HC Deb 24 April 1969 vol 782 cc660-8
Mr. Heath

Will the Leader of the House kindly give us the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 28TH APRIL—Supply [18th Allotted Day]: Until Seven o'clock, there will be a debate on an Opposition Motion on the effect of high interest rates and the change in the gilt-edged market on local authority finances.

Afterwards, a debate on refunding of the betterment levy, which will also arise on an Opposition Motion.

Motions on the Eggs (Guaranteed Prices) Order and on the Sunday Entertainments Order for Derwent.

TUESDAY, 29TH APRIL—Progress on the remaining stages of the Post Office Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 30TH APRIL—Completion of the remaining stages of the Post Office Bill. Afterwards, remaining stages of the Education (Scotland) Bill, and Lords Amendments to the Agriculture (Spring Traps) (Scotland) Bill.

THURSDAY, 1ST MAY—Consideration of Private Members' Motions until Seven o'clock.

Afterwards, consideration of Lords Amendments to the Foreign Compensation Bill.

Motion on the Motor Vehicles (Tests) (Exemption) Regulations.

FRIDAY, 2ND MAY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 5TH MAY—Supply [19th Allotted Day]:

The topic for debate will be announced later.

Mr. Heath

Last Thursday, when the Leader of the House was pressed, he said that it was right that the Secretary of State for Social Security ought to make a statement about the cost of the contributions for increased pensions. When will the Leader of the House assert his authority to ensure that his right hon. Friend makes this statement which the House badly needs? When will the horrible truth be revealed?

Did the right hon. Gentleman hear the Prime Minister, in answer to a supplementary question a moment ago, say that he could not announce a date when the Bill for reform of trade unions would be published because it was not even drafted yet? What is the explanation of this extraordinary state of affairs in which a White Paper was published months ago and the Government promised legislation and now, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget has put so much emphasis on the urgency of a Bill for the good of the economy, it is not even drafted? When will it be published?

Mr. Peart

On the second matter which was raised, I hope that we shall have the Bill before Whitsun. I cannot be specific, but I will do my best. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I am giving him a fair answer to his question. I will do my best to inform the House. I hope that if possible it will be just before Whitsun.

On the first matter which was raised, I conveyed to my right hon. Friend and his colleagues that I thought that a statement should be made and that I felt it was right to do so. The Chief Secretary made a statement—[Interruption.] I know that it was criticised by hon. Members, but as Leader of the House I felt that I should convey the views of hon. Members, and I did so sincerely.

Mr. Heath

Would the Leader of the House accept that for a Minister to stand up and say that he is making a statement when he has no statement to make, is not in effect making a statement for the benefit of the House? May I express appreciation for his saying that he does not know when the trade union Bill will be published.

Mr. Peart

I said that I would do my best to get it out as quickly as possible.

Mr. Shinwell

Does my right hon. Friend intend next week to move his Motion on declaration of Members' interests? Although I in no way doubt the integrity of the Members whose names are included in the Motion, would it not have been more satisfactory if he had ascertained whether those who had been nominated for this Committee had declared their interests before accepting appointment? May we have some satisfaction about this matter? Are all those persons nominated to the Select Committee quite free of outside interests in order to ensure that no prejudice is injected into the discussion?

Mr. Peart

I should have thought not. I am sure that every hon. Member who has been mentioned will deal with the matter impartially and honourably.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Could the right hon. Gentleman say when his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services will make the statement telling us what will be the increased contributions for National Insurance? Will that statement also cover the other changes which are always made at the same time, such as those in respect of war pensions and supplementary benefits?

Mr. Peart

I cannot say when, but I will convey hon. Members' views to my right hon Friend accordingly.

Mr. Dalyell

Could we have an early debate on the interesting White Paper, which was presented last week by the Leader of the House, on marine science and technology?

Mr. Peart

I agree that it was an interesting paper, and I hope that hon. Members will have read it. Although I have responsibility for it, I am afraid that it will not be discussed next week.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he could find time to discuss a constitutional matter? When last Monday I asked the Minister of Social Security whether he could have an inquiry into nurses' problems, which are very important, he said that this was a matter for the Whitley Council. But I notice that when a number of demonstrating nurses went to the Elephant and Castle, where his office is siutated, he met them and said that he would look into the matter. What is the constitutional position, and why should not the statement about the problem of the nurses be made to Parliament rather than on the steps of the Elephant and Castle?

Mr. Peart

I see nothing wrong in making a speech outside, even though it may be at the Elephant and Castle. I do not think that this was a breach of constitutional propriety. I agree that it is a good thing that Parliament should be informed, and if a statement is necessary I will ask my hon. Friend to make it.

Mr. Thorpe

Reverting to the matter of trade union legislation, does the Leader of the House recollect that the First Secretary of State, in her speech on the Budget, said that there would first be published a White Paper giving the Government guidelines on industrial reform.

May I ask two questions? First, when does he expect the White Paper to be published? Secondly, will the House have the opportunity to debate the proposals before they are turned into legislative form?

Mr. Peart

The whole question relates to the matter to which the Leader of the Opposition rightly drew my attention, namely the date of the publication of the Bill.

Miss Lestor

I would draw attention to Motion No. 268—

[That this House deplores the decision of the Barbarians Rugby Club to participate in matches in Southern Rhodesia and considers that this action actively contributes towards bolstering the illegal Smith régime.]

which is on the Order Paper in my name dealing with the visit of the Barbarians to Southern Rhodesia. Could we ask him to find time to debate this Motion about the whole question of sports activities by apartheid teams?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of the sentiments expressed in this Motion, and I understand them, but I am afraid the answer is "not next week."

Mr. Peyton

The right hon. Gentleman told us that he informed his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services that, in his opinion, a statement ought to be made to the House. What further steps is he now to take to persuade his right hon. Friend that such a statement is overdue? We all hope that he will be much more successful this time. Is he losing his influence with his colleagues?

Mr. Peart

I would not say that. I hope that I have a good influence.

Mr. William Hamilton

May I refer to the question raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) about the Motion on to-day's Order Paper, "Members' Interests (Declaration)"? Could he give a categoric assurance to the House that there will be an opportunity to debate this Motion, if only so that Members can express their anger and frustration at the apparently arbitrary exercise of the kind of patronage that goes with the selection of members for this Committee and others, without reflecting in any way on the merits and intentions of the members selected?

Mr. Peart

I hope that my hon. Friend will not say that there is patronage here. This is a group of Privy Councillors, with the exception of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock). It is a Committee which will have to do a hard job. There is no question of patronage.

Mr. Godber

Would the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Northumberland Committee will be publishing its report next Thursday and will the Minister of Agriculture be making a statement in this House on that date?

Mr. Peart

I hope this will be on 1st May.

Mr. Ellis

Does my right hon. Friend realise, with regard to the matter raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), that while we are all sure that all Members of the House are honourable, it seems that there is now some dispute about some being more honourable than others? Therefore would he make it clear—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate at this moment the Motion on today's Order Paper.

Mr. Ellis

Will he make it known to his right hon. Friends that we want this matter cleared up very quickly, so that these points do not arise?

Mr. Peart

I do not think they should arise. I assume that all hon. Members are honourable men.

Mr. Biffen

Reverting to the Second Reading of the Industrial Relations Bill, can the right hon. Gentleman make an early statement, preferably next week, confirming that the Committee stage will be taken on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Peart

I cannot do that at the present moment.

Mr. John Fraser

Does my right hon. Friend recollect the assurance he gave to communicate to the Foreign Office the concern of the House over the Foreign Office decision on the resolution of the Council of Europe on Greece? When will he complete the second part of that assurance by making a statement to the House on what the Foreign Office issues are? Does he appreciate that it must be made before next week, because the Council of Ministers meets on 5th May, the following Monday?

Mr. Peart

I have conveyed the views of my hon. Friend and those who feel as he does. I will convey again to my right hon. Friend that certain hon. Members would wish a statement. I cannot promise one next week.

Sir Knox Cunningham

As the Leader of the House has said to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that he hopes that the trade union Bill will be introduced before Whitsun, will he say whether it will go through all its stages before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Peart

Let us wait and see.

Mr. Hector Hughes

In the name of humanity, can my right hon. Friend find time next week for my Early Day Motion No. 257—

[That this House is of opinion that Clause 12 of the regulation relating to disabled persons' cars, which provides that when the child or children of the disabled person reaches the age of 14 years or ceases to depend on the disabled person, the car will not be replaced, by substituting a later age which will enable the disabled person to continue his or her care of the relevant child or children.]

Strange as it may seem, there are disabled persons, even among the robust and gallant population of Aberdeen.

Mr. Peart

I understand that my hon. and learned Friend had a Question down to the Secretary of State to which he has received an Answer. I have nothing to add to that, although I appreciate his concern in this matter.

Sir F. Bennett

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Finance Bill will be published? Can he at the same time give an absolute undertaking that the material and information we are still awaiting about National Insurance contributions will be available before the Second Reading of the Bill? Will he give that assurance in such a categoric form that none of his colleagues, not even the Chief Secretary, will be able to evade or misinterpret it?

Mr. Peart

I thought that I had made my position plain on the earlier questions. As to the later question he asked, it would be convenient for Members on both sides if I say that it is proposed that the Committee stage should be taken in two parts, one upstairs and one on the Floor of the House, and that important matters affecting the Finance Bill, such as S.E.T., Corporation Tax and Purchase Tax, should be taken on the Floor of the House, while detailed minutiae should be taken upstairs. This will be done.

Mr. John Mendelson

Will my right hon Friend, in spite of the unholy pressure from the declared enemies of the trade union movement opposite to hurry a proposed Industrial Relations Bill, take note of the fact that the Trades Union Congress is proposing new alternatives to suggestions which have been made and that the Government are committed to full consultations? Would he declare that there is no hurry? This is a responsible task and the Government ought to take their full time in reconsidering these matters.

Mr. Peart

I hope that my hon. Friend appreciates that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State does believe in adequate consultations and that she has already had consultations.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Will the right hon. Gentleman be able to tell us next Thursday the date of announcement of the increased National Insurance stamp? Does he realise how urgent this is for some small firms whose businesses are already being seriously threatened by the big increase in S.E.T.?

Mr. Peart

I will convey that to my right hon. Friend. I cannot say it will be next week.

Sir C. Osborne

Since yesterday's sterling rate dropped to the lowest point ever and is reaching the point now that a further fall would suggest yet another devaluation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] This is true. Will the Leader of the House try to find time, next week if need be, for an emergency debate on the steps the Government will take to preserve sterling, as promised by the Prime Minister

Mr. Peart

I understand the hon. Member's views which he puts frequently and eloquently to the House. I hope he will appreciate that to panic over day-to-day movements of sterling would be very wrong. I do not think that a statement will be called for.

Dr. Gray

In view of the letter to The Times signed by 10 eminent professors of the L.S.E., would my right hon. Friend arrange a debate next week into the affairs and direction of the L.S.E.?

Mr. Peart

No. That is not a matter in which I should get involved. A statement is not necessary.

Mr. Dudley Smith

In view of the most unsatisfactory Answers we have had earlier this afternoon on the future of comprehensive schooling and the policy for the grammar schools, and the doubt cast on the future of the direct grant schools, would the right hon. Gentleman consider providing time for an early debate on this subject in advance of the Government's forthcoming Bill which will very seriously restrict the education powers of local authorities?

Mr. Peart

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I too have an interest in education. It might be useful if the Opposition sought to take a Supply Day on this. They have that opportunity. I hope that when my right hon. Friend does present a Bill the hon. Gentleman will give it his full support.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

On the subject of Mr. Gerald Brooke, the Leader of the House will recall the Foreign Secretary's statement on Tuesday that he was making inquiries and my right hon. Friend's willingness to await those inquiries. Would he convey to the Foreign Secretary that the House is anxious to hear the results of his inquiries, when he has completed them, at the earliest possible stage?

Mr. Anderson

Would my right hon. Friend consider having an early debate on the Report of the Hunt Committee on intermediate areas, published today, which will have serious consequences for the constituencies of many hon. Members.

Mr. Peart

I hope that my hon. Friend will carefully study the Report before pressing me for a debate. Certainly we cannot have one next week.