HC Deb 22 May 1969 vol 784 cc674-83
Mr. Maudling

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business of the House for the week after the Recess?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)

Yes, Sir. The business for the week after the Recess will be as follows:

MONDAY, 9TH JUNE—Remaining stages of the Children and Young Persons Bill.

TUESDAY, 10TH JUNE—Remaining stages of the Education (Scotland) Bill and of the Overseas Resources Development Bill.

Lords Amendments to the Agriculture (Spring Traps) Bill and to the Vehicles and Driving Licences Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 11TH JUNE—Second Reading of the Tanzania Bill [Lords].

Remaining stages of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Bill.

Motion on the Television Act, 1964 (Additional Payments) Order.

THURSDAY, 12TH JUNE—Supply [20th Allotted Day]:

Debate on a Motion to take note of the Sixth Report from the Estimates Committee, 1967–68, relating to Promotion of Exports, and the consequential Departmental Observations.

Afterwards, it is intended to provide an opportunity for the House to take decisions on the Divorce Reform Bill.

FRIDAY, 13TH JUNE—Private Members Bills.

Mr. Maudling

Could the Leader of the House say, first, whether the Industrial Relations Bill and the Pensions Bill will be published during the week after the Recess and, if not, when will they be published?

Secondly, the Leader of the House is aware of the difficulty over publications which is causing considerable inconvenience to hon. Members. I know that the Chief Secretary made a statement on this matter, but could the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he is doing everything possible to get over this difficulty?

Mr. Peart

Yes, on the second question, I can give the assurance. Indeed, I was pressed by the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend earlier on this matter. I was asked that even though documents are not available in printed form they should appear in an alternative form. I give that assurance.

I cannot say specifically when the Industrial Relations Bill will be published. I hope that the National Insurance Up-rating Bill will appear soon after the Recess.

Mr. James Johnson

Could the Home Secretary tell us whether there is any possibility of the Merchant Shipping Bill being introduced later this Session?

Mr. Peart

This is not among the business which we shall have when we return from the Whitsun Recess. I have on previous occasions repeated that we intend to publish the Bill this Session.

Sir L. Heald

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question about the Divorce Reform Bill? Since it would not be in order for the House to consider the Bill on 12th June unless it is Government business, would the Leader of the House confirm that the Government have now abandoned their pretence of neutrality towards the Bill?

Mr. Peart

No, the Government have not. It was felt that, in view of the interest in this matter by hon. Members on both sides, the House should come to a decision.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will the Leader of the House find time at an early date for consideration of my Motion No. 312?

[That this House congratulates British Railways, its officials and workers on their difficult and expert tasks of avoiding accidents when running trains on lines at present outmoded for the high speeds expected today; and expresses the view that those high speeds are not worth the risks to life, limb and property involved and that therefore, until the trains and railway lines are improved by modern science, they should travel at speeds commensurate with safety to be determined by experts in a scientific and humane manner.]

This deals with the out-of-date condition of many of our railway lines having regard to the high speed of trains in these days? This matter is particularly urgent bearing in mind the number of accidents as a result of high speeds on the railways.

Mr. Peart

I am well aware of my hon. and learned Friend's Motion. But I cannot find time when we return for this Motion to be debated. It is a matter for the railway authorities.

Mr. Marten

Has the Leader of the House seen Motions Nos. 298 and 306 urging the Government to make studies of the economic effect of entering the Common Market? May we have a debate on this important issue when we come back after Whitsun, in view of the developments now in Europe?

[That this House urges the Government to publish up-to-date studies showing the economic effects on Great Britain of joining the Common Market.]

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to publish up-to-date estimates similar to those contained in Command Paper No. 3274 of the economic consequences for the United Kingdom of joining the European Economic Community.]

Mr. Peart

I am aware of the anxiety of many hon. Members, even those who may not have signed the Motions. I will note the hon. Gentleman's question carefully, but I cannot promise a specific debate on the Motions.

Mr. Ogden

My right hon. Friend will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs promised a statement early after Whitsun on the areas in the North-West which are to receive special assistance following the Report of the Hunt Committee. May we have an assurance that my right hon. Friend will try to find time shortly after Whitsun for a debate on this important matter?

Mr. Peart

Yes. I replied to a question last week on this matter. In view of the week's business that I have just announced, I cannot be specific, but I note my hon. Friend's views.

Mr. R. Carr

In view of the disappointing fact that the Leader of the House still cannot give us a date for the publication of the Industrial Relations Bill, can he give us at least an assurance today that the delay in the publication of the Bill will not be made good by pressurising the House unduly over the time allowed for us to consider it, both before and during our debates on it?

Mr. Peart

I am sure that opportunities will be made available for adequate discussion when the Bill is produced.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention once more to the impending closure of S. G. Brown, at Watford? I appreciate that there was a short Adjournment debate earlier this week, but the presence of many hon. Members showed the considerable interest which has been engendered.

In view of the fact that the nation is about to lose the highly technical skills which have been built up there over the years, will my right hon. Friend consider a short debate in the near future, though not perhaps next week?

Mr. Peart

Quite rightly, my hon. Friend pressed me on this last week, when I said that the Ministers concerned were examining it and making inquiries. I confess that I had not yet read my hon. Friend's speech on the matter, but I will put his views to the Ministers concerned and stress its importance. I cannot promise a debate during the week that we return, but I will bear my hon. Friend's point in mind.

Sir G. Nabarro

Can the Leader of the House give us an assurance that, during the week that we return, he will be paying attention to the three vacant Labour seats and cause the Patronage Secretary to move the writs in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Swindon, and Birmingham, Lady-wood, all of which seats have been unoccupied for far too long?

Mr. Peart

There is nothing unusual in this. Previous Administrations have had longer periods—

Sir G. Nabarro

The right hon. Gentleman must not blame me for that.

Mr. Peart

I am not blaming the hon. Gentleman, but he supported a previous Administration.

This is a matter for the Patronage Secretary. He was present when the question was asked last week, and he knows the views of the House on it.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

In view of the urgent need to deal with the question of the use of the sea bed before it becomes a real danger to the peace of the world, will my right hon. Friend make every endeavour to arrange a debate on the subject?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of this important matter, in view of discussions in the United Nations. But I cannot find time during the week we come back.

Dr. Winstanley

Can the Leader of the House say when we are to have an opportunity to look at spectacles and chew over teeth?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman has a great interest in these matters, but he knows the Parliamentary procedure. There must be regulations. He will have to wait for a debate on them.

Mr. David Watkins

Further to the question about proceedings on the Divorce Reform Bill, is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a distinct possibility that private Members' business on Friday, 13th June, may be lost? What arrangements will he make to ensure that it is not lost for all time.

Mr. Peart

We must wait and see.

Mr. Amery

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Chancellor's Letter of Intent to the I.M.F. is likely to be published and when we shall have a chance to debate it?

Mr. Peart

I discussed this matter during the Whitsun Adjournment debate the other day, when I repeated what the Chancellor said in reply to the House. The negotiations must be concluded first.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Will my right hon. Friend bear that it is becoming the urgent duty of the House to debate Rhodesia, Biafra and the Middle East?

Mr. Peart

I am aware that these are important matters, but I cannot find time during the week that we come back.

Mr. Carlisle

Referring to the Children and Young Persons Bill, which I understand is to be the business for the first day back, may I remind the Leader of the House that, in Committee, the Government gave a great many undertakings? While I do not criticise their courtesy to date, it is important that he Amendments should be put down at a stage when we have an opportunity to consider them?

Mr. Peart

The right hon. Member who leads for the Opposition on this matter has spoken to me about it, and I have given that assurance.

Mr. Leadbitter

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind Motion No. 195, standing in my name and supported by 100 hon. Members on both sides, urging the Government to extend the powers of the Parliamentary Commissioner to include local authorities? As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said that a study is going on into this matter, can the Leader of the House promise a reasonably early statement or, better still, a debate?

[That this House is of the opinion that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration should have powers to investigate complaints against actions taken by local authorities in accordance with the procedures of section 5 of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act; and urges Her Majesty's Government to amend the Act and include local authorities in Schedule 2 to that Act.]

Mr. Peart

I cannot promise a debate. I have announced the business for the week that we return. I know that this is an important matter, and I will consider it.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

In view of the increasing number of oil spillages which are causing growing concern both in the newspapers and in the public mind, and in view of the fact that the holiday season is coming on, would the Leader of the House now reconsider his hitherto continuing refusal to arrange for a debate on the Report of the Coastal Pollution Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Science and Technology and the Government's White Paper in reply thereto?

Mr. Peart

I agree that this is an important matter, but the hon. Gentleman must appreciate that time is limited and that it is difficult to provide time for a debate on a subject in which I know he is interested. I will look carefully at this.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

Will the Leader of the House say whether the Secretary of State for Scotland is to make an announcement about when he intends to implement the Boundary Commission's proposals in Scotland?

Mr. Peart

No. I cannot say that.

Mr. Edward Lyons

In view of the uncertainty surrounding the future of local radio, will my right hon. Friend urge the Postmaster-General to make a statement during the week that we return?

Mr. Peart

I will note carefully what my hon. Friend has said. I will inform my right hon. Friend of his views, and we will see what we can do.

Mr. Longden

The Leader of the House has been asked about railway lines and the sea bed. What I believe are more important to the nation than either are marriage lines and the marriage bed—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate merit, even by punning.

Mr. Longden

Does the Leader of the House really think that he is enhancing the image of Parliament, because the Government have not the courage either to support or oppose this Bill, by providing us with a debate throughout the night on a matter which will vitally affect family life throughout the nation for all time?

Mr. Peart

I think that this is reasonable. In the circumstances, the House will have an opportunity to come to certain decisions.

Sir R. Russell

Reverting to the question asked by the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins), will the Leader of the House give us a definite assurance that, if our debates on the Divorce Reform Bill spill over right through the night, they will not replace the Business down for Friday, 13th June, when we are to consider over 40 Private Members' Bills, one of which I am sponsoring, which deserve equal treatment?

Mr. Peart

I thought that my reply was sensible in the circumstances. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We must wait and see.

Mr. Dempsey

Will the Leader of the House give us an assurance that he will not suspend discussion of the remaining stages of the Education (Scotland) Bill in order to bring on Private Business, as he did on the last occasion, which meant that hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies had to return after 10 o'clock to continue their deliberations?

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend knows what happened on the previous occasion. I hope that we shall make progress and complete the Report stage and Third Reading. Progress was made on Wednesday, 7th May. Let us hope that we can complete the remaining stages of the Bill.

Mr. Crouch

Is the Leader of the House aware that this morning the debate in the Committee on the Iron and Steel Bill was thrown into absolute confusion by the announcement of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Power yesterday on the question of steel prices, without advance notice to the House of that?

Would he give consideration to an early debate on the recommendations and Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, on the responsibilities, accountability and control of the sponsoring Ministers for those industries, because it is now 10 months since that Report was issued?

Mr. Peart

I agree that it is most important, but we must await a main reply on the attitude of the Government. While this matter is important, I cannot promise time specifically, immediately.

Mr. Maudling

I must press the Leader of the House on Private Members' Bills set down for 13th June, which is the last available day in this Session. In view of the number of Bills involved, and their importance, the Leader of the House should give a quite clear assurance to the House that they will not be allowed to lapse.

Mr. Peart

The right hon. Gentleman is pressing me upon this, but I really do believe we must see how things go.

Mr. Mikardo

Further to the question of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), my right hon. Friend says we cannot debate that Report until there is a reply from the Government, but is he aware that already Ministers have taken action arising out of that—the one quoted by the hon. Gentleman and a previous one? Are we not getting the replies by a series of unrelated facts and is not that the silliest way to reply?

Mr. Peart

I did say that I would consider this sympathetically. Select Committees are, of course, important when they make a major report of the kind that has been mentioned. I will try to find time for a debate.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will go a little further on Private Members' Bills. Can he give this assurance: that if time is lost on Friday, 13th June, thanks to the Divorce Bill running over, the Government will find another complete day for the Private Members' Bill which otherwise would be lost?

Mr. Peart

The right hon. Gentleman knows the rule, but let me look at this. I have not been dogmatic about it. I know that it is a difficult problem, but I will consider it sympathetically.

Mr. Whitaker

To safeguard Private Members' Bills, which, I believe, hon. Members on all sides of the House would like to consider, would my right hon. Friend ask the small but tightly-knit minority to mitigate their filibuster on the Divorce Reform Bill so that their arguments may be evaluated in the Division Lobby?

Mr. Speaker

We are not debating the Divorce Reform Bill at the moment.

Mr. Bruce Campbell

In view of the Government's decision to give preferential treatment to a Private Members' Bill designed to introduce compulsory divorce, a Measure to which a large section of the community is bitterly opposed, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to give similar treatment to my Private Members' Bill, which has universal support and which is designed to remedy the grave injustices suffered by some who have the misfortune to be widowed before they reach the age of 50?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give that promise.