HC Deb 19 February 1970 vol 796 cc596-605
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. Frederick Peart)

Yes Sir. The business for next week will be as follows.

MONDAY, 23RD FEBRUARY—Private Members' Motions until 7 o'clock.

Afterwards, the Chairman of Ways and Means has named Opposed Private Business for consideration.

TUESDAY, 24TH FEBRUARY—Debate on a Motion to take note of the White Paper on Britain and the European Communities, (Command No. 4289).

Lords Amendments to the Insolvency Services (Accounting and Investment) Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 25TH FEBRUARY—Supply [14th Allotted Day]:

Conclusion of the debate on Britain and the European Communities.

Motion on the Drivers' Hours (Passenger Vehicles) (Modifications) Order.

THURSDAY, 26TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Local Authority Social Services Bill.

Motions on the Double Taxation Relief (Trinidad and Tobago) Order and on the Income Tax Transitional Relief Orders.

FRIDAY, 27TH FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 2ND MARCH—Second Reading of the Employed Persons (Health and Safety) Bill.

The House will wish to know that it is intended to propose that we should rise for the Easter Adjournment on Thursday, 26th March, until Monday, 6th April.

Mr. Heath

Will the Leader of the House tell us when he will provide time for a debate on the Green Paper on the National Health Service?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give a specific date, but very soon.

Mr. Heath

Before the Easter Recess?

Mr. Peart

I will examine this, but I cannot be specific. I believe that there should be a debate, but I cannot be specific. We will have talks through the usual channels.

Mr. Roebuck

Can my right hon. Friend say when there will be a debate on the Defence White Paper? Will he take into account the fact that the House will want rather more time than hitherto in view of President Nixon's speech last night, which set out some new developments in American defence policy?

Mr. Peart

There will be the usual two-day debate. I hope that the House will be able to study all the documents. It will be all right: my hon. Friend need not worry.

Mr. Thorpe

Is it the Government's intention that the House will be given an opportunity to take note or otherwise of the White Paper on the Reform of Local Government in England?

Mr. Peart

I should have thought that it would be sensible to take note.

Mr. Thorpe

On a point of order. No one heard the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Peart

I am sorry. It is not my fault that the right hon. Gentleman did not hear. I said that I thought that it would be reasonable to take note.

Mr. Thorpe

Do we take it from that that there will be a debate?

Mr. Peart

We were talking about yesterday's debate. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is anxious about the debate on the European Communities.

Mr. Thorpe

With great respect—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Only one question, even from right hon. Gentlemen. I have allowed two from the right hon. Member.

Mrs. Renée Short

Has my right hon. Friend now considered the possibility of the debate on the Select Committee's Report on Coloured School Leavers? When are we likely to have it?

Mr. Peart

I am dealing with next week's business and I cannot give any specific promise.

Mr. Turton

In view of the large number of hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate on the White Paper on Britain and the European Economic Communities, would the right hon. Gentleman consider suspending the rule on Tuesday for one or two hours so as to give more opportunity?

Mr. Peart

Yes. I think that we can have a discussion through the usual channels on this matter.

Mr. Russell Kerr

In view of the white-hot anger of the employees, may we expect a statement during the coming week from the Government about their derisory enhanced redundancy pay announcement in respect of the Beagle Aircraft Company?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give a promise on that.

Mr. Ramsden

Why do we have the Defence Estimates, but no announcement about the new rates of Service pay, which, I understand, will cost a considerable sum of money? When can the House and the Services expect to have this information?

Mr. Peart

I hope very soon.

Mr. William Hamilton

In view of the recent developments, may we have an assurance that before the Government announce their reaction to the proposals of the Select Committee's Report on Members' Interests (Declaration), we will ensure that the House has a full opportunity of debating that report?

Mr. Peart

I will consider that, but I am often chided, when a matter like this is discussed, for not giving leadership on this question.

Mr. Worsley

About the debate on the Health Service Green Paper, which the right hon. Gentleman has promised, will he give an undertaking that he will arrange a debate on this before Thursday's business goes into Committee, since the two are so closely related?

Mr. Peart

Yes, I will consider that.

Mr. Dickens

While bearing in mind that the House had a debate of sorts on broadcasting before the Christmas Recess, in view of the unprecedented outbreak of B.B.C. staff criticism about the corporation's future policy for sound radio, could the House not have an early debate on the whole question of sound broadcasting?

Mr. Peart

I cannot promise a debate next week, but I will note what has been said.

Mr. Dance

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen Motion No. 139, relating to vicious television programmes?

[That hon. Members of this House are appalled at the film shown on BBCI on Sunday evening, 15th February, 1970, because of the viciousness, savagery and brutality, which the producer described as a "comic strip", but which showed rape, beatings, flagellation, atrocities against the Jews and was an affront to those who believe in the Christian religion; and calls upon the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications to institute an inquiry as to who was responsible for this programme and to stop this so-called "entertainment" for the future.]

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us when the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications will make a statement about this in the House?

Mr. Peart

I have seen the Motion, but matters of programme content are the responsibility of the broadcasting authorities. I will convey the hon. Member's views to my right hon. Friend.

Sir Dingle Foot

In view of the recent Israeli aggression against the civilian population of Egypt, is it not a matter of urgency that we should debate the situation in the Middle East in the near future? Will my right hon. Friend make arrangements accordingly?

Mr. Peart

No, I cannot promise a debate on this matter.

Sir D. Renton

Can the right hon. Gentleman yet tell us the Government's intentions with regard to a debate on the Beeching Report and the Report on the Interpretation of Statutes?

Mr. Peart

I have told the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I will consider this sympathetically.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend so alter the business for next week as to provide time for a debate on my Motion No. 143, dealing with a very important point of law, condition precedent to the debate on Monday on the Brighton Corporation Bill?

[That this House deprecates and rejects, as in breach of statute, the action of the Chairman of the Town Poll meeting held, in pursuance of statute, in Brighton for the purpose of considering, statutory words, the forthcoming Brighton Corporation Bill, in ruling that no questions from the floor or elsewhere would be allowed and in acting on that ruling throughout the meeting; further expresses the view that the meeting so conducted and so limited did not and could not consider, according to statute, the elect of the Bill on the people, the trade, industry, employment, safety and residential amenities of the rich and poor of Brighton or of the rival town of Kemp Town about two miles from Brighton which would result from the Bill and on the old persons homes, nursing homes, schools, protective fire brigade station and other amenities and facilities already at Kemp Town and on the resulting dangers from increased traffic, from fire and from other consequential risks, and also that the Chairman's refusal to allow answers to questions on these and other relevant dangers to life, limb and property was a breach of statute law which breach made that meeting abortive and it should be so declared by this honourable House; and further recommends that any such question arising on the construction of the relevant statute should be referred to Mr. Attorney General, and that in the meantime the Bill should not be further considered by this honourable House.]

It is very important that this point of law, as to the construction of the word "consider", should be dealt with before the debate takes place—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman must not argue the merits of the very interesting debate which he wants to have.

Mr. Peart

I have seen that Motion, but my hon. and learned Friend must know that the Government are not responsible for the conduct of Brighton Corporation's meetings. I cannot foresee time being available to debate that Motion.

Mr. Hector Hughes

On a point of order. Will you allow me to point out, Mr. Speaker, that this matter involves a matter of legal construction of a word that is very important to the people of Brighton, and which should be determined before the Brighton Corporation Bill is debated?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I was seized of the point the first time that the hon. and learned Gentleman made it. It is a point which he will no doubt make in the debate if the Leader of the House gives him time for a debate.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Further to the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) about the debate next Tuesday and Wednesday, and the right hon. Gentleman's sympathetic attitude thereto, will he ask his Ministerial colleagues to refrain from taking up time with Ministerial statements on those two days?

Mr. Pearl

I will consider this, but often it is necessary for a Minister to make an important statement which the House would like to have.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Motion No. 127 in my name and the names of several hon. Members, calling for an early debate on air safety?

[That this House, concerned that since 1963 there have been 93 air-miss incidents over British air space, and aware that flight congestion continues to increase, calls for an urgent and immediate debate into the whole question of air safety.]

Would he name a day very soon when the whole House will be able to discuss this most important subject?

Mr. Peart

Not next week, but I will note what my hon. Friend has said.

Sir F. Bennett

The right hon. Gentleman will not need telling that the Parliament of Malta has been made fully aware in the Press there of all the reasons for the breakdown and the deadlock in the negotiations on aid from this country. May we have a statement next week so that we Members of Parliament can eventually be told what everyone else knows already?

Mr. Pearl

I will convey the hon. Member's views to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Howie

Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield), would my right hon. Friend bear in mind the importance of the question of air traffic control, especially in view of the developments of the Euro-control system?

Mr. Pearl

I am aware that this is an important matter. I said that I would note what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. MacArthur

Will the right hon. Gentleman give us an opportunity next week to debate the effect of today's defence statement on Scotland, particularly on Perth, where it will cost the city 500 jobs in addition to the 1,300 already lost under this Government?

Mr. Peart

I will convey the hon. Member's views, but no debate next week.

Mr. Peter M. Jackson

May I press my right hon. Friend about his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) on Members' interests? Can he give an assurance that the Select Committee's Report will be debated before the House rises for the Easter Recess?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give a specific assurance on the date, but I would like to see the report debated and the Government to have an opportunity to express their opinion.

Mr. David Mitchell

Will the right hon. Gentleman give time for a debate on the Industrial Relations (Improvement) Bill, in view of the record number of industrial disputes?

Mr. Peart

No, I cannot accede to that.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens), would my right hon. Friend consider the Motion on the Order Paper, signed by more than 100 hon. Members, calling for a debate and for the setting up of a Royal Commission on the whole of the communications media?

[That this House, having regard to the difficulties and problems facing the communications media of this country, believes that a Royal Commission should be set up to examine the newspaper industry, radio and television transmission, and the On industry, with terms of reference to include what steps the Government or bodies set up by the Government should take for the avoidance of monopoly and for the protection and expansion of variety of ownership, influence and control in all areas, and especially in that of the free and various dissemination of news, views and debate, and that the terms of reference should also include a recommendation that the Royal Commission should examine the communications media of other countries and should make recommendations on the role of advertising in these media and on what steps should be taken to prevent the further reduction in the number of newspapers nationally and locally and to facilitate the establishing and financing of new and independent channels of communication, especially newspapers.]

If a debate is to take place, will he bear in mind that Motion and the request that the debate should be widened to cover the whole field?

Mr. Peart

I have carefully noted all the Motions on the Order Paper, but I cannot promise time for a debate.

Dame Joan Vickers

As Thursday's debate is based on the Seebohm Report, which is important, and which makes fundamental changes in the social services, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can provide extra time for that debate?

Mr. Peart

I think that a whole day for a Second Reading debate is adequate. I agree that this is an important debate, but I think that hon. Members will he able to find time to make their points.

Mr. Lubbock

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that last week I asked whether he would give extra time for the debate on local government reform, and he declined to do so, although in the event, at the beginning of yesterday's debate, Mr. Speaker had to say that no fewer than 35 Members wished to take part in the debate?

Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore pay a little more attention to the representations of the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) and other back benchers, and a little less to the representations which he receives from the Chief Whips, who are obviously totally out of touch with back bench opinion?

Mr. Peart

I think that the hon. Gentleman's remarks about two of our colleagues are unfair. The hon. Gentleman has made his point. I wrote to him explaining why I could not give time. I received no representations other than from him on this matter. I think that the time for next week is sensible.

Mr. Ridsdale

May I press the right hon. Gentleman again about Services pay? Does he realise that there is great uncertainty in the Services about this, and that it is not good enough to say "very soon". What does "very soon" mean?

Mr. Peart


Mr. Heath

The right hon. Gentleman seems to be going backwards on this subject, from "very soon" to "soon". In view of its importance, may I ask for an undertaking that a statement will be made before the debate on the White Paper on Defence, including the total cost? It is important that we should have the details before the debate, and not have to wait until the Secretary of State's statement in the debate.

We on this side of the House would welcome extra time on the first day of the debate on Europe.

Mr. Pearl

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his views on the European debate. On the other matter, I shall convey his views to my right hon. Friend. I understand why hon. Members feel strongly about this.

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