HC Deb 01 February 1968 vol 757 cc1554-70
Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business 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, 5TH FEBRUARY—Private Members' Motions until 7 p.m.

Afterwards, debate on a Motion to take note of the Parliamentary Commissioner's Sachsenhausen Report.

Motion on the Ploughing Grants (Emergency Payments) Scheme.

TUESDAY, 6TH FEBRUARY—Debate on a Motion to take note of the Ninth Report from the Estimates Committee, 1966–67, relating to manpower training for industry, and the Second Special Report, 1967–68.

WEDNESDAY, 7TH FEBRUARY—Supply (9th Allotted Day):

There will be a debate on storm damage in Scotland, which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Prayer on the Labelling of Food Regulations.

THURSDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY—SeCOnd Reading of the Revenue (No. 2) Bill.

Motions on the Double Taxation Relief Orders relating to Australia, the Faroe Islands, Brunei, Fiji and the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony.

FRIDAY, 9TH FEBRUARY—PriVate Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 12TH FEBRUARY—The business proposed is the remaining stages of the Transport Holding Company Bill.

Mr. Heath

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we have put down the debate on storm damage in Scotland because we believe that this is an emergency on a national scale which demands the attention of the whole House? Could he tell us what has happened to the Bill on the reorganisation of the Post Office, and when we may expect that? Secondly, he will recall that he gave an undertaking that the very obscure White Paper on the fuel policy of the Government would be cleared up by his right hon. Friend. Can we have a firm assurance that this will be done?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman on the first subject. I had discussed whether this should go to the Scottish Grand Committee, and I felt that the whole House would prefer to regard it as a British rather than merely a Scottish disaster. On the Post Office Bill, in view of the need to relieve the burden of legislation in the House, the Government have decided to defer the introduction of the Bill to convert the Post Office into a public corporation. We intend to introduce it at the beginning of the 1968 –69 Session so that it can receive the Royal Assent as early as possible in 1969. As for the fuel policy White Paper, I think that my right hon. Friend was asked to make a statement about the effects of devaluation on the fuel policy, and he hopes to give the answer soon.

Mr. Victor Yates

Referring to Monday night's proposed debate on the Parliamentary Commissioner's Report, knowing that that Report is at present before a Select Committee of the House, is it not rather discourteous to that Committee that it should not be permitted to report on the matter before there is a debate on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who gave notice to me that he was hoping to raise this matter. I have consulted the Clerks on the exact constitutional position, and I have consulted other members of the Select Committee. There is some difficulty here, but I want to explain my difficulty. I gave a specific pledge that, when this Report was made, there would be a debate on the Floor of the House. The Report was made before Christmas. I discovered that it was not yet being considered by the Select Committee, and that, if it ever started considering it, there was bound to be further delay. On balance, since the Parliamentary Commissioner does not report to the Select Committee but to the individual hon. Member who raises any issue, I thought that the individual hon. Member and Parliament would wish to have the Report considered as soon as I received word that the Foreign Office was ready to reply. As this was, unusually, a matter in which the whole House was interested, I thought that the whole House would like to consider it at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Tapsell

Can the Leader of the House tell us why the Government are not seizing the opportunity in next week's business to give effect to the Prime Minister's recent pledge that the most vulnerable sections of the community will be shielded from the effects of devaluation? When will appropriate announcements be made?

Mr. Crossman

The answer is that the amount of damage done between devaluation and now to the most vulnerable sections would not really justify immediate measures. There is, therefore, no immediate prospect of these measures being announced as a matter of immediate urgency, because the effects do not justify it.

Mr. C. Pannell

Will the Leader of the House please reconsider what he has said about the Sachsenhausen affair? Obviously it would have come with far greater force if the Select Committee could have examined all that was said, and pursued some of the matters in that Report and brought them to the attention of the House. It would be most unfortunate, after the Parliamentary Commissioner had ruled on it, if it even appeared that certain culpable people were allowed to ride away on a debate on the Floor of the House rather than that proper consideration be given to the faults in the Civil Service itself by the Select Committee.

Mr. Crossman

I considered this very carefully. and I would not deny to my right hon. Friend that there is an important issue here where we need to get our procedure correct. I would remind him that the Parliamentary Commissioner is an official who works for the individual back-bench Member of Parliament. I am sure that it would be a mistake if we made it an absolute rule that, in every case where the Parliamentary Commissioner has given his report to the individual hon. Member, we should be denied any discussion of it on the Floor of the House until the Select Committee had made a second consideration. This does not seem to be what we intended, and I am not prepared, therefore, to make an absolute rule. I thought that each case needed to be considered on its merits and, in view of the absolute pledge which I had given for a full debate of the s case on the Floor of the House, I had no doubt, after nearly two months' delay, that the House had the right to hear what the Foreign Secretary had to say in reply and to debate it.

Mr. Sandys

Concerning the Government's legislative programme for the Session to which the right hon. Gentleman referred a moment ago, can he say whether it is still the intention of the Government to introduce legislation to reform the House of Lords in this Session?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think there has been any change in the programme at all.

Mr. Lawson

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Parliamentary Com- missioner's Report was only published on 20th December last, that the House rose for the Christmas-New Year Recess, and that there has virtually been no opportunity whatsoever for the Select Committee to examine this matter? Is he also aware that at the last meeting of the Select Committee it was decided that it would be detrimental to its functioning if this report were taken away to the Floor of the House? Would he, therefore, reconsider this matter?

Mr. Crossman

This is a matter where we have to work out our procedures as we go between the Select Committee and the Floor of the House. After careful consideration, I wrote to each Member of the Select Committee saying that I regarded this as a quite exceptional case. I said that normally I would think it was in order for the Select Committee to consider it first, but in this case what I had said to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) and others made it imperative for me, after waiting nearly two months, to adopt this course. After all, this is redress of a grievance. There are people waiting to have their grievances heard, and I am not prepared to wait six months for that.

Mr. Hogg

Will the right hon. Gentleman recall that this is the fifth time I have had to ask him about the Gaming Bill and on each occasion I have received an assurance which has not been fulfilled? Does he realise that this continued uncertainty and delay combined with other factors is rapidly producing a situation which is becoming chaotic?

Mr. Crossman

The factor which has caused anything chaotic in the world of gaming has been less my statements here than certain decisions of the courts. Decisions of the courts have to be taken into account by Ministers introducing new Bills. In my view, it is not unreasonable, in view of these extremely important decisions of the courts, that the Home Secretary should take another careful look at the Gaming Bill.

Mr. Hogg

Can he say when he will come to a conclusion?

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate the right hon. and learned Gentleman's need—indeed, the need of the whole House and the country—for a quick decision. I hoped to give it this week. I could not give it this week, but if the right hon. Gentleman talks to the Home Secretary about it he will find that there is no undue delay. There is a major difficulty created by the uncertainties, which themselves have been created by the decision of the High Court.

Mr. Heath

Does this mean that this Bill may not go ahead this Session?

Mr. Crossman

I would say that the most probable thing is that the Bill will have to de reconsidered in the light of the court's decision.

Mr. Dobson

My right hon. Friend has announced deferment of the Post Office Corporation Bill. Would he have discussions with his right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General about notifying the vesting date of the new Corporation, because the pile up of delay in this matter is causing concern to the staff involved?

Mr. Crossman

I think I made it clear, in answer to the first question by the Leader of the Opposition, that the date of vesting would be postponed for only a very few months. In fact we would hope to get the Royal Assent as early as possible in 1969. That means that the vesting date would be postponed by perhaps three or four months.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Reverting to Monday's debate at 7 o'clock, is it not a fact that this is a Motion to take note and that therefore the Select Committee will be able to take into account, not only the Report, but also the Foreign Secretary's statement and the debate in the House. and nothing will prevent it making a further report?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. That is a fact. If the Select Committee, in its wisdom, feels that there is a further matter to investigate arising from the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner, nothing we do on Monday will prevent it from doing so. I would add that if the Select Committee had begun its investigations and started taking evidence, I would probably have reflected that it would be highly embarrassing to have a debate on the Floor of the House. Since the Select Committee has taken no action whatsoever on the report, this does not arise, and the Committee will be free to in- vestigate the case after the debate on Monday with the advantage of the Foreign Secretary's statement and any statements on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Orme

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that he should not lean too far backwards to the Select Committee on the Sachsenhausen affair, because some of us would like to see action following Monday's debate. This is a matter of public importance. The House has pressed for a settlement and it should now be resolved. I do not want to see it lost in a Select Committee or anywhere else. Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that we can expect some action as from Monday, because there are many people on this side of the House who want a settlement in this matter.

Mr. Speaker

That can be raised in the debate on Monday.

Mr. Crossman

My hon. Friend thought I was leaning over backwards in favour of the Select Committee. By no means all Members of the Select Committee took the view of some of my hon. Friends behind me. A number of Members actively support the debate taking place on Monday. I can assure my hon. Friend that a firm announcement will be made by the Foreign Secretary about the steps that he is taking to deal with the situation.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is the Leader of the House aware that next Monday is satisfactory to some of us who have been interested in the matter. One of the individuals involved is suffering from very bad health. The sooner this matter of compensation is settled the better, regardless of any Select Committee. If we want another debate we can have one at a later date.

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the hon. Member. I would add that one thing which urged me to have the debate quickly was the anxiety of the Foreign Secretary, now that certain things have been pointed out, to redress as rapidly as possible the grievance which has been raised. It seems unfair for him to make a statement which the House is unable to debate. Therefore, if he were to redress the grievance, the time to have the debate is when he makes the statement. I hope we shall not delay the redress of grievances by insisting that no action can ever be taken on a Parliamentary Commissioner's report before the Select Committee has made a second examination.

Mrs. Rençe Short

My right hon. Friend acted with commendable speed in response to our request last week for a day for the Estimates Committee. May I ask him when he feels he is likely to be able to give a second day to discuss the report from the Estimates Committee which has received the Department's reply?

Mr. Crossman

My hon. Friend should be grateful for the swift action last week. I do not think I can promise such a rapid accession to her demand today.

Mr. Bryan

Does the Leader of the House appreciate that when the Postmaster-General promised the introduction of the Post Office Reorganisation Bill for January, this promise was listened to very carefully by Post Office workers'' Does he appreciate the extent to which the delay which has been announced will affect the morale of Past Office workers whose careers are deeply affected by this fundamental reorganisation?

Mr. Crossman

Certainly that is a factor that I was bound to take into account in coming to this decision. I have no reason to believe that a delay of three to four months in the vesting date will have any effect on the morale of Post Office workers.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Members of the Select Committee considering the Report of the Parliamentary Commissioner would not be serving on it if they were not interested in the speedy redress of justice, and that the only reason they are raising the conduct of this particular case is that they were grossly kept in the dark by the Leader of the House? The letter to which he referred, which was speedily written, was written only at 9.30 last night, after the almost unanimous opinion of the Select Committee had been conveyed to him by the chairman. What is in issue in this particular case is whether the Select Committee ——

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

On a point of order. I have refrained from taking part in these exchanges as Chairman of the Committee, but it is my duty to suggest as a matter of order that we should not discuss proceedings which occur in Committee until the Committee reports.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is right. It will be out of order to discuss the proceedings of the Select Committee until it has reported.

Mr. Lyon

I referred to the opinion of some Members of the Committee only because the Leader of the House had already expressed some views ——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Member will take advice from the Chair.

Mr. Lawson

Is it not the case that the Leader of the House has already referred to some Members of the Select Committee being in agreement with him? Is it not the case that he has therefore discussed the proceedings in that Committee and got away with it? If my right hon. Friend is permitted to get away with it, should not my hon. Friend also be allowed to continue to discuss ——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I assure the House and the hon. Member that if one hon. Member was allowed—to quote him —to get away with it, I would allow another to do so, but that is not the position. I hope that we are not going to spend a lot of time on this. We have a lot of business ahead of us. What the Leader of the House was referring to was his communication to members of the Committee.

Mr. Peyton

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he agrees that it is totally inadequate to duck the issue of the fuel policy White Paper by saying that his right hon. Friend hopes to answer a question at some time? What we want is a clear statement from the Government about whether they stand by their White Paper. May we have it next week?

Mr. Crossman

There is no question of the Government not standing by their policy. My right hon. Friend was asked whether devaluation had had such a substantial effect on policy as to modify it. The answer is that it has not, and he will give the reasons why in answer to a question.

Mr. Randall

Reverting to my hon. Friend's statement about the Post Office, and the deferment of the legislation until next year, is he aware that this will do very little to allay the apprehensions of the staff of the Post Office, as against the staff associations? They are apprehensive at the moment, particularly about conditions of work, superannuation, and a number of other matters. Is there nothing that my right hon. Friend can do to allay the apprehensions which have arisen because of the delay in introducing this legislation?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think my hon. Friend can say that the apprehensions have been caused by the delay, because they were there before I made my announcement twenty minutes ago. The apprehensions are about the substance of the case, and do not arise from anything that I have said today.

Mr. Dance

Has the right hon. Gentleman read Motion No. 126 relating to the iniquitous idea of disbanding the Civil Defence Corps and the Auxiliary Fire Service?

[This House calls upon the Government to reconsider its decision to disband the Civil Defence Corps and the Auxiliary Fire Service which deprives thousands of volunteers of their right to train and serve in a rôle which has been recognised by this Government and its predecessors as a necessary and important part of a policy of the deterrent against the threat of nuclear war, and which has already saved the lives of many of their countrymen in peace time.]

Will he give the House a chance to debate this subject before these excellent services are disbanded?

Mr. Crossman

The House will have plenty of opportunity to debate this when the Order comes before it.

Mr. Maclennan

May I ask whether the Government, having indicated their sympathy with the recommendations of the Latey Committee on the age of majority, intend to bring forward legislation soon to implement them?

Mr. Crossman

I think I can safely say that we shall not bring it forward in next week's business, or even in the business of the week after next.

Dame Irene Ward

As the Government will block my Theft Bill, having quickly introduced a Theft Bill in another place, may I have an assurance that this Measure will be dealt with speedily so that protection may be afforded to museums and galleries, and, secondly, that the Government will not play party politics with this very important issue?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that there is any question of playing party politics. If I remember rightly, the Theft Bill has been introduced in another place, and I would like, if I may, to have discussions with the hon. Lady, in her time, behind the Chair.

Mr. Molloy

Reverting to the Sachsenhausen debate on Monday, may I stress that this is a very important matter to those officers involved? Is my right hon. Friend aware that his decision today will be welcomed by most Members of the House, and indeed throughout the country, in not allowing a form of machinery of the House to become a self-imposed brake, and at the same time being determined to do his duty after the debate?

Dr. Winstanley

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Select Committee discussing the Parliamentary Commissioner's Report is in no way responsible for the Foreign Secretary's delay in making a statement or taking action on this matter? He could have made a statement to the House at any time.

Mr. Crossman

I suggest that we should not anticipate the debate on Monday afternoon. I do not think that one can blame the Foreign Secretary or the Foreign Office for any delay in dealing with this Report. Both my right hon. Friend and the Foreign Office worked faster than the Select Committee.

Mr. Roebuck

As this is Human Rights Year, and also the 50th anniversary of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, 1918, can my right hon. Friend find an early opportunity to debate the curious practice which is growing up of Conservative parties vetting the wives of prospective Parliamentary candidates? Is he aware that such a debate would be extremely topical in view of the Arab slave market that we have seen at Warwick this week? Will he provide an early opportunity to discuss this?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Important as the topic may be, the hon. Member must not pursue it in detail at Business question time.

Mr. Crossman

It is a novel idea, but I suggest to my hon. Friend that there are opportunities in private Members' time for such intimate Motions as that.

Mr. Webster

In view of the difficulty of finding time for the Post Office Bill, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that Standing Committee F will be glad to give time and precedence for it over the Transport Bill, for which there is no urgent need?

Mr. Crossman

I take note of the hon. Gentleman's tastes in Bills.

Mr. Mendelson

Does my right hon. Friend recall that the Minister of Power undertook not only to consider the effects of devaluation on the fuel White Paper, but to consider carefully the Report of the Committee on Science and Technology, particularly on the future development of nuclear energy? Will my right hon. Friend accept my assurance that people in mining constituencies want the Minister to do a thorough job on this and not rush it, and to take all relevant factors into consideration?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that statement. As I said last week, my right hon. Friend is taking the trouble to make a most considered reply to the Committee, and I have postponed the debate on the Committee's report until that reply is published, which it should be in March.

Mr. Younger

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why it is that the Scottish Sanding Committee will not be meeting on Tuesday of next week? In view of the large number of matters waiting to be discussed, is it not incompetent that we should waste a whole day?

Mr. Crossman

I would like to consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of Sate for Scotland and in due course give a considered reply to that unexpected question.

Mr. Wyatt

Will my right hon. Friend consider having a full day's debate on the fuel policy? If he thinks that devaluation has made no difference to the Government's fuel policy, many people think that adding £85 million a year of foreign exchange to the oil bill, and going on with the nuclear power stations at enormous capital cost—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member can ask for time; he cannot argue the merits.

Mr. Crossman

I think that my hon. Friend misunderstood me. I said that it had had no basic effect on the facts on which the policy was based. I will consider giving a day, but I have already said to my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) that when we come to debate the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology—and this is a vital aspect of the policy —there will be a whole day's debate, I hope.

Mr. Jopling

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen Question No. 88 for Written Answer today? Will he give an undertaking that if the Minister of Agriculture wants to make a statement about the increase in the price of bread, he will come to the House and do it? In view of the well-known enthusiasm of the Leader of the House to enhance the prestige of Parliament, will he give an assurance that there will always be time for Ministers to come to the House to make important statements rather than deal with them by planted Written Questions?

Mr. Crossman

I agree that on important issues a statement to the House, followed by questions and answers, is preferable to dealing with them by Written Answers, but there are times when replies are so technical that the House would become impatient. [Interruption.] I agree that this is not technical. I will tell my right hon. Friend of the hon. Gentleman's wishes.

Mr. Marks

May I call my right hon. Friend's attention to Early Day Motion No. 118 which stands in my name and has been signed by 49 hon. Members?

[That this House considers that as an interim measure prior to the raising of the school-leaving age in 1973 a single annual leaving date in July of each year should be introduced as soon as possible to enable all children to receive a full four-year secondary school course.]

This urges that a single school leaving date should be established, and has received considerable support in educational circles. Can he give time for an early debate on this?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot give any assurance about an early debate, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has taken very full notice of this Motion.

Mr. Awdry

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the work of the Standing Committee which has been sitting for so many hours on the Transport Bill is hindered and hampered by the failure of the Minister of Transport to produce the Report on road and rail costs? Would he see that that Report is in our hands next week or the Committee suspended?

Mr. Crossman

I have looked into this matter since the remarks last time. I am assured by my right hon. Friend that no delay has been caused in dealing with the passages of the Report now being discussed, and that the relevant information will be well available before the part of the Bill is discussed to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Would my right hon. Friend rearrange next week's business to provide time for a debate on the vicious escalation of the war in Vietnam as a result of the Vietcong offensive? Would he bear in mind that it is desirable that the House should debate this so that the Prime Minister may be assured, before flying to Washington, that he has the overwhelming support of the House in his genuine and courageous search for peace in Vietnam?

Mr. Crossman

I will communicate that message to my right hon. Friend, but I cannot give hope of a debate on foreign affairs next week. We had a two-day debate on foreign affairs in the very recent past.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Would the right hon. Gentleman take note, with regard to an extra day for the Estimates Committee Report, that there is an excellent Report on prisons and the prison service, with about 200 recommendations, to which the Home Office has replied, which should have an early debate?

Mr. Crossman

It is not a question of an extra day; we have not yet ex- hausted the time allocated to Reports of the Estimates Committee.

Dr. Kerr

Noting the regrettable but, we hope, still reversible decision to reintroduce prescription charges, would my right hon. Friend give us time to demonstrate that all the money which this would produce could well come from the pharmaceutical industry ——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate an issue under the guise of a Business question.

Dr. Kerr

I was asking for time to debate the Sainsbury Report next week.

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that it will be debated next week, but I would have thought that my hon. Friend will have many opportunities when we reach the Orders dealing with prescription charges.

Mr. Monro

Would the right hon. Gentleman give a definite assurance that the Minister of Agriculture will make a statement in the House next week if the price of bread goes up today?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly communicate that request to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Lomas

Does my right hon. Friend not appreciate that, by allowing the House to reach a decision on the Sachsenhausen Report, the authority of the Select Committee and the P.C.A. will be undermined? Does he not also agree and confirm that the letter sent to the members of the Committee was not received until 9.30 last night, and, further, that the real answer to this would have been to get the Foreign Secretary to make a statement to say whether he agreed or did not agree with the findings of the P.C.A.? If he did agree, this would have been acceptable and, if he did not, it would have been a matter which could he investigated by a Select Committee of this House.

Mr. Crossman

I would have thought that the House had this problem really in perspective after the considerable number of questions which have been asked. There are times when this House of Commons and its right to debate something is more important than the rights of a Select Committee. There is no question of acting contemptuously. The House has a perfect right to debate this any time that it wishes, and I think that we were right to do so early and clear this matter up.

Mr. Onslow

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Government have now decided not to proceed with the necessary Order for the expansion of Stansted Airport? If not, when will we get this Order?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that it will be next week.

Mr. English

Why did my right hon. Friend, in mentioning that the Parliamentary Commissioner reports privately to individual Members, not mention that this Report is not of that sort but is a published special Report with the object being considered by the Select Committee? Will my right hon. Friend agree that we all want to redress the immediate grievance but also want to prevent such things being caused in future by this Department, as it has done in this case?

Mr. Crossman

All I can say is that my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension about the nature of this Report. It is a perfectly normal Report by the Parliamentary Commissioner on a matter raised by a Member of the House. It is true chat it was raised by him after ho had put down an Early Day Motion and got many hundreds of names to support it, but that does not alter the procedure. It was not published simply to show the Select Committee but because it was of great interest to practically every hon. Member. As we all cared a great deal about it, and as the Foreign Secretary was deeply concerned to act as quickly as possible to repair the damage, I am amazed that hon. Friends of mine should behave in this way.

Mr. Heath

Would it not be helpful if the right hon. Gentleman offered to meet the members of the Select Committee after the debate so that these matters can then be rearranged for the future?

Mr. Crossman

This is an excellent idea, because, as I said, there is some tidying to be done. This is an unusual Select Committee. It is not like the Public Accounts or Estimates Committee, because the Parliamentary Commissioner's relationship to it is not the same. That relationship is to the individual Member and the House as a whole, and if there is any doubt in the minds of the Members about their function, we can discuss this with them. But I took the precaution of clearing this with the Clerks and discussing with you, Mr. Speaker, whether there were any question of impropriety or contempt of the Select Committee in the House debating this next Monday. I satisfied myself that there was not.

Mr. Marten

Can we have some time a debate on space activities?

Mr. Crossman

The proper answer is, "Yes, some time".

Mr. David Steel

Before the Christmas Recess, the Leader of the House held out some hope of a half-day debate on the Report of the Services Committee on the new building. Has he still that in mind?

Mr. Crossman

I still think that this is something which the House might consider, but we have very important things to do up to the Budget.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

While proud that the Opposition are giving some of their limited time to discuss the Scottish tragedy, some of us wondered why the Government did not do so. It seemed to me a matter which could have been better dealt with in some of their more abundant time.

Mr. Crossman

That is the kind of matter which we sometimes discuss through the usual channels.