HC Deb 22 February 1968 vol 759 cc648-58
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, 26TH FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Public Expenditure and Receipts Bill.

TUESDAY, 27TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Immigration Bill.

Motion on Sunday Cinematograph Entertainments relating to Skipton.

WEDNESDAY, 28TH FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Immigration Bill, and of the Education Bill.

THURSDAY, 29TH FEBRUARY—Supply (11th Allotted Day):

There will be a debate on Civil Defence, which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

Motion relating to the Ayrshire Police Amalgamation Order.

FRIDAY, 1ST MARCH—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 4TH MARCH—The business proposed is a debate on a Government Motion to approve the White Paper on Defence, which will be concluded on Tuesday, 5th March.

It may be convenient for the House to have confirmation about the Easter Adjournment; it will be proposed that the House should rise on Thursday, 11th April until Tuesday, 23rd April.

Mr. Heath

The House will have heard with some surprise that on Tuesday we shall have the Second Reading of the Immigration Bill and on Wednesday the remaining stages. The Bill has not yet been published, although I understand that a statement is to be made today. Obviously, everyone will wish to reserve their position, but we acknowledge that now that the Government have decided to legislate it is necessary to do so speedily, and we accept that the proceedings on the Bill should be taken on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Secondly—and this is becoming a customary question—presumably the right hon. Gentleman will confirm that the Stansted Order is not to be taken next week. Can he go further, however, and say that the full inquiry which the Council on Tribunals has requested will now be held?

Mr. Crossman

My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will be making a statement about Stansted today and afterwards we can discuss what the House should do in terms of debate.

I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the Immigration Bill and agree with him that, once the decision has been taken to bring in legislation, obviously we need to get it through as fast as we can, provided we give ourselves adequate time to discuss Amendments and deal thoroughly with the Bill. I think that two days should be enough for that.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend find time next week for my Early Day Motion No. 140 asking the Government to set up a Parliament for Scotland in accordance with the idea of that distinguished Scottish statesman, the late Thomas Johnston?

[That this House is of opinion that Scotland should have a Parliament of its

own within the British Commonwealth of Nations and urges the Government to bring in a Bill to constitute such a Parliament at an early date.]

Mr. Crossman

I am afraid that it is not likely to come before next May, to judge by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party.

Mr. John Hall

Will the Immigration Bill cover the matters raised in Early Day Motion No. 151 and its proposed Amendment?

[That this House call upon the Government to introduce immediate legislation to curtail the influx of immigrants into Britain.]

[Line 1, after "House", insert" realising the grave problems which arise when the rate of immigration exceeds the ability to assimilate newcomers and anxious to avoid a situation which will create racial disharmony and prejudice the position of immigrants now resident in this country".]

Mr. Crossman

I think that we had better await the statement by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary which is to follow.

Mr. Edelman

When are we to have the promised debate on mergers, since the matter is becoming very urgent?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of the urgent need. My right hon. Friends are preparing a statement of Government policy on this matter, but I must warn the House that, with the Defence Estimates coming along, we have almost a close season for the next two or three weeks, because most of our time is committed to defence and the Budget.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider that statement about a debate on mergers in view of the situation not only in the constituency of the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) but in mine, where a factory owned by Crompton Parkinson is being closed down and much hardship and suffering is likely to be caused?

Mr. Crossman

My constituency is affected as well, but I cannot vary what I have said. From next week onwards our business is very much committed, and I cannot see an opportunity for a debate on mergers in the immediate future. But, of course, I recognise the importance of the subject.

Mr. Delargy

When may we expect a debate on Nigeria, where a cruel civil war has been raging for nine months, chiefly with arms sold to one side by the Labour Government?

Mr. Crossman

Without discussing that imputation, I can tell my hon. Friend that, although this is an important subject, I do not think we shall be able to find Government time for debating it in the immediate future.

Mr. Frederic Harris

When will the Immigration Bill be published?

Mr. Crossman

This afternoon or tomorrow.

Mr. C. Pannell

Bearing in mind the rather long time the Select Committee took to go into the law of privilege and the excellent report it produced, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that we should have a debate, if not next week, then soon after, in order to bring our privilege up to date?

Mr. Crossman

I hope that right hon. and hon. Members have been studying this extremely interesting Report. I do not think that we ought to consider debating it in the near future. It is a difficult Report to understand and I want to give the House plenty of time to reflect on it before debating it.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

As we have not debated the subject since the Government's European policy collapsed in December and as last week the Franco-German discussions seemed to hold out the possibility of some guarantee of our commercial relations with Europe pending entry into the E.E.C., will the right hon. Gentleman provide Government time for an early debate?

Mr. Crossman

I shall consider it, but it is unlikely that I shall be able to do it.

Mr. Michael Foot

Are we to understand that for three weeks in succession there has been no request from the Leader of the Opposition for an early debate on his own Early Day Motion No. 136 about Vietnam?

[That this House urges the Prime Minister during his visit to Washington to make clear Her Majesty's Government's support for the United States Administration and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand and their allies in their determination to assist the Government and people of South Vietnam in resisting Communist aggression and in their search for an honourable end to hostilities as set out in President Johnson's message on the State of the Union; and, deploring the horror and suffering occasioned by this war, requests Her Majesty's Government to concert with other nations and international agencies practical measures for the relief of this distress.]

Will not my right hon. Friend recognise that some of us want that early debate to take place very soon, particularly in view of the very serious news about the possible escalation of the war by the United States, as published in a report in The Times this morning?

Mr. Crossman

The first part of that question is directed more to the Leader of the Opposition than to me. I am keenly aware of the desire on this side of the House for a debate, but I must remind my hon. Friend that I have my problems. However, although it entirely depends on Mr. Speaker, I believe that there will be opportunities to discuss such subjects during our forthcoming debates devoted to defence matters.

Dame Irene Ward

Has the right hon. Gentleman observed my Early Day Motion on the exorbitant price for land being charged by the Ministry of Health to my local authority? I realise that it is no use asking for an early debate, but will he consider whether it is right that a Government Department should charge exorbitant prices to local authorities?

[That this House considers that the price asked by the Minister of Health from the county borough of Tynemouth, £31,000, for land acquired at the transfer of the Moor Park Hospital under the National Health Act which was originally purchased by the local authority for £7,000, is excessive having regard to the fact that successive Ministers allowed the land to lie derelict for nearly 20 years, thus increasing the price automatically demanded by the district valuer, and that this is contrary to honourable public policy and should be condemned.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady knows that this is Business question time.

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for informing me about conditions in her constituency by means of an Early Day Motion. I have looked at for her sake, and I find that the Department pursued the right procedure, such as was laid down by the Administration that she supported.

Mr. John Fraser

In view of the speedy introduction of the Immigration Bill and the relationship between restriction and assimilation, can the Leader of the House give an assurance that there will be an equally speedy introduction of the Race Relations Bill?

Mr. Crossman

I am extremely grateful for that question, because it is important to see the two Bills together, and I promise that it will be introduced before the Easter Recess.

Mr. Goodhew

In view of the very serious statement published by the South African Government yesterday and vitally affecting the facilities available to the Royal Navy in South Africa, could we have a debate on the Simonstown Agreement next week?

Mr. Crossman

I am afraid that that is unlikely, but I will certainly communicate the request to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Sir B. Janner

Has my right hon. Friend discussed with his colleagues the question of introducing legislation to enable the vicious crime of genocide to be removed from the annals of history altogether by our setting a proper example in accepting the Convention and acceding to it? When does he propose to introduce a Bill accordingly?

Mr. Crossman

Since last week I have studied the position, and I regret that I have not much to add to what was said by my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Home Department on this subject, except that this will be considered when we are considering next Session's legislation.

Mr. Hastings

Since the Leader of the House is so reluctant to have a debate on mergers, is it possible that this is because the Government have set up the I.R.C. specifically to encourage mergers and are making their recommendations on the flimsiest possible evidence? Should we not have a debate?

Mr. Crossman

It is quite untrue that I am unwilling to have a debate on mergers. For constituency reasons I am very keen that there should be this debate. What I said was that the pressure on Government business is such that the Government cannot provide time in the immediate future and other opportunities must be found by hon. Members.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Will the Leader of the House consider taking his Motion on Education and Science from the Order Paper tonight in view of its controversial nature and restoring it next week? Is he aware that 15 English Members are to be asked to inquire into the Scottish Department of Education, and that there will be strong resentment about this in Scotland and other places?

Mr. Crossman

It will create considerable resentment if the setting-up of the Committee, which has been long delayed and which we have held up specifically to meet requests from Scotland, were to be delayed for another week. Let us debate it this evening, if necessary, when the time comes.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will the right hon. Gentleman give time for a debate on Early Day Motion No. 159?

[That this House does not wish the United Kingdom to import diseased meat, whether boned or unboned, either before or after 4th March, nor meat originating in or passing through areas where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic; and calls upon the Minister of Agriculture to say so definitely, irrevocably and immediately.]

This has now been signed by 42 hon. Members. May we have time for this, before the Minister of Agriculture comes to the House and announces a decision so that he may have guidance from the House before taking this very important step?

Mr. Crossman

I could not possibly do that. The desire of most hon. Members is for a statement from my right hon. Friend and the opportunity to question him upon it.

Mr. Mendelson

With reference to the request for a debate on Vietnam, does my right hon. Friend recall that on an earlier occasion, several months ago, he promised the House, after a similar request, a debate on Vietnam and South-East Asia, in particular? That was postponed after discussions through the usual channels and merged into a general two-day debate on foreign affairs. Does my right hon. Friend realise that there is an urgent need for Members of this House to express their opinions about this war? Will he accede to this request before the Recess?

Mr. Crossman

I can really only repeat the point that I put to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). I appreciate the fact that the one-day debate on Vietnam was merged into a two-day debate. Nevertheless, we did have that two-day debate on foreign affairs when hon. Gentlemen could express their views on Vietnam. In a two-day debate it was possible. I appreciate the urgency and I repeat that there will be opportunity during the series of debates which we are to have in the next fortnight about defence.

Mr. Marten

As the Labour Party was elected on the ticket of harnessing science to Socialism in the white-heat of technological revolution, could we, after three and a half years of this Government, have a debate on space?

Mr. Crossman

It is a thought upon which I am prepared to reflect during the period ahead when we are discussing defence.

Mr. Ogden

Would my right hon. Friend look again at the possibility of a debate on Vietnam? Has he noticed that when there is an accusation that the Americans are escalating the war there are immediate demands for emergency or Adjournment debates, but in the last three weeks, when the escalation has been mainly from North Vietnam requests have not been made from this side for such an urgent debate? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order, we are drifting into merits.

Mr. Crossman

I would suggest to my hon. Friend that the opportunities for the calling of urgent debates are as much available to hon. Members on this side of the House as the other side.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In view of the growing public anxiety, recently shown by the Prime Minister, about the question of the 1958 Munich air-crash, can the Leader of the House say whether the President of the Board of Trade will make an announcement regarding a new British inquiry?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot, but I will certainly communicate the request to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Heffer

Since 191 Members, mainly on this side of the House, have signed my Early Day Motion No. 130, calling for a security conference in Europe, could my hon. Friend give an assurance that we will get—I will not say an early debate, because I have asked for that before—but will he see that reasonably early we debate this important matter?

[That this House welcomes the proposal of a European Security Conference as outlined in the communiquéé 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.]

Mr. Crossman

I recognise the importance of this matter. I have had requests from both sides of the House for a debate on European affairs. This is a reasonable request, which we need to meet at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Biffen

What proposals does the Leader of the House have to ensure that Parliamentary time will be made available on such a scale that this House is not placed at a disadvantage relative to bodies such as the Confederation of British Industry, during this period when the Government are now taking consultation with a view to formulating the next stage of the Prices and Incomes policy?

Mr. Crossman

I think that we shall have opportunities when we come in due course to the Budget and the Budget debate. There will be widespread opportunities for debate on economic affairs, including incomes and prices.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the damage that is being caused by mergers and takeovers, for example the closedown of Lucas Gas Turbines of South London, causing hardship in a number of London constituencies? Have not the Government got their priorities wrong in these respects, and will they not give up some of the time devoted to immigration to deal with mergers and take-overs?

Mr. Crossman

I would like my hon. Friend to reflect on that. If we are to legislate about immigration, it is essential that the legislation goes through quickly and decisively. There is therefore a special reason, otherwise I would not have upset the business of the House to do it. On the question of the mergers, this is a major problem which will be with us for some time, and there is still time to debate it. We certainly cannot deal with it before we deal with immigration.

Mrs. Ewing

Referring to the right hon. Gentleman's Motion on the Order Paper, tray I ask him to reconsider this again? This is very short notice and a far-reaching principle is involved, when a Committee is appointed with a ratio of 13 English Members to two Scottish Members to look at the Scottish Education Department.

Mr. Crossman

I have answered this question. There is an Amendment on the Order Paper and it is debatable in due course. I cannot see what complaint the House can have about that.

Mr. Orme

My right hon. Friend will be aware that many hon. Members on this side of the House have been pressing for a debate on Vietnam, before during and after recent events—throughout the whole of the period of this war. I know that my right hon. Friend would not want to be accused of misleading the House, but he promised a debate on one of the days, specifically on this subject, when we had the two-day debate. This did not materialise. When can we have this debate because we want it urgently?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly note that. There is a steadily growing demand for a debate, which is wholly reasonable. However, I have pointed out that there is no immediate prospect of including time for it in the next week or two.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the miserable re-imposition of prescription charges be put to the House by an affirmative Order?

Mr. Crossman

I think that the answer is yes.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

Will the Government provide time for a debate on the specific issue of relations with Australia and New Zealand which have been falling into disarray and will become even worse when today's White Paper reaches Canberra?

Mr. Crossman

If my hon. Friends want a debate on Vietnam and the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants one on Australia and New Zealand, they could join in a debate on South East Asian affairs.

While I am on my feet, perhaps I might say that I was incorrect in the answer that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt). It is a negative and not an affirmative Order.

Mr. Molloy

In addition to takeovers and mergers, is my right hon. Friend aware that the transfer of large portions of the electrical and engineering industries from the Greater London area is causing much consternation in trade union circles and in the families of those involved? Is my right hon. Friend not prepared to give an absolute assurance that we will have an early debate on this important subject in the very near future?

Mr. Crossman

We are moving together in our discussion. I said an early debate, though not in the very near future.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Callaghan.

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