HC Deb 27 June 1968 vol 767 cc816-24
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, 1ST JULY—Private Members' Motions, until 7 o'clock.

Afterwards, progress on the remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

TUESDAY, 2ND JULY and WEDNESDAY, 3RD JULY—Progress on the remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

THURSDAY, 4TH JULY—Completion of the remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

FRIDAY, 5TH JULY—Remaining stages of the International Monetary Fund Bill, the Overseas Aid Bill, the Swaziland Independence Bill, and the Civil Aviation Bill (Lords).

Motion relating to the Motor Vehicles (International Circulation) (Amendment) Order.

MONDAY, 8TH JULY—Supply (24th Allotted Day):

Debate on a topic to be announced later.

Mr. Heath

Would the right hon. Gentleman kindly tell us what arrangements he is making to carry out the undertaking of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there would be a separate debate on the national lottery Clause in the Finance Bill, with the House being given the opportunity of a free vote? Secondly, can he say when the Defence White Paper will be published? Thirdly, can he give an assurance that there will be a debate on the Donovan Report before the House rises for the Summer Recess? Finally, is he aware that it has become very urgent indeed that a full statement should be made to the House about the Government's negotiations over the Falkland Islands, particularly in view of the Minister of State's recent statements?

Mr. Peart

First, I understand that it would probably meet the convenience of the House if we were to have a separate debate on the national lottery Clause in the Finance Bill on Monday evening. I am therefore arranging for the necessary Motion to be tabled to take the Bill in this order. We would all hope that there would be a free vote. I note what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Donovan Report. I cannot be specific about promising time for a debate on it. Hon. Members must have time to study the Report very carefully. I also note what he said about the Falkland Islands. I will convey his view to my right hon. Friend. The publication of the Defence White Paper is expected very soon—next week.

Several Hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind hon. Members that there is a lot of business ahead of us today.

Sir G. de Freitas

In view of the evidence given by the Clerk of the House that the Treasury is increasingly interfering with the administration and staffing of the House, when will my right hon. Friend provide time for us to debate this encroachment by the Executive?

Mr. Peart

As my right hon. Friend appreciates, this is a matter for the Treasury—

Hon. Members

And the House.

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Peart

I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will listen to my reply. I certainly understand the problem, because it affects the working of our Committees. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will have a word with me afterwards. I am afraid I cannot find time next week.

Mr. Heath

I am sure that the Leader of the House realises that this is an important matter primarily for the House itself in relationship to the Treasury and the Government. It is not enough, therefore, for us to be told that the right hon. Gentleman will have a word with his right hon. Friend. We would like a more satisfactory answer. When will the House be able to deal with the matter?

Mr. Peart

I can specifically deal with this matter in the all-party Services Committee of which I am Chairman. I think that would be a suitable body to discuss it.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Can the Leader of the House give us an assurance that, if not next week, certainly before the House rises for the Summer Recess, we will have an opportunity to debate the economy of this country so that we know the real state of affairs?

Mr. Peart

I cannot find time next week. I am sorry.

Mr. Barnett

In view of the serious implications of the American Company's bid for Gallaghers, which would give it 27 per cent. of the British tobacco market, will my right hon. Friend consider asking his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to make a statement and at least confirm that it will automatically go before the Monopolies Commission under the Act? Will he make a statement or at least allow the House to debate it before anything irretrievable is done?

Mr. Peart

I do not think that I can find time next week, but I will convey the views of my hon. Friend to the Minister concerned.

Mr. Montgomery

In view of the great alarm shown by local education authorities because of the cuts in school building, can the Leader of the House give us any hope of a debate on this matter in the near future?

Mr. Peart

Not next week.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members look forward with a feeling of impending indigestion to another undiluted week of Government stodge? Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many important reports continually coming out? There is the Report on the Trade Unions, the Fulton Report—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady must ask for a debate on only one of them.

Mrs. Short

And there is the Report on Prisons. When are we to have time to discuss these important reports?

Mr. Peart

I am afraid not next week. I would have thought that the Finance Bill was very important.

Mr. Hirst

The Leader of the House has been asked a series of questions concerning the desire of this House to know more about our economic situation. I put it to the Leader of the House that it is not good enough to stonewall that sort of question with the traditional answer "Not next week". A greater assurance is needed in this situation.

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman will remember that next week we are debating the Finance Bill. No doubt he will make a contribution.

Mr. C. Pannell

Reverting to the matter about which the Clerk of the House has complained, is the Leader of the House aware that we are concerned with six Acts of Parliament between 1812 and 1849 designed to secure that this House is not under any Treasury veto in the conduct of its affairs? A report on this matter is very urgent indeed when the chief official of the House takes it upon himself, probably rightly, to lecture the House and the Executive about what is due constitutionally. Might I say that this matter was referred to—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Member must ask for time for a debate on the matter he wishes to raise.

Mr. Pannell

As this appeared in the Stokes Report of 1953 in almost the same terms as the Clerk set down, is not the matter over-ripe for consideration?

Mr. Peart

I think I gave an answer to my right hon. Friend. I hope that we shall have a discussion under that procedure.

Mr. Thorpe

If the Leader of the House cannot give time for a debate on this vital issue and as some hon. Members think that the Chancellor is going beyond the scope of his powers, will the right hon. Gentleman indicate that the House of Commons as a whole would like the Chancellor to come down next week and make a statement explaining his view on the matter?

Mr. Peart

I hope that the Leader of the Liberal Party appreciates that there is a special committee where matters of this kind can be discussed. I will certainly consider this and I will make—

Dame Irene Ward


Mr. Peart

I hope that the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) will restrain herself.

Dame Irene Ward

No, I will not.

Mr. Peart

Then I hope, if she wishes to ask a question, that she will ask it. I will certainly convey these views to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Heath

Would it perhaps meet the present situation if the Leader of the House gave an undertaking that, when the all-party Services Committee has discussed the matter, which ought to be the first stage, the Committee will report to the House whether it is satisfied and, if it is not, that the House can then debate the matter and pass its own resolution about what should happen?

Mr. Peart

Certainly I shall follow that procedure.

Mr. Winnick

Will my right hon. Friend give a promise that next week there will be a further statement on the position of the Nigerian civil war, and particularly the steps being taken by the British Government to send emergency food supplies to the millions of people starving in Biafra?

Mr. Peart

This is an important matter, and my right hon. Friend has made a recent statement about it.

Dame Irene Ward

If the House gives up part of its time for discussion of Third Reading of the Finance Bill, will the Chancellor come down and tell us all about the economic position? This would be a good quid pro quo. Can the Leader of the House arrange it?

Mr. Peart

Much as I sometimes like the hon. Lady, I could not accede to her request.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I again remind the House that we have a heavy load of business ahead of us today.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Has my right hon. Friend noted Early Day Motion No. 348, standing in the names of a number of my hon. Friends and myself?

[That this House, mindful of the arguments advanced in the debate on the Southern Rhodesia Order that Mr. Smith was prepared to reach a settlement with Her Majesty's Government based on the six principles, calls upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire to disclose to Parliament the details of Mr. Smith's proposals in order that Parliament may give due consideration to them before the order is again laid before the House; and, recognising the claim that the talks held between the right hon. Gentleman and Mr. Smith are confidential, is of the opinion that if the right hon. Gentleman so requests his statement on Mr. Smith's proposals should be made to the House in the absence of strangers.]

Will the Leader of the House remind his right hon. Friends in the Government that, before negotiations are recommenced with Mr. Smith, there should be negotiations with this House? Will my right hon. Friend ensure that, before the Southern Rhodesia Order comes before us again, there is no opportunity for right hon. and hon. Members to be convinced to oppose mandatory sanctions without knowing Mr. Smith's latest proposals?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of Early Day Motion No. 348 standing in the names of my hon. Friend and some of his hon. Friends, but I am afraid there is no time next week to debate this matter.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Further to the question asked by the hon. Member for Croy-don, South (Mr. Winnick), will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement about the Biafran situation to be made as early as possible, especially in view of the report in the Sun this morning that aircraft are urgently needed, which Oxfam reports elsewhere confirm as being true?

Mr. Peart

Certainly. As soon as my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary feels that it is necessary to make a statement he will do so, and I will report this to the House.

Mr. Palmer

Will the Leader of the House consider giving time for a debate in the House on the important decision of the Government not to support the European nuclear accelerator project?

Mr. Peart

Not next week, I am afraid.

Sir F. Bennett

The Leader of the House will be aware that the Gibraltar constitutional talks, which have been promised month by month since last September, are still delayed. We were given an assurance recently that they would definitely be held in July and that we would be told when and where they would be held. Can we expect a statement on this matter next week, because we shall then be in July?

Mr. Peart

I will certainly convey the views of the hon. Gentleman to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Booth

Will the Leader of the House indicate when we will have an opportunity to debate the Prayer against the Prices and Incomes (Temporary Continuation of Standstill) (No. 2) Order?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give a specific time.

Mr. Biffen

Can the Leader of the House confirm that when the Department of Employment and Productivity has concluded its investigation into the salary of Mr. Jocelyn Hambro it will be the subject of an oral statement in this House, and can he indicate whether he would expect such an oral statement next week?

Mr. Peart

I cannot promise that definitely, but I will convey the views of the hon. Gentleman to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. James Johnson

In view of the parlous state of the deep sea fishing industry and the helpful Answers that we had yesterday at Question Time, will the Leader of the House use his good offices with the Chancellor to see whether we can get an answer to the problems in that industry, perhaps some time next week?

Mr. Peart

I think a little later there may be an opportunity to discuss the matter, but not next week.

Mr. Goodhart

Is there any chance that the Government will find extra time for the remaining stages of the Sunday Entertainments Bill?

Mr. Pavitt

As the Government's decision will emasculate the recommendations designed to reduce the cost of prescriptions to the Health Service, may we have an early debate on the Sainsbury Report, and if not next week will my right hon. Friend consider discussinig with the Minister of Health ways and means of reducing the intense frustration felt by many hon. Members on this side of the House when insult is added to injury when this decision is added to the prescription charges?

Mr. Peart

I shall convey my hon. Friend's views to the Minister of Health.

Mr. Dudley Smith

In view of the fact that, regrettably but understandably, Motion No. 3 due to be debated next Monday evening is unlikely to be reached—it deals with the need to reform the present state of Parliament—will the right hon. Gentleman consider implementing the half-promise he made to me a few weeks ago that we should have an urgent and vital debate on this subject?

Mr. Peart

I cannot anticipate how the debate will go on Private Members' Motions. We shall have to wait and see.

Mr. Fortescue

If we cannot have a debate next week on our withdrawal from the nuclear accelerator project, may we have a statement from the Minister responsible explaining why we have withdrawn?

Mr. Peart

There are Written Questions to the Minister, and no doubt there will be Written Answers.

Dr. Broughton

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Early Day Motion No. 335, which seeks to remove the imposition of prescription charges for women aged 60 and over, and which is supported by many hon. Members on both sides of the House.

[That this House, bearing in mind that the age of 60 years has been accepted as the retirement age for women for purposes of social security benefits, is of the opinion that all women aged 60 years and over should be exempt from payment of National Health Service prescription charges.]

Can my right hon. Friend say when the Minister of Health will be able to come to the House to announce the granting of this concession? Failing that, will my right hon. Friend say on which day next week the Motion may be debated?

Mr. Peart

I know that my hon. Friend feels strongly about this matter, and I shall convey his views to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. David Steel

Is the right hon Gentleman aware that those who represent constituencies affected by the Government's proposals for the S.E.T. refund to hotels are alarmed that Schedule 17 of the Finance Bill was not reached in Committee or on recommittal? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to protect the interests of such Members by ensuring that the Schedule is reached on Report?

Mr. Peart

I cannot be specific about that. If the hon. Gentleman will have a word with me, perhaps we can have a word with the Treasury Ministers concerned.