HC Deb 05 March 1970 vol 797 cc620-6
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, 9TH MARcH—Supply [15th Allotted Day]:

Navy Estimates 1970–71, Vote A.

Second Reading of the Income and Management Corporation Taxes Bill [Lords], of the Taxes Management Bill [Lords] and of the Sea Fish Industry Bill [Lords], which are consolidation Measures.

TUESDAY, 10TH MARcH—Supply [16th Allotted Day]:

Debate on the Beagle Aircraft Company, which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

At seven o'clock, the Chairman of Ways and Means has named the Yorkshire Derwent Water Bill for consideration.

Motion on the White Fish Authority Publicity Scheme, and on the Sunday Cinematograph Entertainments Order relating to Edeyrnion.

Remaining stages of the three consolidation Measures.

WEDNESDAY, 11TH MARCH—Remaining stages of the Merchant Shipping Bill.

THURSDAY, 12TH MARCH—Supply [17th Allotted Day]:

Army Estimates 1970–71, Vote A.

FRIDAY, 13TH MARCH—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 16TH MARCH—Supply [18th Allotted Day]:

Air Estimates 1970–71, Vote A.

Mr. Heath

Last week, the Leader of the House undertook to consider the possibility of our having a debate on the Middle East in Government time before we rose for the Easter Recess. Can he tell us what arrangements he will be able to make?

Mr. Peart

I have looked into this matter, in view of the representations made by the right hon. Gentleman. It is difficult to find time before Easter, but I will consider sympathetically the possibility of a debate afterwards.

Mr. Heath

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to close his mind entirely to this possibility in the remaining time before Easter, because this is an important and urgent matter. It may be that we can find a way of adjusting business so that Government time is available. Perhaps we can discuss the matter.

Mr. Peart

I never close my mind when representations are made to me. Let us have discussions in the normal way.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that we have an important debate ahead of us.

Sir C. Taylor

May I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to Motion No. 146?

[That this House wishes to place on record its appreciation of the services rendered by the police in the discharge of their duties, in spite of provocation and danger to themselves due to the increase in crime, violence, lawlessness and hooliganism.]

Would the right hon. Gentleman give sufficient time for it to be taken formally? I am sure that all hon. Members subscribe to it.

Mr. Peart

I am sure that the whole House would agree with the Motion, which expresses the House's appreciation of the police. But I cannot find time for a debate.

Sir C. Taylor


Mr. Pearl

As I say, I am sure that the whole House would agree with the Motion and that those concerned will have noted it.

Mr. Molloy

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Motion No. 166, which refers to the Leader of the Opposition and the situation in Rhodesia?

[That this House urges the Leader of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition to take an early opportunity in the House of Commons to state unambiguously his condemnation of the illegal declaration of republican status by the régime in Rhodesia; and to condemn this act of disloyalty to the Crown as treachery.]

There are occasions when this House is massively united on issues of great principle. We should have a statement on this issue. The Leader of the Opposition should be provided with time to make one to the House.

Mr. Peart

I have seen the Motion. This is essentially a matter for the Opposition.

Mr. Thorpe

Since many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to make constituency and other engagements, could the right hon. Gentleman tell us next week whether the Whitsun Recess is likely to start on the Thursday preceding the Whitsun weekend or the Thursday preceding Bank Holiday Monday?

Mr. Peart

We have not reached the Easter Recess yet. However, I like to inform hon. Members on these matters, for obvious reasons. I will make an anouncement as soon as I can.

Mr. Snow

I accept that it might not be the most pressing business for next week, but would my right hon. Friend consider finding time fairly soon to debate Motion No. 144, which is in my name, on the refusal of coroners to provide copies of depositions to Departments of State, thereby frustrating Members of Parliament in carrying out their duties?

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to inquire into the action of coroners in delaying the supply, to departments and solicitors acting for clients, of copies of depositions taken at inquests, contrary to the provisions of Rule 39 of Coroners Rules 1953, and when, in the case of departments, a Member of Parliament has requested a Minister to investigate a complaint made by a constituent.]

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend will appreciate that coroners are independent, judicial officers who are solely responsible for the conduct of their duties. A Minister has no administrative responsibility for this matter. I cannot find time for a debate, but I note what has been said.

Dame Irene Ward

May we have a debate on the refusal to allow the Battle of Britain film to go to Rhodesia? This refusal is absolutely terrible in view of the great effort made by people in Rhodesia to help us in our hour of critical trial. I hope to goodness that the House will demand that the film be allowed to go to Rhodesia.

Mr. Peart

The hon. Lady has made her point, but we cannot have a debate next week.

Mr. Abse

Can my right hon. Friend give us any news of a debate on the Beeching Report? Since administrative action has been taken in anticipation of the report, and it concerns the recasting of justice throughout the country, is it not time that we had a debate?

Mr. Peart

I appreciate the importance of this subject. I have previously given hon. Members a sympathetic reply on it. It is hard for me to find time for a debate before Easter, but I will bear the matter in mind.

Mr. Crouch

Would the right hon. Gentleman get in touch with the Minister of Technology and ask him to make an early statement to the House on what was nearly a disaster in Kent yesterday? There are at the moment large areas of Kent where the electric power has been cut off for more than 27 hours, a situation which is very serious indeed.

Mr. Peart

I note what the hon. Gentleman says and will convey it to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Wyatt

What is my right hon. Friend doing about getting implemented the recommendation of the Select Committee on Procedure in 1959 that the convention of Privy Councillors having an automatic right to speak in debates should be cancelled? Does he not realise that most of our debates are wrecked by all these extinct volcanoes trying to erupt?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot discuss the merits of what he wants time to debate.

Mr. Peart

It is a matter which could be considered by the Select Committee on Procedure—

Mr. William Hamilton

It has done it already.

Mr. Peart

It has previously been decided that it is a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that as long ago as mid-December the Minister of State, Department of Social Security announced that an Order was being made to apply a means test to claims for unemployment benefit by certain occupational pensioners? In view of the lapse of time and the anxiety among old people about this, will the right hon. Gentleman say either that the Order will be taken shortly or, better still, that it has been dropped?

Mr. Peart

I cannot be specific on this, but I will look it up and have a word with the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

May I remind my right hon. Friend of the Motion which has been signed by more than 100 hon. Members drawing attention to the considerable public disquiet about the condition of the communications media, newspapers, television and radio?

[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 film 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 rôle 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.]

Will my right hon. Friend provide time for a debate on this important subject before the Easter Recess?

Mr. Peart

I do not deny that this is an important subject, but I cannot find time for a debate before the Recess.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether time has been found for the Planning Blight and Worsenment Bill, which was talked out last Friday, and which affects the homes of so many people?

Mr. Peart

I cannot find time for that next week.

Sir K. Joseph

The right hon. Gentleman last week undertook to consider arranging for a statement to be made on the Government's inconsistency in referring the Burmah-Laporte, but not the Reed-I.P.C. merger, to the Monopolies Commission. When may we expect a statement?

Mr. Peart

I did look into this. I am sorry I am unable to say specifically when a statement will be made, but I shall keep a watch on this.

Mr. Pannell

Is the Leader of the House aware that the position of Privy Councillors does not need to be referred to the Select Committee on Procedure? It was considered in 1959, when a recommendation was made to Mr. Speaker. The then Mr. Speaker felt that he could not act on it without a direct wish of the House. A simple Resolution is needed to put the recommendation into effect, which will leave Mr. Speaker completely unfettered in the choice of speakers so that his choice can fall on those hon. Members who are likely to make the most intelligent contribution to debate.

Mr. Peart

I do not dissent from that, but it is a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Will the Leader of the House say whether we can expect a statement from the Minister of Agriculture next week on the Agricultural Price Review?

Mr. Peart

My right hon. Friend hopes to make a statement in the middle of March. I cannot give a specific date.

Mr. Goodhew

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Minister of Technology will make a statement about Handley Page Aircraft Ltd. before my Adjournment debate next Thursday?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give a promise on that, in view of the fact that there is an Adjournment debate, but I will make representations to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Worsley

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that there will be disappointment on both sides of the House that he has still not arranged a debate on the Green Paper on the Health Service? Will he undertake to do this in the following week?

Mr. Peart

I hope to make a statement on this as soon as possible.

Sir E. Errington

Will the Leader of the House say whether time can be given for a debate on the report of the Estimates Committee on the Board of Inland Revenue?

Mr. Peart

I will consider this sympathetically. I have noted this point, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me prior notice of it.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange a debate on the Supplementary Estimates on the Royal Ordnance Factories? These are very odd Estimates which raise many interesting questions, such as Army stocks and arms sales.

Mr. Speaker

The questions raised by the Supplementary Estimates cannot be debated at Business Question Time. The right hon. Member must ask for time for a debate.

Mr. Peart

There will be opportunities for discussing this later on the Defence Estimates, but I cannot arrange a special debate.