HC Deb 01 May 1969 vol 782 cc1622-30

3.36 p.m.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

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, 5TH MAY—Post Office Bill, remaining stages.

TUESDAY, 6TH MAY—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

Motions on the Double Taxation Relief Orders relating to Japan and Norway, and on the Central Banks (Income Tax Schedule C Exemption) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 7TH MAY—Remaining stages of the Education (Scotland) Bill. Lords Amendments to the Agriculture (Spring Traps) (Scotland) Bill.

Motion on the Grant-Aided Secondary Schools (Scotland) Grant (Amendment) Regulations 1969.

At seven o'clock opposed Private Business has been put down by the Chairman of Ways and Means for consideration.

THURSDAY, 8TH MAY—Second Reading of the Iron and Steel Bill.

Motions on the Immunities and Privileges Orders relating to Sugar and Coffee.

FRIDAY, 9TH MAY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 12TH MAY—Supply (19th Allotted Day):

Debate on a subject to be announced later.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

First, can the Leader of the House say when the Government's promised statement on the level of pension contributions will be made? Secondly, can he say when the Industrial Relations Bill will be published?

Mr. Peart

I hope that the Bill will be published before we break up for the Whitsun Recess.

On the first question, I cannot say when.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that hon. Members will restrain themselves as far as they humanly can in the matter of questions.

Mr. Hooley

Will my right hon. Friend undertake to provide time for a debate on Rhodesia if the present conversations lead to any change in Government policy?

Mr. Peart

I cannot say next week, but I shall inform my right hon. Friend of the importance of that question.

Mr. Biffen

Can the right hon. Gentleman make a statement next week confirming that the Committee stage of the Industrial Relations Bill will be taken on the Floor of the House, and so extinguish the absurd proposition that the Government would resign on a procedural Motion?

Mr. Peart

I do not think that that is really a question for next week's business.

Mr. Ellis

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the all-party early day Motion No. 94, which refers to the Brambell Report?

[That this House welcomes the report of the technical committee to inquire into the welfare of animals kept under intensive livestock husbandry systems; and urges Her Majesty's Government to take action to make the recommendations proposed effective.]

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that before any legislation is brought forward there is adequate time for a debate on that Report, as more than 60 hon. Members are interested in this matter, and there should be time to debate it?

Mr. Peart

Not during the few days that we have next week. I know that this is important. I know what is involved, and I shall convey my hon. Friend's views to the Minister of Agriculture.

Sir L. Heald

It has been expected and suggested that the Government would give time for the Divorce Reform Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said nothing about it today, but it is widely rumoured that it is to appear as the second Order of the Day tomorrow. If that is so, it will put all those hon. Members who are concerned with the further stages of the Bill in grave difficulty. They have arrangements elsewhere, and no warning whatever has been given of that possibility.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in his capacity as Leader of the House and helper of all of us here, to give us an explanation, because it appears that there has been a manoeuvre which would have very serious effects. This is a very important matter. Many hon. Members are concerned about the Report stage, to which they have Amendments, and there is a Motion on the Third Reading—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] Those hon. Members have been led to believe that it would not come up tomorrow. They are entitled to an answer.

Mr. Peart

I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there has been no manoeuvre. I assume that, in the normal course of our procedures, the Bill will come before the House tomorrow and will come on second.

Mr. Judd

In view of the increasing speculation, when will we have a statement on the present discussions between the Government and the Rhodesian régime and the Centre Party in Rhodesia?

Mr. Peart

That is an important matter. I will convey my hon. Friend's views to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Peyton

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to make any forecast about the further progress of the Post Office Bill, to which his hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has been making notable contributions? Will it be another Parliament (No. 2) Bill?

Mr. Peart

I hope that, with the hon. Gentleman's co-operation and that of all other hon. Members, we can get it through sensibly.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

When will we discuss the Hunt proposals and the Government's recommendations upon them?

Mr. Peart

I have not announced it for next week.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to Motion No. 267, which is concerned with the right of reply by the S.N.P. and Plaid Cymru to the last Labour Party broadcast, which gave three times as much time to attacking these two parties as we get in a year to put our policies before the people?

[That this House notes that the Labour Party's political broadcast of 9th April, which was televised on all frequencies in England, Scotland and Wales, was devoted to misrepresenting and caricaturing the policies of Plaid Cywru and the Scottish National Party and to attacking the caricatures of policy it had invented; while understanding that this dishonest procedure was motivated by fear of the growing strength of the two national parties, deplores the fact that the quarter of an hour given to it is three times as great a period, as the total annual allocation of time allowed on television to the Welsh and Scots parties, which have five minutes a year in Wales and Scotland and no time at all on the English channels; calls upon the leaders of the two major English parties, whose collusion is responsible for this situation, to be fair enough to require the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Television Authority to grant Plaid Cywru and the Scottish National Party the democratic right of reply for an equal period on at least the channels which serve their two nations; and requests the party leaders to devise a pattern of party political broadcasts which will permit the Welsh and Scots parties opportunities of presenting their policies to the people of Wales and Scotland between elections and during the general election campaign comparable with those of which the English parties have enjoyed there hitherto a near-monopoly.]

May we have a debate on the whole issue of party political broadcasts, which is so important for political democracy and free speech?

Mr. Peart

I would not want to be involved with problems of Welsh nationalism next week.

Mr. Russell Kerr

In view of the continuing unrest and turmoil throughout the length and breadth of the trade union movement over the proposed Industrial Relations Bill, may we have an assurance that under no circumstances will the Bill be brought before the House next week or in any subsequent week?

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend should know that I cannot give that assurance.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Can the right hon. Gentleman say definitely that the Divorce Bill is coming on tomorrow? If it is on the Order Paper tomorrow, what is the reason?

Mr. Peart

It is coming in the normal way. It is the second Order.

Sir Eric Fletcher

On the question put by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), how is it that, in the Order Book of the House, there appear about 25 Orders of the Day for tomorrow, Friday, 2nd May, but the Divorce Bill is not among them? Can my right hon. Friend explain, when about 25 Private Members' Bills have been printed in the Order Book and the Divorce Bill is not among them, by what procedure it is apparently announced now, for the first time, to the House that the Bill will be the second Order of the Day?

Mr. Peart

I gave an answer. I am sure that there has been no manœuvre. This is the normal procedure.

Dame Irene Ward

I do not understand what the right hon. Gentleman is saying about the Divorce Bill being taken tomorrow, because if it does not appear in the list, as the right hon. Member for Islington, East (Sir Eric Fletcher) said, is it fair to the House to insert a Bill—whether it has a right to be there or not—without giving the House due notice that it is to come on tomorrow?

May I say right now that, if the House is to be treated in this way by the right hon. Gentleman, I shall have to make another protest?

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for warning me.

Hon. Members


Mr. Peart

The simple fact is that a Bill which has reached, say, Report stage and later stages takes precedence over those which are to be given a Second Reading.

Hon. Members


Mr. Lubbock

In view of the fact that objections are being made to the setting-up of the Committee on Members' business interests, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a debate on this subject next week?

Also, has the right hon. Gentleman given any thought to the arrangement for sending any part of the Finance Bill upstairs? For the convenience of the House, could he announce these now?

Mr. Peart

As I said last week, part of the Finance Bill will be taken upstairs and, by agreement, we will have major debates on the Floor of the House. I gave the four subjects for those debates—personal direct taxation, S.E.T., the Betterment Levy and Purchase Tax. The minutiae will be taken upstairs.

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's first question is, "Yes". In view of what has happened, it will inevitably have to be debated.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend at last find time for my Motion relating to the uneven spread of trade, industry, commerce and employment throughout Scotland, to the neglect of the North of Scotland?

[That this House, realising the uneven distribution of trade, industry, commerce, and employment in Scotland which are mainly concentrated in the South of Scotland, calls on the Government to make better use of modern scientific methods which are now available in this technological age, in order to improve national and external facilities and communications throughout Scotland and in order to attract to and establish in North, North-East and North-West Scotland more industries and employment than at present exist there for the benefit of Scotland's internal prosperity and exports particularly to northern parts of Europe and America in relation to which Scotland stands geographically in an especially favourable position.]

Mr. Peart

My hon. and learned Friend presses me often on this and I admire him for his persistence and his desire to protect a region, but not next week.

Mr. Farr

When will the House be able to have a full debate on the metric system? Apparently the country is on a course towards total decimalisation, with no discussion taking place and no decision having been reached in the House.

Mr. Peart

This is an important matter and, naturally, it will have to be reviewed, but not next week, I think.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the taking of the Divorce Bill without notice merely arises from printing difficulties, or does he say that this is a proper and normal procedure? If the latter, what is the point of printing these Measures on the Order Paper if they bear no relation to the time at which they are to be debated?

Mr. Peart

What I said was that this was the procedure, as I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows.

Mr. Deedes

Can the right hon. Gentleman help us by saying under what Standing Order the Divorce Bill automatically secures second place for its remaining stages tomorrow?

Mr. Peart

Certainly, Sir. Standing Order No. 5(3). I assume that all hon. Members have read it, so I will not read it out.

Mr. Luard

In view of the speculation about the Government's voting intentions on Greek membership of the Council of Europe and the fact that a decision will have to be taken next week, will there be an opportunity to debate this matter before that decision is taken?

Mr. Peart

I cannot say that. It is not customary for a Minister to declare his attitude on this before the Council of Ministers meets, but my right hon. Friend is well aware of the importance of the issue.

Sir F. Bennett

During the Prime Minister's Answers today, he made several references to the importance of the latest series of talks between the I.M.F. and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When will we have a statement about the result of these talks? Can the right hon. Gentleman promise firmly that in any case it will be before the Second Reading of the Finance Bill next week?

Mr. Peart

I cannot say specifically when, but I will convey the hon. Member's strong views to my right hon. Friend when he returns.

Mr. Hastings

In view of the wide interest in the House in the Divorce Bill and the lamentable lack of notice given to hon. Members, would the right hon. Gentleman ask the sponsors of the Bill if they would be prepared, in the circumstances, to defer the Measure?

Mr. Peart

That is entirely a matter for the sponsors of the Bill.

Mr. Iremonger

Is the right hon. Gentleman able to find time for the House to debate my Early Day Motion, accepted by the Table last night, on local authority valuation practice?

[That this House takes note of the obiter dicta of two Lords Justices in the Court of Appeal in the case of Young v. Greater London Council and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to institute an inquiry into the valuation of the private property in issue, which was compulsorily purchased by the London County C'ouncll.]

Mr. Peart

I cannot promise a debate next week, but I have noted the lion. Gentleman's remarks.

Mr. Younger

Is the Leader of the House aware that taking the Education (Scotland) Bill next Wednesday afternoon will mean that that debate and the deliberations of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs will be taking place at the same time? Since the same specialist Members must take part in both of those deliberations, would the right hon Gentleman see whether this difficulty can be overcome?

Mr. Peart

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. The Chairman of the Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) has made representations on this issue and I will look carefully into them.