HC Deb 13 February 1969 vol 777 cc1570-81
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, 17TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Family Law Reform Bill [Lords].

Remaining stages of the Pensions (Increase) Bill.

Motions on Double Taxation Relief Orders relating to Denmark, Seychelles, South Africa, Spain and Swaziland.

TUESDAY, 18TH FEBRUARY, and WEDNESDAY, 19TH FEBRUARY—Further progress on the Committee stage of the Parliament (No. 2) Bill.

THURSDAY, 20TH FEBRUARY—Motion on the Rate Support Grant (Scotland) Order.

At seven o'clock the Chairman of Ways and Means has named the Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill and the Luton Corporation Bill for consideration. Prayer on the Import Duties (Temporary Exemptions) (No. 6) Order, and a Motion on the Dawley New Town (Designation) Amendment (Telford) Order.

FRIDAY, 21ST FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 24TH FEBRUARY—Private Members' Motions until seven o'clock.

Afterwards, remaining stages of the Vehicle and Driving Licences Bill.

Mr. Heath

Last Thursday, the Leader of the House undertook to have discussions, through the usual channels, about the debate on the Government's White Paper on industrial relations. Can he now give us the firm assurance about the date for that debate? Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House the date of the publication of the Government's White Paper on Defence?

Mr. Peart

On defence, it will be the 20th February. As to industrial relations, I noted what the right hon. Gentleman said last week. I expect to include arrangements for a debate in my statement next week.

Mr. Winnick

In view of the continuing difficulties of one or two national newspapers, can my right hon. Friend hold out any promise of a general debate on the Press before the Easter Recess?

Mr. Peart

No, Sir.

Mr. Peyton

Can the right hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she would be good enough to make a statement to the House next week on the very serious situation developing in the steel industry?

Mr. Peart

This is a very important industrial matter. I will convey the views of the hon. Gentleman to my right hon. Friend. If a statement is necessary, I am certain that it will be made.

Mr. Mendelson

Does my right hon. Friend recall that he undertook last week to consult his colleague the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs about a debate on foreign policy, with particular reference to European developments, before Easter? Has he got anything further to report?

Mr. Peart

I did convey the views of my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend. I always do when he puts a point to me, as I do with every hon. Member. But I cannot find time for a debate next week.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

Am I right in thinking that the right hon. Gentleman said that the Dawley Order was the second Prayer on Wednesday evening? If so, at what time and for how long will it be debated?

Mr. Peart

I said Thursday, not Wednesday. It will come on late in the evening.

Mr. Milne

Two subjects of greater importance than anything that my right hon. Friend has outlined for next week are European unity and the date of the Second Reading of the Development of Tourism Bill. Can he give us some information?

Mr. Peart

I cannot. I replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) earlier about the debate on foreign affairs, concerning European unity. This is a very important matter. I note what my hon. Friend has said. I cannot give a date for a debate on the Development of Tourism Bill.

Mr. David Steel

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect telling us that last Thursday he said that he would make a statement about the new Scottish Select Committee? Since he did not make it last Thursday, could he make it now?

Mr. Peart

I hope to have something on the Order Paper this evening.

Mr. Shinwell

Could my right hon. Friend say how many times he has conveyed the views of hon. Members to his right hon. Friends, and with what measure of success?

Mr. Peart

I always convey such views, and when my right hon. Friend intervenes such intervention lends strength to what I convey. This does not affect next week's business.

Sir R. Cary

Has the right hon. Gentleman any clue about the probable date of the Budget?

Mr. Peart

No, Sir.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Will my right hon. Friend give consideration to having a debate in the House on the question of the whole future of Select Committees?

Mr. Peart

I have noted this request. I am sure that my hon. Friend will have heard me speak not only the other day, but on a previous occasion, about it. I am anxious to see that the experiment should continue. There may be a debate, when we shall have to make an assessment.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us when he intends to provide time for a debate on item No. 33 of the remaining Orders on today's Order Paper?

[That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the allegations made by the Prime Minister at his Press Conference on 30th September, 1964, concerning which he promised a searching inquiry:

That the Committee do consist of fifteen Members:

That the Commitee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any Adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place and to admit strangers during the examination of witnesses unless they otherwise order; to report from time to time to the House, and to report Minutes of Evidence to the House from time to time:

That Seven be the Quorum.]

This Motion concerns the appointment of a Select Committee into allegations made by the Prime Minister concerning which the Prime Minister promised a searching inquiry. Is that not a little overdue, as the pledge was given on 30th September, 1964?

Mr. Peart

I know that hon. Members are somewhat nostalgic but I cannot find time for a debate next week.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Has the Leader of the House seen Motion No. 151?

[That this House, being mindful of the lamentable failure of the English political parties to do their duty towards the smaller nations of this island, notes with approval the strong growth in Wales and Scotland of national parties dedicated to secure the conditions of full nationhood in those countries; deplores the decision of the Government to use the device of a Constitutional Commission to obstruct the advance of the Scots and Welsh national parties, and so postpone national freedom for Scotland and Wales, and to assist the Government party in these countries in its efforts to hold some of its parliamentary seats there, but approves of the Government's long delay of seventeen weeks in publishing the names of the Commissioners; and urges it not to publish them at all but to drop the whole idea.]

Since this has dangerous implications for the future of the people of Scotland. Does he realise that many hon. Members on this side of the House would like an early opportunity to debate the implications of this policy decision, with its opposition to the setting up of a Constitutional Commission?

Mr. Peart

I have noted what my hon. Friend has said. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said something on this today and I have nothing further to add.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the Leader of the House provide time, at an early date, for a debate on the I.R.C., with particular reference to its take-over bid affecting employment in my constituency of Chelmsford?

Mr. Peart

I accept that this is an important matter—the whole place of I.R.C. But I cannot find time for a debate next week.

Mr. C. Pannell

When the Leader of the House is considering the request made by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell), will he consider that the time is now over-ripe for the implementation of the Report on the future activities of the Committee of Privileges? Does he agree that if this was implemented it might save us from a great many future distasteful debates?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of the importance of this matter. I know that my right hon. Friend feels very deeply on the whole question of privilege, but there are different arguments. It may be that we should have a debate, but I would rather wait a bit.

Mr. Hastings

Further to the important question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the present muddle in the steel unions is a very serous matter, in which the Government are deeply involved? Is he aware that it is not a question whether the Minister thinks that a statement is necessary? The House must have one.

Mr. Peart

I cannot go on repeating myself. I thought that the reply which I gave was accepted by the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). I said that I would convey his views to my right hon. Friend and that, if necessary, a statement would be made.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Can my right hon. Friend say anything about the introduction of a new Bill on merchant shipping, which hon. Members are eagerly awaiting?

Mr. Peart

Not at the moment.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that yesterday there were over 100 Questions down to the President: of the Board of Trade and that for the first day when Questions may be addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—when that right hon. Gentleman is top of the list to answer Questions—70 Questions have been tabled, which means that it is virtually impossible for back benchers to question either Minister? Is it possible to arrange for these two Ministers to answer Questions more frequently?

Mr. Peart

Once one asks for special concessions to be made about certain Departments one also asks for other Departments to be affected. We discuss this matter through the usual channels.

Mr. Howie

Would my right hon. Friend consider suspending the 10 o'clock rule next Thursday to ensure that both the Greater London Council Bill and the Luton Corporation Bill may be fully discussed?

Mr. Peart

I will look into that suggestion.

Mr. Evelyn King

The right hon. Gentleman will have seen an important statement in the Press about the reorganisation of the prison service. Is it his intention, as I hope it is, that the Home Secretary will make a statement about this in the House, since this is a matter of great interest to a wide public and particularly to hon. Members who have prisons in their constituencies?

Mr. Peart

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says on this important matter and I will convey his remarks to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Mr. W. Baxter

When my right hon Friend replied to the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) he seemed to suggest that a statement about the setting up of a Select Committee for Scotland would be made tonight. Would he elaborate on that, as I did not follow the nature of the procedure which he is proposing to adopt?

Mr. Peart

I said in reply to the hon. Gentleman that I would not be making a statement now. I then said that there might be something on the Order Paper. This is perfectly normal.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Will the Home Secretary be laying next week the necessary regulations to implement the police pay award which was made on 12th November and for which police forces throughout Britain have been waiting for over three months? Will he impress on his right hon. Friend the urgency of taking this step?

Mr. Peart

I will convey that point to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but I have nothing to say on the matter in connection with next week's business.

Mr. William Hamilton

Would my right hon. Friend elaborate further on what he said about the Scottish Select Committee? Does he intend to put on the Order Paper tonight the names of members of that Committee before other Scottish hon. Members have been consulted or even advised about it?

Mr. Peart

I cannot be drawn into this. If hon. Members press me on the subject, then I must say that I am responsible. But I advise my hon. Friend, if he wishes to question the Motion when it appears, that he has his opportunity.

Mr. David Steel

On a point of order. Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that my original question to the Leader of the House was to the effect that the right hon. Gentleman told the House last Thursday that he would be making a statement? That statement has not been made.

Mr. Speaker

That is a point between the Leader of the House and the hon. Gentleman, and not for the Chair.

Mr. Lubbock

As eight hours were spent yesterday discussing two Amendments to the Parliament (No. 2) Bill, and since demands have already been made today for time to be provided to discuss 18 issues of vital importance to the House, would the right hon. Gentleman consider laying a timetable Motion before the Bill is further proceeded with next Thursday?

Mr. Peart

No, I could not accept that; and if there was any delay yesterday, then I suggest that the hon. Gentleman made a rather strange contribution himself.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Would my right hon. Friend find time next week for a debate on the assertion made by the Foreign Secretary, when he was answering Questions for the Prime Minister, earlier, that this House is still in favour of Britain's application to join the Common Market? If he cannot find time to debate this subject next week, will he find time for a debate during the week after next and arrange for a free vote?

Mr. Peart

I have noted with interest the demands that have been made on this subject. I will certainly convey such views to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Walden

Further to my right hon. Friend's reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell)—that he needed time to think about the Report of the Committee of Privilege—will he bear in mind that that Report came out in 1967 and that many hon. Members believe that the House could be spared continuing embarrassment if a decision were taken on the matter?

Mr. Peart

I am aware that the Report has been out a long time. If I were able to say that every hon. Member understood the Report, I would describe that as rather remarkable, since it is a difficult matter.

Mr. Russell Kerr

When may we expect the Government's reply to the last Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries on the control of the nationalised industries?

Mr. Peart

I have nothing to say on that issue in connection with next week's business, but I will convey the point to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Henig

When making representations or re-representations to the Foreign Secretary, will my right hon. Friend try to ascertain whether it would be possible, before the Easter Recess, for the House to have more than a one-day debate on foreign affairs so that hon. Members will not have only one day on which to conduct a debate covering the whole of the universe and Mars as well?

Mr. Peart

I appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend. Many of my hon. Friends have made the same representation to me. I accept that if we are to have a debate on foreign affairs it would be far better to concentrate on one or two issues. I will do all I can in that direction.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

As there was an official and detailed statement and explanation of the Government's new economic plan in the Press yesterday, together with a statement that the House would not be officially informed on the subject until a fortnight's time, would my right hon. Friend arrange for this information to be presented to the House next Tuesday and, at the same time, enable us to debate why the Press was able to get this information before hon. Members?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that while Tuesday's business is not all that important, this matter is? If he cannot arrange for a debate next week, would he consider setting up a Select Committee to look into the matter?

Mr. Peart

I note with interest what my hon. Friend says, but I remind him that I am not responsible for Press speculation.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Despite what the Leader of the House said about being keen to limit the scope of debate on foreign affairs, how does he explain the fact that whenever we have a foreign affairs debate it is always worldwide?

Mr. Peart

The hon. and learned Gentleman is not quite correct. I arranged a debate which enabled us to discuss Czechoslovakia and Biafra.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

In view of the reply which my right hon. Friend gave earlier about the Report of the Committee on Privileges would he confirm that that Report is written in the most lucid possible language and recommend all hon. Members to read it?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Excellent though the Report may be, we cannot debate it now. The hon. and learned Gentleman may, however, ask for time for it to be discussed.

Sir A. V. Harvey

In view of the speed with which the Foreign Secretary got through so many Questions to the Prime Minister, would the Leader of the House urge that right hon. Gentlemen to undertake this rôle rather more often, thus cutting out a lot of "flannel "?

Mr. Emrys Hughes

When the Leader of the House said that there might be "something on the Order Paper" about the Scottish Select Committee, is he not treating Scotland rather casually? Will he say whether or not there will be something on the Order Paper?

Mr. Peart

I ask my hon. Friend to wait—

Mr. Emrys Hughes


Mr. Peart

I assure him that I am not treating Scotland casually. I thought that I had played a major part in this and that the establishment of a special Committee for Scotland would be welcome. I am surprised that my hon. Friend is being so churlish—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

But correct.

Mr. Peart

—about this. He must await my Motion and, while he is awaiting it, restrain himself.

In reply to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), about Prime Minister's Questions, I am surprised that he should have been so sensitive about effective supplementary questions and the effective answers given by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Lane

Can the Leader of the House assure us that the White Paper on Defence, which he said would be pub- lished next week, will be no less frank than a recent article in a German newspaper by the Secretary of State for Defence?

Mr. Peart

I cannot vouch for that. I hope that it will be a very good White Paper.

Mr. W. Baxter

On a point of order. Did I hear my right hon. Friend aright telling my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) not to be churlish but to be patient until the Leader of the House takes upon himself the responsibility of giving the House information to which every hon. Member is entitled and which has apparently been made available to the national Press? That is not treating this House with the greatest respect. May I seek your guidance on the matter, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman may certainly seek my guidance, but in the way he sought it he was making a point of audition rather than a point of order.

Mr. Peart

Further to that point of order. The information I will give to the House will not be anything that has ever been disclosed before.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

May I press my right hon. Friend—in an entirely un-churlish manner—to find time as soon as possible for a debate on monopolies and mergers? Many of us are concerned about the implications of a recent merger.

Mr. Peart

I am aware of this important matter, but I cannot find time for a debate next week.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Will the Leader of the House undertake to convey the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) to the Prime Minister?

Mr. Peart

I always convey views of hon. Members, but the hon. and learned Member is not being very clever today.

Mr. Orme

From my right hon. Friend's reply to the Leader of the Opposition on the Question of a debate on the White Paper "In Place of Strife", I assume that the debate will be in the week after next. Is it possible for us to have a two-day debate on this important subject, which concerns wide constitutional as well as industrial matters?

Mr. Peart

I will consider this but my hon. Friend should note that we are pressed for time in the House.