HC Deb 03 July 1969 vol 786 cc648-57
Mr. Heath

Will the Leader of the House kindly 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, 7TH JULY—Supply [26th Allotted Day]:

Debate, until 7 o'clock, on the Planning and Development of the Firth of Clyde, on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Afterwards, a debate on the Introduction of Increased Charges for Dentures and Spectacles, which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

Remaining stages of the Air Corporations Bill.

TUESDAY, 8TH JULY—Progress on the Committee stage of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) (No. 2) Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 9TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Administration of Justice Bill [Lords] and of the Family Law Reform Bill [Lords].

Subject to completion in Committee, progress on the remaining stages of the Iron and Steel Bill.

THURSDAY, 10TH JULY—Supply [27th Allotted day]:

Debate on the Situation in Nigeria, on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motion on the Tay Road Bridge (Scheme) Approval Order.

FRIDAY, 11TH JULY—Remaining stages of the National Insurance (No. 2) Bill, and completion of the remaining stages of the Iron and Steel Bill.

Motion on the Northern Pennines Rural Development Board Order.

Consideration of Church of England (National Assembly) Measures.

Remaining stages of the Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Bill.

MONDAY, 14TH JULY—Completion of the remaining stages of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) (No. 2) Bill.

Mr. Heath

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Opposition decided to take one of its Supply days for a debate on Nigeria because of the immense interest shown by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House in this matter, and to give the House an opportunity of expressing its understandable anxieties to the Government?

Second, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is taking the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill quite unreasonably quickly in Committee? He has brought it forward in less than a week from the Second Reading. This is a most unusual situation. Should he not reconsider the business for Tuesday?

Mr. Peart

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his first remarks. I accept that Nigeria is an important matter. Perhaps I should tell the House that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary hopes, before the debate, I think on Monday, to make a statement on Nigeria, which he was pressed to do.

On the second matter, I should have thought that the arrangement was reasonable. After all, the Bill was published on 20th June. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have expressed their views. They know the points of opposition to the Government's proposals, and I should have thought that our proposal was reasonable in the circumstances.

Mr. Heath

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's saying that he will not alter the business, but I hope he will not say that it is reasonable.

Mr. Peart

That is all right.

Mr. Frank Allaun

May I ask two questions relating to the debate on Nigeria? First, as, within a week, thousands of people will have died, would it be possible to change the order of business between Monday and Thursday, to allow the debate on Nigeria to take place on Monday?

Second, it was announced, as my right hon. Friend will have seen in the Press today, that there was to be a statement by the Foreign Secretary to the House this afternoon. This statement is not to be made. Clearly, the Press has not imagined this. Could not the Foreign Secretary make the statement this evening? I ask that because I have in my pocket a letter which shows that the starvation is already beginning.

Mr. Peart

I know my hon. Friend's views. I do not accept them, but I have no wish to argue the matter. I respect my hon. Friend's views, but my right hon. Friend did not promise to make a statement today.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

News of it is in the Press.

Mr. Peart

I know that the right hon. Gentleman takes a great interest in this matter, but he must wait patiently. I think that it was reasonable for the Opposition to take a Supply day to debate Nigeria, and I have paid tribute to them for doing so. I think that it will be for the convenience of the House if my right hon. Friend makes a statement on Monday.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that, last Thursday, he gave me a very sympathetic answer to my questions about by-election writs? Does he propose next week to move any or all of the five by-election writs—for Newcastle-under-Lyme, vacant since 19th February, Swindon, vacant since 7th March, or the Gorbals, Islington, North or Paddington, North—all Labour seats, presently disfranchised?

Mr. Peart

I am glad that the hon. Member said that I was sympathetic. I think I was. I told him that this was a matter for the Patronage Secretary. Indeed, my right hon. Friend is here.

Mr. Winnick

Do we understand that the Foreign Secretary cannot make a statement on Nigeria before Monday because he is actively concerned with trying to organise relief supplies to Nigeria? If that is not the case, what would prevent a statement today, or at least tomorrow, on the visit made by his colleague to Geneva?

Mr. Peart

My right hon. Friend is anxious to see supplies of food going into Nigeria. Many factors are involved. I know that my hon. Friend has a particular view about this, but my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is anxious to do something. For this reason, he will make a statement on Monday.

Mr. Stratton Mills

On what day is the Postmaster General to make his statement on local radio, which is now imminent? Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to try to arrange that that happens on the same day as the B.B.C. statement about their finances?

Mr. Peart

I cannot say specifically, but the B.B.C.'s report will be with us soon, and as soon as possible a debate will have to be arranged.

Miss Lestor

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Motion No. 361, standing in my name and the names of about 60 other hon. Members?

[That this House congratulates Her Majesty's Government on the action so far taken since the referendum in Southern Rhodesia; and calls for an extension of sanctions to include all communications, an embargo on the use of British airports by airlines serving Southern Rhodesia, the establishment of an independent United Nations inspectorate to supervise sanctions, the maximum publicity for sanction-breaking operations wherever they are located, a greater training programme for exiled Rhodesians of all races, and an educational programme in Great Britain and abroad to explain why the Africans of Southern Rhodesia, with no opportunity for constitutional advance, will be compelled to seek their legitimate objectives by freedom fighting.]

The Motions calls for further actions against Southern Rhodesia. Will he give a guarantee that time will be found to debate this important issue before we rise for the Recess?

Mr. Peart

I have looked carefully at the Motion. I understand my hon. Friend's views. The Foreign Secretary has explained our position on this. But I cannot find time next week.

Mr. Bryan

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us why the Postmaster-General is not to make a statement next week, when the B.B.C. makes its announcement about the radio programme?

Mr. Peart

I think that the Postmaster-General was involved in this earlier. I am anxious to help. There will be a debate.

Mr. Archer

In view of the stimulating ideas expressed yesterday in another place, may this House have an early opportunity of debating international control of the sea bed?

Mr. Peart

This is a very important matter, which was discussed in great detail in another place yesterday. I will carefully examine it, but I cannot be specific.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in a Committee Room upstairs this morning, supporters of the Sunday Entertainments Bill voted that there should be extra sittings on the Bill, and open-ended sittings, at that? Can he assure us that this will not be another Bill for which the Government will find time, and which they will back, although it is a Private Member's Bill?

Mr. Peart

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Bill is going through Committee. I cannot comment on it yet.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Would my right hon. Friend take note of Motion No. 369, about Conservative policy on shipbuilding in Scotland?

[That this House rejects the views of the right lion. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, as expressed in his speech to the North Lanark Unionist Association on 28th June in which he attacked in particular the widely welcomed moves by the Government to put Upper Clyde Shipbuilders on a sound footing and by implication the whole range of policies presently doing so much to restructure and strengthen the Scottish economy; particularly deplores the distasteful way in which these opinions were put and the wrongheaded and unjustified criticisms of the trade unions whose realistic efforts including personal sacrifices to ensure the future prosperity of this major industry should be praised not condemned; regrets that the right hon. Member's visit to Scotland should have been so prominently sponsored by a Conservative Front Bench spokesman on shipbuilding; and calls on the Leader of the Opposition and his Scottish supporters, having now had time to recognise the thoroughly catastrophic results the right hon. Member's policies would have for everyone in Scotland, to dissociate themselves from this particularly pernicious brand of Conservatism.]

Will it be in order to discuss this on Monday afternoon, because many of us want to reply to the outrageous speeches of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and also to find out whether this is yet another issue on which he is leading the Conservative Party?

Mr. Peart

I have seen the Motion, on the policy of the Opposition on shipbuilding in Scotland. Many of these questions are matters for you, Mr. Speaker, to decide when the debate takes place next week.

Sir D. Renton

Since Tuesday is really too soon for the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) (No. 2) Bill, and as there is a desire for a debate on Nigeria sooner than Thursday, would it not be convenient to the House at large to exchange the business for Tuesday and Thursday?

Mr. Peart

I should have thought not.

Mr. Shinwell

My right hon. Friend's announcement did not refer to the introduction of the Merchant Shipping Bill next week. Can he give any assurance that the Bill will be introduced before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Peart

I did not include it in next week's business. I have replied to this question before. It is an important matter. I hope that the Bill will be introduced this Session.

Mr. Thorpe

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, however critical some of us may be of the Government's policy, there is no difference in any part of the House as to the intense anxiety which is felt about the position in Nigeria, which is getting graver every moment? Therefore, why can we not have a statement from the Foreign Secretary either tonight or tomorrow, instead of having to wait until next Monday.

Mr. Peart

My right hon. Friend has made several statements on this matter. I thought that it would not be unreasonable to arrange for a statement on Monday. He has to have discussions. There will also be a full day's debate. I pay tribute to the Opposition for arranging that.

Mr. John Lee

May I press my right hon. Friend on Rhodesia? While it may not be convenient to have a debate next week, may we be assured that there will be a debate on this matter before the House rises, particularly in view of the fact that Mr. Smith has compounded his treason by further acts?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give that assurance.

Mr. John Lee

Why not?

Sir Harmar Nicholls

There is a strong feeling in the country that next week is the latest time that the writs could be moved for the five pending by-elections. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the only alternative which would be acceptable is an announcement that there will be a General Election in the early autumn, but that, without that, those five seats should have their Members in this House?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman has made his point. A General Election is for the Prime Minister to decide and not for me.

Mr. E. Rowlands

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Seebohm Committee's Report has been out for a long time, that there has been a debate on it in another place but no debate here? Is it not about time that we did debate it, and heard what the Government intend to do about it?

Mr. Peart

Despite sympathy with that point of view, I can only say, not next week.

Mr. Marten

Following on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if the writ for the Swindon by-election is not moved next week it is likely that Swindon will not be represented in the House for more than 28 weeks, a point which was received with so much pleasure on the other side of the House when the Prime Minister mentioned it earlier?

Mr. Peart

I thought that I had made my position clear. This is a matter for the Patronage Secretary. I thought that the Prime Minister dealt very effectively with the hon. Member's point.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is it not a grave misuse of Parliamentary time that the House should be asked on Monday to debate yet again the whole question of the possible cost of teeth and spectacles? Is it not possible to change this, and debate some other aspect of the National Health Service, possibly the care of the mentally sick, in the light of the Ely Hospital Report? Would that not be much more to the point?

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend must know that this is a Supply day, and that it is the right of the Opposition to choose a subject. I am not responsible for their choice.

Sir C. Taylor

The right hon. Gentleman may or may not be aware, reverting to Nigeria, that I made some unorthodox suggestions to the Prime Minister, in great sincerity, which were considered very sympathetically by him. Before the Foreign Secretary's statement is made on Monday, could these unorthodox suggestions be reconsidered, now that all orthodox methods seem to have failed?

Mr. Peart

I am sure that, if the hon. Gentleman has conveyed his views to the Prime Minister, however unorthodox or orthodox, my right hon. Friend will care- fully examine them. I cannot say more than that.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Has my right hon. Friend noticed Motion No. 356?

[That this House supports the application of the Heathrow Campaign Committee for a public tribunal to inquire into the aircraft noise in the vicinity of London Airport.]

As this is a non-controversial matter, would not my right hon. Friend refer it to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, so that the matter can be dealt with without taking, up the time of the House in debate?

Mr. Peart

I will convey my hon. Friend's views, but I am informed—I am only repeating what I said the other week—that there is adequate machinery for representations to be made on this matter.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

May I press my right hon. Friend on the question of Rhodesia? Would he agree, in view of the immense issues that are at stake in Rhodesia, that there could be a breakdown of Parliamentary government if we do not debate the subject before we rise for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Peart

I could not accept that there would be a breakdown of our Parliamentary government if a debate were not to take place before we recess in July. The position of Her Majesty's Government on this has been made perfectly clear.

Mr. Peter M. Jackson

My right hon. Friend will know that the House was to have debated the Report of the Dainton Committee on national libraries a fortnight ago and that that debate was cancelled. Will he give an assurance that time will be found for that report to be debated before the Recess?

Mr. Peart

I could not give that assurance.

Mr. Whitaker

Since the important White Paper on official secrecy was issued without any statement being made, may we have a half-day debate on the subject, albeit not next week?

Mr. Peart

I could not promise a half-day to debate that subject. A lot of important matters, apart from that, are outstanding.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

On a point of order. Would it be possible, Mr. Speaker, for an hon. Gentleman opposite, other than a member of the Government Front Bench, to move by-election writs, so ensuring that the whole Labour Party may play a part in seeing that all constituencies have representatives in Parliament?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman appears to be making a helpful suggestion to the Government; but that is not a matter for me.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Further to my point of order. I am seeking your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Precisely who is responsible for moving a by-election writ? [Interruption.] Hon. Members other than myself may be interested in the answer to this question. Is it possible, Mr. Speaker, for back benchers opposite to move such a writ, should they so wish, as distinct from members of the Government Front Bench?

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman is asking that question on a point of order, then I will look into the matter and advise him. I am sure that the Government have taken note of his helpful suggestion.