HC Deb 06 November 1969 vol 790 cc1182-8
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, 10TH NOVEMBER.—Second Reading of the General Rate Bill.

Motion on the Restriction of Merger Order.

Consideration of a Ways and Means Resolution relating to Import Deposits.

TUESDAY, 11TH NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the Expiring Laws Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 12TH NOVEMBER.—Motions on the Parliamentary Constituencies Orders relating to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

THURSDAY, 13TH NOVEMBER.—Motions on the Army Act, 1955 and the Air Force Act, 1955 (Continuation) Orders.

FRIDAY, 14TH NOVEMBER.—Second Reading of the Transport (London) Amendment Bill.

Motion on the Double Taxation Relief (Finland) Order.

MONDAY, 17TH NOVEMBER.—Second Reading of the Customs (Import Deposits) Bill and of the Police Bill.

Mr. Heath

The Prime Minister himself, during Questions, has emphasised that he would like a debate on the pensions White Paper. This is obviously desirable so that the Secretary of State can explain his statement of last night that small schemes will have to be cut back. Can the right hon. Gentleman say when this debate will take place?

Mr. Peart

In view of the exchanges across the Floor today, I think there is a general desire on the part of both leaders to have a debate on this subject. Of course, I will look into this. I cannot give a precise date, but through the usual channels we can have talks.

Mr. Spriggs

Has my right hon. Friend seen Motion No. 15, about profit through crime?

[That this House deplores the fact that criminals or the wives of criminals should benefit financially from the publication of their life stories from newspapers or magazines.]

Will he give the House an early opportunity of debating this matter?

Mr. Pearl

I have seen the Motion, but I cannot find time next week. I am sorry.

Mr. Grimond

Will the right hon. Gentleman look at the position of the Secretary of State for Scotland in relation to Questions? For instance, he comes to the Box once before Christmas, while the Secretary of State for Social Services comes three times. They have comparable responsibilities in a wide field, and I would be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would see whether the Secretary of State for Scotland could be allowed to answer Questions rather more frequently.

Mr. Peart

I did mention it last week. We will see how it goes for a period. I will give it careful consideration.

Mr. Palmer

As the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on defence research has been in front of the House for some months now, will my right hon. Friend consider giving time for debating this most important report?

Mr. Peart

I agree that it is important, but we have many important reports. This is a matter of finding time. Obviously, we have to find time for important business. I note what my hon. Friend has said, but I cannot say that it will be in next week's business.

Mr. Sandys

Since there are strong rumours that the publication of the Government's new Red Book on murder is a prelude to "bouncing" the House into taking a decision on the future of capital punishment before Christmas, can the Leader of the House give us an assurance that there is no intention of asking the House to take a decision on this important issue before the 1969 crime statistics are available?

Mr. Peart

The right hon. Gentleman, whose views we all know and who quite rightly puts forward a point of view which he has expressed previously, will not expect me to give an answer to that question specifically at this stage.

Mrs. Renée Short

In view of the widespread concern among staff employed in the regional offices of the B.B.C., may I ask my right hon. Friend whether there will be an opportunity for the House to debate the B.B.C.'s proposals for local and regional radio in the near future? We have not yet had a chance to do this.

Mr. Peart

This is an important matter, but I have announced the business for next week and I cannot find time next week. However, I will consider carefully the views which have been expressed.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why he was not able to give my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) the assurance that the House will not be asked to decide a matter of major importance before the full facts are available?

Mr. Peart

I am dealing with next week's business. I have carefully noted the views expressed, and will consider them, but there is no question of my announcing any "bouncing" of the House next week.

Mr. Rose

In view of the loopholes which have been opened up in the Road Safety Act, 1967, by recent legal decisions, will my right hon. Friend consult his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport with a view to laying before the House as early as possible a short amending Bill to close up these loopholes?

Mr. Peart

I will have a word about this with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Would the right hon. Gentleman indicate to the House how often we shall have an opportunity of putting Questions to the Minister of Technology, in view of the enlarged sphere of influence over which he now presides? May we have an assurance that we shall at least have an opportunity of dealing with the various subjects as often as before?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of this point ; it was raised last week by an hon. Member. I said that this was an experimental period, and that if there are any defects we can make some alterations.

Mr. Ellis

I did not hear all that was said on the last question, and I apologise if what I am about to raise has something to do with it. Will my right hon. Friend do something about our new system for Questions under which, for example, after the Ministry of Transport at Question No. 20, someone else comes in? Some of us are not sure how this will work. Is my right hon. Friend prepared to look at it again if the system does not turn out to be expeditious and in accordance with the wishes of hon. Members?

Mr. Peart

That is precisely what I said in my previous reply.

Mr. Fortescue

In speaking to his right hon. Friend about the possibility of a pensions debate, will the Leader of the House mention the desirability of issuing a simplified version of yesterday's White Paper so that the general public may have some idea of this very complicated subject, which at present they do not understand?

Mr. Peart

I agree that that is an important matter. I believe that this is to be done.

Mr. Winnick

Will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to make a statement in the House as soon as he has come to a decision about the Greek subject who is held in a British prison and who faces political persecution if he is forced back to Greece?

Mr. Peart

I thought that I might be asked that question. I shall have a word with my right hon. Friend and I shall convey my hon. Friend's views to him.

Mr. Scott

Can the House look forward to an early debate on the Report of the Pearson Commission?

Mr. Peart

Not next week.

Mr. John Mendelson

Reverting to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renee Short) concerning the B.B.C., is my right hon. Friend aware that at a large public meeting in London a fortnight or so ago great concern was expressed, and there is similar feeling in the regions? As one proposal being made is that there should be an independent public inquiry before the Corporation's proposals are implemented, there is urgency in this matter. Will my right hon. Friend allow a debate in the shortest possible time?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of the concern felt, quite rightly, by hon. Members from different parts of the country, not only London, and I realise that there is a problem here. I thought that I gave a sympathetic reply earlier.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does the Leader of the House recall that at the end of July, four months ago, he gave an undertaking in writing that he would publish early in the new Session details of revised and improved travel allowances for Members, and details of secretarial assistance for Members, since when, on the second issue, he has canvassed Members?

As we are now well into the new Session, may we expect a statement from the right hon. Gentleman next week to implement his promise on both those heads?

Mr. Peart

I agree that this is an important matter. I made a statement, I circularised hon. Members, and I have had a good response from them on this issue. I cannot say precisely when I shall be able to make a statement, but I shall try to make it as soon as possible.

Mr. Jennings

Has the Leader of the House any thoughts at all—

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter


Mr. Jennings

My pause at that point was unintentional— about allowing time for a debate on the question of sex education in schools?

Mr. Peart

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, with his long experience—in education, will have an opportunity on a suitable occasion, but not next week.

Sir T. Beamish

The Leader of the House will have seen Motion No. 13 regretting his failure to inform the House of the arrangements which he has made to ensure availability at the proper time of papers essential to the work of Parliament. Is he aware that great inconvenience is being suffered by the whole House as a result of the dispute? Will he say what steps he is taking to resolve it, and what is the nature of the dispute?

[That this House again calls upan the Leader of the House to make adequate and permanent arrangements to ensure the availability at the proper time of papers essential to the work of Parliament, and regrets his failure to comply with the request, made in Early Day Motion No. 323 of 21st May 1969, to inform the House through Mr. Speaker of the arrangements he has made.]

Mr. Peart

I am aware of that, and I made a statement on Tuesday. I should like to leave it at that at the moment. The situation seems to be a little better.

Mr. David Howell

Has the Leader of the House noticed that at no point between now and Christmas is a Minister answering first on the Civil Service Department and Civil Service Questions? Will he look at this again, in view of the growing importance—we have heard something of it today—of Civil Service Department matters? If there is to be no Minister answering, may we take it that the Prime Minister will answer Questions on the Civil Service Department?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman will recall what I said earlier about Questions and Ministerial responsibility. I shall look into the matter carefully, and I note what has been said about the Civil Service. Let us see how the present period goes.

Mr. Lane

Will the Leader of the House make a short statement himself next week to clarify precisely what is to be the rôle of the new Deputy Leader of the House?

Mr. Peart

I thought that the Prime Minister had answered a question on that.

Mr. Lubbock

Reverting to the question of the Government's White Paper on the proposed legislation for superannuation, is the Leader of the House aware that we are all receiving many letters from constituents asking us to explain the Government's proposals? The rule in the Vote Office is that one may have only one copy of a White Paper. As an exception, will the Leader of the House give instructions that Members may obtain as many copies of the White Paper as are necessary for them fully to inform their constituents?

Mr. Peart

I shall look into that, if it is for the convenience of hon. Members, and it seems that there is a need for it.