HC Deb 16 April 1970 vol 799 cc1574-80
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, 20TH APRIL—Conclusion of the debate on the Budget Resolutions and the Economic Situation.

Motion on the Air Navigation (Noise Certification) Order.


Debate on Post Office Charges and Services, which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

Motion on the Trade Marks (Customs) Regulations.

WEDNESDAY, 22ND APRIL—Recommittal Motion on the Education Bill.

Progress on the remaining stages of the Equal Pay (No. 2) Bill.

THURSDAY, 23RD APRIL—Second Reading of the National Health Service Contributions Bill, which it is hoped to obtain by about 7 o'clock.

Completion of the remaining stages of the Equal Pay (No. 2) Bill.

FRIDAY, 24TH APRIL—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 27TH APRIL—Second Reading of the Construction Industry Contracts Bill.

Mr. Heath

On the Recommittal of the Education Bill on Wednesday, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Government are in an unprecedented situation? The House cannot find a precedent for a Government, defeated on the operative Clause of a major Bill, just coming back to the House and asking for a recommital in this form.

Should not the Government have second thoughts and allow the Prime Minister to carry out his pledge that the grammar schools would be abolished only over his dead body? Would not it be a good idea now if the Leader of the House just dropped the Bill?

Mr. Peart

I am prepared to admit that an accident occurred, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will vividly recall the time when, through the initiative of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the party opposite suffered in Committee the temporary loss of an entire Finance Bill—and the right hon. Gentleman was then Deputy Chief Whip.

Mr. Peter Archer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the 25th anniversary of the United Nations and the discussions arising from it will begin in June and that if we have not had a debate in the House on the subject by then the Government will have to make their contribution without the benefit of the view of the House?

Mr. Peart

I note what my hon. Friend says. I said this last week when I answered a similar question.

Mr. Peyton

Whilst I pay a very warm tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for his candour in admitting that a mistake occurred, does not he think that he should elaborate a little more and say how much time he thinks will be needed on Wednesday to dispose of this painful and embarrassing matter of the Education Bill?

Mr. Peart

I am still consulting the authorities of the House. As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate if he looks at Standing Order No. 52, dealing with Recommittal, it is rather restrictive. I am anxious that there should be adequate debate, and I hope that we shall have consultations on the matter through the usual channels.

Mr. Shinwell

Why have we heard nothing about the Merchant Shipping Bill, which is coming from the other place? Has my right hon. Friend taken into account the representations made by the seamen?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of those representations. I said last week that they were being considered. I cannot yet give a specific time for further consideration of the Bill by the House.

Dame Irene Ward

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered my Official Secrets Act 1911 (Amendment) Bill? Will he give an assurance that he will allow a debate on this very important matter, which concerns the security of the country, so that we may discuss all the issues arising from an Act put on the Statute Book in 1911 and now somewhat out of date? A debate on the Bill would be very welcome, considering all the complexities and uncertainties of the present situation.

Mr. Peart

Not next week.

Mr. Lipton

May I, very unusually, support the representations of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward)? The time has come for someone in the Government to look at the Official Secrets Act—if not next week perhaps the week after.

Mr. Peart

That is another matter.

Sir G. Nabarro

After the excessive dilatoriness of Treasury Ministers, when shall we have the long-awaited statement on the future of the 6d.? The Treasury has had the report from the Decimal Currency Board for nearly a month. Could not the House be told next week whether the 6d. is doomed or otherwise?

Mr. Peart

"Fairly soon", I think, is a reasonable answer.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable anxiety and some confusion in Clydeside about recent developments in Upper Clyde Shipbuilders? Will he encourage the Minister of Technology to make a statement early next week, to clarify the position?

Mr. Peart

I will certainly call this to his attention.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

In view of the conflicting reports about how Government policy on CS gas came to be changed and a conflict alleged between the Foreign Office and the Defence Department, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is right to have a debate on the subject as soon as possible? Can he arrange that, if not next week, the week after?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give that assurance.

Mr. Lubbock

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that last week when I asked him about the Report from the Select Committee on the Declaration of Members' Interests he gave me a very sympathetic reply and said that the matter could be debated in the near future? Has he come to any conclusion? Will he at least give us an assurance that it will be debated before the Whitsun Recess?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give an assurance on the specific time, but I did give a favourable reply last week.

Sir D. Renton

In view of the large number of matters that hon. Members on both sides would like to have discussed, but for which so far the right hon. Gentleman has not been able to find time, could he not find another way of dealing with the mistake the Government made in Committee on the Education Bill than taking up a whole day on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Peart

I had thought about other alternatives. We could have proceeded with the Bill in Committee still, though I know that there were problems here. We could have gone straight to the second and third Clauses and then reintroduced Clause 1 on Report. I believe that it was right to go about this in the way I have suggested.

Mr. William Hamilton

When does my right hon. Friend intend to introduce the Government's proposals on procedure in accordance with the recommendations of the Select Committee on Procedure?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give a precise date. I have tabled a Motion on the Ten-Minute Rule Motions, but I cannot say when we shall have a debate.

Sir F. Bennett

The Prime Minister has twice recently paid tribute to the sanctity of decisions reached democratically in the House by vote. Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Prime Minister, in the light of that assurance, about next Wednesday's programme? If so, what reply did he receive?

Mr. Peart

The Bill in question had a majority on Second Reading. The House decided in principle that it was a good thing to have an Education Bill to end selection.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the answer he gave my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) about the Merchant Shipping Bill, which is very important? The seamen want it, their union wants it, and it is very urgent that it should be considered by the House when it comes from the other place.

Mr. Peart

I accept that, as soon as progress is made, this very important Bill, which I am sure all hon. Members will welcome, will come before the House.

Mr. Montgomery

As the Government on Tuesday lost the vital first Clause in the Education Bill, which is the operative Clause, because of the lack of enthusiasm of Labour Members, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that instead of recommitting the Bill to the House it would be much better to short-circuit this piece of legislation?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman is only repeating previous questions. I have said what I think is the right way to proceed.

Mr. Russell Kerr

In view of the overwhelmingly favourable views of the workers affected, will my right hon. Friend urge on my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade the urgent importance of approving the merger of B.U.A. and B.O.A.C.

Mr. Peart

I will call what my hon. Friend has said to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Does not the defeat on the Education Bill in Committee give the right hon. Gentleman one last chance to absolve the conscience of the Government, as the Prime Minister pledged that the grammar schools would be condemned only over his dead body? Is not this an opportunity to forget the Bill and absolve a portion of his conscience?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman is trying to make a political point about the content of the Bill. The House decided in principle that it was a good thing to have a Bill on comprehensive education. I believe that the way I have outlined is the right way to proceed.

Mr. McMaster

In view of the serious state of the shipbuilding and ship-repairing industry in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and heavy unemployment threatened both on the Upper Clyde and in Belfast, could the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a debate rather than just a statement on the subject at an early date?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give an assurance that there will be an early debate.

Mr. Maudling

The hon. Gentleman referred to what happened in Committee on the Education Bill as an accident. Is he aware that four similar, if minor, accidents occurred this morning in other Standing Committees? As Miinsters are obviously getting exhausted by their programme, should not they revise it?

Mr. Peart

I do not think that that calls for a serious answer.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that the House as a whole will not suffer for the incompetence of Government supporters in the Committee on the Education Bill by having our Whitsun Recess reduced?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give that assurance, much as I should like to.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Could not the right hon. Gentleman get out of the whole matter quite simply, now that we have had a rather dreary Budget, by asking the Prime Minister to make an early statement on the next General Election, and get on with it?

Mr. Peart

Not next week.

Mr. Lane

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's sympathetic undertaking last Thursday, why can he not tell us now on which day next week one of his right hon. Friends will make a statement about the Winter Emergencies Committee, particularly on solid smokeless fuel supplies?

Mr. Peart

I said that I will look into the question. If the hon. Gentleman reads in HANSARD the reply my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was to have given orally if the Question had been reached, I think that he will see that it is a very full answer.

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