HC Deb 16 October 1969 vol 788 cc606-13
Mr. Heath

Would 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, 20TH OCTOBER—Remaining stages of the Administration of Justice Bill [Lords.]

Consideration of the Codes of Recommendation for the Welfare of Livestock.

Prayer on the Meat Sterilisation Regulations, 1969.

TUESDAY, 21ST OCTOBER—A debate on Procedure, linked to the First and Second Reports from the Select Committee on Procedure, which it is hoped to disposed of by about eight o'clock, in order to allow longer debate on the Motion on the Minister of Technology Order, 1969, which is to follow.

Consideration of any Lords Amendments which may be received to Government Bills.

WEDNESDAY, 22ND OCTOBER—The House will meet at 2.30 p.m. for Prorogation.

In respect of tomorrow's business, it is proposed to add at the end, consideration of the Lords Amendment to the Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Bill.

Mr. Heath

Is the Leader of the House aware that it is unsatisfactory to take the Ministry of Technology Order as the second business on Tuesday? Obviously, the changes in the Ministry are of great importance. Could not the order of the relevant debates be reversed so that we might take the debate on procedure after the Transfer of Functions Order?

Mr. Peart

I thought that if we had a short debate on procedure I would open the debate—and I assure the House that I will be brief. I believe that the time which has been allocated for the Order is quite satisfactory. I have looked at the precedents and feel that we have provided adequate time.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I would point out that there is an important debate ahead. I hope that we will restrict our natural desire to ask business questions.

Dame Irene Ward

Can the Leader of the House say when we are likely to have an announcement about the duties of the Paymaster-General and, indeed, about who is to be Paymaster-General? It may be that it will be made in the procedure debate, but it is rather important to know.

Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman say what is to happen to my two Motions on the Order Paper?

[That this House, noting the Prime Minister's answer to the hon. Member for Tynemouth on 13th March saying that nothing would give him personally more pleasure than that she should have a hand in arranging his visit in July, urges him to hold a conference with the responsible authorities on the declining position of the port of the Tyne with a view to ensuring fair treatment for the Tyne compared with Teesside; to examine the continuing unemployment on Tyneside and in Smith's Docks; in particular, to arrange the necessary finance for a new additional dry dock to take the type of large tanker recently launched by H.R.H. Princess Anne; to drive down the new coast road of Newcastle-on-Tyne to Tynemouth and observe the advantage of the new road built by Wimpey for Tynemouth and opened over three years ago and compare it both financially and in time taken by the use of direct labour by Newcastleon-Tyne and Wallsend compared with private enterprise; to ponder on the difficulties experienced in the efficient running of the Newcastle Central Station after the amalgamation of the Great Northern and Great Eastern Railways had resulted in headquarter control from York instead of Newcastle-on-Tyne; to visit Tynemouth to see how the beauty of this old place would be spoilt by the coal distribution depot suggested by British Railways; to examine the had effects the selective employment tax is having on Whitley Bay and Tynemouth; and to redeem his pleasant reference to the hon. Member's request to assist in planning his programme by inviting her to show him the disturbing problems which have to be solved for a prosperous Tyneside.]

[That, in the opinion of this House, the failure of the Treasury, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Security as well as the Home Office to co-ordinate the affairs of a woman constituent of the hon. Member for Tyne-mouth has resulted in what amounts to persecution by the Treasury and the unnecessary forced payment by Social Security at the taxpayers' expense to the hon. Member's constituent, and that this House requires a senior civil servant with power to ensure justice to a woman who has divorced her husband to deal with the case.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. One business question from one hon. Member.

Mr. Peart

On the first matter, that is not the business for next week.

I have looked at the Motions in the hon. Lady's name. But we cannot debate them next week.

Mr. Ellis

On Monday's debate, on the Brambell Report, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that this is a very difficult matter which to some extent involves the consciences of individual hon. Members? In view of that, would he consider making representations to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that hon. Members should be allowed a free vote on this important issue?

Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that, in the formation of Amendments that we are allowed to table, many of us would like to be able to get round the procedure in some way so as to bring up the standards to what is recommended in that Report?

Mr. Peart

I know that many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend, have consciences about livestock and many other matters. But, after all, this is a recommendation flowing from the Brambell Committee, which I personally looked into in my former Ministerial post. I believe that the record of our farmers and the Ministry on this is an example to the world. I hope that my hon. Friend and other hon. Members will carefully weigh the speeches in the debate. But there could not be a free vote.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Is the Leader of the House aware that some confusion has arisen from yesterday's Questions to the Secretary of State for Defence? On three occasions, he misled us in his Answers about the exercise to be held in Malaysia, about the state of our strategic reserves in this country, and about the commitment of paratroops to Northern Ireland. Could the Leader of the House make sure that the position is cleared up by a statement from his right hon. Friend before we rise on Wednesday?

Mr. Peart

I am sure that my right hon. Friend would not deliberately mislead the House. I will look into tins and have a word with him. I will contact the hon. Gentleman immediately afterwards.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will resist the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition about reversing the order of business on Tuesday? Many of us regard the debate on procedure as extremely important. Will my right hon. Friend assure us that the debate will be wide enough to cover all aspects of the two Reports in question?

Mr. Peart

I agree that: this Report is important. It is a very good one. I hope to provide time later in the new Session on this subject, because I think that we shall have to come back to it. I will introduce on Tuesday recommendations touching on only a part of the Report. Let us hope that we have a brief debate.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what the Motion before us will be on which the procedure debate is to take place?

Mr. Peart

It will be on the Order Paper in good time.

Mr. Rankin

Reverting to Monday's debate on the Brambell Report, which will take place on the codes of recommendations, my right hon. Friend has said already that there will not be a free vote, but that, like the animals, we will be kept prisoner and not allowed our freedom. Can he assure us that we will be able to discuss fully the Amendments which now plaster the Order Notice Paper and that there will be no restriction on speaking, at least?

Mr. Peart

That is a matter not for the Leader of the House, but for Mr. Speaker. It is for him to make his selection of Amendments and decide how the debate should be conducted. I think that there will be ample opportunity for hon. Members to express their points of view. The question of whipping is one for my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip.

Mr. Biffen

Does the Leader of the House hope to assure us next week that there will be sufficient copies available to hon. Members of the vitally important report by the European Commission on British membership of the Common Market, and that they will be in English and not in French as at present?

Mr. Peart

I would have thought that a document from the European Commission was not my responsibility, but I will look into the matter.

Mr. Dickens

In view of the need to attract people of high calibre to serve on local authorities, will my hon. Friend give early consideration to a debate on unpaid and under-paid public servants?

Mr. Peart

Yes, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that I am dealing with next week's business. I think that we should wait till next Session.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

As the Minister of Technology is now responsible for so many aspects of government, and the Leader of the House has taken away one of his Question days next week, will the right hon. Gentleman consider revising the rota so that his right hon. Friend is not always so submerged by agriculture on Wednesdays?

Mr. Peart

I do not know that that is exactly the case. I am advised that it is not.

Mr. Mackintosh

Will my right hon. Friend consider whether he cannot do the opposite of what the Leader of the Opposition suggests and give us more time for this procedure debate on Tuesday? Procedure deals with the whole control of public expenditure and is one of the most vital questions that the House could possibly consider. To have only two or three hours for non-Front Bench speakers on this important matter would be a great blow to hon. Members on both sides of the House.

Mr. Peart

If my hon. Friend had been listening carefully earlier, he would know that I said that next Session I hope that we shall have time in which to debate the Reports more fully.

Mr. Heath

Does the Leader of the House realise that if the House is to keep the debate on Procedure going all day on Tuesday, it is thoroughly unsatisfactory to have a major change in Government organisation and structure debated for only one and a half hours and not started until 10 o'clock at night? If the Government want their changes to be authorised early, surely the right thing to do is to take it as the first Order, with procedure being debated later, Alternatively, if they feel that procedure and the control of finance should be debated at an early date, the Transfer of Functions Order should he kept until next Session. It is not possible to have full debates on both in one day.

Mr. Peart

I have indicated my view on this. I hope that there will be a short debate on procedure. I have promised my hon. Friends that we shall have a major debate when we return.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

In view of the fact that the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications' agreement with the B.B.C. was made during the Recess and that the B.B.C. is understood to be implementing the full and disastrous consequences of its programme "Broadcasting in the Seventies", can my right hon. Friend provide time for a short debate before the end of the present Session?

Mr. Peart

No, I cannot, but I will convey my hon. Friend's views to my right hon. Friend.

Dr. Winstanley

Will next week's business include a statement about the implementation of the Services Committee's recommendations concerning hon. Members' secretaries?

Mr. Peart

No. I am still considering this and having discussions.

Mr. John Mendelson

Reverting to an earlier question concerning an English text of the European Commission's Report, is my right hon. Friend aware that it contains very serious suggestions about the future of our publicly-owned steel industry which, if accepted by the Government, would have a damaging effect and break up the cohesion of that industry? Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it is not only important for hon. Members to have an English text before them, but equally important for our constituents? There was a similar situation when the Treaty of Rome was available only in—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not go into the merits of what he is seeking.

Mr. Mendelson

Will my right hon. Friend keep in mind that the need for a translation of the Treaty of Rome was urged upon the Government by hon. Members and subsequently undertaken? Will he follow the same procedure?

Mr. Peart

I will look into this carefully and I will see that it is done, if possible. I have read this important Report with great interest. It should be read by all hon. Members.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

Will the Leader of the House confirm that next Wednesday there will be no Questions under any circumstances—not even his own Questions.

Mr. Peart

That is correct.

Mr. Peyton

The right hon. Gentleman has indicated his views about Tuesday's debates. Has he not hoisted in the fact that those views are totally unacceptable to the House? The Government are trying to confuse counsel and muddy the issues, as they always do. Both subjects are important. Can we not have a proper debate on separate days on both?

Mr. Peart

I have given my reply.

Mr. Peyton

I do not want that.

Mr. Peart

I think that the time allocated is satisfactory. The hon. Gentleman has made his point. I should only be repeating myself if I replied further.

Mr. Younger

Will the Leader of the House impress upon the Minister of Defence that it is absolutely essential that he should make a full statement next week about the deployment of British forces because what he was maintaining yesterday, that no troops assigned to N.A.T.O. were in Northern Ireland, is a flat contradiction of the statement made by the late Minister of Defence for Administration in May last year?

Mr. Peart

I have already said that I will have a word with my right hon. Friend on this matter.

Mr. James Davidson

Can the Leader of the House say when the order of Questions for the next Session will be available?

Mr. Peart

I cannot be specific on the actual time, but as soon as possible.

Mr. Emery

Will the Leader of the House reconsider next Tuesday's debates? I know that he is trying to be helpful. But will he give an undertaking that if the procedure debate ran until 10 o'clock he would not proceed with the Transfer of Functions Order?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give that assurance. But I am prepared to look into the matter.