HC Deb 10 July 1969 vol 786 cc1575-87
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, 14TH JULY—Remaining stages of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) (No. 2) Bill.

TUESDAY, 15TH JULY, WEDNESDAY, 16TII JULY, and THURSDAY, 17TH JULY—Report stage of the Finance Bill.

At the end on Thursday, we shall take the Motions on the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) Orders relating to Italy, Jamaica and Austria.

FRIDAY, 18TH JULY—Third Reading of the Finance Bill.

Motion on the Local Loans (Increase of limit) Order.

Remaining stages of the Medical Bill [Lords], and of the Nurses Bill [Lords].

Motions on the Judicial Offices (Salaries) Order, and on the Anti-Dumping Duty (No. 1) Order.

MONDAY, 21sT JULY—Supply [28th Allotted Day]:

Debate on a subject to be announced later.

Consideration of Lords Amendments which may be received to the Post Office Bill.

Mr. Heath

Will the Leader of the House kindly note that we would like to have a statement from the Postmaster-General, if possible next week, about the B.B.C.'s plans, which have been announced today, and the Government's attitude towards local radio, which is embodied in these plans?

Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman kindly arrange for us to have a debate on the B.B.C. document and the Government's attitude before we rise for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Peart

I am aware that this is an important matter to all hon. Members. I will convey the right hon. Gentleman's request to my right hon. Friend. I believe that a statement will be made. There may be opportunity to debate this when we come to the question of licence fees. I will look into it.

Mr. Molloy

Would my right hon. Friend agree that since the House last debated foreign affairs there have been dramatic changes in world affairs and changes in the heads of powerful States? Is it not time therefore, that we had a foreign affairs debate? Could we have one before the House rises for the Recess?

Mr. Peart

I appreciate the importance of this matter. We are having a foreign affairs debate today.

Mr. Montgomery

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for what promises to be an interesting week next week, may I ask whether he could not make it a little more interesting? He will have seen the recent report on British race relations. Will he use this as an opportunity to debate this subject? Perhaps it could be taken in the wider context of immigration?

Mr. Peart

This is an important matter, but I cannot find time next week.

Mr. Ashley

Has my right hon. Friend seen Motion No. 355 supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House?

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to remedy the anomalies in the provision of welfare benefits for disabled people which discriminate against the civilian disabled, in particular against disabled housewives; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to introduce an attendance allowance, as a matter of urgency, in respect of severely disabled people.]

Could he find time for a debate?

Mr. Peart

No, although I have much sympathy with my hon. Friend's views.

Mr. Sharples

The House will have noted that no time appears to have been allotted for the Report stage of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill. Is the House to take it from that that the Government intend to resist all Amendments, irrespective of the arguments put forward?

Mr. Peart

As the hon. Member knows, the Business Committee is sitting. I am still waiting for its report.

Mr. Hogg

Can the right hon. Gentleman, for the convenience of the House, tell us when the report of the Business Committee is likely to be available to hon. Members?

Mr. Peart

I hope that I shall get it some time today and then it will be necessary to put down a Motion, dealing with its findings, for Monday. As soon as I have the report I will communicate first through the usual channels and will try to inform the House accordingly.

Mr. Sharples

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would you confirm that the Business Committee has no power to consider the Report stage of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill and that it would be out of order for it to have done so?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Committee can report as set out in the Resolution. What happens on the Report stage is not for me at this stage.

Mr. Milne

My right hon. Friend's attention has been drawn to a change in the personnel of the B.O.A.C. advertising department this week. Will he arrange for an early debate on the Report of the Edwards Committee, to discuss this and other related matters?

Mr. Peart

I know that this is an important matter, but I cannot find time in the few days ahead, for the reasons I have mentioned.

Mr. Younger

Returning to the B.B.C. announcement, will the Leader of the House note that many hon. Members on both sides will want time to debate Motions Nos. 376 and 372?

[That this House rejects the suggestion that the United Kingdom should enter into nuclear sharing with France as a preliminary to the creation of an intergrated European nuclear force; and regards the suggestion as both harmful to European security and an invitation to Her Majesty's Government to dishonour its adherence to the non-proliferation treaty.]

[That this House would deplore any proposal from the British Broadcasting Corporation to disband their Scottish symphony and radio orchestras; recognises the invaluable service which those two orchestras have rendered to the musical life of Great Britain and the encouragement which they provide for young musicians, composers and conductors; and urges the British Broadcasting Corporation, in observance of the purposes of their Charter, to ensure that these two orchestras are continued.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the decision of the B.B.C. to abolish the B.B.C. Scottish Symphony Orchestra is unacceptable to hon. Members on both sides?

Mr. Peart

I have seen the terms of these Motions. The report of the B.B.C. is being published today and I hope that the hon. Member will read it carefully. I have received it and I have given a reply on the timing.

Mr. McNamara

Can my right hon. Friend say whether we will even see the Merchant Shipping Bill published before we rise for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Peart

I have said before that I hope that the Bill will be published before the Session ends.

Mr. Gurden

Will the Minister make a statement on the Government's policy of taking away private members' time in Adjournment debates, because this back bencher considers it a serious and urgent matter which ought to be debated and decided by the House of Commons, not the Government?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Member will remember that I joined in with the other hon. Members who pressed Mr. Speaker to enable the hon. Member to have time for his Adjournment. This should be considered sympathetically.

Mr. William Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend say whether it is his anticipation of future events that a Parliament (No. 3) Bill is in draft?

Mr. Peart

I cannot.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Can the right hon. Gentleman now say when he proposes to return to private Members the complete day he took from them on 13th June?

Mr. Peart

I cannot be specific about that, but I know that it affected some hon. Gentlemen. Let me look at business.

Mr. Boston

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to Motion No. 337, on B.B.C. Radio 3, and the fact that that has now been signed by more than 200 hon. Members on both sides of the House? While today's news that the B.B.C. is to retain the service will be welcomed, there is widespread concern at the proposal to stop transmitting it on medium wave and confine it solely to V.H.F. This is tantamount to curtailing the service—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman can ask for time to discuss the Third Programme, but he cannot discuss it now.

Mr. Boston

I accept your Ruling, of course, Mr. Speaker. I was trying to establish that, as this is tantamount to curtailing the service, and is a threat to curtail the total music output, there is a need for an urgent debate. Can my right hon. Friend be more specific about a date for that?

[That this House recognises the outstanding contribution to broadcasting made by B.B.C. Radio 3, the Third Programme and the Music Programme and the value of the material carried by these services to listeners throughout the country and abroad; regards it as essential that the British Broadcasting Corporation should continue to cater for these sizeable and growing minority interests; views with concern repeated reports that Radio 3 may be closed or curtailed; and urges the British Broadcasting Corporation to ensure that in any changes recommended as a result of the Corporation's current review of sound broadcasting there is no reduction in the quality and quantity of, in particular, the British Broadcasting Corporation's serious music output.]

Mr. Peart

I cannot be specific about the time, but I recognise the importance of this matter to my hon. Friend and other hon. Members who have signed the Motion. I will see that my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General makes a statement.

Mr. Godber

Will the Minister of Agriculture be making a statement next week to clarify the extraordinary muddle which has arisen over agricultural credit, which the Joint Parliamentary Secretary promised to look into last week? The right hon. Gentleman will recall that the Minister said that a special approach was being made to the banks, but we heard later that the Bank of England had countermanded that.

Mr. Peart

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman stated that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary mentioned this, I will make representations. This is an important matter.

Mr. Wellbeloved

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the consultations between the Government and outside bodies on the Government's policy in respect of imported meat have now been completed. So that Parliament may be fully consulted before any further decisions are taken affecting the price of the housewife's weekly joint, can my right hon. Friend find time for a debate next week?

Mr. Peart

I know that my hon. Friend takes a great interest in this matter, and I recall hearing his views on it even when I was the Minister responsible. However, I cannot find time next week. My right hon. Friend has made a statement.

Mr. Lubbock

Will the Leader of the House confirm that it is his present intention to rise for the Summer Recess on 25th July? Taking into account the fact that we need to fit in the Consolidated Fund Bill, the Summer Adjournment Motion and, I think, two Report stages of Bills, will the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is no time left for many of the demands being made by hon. Members today? Will he, therefore, reconsider his decision to rise on that date and extend the Session for at least another week?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman must realise that whatever Government is in power time is always difficult for a Leader of the House. But the Recess must depend primarily on the progress of business. I hope to be able to make a specific announcement next week.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Can my right hon. Friend find time for an early debate on the Hunt Report and the Government's proposals arising from it? He will be aware of the intense interest in that report, both from hon. Members who are delighted with its recommendations and from those who are not.

Mr. Peart

I accept that this is an important matter. Consultations are going on, but I cannot find time in the few days ahead.

Dame Irene Ward

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on Motion No. 379, in view of the fact that I have supplied the Prime Minister with the information that he said he would gladly accept? Some of his hon. Friends are trying to dissuade him from keeping his promise. It would make an interesting debate, because this is probably the first pledge which the Prime Minister could keep if he wanted to.

[That this House, noting the Prime Minister's answer to the hon. Member for Tynemouth on 13th March saying that nothing would give hint personally more pleasure than that she should have a hand in arranging his visit in July, urges him to hold a conference with the responsible authorities on the declining position of the port of the Tyne with a view to ensuring fair treatment for the Tyne compared with Teesside; to examine the continuing unemployment on Tyneside and in Smith's Docks; in particular, to arrange the necessary finance for a new additional dry dock to take the type of large tanker recently launched by H.R.H. Princess Anne; to drive down the new coast road of Newcastle-on-Tyne to Tynemouth and observe the advantage of the new road built by Wimpey for Tynemouth and opened over three years ago and compare it both financially and in time taken by the use of direct labour by Newcastle-on-Tyne and Wallsend compared with private enterprise; to ponder on the difficulties experienced in the efficient running of the Newcastle Central station after the amalgamation of the Great Northern and Great Eastern Railways had resulted in headquarter control from York instead of Newcastle-on- Tyne; to visit Tynemouth to see how the beauty of this old place would be spoilt by the coal distribution depôt suggested by British Railways; to examine the had effects the selective employment tax is having on Whitley Bay and Tynemouth; and to redeem his pleasant reference to the hon. Member's request to assist in planning his programme by inviting her to show him the disturbing problems which have to be solved for a prosperous Tyneside.]

Mr. Peart

I have noted carefully the Motion asking my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to visit the North-East. I have also noted the Amendment seeking to widen that proposal—

[In line 3, to leave out from "him" to end and add" to visit the shipyards on both Tyneside and Wearside which have received so much beneficial aid front the Labour Government, and to arrange considerable time for the visit in order to view the massive public expenditure taking place on roads and infrastructure in the region, to ponder on why the Tory-controlled local authorities are slashing council house building and other necessary local public expenditure, but warns the Prime Minister not to be seduced by the arguments of the hon. Member for Tynemouth, who has such undoubted ability in her attempts to forget the damage done to the North-East over the long period of years the Tories held power".]

There are different views about this matter. I think that it would be a very good thing if my right hon. Friend went to the North-East, but he must do so of his own choosing.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

When my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General makes the statement which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House says that he will be making shortly, will my right hon. Friend suggest to him that the statement is made on a wide-ranging basis, and that an opportunity is created for an equally wide-ranging discussion of the whole communications scene?

Mr. Peart

After my right hon. Friend has made his statement, it will be for Mr. Speaker to control questions to him. But I will note what my hon. Friend has said.

Sir Clive Bossom

Will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to make a statement about the future of the egg industry? As the right hon. Gentleman himself knows, the long delay is causing a great deal of concern. Could the statement be made before the Recess?

Mr. Peart

I know that an announcement in the House will be of great importance, in view of the inquiry. I will convey the hon. Gentleman's views to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Archer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us would welcome even a short debate on the international control of the ocean bed while there is still time for the House to exercise some influence on events, in preference to a long debate when it is too late?

Mr. Peart

I agree that this is an important matter. I have always great sympathy towards my hon. Friend's views on this, and I am aware of the importance of it. I cannot find time next week, but I will bear his proposals in mind.

Mr. Joplin

While welcoming the right hon. Gentleman's agreement about the importance of the issue of agricultural credit, can he not give us an assurance that his right hon. Friend the Minister will make a statement next week, in view of the complete confusion caused by the letter from the Bank of England telling banks that they must ignore all letters from the Ministry saying that agriculture should have credit priority?

Mr. Peart

I know of the hon. Gentleman's interest in agricultural matters. However, I thought that my reply to his right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), who is the main Opposition spokesman on agriculture, was helpful. I cannot go beyond that.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

May I return to the subject of the sea bed? My right hon. Friend has always been very friendly towards the idea of discussing it. Can he not be a little more forthcoming than saying that a debate is not possible next week? What about the week after? I hope that he will not slip down the slope that so many of his predecessors have until it is too late.

Mr. Peart

I will look at this. I have announced the business for next week. I would like to give a sympathetic answer, but I am afraid not next week.

Sir D. Renton

Referring to Monday's business, does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that his Motion yesterday required that the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill should be reported to the House on or before Monday, 14th July? Bearing that in mind, until what time on that day does he suggest that it would be permissible for the House to sit?

Mr. Peart

I would rather wait for the Business Committee to inform me of its recommendations.

Sir F. Bennett

A few moments ago, the Leader of the House gave what appeared to be a sympathetic reply to a question about private Members' time. Will he clarify that? When he said that he would favour the time lost by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) being restored, was he merely thinking hopefully of my hon. Friend being allotted another half-hour Adjournment debate in its place, or an additional half-hour? In other words, is he proposing doing nothing but rob Peter to pay Paul?

Mr. Peart

I see the difficulty. Perhaps I can have an informal discussion with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden), and then I can make my representations to Mr. Speaker.

Dr. Winstanley

Since the Leader of the House has said that he will ask his right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General to make a statement about the B.B.C., may I remind him that the Postmaster-General said a fortnight ago that he would approach the Leader of the House with a view to arranging a debate? What we need is a debate, not a statement.

Mr. Peart

I think that we must await my right hon. Friend's statement first.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

It is clear that one of the many important subjects that we should debate before we adjourn for the Summer Recess is foreign affairs. In answer to one of his hon. Friends earlier, the Leader of the House appeared to be altering today's business. I understood that we were to debate Biafra. Are we to take it from that answer that both the opening and closing speeches from the Government side today will deal with such matters as the Middle East and other important international affairs?

Mr. Peart

The Opposition chose for their Supply day the important subject of Nigeria—

Sir J. Langford-Holt

Not foreign affairs.

Mr. Peart

But Nigeria is a foreign affairs matter. I know that I am being pressed for another debate by hon. Members who are anxious to talk about the Middle East and other matters. I will examine their requests carefully. However, we are to debate foreign affairs today.

Mr. Astor

The Leader of the House will be aware of Motion No. 355, to which reference has been made earlier, signed by 174 right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House, reflecting great concern about the problems of the disabled? Could he say whether the Government will make a statement next week on their solution to these problems, and if not next week, when may we expect a statement?

Mr. Peart

I have taken note of the Motion. I gave an answer on this matter last week. I will convey these views to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Heath

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) and other hon. Members have asked about the Report stage of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill, and the Leader of the House has said that he is awaiting the decision of the Business Committee.

The Business Committee is not concerned with anything other than the Committee stage, under the Resolution laid by the Leader of the House. Therefore, I again put the question: when the Business Committee has decided the time during the sitting of Monday, 14th July, in which the Committee proceedings will be held, when will the Report stage be held?

I must point out that if there is a Report stage we cannot entirely rule out the possibility that some hon. Gentlemen opposite might vote according to their consciences rather than according to the Patronage Secretary. If there is a Report stage, it will be unsatisfactory to have it directly following the Committee stage of the Bill.

Mr. Peart

I must wait and see the report. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I cannot be precise on this until I know what happens in relation to Amendments.

Mr. Heath

When the Committee stage of the Bill is finished, whatever time is fixed by the Business Committee, will the Leader of the House give us an assurance that the Report stage will not directly follow it? Will he make a Business statement, saying when the Report stage will be held?

Mr. Peart

I cannot indulge in hypothetics. I will consider this matter very carefully. We could have discussions on it through the usual channels. I am anxious to keep the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues properly informed.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Has the Leader of the House noted a report this morning that the Prime Minister is negotiating a new two-year contract with the Chairman of the National Board for Prices and Incomes? If this contract were to be terminated, the taxpayer might be involved in considerable obligations of compensation. Therefore, could the House have an opportunity to discuss this matter before any new contract is concluded?

Mr. Peart

I think not.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

As the Government have recently dropped the Industrial Relations Bill because of outside pressure and as there is every possibility that there will be pressure from the House of Lords against the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill, will the Government consider dropping that Bill and bringing in a proper Bill next Session in the same way as they are dealing with the Industrial Relations Bill?

Mr. Peart

I cannot see how that applies to the business for next week.

Mr. English

My right hon. Friend implied that the Postmaster-General's statement should precede a debate on the B.B.C.'s proposals and that that statement will not be next week. Can he assure us that the Postmaster-General's statement will be as early as possible, so that we will be able to get a debate on it before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Peart

I gave a specific reply earlier. I think that my right hon. Friend should quickly inform the House.

Mr. Turton

Reverting to next Monday's business, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, as the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill is a constitutional one, he will comply with Standing Orders and not seek to obtain a waiver on it?

Mr. Peart

I always try to conform to the practices of the House and to Standing Orders.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

My right hon. Friend has told us that we are to debate Biafra today. Is not the time today provided by the Opposition? Should not the Government give us days to debate Rhodesia and the Middle East as well?

Mr. Peart

I cannot find time next week. I have announced the business for next week. I am anxious to find time to discuss so many different subjects, but time is difficult.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Returning to the point that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition raised with the Leader of the House about next Monday's business, does this mean that, if the Report stage is to be taken immediately after the Committee stage, there will only be an opportunity for manuscript Amendments to be put in by hon. Members?

Mr. Peart

I have not committed the Government to any specific line of action on that matter.