HC Deb 26 June 1969 vol 785 cc1715-26
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, 30TH JUNE—Private Members' Motion until seven o'clock.

Remaining stages of the Housing (Scotland) Bill.

TUESDAY, 1ST JULY—Supply [24th Allotted Day]:

Debate on the Financing of the National Health Service, which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Remaining stages of the Age of Majority (Scotland) Bill.

Motions on the Legal Aid (Extension of Proceedings) (Amendment) Regulations.

Motion on the Grant-Aided Secondary Schools (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations.

Remaining stages of the Architects Registration (Amendment) Bill.

At seven o'clock, opposed Private Business put down by the Chairman of Ways and Means.

WEDNESDAY, 2ND JULY—Second Reading of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) (No. 2) Bill.

Motions on the Representation of the People Regulations.

THURSDAY, 3RD JULY—Supply [25th Allotted Day]:

Debate on Industrial Relations, on an Opposition Motion.

Motion on the Supplementary Benefit (Determination of Requirements) Regulations.

Consideration of Lords Amendment to the Employers' Liability (Defective Equipment) Bill.

FRIDAY, 4TH JULY—Debate on a Motion to take note of the Report from the Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, Session 1966–67.

MONDAY, 7TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Air Corporations Bill, the Administration of Justice Bill [Lords], and of the Family Law Reform Bill [Lords].

Mr. Heath

Is it still the intention of the Secretary of State for Social Services to lay Regulations raising the charges on teeth and spectacles? If so, when will they be laid?

Mr. Peart

I could not give a precise date. [Hon. Members: "Why not?"] It will be done at the proper time.

Mr. Heath

The right hon. Gentleman owes the House rather more than that. The Secretary of State made his original announcement on 5th May and he promised the House that the Regulations would be laid shortly. That was seven weeks ago, which, in Parliamentary terminology, is a long way past "shortly". Do the Government intend to lay the Regulations? If so, will they be laid before or after the Recess?

Mr. Peart

The right hon. Gentleman asked me to state the business for next week. That I have done—[Hon. Members: "Answer."] As I said, I could not give a precise date. When I am in a position to do so, I will make an announcement.

Mr. Heath

Are the Orders to be laid—yes or no? If yes, are they to be laid before the long Recess—yes or no?

Mr. Peart

As I said, it is the intention, in view of what my right hon. Friend said, to lay them at an appropriate time, but I am not prepared to give a precise date.

Mr. David Watkins

May I continue the saga on my Insurance (Employers' Liability) Bill and ask what arrangements my right hon. Friend will make to enable the House to give a decision on the Bill?

Mr. Peart

As my hon. Friend has rightly said, this is an important matter. He has made an approach to me and I asked sponsors of Bills to come to see me. That is still open to hon. Members I am looking at this matter. I have already announced progress on some Private Members' Bills during next week's business.

Sir G. Nabarro

Can the Leader of the House say whether next week the Government propose to move for writs for five pending by-elections having regard to the fact that unless this is done next week those elections cannot be held until October? Newcastle-under-Lyme, which fell vacant on 19th February, Swindon on 7th March, Glasgow, Gorbals, Islington, North and Paddington, North are all Labour seats where we urgently need the electors to be enfranchised by Tory members.

Mr. Peart

The hon. Member knows from long experience that it is not for the Leader of the House to make such an announcement, but for the Patronage Secretary.

Mr. Whitaker

In view of the fact that hon. Members on both sides of the House will very much regret the loss of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith), will my right hon. Friends arrange early next week to tell us about improvements in conditions for back benchers, or would he advise us to take industrial action such as working to rule or striking?

Mr. Peart

I hope that by drawing attention to the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) my hon. Friend will not embarrass him. I am sorry that the hon. Member has made a decision to leave the House. He has made a great contribution, particularly in the matter of amenities and his desire to improve them.

The Services Committee has been, and is now, considering this and there will be a report on one major matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] I hope that my hon. Friends will be patient. We have worked very hard and I hope to be able to announce some positive results.

Sir F. Bennett

In his replies to the recent Private Notice Question about Gibraltar, the Foreign Secretary did not give attention to one aspect, the possible early release of Service land. It has been agreed that it could be released. This could make the biggest single contribution to the economy of Gibraltar now that people can no longer go to Gibraltar for a few days and then go to Spain. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us an early date, if not next week soon after, for a debate on this important matter?

Mr. Peart

I should have thought that a suitable question to put to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary earlier. As the hon. Member was unable to do so, I shall try to make representations on his behalf.

Mr. Thorpe

Reverting to the question of writs for by-elections, particularly as the Patronage Secretary might be caught just before he leaves the Chamber, is the Leader of the House aware that we consider it is not good enough for him to say that this is not a matter for him? Will he make representations to the Patronage Secretary—whom we are all delighted to see is now coming back into the Chamber—that we expect a statement from him next week? The electors of Swindon have been without an effective Member of Parliament for nearly one year.

Hon. Members

More than that.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

On a point of order. Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the former Member for Swindon was doing his duty in this House until December last, when he fell ill and was sent away by the doctors?

Mr. Thorpe

Further to that point of order. Although, naturally, I respect whatever the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) says, I cannot withdraw what I said, namely, that for a period of the year the electors of Swindon have not had the services of a full-time Member of Parliament and have relied on alternative resources.

Mr. Peart

The right hon. Gentleman knows that there were factors, which have been mentioned by my right hon. Friend. This is a matter for the Patronage Secretary.

Mr. Orme

My right hon. Friend was not particularly clear about the Regulations relating to teeth and spectacle charges. Following the pressure he has had from the Leader of the Opposition, will he not take this back to the Cabinet, as we do not want to see the Regulations now or in the future?

Mr. Peart

I cannot add to what I have said.

Mr. Moonman

Are representations to be made to the Leader of the House through the Government concerning the implementation of the Seebohm Committee's Report? Will my right hon. Friend take note of Motion No. 353—

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to follow up the publication of the Royal Commission on Local Government with its promise for action on the Seebohm Committee Report to ensure the formation of a unified social service department in each local authority and one central Government department to be responsible for overseeing the social services, providing overall national planning and for conducting and co-ordinating research.]

Mr. Peart

We have had representations on this very important matter and I take note of it.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Can the Leader of the House tell us which organising genius within the Government decided to have Welsh Questions first on Tuesday next, in view of the fact that it happens to be the day of the Investiture of the Prince of Wales?

Mr. Peart

I do not think that one should worry about Tuesday. I think that adequate arrangements have now been made through the usual channels.

Mr. Wellbeloved

In view of the effect on the retail price of meat of the Government's decision to implement the Northumberland Committee's Report, will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that we shall debate that Report before the House goes into Recess?

Mr. Peart

No, I cannot give that undertaking, but my hon. Friend should not be too pessimistic.

Mr. Tapsell

As it appears that the Patronage Secretary is now allowed to speak uninvited at Cabinet meetings, can not that facility be extended to him in the House in connection with the pending by-elections?

Mr. C. Pannell

Referring to the debate, I understand next Friday, on the Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, will the Government table as soon as possible any Motions they intend to bring before the House arising from the Report? This is a very complex matter. Hon. Members on both sides of the House would like to think over any projected steps about privilege before the day of the debate.

Mr. Peart

I appreciate the view of my right hon. Friend. I tabled Motions, but on second thoughts I considered that it would be better to have a general debate and to hear the view of the House. This is not a party matter. I believe that Parliament should express itself on this very important Report.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he proposes to restore to private Members the day for legislation which he took from them on 13th June?

Mr. Peart

I did not take it in that sense. I am trying very much to help private Members?

Mr. E. Rowlands

Will my right hon. Friend be more explicit about the arrangements for Welsh Questions next Tuesday? Are Questions to be answered by someone other than a Welsh Minister, or postponed to another day?

Mr. Peart

This will be settled through the usual channels.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind hon. Members that we have long debates ahead.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Has the Leader of the House observed that we are sitting later and later consistently at night? Is this some form of collective punishment? How does it square with the reforming zeal of his predecessor in office?

Mr. Peart

If hon. Members made their speeches shorter and with moderation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am anxious that sittings should finish before midnight every night and that we should achieve the target of breaking up at the end of July.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Now that at long last we have had a Government reply to the latest Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, can my right hon. Friend tell us when we shall have the chance to debate that reply?

Mr. Peart

I cannot say; certainly not next week.

Mr. Peyton

The Leader of the House told my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that the Regulations relating to teeth and spectacle charges would be laid at an appropriate date. While no one would be so optimistic as to expect him to be precise, could the Leader of the House be just a little less vague than he has been?

Mr. Peart

I cannot add to what I have said. I hope that the hon. Member appreciates this.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Has my right hon. Friend noticed a new Motion on the Order Paper—

[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.]

This supports the application of the Heathrow Campaign Committee for a tribunal to inquire into the aircraft noise in the vicinity of London Airport. Can my right hon. Friend find time for a debate, if not next week, in the week after?

Mr. Peart

I have noticed the Motion. This is an important matter, but adequate machinery for consultation about noise in the vicinity of the airport exists. But we cannot have a debate next week.

Mr. Peel

As the Patronage Secretary is also the Deputy Leader of the House, why cannot we have a statement about when the Writs are to be moved for the by-elections?

Mr. Peart

He is not, actually.

Mr. Dickens

In view of my right hon. Friend's encouraging remarks about the forthcoming report from the Services Committee on the appallingly bad services available to Members, can we now have an assurance from my right hon. Friend that that report and the three preceding reports will come before the House before we rise for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Peart

Yes, I hope to make this material available to hon. Members.

Captain W. Elliot

Is the Leader of the House aware that on Friday last, when the House was debating Private Members' Motions, the debate on the second Motion was drawing to a close, with the Minister on his feet and reaching the end of his speech and with nobody else on the Government benches, when the Patronage Secretary entered the Chamber, left a minute later, and very soon afterwards half a dozen of his hon. Friends entered the House—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate the merits or demerits of what happened last Friday. The hon. and gallant Gentleman can ask for time to discuss it.

Captain Elliot

I was just about to do that. The result of that action was that my important Motion—

[To call attention to the chaotic and damaging situation in the London docks; and to move, That this House, mindful of the fact that to a great trading nation, such as Great Britain, the efficient working of the ports in general is vital if we are to achieve solvency, and recognising that the Port of London, handling as it does a very large proportion of all exports and imports, is of special importance, expresses anxiety that the progress being made in the London docks in modernisation both of method and machinery and in the achievement of greater efficiency is not proceeding at a faster pace; recognises the complex and difficult problems to be solved, many as a result of habits and prejudices ingrained in those working in the London docks at all levels, and springing from a past and often difficult history; notes the progress which has been made although as yet by no means amounting to a general advance; expresses admiration for the example set in some areas of the London docks and which need not fear comparison with any similar industry in the world; nevertheless is of the opinion that modern development in the techniques of moving goods through the ports, and now available, must be exploited urgently and to the full in the London docks if this country is not to fall behind its foreign competitors; urges all those engaged to rid themselves of the disruptive elements in the London docks and press on with their great efforts to modernise and streamline this section of the industry and thus bring prosperity and security to all those engaged in it and at the same time help the competitive trade position of this country; and finally urges the Government not to attempt to nationalise this part of the industry because this will lead, as with other nationalised industries, to higher costs, a rigid non-competitive structure and further burdens on the nation and thus check the progress at present being made towards a brighter future.]—

did not get an opportunity to be debated. Was not this a gross misuse of the procedures of the House? I was told at the time—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have helped the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I have advised him what to do. He can ask for time to discuss his Motion.

Captain Elliot

In view of this procedure, will the Leader of the House find time for my Motion to be debated?

Mr. Peart

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman studies the precedents, he will find that it is not unusual for only two Motions to be debated on a Friday. The second Motion was a very important one, on the abolition of slavery. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's Motion was not discussed, but I cannot find time.

Mr. Pavitt

In arranging next week's business, will my right hon. Friend ignore the reporting of non-events, even in the most respected organs of the Press, and pressure from the other side of the House, and take, as usual, a cool and balanced judgment on the timing of the business of the House?

Mr. Peart

I always take a cool and balanced judgment.

Mr. Dean

The right hon. Gentleman has been unable to say when the Regulations relating to increased charges for teeth and spectacles will be laid. In view of the new crop of conflicting statements about the Government's intentions on this important matter, is not the House at least entitled to a statement on Monday by the Secretary of State for Social Services after social security Questions?

Mr. Peart

I agree that this is a very important matter. I understand the feeling of hon. Members on both sides, but I cannot go beyond what I have said.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

I again remind the House that we are to debate the Housing Bill. There are many Amendments to that Bill to be discussed.

Mr. Leadbitter

Is the Leader of the House aware that many hon. Members on this side are becoming increasingly concerned about the number of questions asked by hon. Members opposite on the levels of aid in development areas and that we are now satisfied that the Leader of the Opposition and his party are intent upon scaling down considerably—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is by no means a business question. If the hon. Gentleman cannot frame a business question, he must sit down.

Mr. Leadbitter

We are satisfied on this side that there is a need for a debate on the levels of aid in development areas as a matter of urgency? Will my right hon. Friend provide time for such a debate next week?

Mr. Peart

I regret that I cannot accede to my hon. Friend's request.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Will the Leader of the House ensure that next week, on his return, the Secretary of State for Defence makes a full statement on the Canberra talks? Looking further forward, will the Leader of the House also ensure, in view of the interest in Gibraltar, Rhodesia, Europe and many other questions, that there is satisfactory foreign affairs debate before the House rises?

Mr. Speaker

Only one business question at once.

Mr. Peart

I will convey the views of the hon. Gentleman to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence when he returns. Such a statement could be appropriate, but I hope that I shall not be held to be bound by this. I will examine the hon. Gentleman's second suggestion sympathetically.

Mr. Luard

Reverting to the request by a number of hon. Members over recent weeks for a debate on the seabed and on the future international régime of the seabed, can my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that even if we cannot have a debate next week we shall have a debate on this important subject before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Peart

I cannot be specific. I agree that the whole question of marine technology and oceanography is a most important topic, with wide international ramifications. I will consider the question.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Last week my right hon. Friend told me that he would have a word with my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Technology, about our having a short debate on the subject of the closure of S. G. Brown, at Watford. Has my right hon. Friend had a talk with the Minister, and, if so, with what results?

Mr. Peart

Yes. I always convey the views of my hon. Friends to the Ministers concerned. However, I cannot be specific about a debate. I know that my hon. Friend is, rightly, pressing this important matter, because it affects his area.

Mr. Winnick

Although we debated this very serious subject in March, will my right hon. Friend give consideration to the question of our having another debate very soon on the subject of the Nigerian war, in view of reports that starvation faces a very large number of people living in Biafra?

Mr. Peart

I cannot make a promise, but I note my hon. Friend's request.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Once again, I ask the Leader of the House, sadly and hopefully, whether he can find time next week for my Motion on the subject of cars for disabled persons?

[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.]

Mr. Peart

My hon. and learned Friend has been very assiduous and persistent on this very important matter. I understand his point of view, but I cannot arrange a debate for next week.