HC Deb 08 May 1969 vol 783 cc661-72
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, 12TH MAY—Remaining stages of the Post Office Bill.

Motions relating to the Fertilisers (United Kingdom) Scheme and the Ploughing Grants Schemes.

TUESDAY, 13TH MAY and WEDNESDAY, 14TH MAY—Committee stage of the Finance Bill.

THURSDAY, 15TH MAY—Supply (19th Allotted Day): Until about seven o'clock, an Opposition Motion on the Failure of the Government's Housing Programme.

Afterwards, National Insurance Contributions, also on an Opposition Motion.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Immigration Appeals Bill.

FRIDAY, 16TH MAY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 19TH MAY—Remaining stages of the Transport (London) Bill.

Motions on the Import Duties (Temporary Exemptions) (No. 3) Order, the Police Pensions (Amendment) Regulations, the Pneumoconiosis, Byssinosis and Miscellaneous Diseases Benefit Scheme, and on the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) (Amendment) Order.

If the progress of business allows, it is hoped to rise for the Whitsun Adjournment on Friday, 23rd May until Monday, 9th June.

Mr. Heath

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions? First, he has announced two days for the Committee stage of the Finance Bill next week. Can he tell us that additional copies of the Finance Bill will be available, by whatever means he has arranged, otherwise we shall come to the situation which I described yesterday, in which the House will not be able to proceed with its business.

Second, can the right hon. Gentleman say specifically when the Industrial Relations Bill will be published? Will he recognise that whatever date that is, there must be a proper interval between publication date and Second Reading while the House is sitting so that hon. Members can come together to discuss it if they wish. An interval only of the Whitsun Recess will not be satisfactory.

Mr. Peart

The right hon. Gentleman quite rightly referred to the first matter when questioning me yesterday. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary will be making a statement immediately after business questions about the strike and its effect on the Stationery Office.

Master copies of the Clauses and Schedules of the Finance Bill itself have been printed. These will be available by tonight to all hon. Members. Other Bills have also been printed and I am making further arrangements. I am doing all I can. The Deliverer of the Vote is confident that he can meet the needs of the House.

I cannot say any more than I said last week about the date of publication of the Industrial Relations Bill. It is hoped to have it before Whitsun. I understand the point which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman and I will bear it in mind.

Mr. John Mendelson

Referring to pressure on my right hon. Friend to publish the Industrial Relations Bill, does he recall that the week before last, in reply to a question that I put to him he said that he was aware that further consultations were needed with the General Council of the T.U.C. As one meeting will take place on Monday, is it not likely that further meetings will be necessary? Surely this is a serious enough matter not to be hurried. Will my right hon. Friend therefore give an assurance that the Government will reconsider the publication date and postpone it until after the Whitsun Recess, so that there will be plenty of time for these serious negotiations?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give a specific assurance to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Mendelson

Will my right hon. Friend consider it?

Mr. Peart

I will consider it, but I cannot give a specific assurance.

Mr. Sharples

Now that it has been confirmed that the Home Secretary received the Report of the Boundary Commission on 21st April, may I ask whether the Leader of the House can confirm that it is the Government's intention to follow precedent and that the necessary Orders will be laid before Whitsun?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman knows that two further reports, affecting two other parts of the United Kingdom, are not yet available. We must wait until they are.

Mr. Rankin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a promise was given that time would be provided for a debate on certain airport navigational charges? Has that been done?

Mr. Peart

Time cannot be provided next week.

Mr. Hirst

The Leader of the House has said that in the circumstances the Clauses and Schedules of the Finance Bill, limited though they be, to be discussed on the Floor of the House will be available tonight. Will he be more specific? It is important that hon. Members should have copies before, at any rate, ten o'clock. Otherwise, many of us will have departed to our constituencies. At the moment, there is only one copy in the Library which we have to queue to see.

Mr. Peart

There will be more than ample copies for all hon. Members.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Has the Leader of the House seen Motion No. 295,

[That this House congratulates the Prime Minister on his political honesty and courage in resigning from the Labour Government as a protest against the introduction of charges on the National Health Service, supports the remarks which he made on his resignation, in 1951, when he then said, inter-alia: 'The principle of the free health service has been breached, and I dread to think how the breach might be widened in future years'; and deeply regrets that he should have assisted in widening the breach, in the principle of the free health service, by the Government's recently announced 25 per cent. increase in certain health charges.]

Will he arrange for the Motion to be debated, because it is good to have a Motion like that, congratulating the Prime Minister?

Mr. Peart

I know that my hon. Friend is anxious to commit me, but it cannot be debated next week.

Mr. Hirst

On a point of order. I do not think that the Leader of the House heard my question. He said that copies would be available. I asked by what time?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman heard it and answered it.

Mr. Peart

I am sorry. Before the sitting finishes tonight.

Dame Irene Ward

On the Hunt Committee's Report, may we have an assurance that we will know more about where the £20 million is to come from before the House rises for the Whitsun Recess? If the right hon. Gentleman will not give us that information, may I ask whether we could have a debate on it? If the Government decide on £20 million, they cannot do so without knowing where it is to come from. Everyone in the development areas, particularly on the North-East Coast, wants to be assured that nothing is to be taken from the areas which really require assistance.

Mr. Peart

I do not think that I can give a specific promise for next week.

Dame Irene Ward

No, but I wanted—

Mr. Speaker

Order. One bite is enough for each Member during business questions.

Mr. Pavitt

It will be surprising if the Leader of the House has not noticed Motion No. 296—

[That this House recalls the decisions of successive Annual Conferences of the Labour Party, believes in the principle that service to the sick and disabled should be provided by the community free of charge at the time of need, and therefore calls upon Her Majesty's Government to restore this principle to the National Health Service and withdraw the proposed increase of charges for spectacle lenses and for dentures.]

If my right hon. Friend cannot find time next week to debate it, may I ask whether he can give an assurance that we will do so before any Statutory Instrument is laid?

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend obviously knows that changes could not be made without Statutory Instruments being laid before the House, which provide an opportunity for debate.

Mr. Clegg

May I ask the Leader of the House whether, during the coming week, we are likely to have any more interesting statements from the Secretary of State for Social Services?

Mr. Peart

I should hope not. [Laughter.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must not drift into the merits at business time.

Mr. Roebuck

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is some time since the House had an opportunity of debating the work of the Ministry of Technology, which is one of the great success stories of the Government? Will he arrange the business for next week so that we can tell the public the facts?

Mr. Peart

I cannot rearrange the business, even though it would be an interesting debate.

Mr. John Hall

May I draw to the attention of the Leader of the House Motion No. 285?

[That this House, recalling with approval the pledge given on 28th May 1963 by the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, that grammar schools would be abolished 'only over my dead body' and observing the lack of consideration shown for his Leader's wellbeing by the Secretary of State for Education and Science in pursuing his vendetta against the grammar schools, urges the Prime Minister to make it clear that he intends to honour his word.]

This is attracting considerable support and attention from both sides of the House. It draws attention to the sinister attempt by the Secretary of State for Education and Science to face his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister with two dreadful alternatives, one to honour the pledge to maintain grammar schools and the other to impose on the nation the cost of a State funeral. In view of—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must not drift into the merits of what he wishes to have debated.

Mr. Hall

I was about to say that in view of the appalling difficulty of these two alternatives facing the nation in deciding which is best, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to arrange an early debate?

Mr. Peart

As I said last week, I find this argument extremely interesting, but it cannot be debated next week.

Dr. Gray

What has happened to the promise to give time to the Divorce Bill? Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that time will be found for it to be put through all its stages in the House before the Whitsun Recess?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give that assurance.

Mr. Wilkins

On a point of order. When was this promise made? We would like to be acqainted with it.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is responsible for what is in his own question. I am not discussing it. The right hon. Gentleman has answered it.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Since the Leader of the House—

Sir Harmar Nicholls

On a point of order.

Mr. Tinn

On a point of order. I believe that inadvertently the Leader of the House did not answer my hon. Friend's question.

Mr. Peart

We must see how the Divorce Bill goes before any decision is made about time.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Since the Leader of the House will doubtless have been made aware of the depressing contrast between the publication of the annual report of the Port of London Authority today and that of the Port of Rotterdam yesterday, and since he will further be aware that it is only deep sea British shipowners who may not bring containers into Britain, may I ask how soon the House will have a chance of debating what is fast amounting to a scandalous national situation?

Mr. Peart

I accept the seriousness of this matter. I think that I once made some remarks about it to the House. But I cannot alter the business for next week.

Mr. Hazell

Will the Leader of the House say when time is likely to be found to discuss the Report of the Select Committee on Agriculture?

Mr. Peart

Again, much as I have a deep interest in this matter, I cannot find time for it next week.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

May I ask a question relating to the next 24 hours? In view of the precarious state of certain foreign exchange markets at the moment, will the Leader of the House say whether there is any likelihood in the next 24 hours of the Chancellor of the Exchequer having to make any statement, bearing in mind the difficulty that we had in obtaining a statement from him the last time certain markets had to be closed?

Mr. Peart

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press me on this point, for obvious reasons.

Mr. C. Pannell

As the Leader of the House has not announced that we will be debating the Report of the Select Committee on Privilege next week, and that it will probably not be taken before the Whitsun Recess, can he hold out any hope that it will be taken either in this Session or in this Parliament?

Mr. Peart

I want a debate this Session on this important Report. It should be considered by the House and it will be taken.

Mr. Younger

As the Government had to abandon the Education (Scotland) Bill last night because there were not sufficient Members present from their side to carry it through, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman why it is not down for next week's business? Will he say when it is coming?

Mr. Peart

I cannot say precisely, but it will come.

Mr. Ogden

As the debate on Thursday next week is to be cut short at 7 o'clock, will my right hon. Friend use his influence, not only with back benchers, but with Front Bench speakers on both sides, to keep their speeches as short as possible to enable as many hon. Members as possible to take part in the debate?

Mr. Peart

I am always anxious that that should be done, but I have no power to do it. I know that Mr. Speaker appeals to hon. Members to keep their speeches short.

Mr. Tilney

As the 50 per cent. increase in the charge for meteorological services at Liverpool and other provincial airports came into operation on 1st May, can the right hon. Gentleman say when we shall be able to debate the two Prayers on this matter?

Mr. Peart

I cannot say, but I shall convey the importance of this matter to my right hon. Friend. There will not be a debate on it next week.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

In view of the interest shown in the Hunt Committee's Report and the Government's proposals, can my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate on them in the very near future?

Mr. Peart

I think that this is an important matter which is worth discussing on the Floor of the House, and I shall convey my hon. Friend's views to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Goodhart

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to persuade the Home Secretary to make a statement next week about the Boundary Commission's Report, particularly as the Commission's proposals will have a most damaging effect on the size of the Labour vote at Huyton?

Mr. Peart

I have replied to that.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member cannot argue merits. He can ask for a debate.

Mr. Peart

I answered a similar question earlier, when I said that we were waiting for two further reports.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend find time for my meritorious Motion which seeks to improve the conditions relating to 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

I know that this is an important matter, and that my hon. and learned Friend tries very hard to keep Ministers informed about it. I shall bear it in mind, but I cannot provide time for a debate next week.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the grave anxiety and concern in thousands of Clydeside homes today over the uncertainty at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders? Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that a statement will be made next week, or soon thereafter, about a final decision?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman is right to ask about that. My right hon. Friend promised this, and I shall inform him that a statement should be made next week.

Mr. Russell Kerr

In view of the imminence of a major strike by university technicians at the Imperial College, and elsewhere throughout the country, can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be an opportunity for an emergency debate during the coming week?

Mr. Peart

I cannot say that, but I shall inform my right hon. Friend that hon. Members are interested in this, and perhaps he will keep the House informed.

Mr. Goodhew

The right hon. Gentleman gave the dates of the Whitsun Recess, but he qualified his statement with the remark that they were subject to the progress of business. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the lack of progress is due to the failure of the Government Chief Whip to keep hon. Gentlemen opposite here at night to vote for the Government? If that is so, why take it out on the rest of the House?

Mr. Peart

I am anxious that the hon. Gentleman should have a very good holiday.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that within the measurable future the House ought to have debates on Rhodesia and Nigeria?

Mr. Peart

I note what my right hon. Friend has said. Not next week, but I shall bear it in mind and inform my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that more than 11,000 qualified and experienced teachers in Scotland are today facing dismissal, and that if these dismissals are proceeded with the entire education system in Scotland could be disrupted? Will he therefore ensure that the Secretary of State for Scotland makes a statement to the House urgently on the question of re-registration with the General Teaching Council?

Mr. Peart

I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's point of view to the attention of my right hon. Friend immediately.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

If the dates for the Whitsun Recess are conditional on progress made with Government business, including the remaining stages of the Post Office Bill, will my right hon. Friend encourage my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) to start his Whitsun Recess from Monday?

Mr. Waddington

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when, if ever, there will be time to debate the Report of the Textile Council, bearing in mind, in particular, the concern felt in Lancashire as a result of the Chancellor's purchase tax proposals?

Mr. Peart

This is an important matter. I cannot say that it will be debated next week, but I shall report what has been said.

Mr. Speed

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that, unintentionally, he misled my hon. Friend when talking about the Boundary Commission? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the 1949 Act says that as soon as a Boundary Commission has reported the Home Secretary shall lay its report before the House. Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his earlier reply about a debate on Motion No. 292?

[That this House notes that the Secretary of State for the Home Department received the report of the Boundary Commission for England on 21st April and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to implement its recommendations before the next general election.]

Mr. Peart

I have given a reply, but I shall examine the matter very carefully. I thought it was reasonable to suggest that before my right hon. Friend makes a precise statement he should receive the other two reports.

Sir Knox Cunningham

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It will not be without your recollection that the Prime Minister's Question Time today lasted for 23 minutes, and that Question No. Q4 dealt with Northern Ireland. Can you say whether there was any particular reason why no Ulster Member was called to ask a supplementary question?

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Speaker has a difficult task to allocate time as between issues as between the two sides of the House. He cannot go back and examine just why he moves from a particular question. The simple fact, however, is that the Rhodesia Question came at 29 minutes past three. If we are on an important Question at that time I usually let it run over. It ran over from 29 minutes past three to about 36 minutes past three. I hope that the hon. and learned Member will understand.

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