HC Deb 27 November 1969 vol 792 cc617-28
Mr. Heath

Would the Leader of the House please 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, 1ST DECEMBER—Private Members' Motions until seven o'clock.

Remaining stages of the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill.

TUESDAY, 2ND DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Merchant Shipping Bill.

Remaining stages of the Insolvency Services (Accounting and Investment Bill and of the Valuation for Rating (Scotland) Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 3RD DECEMBER—Supply [3rd Allotted Day]:

Debate on the Government's Broadcasting Policy, which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

Prayer on the Transfer of Functions (Monopolies, Mergers and Restrictive Trade Practices) Order.

THURSDAY, 4TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Gas Bill.

Motion on the Police Pensions (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations.

FRIDAY, 5TH DECEMBER—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 8TH DECEMBER—Debate on Foreign Affairs, which will be continued on Tuesday, 9th December, the 4th Allotted Supply Day.

Mr. Heath

Can the right hon. Gentleman now tell us when the next White Paper on pensions will be published, and, also, give the House a clear indication of when we are to have a debate, before the Bill?

Mr. Peart

I thought that the right hon. Gentleman, quite rightly, would raise this. It is hoped to introduce the Bill soon. In addition, there will be an Explanatory Memorandum in the form of a White Paper, which is not unusual with Bills of this sort. It is further proposed that there should be a White Paper on the actuarial background.

I see little prospect of Government time for a preliminary debate before the Second Reading of the Bill.

Mr. Heath

I must tell the Leader of the House that this is just not good enough. In answer to a question by me, on 6th November, the Prime Minister told the House that there was some desire for a debate and that he thought that that was the right way to deal with the matter. That was on the White Paper. The Leader of the House, during business questions directly afterwards, gave a similar assurance when he said that this was the desire of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and that he would, therefore, look into it.

This is a clear assurance that the Leader of the House would give the House time for a debate on the White Paper before the Bill. What we are now faced with is that the Secretary of State stated in a speech on 23rd November that he would publish the Bill in 10 day's time. That takes us to about 3rd December or 4th December. The House must have a debate on these White Papers before the Bill is published.

Mr. Peart

I have looked into this. If the Opposition had really felt so strongly about this they could have chosen today's Supply day.

Mr. Heath

I must press the right hon. Gentleman. There are three Government White Papers published here, and the Government are to publish a Bill. They are treating the House with the utmost contempt unless the House is allowed to express its considered views on these White Papers before the Government publish the Bill. The Opposition have already given a lot of time for Government business. The Leader of the House knows this full well. We are giving a day for the debate on foreign affairs and he knows, too, the arrangements, on another matter for which we are giving a day. It is the Government's job to provide time for debate.

Mr. Peart

I accept that the Opposition are providing a day for foreign affairs and broadcasting. But in view of Government business up to Christmas, I cannot possibly accede to the right hon. Gentleman's request.

Dr. Summerskill

Would my right hon. Friend find time for an urgent debate on the subject of nurses' pay and would he please not say "Next week". or that he takes note?

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend presses me, but I must say "Not next week".

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I would remind the House that there is a lot of business ahead.

Mr. Fortescue

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the last White Paper on pensions is one of the most complex and difficult documents ever put before the House? Is he aware that it would be scandalous if we had to debate that at the same time as the Second Reading of the Bill?

Mr. Peart

I am aware that it is a complex matter. This is why we are having more White Papers.

Mr. John Mendelson

Will my right hon. Friend accept that there will be general appreciation of the quick arrangements for a two-day foreign affairs debate? Will he reaffirm his early assurance to the House that one day will be devoted entirely to the subject of Vietnam and that there will be a separate debate, on the other day, on Nigeria, so that we can have debates dealing with one important matter at a time, instead of hopping from one end of the globe to the other?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of my hon. Friend's view. I will look carefully into the question of how the debate should proceed. Technically, any Member can raise any matter connected with foreign affairs, but it may be convenient if we have an emphasis on one day on a particular subject.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

May I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to Motion No. 34:

[That the letter from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Mr. Speaker concerning relations between the House, the Treasury and the Civil Service, laid before the Select Committee on the House of Commons (Services) in the last session of Parliament, and not reported to the House, be laid before the House.]

This stands in my name, and the names of 79 hon. Members on both sides of the House. May I ask him how soon the House will have some opportunity of appreciating the Treasury's understanding of our proper place in its scheme of things?

Mr. Peart

I have seen the Motion in question, dealing with House of Commons services, but I cannot promise a debate. I will consider it with my colleagues on the Services Committee.

Mr. Orme

Would my right hon. Friend arrange for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to make a Statement next week about teachers' pay and the necessity for negotiations to take place following the breakdown of the Burnham procedure? In view of the fact that strikes are going on throughout the country—I believe that the teachers have a genuine case—should not this matter be discussed by the Government?

Mr. Peart

I will call my hon. Friend's views to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his refusal to have a separate debate on the abatement White Paper prior to the introduction to the National Superannuation Bill makes a mockery of both the Prime Minister's and Secretary of State's statements that they would like to hear the view of the House before coming to a final conclusion on a matter which is vital to the occupational schemes?

Mr. Peart

I cannot add to what I said earlier on this subject.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Does my hon. Friend realise that while many of us are glad that a debate on broadcasting is to take place next week it will be taking place in Opposition time? Is he also aware that when "Broadcasting in the 'Seventies" was discussed at the end of last Session that, too, took place in Opposition time? Is he further aware that when the Government statement was made, that occurred during the Recess, which means that in the whole of this Parliament there has not been a debate on broadcasting at the initiative of the Government, this at a time when profound changes have been taking place? Is not this a sad state of affairs?

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend has made his point. The Government's broadcasting policy will be debated, when I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to make his views known on that occasion.

Dane Irene Ward

If the Government do not provide time for the House to debate the pensions White Papers and if it is decided to have a Motion of censure on the Government over this matter, would the right hon. Gentleman consider it proper to give an assurance that the Bill will not be published until the debate on the Motion of censure has taken place? That may enable us to know where we stand.

Mr. Peart

I cannot indulge in Opposition hypothetics.

Mr. W. Baxter

Would my right hon. Friend allocate time to discuss the very important question of agriculture? While this will not be popular with hon. Gentlemen opposite, is my right hon. Friend aware that such a debate should take place, because the Opposition have no policy in connection with this important subject? Further—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot debate the merits of the case at this stage. He may only ask for time to debate the subject.

Mr. Peart

If my hon. Friend, who I know is deeply interested in farming, manages to encourage the Opposition to allot a Supply day for a debate on this subject, we will be interested to know why they have changed their policy in this matter.

Mr. Fisher

For the information of the House, would the right hon. Gentleman say whether the subjects suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) for the foreign affairs debate will be subjects for debate, and, if so, on which of the two days they will arise?

Mr. Peart

I cannot say that at this stage. I said that I would examine the matter.

Mr. Manuel

Would my right hon. Friend consider giving time to enable the House to debate the astonishing change that has occurred in the Opposition's agricultural policy? Is he aware that such a debate is urgent, because it has been the biggest change of policy that I can recall in my time in the House?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is unwittingly drifting into the merits of the case.

Mr. Peart

I cannot find time for such a debate next week, though I agree that it would be a suitable subject.

Dame Joan Vickers

In view of the importance of the Seebohm Report, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to ensure that a statement, a White Paper, or a debate on the subject takes place in the very near future and certainly before local authorities take their own line in the matter, which would be regrettable?

Mr. Peart

I will see that the hon. Lady's views are known in the right quarter.

Mr. Dickens

When is it hoped to make a statement about the implementation of the Sixth Report on House of Commons services?

Mr. Peart

I had hoped to make such a statement this week, but I am still having consultations on the subject.

Mr. Peyton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answer to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward)—in which he said that he could not indulge in what he called "Opposition hypothetics" —deserves full marks for originality if not for intelligibility?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will now come to his business question?

Mr. Peyton

Is the Leader of the House really satisfied that the questions which have been addressed to him calling for a debate on the pensions White Paper have received answers from him which are in any way worthy of the position he occupies?

An Hon. Member


Mr. Speaker


Mr. Peart

I suggest that, in his usual way, the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) is adopting an offensive manner.

Mr. Spriggs

Has my right hon. Friend seen the Motion on nurses' pay, to which reference has already been made, signed by a large number of hon. Members? Will he reconsider the reply which he gave earlier on this subject?

Mr. Peart

I said that I had noted it and that I would make representations to my right hon. Friend. A debate on the subject cannot take place next week.

Sir E. Boyle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it would have seemed inconceivable at any earlier stage in our parliamentary history that the Government would not make time available for a debate on White Papers on the national superannuation scheme before the appearance of the scheme? Has not the purpose of White Papers always been, throughout our history, to elicit information in a wide national debate, including a debate in this House, before legislation is introduced?

Mr. Peart

The right hon. Gentleman has made his point—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—but I cannot add to what I said earlier on the subject.

Mr. William Hamilton

In view of the indecisive vote which occurred last Friday on the question of televising the proceedings of the House, would my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will provide Government time for the subject to be debated in the middle of the week—if not next week, then some time in the very near future?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give that assurance.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Reverting to the question of the two-day foreign affairs debate, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is vitally important that it should be divided into sections rather than there being a general tour of the world? Will he seriously consider having a part of the time available for debating the Nigerian war, a subject which moves many hon. Members on both sides of the House?

Mr. Peart

I will consider that. Indeed, that is why I said earlier that I would consider the matter.

Mr. Parker

On a point of order—

Mr. Speaker

Not for a long time yet.

Mr. Tuck

May I press my right hon. Friend to reconsider his reply about the need to give time, either next week or in the near future, for a consideration of the complete about-face of the Opposition's agricultural policy? The people should know of this Volte-face.

Mr. Peart

I appreciate the importance of the subject and my hon. Friend is right to mention it. It is, of course, a matter for the Opposition. I would be interested to hear the comments of hon. Gentlemen opposite on the subject.

Lord Balniel

When the right hon. Gentleman said that a debate on pensions and the Government's White Paper should take place not in Government time but on an Opposition Supply day, was he really saying that we should not trust the Government's word when they say that they will provide time to debate a certain subject?

Mr. Peart

I cannot add to what I said earlier on the subject.

Mr. Chapman

Will the promised second debate on procedure take place before Christmas?

Mr. Peart

I cannot promise, but I hope that it will occur at an early date.

Sir D. Renton

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall saying, this time last week, that he would consider providing time for a debate on the Beeching Report before legislation based on it was introduced into either House? Is he aware that since last Thursday there has been introduced into another place the Administration of Justice Bill [Lords], at least one Clause of which enables the Beeching proposals to be implemented, certainly to an extent? Will he therefore please grant time as soon as possible to discuss this very vital report?

Mr. Peart

I will consider the right hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks, but I am somewhat pressed for time before Christmas.

Mr. Ron Lewis

When are we likely to discuss the report on youth and community work in the 'seventies?

Mr. Peart

Not next week.

Mr. Farr

When is the Government White Paper on the Common Market likely to be produced? Will the House have an opportunity to discuss it before fresh negotiations are commenced?

Mr. Peart

I would not have thought that that would occur next week, or before Christmas. I agree, however, that before any decision is taken, the information which has been promised should be made available.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

May I once more bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Motion on the Order Paper on civil air transport licensing, standing in my name and the names of at least 70 of my hon. Friends, and ask him to provide time for a full debate on it before the Christmas Recess?

[That this House protests most strongly against any suggestion that a second British carrier should compete against the British Overseas Airways Corporation on the North Atlantic route; and calls upon the President of the Board of Trade to give an immediate and definite direction to any proposed civil aviation authority that new and independent operators should not be allowed to endanger the financial viability of the nationalised corporations on either domestic or international routes.]

Mr. Peart

I cannot give an assurance on that.

Mr. Emery

Will the Leader of the House press the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity to produce a White Paper on prices and incomes next week, or if not, to make a statement, because many industries are negotiating wage increases which are to start on 1st January for the whole of next year and if Government policy is not known, as usual, it will be too late?

Mr. Peart

At the appropriate time my right hon. Friend will introduce a White Paper.

Mr. Peter M. Jackson

May I press my right hon. Friend about the reply he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens)? He stated that he was undertaking further consultations. Can he tell the House when he expects to have completed them and will be making a statement on House of Commons services?

Mr. Peart


Sir Hannar Nicholls

Quite apart from feelings expressed on this side of the House, is the Leader of the House not aware of the embarrassment felt by hon. Members behind him as he is not allowing for a debate on the White Papers on pensions? Is it not clear that he and the Prime Minister are going back on their word and perverting the proceedings of Parliament? Is he aware that if he will not do this, we shall have to urge our Leader to put down a Motion of censure?

Mr. Peart

I am rather surprised at the extravagant language used by the hon. Member. I cannot add to what I said earlier.

Mr. Swain

Will my right hon. Friend discuss with his right hon. Friend the Minister responsible for power—whoever he may be this week; I do not know—the possibility of an early debate on the coal industry?

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend has been away for a few days.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Select Committee on Science and Technology published a report on 7th May and that we still have not had the Government's reply? This must make the people wonder whether the Government are in turmoil about a correct reply. How much longer are we to wait as it is more than six months since this very important report was published?

Mr. Peart

I accept that and will make representations.

Mr. David Howell

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted the report from the Estimates Committee on serious overloading in the Inland Revenue Department due to the Government's tax reforms? Will he arrange for an early debate on this very important subject?

Mr. Peart

I have noted that and I have had many representations on it which I will consider.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

What has happened to the Bill to implement the proposals of the Phelps Brown Committee, which was needed urgently so many months ago?

Mr. Peart

It will be produced next week.

Mr. George Jeger

Does the Leader of the House recall the Foreign Secretary saying that at the conclusion of his talks with the Ambassador from Madrid, the Governor of Gibraltar and Ministers of Gibraltar, a statement would be made to this House? Will he ask the Foreign Secretary whether the statement can be made during the two days debate on foreign affairs so as to give us a chance to voice our views upon it?

Mr. Peart

I think that that request is reasonable. I will convey it to my right hon. Friend and ask him if he can make a statement during the debate.

Mr. Heath

I must once again press the Leader of the House to give time to debate the White Paper on pensions. The Prime Minister gave his word that there would be a debate and the Leader of the House confirmed this. He said that he could not state the precise date, but he confirmed it. Not only is he breaking his word, but he is breaking the Prime Minister's word.

The Secretary of State has quite rightly had discussions with all outside bodies concerned before publishing the Bill, and the only people who have not been able to express a view are us in the House of Commons. This is absolutely lamentable. Will he carry out his duty and give the House an opportunity of discussing this important proposal, which will affect millions of people?

Mr. Peart

I have said that there is no possibility of a debate before Christmas—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—because of pressure of business. But I am always prepared to consider a situation and I will give an assurance that I shall consider the point so emphasised by the Leader of the Opposition. I cannot go beyond that.