HC Deb 11 July 1968 vol 768 cc739-47
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, 15TH JULY—Supply [26th Allotted Day]:

Until seven o'clock, there will be a debate on the Future of the Scottish Regiments, which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

Afterwards, a debate on the Effect of Selective Employment Tax in Scotland, also on an Opposition Motion.

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

TUESDAY, 16TH JULY—Supply [27th Allotted Day]:

Debate on a Motion to take note of the Donovan Report (Command No. 3623).

WEDNESDAY, 17TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Social Work (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

Lords Amendments to the Sewerage (Scotland) Bill.

Remaining stages of the Civil Evidence Bill [Lords].

Motion relating to the Meat and Livestock Commission Levy Order.

THURSDAY, 18TH JULY—Debate on Foreign Affairs, which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motions relating to the Redundancy Payments Exclusion of Merchant Seamen Order, the Grants for Guarantees of Bank Loans Order, the Field Beans Scheme, and the Small Farm (Business Management) Schemes.

FRIDAY, 19TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Civil Aviation Bill [Lords], the International Organisations Bill [Lords], and of the Theft Bill [Lords].

Motion relating to the Iron and Steel (Compensation to Employees) Regulations.

MONDAY, 22ND JULY—Supply [28th Allotted Day]:

Subject for debate to be announced later.

Motion relating to the Prices and Incomes (General Considerations) Order.

Mr. Heath

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are giving time for a debate on the Donovan Report because we believe that it is of the utmost im- portance that the House should have an opportunity to express its view before the Government reach their own conclusions and prepare legislation? We therefore want the debate before we rise for the Recess.

Can the right hon. Gentleman now confirm that the Government will give time, which they refused to do for Donovan, for a debate on the White Paper on Defence during the week after next, especially if that is to be the final week before the Recess?

Mr. Peart

I shall consider the right hon. Gentleman's request for a debate on the Defence White Paper, and have discussions through the usual channels. I think that we should give time for this debate. The White Paper has been published today. This is a very important matter. I understand the view of the Opposition.

I accept what the right hon. Gentleman said about Donovan. We are grateful that the Opposition have chosen this Report for debate.

Mr. Orme

Will the foreign affairs debate be confined specifically to one area, or, as it were, one subject, or will it be a wide debate? One day does not seem to be sufficient for a wide-ranging debate.

Mr. Peart

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will be making a statement on disarmament and on the Government's policy. However, as it is on the Adjournment, it is not for me to decide the planning of the debate. This should be left to the House, but I think that my hon. Friend should await my hon. Friend's statement.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Will the right hon. Gentleman give thought to debating some of the Reports from the Estimates Committee, of which there are about 15 outstanding? Only three have been debated. Many hon. Members worked very hard on this Committee and raised important points, but the reports are never debated. How are we to deal with this problem?

Mr. Peart

I recognise that this is an important matter. I pay tribute to our colleagues who work hard on this Committee, but I cannot find time for a debate next week.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members of the Opposition are afraid to come here next week after a statement in the Daily Telegraph, a leading Opposition paper, that their Chief Whip scowled at them and looked as if he was going to grasp them by the throat?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are on serious business questions.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Can my right hon. Friend assure us that the rebels opposite will be protected next week?

Sir C. Osborne

When will we have the long-promised debate on economic affairs—we were promised two days for it—because this is the most vital issue facing the nation?

Mr. Peart

I cannot promise that at all, but certainly not next week.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be a debate on the important Government White Paper, Old Houses into New Homes? It is vital that we debate this before the House rises.

Mr. Peart

I cannot give a specific assurance.

Mr. Carlisle

When will the right hon. Gentleman implement his promise that we would have a debate in Government time on prisons, arising out of the Estimates Committee's Report?

Mr. Peart

As the hon. Gentleman knows, it was not my fault that we lost time. We could have had a debate. This was rejected, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

Mrs. Lena Jeger

What arrangements is my right hon. Friend making for the further stages of the Divorce Reform Bill, which was given a Second Reading by a large majority, and the Committee stage of which was completed before Whitsun?

Mr. Peart

This is still being considered. I will discuss the matter with the sponsors of the Bill.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us why we cannot have a debate on Welsh affairs, preferably next Wednesday? Would not that be preferable to Scottish sewerage?

Mr. Peart

I am rather surprised that the hon. Gentleman should attack an important Scottish Measure. We cannot have a debate next week.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that an irresponsible minority of Liberal Members and two Nationalist Members, on Tuesday, prevented the Scottish Grand Committee from debating higher education in the Scottish Grand Committee next week? Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the position with a view to giving us that debate either next week or the week after?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of that, and I was sorry that the Motion which I proposed to the House was opposed by sources which, I thought, acted rather strangely. However, I shall look at that.

Mr. Evelyn King

Is it a fact that the Rhodesia debate on Monday is to be confined to an hour and a half, which will give back benchers scarcely any time to speak? If the right hon. Gentleman should argue that we have discussed this Order already, perhaps I might point out that that is true of all Measures which come back from the other place. That has never been held as a reason for curtailing debate.

Mr. Peart

I think that an hour and a half is reasonable.

Mr. Atkinson

Will my right hon. Friend say whether next week's debate on Donovan is the only time which the Government will allocate to take note of the Report? [HON. MEMBERS: "It is Opposition time."] I recognise that. I am asking the Government whether they intend to add to the time given by the Opposition. That is my question.

Is it the Government's intention to introduce a White Paper before bringing in legislation? Can my right hon. Friend say whether the expected legislation is to come in a series of parts or is to be taken altogether?

Mr. Peart

I cannot answer that. In any case, there is no time next week.

Mr. David Steel

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable astonishment in Scotland at the fact that the Opposition have failed to use their second Scottish Supply day to debate the one topic that everybody is discussing, namely, Scottish self-government? Will he say that next Wednesday, either in the Scottish Grand Committee or on the Floor of the House, there will be a debate upon this important subject?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give that undertaking.

Mr. Abse

Will my right hon. Friend clarify his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger)? Is he aware that there are 250,000 permanently cohabiting couples whose expectations of marriage and the legitimising of their children depend upon the answer? Since we have had so many talks between the sponsors and the Leader of the House, is it not wrong that these expectations should be cruelly raised again, as they have been on three occasions in the past?

Mr. Peart

I gave a precise reply to my hon. Friend, and I stand by it.

Mr. Farr

In view of the importance of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement to so many developing nations, will the Leader of the House give time for a very early debate on the future of that Agreement?

Mr. Peart

Iam well aware of its importance—certainly to producing countries in the Commonwealth. I was once the Minister responsible. I note what the hon. Member has said.

Mr. Maclennan

Is my right hon. Friend entirely satisfied that the practice of announcing the subject of Supply debates only four days before the debates occur is satisfactory, especially in view of the capricious and highly selective approach that the Opposition show to important subjects such as the development of the Scottish economy?

Mr. Peart

I cannot alter this practice.

Mr. R. Carr

Will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity whether she will make a statement next week on her action in making such hasty use of the new Prices and Incomes Act in relation to the busmen—especially in view of the fact that this is contrary to the spirit of the assurances given in Committee during our debates on the Bill.

Mr. Peart

I will certainly convey that view to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. James Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend give serious thought to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), who asked whether the question of higher education in Scotland could be given another day? This matter was farcically vetoed because of the irresponsible action of hon. Members opposite. It is very important to the people of Scotland. Will my right hon. Friend reconsider his answer?

Mr. Peart

I agree with my hon. Friend. I will reconsider this matter.

Mr. Marten

Since the Leader of the House did not tell us that the House is to rise on 28th July, can he say when he will tell us?

Mr. Peart

Next week.

Dr. David Kerr

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the excellent record of the Labour Government in social administration is in danger of being marred if we do not get further immediate progress on the Divorce Reform Bill? Will he, when he speaks to the sponsors of the Bill remember that not giving time is as much an act of political wisdom or unwisdom as giving time?

Mr. Peart

I always bear in mind the views of my hon. Friend, but I also have to bear in mind other considerations.

Mr. David Howell

The Prime Minister said that he would name a Minister who would answer specific questions arising from the implementation of the Fulton Committee's recommendations.

Can the Leader of the House find out who it will be?

Mr. Peart

Not next week.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be deep dissatisfaction with the answer that he has given to my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) about the debate on the White Paper, Old Houses into New Homes? Will it take place the following week? If not, does not it mean that although we were promised that this White Paper was for discussion purposes we shall have legislation in the autumn with no previous discussion in Parliament having taken place?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of the importance of this matter, but I have announced the business for next week and I remain firm on that programme.

Sir S. Summers

In view of the fact that the Leader of the House has made no statement about the rising of the House, ought we to assume that it is is expected to sit into August?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Member should not assume anything. I shall make an announcement next week.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members on both sides of the House are disturbed by the fact that we get insufficient time to debate specific issues of foreign affairs? In reference to the debate next week, will he consider having a series of days on foreign affairs as soon as possible? We are debarred from debating many very important issues because there is not enough time.

Mr. Peart

I am aware of my hon. Friend's view, and I agree with him, but a day has been allocated next week and I hope that we shall have a constructive debate.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Will the Leader of the House lend a more sympathetic and attentive ear to the pleas that have been made about a debate on the White Paper, Old Houses Into New Homes? Does he appreciate that many human problems arise out of this, on which the Government should have the benefit of the views of hon. Members before formulating any legislative proposals for the coming Session?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of this, but the debate will not be next week.

Mr. Leadbitter

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is a considerable time since we discussed the question of shipping and the shipbuilding industry? We are anxious to discuss many outstanding problems. Is my right hon. Friend further aware that a grave situation is developing, especially in the North-East? Can he promise time to debate this important matter?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of the problems that my hon. Friend, who represents a North-Eastern constituency, has referred to. I will refer his views to the Minister.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

In reference to the Reports of the Estimates Committee, does the Leader of the House recall that he gave a firm promise that there would be a day for a debate on the Report on Prisons? Are we likely to have it before the Recess?

Mr. Peart

I did not give that precise promise. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] No. I am sorry that hon. Members did not take advantage of what I said they could have.

Mr. Hector Hughes

With reference to the Scottish regiments, does my right hon. Friend realise that his announcement of a debate on Monday will be received with appreciation in Scotland, on the assumption that the result is not a foregone conclusion that the regiments will be disbanded?

Mr. Peart

My hon. and learned Friend will no doubt convey his point of view to the Defence Minister.

Mr. Cordle

In view of the situation now prevailing in Nigeria, can the Leader of the House give time for a debate on that country?

Mr. Peart

My right hon. Friend made a statement on this matter, and is watching the situation. If necessary, when he has something new to announce he will make a statement to the House.

Mr. James Davidson

On the point just raised, may I ask whether, in view of the imminent disaster in Biafra and the general interest of the House in what is going on there, and especially in the findings of the Hunt mission, the right hon. Gentleman can tell us whether the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs will be making a statement next week?

Mr. Peart

I have had a word with my right hon. Friend. He will make a statement as soon as possible.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he is being very unhelpful to the Estimates Committee in two ways? Has he forgotten that he or his predecessor originally gave us a whole day for the debate on the Report on Prisons, which we had to give up for the immigration debate? Is he further aware that his refusal to announce the date of the rising of the House makes it extremely difficult for us to plan the final sittings of the Estimates Sub-Committee, as we have witnesses due to appear before the Committee? Will he reconsider his decision and announce a date now, and also tell us when we shall be able to debate the Report?

Mr. Peart

I am always anxious to help my hon. Friend, but if I went further I would only be repetitive. She knows my view.

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