M. H. F. Wilkins, F.R.S., Nobel Laureate; and urges Her Majesty's Government to make it clear that the United States Administration can no longer count on the support of the United Kingdom in its military activities in Vietnam.]

Will my right hon. Friend provide an opportunity for the Government to change their mind fruitfully in this respect, as they have done in relation to devaluation?

Mr. Crossman

I shall communicate that desire to my right hon. Friend. On the question of Vietnam, I think that we may have to have a debate on foreign policy before the Christmas Recess, and I shall bear my hon. Friend's request in mind.

Mr. Grieve

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to Motion No. 44, deploring the action of the Minister of Health in drastically reducing the number of pay beds in hospitals?

[That this House, mindful of the fact that Section 5 of the National Health Service Act gives power to the Minister to set aside beds in hospitals providing hospital and specialist services under the Act for the treatment of private patients, and recognising the widespread demands for such beds by patients desirous of having private medical treatment, deplores the decision of the Minister of Health to reduce from 5,764 to 4,379 the number of such beds made available.]

May we have a very early opportunity of debating this Motion?

Mr. Crossman

I have nothing to add to my right hon. Friend's reply to a Question on this subject on 6th November.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

As the right hon. Gentleman is allowing a debate on Welsh affairs on St. Andrew's Day, will he arrange to debate English affairs on St. David's Day, and Scottish affairs on St. George's Day?

Mr. Crossman

All these possibilities are worthy of consideration in a fully reformed House of Commons.

Mr. Orme

Following my hon. Friend's reply about a foreign affairs debate, and particularly in relation to Vietnam, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will provide a separate day for a debate on Vietnam, because the situation is deteriorating to such an extent that it is urgent that the House should discuss it as soon as possible?

Mr. Crossman

I shall consider that. I have considered very carefully the number of days that we have before Christmas, and I would not be too optimistic that I shall find time for that.

Mr. Maude

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether, in the national interest, the time has come when we ought to have at least a half-day's debate on the present outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, as there is a feeling in the country that the measures and policies being taken need more discussion than can be had in question and answer after a statement?

Mr. Crossman

Having declared a personal interest, I would say, Yes, I shall consider that very seriously indeed.

Mr. English

Has my right hon. Friend seen Motion No. 40 relating to the attack by the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) on our colleague my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell)?

[That this House deplores the unwarranted personal attack made by the hon. Member for Antrim, South without notice on 14th November on the hon. Member for Buckingham; recognises that the hon. Member for Buckingham was acting with the authority of the House as Chairman of the Catering Sub-Committee and with the express approval of that Sub-Committee and the Services Committee; and would regret any incidence in the future of an hon. Member being subjected to personal attack for carrying out the duties imposed upon him by the House.]

Will my right hon. Friend consider allowing some time to discuss this Motion?

Mr. Crossman

It was with pleasure that I saw this Motion and noted the number of right hon. and hon. Members who joined me in deprecating the kind of behaviour in which the hon. and learned Gentleman indulged in making this attack on my hon. Friend. I do not think that we need time to debate it.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot discuss merits at Business Question time.

Mr. Blaker

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his answer about statements made to a Press conference by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence? The Leader of the House said that he had no knowledge of what his right hon. Friend said outside the House. Would not it help if the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friends were to make their statements inside the House? He would then know what was going on. Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for his right hon. Friend to make a statement on this very important matter before the debate?

Mr. Crossman

I think that that is an unreasonable request. I said that I was aware that yesterday, in the course of his speech, the Prime Minister made a statement on the defence cuts. Almost simultaneously a Press conference was being held by my right hon. Friend. I am not aware of the text of that conference. All I said was that we would have a debate next Monday, thanks to the Opposition, during which my right hon. Friend will be able to satisfy the House about the questions which have been raised.

Mr. Maclennan

When considering the request for an extended debate on the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that many of the matters it raises are not directly related to the fuel policy of this country, and that a separate debate for considering the purely technological questions and the future of the Atomic Energy Authority would be welcomed by the House?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of that, and that is why I am prepared to consider having a separate debate on this first and very important Report of one of our specialist Committees. I have not had time to read the Report. I would like to read it over the weekend before I make up my mind.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Will the right hon. Gentleman allow time to debate my Motion No. 42?

[That this House deplores the highhanded methods of the hon. Member for Buckingham, in his capacity as Chairman of the Catering Sub-Committee, and his lack of consultation with Members and staff, and hopes that his conduct in this respect will improve in the present session and, noting that all possible steps were taken to give notice to the hon. Member for Buckingham, regrets his absence from the House on 14th November and consequent failure to give due explanation of his actions.]

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could link it with Motion No. 40. If it is any help to the Leader of the House, I would gladly move a motion of Censure on him for putting a Motion on the Order Paper and not allowing time for an Amendment to be debated.

Mr. Crossman

In view of Mr. Speaker's recent Ruling on my remarks, I must say, No.

Sir C. Osborne

The Leader of the House will remember that last night the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in what was otherwise a very sensible speech, made a most serious accusation against Sir Paul Chambers and some other men. This affects their honour, and the position of the House. Will the right hon. Gentleman, as a matter of urgency, find time to debate this very serious accusation, and let the Chancellor have time to explain it?

Mr. Crossman

I suggest to my hon. Friend that which parts of my right hon. Friend's speech one finds most sensible is a question of taste, but I find the whole speech worthy of discussion.

Mr. Edward n Taylor

In view of the rather scandalous situation which exists over the vacant chairmanship of British Railways, and the salary which may or may not be paid to whoever is willing to take it, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that early next week the Minister of Transport makes a statement on the situation as the Prime Minister promised at Question Time?

Mr. Crossman

I shall certainly communicate with my right hon. Friend. I am sure that she is anxious to make a statement as soon as possible.

Mr. Worsley

On Wednesday's business, when we are to discuss the Family Allowances Bill, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that Government Amendments which have been promised, and which look like altering the whole sense of the Bill, have not been tabled? Will he ensure that they are tabled this week?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly guarantee that any Amendments the Govern- ment wish to make are tabled this week.

Mr. David Price

On what grounds, either of logic or intellectual consistency, does the right hon. Gentleman propose to debate the tactics of coal before we debate the total strategy on fuel?

Mr. Crossman

This is purely a question of time. The Coal Industry Bill needs to be got through before Christmas, and the more philosophic reflections can conceivably be postponed to a more opportune date.

Mr. G. Campbell

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the question of providing an early opportunity for a debate on the White Paper on Freight Transport, to enable my hon. Friends and myself to point out the particular folly of applying the proposals to Scotland?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot argue merits on Business questions.

Mr. Crossman

I will consider it, but I suggest that if the Opposition wish to do this they have their own opportunities for making time if they insist. They have had one day on it in their own time, but we intend to discuss it on Second Reading.

Mr. John Smith

Has the right hon. Gentleman had notice of my urgent Motion deploring the very damaging and misleading imputations made by his hon. Friends yesterday that British residents have been speculating against sterling, when it is not, in fact, possible for British residents to speculate in foreign currency at all?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot argue in his request for time. He can only ask for time to debate the Motion.

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that I have had notice of this Motion. Which number is it?

Mr. John Smith

It is much too urgent to have a number.

Mr. Goodhart

Does the Leader of the House actually mean to tell the House that it is not to have an opportunity to discuss the final arrangements for the independence of South Arabia before its unfortunate people are handed over to people who were once regarded as terrorists?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot remember that I ever suggested that in the course of the Business statement, but if there is an opportunity for a debate that is a new question.

Mr. Allason

As it is rather dangerous to rely on Press reports of what a Minister has said, could the Leader of the House arrange to place in the Library the statement made by the Secretary of State for Defence at his Press conference, so that we may read it and be better able to debate on Monday?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that that is necessary. My right hon. Friend will certainly make a speech in this House. He will probably be the second speaker in the debate.

Mr. Michael Foot

On a point of order. Would it be in order to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) to make a statement on any plans he may have with reference to Government business before the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House regards that as a rhetorical question.

Mr. Ridley

Since the Coal Industry Bill derives entirely from the White Paper on Fuel Policy, what is the point of taking away the White Paper to reconsider it and proceeding with the Bill? It is impossible to alter the Bill after it has been passed by this House.

Mr. Crossman

I did not make any statement about reconsideration. I said that we have postponed discussion of the Motion to approve the White Paper.

Mr. Onslow

Is it not time that we had a debate on the work of the Overseas Development Ministry, the costs of British aid to work overseas and their connection with the decision to devalue?

Mr. Crossman

I will consider that and if there is enough support for the idea I will consider the possibility of time being given.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In view of the fact that over the weekend the Secretary of State for Defence will be studying papers on defence, will my right hon. Friend advise him to read the excellent article in The Guardian for today? Then we shall be able to save a few hundred million pounds more.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Business questions should be business questions.

Mr. Bob Brown

Will my right hon. Friend make clear to hon. Members opposite that the Coal Industry Bill must be discussed next week, because, whether we discuss fuel policy or not, there are social policies to be met, and met by the Bill?

Mr. Crossman

I am glad to have that reinforcement from my hon. Friend. It is necessary to get the Bill through because of the important impact it will make on the lives of people in the industry.

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