HC Deb 12 December 1968 vol 775 cc582-9
Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business of the House next week?

The Lord President of the Council and the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows: MONDAY, 16TH DECEMBER—Motions on the Army Act, 1955 and the Air Force Act, 1955 (Continuation) Orders, which, if the House agrees, will be taken formally to allow a debate on an Opposition Motion on the Run Down of our Forces and Reserves.

Remaining stages of the Electricity (Scotland) Bill.

Prayer relating to the Children and Young Persons (Performances) Regulations.

Afterwards, we propose to give the House an opportunity to reach a decision on the Second Reading of the Divorce Reform Bill.

TUESDAY, 17TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Transport (London) Bill.

Motions on the Greater London, Kent and Surrey Order, and on the Livestock (Payments for Scientific Research) Order.

Lords Amendments to the Sea Fisheries Bill.

Motion relating to the Patents (Amendment) Rules.

WEDNESDAY, 18TH DECEMBER—Remaining stages of the Representation of the People Bill.

THURSDAY, 19TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the National Insurance &c, Bill, and of the New Towns Bill.

Remaining stages of the Local Government Grants (Social Need) Bill.

If there is time, Second Reading of the Horserace Betting Levy Bill.

FRIDAY, 20TH DECEMBER—It is proposed that the House should rise for the Christmas Adjournment until Monday, 20th January, 1969.

Mr. Heath

Can the Leader of the House say when the Government will be publishing the Bill for the reform of the House of Lords? Does he appreciate that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House will want adequate time to consider the Bill after its publication, and furthermore, that this time should be while the House is sitting, so that they can discuss these matters together?

Mr. Peart

I agree that there should be adequate time during the sitting of Parliament. I cannot be precise about when the Bill will be published, but I would think very soon. I will consider the main point that the right hon. Gentleman has raised.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I would remind the House that there is an important debate ahead. I hope that hon. and right hon. Members will show some restraint during business question time.

Mr. C. Pannell

Further to the last question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, do we understand that the Lords Reform Bill will not be published during the Christmas Recess, but when we come back?

Mr. Peart

I said that I could not be precise about the actual date of publication at this stage, but I believe, with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that there should be proper time for consultation.

Mr. R. Carr

Is the Leader of the House aware of the impending industrial relations crisis in the building and construction industries? May I ask him, for the third week running, whether he will arrange for his right hon. Friend the First Secretary to make a statement, and on no account allow the House to adjourn for the Christmas Recess without one?

May I, finally, ask him if he will bear in mind his moral commitment to the House, and arrange for an immediate debate in the event of his right hon. Friend making a direction under prices and incomes legislation?

Mr. Peart

I cannot commit myself about business next week. I will certainly inform my right hon. Friend of what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I hope that we will not be too panicky.

Mr. Howie

In view of the importance of the reform of the House of Lords, and the recent debate on the White Paper, can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the publication of the Bill to reform the House of Lords will be "not next week"?

Mr. Peart

As I said earlier, I cannot be precise about the timetable. I note what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Monro

As it appears that at least three-quarters of the people of Scotland may now wish to be rid of British Standard Time, can we have a debate on Motion No. 74 next week, which calls for its repeal?

[That this House considers the British Standard Time Act 1968 should be repealed forthwith.]

Mr. Peart

I am aware of the feeling on this matter, but I cannot find time next week.

Mr. Milne

Can my right hon. Friend say when we can expect details arising from the statement by the President of the Board of Trade about the setting up of tourist boards for England, Wales and Scotland?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give a precise date, but I will convey my hon. Friend's views to the President of the Board of Trade, and the need for a reply to his point.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that very little time has been allowed between the Second Reading and the Committee stage, and between the Committee and Report stages, of the Representation of the People Bill? Will he give an assurance that adequate time will be available for the Home Secretary to have consultations with interested bodies on all these matters which he promised in Committee to review?

Mr. Peart

I will convey those remarks to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Will my right hon. Friend accept that it is appreciated that he has found time for the Prayer on the Children (Performances) Regulations on Monday? Will he advise his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to consider withdrawing the Regulations so that it may not be necessary to divide the House on the matter?

Mr. Peart

I thank my hon. Friend for his earlier remarks, but he must await the debate.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, by finding Government time for the Divorce Reform Bill at this early stage in the Session, the Government are not only intervening in the matter, but are depriving the pro- moters of a good incentive to compromise?

Mr. Peart

This matter has been raised before by many hon. Members. I felt that it was right to enable the House to come to a decision.

Mr. Marks

Has my right hon. Friend noticed Motion No. 81, which criticises delay in setting up the Select Committee on the Nationalised Industries? Can he make an announcement about it before the Recess?

[That this House considers that the inordinate delay in setting up the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, in contravention of undertakings given last Session by the then Leader of the House, casts grave doubt on the Government's good faith in dealing with Select and Specialist Committees and with the House as a whole.]

Mr. Peart

I have seen the Motion, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo). I have discussed the matter with my hon. Friend and explained the difficulties. However, I am anxious to help and I hope soon to be able to show that something has been done.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. May I again remind the House that there is an important debate ahead—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The Chair must not be encouraged from one side of the House—on foreign affairs?

Mr. Bruce Campbell

As preferential treatment is to be given to a Private Member's Bill, the Divorce Reform Bill, will the Leader of the House ensure that the debate is attended by Social Service and Treasury Ministers to answer the important questions which are bound to arise? Will he undertake to give time for my Private Members' Bill, which is No. 24 in the list, and which has a much more laudable object, namely, to provide widows with pensions?

Mr. Speaker

Order. There may be only one business question from each hon. Member.

Mr. Peart

I cannot find time for the hon. Gentlleman's Bill next week, but I will convey to my right hon. Friends what he has said about having Ministers in attendance for the debate on the Divorce Reform Bill.

Mr. Doughty

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the horror which will be felt in the country particularly among women, that the Government should be behind the Divorce Reform Bill, which is an undesirable Bill? Secondly, is he aware that to take it late on Monday night or on Tuesday morning means that it will be taken before an empty House?

Mr. Peart

I thought that my answer was sensible. This is a matter on which the House should reach a decision.

Mr. Goodhew

Why does the right hon. Gentleman have to find Government time for this very controversial Measure, in the middle of the night? Would it not be more appropriate, if the Government wished to get decisions on such important moral issues, for the Government to take Government Bills in normal time?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman ought to know his procedure. It will be taken in the morning.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to Motion No. 84? When will the Minister come to the House and clarify the position?

[That this House condemns the Minister of State at the Treasury for giving misleading information to the House in an answer to a written Question by an hon. Member: in that the Minister of State replied to a written Question by the hon. Member for Torquay asking how many successful prosecutions for currency speculation by United Kingdom citizens or institutions authorised to operate in foreign exchange markets took place during the last four years, by stating that this information is not readily available and to obtain it would involve disproportionate cost (HANSARD, 2nd December, columns 345–346) ; whereas the Financial Secretary only three days later, replying to a similar Question by the same hon. Member, asking what estimate the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made of the cost to public funds of ascertaining the number of successful prosecutions for currency speculation by United Kingdom citizens or institutions authorised to operate in foreign exchange markets during the last ten and four years, respectively, replied that no authorised dealers had ever been prosecuted under the Exchange Control Act in connection with operations in foreign currencies (HANSARD, 5th December, column 551).

Mr. Peart

I made the position quite clear—not next week.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Will the Leader of the House explain why he is not prepared to give time next week to debate British Standard Time? Is he not aware of the great concern felt by everyone about it? Does he not appreciate that we particularly want to know the Government's attitude towards the most praiseworthy unilateral action taken by Stornoway last week?

Mr. Speaker

Order The hon. Gentleman is drifting into discussing merits.

Mr. Peart

I have nothing to add to what I said earlier.

Mr. John Page

In view of the great concern on all sides of the building industry about the wage dispute, a concern which is not in the slightest panicky, will the right hon. Gentleman give a definite assurance that his right hon. Friend will make a statement before the House rises?

Mr. Peart

If a statement is necessary, my right hon. Friend will make it.

Mr. Jopling

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister of Agriculture promised us a statement about the future of the egg marketing scheme early in December? Can he assure us that we shall have that statement before the House rises for the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Peart

I know that this is an important matter, as I was involved in the setting up of the Commission. As soon as my right hon. Friend is in a position to do so, he will make a statement, but I cannot promise that it will be next week.

Mr. MacArthur

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government, acting in what they admit today to have been ignorance of the facts, have required local education authorities in Scotland to dismiss 1,200 qualified teachers? Will there be a statement next week to guide local authorities in this difficulty and to encourage those teachers who have not registered with the General Teaching Council to do so?

Mr. Peart

This must be an important matter, or the hon. Gentleman would not have raised it. I will convey his views to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Godber

May I press the Leader of the House a little more on the answer he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling)? The Minister of Agriculture gave us to understand that he would make a statement on this matter early in December. As it is very urgent, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Minister to make a statement next week?

Mr. Peart

This is an important matter, as I have said. My right hon. Friend will maket a statement, but I cannot say that it will be next week.

Mr. Godber

Why not?

Mr. Peart

There are discussions going on.

Mr. Orme

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the concern about the building trades wage claim is not felt only by the Opposition, but that there is great concern on this side of the House, too, and that we would welcome a statement from my right hon. Friend the First Secretary as soon as possible?

Mr. Peart

That is precisely what I said.

Mr. David Steel

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that an important independent report will be published tomorrow on the running of the Edinburgh-Carlisle rail service and that copies have already gone to the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Transport? Will be arrange for the Minister of Transport to make a statement about his attitude to the report next week before we rise for the Recess?

Mr. Peart

As my constituency is very near the area concerned, I will consider that sympathetically and have a word with my right hon. Friend.