HC Deb 15 February 1968 vol 758 cc1579-89
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, 19TH FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Revenue (No. 2) Bill and of the National Loans Bill.

TUESDAY, 20TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Public Expenditure and Receipts Bill.

Prayer on the Dangerous Drugs (Notification of Addicts) Regulations.

WEDNESDAY, 21ST FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

THURSDAY, 22ND FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Trade Descriptions (No. 2) Bill (Lords).

FRIDAY, 23RD FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 26TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be: Supply (11th Allotted Day): A debate on a topic to be announced later.

Mr. Heath

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Defence White Paper will be published? Secondly, as the Home Secretary did not have an opportunity to answer Question No. 31 today, can the Leader of the House give a firm assurance that the Home Secretary will make a statement as early as possible next week about the very serious and, as we recognise, at the same time complicated problem which arises from the increase in immigration from Kenya?

Mr. Crossman

I expect the Defence White Paper and Estimates to be published on 22nd February. On the second point, I think that we had better see what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary says in his Written Answer to Question No. 31 but certainly I will communicate to him the right hon. Gentleman's desire for a statement next week.

Mr. Edelman

In view of the deep and justifiable resentment felt by thousands of sacked workers following rationalisation without consultation, will my right hon. Friend find time for an urgent debate on mergers and the social consequences that flow from them?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of the widespread interest in the House for such a debate and I will try to find time. But I am afraid that it will not be next week.

Sir R. Renton

If the right hon. Gentleman heard the answers given by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to Question No. 4, he may realise that there was a doubt in the Under-Secretary of State's mind as to whether it would be necessary for the Government to lay an Order to enable their intention to disband the Civil Defence Corps and the Auxiliary Fire Service to be carried out. Can the right hon. Gentleman now assure us that such an Order will be laid and that we shall have an opportunity to debate it adequately?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, Sir. I gather from consultation at this moment that an Order will be laid. Of course, if an Order is laid there is opportunity for debate according to the wishes of the Opposition.

Mr. Heffer

Can my right hon. Friend indicate whether the Opposition have given any indication that they want a debate on Vietnam? If the Opposition are not prepared to use one of their Supply Days, will the Government allow an early debate on this very intense and serious matter?

Mr. Crossman

Whatever the Opposition may think, I always listen with care to the demands and suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I know the desire of the House in this matter but there cannot be a debate next week. We are now coming into the period of Supply and Defence Estimates. We shall have opportunities to discuss Vietnam during the Defence Estimates and afterwards but I cannot guarantee a special day in the near future.

Dame Irene Ward

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the Motion standing in my name about Mrs. Mopps and Valentines?

[That in the opinion of this House it is destroying the spirit of its traditional existence if, in accordance with the practice of the House, the words "representations" and "lady cleaners" have to be substituted for "Valentines" and "Mrs. Mopps" in a parliamentary question in order to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the delightful way the Mrs. Mopps, who have the affection of us all, have used to emphasise their grievance and sense of injustice over their treatment and that the practice of the House should be altered to allow the use of these words.]

Is he aware that I would very much like to have asked questions of the Prime Minister in the terms of Mrs. Mopps and Valentines? What is wrong in the English language with Valentines anyway?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady is now discussing the merits of the Motion. She must ask for a day to discuss Mrs. Mopps.

Dame Irene Ward

If the Leader of the House is not going to follow up what I have asked for in my Motion—which he may well be doing—may I have an opportunity of discussing whether I can ask about Mrs. Mopps and Valentines?

Mr. Crossman

I can never exclude the hon. Lady from asking anything. I think that the hon. Lady's style was charming and I hope that she will repeat it.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

In planning our future engagements, has my right hon. Friend any news to give us about the Easter Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I think that I can now safely say that the Recess will be from Friday, 12th April, to Monday, 22nd April, inclusive.

Sir G. Nabarro

As it seems likely that the Tories will have issued by-election writs for their formerly-held seats next week, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Patronage Secretary proposes next week to apply for by-election writs for Dudley, Meriden and Acton, where the electors have been disenfranchised for more than four months?

Mr. Crossman

The hon. Gentleman refers to disenfranchisement, but seats for which the Opposition have applied for writs have been vacant longer than those not yet applied for. The actual date of application is strictly a matter for the Patronage Secretary.

Mr. Swain

Is my right hon. Friend aware that grave anxiety is being created in the mining industry in view of the absence of, or delay in laying, the Regulations for compensation within the 1967 Act? Will he discuss with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Power the possibilities of making an early announcement?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing this to my attention. I had not been aware of it, and I will certainly discuss this with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Biffen

Is the Leader of the House aware that this is the time of the year when we are normally told that the economic situation is so perilous that the prices and incomes policy needs further legislative backing? Can he therefore indicate to the House whether next week, or certainly before the Budget, the Government will give some indication of their intentions in this respect?

Mr. Crossman

I will cautiously say that no statement will be made during the course of next week—in business time.

Mr. Milne

As so many matters of economic and industrial importance are being discussed next week, will my hon. Friend make early arrangements to have a debate on the effect of mounting pit closures on the regional development policy of the Government?

Mr. Crossman

I will certain bear that in mind. I think that my hon. Friend must seek opportunities for himself, because there will not be a great deal of Government time for debates of that kind in the next fortnight or so.

Mr. Farr

As it is certain that the statement which his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is to make to the House shortly will be (a) critical and (b) highly debatable, would the right hon. Gentleman see if time can be found to discuss this matter further at an early date?

Mr. Crossman

I am well aware of the predictability of all the statements by my right hon. Friend. We will wait and just make sure.

Mr. J. T. Price

Is my right hon. Friend to let us have a statement on certain experiments that have been taking place in the past few days in another place? I recognise that their Lordships have a certain local autonomy so far as their own administration is concerned, but is he aware that there is very strong opposition to television in this House— [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot go into the merits of what he seeks to discuss.

Mr. Price

With great respect I am not seeking to discuss the merits. I should like my right hon. Friend to tell me if he recognises that this House is sovereign in the voting of Supply paying for this experiment. Will he give some informa- tion about who is to meet the bill for £18,000 reported by—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman can ask for time to discuss who will meet the bill. This is Business Question time.

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for eliciting that statement of view from hon. Members about the future of the House's attitude to television. I give him an assurance that the question will not be raised again during this Session. This is quite clear. It is a firm decision which has been taken. We are to make our own experiment with sound radio during this Session. Meanwhile, I recommend hon. Members to go on the last day and visit the other place to see the interesting experiment now going on. I have learned a good deal from it.

Mr. J. T. Price

On a point of order. With great respect, I suggest that the constitutional question involved is who pays for the experiment already made, and I think that the House is entitled to know—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House is entitled to know in some other way than through a business question. I have told the hon. Gentleman that he can ask for time to discuss this constitutional issue of who pays for their Lordships' television.

Sir F. Bennett

Doubtless the Leader of the House is aware of the inter-union dispute which has been causing very widespread damage to the tourist industry in South-West Devon and which is now likely to spread elsewhere. Would he mind having a word with the Minister of Labour, who I think he will find appreciates our difficulties in this matter, and ask him whether he would consider coming to the House early next week and making a statement?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly communicate with my right hon. Friend the desire of the hon. Gentleman with regard to the dispute in Torbay.

Mr. C. Pannell

The Leader of the House will be aware that it was Bagehot who opined that the cure for admiring the House of Lords was to go and see it. Does he realise that this truth is even more apparent on television?

Sir J. Langford-Holt

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is considerable dissatisfaction in the House concerning the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture about the extension of the imports of meat into this country. Will he say when the House will have an opportunity to discuss this matter?

Mr. Crossman

I repeat what I have said. I think that the hon. Gentleman is aware that my right hon. Friend will make a statement after business questions. We had better wait to hear what he says.

Mr. Orme

Returning to the issue of Vietnam, is my right hon. Friend aware that there are now over 300 names to the Motion on the Notice Paper on this issue? While the Opposition, in an unprecedented way, have not taken steps to debate this issue, does he realise that the statement of Dean Rusk yesterday seems to contradict what the Prime Minister told the House on Tuesday, and the matter ought to be debated urgently next week in this House?

Mr. Crossman

Matters of urgency are matters for which hon. Members can make their own opportunities. I said that we would await the report of the Prime Minister before deciding whether a debate was urgently necessary. It was my impression that, after the statement of the Prime Minister, and the discussion that we had, there was not an immediate urgency for a debate on Vietnam. But I am willing to take advice on how much the House needs it. Just at the moment I cannot see it coming next week, or the week after.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

As the Prime Minister indicated in reply to a Question this afternoon that he does not really basically understand the urgency or the need to mend his fences with Australia, could the Leader of the House find an opportunity for a debate on the specific question of the Government's relations with Australia and New Zealand?

Mr. Crossman

I would suggest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that when we come to the Defence White Paper, in the debates which follow, there might be opportunities for raising that subject.

Mrs. Renée Short

My right hon. Friend did not announce for next week a date for the Estimates Committee. Can he tell us when we are likely to get this?

Mr. Crossman

I simply ask the hon. Lady to wait in patience. It is not really a matter of immediate urgency whether the Report she has in mind is debated one week or another. She has the assurance that the Report will be debated in due course.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Is the Lord President aware that one of the reasons why so many people are anxious to debate Vietnam is because the Prime Minister's statement on his extremely important talks was very thin and very inadequate? Will he therefore accept—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not drift into the merits.

Mr. Griffiths

In the light of that, will the Leader of the House not reconsider this and provide Government time, because it is Government policy that is to be discussed?

Mr. Crossman

Certainly. I am always prepared to consider all suggestions from all sides of the House and I will certainly bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said, and discuss this through the usual channels.

Mr. Archer

As the House was told as long ago as 15th November, 1965, that the United Kingdom would accede to the Genocide Convention when Parliamentary time could be found for the necessary legislation, can the Leader of the House say when the Parliamentary time will be found?

Mr. Crossman

I think that I can say that it will not be next week. Perhaps we can discuss the matter behind Mr. Speaker's Chair.

Sir J. Eden

Reverting to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett), in any consultation that the right hon. Gentleman has with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour would he press upon him the extreme urgency of the situation, and the need for an early statement in order to prevent this dispute spreading to other areas?

Mr. Crossman

I will inform my right hon. Friend that Bournemouth stands shoulder to shoulder with Torbay.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Leader of the House aware that Ayrshire Members on both sides of the House wish to pray against the Ayrshire Police Order, and that we have had no opportunity of doing so. As it comes into force on Sunday and, since we cannot pray here on Sundays, when can we pray against it?

Mr. Crossman

I must admit that I was not fully apprised of the gravity of the situation in Ayrshire. Perhaps my hon. Friend can have a word with me about it. I am sure that we can help him in this situation.

Mr. Peyton

I wonder whether the Leader of the House can satisfy the mounting curiosity on both sides and say when he is to put down the Motion to approve the Government's Fuel Policy White Paper?

Mr. Crossman

I would rather leave that curiosity to grow just for a week or two.

Mr. Molloy

In view of the considerable concern being felt by many trade unions in the Greater London area, because of the transfer of industry from that area to the provinces, would my right hon. Friend consider having a debate on what is now considered a very vital matter?

Mr Crossman

In replying to the first question that I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), I said that this was a major issue on which we need to have a debate in the House. I will try to arrange an early opportunity to do so.

Sir B. Janner

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it was said in answer to a Question by me that the Government had categorically come to the conclusion that they should accede to the Genocide Convention and that, in Human Rights Year, it has not been acceded to? Will he take immediate steps to ensure that the undertaking then given is put into effect?

Mr. Crossman

I will communicate my hon. Friend's urgent demand to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Sir C. Osborne

Whatever the reply may be to Question No. 31, which the Leader of the House advised hon. Members to wait to see, will the right hon. Gentleman try to find time next week or the week after as a matter of urgency to discuss the problem of immigration since it is causing so much anxiety among people throughout the country?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of the widespread interest in this subject. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that, if there is a feeling that it should be urgently debated, the Opposition also have their opportunities for arranging it.

Mr. Whitaker

Could my right hon. Friend give an assurance that at some stage the House will have an opportunity to debate the new evidence on the Philby affair? Whatever the reluctance or embarrassment of the officials concerned, it must be the duty of the House to debate such a serious matter.

Mr. Crossman

There is a number of historical subjects in which I take a keen interest, too, but I cannot give a guarantee that the Government will give time to debate that matter. I suggest again that opportunities can be found to debate it on the Defence Estimates.

Mr. Hector Hughes

In view of the recent three terrible disasters to British trawlers, with loss of life, will my right hon. Friend find time to discuss my Motion on this subject with a view to extending the scope of the Commission of Inquiry which he has appointed?

[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 have nothing to add to what I said last week. We should await the results of the inquiry.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

On a point of order. In answer to at least four questions, the Leader of the House has said that certain topics can be discussed on the Defence Estimates. Has there been any consultation with the Chair about how wide the discussion can range?

Mr. Speaker

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that there has been no discussion with the Chair. Anyone can give an opinion on what is in order during a forthcoming debate; but only the Chair decides what is in order.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

The Leader of the House may recall that I asked him whether the Stansted Order would be laid before Christmas. May I ask him for an assurance that it will not be laid before Easter?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that I should like to give an assurance as precise as that.

Mr. Concannon

Has my right hon. Friend noticed Motion No. 156?

[That this House deplores the threatened closure of Kirkby Colliery, in Nottinghamshire; fully supports the efforts being made by the Notts Area National Union of Mineworkers and the local branch of the union to resist closure of this pit; notes that since 1963 £4 million has been spent on a reconstruction scheme at Kirkby Colliery and that 600 men were transferred there as recently as 22nd January; and, in view of these facts, believes that no further steps should he taken towards closing this colliery before a full public inquiry has been made into all the relevant circumstances.]

Would it be possible to have a short debate on the closure policy of the National Coal Board?

Mr. Crossman

We all appreciate that the need for action of that kind is regrettable, but I do not see how we can have a debate on it next week. The best thing to do is to put Questions to my right hon. Friend about it.