HC Deb 01 April 1971 vol 814 cc1681-8
Mr. Harold Wilson

May I ask the Leader of the House if he will state the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)

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

MONDAY, 5TH APRIL—Conclusion of the debate on the Budget Statement.

Motions on the Motor Vehicles (Speed Limits on Motorways) and (Variation of Speed Limits) Regulations, and on the Hovercraft (Civil Liability) Order.

TUESDAY, 6TH APRIL—AS already announced there will be a debate on Northern Ireland, which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motions on the Post Office (Borrowing Powers) Order and on the Northern Ireland Loans (Increase of Limit) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 7TH APRIL—Remaining stages of the Rating Bill, the Courts Bill [Lords], the Animals Bill [Lords] and of the Mines Management Bill [Lords].

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Oil in Navigable Waters Bill.

Motions on Members' pensions, on travel warrants and on procedural questions.

THURSDAY, 8TH APRIL—The House will meet at 11 a.m., take Questions until 12 noon, and adjourn at 5 p.m. until Monday, 19th April.

Mr. Harold Wilson

The Leader of the House will recall that on Monday the Foreign Secretary inevitably could make only an interim statement on Pakistan and undertook to report to the House again as soon as he could. Will the Leader of the House draw to the attention of the Foreign Secretary the need for a further statement on Pakistan in the course of next week?

Second, although I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the House has been very restrained in not pressing for too much information or debate on the Rolls-Royce question while the negotiations are proceeding, does he expect that it will be possible to make any statement on the negotiations next week? Whatever the answer is, we shall understand. Does the right hon. Gentleman recall his undertaking that when the negotiations are over there will be a very full White Paper with all the information not only on the negotiations but on all the aspects of the decisions taken by the Government?

Mr. Whitelaw

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is most anxious to keep the House fully informed about Pakistan and will do so. As to the point the right hon. Gentleman makes about the RB211, I cannot say whether the negotiations will be at a stage when a statement should be made next week. I note what the right hon. Gentleman says and fully stand by my previous assurances.

Mr. Hastings

Do the Government expect to be able to make a statement on the third London airport before or after the Easter Recess?

Mr. Whitelaw

I cannot be certain at this stage when such a statement will be made.

Mrs. Renée Short

The Leader of the House has said nothing about the business for the week after the recess. Will he at the earliest possible moment allow the House to discuss the position of the construction industry and the housing situation generally, which is deteriorating month by month?

Mr. Whitelaw

I hope to make a business statement next Wednesday informing the House about the business for the week after we return from the Easter Recess. On the second point, I cannot foresee at this stage time for a debate such as that which the hon. Lady mentions.

Mr. Crouch

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that the first intimation of the decision concerning the siting of the third London airport will be made to the House and not leaked to the Press?

Mr. Whitelaw

As far as it lies in my power to ensure any such thing, I can give that assurance, but it does not always seem to lie in my power.

Sir G. de Freitas

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Report of the Environmental Commission has been very widely regarded as important and that at Question Time yesterday the Minister said to me that he would welcome a debate? In these circumstances, will the Leader of the House arrange to please his right hon. Friend and many hon. Members by arranging a debate as soon as we return?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note the importance of the subject and I recognise what my right hon. Friend has said. I cannot foresee immediate opportunity for such a debate in Government time. There are many other ways in which such a debate could arise.

Mr. Burden

My right hon. Friend has been unable to foresee for a long time when it will be possible to have a debate on the Report of the Litttlewood Committee. I hope that today he can be a little more promising about the future than he has been in the past.

Mr. Whitelaw

I regret to say that I am still unable to foresee that time.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Can the Leader of the House tell us at last when we are to have the Second Reading of the Shipbuilding Industry Bill? We in the shipbuilding areas are getting very anxious about the future of the Bill.

Mr. Whitelaw

I think I may be able to satisfy the hon. Gentleman next Wednesday.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer

Will my right hon. Friend be kind enough to look into the fact that no members of the queuing public were able to listen to the Budget? Would it not be fair for a small section of the Gallery to be reserved so that those who are willing to queue for hours are able to listen to the Budget?

Mr. Whitelaw

This is certainly a matter that can be considered. I will look into it.

Mr. Faulds

Charge them 8 per cent.

Mr. Shore

I thank the Leader of the House for what he has said already about a statement on Pakistan next week. Will he ask the Foreign Secretary to make as full a statement as possible? There is great anxiety, there are ugly rumours, and there is a virtually total Press blackout. Therefore, we would greatly appreciate a full statement.

Mr. Whitelaw

I know that my right hon. Friend will be particularly anxious to give the fullest statement that he can with the information that is available to us. The right hon. Gentleman will be the first to appreciate that getting information is a very difficult matter.

Dame Irene Ward

Is my right hon. Friend aware how delighted I am about the Shipbuilding Industry Bill? As I have asked three weeks running for information but refrained from asking today because I thought that we had come to an arrangement, why should the announcement be made to a member of the Opposition, though I am delighted to have got the information? Would it not have been fair that I should have been given this information as I have asked so often?

Mr. Whitelaw

I did not make any announcement to the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop). All I said was that I hoped that I might be able to satisfy him next Wednesday. I hope that I might be able to satisfy my hon. Friend next Wednesday as well.

Mr. Denis Howell

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to the Written Answer by the Secretary of State for Education and Science concerning the change of direction of the youth service and the rejection of the Report "Youth and Community in the Seventies", which was made by a Committee of which I was Chairman and the acceptance of which I announced on behalf of the then Government?

As this has been done without any consultation with the Youth Service Council and as it flies in the face of the whole training of youth leaders and is a serious matter, will the Leader of the House ensure that important Questions on policy like this are answered in the House and not by Written Answer: and will he arrange for an early debate?

Mr. Whitelaw

As to how various statements are made, I will look into this matter and consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science about it.

On the question of statements in the House, I believe that you, Mr. Speaker, have felt, and I am certainly very sensitive to the point, that too much time must not be taken up with statements in the House which interfere with the normal business of the House. It has been difficult for all Governments to achieve the right balance between what is answered by means of oral statement and what is answered by means of Written Answer. I will always try to preserve the right balance.

Sir G. Nabarro

My right hon. Friend will recall that for more than four months now he has promised a statement on the review bodies concerning the salaries and conditions of employment of the higher echelons of the public service, including Ministers and Members of Parliament. Is it not reasonable to expect that a statement will be made before Easter, including the terms of reference and scope of operations of such review bodies, and whether Members of Parliament may give evidence before them?

Mr. Whitelaw

There may well be an announcement next week on those matters. I cannot go so far as to suggest that it will include exactly the terms of reference for any review body, because I have always undertaken that this would be done only after consultation through the usual channels and with right hon. and hon. Members, and I should, naturally, wish to abide by that undertaking.

Mr. Russell Kerr

In view of the recent publication of the Treasury's highly favourable comments on the Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Indus- tries which investigated the Bank of England, may we now hope to have time in the House for a debate on that history-making Report?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have said before, and right hon. and hon. Members on both sides have taken the same view, that some Reports rely for their value on being debated and others have great value without debate. I am not quite sure where this one falls, because I accept that the publication and acceptance of it has had considerable value.

Mr. Callaghan

There is one important legislative gap which the Government have not yet filled, and I should like to know why we have been disappointed again this week. When are we to have the Bill to sell off the State breweries and bring about the beneficial results of cheaper beer for all?

Mr. Whitelaw

The right hon. Gentleman and I are both interested in this matter. I think that I may be able to satisfy both him and myself next week.

Mr. Whitehead

When may we expect a full debate on the Government's White Paper on commercial radio?

Mr. Whitelaw

I could not offer time at an early date for such a debate.

Dr. Gilbert

Can the Leader of the House give an assurance that we shall have a debate, not later than the Summer Recess, on the important Crowther Commission Report on credit, and, bearing in mind the Chancellor's remarks in his Budget Statement, will not the Leader of the House agree that the case for a Select Committee on taxation is now almost unanswerable?

Mr. Whitelaw

On the last point, no, I should not go as far as that. On the first point, I shall not give a categorical assurance because I am always anxious, whenever I give an assurance, to be absolutely certain that it will be fulfilled. However, I note the importance of such a debate. We shall see how we get on.

Mr. James Johnson

Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that, perhaps next week, we shall have a statement about the financing of the Humber bridge? Is he aware that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment met the Humber Board at least six or seven weeks ago. Questions have been put down since by hon. Members on both sides, and still we have no satisfaction? Will the Leader of the House look into it?

Mr. Whitelaw

I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, and I shall find out what the position is.

Mr. Maclennan

Is the Leader of the House aware of the intolerable situation which has arisen due to the Government's failure to bring forward a scheme to implement their decisison, announced in October, to cut grants for fishing vessels by 25 per cent.? Is he aware that, because that scheme had to be withdrawn, people whose applications have been in the pipeline, in some cases for many months, have had no money whatever? What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do about it, and why have we had no announcement that the scheme is to be reintroduced immediately?

Mr. Whitelaw

As I have said in the past, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will let the House know what he proposes to do about this scheme as soon as he can.

Mr. Faulds

Will the Leader of the House contemplate the possibility of satisfying me by allowing the House to debate as soon as possible after we reassemble—a debate is long overdue—the iniquitous idea of imposing charges for entry to museums and art galleries?

Mr. Whitelaw

I shall contemplate any possibility, but I cannot say when an announcement will be made about that or when such a debate will take place.

Mr. Onslow

When are we to have an opportunity to debate the remaining Service Estimates?

Mr. Whitelaw

Immediately after Easter.

Mr. Clinton Davis

When will the House have an opportunity to debate the Report of the Francis Committee? Is he aware that that Report has been in his right hon. Friend's hands for a considerable time?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have nothing to add this week to what I said in answer to various questions last week.