HC Deb 28 March 1968 vol 761 cc1732-7
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, 1ST APRIL—Remaining stages of the Health Services and Public Health Bill.

Motions relating to the Double Taxation Orders on Brazil, British Honduras, British Solomon Islands Protectorate, Falkland Islands, Monserrat, and Virgin Islands, and to the Miscellaneous Fees (Variation) Order.

At 7 o'clock, Opposed Private Business set down by the Chairman of Ways and Means.

TUESDAY, 2ND APRIL—Second Reading of the Family Allowances and National Insurance (No. 2) Bill.

Motion on the London Transport Board (Borrowing Powers) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 3RD APRIL—Remaining stages of the Industrial Expansion Bill.

Second Reading of the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Amendment Bill.

THURSDAY, 4TH APRIL—Second Reading of the Air Corporations Bill.

Motions on the Redundancy Fund (Advances out of the National Loans Fund) Order and the Anti-Dumping Duty Order.

FRIDAY, 5TH APRIL—Private Member's Bills.

MONDAY, 8TH APRIL—Supply (18th Allotted Day):

There will be a debate on a Motion to take note of the 11th Report from the Estimates Committee, Session 1966–67, and of the 5th Special Report from the Estimates Committee, Session 1967–68, on Prisons, Borstals and Detention Centres.

Mr. Heath

First, is the Leader of the House aware that this is the first time for nine years when, at the end of March, the forces have been in a state of uncertainty about their pay for the coming year? When will a statement be made about the future of forces' pay? Second, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is great concern in Scotland because the repair of the gale damage is not proceeding very quickly? Will he ensure that the Secretary of State for Scotland makes a progress report which we can debate before the House rises for Easter?

Mr. Crossman

I shall bring the right hon. Gentleman's anxiety about forces' pay to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. As regards the storm damage in Scotland, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will make a further statement next week on the progress being made.

Mr. Winnick

Will my right hon. Friend try to arrange for a debate in which we can discuss the lack of time for ordinary back benchers, bearing in mind that in the debate on Rhodesia yesterday on our side only two non-Privy Councillors were called? Why is it not possible for a debate to be extended by two hours on a very controversial subject, as the subject yesterday was, if we are not to have a two-day debate?

Mr. Crossman

I think that this is a question about which it is easier to be wise after the event. If there had been a demand from the House to extend the debate, I should, as always, have considered that demand; but it was not made in time to make the change.

Earl of Dalkeith

Will the statement to be made next week concern urban gale damage or forestry damage, or both?

Mr. Crossman

I gather that my right hon. Friend intends to make a full progress report on both aspects, repair and the actual damage.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

When will my right hon. Friend be able to arrange for a debate on Vietnam?

Mr. Crossman

I must continue to say that there is a great shortage of Government time at this time of the year. I cannot give any assurance before the Easter Recess. I noticed that at a time this week when private Members had a very long period in which they could have chosen this as a topic for debate not a single hon. Member selected it.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Government's failure yet again to bring forward a debate on the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, after they had promised that there would be one before the end of March, is a cause of great disappointment to hon. Members on both sides of the House and indicates to the country that perhaps the Select Committees are not as important as the Leader of the House has always made out?

Mr. Crossman

The hon. Gentleman is misjudging my motives about the debate. I have been in close contact with the Chairman of the Committee and with the two Ministers involved about the timing. The question is really a simple one of whether we want to debate the Select Committee's Report with or without the statements from the two Ministries relevant to the subject. I had hoped to wait until the two Ministries were ready. It has taken longer than I had expected, and I think on reflection that I might have chosen a date to debate the Report some weeks ago if I had known how long they would take. I am now hopeful that we shall get the two coinciding after the Recess.

Mr. E. Rowlands

When shall we be able to debate the very important White Paper on local government reorganisation in Wales?

Mr. Crossman

It has been out for some time. We have all studied it with close attention, but I cannot see any chance of debating it next week.

Mr. Iremonger

Does the Leader of the House expect us to have the remaining stages of the Countryside Bill before Easter?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Mendelson

With reference to the proposed debate on Vietnam, will my right hon. Friend recall that several other members of the Administration concerned with the arrangement of business have expressed the view in the past that it is too important a subject to be taken on a Private Member's Motion on a private Members' day? Will he, therefore, accept the plea of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) that we need to have an urgent debate on this very important subject in the Government's time?

Mr. Crossman

I am bound on some day before the Easter Recess to have a debate on the Adjournment for Easter, and there, in Government time, there could be an opportunity.

Mr. Marten

Is the Leader of the House aware that in my Vote this morning I got an order of Questions implying that we might be coming back a day early? Is that so?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of a certain discrepancy between the statement I made and the roster. I will admit that I prudently made the roster on the assumption that I might not be able to keep to my hope that we should come back on a Tuesday. My hope is still strong, and if the hon. Gentleman does not press me too hard I might keep to the Tuesday and amend the roster.

Mr. Shinwell

May I revert to the request for a debate on Vietnam? I express no opinion on the merits of the question, but if a substantial body of hon. Members on either side of the House asks for a debate on an important international topic about which there is concern and that is resisted by the Executive, does not that justify the criticism that Members of Parliament have practically no influence on it?

Mr. Crossman

That is too wide a conclusion to draw from such a narrow premise. It would justify criticism that the Executive is concerned to get its own business through and perhaps it might legitimately be said that the Executive was too eager to get its business through. But I do not think that I would draw the very wide conclusions about the impotence of back benchers from this case.

Mr. Emery

Does the Leader of the House realise that since the debate on the South-West Economic Planning Council's Report on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill on Tuesday, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Council has resigned because of the Government's inactivity in dealing with the recommendations in the Report? As the Chairman has already signified that he is leaving in April, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs makes a statement on the matter next week?

Mr. Crossman

I would not accept all the implications of the question. This will be a demonstration that something can be achieved by private Members if they take two or three hours on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I shall certainly bring the hon. Gentleman's request to my right hon. Friend's attention.

Mr. Orme

Will my right hon. Friend give the House more information on the business relating to the National Insurance amendments? Is it next week that legislation on the three abolished days is being introduced?

Mr. Crossman

I said that on Tuesday we should have the Second Reading of the Family Allowances and National Insurance (No. 2) Bill. That is the Bill which will contain a Clause relating to the subject in which my hon. Friend is interested. We shall not be doing the concluding stages until the following week, when I hope to conclude the Bill before the Easter Recess.

Sir R. Russell

Is the Leader of the House aware that it is now nearly three years since the Littlewood Committee made recommendations about experiments on living animals? When does the Home Secretary propose to introduce legislation to implement the Report?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me of that long delay. I must acquaint myself in more detail with the matter before I can adequately reply to the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he could ask me again next week.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

On the subject of Vietnam, does my right hon. Friend recognise that the Executive, with the connivance of the Opposition Front Bench, has escaped from the control of the Legislature? There can be no solution to the problem which does not involve a Motion and Division which will have the effect of bringing the Executive once again within that control. The suggestions of odd debates at different times are not a satisfactory answer to the question.

Mr. Crossman

It is not for me to advise my hon. Friends behind me on how to use their power as back-benchers to bring pressure on the Executive. That is something of which I have had experience in the past, but I do not want to reflect on that at the moment.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Does the Leader of the House agree, on reflection, that a Motion on the Adjournment for Easter, on which there is a narrow debate, is an inadequate occasion for the discussion of a great subject like Vietnam? Having heard both sides, will he give new consideration to giving Government time?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding us that the Opposition also have opportunities for giving time for debate on Vietnam.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Is the Leader of the House aware that there is a widespread impression in Scotland that the Standard Time Bill is an accomplished fact, an impression encouraged by statements by Government agencies? In the light of this, can he say ensure that the Committee stage of the Bill, which has been hanging fire for a very long time without being started, can be expedited?

Mr. Crossman

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows already from a previous announcement why there has been some delay, and I hope that he appreciates that the reason is one which should be pleasant to the people of Scotland.

Dame Irene Ward

Will the Leader of the House bear in mind that the House will want to know in reasonable time how he proposes to allocate the days which he will gain by sending the Finance Bill upstairs') May we have an assurance that a fair proportion of the allocation will be put at the disposal of the Opposition, and that it will not all be taken up by this miserable Government?

Mr. Crossman

I would not give any such assurance, because we have never made the suggestion, that we should increase the number of Supply Days because of the time we gain through the Finance Bill's going upstairs, if that is what the hon. Lady means. I am afraid that fate or Providence takes a good deal of the time away from me by compelling us to discuss certain subjects: we also have subjects proposed by hon. Members opposite. I cannot give an assurance now, so far in advance of the Whitsun Recess, on how we shall be occupying ourselves in June and July.

Mr. MacArthur

Will the Leader of the House represent to the Secretary of State for Scotland, before his right hon. Friend makes the statement on the gale damage to which we all look forward, that many farmers and horticulturists in Scotland have suffered grievous losses as a consequence of the hurricane, and that he should not continue with his blunt refusal to provide any help to them?

Mr. Crossman

I should have thought that a question entirely about the substance of the debate and not about its timing.