HC Deb 11 December 1969 vol 793 cc645-53
Mr. Heath

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

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

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

MONDAY, 15TH DECEMBER—Opposition Motion of censure on Capital Punishment.

Motions on the Rate Support Grant (Increase) Order, the Cumberland County Council Order, and on the West Riding County Council Order.

TUESDAY, 16TH DECEMBER—Debate on a Motion relating to the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act, 1965.

Motions on the Police Pensions (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations and on the Sunday Entertainments Order relating to Burnham-on-Crouch.

WEDNESDAY, 17TH DECEMBER—Motions on the Prices and Incomes Act, 1966, (Commencement of Part II) Order and on the Restrictive Trade Practices (Information Agreements) Order.

THURSDAY, 18TH DECEMBER—SeCOnd Reading of the Ports Bill.

Motions relating to Members Expenses, etc., and the Purchase Tax (No. 1) Order.

FRIDAY, 19TH DECEMBER—It will be proposed that the House should rise for the Christmas Adjournment until Monday, 19th January, 1970.

Mr. Heath

Will the Leader of the House say what proposal he has for the debate on public expenditure? As it is not to be taken next week, and will be taken presumably some time after the Recess, will it be possible to have a two-day debate?

Mr. Peart

I shall be making an announcement next week, and will consider this very sympathetically. There is force in what the right hon. Gentleman suggests.

Mr. Dickens

Am I to understand that the debate on Thursday on the Motion on Members' expenses will last for only 1½ hours, or will it last longer than that?

Mr. Peart


Mr. Dickens

On a point of order. Would my right hon. Friend be a little more explicit?

Mr. Peart

May I say now, "No, Sir."

Mr. Turton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Select Committee on Procedure recommended that before Christmas there should be a two-day debate on public expenditure, on which there was general agreement on an all-party basis? Is not he disregarding that recommendation because of the pressure on the Home Secretary to clear up the question of his resignation before Christmas?

Mr. Peart

The House will appreciate that I gave a sympathetic answer to the Leader of the Opposition. I will make a statement next week.

Mr. Sheldon

May I press my right hon. Friend to look at this sympathetically? It is absurd that we should spend 15 to 20 days discussing how to raise £20,000 million and only one day on how we spend it.

Mr. Peart

I have expressed sympathy for this view, and I cannot go beyond that.

Sir Ian On-Ewing

Will the right hon Gentleman find time for the House to discuss the appalling travelling conditions on the Northern Line, caused by the strike of maintenance men? Almost a million people try to travel to and from cur constituencies on the line, and they have endured for 12 weeks insufferable conditions. Could the House debate this before we go away for Christmas?

Mr. Peart

No, Sir.

Mr. Atkinson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great anxiety arising from the pricing policies now being discussed by manufacturers on the changeover to decimal currency, which are bound to increase the cost of living? Is he further aware that manufacturers and distributors are completely ignoring the advice given to them by the Government? Will he therefore consider letting us have an early debate on this subject?

Mr. Peart

I cannot promise a debate, but I will have the matter looked into.

Mr. Rossi

The Leader of the House last week was kind enough to say that he would refer to the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity a request to discuss the inter-union dispute which is causing the difficulty on the London Underground. Did he convey that request? Is he aware that conditions are getting very much worse? Will he ask his right hon. Friend to make a statement during the coming week?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman must be aware that I always convey the views of hon. Members on both sides of the House. When I give an assurance I stand by it. I am in touch with my right hon. Friend, and will consult her.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

The House understands that the matter of Ten-Minute Rule Bills is being referred to the Select Committee on Procedure, but what has my right hon. Friend to say about the position during the present Session? Will this matter be clarified either next week or the week after, as difficulties are arising due to the present procedure?

Mr. Peart

Hon. Members have Bills down for next week. I think that we must await the report of the Select Committee on Procedure.

Mr. Thorpe

Since next Tuesday is the date by which any person over the age of 16 years and nine months must register for a vote, and since there is general support for the efforts which the Home Secretary has been making to give widespread publicity to the necessity for registration, will the right hon. Gentleman consult the Home Secretary on whether he might make a further announcement between now and Tuesday and so take an opportunity to give further publicity to this important issue?

Mr. Peart

The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that advertisements on this matter appear daily in the Press. My right hon. Friend, who is here with me today, will note what has been said.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Has my right hon. Friend given further consideration to a suggestion which I made last week that, so as to find time for vital subjects such as the Middle East and public expenditure to be discussed by the House, we should sit for two more days before Christmas and resume three days earlier?

Mr. Peart

Hon. Members have not made that representation to me.

Mr. Berry

Is the Leader of the House aware of the grave danger of a major disruption in travelling arrangements in London on 1st January? Londoners have had a great deal of trouble during the past few months. While I appreciate that talks are being held, if it appears likely that a strike will occur, will he give an assurance that the Minister will make a statement?

Mr. Peart

I will take this up with the Minister concerned.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

It is now 18 months since the Ronan Point disaster, and there has been no settlement of this issue. Will my right hon. Friend say whether the Minister will make a statement on this next week?

Mr. Peart

I will make representations to my right hon. Friend on the matter.

Mr. Sandys

Will the right hon. Gentle-many say why the Government think it necessary to try to rush Parliament into taking a decision on capital punishment with barely one week's notice?

Mr. Peart

The right hon. Gentleman should await the debate.

Mr. Gardner

Will my right hon. Friend advise the House on the scope of the debate on Monday? Will hon. Members be able to make the speeches they might have wished to make on Tuesday? Is not it strange that we should discuss a Motion of censure on a matter which will be decided by a free vote of the House?

Mr. Peart

No, I do not think it is. After all, the Opposition have chosen this subject, as is their right and prerogative. How the debate is conducted is a matter for Mr. Speaker.

Sir F. Bennett

Is the Leader of the House aware that I twice telephoned to the Foreign Office this morning to draw the attention of the Foreign Secretary to the fact that he had given misleading and wholly inaccurate answers to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) and myself on Monday and Wednesday about diplomatic missions in Rhodesia? Will he ask the Foreign Secretary to come to the House to make a statement?

Mr. Peart

I was not aware that the hon. Gentleman had telephoned twice to the Foreign Secretary. I will have a word with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Pavitt

Will my right hon. Friend find out if we are likely to get a further document on the restructuring of the National Health Service next week?

Mr. Peart

I will, but I cannot promise it next week.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Does the Leader of the House accept that there is considerable concern on both sides of the House about the treatment of the debate on public expenditure? The report, which was unanimous, recommended that there should be a two-day debate before Christmas because that is the proper time to have it. What the right hon. Gentleman suggests is not good enough.

Mr. Peart

I have explained that the arrangement for the debate was altered because of pressure of business. As replied to the Leader of the Opposition, I will make an announcement next week during Business Question time. I have said that I will consider sympathetically a two-day debate.

Mr. Peter M. Jackson

Will my right hon. Friend give an intelligible reply to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens), using more than monosyllables?

Mr. Peart

I do not know what my hon. Friend is trying to prove, but his sense of humour does not appeal to me.

Mr. Goodhew

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity makes a statement next week before I raise the subject of the inter-union dispute at Acton in the Adjournment on Friday?

Mr. Peart

I will make representations, as I said earlier.

Mr. Marquand

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it would be much better to have a two-day debate on public expenditure after the Recess than a one-day debate before? Will he give an assurance that the two-day debate will come very soon after the Recess?

Mr. Peart

I accept the pressure that has been put on me for a two-day debate when we return after the Recess and I said that I would make a statement.

Dame Irene Ward

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed the Motion standing in my name dealing with the problem of transferring the teaching of the mentally handicapped from the Ministry of Health and Social Security to the Ministry of Education and Science?

[That, in the opinion of this House, a decision on the future education of mentally-handicapped children and the status and function of future staff now in training is urgent.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that young teachers who are being trained to teach the mentally handicapped feel that, because they have not been given an answer by the Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman has let them down very badly? Indeed, I am still waiting for an answer from the Prime Minister to the representations that I have made. What is the position, and how will it be dealt with? The present state of affairs is not fair to young teachers, who should not be left without a response from the Government.

Mr. Peart

I assure the hon. Lady that I am taking careful note of her views. There is agreement with her general point of view, but the answer to her question is, "Not next week".

Mr. William Hamilton

Would my right hon. Friend make it quite clear that there will be a debate on the question of hon. Member's expenses for only 1½ hours next week?

Mr. Peart

I said that that was so.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that while the First Secretary has apparently declined to make a statement today about the presentation of her prices and incomes policy, which was published earlier, her hon. Friend the Minister of State is apparently holding a briefing conference later this afternoon for foreign Press correspondents—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh?"]—at which questions will be asked? Is not this another example of the contempt with which the Government hold the House of Commons?

Mr. Peart

On the contrary. I am often accused of allowing too many statements to be made in the House. There is a White Paper and the subject will be debated next week.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

While my right hon. Friend does not approve of shortening the Christmas Recess, may I ask him to recognise that the situation in the Middle East should be debated very soon after Christmas?

Mr. Peart

I have taken note of the views of hon. Members on this subject. We had a foreign affairs debate very recently.

Mr. Maker

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the Prime Minister said, when answering a question from me some minutes ago, that the adverse trade balance with the Soviet Union was narrowing rather than widening? I believe that the Prime Minister was misinformed. Would the right hon. Gentleman approach his right hon. Friend and ask him to look into the matter and, if he was wrong, to correct the record next week?

Mr. Peart

I do not think that that arises on business, but I will have the matter looked into.

Mr. Biffen

So that we may know the true strength of the number of paper tigers below the Gangway opposite, would the right hon. Gentleman make an early statement indicating whether or not the debate on Wednesday about activating Part II of the 1966 Act will be treated as a matter of confidence by the Government?

Mr. Peart

That is not a matter for me to answer now.

Captain W. Elliot

is there any constitutional or procedural reason why the issue of capital punishment should be settled next week?

Mr. Peart

I suggest that hon. Members should await the debate and hear the arguments that the Minister will deploy.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

Is the Leader of the House aware that the last occasion on which we debated any aspect of Welsh affairs in Parliament was on 14th May, in the Welsh Grand Committee, seven months ago, and that if there is not a debate before next year at least nine months, or three quarters of a year, will have passed without these affairs having been discussed? Why are the Government so anxious to hide their Welsh record? Cannot we debate this subject next week?

Mr. Peart

There is no attempt to dodge Welsh Affairs. There will be opportunities in Committee after the Recess.

Mr. Waddington

Would the right hon. Gentleman have another shot at answering a question that has been put twice in previous weeks? Will there be a general debate on the proposals made by the Beeching Commission in regard to the assizes and quarter sessions system before legislation is introduced in the House?

Mr. Peart

I appreciate that views have been expressed on this subject, but I cannot promise what the hon. Gentleman asks.

Mr. Speed

Will a statement be made next week by either the Secretary of State for Defence or the Foreign Secretary on the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) about helicopter flights in Biafra?

Mr. Peart

I accept that this is an important matter. I have noted the views of hon. Members on it and there is also a Motion on the subject. I will make representations about this.

Mr. David Steel

Would the right hon. Gentleman accept that those of us who serve on the Select Committee on Services are responsible to the House as a whole? Since we made a unanimous report last summer about hon. Members' services, does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that a 1½hour debate next week on a Government Motion will be no substitute for a full debate by the House on one of its Committee's reports?

Mr. Peart

I have answered that question.

Mr. Snow

Whatever may be the attitude to the suggestion of having helicopter flights in Biafra, would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that we hope that there will be some quick action on this matter which, if it is not initiated by hon. Gentleman opposite—according to The Times this suggestion originally came from.American sources—we would still consider to be a matter of importance.

Mr. Peart

I said that I would make representations to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and that I will do.