HC Deb 05 August 1971 vol 822 cc1849-59
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw

The business following the Summer Adjournment will be as follows:

MONDAY, 18TH OCTOBER—Debate on a Motion to take note of the Consultative Document on the Code of Industrial Relations Practice.

Second Reading of the Town and Country Planning Bill (Lords) which is a Consolidation Measure.

TUESDAY, 19TH OCTOBER AND WEDNESDAY, 20TH OCTOBER—Consideration of Lords Amendments to Bills which may be received.

Remaining stages of the Town and Country Planning Bill (Lords).

THURSDAY, 21ST OCTOBER—A debate on the United Kingdom and the European Communities will be opened and will continue throughout six sittings, being brought to a conclusion on Thursday, 28th October.

Thereafter, subject to progress of business, the House will prorogue.

It is expected that the new Session will be opened on Tuesday, 2nd November.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Will the right hon. Gentleman say, in relation to Tuesday and Wednesday, 19th and 20th October—admittedly a long time ahead—whether the Lords Amendments he expects to bring before the House on that occasion will include Lords Amendments to the Immigration Bill?

Secondly, since this looks like a very busy period which will include one or two debates the Opposition have asked for, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Supply Day which we lent to the Government a couple of weeks ago will be carried forward by the usual arrangement into the new Session?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. On his first point, yes, it is likely and expected that the Lords Amendments to which I referred will be those to the Immigration Bill. On the right hon. Gentleman's second point, I gave my word about carrying this Supply Day forward, and I am delighted to confirm that today.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I should like to ask the Leader of the House a question, which might be a matter for you, Mr. Speaker. We all know how difficult it is for the Chair to carry out its duties, which it does very fairly, in the matter of selecting speakers for debates. Without commenting on past debates, as we shall shortly be debating the question of our entry into the E.E.C., and matters related thereto, may I ask the Leader of the House, or you, Sir, whether something could be done to assist the Chair? If every hon. Member wishes to participate in that debate, how can the Chair be assisted in maintaining a fair balance?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and on this occasion I wish to thank him for giving me notice that he proposed to raise this matter. I think it will be agreed that, inevitably, selection is a matter for the Chair. So far as the Government are concerned, there has been a generous allocation of time for this debate, as has been recognised throughout the House. This is the way in which the Government have helped. I have always said that I am prepared to discuss through the usual channels the conduct of this debate. That could not include the question of selection of speakers, which must be a matter for Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

If I may intervene on this matter, it is, as has been said, a difficult task for the Chair to be fair both as to the distribution of time and keeping the debate going. Sometimes it is not easy to categorise speakers. For example, if an hon. Member says he is in favour of going into the Common Market but will vote against the Government in October, how does one categorise such a speech—for or against? It would be a very great help to the Chair if right hon. and hon. Members would indicate their desire to speak and be kind enough to give me, in confidence, the general purport of their speeches.

Dame Irene Ward

Has my right hon. Friend noticed Early Day Motion No. 680, which stands in my name and in names of a number of my hon. Friends, on the controversy between C. A. Parsons and the United Kingdom Association of Professional Engineers? Would he consider whether this would be a suitable subject for discussion when the House returns?

[That, in the opinion of this House, it is regrettable that a firm of C. A. Parsons' standing in this country and the world should have issued dismissal notices to trade unionists belonging to the United Kingdom Association of Professional Engineers which would have been illegal had the Industrial Relations Bill been on the Statute Book, as is the intention this week; further considers that, in a period of high unemployment on Tyneside, the dismissal of men in order to endeavour to force them to join the Draughtsmen's and Technicians' Association, a union not of their choice, does not make for industrial employment so necessary to the North, or for legal justice, or for good industrial relations; and hopes that C. A. Parsons will reverse their decision.]

Mr. Whitelaw

I have noted the Motion to which my hon. Friend refers. I note its contents and equally note what she suggests, and will consider this matter.

Mr. Callaghan

On the Immigration Bill I am sure the right hon. Gentleman recognises that it is inconvenient not to have notice of Amendments. Is it not the case that the printing of Amendments does not take place until shortly before the House resumes? Would the right hon. Gentleman make some arrangements to make sure that as soon as he knows we are coming back the authorities of the House can arrange for these Amendments to be published at an early date so that we may gather our forces and put down the necessary Amendments?

Mr. Whitelaw

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says and will do my best to help. If I was at all doubtful in my remarks, I was purely following constitutional precedent, because I cannot presume what will happen in another place. I cannot automatically say that another place will have completed its business, because that is not a matter for me. It is ony on that account that I was taking the correct constitutional line in being somewhat vague. I will do my best to help.

Mr. Adley

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Early Day Motion No. 693, which is in my name, and refer to line 11 where there is a misprint. May I have an assurance that in the new Session the House will have an opportunity to debate the Motion and cross-question the Government on the implications of the Concorde programme.

[That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to show a little more public enthusiasm for Concorde, the greatest British technological achievement for a generation; believes that Concorde's unique lead in the race for supersonic aircraft sales will stand the programme in good stead for 30 years; calls the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the historic marketing successes achieved by commercial aircraft offering the customer a really significant reduction in inter-continental journey times; reminds them of the success of the Boeing 707 as the aircraft which replaced the Douglas DC7C on the north Atlantic; asks them to recognise that the world's airlines are awaiting a firm decision of full production; pleads for understanding of the importance to the final success of Concorde of a show of enthusiasm and determination by leaders of public life in this country, in the manner that the French Government well understand; and finally suggests that there is a tremendous fund of public goodwill towards Concorde, which it is the Government's duty to the taxpayer effectively to exploit, as part of the necessary process of generating the interest of the airline customers who seek ultimately to provide the public with the most attractive and efficient form of transportation, which Concorde undoubtedly represents.]

Mr. Speaker

I do not think I can allow the right hon. Gentleman to answer questions about next Session.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will have noticed expressed in the House this morning the mounting anxiety over unemployment and redundancy in the greater Manchester area and the North-West. Could he give an undertaking that a debate on this subject will take place in the next parliamentary Session if only to deal with the frightening complacency of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and his refusal to take any positive action to deal with the situation?

Mr. Whitelaw

On the first point, I utterly repudiate any suggestion of complacency on the part of my right hon. Friend. On the other point raised by the hon. Gentleman I should like to have replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol. North-East (Mr. Adley) and to the hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris), but since Mr. Speaker has ruled that I cannot reply about matters relating to next Session, I am unable to do so.

Mr. Michael Stewart

Could time be found in what remains of this Session after we return for the House to debate the recent report of the Select Committee on the work of the Ombudsman?

Mr. Whitelaw

I appreciate the importance of that report and accept the important and valuable part played by the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) in chairing that Committee. I am afraid that, in view of the long time which has been allotted to the debate on the United Kingdom and the European Communities, I do not feel able to accept the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion in the time before the next Session. But I note—without going any further, which I must not—the right hon. Gentleman's request.

Mr. McMaster

Does my right hon. Friend recall that in past weeks in questions on Business he has been pressed by Members from Northern Ireland and other hon. Members to ask the Home Secretary to make a statement before the House rises for the recess on the position in Northern Ireland? Has he made arrangements on this matter or has he asked the Home Secretary whether he will make such a statement. He will recall that on 22nd July he referred, in what he described as a forthcoming answer, to the willingness of the Home Secretary to make a statement on the Northern Ireland position. There has been no such statement and, since great concern is felt in Northern Ireland on the rising tempo of terrorist activity, may we have a statement today?

Mr. Whitelaw

I believe I did say to my hon. Friend previously that I knew my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would wish to keep the House properly informed of any development in Northern Ireland. He has not found it necessary to make a statement. I understand that this question may be raised on an Adjournment Motion later today. My right hon. Friend certainly will be here for that debate.

Mr. Callaghan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last night I conveyed a formal request to the Home Secretary that he should make a statement today, and that it will be our intention to catch Mr. Speaker's eye on this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment? I ask the Leader of the House once again to convey to the Home Secretary what I believe is the desire of Members in all parts of the House, that he should not only attend during that debate but should give us the benefit of his views?

Mr. Whitelaw

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be here and will listen to what the right hon. Gentleman has to say. I shall, of course, consult my right hon. Friend on the basis of what the right hon. Gentleman has put to me.

Sir D. Renton

Is my hon. Friend aware that in another place there is a civilised habit, which makes for good debate, whereby the Chair, with the aid of the usual channels, arranges the order of speeches for the day. May I suggest to my right hon. Friend—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that on at least one of the days during the Common Market debate an experiment on those lines should be carried out?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what my right hon. and learned Friend says. As a considerable supporter of the usual channels in the past, I believe that there are particular tasks which on the whole I personally would prefer not to be asked to carry out. And I rather suspect from the noises in the House at what my right hon. and learned Friend said, that others would agree with me.

Mr. David Stoddart

The Leader of the House will be aware of my interest in the White Paper containing the Government's observations on the first Report of the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner. Since this is such an important document, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman can squeeze in a little time before Prorogation of the House to allow us to discuss this subject.

Mr. Whitelaw

I went as far as I could in replying to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart). I do not think I should go any further.

Sir R. Russell

If it turns out that an enormous number of hon. Members want to speak in the Common Market debate, will my right hon. Friend consider suspending the rule on some nights of the debate?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have said that I am perfectly ready to discuss the conduct of debates through the usual channels and to hear representations from any Member in the House about the time. I undertake to do that.

Mr. Stonehouse

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during the time we shall be in recess at least 25 million people in Bengal face the danger of death from starvation and that there is a serious risk of widespread war between Indian and Pakistan. In the event of further deterioration in the situation, will he make arrangements for the House to be recalled from the recess?

Mr. Whitelaw

I recognise the importance of the subject to which the right hon. Gentleman referred and I know his knowledge and interest in it. I believe that what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been able to do in this matter has been recognised as a proper contribution by this country. The procedure for a recall of the House in particular circumstances, as I will again bring out in the Adjournment debate, and the representations that can be made and the way in which this is dealt with under Standing Order No. 122, will apply in this recess as has been the case in all recesses in the past.

Mr. Wilkinson

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Early Day Motion No. 690 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) and several of his hon. Friends in the home counties dealing with the subject of airport development in the London area, which arises out of an answer to a Written Question on 20th July? As this is a most important matter, will he undertake to produce a White Paper on national airport policy before the end of this Session since this has such crucial implications for civil aviation?

[That this House notes with satisfaction the intention of Her Majesty's Government to use the capacity of the third London airport to give the maximum benefit to those around existing airports who suffer from noise, their conclusions that it will not be necessary to construct new runways at Heathrow and Luton in the foreseeable future, that upon the coming into operation of the third London airport limits and restraints should be imposed on Heathrow to reduce noise, and Luton need not continue as a major airport; congratulates the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Argyll and the Secretary of State for the Environment upon the understanding and resolution which they have brought to the appalling problem of noise round London airports; and urges them to expedite the construction of the third London airport with the utmost urgency and meanwhile to take every palliative measure possible to reduce the present impact of aircraft noise on the population of the metropolitan region.]

Mr. Whitelaw

I am sure that those of my right hon. Friends who are concerned will appreciate what the Motion says. I could not undertake anything about a White Paper, but I shall pass on to my right hon. Friends who are concerned what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Alfred Morris

With regard to the resumed debate on the Common Market in October, can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication of the likely terms of the Motion or Motions which will be before the House? Can he say when we are likely to know the terms?

Mr. Whitelaw

Certainly not this week.

Mr. Buchan

May I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the matter raised yesterday when you, Mr. Speaker, ruled very properly that it was not one for you but for the Leader of the House? It relates to the now familiar subject of the transfer of Questions. It may be that, on the last day before the Summer Recess, this is the right time for the right hon. Gentleman to consider it.

Quite apart from the transfer of Questions to the Prime Minister, which has been a source of a great deal of complaint, we had an instance where the transfer was done so badly that the original form of the Question, which referred to the Scottish Development Department, the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland, was put into the form of a Question to the Secretary of State for Employment, who has no responsibility for the Scottish Development Department. Questions are being transferred in other forms, and responsibility, therefore, is being ignored by the relevant Ministers.

The right hon. Gentleman has three months in which to straighten out this matter. I hope that he will do so.

Mr. Whitelaw

I have been into this matter and checked carefully. Sometimes when a Question is properly transferred and where it would be accepted by the House as being properly transferred, the sense is somewhat changed. I understand from your advisers, Mr. Speaker, that it will be possible in future in such cases to make corrections so that the sense is preserved where it is felt that Questions have been properly transferred.

In the matter of transfers generally, I have looked carefully and cannot find, either in the case of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister or anyone else, any change in previous practice. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has answered more Questions than his predecessor. There has been no change in practice. But I shall look into the matter.

Sir Robert Cary

With regard to the suggestion put to my right hon. Friend by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) about a named list of speakers in an imitation of another place, does not my right hon. Friend agree that that would ruin the essence of debate in this House?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not necessarily think that it is for me to decide what the House feels. I have noted what my right hon. and learned Friend said. I understand his feelings, and obviously there would be some advantages in the adoption of his suggestion. I confined myself to the point about the usual channels. In view of what my hon. Friend has said, I was probably wise to do so.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. John Davies. Statement.

Mr. Stoddart

On a point of order. When I asked by business question earlier, the Leader of the House replied that he had already dealt with it in his answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart). However, the right hon. Gentleman did not answer my question. I asked for a debate on Cmnd. 2478. My question was quite different from the one asked by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Whitelaw

I am sorry. It was my stupidity. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I shall look into the point that he has made.

Mr. Rhodes

On a further point of order. Since the last business statement, a number of my hon. Friends have tabled an Early Day Motion. A number of hon. Members were called to ask questions on the business statement. I was not called, although I tabled that Motion. But, Mr. Speaker, you called a number of hon. Members who may not have tabled a Motion since the last business statement. Might I ask the Leader of the House for a debate after the recess on the Motion that I have tabled?

Mr. Speaker

In view of what may happen later today, I shall allow the hon. Gentleman to put his Question.

Mr. Rhodes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman's attention has been drawn to Early Day Motion No. 685, referring to the financial support of Prime Ministers past and present. During the recess, can the Leader of the House arrange for his right hon. Friends to publish their bank accounts so that we may discuss them when we return after the recess? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the public curiosity and interest in the general question of how right hon. Gentlemen manage to keep themselves solvent?

[That this House congratulates the Leader of the Opposition in revealing to the public the financial circumstances in which he was left after serving as Prime Minister; welcomes this innovation of uninhibited frankness in opening up these matters of great public interest and concern; and invites the Prime Minister and his colleagues to reveal their own financial circumstances for public perusal.]

Mr. Whitelaw

I think that the best answer that I can give the hon. Gentleman is that the Boyle Committee is looking into the whole question of Ministers' and Members' salaries. The Committee probably will be reporting in the autumn. That is the place where all these matters can be considered carefully.

While I am on my feet, may I apologise to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). I was correct in saying that the Answer to which he had referred had a misprint and that it would be corrected. However, I was wrongly informed about the word "not". I am sure that it will give the hon. Gentleman pleasure to know that I was wrong and that he was right.