HC Deb 25 January 1968 vol 757 cc603-8
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, 29TH JANUARY—SUPPLY [8th Allotted Day]:

It will be proposed that the Winter Supplementary Estimates should be passed at the beginning of business.

Afterwards, there will be a debate on an Opposition Motion on the Growth of Bureaucracy.

Remaining stages of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Bill [Lords] and of the Capital Allowances Bill [Lords], which are consolidation Measures.

Prayer on the Industrial Training Levy (Agricultural, Horticultural and Forestry) Order.

TUESDAY, 30TH JANUARY—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 31ST JANUARY—Remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill, which, under Standing Order No. 89, will be formal.

Second Reading of the Town and Country Planning Bill.

THURSDAY, 1ST FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Industrial Expansion Bill.

FRIDAY, 2ND FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 5TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be:

Private Members' Motions until 7 p.m.

Afterwards, the Ploughing Grants (Emergency Payments) Scheme.

Mr. Heath

The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that a certain amount of legislation and a number of Orders, both affirmative and negative, will be required as a result of the 16th January Statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Can he say when this legislation and these Orders will be brought forward?

Can he also say what has happened to the Government's White Paper on Fuel Policy? Is it being rewritten? When will it be presented and when will we be able to debate it?

Mr. Crossman

To answer the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I hope to be in a position to ask the House to consider a Bill which will have various provisions in it towards the end of next month. As he said, some of these provisions will come under affirmative and some under negative Order procedure; and I hope that some of these will be available by March.

To answer the second part of his question, the White Paper on Fuel Policy still stands. I understand that my right hon. Friend will be answering a Question on this subject at a not too distant date.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that hon. Members will show some restraint in asking Business questions. I remind the House that we are in the middle of a foreign affairs debate.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Can the Leader of the House say when he proposes to set up a new Select Committee on Education?

Mr. Crossman

I hope to make an announcement about this in the near future.

Mrs. Ewing

May I call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to Motion No. 114—

[That this House considers that in view of the great hardship, distress and loss of life caused by the recent hurricane in the West of Scotland and the fact that remedial work will involve enormous expense and labour, immediate consideration should be given by Her Majesty's Government to declaring affected parts of Scotland as disaster areas.]

—and ask whether the important statement which is about to be made by the Secretary of State for Scotland about the storm disaster in Scotland may be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee so that a full and proper discussion may take place on all aspects of the matter?

Mr. Crossman

I will bear that in mind. I hope that my right hon Friend will be making a statement immediately after Business questions.

Mr. Hector Hughes

In view of the importance of increasing Britain's exports, particularly in the present situation, will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on my Motion dealing with transport from North-East Scotland to the Continent of Europe?

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take immediate seeps by legislation and otherwise to stop the trend south from Scotland of skilled and other workers and to that end to facilitate exports by increasing facilities for the carriage of goods by sea and air from North-East Scotland to Scandinavia, Northern Germany, Russia and other parts of Europe and also to take steps to prevent British expenditure on the proposed tunnel between England and France us being a trend in the opposite direction.]

Mr. Crossman

I have seen my hon. and learned Friend's Motion. I will certainly consider it, but I do not think that it will come in next week's business.

Mr. Biffen

Is it the intention of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to make a statement next week on the continuation of the ban on the importation of meat from countries which have an endemic record of foot-and-mouth disease? In the absence of such an undertaking, may we have a debate on Motion No. 117, which stands in my name arid the names of a number of my hon. Friends, and which seeks to recognise some of the difficulties for the agricultural industry on this most sensitive issue?

[That this House deplores the refusal of Her Majesty's Government to retain the bin on meat imported from countries with a record to endemic foot-and-mouth disease at least until the committee of inquiry on the present epidemic has reported on the hazards arising from these imports.]

Mr. Crossman

That might be one possibility, but I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that there might be the possibility of raising this issue when we discuss the Ploughing Grants (Emergency Payments) Scheme on 5th February.

Mr. Baxter

May I add my voice to the plea made by the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) that the question of the disaster which befell Scotland a fortnight ago should be immediately taken up in the Scottish Grand Committee so that a clear expression of opinion of the hon. Members of that Committee may be heard by the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Mr. Crossman

I will bear that in mind, but, considering that the whole House is interested in this matter, I suggest that we await the statement which my right hon. Friend intends to make immediately after Business questions.

Mr. Peter Walker

Is the Leader of the House aware that, following this morning's sitting of Standing Committee F, a Motion was tabled by all Opposition hon. Members, Liberal and Conservative alike, urging that the report on track costs—on which much of the Transport Bill is based and which has been in the hands of the Government for two months, although it has not yet been published—be published? Failing that, will he agree to adjourn further sittings of the Committee until that is done?

Mr. Crossman

I was not aware of that. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing it to my attention and I will discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend be making a statement next week on progress on the talks on the reform of the House of Lords? And will he give an assurance that before the Government publish legislation on the matter there will be a White Paper or some other way in which the House can discuss proposals before the Government take legislative action?

Mr. Crossman

On the basis that this is not in the business for next week, the strict answer to the question is "No."

Sir G. Nabarro

The Leader of the House will remember that legislation has been foreshadowed arising from the Anglo-Soviet Agreement signed on 6th January, 1968—a simple and non-controversial Bill, in a party political sense. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this Bill will be brought to the House for First Reading next week?

Mr. Crossman

I can say that it will not be brought to the House next week. I would also qualify the question whether it is wholly simple and uncomplicated.

Mr. Ogden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on this side there is deep concern about the housing policies of some local authorities; and that, while the Prime Minister was in Moscow, Liverpool made proposals to increase house rents——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must ask for time to debate an issue.

Mr. Ogden

May this be debated at the earliest possible opportunity?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly bear in mind my hon. Friend's suggestion for a debate on housing and house rents, but I cannot promise, as we have to remember that between now and the Budget we have a very intense programme, and very little extra time for general debate.

Mr. Webster

In view of the action of the Minister of Transport in withholding valuable information from the Standing Committee on the Transport Bill, as referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), will the Leader of the House adjourn the Committee and the Bill until the information is available?

Mr. Crossman

I would suggest that what we discuss now is the business for next week. What the hon. Gentleman said was something that, when I hear about it, I will bear in mind, and discuss with my right hon. Friend, but it cannot affect the business of the House for next week.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Can the Leader of the House assure us that next week the Government will not resign because of their defeat in the House of Lords?

Mr. Crossman

I think that that is one of the difficulties which we shall overcome.

Mr. Bessell

As the activities of the Standing Committee on the Transport Bill are part of the business of this House, will the right hon. Gentleman give the undertaking asked for by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster)?

Mr. Crossman

The answer is "No", because I have not yet been acquainted with the facts. When I have learned the facts of the situation and have had time to discuss them with my right hon. Friend I will be able to give a considered reply, but it is quite unreasonable to ask me to give an off-the-cuff decision on something that occurred only a few hours ago and was not brought to my attention.

Mr. Pavitt

Will my right hon. Friend undertake not to lay the Orders relating to prescription charges until such time as arrangements for exemptions have been completed?

Mr. Crossman

That is an assurance that I think I can almost certainly give. I must reflect on it carefully, because I have not yet considered the timing of the Orders, as I do not think that we are far enough advanced to do so. But I do not think that they will be laid in the immediate future.

Mr. Goodhart

Can the Leader of the House say whether hon. Members will have the traditional allocation of time for a discussion on defence before the Vote?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, Sir.

Mr. MacArthur

Can the Leader of the House say when there will be a statement, or a debate in Government time, on the unexpected cut-back in grants to the Scottish universities and the serious impact this will have on higher education?

Mr. Crossman

I would not expect us to have a special debate on Scottish universities and the effects of the economic cuts on them, because I think that these are effects on United Kingdom universities in general. But I will certainly bear in mind demands for discussion of that topic.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker