HC Deb 27 March 1969 vol 780 cc1796-807
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, 31ST MARCH—Supply [16th Allotted Day]:

Debate on the Annual Farm Price Review (Command No. 3965), on an Opposition Motion.

Remaining stages of the Nuclear Installations Bill and of the Redundant Churches and Other Religious Buildings Bill.

Motion on the Tyneside Passenger Transport Area (Designation) Order.

TUESDAY, 1ST APRIL AND WEDNESDAY, 2ND APRIL—Committee stage of the Parliament (No. 2) Bill, which will be continued on Monday, 14th April.

ON WEDNESDAY, 2ND APRIL, at Seven o'clock, the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed Private Business for consideration.

THURSDAY, 3RD APRIL—The House will meet at 11 a.m., take Questions until 12 noon and adjourn at 5 o'clock, until Monday, 14th April.

As the House is already aware, on Tuesday, 15th April, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will open his Budget Statement.

The general debate on the Budget Resolutions and the Economic Situation will be continued on Wednesday, 16th April, and Thursday, 17th April, and brought to a conclusion on Monday, 21st April.

Mr. Heath

Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that in addition to taking the Parliament (No. 2) Bill on Tuesday and Wednesday we will also be taking it on our first day back after the Recess, on 14th April?

Secondly, I asked the Leader of the House to inquire last week when his right hon. Friend would be making a statement about amendments to the Land Commission Act. Will he assure us that a statement will be made before the House rises for Easter?

Thirdly, is it the intention of the Prime Minister to report on his visit to Nigeria before: he House recesses for Easter?

Mr. Peart

To answer the right hon. Gentleman's third question first, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would like to inform the House about his visit to Nigeria. It is right that he should, and I sure that he will be anxious to do so.

To answer his second question, as he knows, this matter came up in debate the other night. My right hon. Friend will look into it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I appreciate that many hon. Members are pressing for new proposals. My right hon. Friend will have to consider these. I cannot be more precise about this or say when he will make a statement, or if he will make one. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]

The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's first question is, "Yes". I said that we would be taking the Parliament (No. 2) Bill on Monday, 14th April.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to Motion No. 177, which was tabled on 25th February and is entitled "In Place of Strife and the Encouragement of Strife"?

[That this House notes that, whilst the Government are urging trade unionists and lower-paid workers to restrict their incomes, on penalty of legal restrictions in default, they are at the same moment in the process of preparing to increase the salaries of the chairmen of the nationalised boards by as much as 60 per cent. per annum; and feels that the present climate of opinion is not conducive to supporting salary increases from £12,500 per annum to £20,000 per annum and from £16,000 to £27,000 per annum, as this is unlikely to persuade the trade unions to accept the Government's incomes policy and their White Paper, In Place of Strife.]

As everything therein was correctly foretold—as was admitted the day before yesterday—would my right hon. Friend formally accept the Motion and thus save the time of the House?

Mr. Peart

I know that my hon. Friend is anxious to save the time of the House, but I am afraid that I cannot accede to his request.

Mr. Sandys

Since next Tuesday—I have given notice of this—I shall be seeking leave to bring in a Bill to secure a conciliation pause before strike action in appropriate cases—[Interruption.]—may I have the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman as to whether, despite the decision of the National Executive of the Labour Party yesterday, it is still the intention of the Government to introduce legislation to implement all the main proposals of their White Paper "In Place of Strife", and if legislation will be introduced this Session?

Mr. Peart

If the right hon. Gentleman will have a word with me later I will be pleased to advise him privately—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]—but the answer to his question is: "Not next week".

Mr. Sandys rose

Hon. Members

Sit down.

Mr. Sandys

On a point of order. Is it not an abuse of business question time—it is surely in the interests of the whole House that we should know what the Government's intentions are in relation to a matter which I shall be bringing before the House next Tuesday—for the Leader of the House to use that form of reply when this is not a matter for private consultation?

Mr. Speaker

The Leader of the House, like any other Minister, answers questions in his own way, even business questions.

Mr. Michael Foot

Since my right hon. Friend has made an announcement about the Parliament (No. 2) Bill, an announcement which will be unwelcome in all sections of the House, would he say what are his intentions about the Parliament (No. 1) Bill, which could extricate him from all these difficulties?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of my hon. Friend's views about the Parliament (No. 1) Bill. In relation to next week's business, however, I am concerned only with the Parliament (No. 2) Bill.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Would the right hon. Gentleman give an indication of whether the Government intend to allow time to debate the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which dealt with coastal pollution, and provide time for a debate on the White Paper which the Government have issued on that Report? While I recognise that there are some legal difficulties in this matter, is he aware of the continuing pollution of our shores, not least at Broadstairs, and will he do something about this matter soon?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of the point which the hon. Gentleman has raised, I accept that he has a strong case. He knows my interest in the matter, but I regret that such a debate cannot take place next week.

Mr. Shinwell

Has my right hon. Friend given further consideration to the request that has been frequently made for the Government to introduce a new Merchant Shipping Bill? Can he do anything along these lines next week?

Mr. Peart

I agree that my right hon. Friend has been pressing me on this matter. I am equally aware of the concern that is felt by many hon. Members about this and their desire that there should not be any delay in introducing the Merchant Shipping Bill. As has been pointed out, this will be a complex Measure. I am now, for the first time, being somewhat more specific on this issue and I am announcing the Government's intention to introduce the Bill later this Session, as soon as it is ready.

Mr. Turton

As the right hon. Gentleman appears to find difficulty in finding alternative business to put before the House, will he look at the five Motions that stand in his name on the Notice Paper on the law of Parliamentary Privilege? Is he aware that they have been on the Notice Paper for two months and that we always seem to adjourn just before this matter is discussed?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of what the right hon. Gentleman says, and it is true that these Motions have been on the Notice Paper for some time. I would like a debate to take place on this issue and on the whole Report, but I am afraid that one cannot take place next week. I assure the Father of the House that, like him, I regard this as an import- ant matter, that I would like it to be debated and that I regret that that cannot happen next week.

Mr. Milne

Since statements made by both the main political parties this week have highlighted the importance of the principle of equal pay for equal work, would my right hon. Friend pay attention to Motion No. 205 which stands in my name and in the names of many of my hon. Friends; and can we have an early debate on the subject?

[That this House, bearing in mind the legislative programme outlined by Her Majesty's Government, particularly the introduction of a National Superannuation Scheme, calls for the ratification of the International Labour Organisation Convention 100, Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value, by Her Majesty's Government, and urges that steps be taken immediately to introduce legislation to give effect to the principle.]

Mr. Peart

I have noted my hon. Friend's remarks about Motion No. 205. Having announced the business for next week, it will not, I am afraid, be possible for us to debate that Motion next week, but I am aware of my hon. Friend's remarks.

Dame Irene Ward

Has the Leader of the House taken note of my Motion No. 240?

[That in the opinion of this House, in view of the Minister of Power's refusal to answer Questions on the shortage of solid fuel supplies in Tynemouth during Arctic weather when he answers Questions on shortage of gas and electricity supplies, he is discriminating against the provisions of one source of warmth; and in view of the advertisements by the National Coal Board to buy solid fuel, he will take steps to ensure that solid fuel is available and, if not, to answer Questions.]

Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Power to give me the necessary answers to the questions asked in that Motion? As I was not able to get a Question down to the right hon. Gentleman, I have obviously not given him an opportunity to answer me. Is he aware that if these questions are not answered I cannot properly protect the interests of my constituents, which is what I was sent here to do?

Mr. Peart

I am aware that the hon. Lady always seeks to protect her constiuents. She is an ardent supporter of of an area which I know extremely well. The responsibility in this matter is really one for local suppliers. However, in view of the importance of the subject, I will acquaint my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power with the hon. Lady's viewpoint.

Mr. J. Idwal Jones

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that a debate on Welsh affairs is not too long postponed? Does he have a date for a debate in mind?

Mr. Peart

We will have such a debate, but not next week.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Reverting to the Parliament (No. 2) Bill, would the right hon. Gentleman make it clear whether it is his intention to return to a discussion of this Measure after the opposed Private Business on Wednesday? For the convenience of the House and its staff, would he indicate on which of those nights, if not on both, he intends the House to sit all night?

Mr. Peart

I cannot be precise at this stage, but it is intended that the Private Business will be a delightful interlude between debates on the Parliament (No. 2) Bill.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have asked him on two previous occasions when we may expect the Government's reply to the last Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries?

Mr. Peart

I hope very soon.

Mr. Godber

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that before the House rises for the Easter Recess we shall have a full report from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the Northumberland Committee Report on the foot-and-mouth outbreak?

Mr. Peart

As soon as the Report is published. I accept that this is a very vital matter.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend say when the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity will be making a statement on the recent Report by the Prices and Incomes Board on top salaries? Will he give an assur- ance that before any decision is taken by the Secretary of State there will be a debate in this House on the Report?

Mr. Peart

I know that this is important. As soon as possible my right hon. Friend will make a statement.

Mr. Powell

The Leader of the House gave an assurance last week that before proceedings were resumed on the Parliament (No. 2) Bill a document would be available to the House. Can he indicate in what form it will be and when he expects it to be made available?

Mr. Peart

I understand that it is available now in the Vote Office.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend say whether any of the subjects he has announced for debate next week will give an opportunity for debating that very urgent subject, industry and employment in North-East Scotland, which is referred to in my Motion No. 233?

[That this House expresses its distress at the drift south from north-east Scotland of skilled craftsmen and other workers accentuated by the closure or threatened closure of Inverurie Locomotive Works, by the concentration of industry in Southern Scotland, and by the uneven spread of industry throughout the rest of Scotland; is of opinion that the future substitution of advance factories after the skilled craftsmen and other workers shall have gone south will be no solution to the relevant problems which by then will have broken up homes and inflicted loss and sorrow on the families concerned; and now urges the Government to use the advances of science, technology and communications to increase trade, industry, commerce and employment throughout north-east Scotland.]

Mr. Peart

As my hon. and learned Friend knows, we have had a debate on this matter. I compliment him on his assiduous pressing of the claims of Scotland.

Mr. Peyton

The Leader of the House was understandably shy about revealing in the business statement the amount of time which will be taken up on the Pauliament (No. 2) Bill. Is he able to overcome at this stage that growing shyness of his and tell the House how much more of its time is to be consumed in the Committee stage?

Mr. Peart

I was not shy, although I may be shy by nature. I made a rather precise statement when questioned by the Leader of the Opposition. I replied specifically. Let us see about the future, how we get on. Wait and see.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

May I draw the notice of my right hon. Friend to my constructive Motion No. 229 "The Unequal Society", which sets out the conditions under which a wages restraint policy might be practicable.

[That this House, noting that share values increased in 1968 by £12,500 million, that the Chairman of Woolworth's receives £877 per week and that there are 15 motor-car models selling well at over £5,000 each, believes that wage-earners cannot be expected to accept restraints until such time as the Government has drastically reduced the glaring, provoking and growing inequalities in our society; and further believes that a wages policy will become practicable when all remuneration is contained between a mimimum of £1,000 and a maximum of £10,000 per annum.]

If this cannot be debated next week, could it be debated in the week after Easter?

Mr. Peart

I have noted that Motion, but I am afraid I cannot find time for it to be debated.

Sir C. Osborne

Since the Parliament (No. 2) Bill does not appear to have one real friend in the House, why do the Government not drop it altogether?

Mr. Peart

It is not for me to get involved in arguments. I have announced the business. I know the hon. Member is in a minority on this matter.[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In the Division Lobbies the hon. Member has been in a considerable minority. I listen to his advice, but not on this.

Mr. E. Rowlands

Returning to the question of a debate on Welsh affairs, if one cannot be held next week, will my right hon. Friend assure us that we can have one before the end of the Session? It was complained last time that the annual Welsh Report is 12 months old when we debate it.

Mr. Peart

I would be very sympathetic to having a debate on Welsh affairs.

Mr. Ridsdale

Is the Leader of the House aware that by occupying so much time on the Parliament (No. 2) Bill he is preventing debate on very necessary social reforms, such as the welfare of seamen, the Merchant Shipping Bill, the Seebohm Report and many other vital reports?

Mr. Peart

It may be that in debates on the Parliament (No. 2) Bill hon. Members will make their speeches very much shorter.

Mr. Ogden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we are grateful for his announcement that the Government intend to introduce proposed reform of to introduce proposed reform of the Merchant Shipping Act, but that concern still remains? Introduction is not enough. We want the reform to be carried on to to the Statute Book this Session. Can he say anything about that?

Mr. Peart

I think I have given a satisfactory answer.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Will the Leader of the House give me the same information which he has intimated he will give privately to my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys)?

Mr. Peart

If the hon. and learned Member comes to see me I shall be delighted to give it.

Mr. Maclennan

Although not all my hon. Friends have displayed enthusiasm for reform of another place, most of us will be interested in the opportunity to debate reform of this place. Will my right hon. Friend give consideration to an early debate on the rôle of Select Committees?

Mr. Peart

There has been a debate on this matter, but, as always, if I could find time I would welcome a debate on it. I will bear this in mind.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

Does the business announcement mean that the Government have no measures more sensible or relevant to the needs of the country to put forward on two days next week than the Parliament (No. 2) Bill?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are drifting into merit.

Hon. Members


Mr. Peart

The answer is, of course, that I cannot accept the hon. Member's viewpoint.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Referring to the Parliament (No. 2) Bill, what did the Leader of the House mean, by the phrase "wait and see"? Was it intended as a bromide or, in the original Asquithian use, as a threat of using the Guillotine?

Mr. Peart

I should have thought the advice I gave about progress on the Bill was sensible. Let us wait and see how we proceed.

Mr. Coe

Will my right hon. Friend take note that many of us who support the Parliament (No. 2) Bill are glad that the Government are to press ahead with it next week in spite of the continual filibuster of a very small minority in this House?

Mr. Howie

If my right hon. Friend were to seize the opportunity to drop the Parliament (No. 2) Bill next week, which I think would receive wide approval even among those who have put in their applications, would this not give us an opportunity to debate the recently published excellent Report on the allegations made against the Chancellor of the Exchequer by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir. G. Nabarro)?

Hon. Members

Where is he?

Mr. Peart

No, I do not want to get involved in that.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

Is the Leader of the House aware that five months have passed since the Government announced their intention of setting up a Constitutional Commission and we still do not know the names of the commissioners? Will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement on this next week and tell the House how many persons have been invited and have refused to serve on this Commission?

Mr. Peart

I cannot go into details, but I have sympathy with the hon. Member. I am rather impatient and will note what the hon. Member said.

Mr. Molloy

Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that there is grave need for this House and the country to consider Britain's future relationship with Europe? Are we not to have a debate on this—if not next week very early when we return—perhaps based on Motion No. 226 in my name and a number of my hon. Friends?

[That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to initiate a new phase in the United Kingdom's relationship with Europe on a broader concept than the European Economic Community, embracing the European Free Trade Association, and designed to establish a sensible relationship with Eastern Europe, and thus making a real contribution to European prosperity and understanding, and the cause of World peace.]

Mr. Peart

I know my hon. Friend's views on this matter, but I cannot find time for a debate at the moment.

Mr. Ridley

If the right hon. Gentleman fails to give an assurance that a new Merchant Shipping Act will be on the Statute Book this Session, would it not be more appropriate to put it down for Second Reading next week instead of the Parliament (No. 2) Bill and to put the welfare of seamen before the political chicanery of the Government?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are drifting into merits again.

Mr. Peart

I hope the hon. Member will not draw me into controversy. Previous Governments had opportunities to improve the merchant shipping legislation. I hope that this Bill will be a good one. It will be introduced this Session.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Is the Leader of the House aware that the "delightful interlude" which he spoke about next Wednesday concerns my constituency? A reservoir is to be put down in Rutland and it will involve the loss of a lot of agricultural land. To save myself from sending out a note to everybody who is interested in agriculture, can I say that I would be delighted if all the full-time Members of the House of Commons were here next Wednesday for that Private Bill?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of the importance of this Bill. The hon. Gentleman has made his point.

Mr. John Smith

Is not this business of the Leader of the House talking privately to people going much too far. What is it that he wants to say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Streat-ham (Mr. Sandys) and to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) which he cannot say to all of us? This is an important matter. We want to know about it.

Mr. Peart

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be too critical when I say "Let us have a talk privately". The hon. Gentleman has seen me privately.

Mr. Roebuck

Has not the House had too much of this private consultation? Will my right hon. Friend look at my Early Day Motion No. 223, "Buying a Home"?

[That this House, disturbed at the rise in mortgage interest rates but unmoved by the argument of honourable Members who have been urging investors to place their money in unit trusts rather than with the building societies, and by those honourable Members who seek tax concessions for share-buyers, calls upon Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer to bear in mind that most people buying a home on mortgage regard this as a form of saving for old age; and urges him to find ways of giving them further encouragement by reducing the taxation paid by building societies.]

Will he rearrange next week's business so that the House can have an opportunity of debating this issue and so that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to put the deliberations of the House on it into perspective with regard to the private consultations he has already had with savings interests?

Mr. Peart

I am afraid not.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Will the Leader of the House see me privately to hear what he should do to the Parliament (No. 2) Bill?

Mr. Peart

I should be delighted to do so, and I should take the opportunity to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman what I think about him.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. Back to serious business.