HC Deb 08 February 1968 vol 758 cc653-63
Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the businees 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, 12TH FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Transport Holding Company Bill.

TUESDAY, 13TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Gaming Bill.

Motion on the Humber Harbour Reorganisation Scheme 1966 Confirmation Order, 1967.

WEDNESDAY, 14TH FEBRUARY—Supply [10th Allotted Day]:

Debate, on Education, which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

Prayer on the Derby Order, 1968.

THURSDAY, 15TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Medicines Bill.

Motion on the Ancillary Dental Workers Regulations.

FRIDAY, 16TH FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 19TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be: Remaining stages of the Revenue (No. 2) Bill, and of the National Loans Bill.

Mr. Heath

Can the Leader of the House give us a firm assurance that the Minister of Agriculture will make a statement next week on the temporary ban of meat from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic—a firm assurance?

No doubt the Leader of the House will have noted the statement of the Minister of Power that, having looked at the whole question of devaluation, it did not impinge in any way on the White Paper on Fuel Policy. Can the right hon. Gentleman therefore say when he will be putting it down for debate?

Mr. Crossman

My right hon. Friend will definitely make a statement next week on the question of foot-and-mouth.

I must apologise to the House with respect to the second question and the remarks of my right hon. Friend about the fuel and power White Paper, because I said last week that he was due to make a statement. I did not notice the statement among the Written Answers of 23rd January. He has, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly says, given his answer to that, so it is quite true that we will now consider once again the possibility of a debate on the White Paper. I do not see any immediate chance of this in the near future, when we have a good many other things to debate.

Mr. Edelman

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to the harsh shut-down today by Hawker Siddeley of the major Coventry factory, and that without any prior consultation with the trade unions? In those circumstances, will he not rearrange the business of the House next week so that the mounting examples of these closures without consultation with the trade unions can be properly debated?

Mr. Crossman

For obvious reasons, I share the feelings of my hon. Friend about the news, which came as a great surprise to me, too, when I heard it yesterday. We ought to consult about it more on a constituency basis at the moment rather than in the House but I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a real issue of principle here. This is something which we ought seriously to consider discussing in the House.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Would the right hon. Gentleman clarify a little more the assurance he gave last week about the reform of another place and the action to be taken this Session of Parliament? Could he give the House an assurance that a Bill will be put before us this Session?

Mr. Crossman

I have nothing to add to the very precise statement I made last week.

Mr. Michael Foot

Are we to understand from the exchanges between the two Front Benches that there have been no representations from the Leader of the Opposition for a debate on his Motion No. 136, on Vietnam? Are we to understand from this that he is running away from his Motion?

Would my right hon. Friend take into account that, even if the Opposition have run away, we on this side of the House, who have signed an Amendment to the Motion—

[Line 1, leave out from House ' to end and add ' deeply concerned at the tragic loss of life and the suffering in the Vietnam war, urges the Prime Minister during his visit to Washington to act in accordance with the resolution carried at the 1967 Labour Party Conference in the following terms: This Conference calls upon the Labour Government to dissociate itself completely from the policy of the United States Government in Vietnam and urges it to support U Thant and the overwhelming majority of the United Nations in trying to persuade the Government of the United States of America to end the bombing of North Vietnam immediately, permanently and unconditionally: Conference believes that any settlement must be based upon the 1954 Geneva Agreement, which required the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Vietnamese soil, and the reunification of Vietnam under the government chosen by the Vietnamese people, and of the similar resolution carried at the 1967 Trades Union Congress.']

are very eager to have a debate as soon as possible, despite the complete failure of the Opposition to live up to their own Motions? Will he therefore provide time for us to debate this matter?

Mr. Crossman

Each of us draws what understanding he wishes from early day Motions, and I have no doubt whatever what my hon. Friend draws from his own Amendment to the Motion. I appreciate my hon. Friend's desire for a debate. However, since the Prime Minister is now in Washington, it is obviously wise to wait for his return, and hear what he has to tell us before we decide about a debate.

Mr. Heath

I can assure the Leader of the House that if the Prime Minister wishes to hold a debate on Vietnam when he returns, we shall welcome it.

Mr. Crossman

I hear what the right hon. Gentleman says, and I will certainly inform the Prime Minister on his return, because we shall be listening to what he has to say. In the light of that we will decide on the need for a debate.

Sir Dingle Foot

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that we on this side of the House are not in the least anxious to run away from our Motions? May I further ask him whether he has considered Motion No. 143—

[That this House, mindful of the historic ties of friendship and understanding between the Greek and British peoples, condemns the suppression of representative government and the abrogation of the rule of law by the military régime in Greece; welcomes and endorses the resolution passed by the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe calling for the restoration of human rights and fundamental freedoms and a return to Parliamentary democracy; and regrets that a group of British Members of Parliament nominated to the Assembly should have sought by dilatory and obstructive tactics to prevent or delay the resolution being passed.]

which stands on the Order Paper in my name and in the names of 58 other hon. Members from different parts of the House, representing four out of the five parties, relating to obstruction at Strasbourg? Does he not consider that when hon. Members elected to represent this Parliament—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. and learned Member must not discuss the merits of what he wants to debate. He must ask for time.

Sir Dingle Foot

I am asking for time, Sir. I am asking my right hon. Friend whether he does not consider that when hon. Members representing—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is asking the Leader of the House to express an opinion on this Motion. He must ask for time. Mr. Crossman.

Mr. Crossman

I did not hear the end of the question.

Sir Dingle Foot

I am asking whether we may have time to debate what was a disgraceful filibuster.

Mr. Crossman

I apologise to my right hon. and learned Friend for not hearing the end of his question. He desires an early debate. I think that the answer is that I cannot quite see how we can fit it into the business for next week.

Mr. David Steel

May I ask my weekly question about the Report of the House of Commons Services Committee on the new building? Does not the Leader of the House feel that we can make no progress on this matter until the House has a chance to decide whether it approves or disapproves of what it is contained in the Report?

Mr. Crossman

I would not say that it has become a weekly question, but it is a question of which I am reminded regularly. I would like to discuss this through the usual channels. If there is a feeling that we should devote time to a debate on the Floor of the House for this proposal, I will certainly consider it, but I am not absolutely sure that this is the desire of the House.

Mrs. Renée Short

I notice that my right hon. Friend has not allocated an additional day for the Estimates Committee Report—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question."] Just wait, it is coming. Can he say when an additional day will be given for the discussion of the Prisons Report, which was published last August?

Mr. Crossman

It is not a question of an additional day. We have our allocations of days, and I cannot tell my hon. Friend precisely when we shall be having another of our Estimate Days. When we do, I agree with her that the subject is likely to be the one that she suggests.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, as he asked me to put the question this week, whether he can now tell me when the Theft Bill will be introduced into another place, in view of the uncertainty about my Bill, which seeks to protect museums and galleries from theft?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her private talk with me behind the Chair, and I am glad to tell her that, partly as a result of it, the Bill has already been introduced. She was complaining that it was not introduced There was a little contretemps about whether it should go through as a Second. Reading Committee Bill, and I am glad to say that the contretemps has now beer, resolved and that she can look ahead with confidence to its passage, I hope, through another place to this House.

Dame Irene Ward

On a point order. I did not say that the Bill had not been introduced. I asked when is would have a Second Reading. That is what I want to know. May I have an answer?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Lady has had an answer.

Dame Irene Ward

May I have an answer?

Mr. Crossman

If the hon. Lady ask; me about the precise timing of business in another place, I cannot answer her, but I can assure her that all the difficulties for its proceedings in another place have been removed.

Mr. Heffer

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Motion No. 130, on the need for a European Security Conference, which has been signed by 189 hon. Members?

[That this House welcomes the proposal of a European Security Conference as outlined in the communiqué following the visit of the Prime Minister to Moscow; believes that now is the time for a British initiative in this direction and urges the Government, in agreement with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, to make early contact with all those states eligible to attend; and further believes that such a conference would present the opportunity for a peaceful solution to the European security problem, with the possibility of a nuclear-free zone in central Europe.]

May we have an early debate on this subject?

Mr. Crossman

I doubt whether we shall have an early debate. I do not think that I have anything to add to the communiqué issued at the end of the Prime Minister's visit to Russia and what he said to the House on his return.

Mr. Peyton

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he knows how much we admire the skill, the one remaining skill, of the Government by which they keep out of the most controversial issues for a convalescent period while their followers recover from the bruises which the Government have given them?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are on business questions.

Mr. Orme

Would my right hon. Friend make time for a debate next week on the Bank of England? This is a publicly-owned institution and apparently its Governor is not only responsible for carrying out its policy but is now trying publicly to make it. We should like to debate his statements.

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly bear in mind the possibility. Meanwhile, my hon. Friend may like to know that at long last the terms of reference of the Select Committee, which, I gather, has been interested in this subject, are now on the Order Paper for my hon. Friend to study.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

May I support the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) in his request for an early debate on his Motion about obstruction at Strasbourg so that an opportunity can be given publicly to refute the baseless accusations made in it against Conservative Members?

Mr. Crossman

It may be that we can say that the debate is already taking place during Business question time.

Mr. Hector Hughes

In view of the remarkable success of the scientific apparatus which enabled Harry Eddom to be the one survivor from three recent ship- wrecks, would my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on my Motion No. 141, which deals with that subject?

[That this House, impressed by the remarkable rescue from the wrecked trawler "Ross Cleveland" of only one member, Harry Eddom, of its entire crew by his wearing a special rubber suit and using a special rubber dinghy, while the rest of the crew were lost, urges the Government to include in its forthcoming inquiry into the tragic incident highly qualified scientists to advise on future measures for saving life in such disasters.]

Mr. Crossman

I, too, was very much impressed by what my hon. and learned Friend refers to. I think that he will have observed that the Minister of State, Board of Trade, has already noted my hon. and learned Friend's suggestions and is studying them carefully.

Mr. Kirk

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Special Development Order on Stansted will be laid?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that I have any information about that, at least for next week's business.

Mr. E. Rowlands

When can we have a debate on the very important proposals for the reorganisation of Welsh local government? A whole day's debate will be required to discuss this very controversial issue.

Mr. Crossman

I will take into account all demands for an all-day debate. There are other places where this matter can be debated. I was not thinking of finding time for this matter in the near future, but I will discuss it through the usual channels and ascertain how much of the House is concerned to debate it urgently.

Sir C. Osborne

Would the right hon. Gentleman try to find time in the near future for a debate on Motion No. 142, which deals with petty trade union tyranny which is denying the liberties of ordinary working men and women?

[That this House deeply deplores that in the year the United Nations is celebrating Human Rights, four shop stewards employed by Colt Heating, an Engineering Company which started the I'm Backing Britain campaign, which was supported, commended, and praised by the Prime Minister, have been convicted and punished by a secret court of the Amalgamated Engineering Union for acting on the Prime Minister's advice, and demands action by Her Majesty's Government to stop this type of petty trade union tyranny, which is so completely contrary to the best traditions of the freedom loving British trade union movement.]

Mr. Crossman

I imagine that there are two sides to this question. We should be getting the Report of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations in the relatively near future, and we might well debate this issue then.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

As the Leader of the Opposition no longer wishes to press his Motion on Vietnam—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—would my right hon. Friend assure us that there is no coalition between the two Front Benches on Vietnam?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is policy rather than business.

Mr. Crossman

I did not get the impression that the Leader of the Opposition had withdrawn his demand for a debate. To be fair, we decided that when the Prime Minister had returned, and had given us his report, we would consider whether we should debate the issue.

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order. Would it be in order for me to ask for an early debate on the Leader of the Opposition's Motion?

Mr. Speaker

That would be perfectly in order.

Mr. Peel

Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his answer to the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) about a debate next week on the Motion about so-called obstruction at Strasbourg so that we might rectify the gross misrepresentation contained in it against Conservative Members?

Mr. Speaker

We cannot debate that matter now. We are not in Strasbourg.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is it not strange that the Leader of the Opposition, having put down a Motion, does not wish to use one of his Supply days to debate it? However, if he will not do that, would my right hon. Friend go a little further than he went earlier and say whether the House will be given an opportunity to debate it when the Prime Minister returns?

Mr. Crossman

It would be wise to keep to what I said. The Prime Minister is in America and we will have a report from him when he returns. As usual, we shall discuss that briefly by question and answer, and after that we might well consider the urgency of a debate. I do not underrate for a moment the gravity of the situation in Vietnam. I assure my hon. Friend that if we need to do so we will find time for a debate in the proper way.

Mr. John Wells

Would the right hon. Gentleman find time in the near future to debate the problems of gipsies and other travellers?

Mr. Crossman

I know what the hon. Gentleman is referring to. I hope that there will be opportunities to debate this matter when we come to a Private Member's Bill which we may be having from the other side of the House and which will include proposals for dealing with the problem of Gipsies.

Mr. Clifford Williams

When will my right hon. Friend be able to find time to discuss the Select Committee's Report on the drug industry?

Mr. Crossman

I think that it would be in order to discuss it on the Second Reading of the Medicines Bill.

Mr. Onslow

When may we expect an opportunity to debate overseas aid in general and the work of the Ministry of Overseas Development in particular?

Mr. Crossman

I should have thought that that was the very thing for a nice Supply day.

Mr. Winnick

Could my right hon. Friend say when we will be able to debate the new Bill dealing with race relations?

Mr. Crossman

I have no statement to make on that matter except to say that work on the Bill is urgently proceeding and that we shall have it as soon as possible.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that we might have a better discussion on the matter referred to by his hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Clifford Williams) if he could give a little more than the normal time between publication and Second Reading of such a long and extremely complex Bill as the Medicines Bill?

Mr. Crossman

I have not had any complaints about this. I imagine that the length of a Bill does not prove whether it is easily digestible or not. However, if I have complaints, I will take cognisance of them, because I am very keen that there should be a proper interval to enable the Second Reading debate to be adequate.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we may expect a debate on the First Report of the Select Committee on Agriculture?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that I can, because I was not so sure that the House wanted to debate it. We had considerable discussion about matters of procedure arising, but I should not have thought that that was a Report which would require a whole day's debate in the House. I am clear that we shall need a debate on the Report of the Committee on Science and Technology and a reply from the Government.