HC Deb 04 April 1968 vol 762 cc609-19
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 APRIL—Supply (18th Allotted Day):

Debate on a Motion to take note of the 11th Report from the Estimates Committee, Session 1966–67 and of the 5th Special Report, Session 1967–68 on Prisons, Borstals and Detention Centres.

Lords Amendment to the Education (No. 2) Bill.

Motions on the Matrimonial Causes Order and Rules.

TUESDAY, 9TH APRIL—Remaining stages of the Countryside Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 10TH APRIL—Remaining stages of the Justices of the Peace Bill, of the Sewerage (Scotland) Bill and of the Legitimation (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Foreign Compensation Commission (Egyptian Claims) (Amendment) Rules Approval Instrument, 1968.

THURSDAY, 11TH APRIL—It is expected that the House will meet at 11 a.m., that Questions will be taken until 12 noon, and that the House will Adjourn at 5 o'clock, until Tuesday, 23rd April.

Mr. Heath

Can the Leader of the House give us an undertaking that the House will be able to debate the White Paper on Prices and Incomes as soon as possible after the Easter Recess and before we debate the Bill? Secondly, there has been no response to my request last week that there should be a statement about Forces' pay. Could he ensure that that is made before we rise for Easter? Thirdly, will the Leader of the House be making an announcement before Easter about the composition of his Mark II Cabinet?

Mr. Crossman

With regard to the third question. I think it would not be for me to make a statement. In regard to the second question, I am hoping for a statement next week. In regard to the first question, I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I think we should reflect on this very important White Paper. I shall certainly give time for a full day's debate soon after the Recess.

Mr. Rose

In view of the fact that the war in Nigeria is able to continue only because of the continued supply of British arms, and because of the mounting feeling on this subject, will my right hon. Friend provide time for a statement by the Commonwealth Secretary on it?

Mr. Crossman

I do not have to provide time for a statement by the Commonwealth Secretary, but I shall certainly convey to him my hon. Friend's desire for a statement and he will make it if necessary. In the meanwhile, I remind my hon. Friend that he will have opportunities for debating this subject rather narrowly some time next week.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Can the Leader of the House give time before the Recess for a debate on the Government changes and say whether he himself will be in the Mark II version?

Mr. Crossman

I would not like to commit myself, but in what we are going to discuss next week there will, of course, be opportunities under the new Standing Order for the hon. Member to seek to debate something as an emergency on a critical or crisis resolution.

Mr. Winnick

Could the Leader of the House tell us whether there will be a debate on the new Race Relations Bill more or less when we come back after the Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I think I can say definitely now that the Bill will be published on Tuesday next week and we shall have a debate on Second Reading in the first week on the return.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Finance Bill will be brought in and read the First time before the Easter Recess, and, if so, on what day? Having regard to the fact that only 20 members of the Opposition may sit on the Standing Committee, whereas a very large number of Members will wish to express their views, may we be assured that two days will be allowed for Second Reading of the Finance Bill instead of the customary one day?

Mr. Crossman

I am hoping to have the publication of the Bill on Wednesday next week in good time since we shall be debating it on Second Reading immediately on our return. As for the second question, which is not strictly a question on business for next week, I should have thought that the hon. Member would be raising the issue of the amount of time spent on Report stage rather than on Second Reading; but this is something which we can discuss.

Mr. William Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend say whether a statement will be made next week on the House of Lords negotiations? If not, can he say when the White Paper on this matter will be published?

Mr. Crossman

I think that all I had better do this afternoon is to refer my hon. Friend to the extremely full and detailed statement made by the Prime Minister in answer to the Question on Tuesday.

Sir D. Renton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if the Race Relations Bill is published next Tuesday it will give only that day and the next day before we adjourn for Easter for hon. Members to read and discuss it with each other? Will he therefore be so good as not to have it discussed on Second Reading too soon after we return from the Recess?

Mr. Crossman

In all seriousness, I should have thought that the ability to read does not cease immediately with the Recess.

Mr. C. Pannell

Is the Leader of the House aware that it is now some little time since the Select Committee reported on Privilege and we have to get down to that sooner or later? Will he bear in mind that this might very well be debated soon after we come back?

Mr. Crossman

I agree with my right hon. Friend that this is a very important question. I have not had great pressure to debate the Report, although it is an extremely important report. At least one aspect of the Report is becoming very urgent as a result of the experiment in radio reporting of proceedings, because the whole question of defamation must come up and that aspect we shall have to discuss fairly soon.

Mr. Thorpe

Since the House is often criticised for spending vast sums of money with inadequate debate by hon. Members on both sides of the House, would the Leader of the House give serious reconsideration to the point that we should have at least two days for the Second Reading of the Finance Bill?

Mr. Crossman

I shall certainly give consideration to that, but I think that we had better wait and see the Finance Bill before we judge how long we need to debate it. I should have thought that the one day for Second Reading was adequate, but then we must have adequate discussion in Committee upstairs, then we have Recommittal—and I have given a clear understanding to the House that the Bill will be recommitted with full debate—and then we have Report. I should have thought that the occasion to consider the amount of time is not on Second Reading but on the other stages of the Bill, but I am willing to consider again what I thought before this afternoon was a wise decision.

Mr. Heath

Will the Leader of the House at least keep an open mind on the matter, because I do not think that it is only a question of how much time we use after the Committee stage. Many hon. Members will wish to make their views plain about the details of the Finance Bill to those Members on the Committee before it goes upstairs.

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate the very reasonable way the right hon. Gentlemen are putting this to me. I will reconsider this and discuss it through the usual channels.

Mr. Orme

Will my right hon. Friend consider having a debate next week on the T.U.C. economic statement, which talks about economic growth, and forget a)out the new White Paper on prices and incomes, which will retard growth?

Mr. Crossman

I am not forgetting about it. I am suggesting that we should have a long and careful consideration of it during the Recess so that we improve our understanding of it.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In the reconsideration that the right hon. Gentleman said that he would be good enough to give to the proposal to provide two days for the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, will he have particularly in mind that in a one-day debate it is inevitable that a large proportion of the time is taken up by the two Front Benches, and that that would mean the Bill's going upstairs to Committee without the great majority of hon. Members having an opportunity of putting their views until the Report stage, when it may well be too late to influence opinion?

Mr. Crossman

I am very well aware that when we are taking this unprecedented action of putting it upstairs we should reconsider all stages of the Bill very carefully.

Mr. Moorman

As it is clear that we shall not discuss the Report of the Wilson Committee of inquiry on Bristol-Siddeley, will my right hon. Friend indicate what he intends to do about this immediately after the Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I think that I can say in the presence of the Chairman that we hope to receive the Report next week, I think on the 9th. I can give the House a clear assurance that we shall consider it in a full day's debate during the week we return.

Mr. Awdry

Is the Leader of the House aware that the effect of the guillotine Motion on the Transport Bill is that six important Clauses will never be discussed by the Standing Committee? Will he give consideration to another day on the Report stage to make up for that?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that on the business of next week I can discuss how the proceedings of the Committee are going.

Mr. Heffer

Will my right hon. Friend give the White Paper on prices and incomes even deeper and longer consideration and suggest that we postpone the debate on it until after the Summer Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I am always willing to consider that there must be a kind of medium between one's desires, and I should have thought that we should consider this important White Paper and have a full day's debate on it a reasonably short period after we return from the Recess.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Does the Leader of the House recall that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology said that he expected to make a statement about the future of the nuclear reactor industry and the Atomic Energy Authority before Easter? Can we expect that statement next week?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of this and I have discussed it with my right hon. Friend. I am afraid that the statement will not now come before the Recess. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that this is an extremely important decision about a major industry, and I hope that he will also appreciate that there are reasons why it must be postponed till after the Recess.

Mr. Pavitt

In view of recent events, will my right hon. Friend find time to discuss the Early Day Motion in my name and that of several of my hon. Friends which expresses our appreciation to U Thant for his efforts in Vietnam? If he cannot do that, will he convey the message to the Secretary General of the United Nations through Lord Caradon? That this House welcomes visits to this country by U Thant, Secretary General of the United Nations, and wishes to place on record its admiration and gratitude for his tireless and courageous efforts to end the tragic war in Vietnam.

Mr. Crossman

Yes, Sir.

Mr. John Wells

Will the Leader of the House find time in the near future for the Second Reading of the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Amendment Bill, which was not reached last night? This Measure is of considerable importance to agriculture and horticulture, and it is important that it should go forward before the season has passed.

Mr. Crossman

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the urgency of the Measure, and we shall certainly have it as soon as possible.

Dr. John Danwoody

With regard to the situation in Vietnam, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that if Britain is asked, through her co-Chairmanship of the Geneva Conference, to play a more active part in helping to reach a solution, the House will have an opportunity of discussing the matter?

Mr. Crossman

I listened very carefully to my hon. Friend's words. I can give an affirmative answer to the particular form of expression "if we are asked to help" and say that there will be an opportunity of discussing it in those circumstances. I cannot say that there will be an opportunity of discussing it before any decision is taken.

Sir R. Russell

Will the right hon. Gentleman now answer the question I put to him last week, namely, when the Home Secretary will introduce legislation to implement the Littlewood Report?

Mr. Crossman

I wish that I could give a precise answer. I know the importance the hon. Gentleman attaches to the question and I hope that I can give a better answer next week.

Mr. Russell Kerr

In view of the catastrophic fall in the morale of millions of workers and trades unionists following publication of the Government's White Paper on prices and incomes, will my right hon. Friend give us time to have a debate on the subject, if not next week, then in the near future?

Mr. Crossman

I think that I gave my answer to that question before it was put to me.

Dame Irene Ward

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the Early Day Motion in my name relating to the failure of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to move his Resolutions last Monday night? Could the Leader of the House kindly let me know whether the Finanical Secretary will make an apology for putting the House to the trouble he did?

[That, in the opinion of this House, on the examination of the Records, the failure of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to be on the Treasury Bench to move, as was his obligation, his resolutions on double taxation, which were nodded through unexpectedly by a Government Whip as a Treasury Minister, resulted in depriving the hon. Members for Nottingham, West, and Tynemouth from their legitimate parliamentary business and that an apology from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is due to the House and the hon. Members.]

Mr. Crossman

I hesitate to say this to the hon. Lady, but I gather from hearsay that it was her absence as well as that of my hon. Friend that exaggerated the catastrophe which occurred.

Dame Irene Ward

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the right hon. Gentleman has given me an entirely false answer and it is very well known what happened, what protection have I against the right hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Speaker

I have never known the hon. Lady find it difficult to protect herself.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

In view of the remarks by my right hon. Friend about the White Paper on incomes policy, may I ask him, as it is obvious that the Government would earnestly desire to have a true reflection of the opinion of the House, if he will have discussions through the usual channels to see that we have a completely free vote?

Mr. Crossman

I am now being asked questions about the Orders of the House and the business. As for voting, that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary.

Mr. MacArthur

Will the Leader of the House give us an assurance that when the Government reply to the Second Reading debate on the Finance Bill Ministers will pay some attention to questions asked during the debate? Can ht assure us that we shall not again experience the arrogant disregard for points raised by hon. Members that we experienced during the four days' debate on the Budget?

Mr. Crossman

I am really here only to answer questions about next week's business, but I shall pass on to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the strictures, which I am sure are unjustified, that the hon. Gentleman has just made.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury artificially terminated a private Members' debate on Friday? Will he request him not to do the same this week or in any other week?

Mr. Crossman

I should not think that I could extend next week's business backwards to last Friday's proceedings.

Mr. Jopling

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on present indications the teleprinter news service is likely to disappear from the House within the next few months? In view of the very serious disadvantage that that will place hon. Members in, will he give time for a short debate on this emerging situation and the possibilities of replacing the tape with something else?

Mr. Crossman

I wish that our debates could always produce action and results. This is a matter which the Services Com mittee, an all-party Committee, is very much alerted to. It is quite a serious situation for us, as for others outside, and we are very much concerned to get a substitute for Extel.

Mr. Lubbock

When the Select Committee was debating the nuclear reactor industry, it was impressed upon us that we had to arrive at a solution as quickly as possible so that the Government could make up their mind. Yet the Minister of Technology has taken nearly as long to give his reaction to the Report as the Report itself took to produce. Will the Leader of the House make representations to the Minister that a statement should be made before the Easter Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I would not attempt to deceive the hon. Gentleman. There is no prospect of a statement before the Easter Recess. On reflection, I now realise that it would have been better for us to have debated the Report of the Select Committee very soon after its publication in view of the delay involved in ensuring that we get the right answers by the two Ministers. But we have to learn these things by experience, and I have learnt on this occasion.

Mr. Onslow

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the inept behaviour of the Patronage Secretary last Friday prevented the Minister of State, Board of Trade—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have an inquest at business question time. The hon. Gentleman must ask a question about the business ahead.

Mr. Onslow

I shall do so, Mr. Speaker, and I apologise for my preamble. Will the Leader of the House make it possible for the Minister of State, Board of Trade, to make a statement on the question of noise certification, about which I believe he has something to tell the House?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot look back to last Friday, but I suspect that during the course of next week the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity, if he uses it, to raise his complaint on the Adjournment Motion for the Easter Recess.

Mr. Crouch

Are the Government still considering the question of the Channel tunnel? Can the Minister of Transport make a statement soon?

Mr. Crossman

If the hon. Gentleman wishes me to put that point to my right hon. Friend, I will communicate to her his wish for a statement.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

Can the right hon. Gentleman promise a Government statement about the four British ships which have been detained in the Suez Canal for about 10 months and on the condition of their crews?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that I can promise a statement, but I will ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary whether there is any new information which would justify one. Otherwise, there are opportunities for back benchers to raise the matter next week.