HC Deb 19 March 1970 vol 798 cc622-8
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, 23RD MARCH.—Remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.

Debate on a Motion to take note of the Green Paper on the Future Structure of the National Health Service.

Remaining stages of the Export Guarantees and Payments Bill.

Motions on the Docks and Harbours (Valuation) Order and on the Television Act 1964 (Additional Payments) Order.

TUESDAY, 24TH MARCH.—Remaining stages of the Agriculture Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 25TH MARCH.—Second Reading of the Misuse of Drugs Bill.

Motions on the Bacon Curing Industry Stabilisation Scheme, the Fertilisers (Amendment) Scheme, the Hill Land Improvement (Amendment) Schemes and on the Agricultural Investment Order.

THURSDAY, 26TH MARCH.—It will be proposed that the House should meet at 11 a.m. take Questions until 12 noon and Adjourn at 5 o'clock until Monday, 6th April.

In view of representations made to me by many hon. Members on both sides of the House, I should like to tell the House as much as I can about the Whit-sun Adjournment. If, because of the progress of business, there is only a week's break, it will be the week beginning Monday, 25th May, the Spring Bank Holiday. If another week is possible, it would most likely be the week previous

The House will also wish to know that it is proposed to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations by a ceremony in Westminster Hall on Friday, 26th June, at 10.30 a.m. Subject to the agreement of the House, the sitting on that day will be postponed by one hour.

Mr. Heath

I will tell the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House that, as far as Tuesday's business is concerned, one day is quite insufficient for the remaining stages of the Agriculture Bill in view of the appalling mess that the Government made of the Bill in Committee and because I understand they are going to try to put back some of the things which were changed.

Mr. Peart

I would only say, let us see how we get on and what progress is made. It may well be that we shall need more time.

Mr. Judd

With reference to my right hon. Friend's statement concerning the twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, will he give priority to arranging and facilitating a debate in this House on the record and future of the United Nations to mark this anniversary?

Mr. Peart

I have noted my hon. Friend's comments.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Will the right hon. Gentleman find time next week for a debate on Early Day Motion No. 205 in the names of a number of his own hon. Friends?

[That this House deplores the Government's decision to withhold approval at the proposed merger between the British Overseas Airways Corporation and British United Airways in order to give advantages to private operators against a publicly-owned carrier, and considers that this action will adversely affect the British civil aviation industry, its customers and its employees.]

Is he aware that this is urgent, because if the Government follow their normal course of surrender to their hon. Friends, less trouble will be caused by doing it quickly than by waiting for two years as the Minister of Housing did last night?

Mr. Peart

I have, of course, seen the Motion. I believe there were opportunities for hon. Members to air their views on this yesterday. I cannot really foresee further time to debate it next week.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Can my right hon. Friend say whether we are to have an early debate on Rhodesia in order that the views of all parties in the House may be made plain?

Mr. Peart

I will consider this, but certainly not next week.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Would my right hon. Friend reconsider his answer about Rhodesia? Is not it in the tradition of this House that in relation to external matters this House preserves one single face, and as there appears to have been a breach by the Opposition of this position, should there not be an opportunity for the Opposition to make clear that they retain the position that in relation to external matters they support Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Speaker

We cannot debate the issue. Time is being asked for debate.

Mr. Peart

I cannot add to what I have said to my hon. Friend.

Sir F. Bennett

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been drawn to Early Day Motion No. 195—

[That this House deplores the practise of Ministerial transfer of Parliamentary Questions after a long exchange of relevant correspondence in which no denial of departmental responsibility has emerged; and urges the Select Committee on Procedure to recommend remedial steps]— and will he accept, if he was not present, that both sides of the House, and I believe Mr. Speaker himself, accepted that it was a serious point, and can we look forward to him coming to the House shortly and making a statement on these transfers?

Mr. Peart

I have seen the Motion, but I do not think any further action is necessary because the matter is within the terms of reference of the Select Committee on Procedure.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

On Tuesday last, the Secretary of State for Wales made a statement on the reform of local government in Wales, which was not greeted with universal acclaim on every side or the House. Would it be possible to have a debate on this matter?

Mr. Peart

I would have thought this would have been a very suitable subject for the Welsh Committee.

Mr. Arnold Shaw

Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether the Government will give time to debate my Bill on the banning of deer hunting and live hare coursing, which I am sure would be welcome to the great majority of the House and the people of this country?

Mr. Peart

There is considerable pre-sure for Government facilities for a number of Private Member's Bills. I think, however, that the House would welcome an opportunty to deal with live hare coursing, and the Government have, therefore, decided to bring in a Bill on that issue. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary hopes soon to give the House further particulars.

Mr. John Page

If the Leader of the House cannot find time to debate the Early Day Motion N. 204 on the chaos on the Bakerloo and Northern lines, will he make sure that, before the House rises for the Easter Recess, a statement is made by one of his right hon. Friends so that steps can be taken to improve the terrible conditions before the House ments again?

[That this House views with concern the failure of Her Majesty's Government to take steps to see that the convenience of travellers on the Bakerloo and Northern lines is not unnecessarily impaired by stoppages on lifts and escalators; deeply regrets the reported deaths of three passengers struggling up the stairs to the surface; and considers it a public scandal that the fire brigade were similarly delayed from speedily reaching a fatal accident on the line.]

Mr. Peart

I know the representations that have been made, and, if necessary, I will inform my right hon. Friend that a statement should be made.

Mr. Lipton

Will the Leader of the House say whether the Government Bill on live hare coursing will apply also to stag hunting?

Mr. Peart

No, it will not.

Mr. Hastings

To clarify the position for those concerned, some of whom are perhaps rather bewildered, may we have a debate before the Easter Recess on the state of the Government's income policy?

Mr. Peart

I have announced the Business for next week.

Mr. Pavitt

My right hon. Friend has said that the Second Reading debate on the Misuse of Drugs Bill will take place next Wednesday. Will he arrange to have made available to hon. Members copies of Green Paper 124, issued by the Department of Health and Social Security?

Mr. Peart

If there is a demand for it, I will do all I can in that direction.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

How can the Leader of the House find time for the Bill on hare coursing when the Government are in such trouble with their Bills in Committee? Is he aware that the Opposition are passing Amendments en masse and that this morning a whole Clause fell from a Bill because hon. Members on the Government side could not be present? Will the Leader of the House bring some of these Bills on to the Floor of the House?

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order. The hon. Gentleman should not report what has happened in a Committee before that Committee has officially reported.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) is asking a Business question. I understand his point he asked that certain Bills be brought on to the Floor of the House.

Mr. Heffer

Will my right hon. Friend accept from me, as I originally brought in the Live Hare Coursing (Abolition) Bill, that this Measure will be supported throughout the country, and will he say when it is likely to be brought forward by the Government?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give any indication. I have said that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be able to give the House further particulars later.

Mr. Heath

As the Government have decided to give time for the Bill on hare coursing, will they now consider giving time for the Bill of my right hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) which gives pensions to those people over the age of 80 who do not have them?

Mr. Peart

It would be improper for me to get involved in arguments about the merits of this Measure—

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We will take business questions quietly.

Mr. Heath

May I make it plain to the Leader of the House that I was not asking him to give time for the Bill next week? He did not promise to give time for the Bill on hare coursing next week. Will he at least give as much time to the people over 80 without pensions as he is giving to hare coursing?

Mr. Peart

The Government believe that the vast majority of people who are in need get supplementary benefits, and that this is the right approach, as has been stated—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot argue the merits of the proposed debate.

Mr. Ogden

As many of the powers of the Coal Act will lapse during this year, will my right hon. Friend say when we may expect the introduction of a new Coal Bill, and will it be possible to have it on the Statute Book by July?

Mr. Peart

I cannot be specific about this. We must wait and see.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Why is it more important for this House to debate the persecution of hares than the persecution of people—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate at business time the merits that will be canvassed if permission is given to bring a Bill or a subject before the House. The hon. Member may ask for time to debate that Bill which he wants.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I was in no way debating the merits, Mr. Speaker. I was asking on what basis of priority could the time of this House be allowed to debate hares rather than pensioners?

Mr. Speaker

All the hon. Gentleman can ask for is time.

Mr. Brooks

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is mounting and understandable anxiety about the working of the Official Secrets Act? Does not he agree that it is difficult for the House to debate this matter rationally in relation to particular cases, but that there is accumulating evidence that the time is coming when the House should review the working of the Act in general?

Mr. Peart

I do not see how I can provide time for a debate on this matter. I note what has been said and I will convey my hon. Friend's view to the Attorney-General and the Minister concerned.

Mr. William Hamilton

When will my right hon. Friend send out the letter which he promised to send to all hon. Members about the use of official envelopes, in view of the evidence which I produced to him that a right hon. Gentleman opposite was using the official envelope for communicating with all young voters and new voters in his constituency?

Mr. Peart

I believe that it was sent out today.

Mr. John Lee

Will my right hon. Friend again consider the question of a debate on Rhodesia? If he cannot do anything about it next week, will he give an assurance that we can have a debate during the first week after the House resumes?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give that assurance. I. have already replied to this question and I have noted what has been said.