HC Deb 04 July 1968 vol 767 cc1696-705
Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business of the House for next week?

The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 8TH JULY—Supply [24th Allotted Day]:

Debate on the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation, which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

At seven o'clock the Chairman of Ways and Means has named the Bristol Corporation Bill [Lords] for debate.

Motions relating to the Selective Employment Payments Variation Order and the Abortion Regulations.

TUESDAY, 9TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Race Relations Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 10TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Hovercraft Bill, and of the British Standard Time Bill [Lords].

Lords Amendments to the Health Services and Public Health Bill and to the Justices of the Peace Bill, and if there is time, remaining stages of the Theft Bill [Lords].

THURSDAY, 11TH JULY—Supply [25th Allotted Day]:

Debate on Agriculture, on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Prayer on the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 1968.

FRIDAY, 12TH JULY—Motions relating to the Supplementary Benefit (Determination of Requirements) Regulations and to the British Steel Corporation Borrowing Powers.

MONDAY, 15TH JULY—Supply [26th Allotted Day]:

Debate on a topic to be announced later.

Motion on the Southern Rhodesia (United Nations Sanctions) (No. 2) Order.

Mr. Heath

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that on 30th May he gave me a firm assurance that the Government would provide time for the House to debate a Prayer on the Prices and Incomes (General Considerations) Order? As the Government have refused to grant time next week, will he now reaffirm his assurance that we shall be given time in the very near future for the debate which he promised?

We are getting near to the Summer Recess. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will take into account, in working out the allocation of Parliamentary time, the need for debates on the Donovan Report, on the Defence White Paper, when published, and on the economy in general?

Mr. Peart

The answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question is, "Yes". The answer to the second part, about the Donovan Report, is "No". The answer to the third part, on the Defence White Paper, is "Yes".

Mr. Heath

I asked a further question, about a debate on the economy generally.

Mr. Peart

I will have that point brought to the notice of my right hon. Friend who is responsible, but I cannot give a specific promise at this stage. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] We will have talks about it.

Mr. Heath

The right hon. Gentleman gave a curt "No" to my request for a debate on the Donovan Report. Is he aware that this matter is of the utmost importance to all hon. Members and that as the Government are no doubt embarking on the preparation of legislation for next Session there should be a full debate on this subject so that the House may express its view before we rise for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Peart

I was not being curt. I was trying to be precise, and as I had answered simply "Yes" to the right hon. Gentleman's other two questions, an answer which he appreciated, I thought that a precise "No" would be satisfactory for the other question. However, if the right hon. Gentleman wants me to consider the matter, I will certainly look into it, but I do not think that time can be found next week. I would rather be frank with the right hon. Gentleman now than later. [Laughter.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Thorpe.

Mr. Thorpe

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that while Friday is a useful Parliamentary day, the Government try to avoid bringing in highly controversial matters for discussion on Fridays, for reasons which the whole House will appreciate? He is now suggesting that on Friday, 12th July, we should discuss a further £100 million of public money being granted to the British Steel Corporation. Has it crossed his mind that this may be a matter of some controversy? Is he aware that when, in 1967, a comparable Instrument was introduced for the gas industry it took six and a quarter hours to debate it on two Parliamentary occasions?

Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that the other matter to be taken on Friday, 12th July, Motions relating to the Supplementary Benefit (Determination of Requirements) Regulations, is also one on which many hon. Members will have much to say? Does he think that two controversial though extremely interesting Measures should be introduced on a Friday?

Mr. Peart

Friday is still an important Parliamentary day. There have been precedents for controversial matters being debated on Fridays. I have noted what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but the business for next week has already been arranged.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that the Report stage of the Finance Bill finishes at seven o'clock. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members will show some restraint at Business question time.

Mr. Victor Yates

Has my right hon. Friend seen the Motion standing in my name and in the names of 49 other hon. Members about the dispute between the clerical workers and the British Steel Corporation?

[That this House is profoundly shocked at the continuing dispute between the British Steel Corporation and the members of their clerical, administrative and technical staffs following the refusal of the Corporation to allow their staff to be represented by a union of their own choice; and calls upon the Government to take the necessary action to try to end this dispute.]

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we read in the Press this morning about the Minister having agreed to the establishment of a court of inquiry into this matter? Would not he agree that the House should have been informed about this, rather than having to read about it in the Press or about any other statement or discussions about a strike which should never have been allowed to continue?

Mr. Peart

Although not a matter concerning the business for next week, my hon. Friend will appreciate that we have made an announcement to set up a court of inquiry. I would have thought that it would be sensible to await the report of that inquiry; but I will convey my hon. Friend's views to the Minister responsible.

Sir C. Taylor

Will the right hon. Gentleman give up-to-date information on a matter about which both sides of the House are deeply interested, namely, whether we can expect the resignation of the Prime Minister?

Mr. Ted Fletcher

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Victor Yates), will a statement be made in the House by the Minister about the composition of the court of inquiry that is to be set up to intervene in the dispute between the clerical workers and the British Steel Corporation?

Mr. Peart

I have already answered that question. I said that I would convey these views to my right hon. Friend.

Dame Irene Ward

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed my Motion, dealing with Guy's Hospital?

[That in the opinion of this House the matron of Guy's Hospital would not resign without weighty cause and that as hospital administration, the immediate and long-term interests of patients and the conditions of service of the nursing profession may be involved it is appropriate that an independent inquiry be held and its report published so that professional interests and the public may know the truth of the situation which has caused the resignation.]

Will he ask the Minister of Health whether, when he answers my Question next week, he will be prepared to give the House some real facts so as to allay public anxiety about what is going on at the hospital?

Mr. Peart

I will certainly convey the hon. Lady's views to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Am I right in assuming that there has been a tradition in the House of at least one Supply day being provided by the Opposition for the discussion of Scottish affairs? Will my right hon. Friend use his influence to persuade the Opposition to set aside Monday, 15th July, so that we can discuss the possible disappearance of two firms that are household names of blessed memory in shipbuilding and engineering, Harland and Wolff and Beardmore?

Mr. Peart

It is not for me to advise the Opposition about Supply days or their subjects. That is a matter for the Opposition. I cannot intervene in the Matter.

Mr. Godber

Would the right hon. Gentleman give a firm assurance that the long-awaited statement on the fishing industry will be made next week?

Mr. Peart

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend hopes to make a statement on the industry next week.

Mr. Mendelson

May we have a firm assurance that there will be an adequate foreign affairs debate before the Summer Recess? In other words, would my right hon. Friend reaffirm his plan not to wait for the last week before the Recess for such a debate, but that it will take place earlier? Does he accept the principle that each day of the debate should be devoted to a separate subject, and, in particular, that one day should be devoted to a debate on Vietnam, which the House has not specifically debated for two and a half years?

Mr. Peart

I appreciate my hon. Friend's remarks. I agree with him in principle. I would certainly like to have a debate on foreign affairs before the Recess, but I cannot be precise about the subjects.

Mr. Hastings

When are we to debate the Fulton Report?

Mr. Peart

Not next week.

Mr. Whitaker

As the House has already spent many hours in debating the Divorce Reform Bill and the Sunday Entertainments Bill, can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be sufficient time before the end of the Session for the House to reach an opinion on them one way or the other?

Mr. Peart

I cannot be specific on this subject at this stage, but I will gladly talk to my hon. Friend about it.

Mr. Blaker

Will the Leader of House ask his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement next week about the Government's policy towards the proposal of the French Government for import quotas and export subsidies?

Mr. Peart

I will certainly convey the hon. Member's views to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Archer

Does my right hon. Friend recollect Motion No. 271, on the peaceful uses of the ocean floor, and his very kind answer to me on 9th May? As this matter has since been under continual discussion in the Technical Committee of the United Nations and the United Kingdom has rather given the appearance of being more impressed by the difficulties than by the advantages, may the House have an early opportunity of debating the advantages?

[That this House believes the time has come to declare the deep ocean floor conserved as a common heritage of mankind, and that steps be taken to draft a treaty embodying inter alia the following principles:

that the seabed beyond the limits of present national jurisdiction,

  1. (a) be conserved against appropriation by nations or their nationals so that the deep ocean floor should not be allowed to become a stage for competing claims of national sovereignty
  2. (b) be explored in a manner consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations
  3. (c) be exploited economically or made use of with the aim of safeguarding the interests of mankind
  4. (d) be conserved exclusively for peaceful purposes in perpetuity.]

Mr. Peart

I was kind in the sense that I accept that the subject is of great importance. I cannot find time during the sitting days of next week, but I note what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Montgomery

In view of the great alarm felt by local education authorities about the vicious cuts imposed on school building by the Government, does the Leader of the House think that we could have a debate on this subject in the near future?

Mr. Peart

I do not think that there have been any vicious cuts—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not think so. I know that the hon. Gentleman is a strong defender of education, but it is not for me to get involved in this matter; and not next week.

Dr. David Kerr

Will my right hon. Friend accept that his helpful answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) will add to the alarm of those who are anxious to see further progress on and completion of the Divorce Reform Bill and the Sunday Entertainments Bill? Could he not be more specific as, if these Measures are to complete all their parliamentary procedures, we shall need to have them brought to the House within the next week or so?

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend must appreciate that there are many urgent matters. I will look at this question.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Will the Leader of the House think again about taking the British Steel Corporation Motion on the Friday, particularly as the second item of business? It is quite likely that the Motion relating to the Supplementary Benefit (Determination of Requirements) Regulations, which is down as first business, will take the full morning. Rather than have to give way later, will not the right hon. Gentleman be gracious, and take the borrowing powers Motion on any other day than Friday, particularly having in mind the £100 million involved?

Mr. Peart

It is a lot of money, but this sort of thing has happened before on a Friday. I really cannot repeat all that I said to the Leader of the Liberal Party, but I note what the hon. Gentleman says.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend find time, at long last, for my Motion No. 232, which will give the House an opportunity to pay tribute to three gallant gentlemen: not only Sir Francis Chichester, not only Mr. Alec Rose, but also Tim Durant, who, when his horse fell at Becher's Brook, remounted, and finished the Grand National?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have a speech now.

[That this House expresses its admiration for the robust virility and stamina not only of Sir Francis Chichester for his epic single-handed sail around the world, but for the more recent feats of two others, namely, Mr. Tim Durant, who on Saturday, 30th March, rode in the Grand National Steeplechase and, when he and his horse fell at Becher's Brook, remounted and finished the race; and to Mr. Alec Rose who, in course of sailing single-handed round the world in the 37 foot ketch"Lively Lady", has just now, successfully and bravely weathered and braved the traditionally terrific storms and heavy seas of Cape Horn; and the House sends him greetings and best wishes of a safe return home from his equally epic voyage.]

Mr. Peart

I cannot find time next week. I would only say that there is on the Order Paper a Motion referring to Alec Rose, which I am sure we all heartily support.

Mr. G. Campbell

Will there be a statement next week, or, at any rate, before the Summer Recess, on the whole question of the siting of the proposed smelters in development areas?

Mr. Peart

I know that this is a very urgent matter. I recognise the problem. I will convey the hon. Member's views to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Stodart

Further to the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) about a statement on the fishing industry next week, can the Leader of the House say whether, before the Summer Recess, we shall get the debate on the industry to which we are accustomed at this time of the year?

Mr. Peart

Yes, Sir. I am hoping to have that debate. There is an affirmative Order concerned with the white fish industry, and the debate might be on that.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government are proposing important changes in the system of protection for the jute industry in East Scotland. Will he ask his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to be sure to make a statement on this matter before the House rises for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Peart

I will convey the hon. Gentleman's views. He has the opportunity to put down Questions, but I note what he says.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that when his right hon. Friend the First Secretary introduced the Donovan Report she was very sympathetic to the idea of a debate be fore the Government announced their intentions? Will he, therefore, reconsider the firm negative answer on that subject which he has just given?

Mr. Peart

We all appreciate that Donovan is very important, and that it must, therefore, be studied very carefully before we rush into it. I believe that we should have adequate debate, but I am not committing myself in any way to a debate before the end of the Session.

Mr. Eldward M. Taylor

Is the Leader of the House aware that chaotic conditions exist in some parts of West Scotland, where we have a bus strike on top of the rail "go slow", and hundreds of people unable to get to work? Will the right hon. Gentleman urge the Secretary of State or the Minister of Transport to make a statement next week on means that can be brought in to alleviate the situation?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman has an opportunity to question my right hon. Friend. I will convey his views to the Minister.