HC Deb 28 January 1971 vol 810 cc815-31
Mr. Harold Wilson

May I ask the Leader of the House to 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, 1ST FEBRUARY and TUESDAY, 2ND FEBRUARY. Industrial Relations Bill: Committee stage (3rd and 4th allotted days).

WEDNESDAY, 3RD FEBRUARY. Debate on a Motion to take note of the Report from the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, 1969–70, relating to economic planning in Scotland.

Second Reading of the Vehicles (Excise) Bill [Lords] and of the Hydrocarbon Oil (Customs and Excise) Bill [Lords], which are consolidation Measures.

Motion on the Functions of Traffic Wardens (Scotland) Order.

THURSDAY, 4TH FEBRUARY. Supply (10th allotted day): There will be a debate on an Opposition Motion relating to pensions.

Remaining stages of the Vehicles (Excise) Bill [Lords] and of the Hydrocarbon Oil (Customs and Excise) Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Anti-Dumping Duty (No. 5) Order.

Motion to implement the recommendations of the Select Committee on Standing Orders (Revision).

FRIDAY, 5TH FEBRUARY. Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY. Until Seven o'clock, consideration of Private Members' Motions. Afterwards, Second Reading of the Rating Bill.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Government expect to publish the White Paper on arms for South Africa? Is he aware that when it is published we shall expect him to provide Government time at the earliest opportunity for a debate on this important issue?

Second, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that although we accept the contrite reply of the Minister for Transport Industries about making an important satement in a Written Answer, there is a feeling, probably on both sides of the House, that this is not the proper way to make such announcements? For example, last week an important decision, from a constituency point of view, about pubs in Carlisle and the Border country and elsewhere was given in a Written Answer, instead of being done decently and straightforwardly across the Floor of the House. Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that he will do his best to look into this question?

I do not want to press him more on it this afternoon, but will he provide time for a debate on the Carlisle situation, ahead of the necessary legislation? I ask that because I do not think that this was a very big election issue for right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I am sure that hon. Gentlemen on the back benches opposite would like to get out of the allegation that they are selling off State assets for their friends, and that they did not come here just for the beer.

Mr. Whitelaw

On the first point, I understand that the White Paper will be published next week—I hope early next week. I think that it would be right for the House to study the terms of the White Paper before deciding about a debate, but I note what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

On the point about announcing decisions in statements at the end of Question Time, I should like to say at once that I take absolutely full responsibility —[Interruption.]—if the hon. Gentleman does not want me to take responsibility, he does not have to. I am trying to be fair to my right hon. Friend, which I think is honest and is due to him and to the House. As it was I who prevented my right hon. Friend from making a statement yesterday, I think that I am right to stand up before the House and explain myself, and that is what I am doing.

I should like to explain exactly what I mean, and what my purpose is when I make a decision about statements. I am in the hands of the House, and if the House wants things done differently, so be it. When I see that a statement has to be made, a decision has to be taken whether it would be right to take up the time of the House for that statement, and thereby cut down the time available for the rest of the business of the House. That decision has to be made about every statement, and all Leaders of the House from time immemorial have had to take such a decision.

I take the view that if a decision is soon to be followed by legislation, when there will be time during the consideration of the legislation to discuss the matter fully in the House, it is probably right not to have a statement. If I am wrong, I am prepared to consider what should be done in future, but it is a practice which has been followed by my predecessors. I hope hon. Members will realise that if the present practice is changed it will cut into the time available for other business.

The Carlisle State Management Scheme will shortly be the subject of legislation, and I think that there will be plenty of time to debate it within the legislation.

Mr. Eadie

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance, and I am sorry that I have to raise this point of order, but the fact that I am raising it will, I think, illustrate the point that I shall try to make in seeking your guidance.

On your election as Speaker you said that you would preserve the rights of back benchers in this illustrious House of Commons. I am about to go to the Committee considering the Coal Industry Bill——

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Eadie

—and I want to put a question to the Leader of the House because my rights as a back bencher are to some extent being frustrated by the way in which the Government are running the business of the House.

The Committee stage of the Industrial Relations Bill is being taken on the Floor of the House this afternoon. As a former trade unionist, and now as a miners' Member of Parliament with an active interest in the Bill, I have a duty to represent my constituents who have expressed some strong views about this matter, but because of the way in which the business of the House has been organised I must attend the Committee upstairs on the Coal Industry Bill, which meets not only in the morning, but in the afternoon, and thus I am prevented from taking part in debates in the House. I would seek your guidance, because I must leave the House shortly to join the Standing Committee on the Coal Industry Bill. Therefore, I rely on the promise which you gave to preserve the rights of back benchers when participating in the business of the House.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member began by saying that, by seeking my guidance, he would make a point. He has made the point, but it is not one for the Chair. It is one for those who control the business of the House, which the Chair does not do. The Chair tries to preserve certain rules of order, but the contents of the business is not a matter for the Chair. However, I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman has made his point.

Mrs. Knight

Will my right hon. Friend note that, by 3.15 today, we had only reached Question No. 17 on the Order Paper, and bear in mind the possibility either of having a system whereby Members who hand in Questions at the Table Office have those Questions marked with the time at which they are handed in, and the Question would then appear on the Order Paper in direct relevance to the time that it was handed in, instead of at a printer's whim, or of having an hour for Questions from 2.30, or of bearing in mind the evidence given on this point to the Select Committee on Procedure?

Mr. Whitelawrose——

Mr. Eadie

On a point of order. You gave a Ruling, Mr. Speaker, which hon. Members accept and which I certainly accept, but after you had given that Ruling, it was a great discourtesy to the House that the Leader of the House should remain seated and not try to help the House in the difficulties which it is in because of his ineptitude.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order. It may be that the hon. Gentleman would have got an answer from the Leader of the House if he had put his question to him and not to me.

Mr. Whitelaw

In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight), I will look into the point which she has made.

In answer to the point of the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), which he raised fairly in a point of order with you, Mr. Speaker, I understood that it was not correct for me to reply to a point of order addressed to you. However, as he wishes an answer from me, I am only too pleased to give it. That is, I appreciate the difficulty in which he has been placed. I am afraid that this is nothing new. It has happened with all Governments over a long period. I shall do my best to ensure that it happens as little as possible.

Mr. Member

Will the right hon. Gentleman give time as early as possible next week for a full debate on the recently publicised disturbing increase in the number of wage earners in full-time work earning less than the supplementary benefit poverty level? I am sure that he will appreciate that this is a matter of the greatest public importance and one which is urgent, because the Government's present economic policy of de-escalating what they choose to regard as inflationary wage claims is concentrated exclusively on the public sector, when, as is well known——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not develop the kind of points which he would make if time were found for a debate.

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) says. Of course, he raises subjects of considerable importance. There are a number of opportunities when these can be raised in the House. I could not give special time for a debate on them, however, in the near future.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Arising out of the very important point about Question Time raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight), will my right hon. Friend give some thought to having a debate as soon as possible on the recommendation of the Select Committee on Procedure dealing with Question Time, in the last Session?

Mr. Whitelaw

As I have promised the House before, I hope shortly to put a proposal before the House arising from that Select Committee's Report and to ask the House to come to its own conclusions on it, as I believe that this is essentially a House of Commons matter.

Mr. Loughlin

May we revert for a moment to the question of Thomas Cook and the disposal of other national assets? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of allowing a debate on the issue of the disposal of national assets, which appears to be the policy of the Government, particularly in view of its impact upon the integrity of hon. Members, because very often those assets will be disposed of to persons with whom Ministers of the Crown have had personal and business relations? This House has been, over the centuries, renowned for its incorruptibility——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman has asked his question.

Mr. Loughlin

Mr. Speaker, may I ask the Leader of the House whether, in the interests of the House alone, he will give us time to have a debate on this issue?

Mr. Whitelaw

I know that the hon. Gentleman is certainly not intending in any way to cast any doubts on the integrity of myself or any of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Government. At the same time, I could not undertake for a specific debate on this subject. There are ample opportunities for it if any proposals such as that affecting Thomas Cook are made. if there comes a chance for a debate later on, of course—but I cannot promise one in the near future.

Dame Irene Ward

Has my right hon. Friend seen the Motions in my name proposing a new policy to help the North-East?

[That, in the opinion of this House, in view of the close analysis of the economic and industrial needs of the North-East, which appeared in recent copies of The Times, it would be in the interest of the future of the North-East if a high-ranking industrialist with outstanding qualifications was appointed to examine the economic implications of the assessment in The Times, and make recommendations to the Government to meet the problems which require immediate attention.]

[That this House is of opinion that the findings of a high-ranking industrialist on the economic requirements of the North-East,should be presented to the Prime Minister, who would arrange for consideration and immediate action by each appropriate Secretary of State; and is further of the opinion that the recent welcome offer of the Secretary of State for the Environment to speak in Cabinet for the North-East would ensure support for soundly based financial action for the economic and social needs of the area, coupled with the finance to implement plans necessary for the proper development of the Region.]

[That, in the opinion of this House, the recommendations of a high-ranking industrialist would be of greater value to the North-East Region than a Minister, and would command support from the business community as well as from trades unions and the public, and, further, that recommendations are necessary for the proper planning of roads, and the future of shipbuilding, having regard to the increase in steel prices, training of skilled men, the advisability or not of the phasing out of the regional employment premium, the changeover from industrial development grants to allowances, the case for the removal of selective employment tax and social development in excess of announced programmes, etc., etc.]

If he cannot arrange for a debate next week, would he speak in our favour in the Cabinet when the matter comes to be discussed?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note the very important Motions put down by my hon Friend, and the Government's policies and plans for the North-East are being carefully considered. As for what I do or do not do in the Cabinet, it would not be proper for me to say.

Mr. C. Pannell

Will the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the unhappy business this week, re-examine the proposal of the Select Committee on Procedure a few years ago that we should abolish the Parliamentary Session as it is now known, with a view to carrying over contentious legislation into the next Session, rather than inflicting a guillotine in the thoroughly unmerited way which has upset hon. Members in all parts of the House this week?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what the right hon. Gentleman says, and I will certainly consider that Report, of course without any commitment. Perhaps my only comment—I do not wish to rake over the past particularly—is this: I was glad that I was able to respond to the Opposition over the time for the Report stage on the Industrial Relations Bill. It is perhaps interesting to note that now, on that Bill, the new time for Report and Third Reading is, I think, the longest time for any Report and Third Reading of any Bill for which I have been able to find precedent in the history of Parliament. There may be one longer—I am looking into it —but it is certainly the longest that can be found for a very long time.

Mr. Burden

My right hon. Friend will recall a Motion on the Order Paper recently about a request for a debate on the Littlewood Report.

[That this House draws the attention of the Secretary of State for the Home Department to the fact that the Littlewood Committee Report, Experiments on Living Animals, Command Paper No. 2641, which was published in April, 1965 has not yet been discussed by This House; and, in view of the public concern at the increasing number of animals subjected to vivisection, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to afford time for an early debate.]

He said that he would look into it. In view of the growing concern about vivisection, will he now say whether there is any opportunity or possibility of a debate in the reasonably near future?

Mr. Whitelaw

I know the importance of the subject which my hon. Friend raises and I also appreciate his close personal interest in the matter, but I am afraid that I cannot offer Government time in the near future. Of course, this is eminently a subject for a Private Member's Motion. or it can be raised in other ways. If I could find Government time, I should be very pleased to do so, but I cannot see an opportunity in the near future.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

In view of the interesting speech which the right hon. Gentleman himself made last week about the Press and the Official Secrets Acts, would he not perhaps think that it is timely, in view of the state of the Press at the moment, that we should have a debate both on the Official Secrets Acts and on the state of the Press as early as possible?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's calling attention to a speech which I made; very few people notice anything I do. But I could not find time in the near future for such a debate. That has made my position clear. I naturally appreciate the importance of the subject which he has raised. Equally, I understand that it is to some extent, in one aspect, sub judice in a case at the moment. Nevertheless, the importance of it in future I fully recognise.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Motion No. 53 calling for an independent inquiry into the working of the Abortion Act, which has been signed by myself and 260 Members from both sides of the House?

[That this House calls upon the Secretary of State for Social Services to set up immediately an independent inquiry into the working of the Abortion Act which has been in operation for over two years and which has caused widespread public concern and considers that any such inquiry should assess the effects of the Act on the health of the nation a, well as on its legal, social and moral life and should recommend any changes in the law which are in the public interest.]

Could he see whether we can have a debate on this Motion, which has been on the Order Paper for six months, or will he at least draw it to the attention of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services?

Mr. Whitelaw

I certainly undertake to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to the Motion, but I am afraid that I am unable to find time for it to be debated in the near future.

Mr. Latham

Despite his difficulties, when does the right hon. Gentleman expect to find time to debate an important House of Commons matter; namely, the Report of the Committee of Privileges concerning the imprisonment of hon. Members?

When he eventually finds time for such a debate, will he draw the necessary Motion sufficiently wide, first to cover the matters raised at the time and the matters with which the Committee did not deal; secondly, to cover the imprisonment of an hon. Member of this House at the present time, both in regard to the nature of the offence and the sentence; and, thirdly, the point raised in a recent Adjournment debate by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), in which he indicated that he had been refused access to his constituency by the British Army?

As the second and third points are not only important but continuing, and are not matters relating to the past, may I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to accept that the House should discuss these issues at the earliest opportunity?

Mr. Whitelaw

I recognise the importance of the matter and of the Report of the Select Committee of Privileges which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, was about the general principle and not about any particular case. While recognising the importance of the subject, I am unable to find Government time for it to be debated next week.

Mr. Cordle

In view of the serious financial problems which some of our national and provincial orchestras are facing, coupled with the impending policy of museum charges, may I ask my right hon. Friend to find time for the House to debate the arts and amenities?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note the importance of the subject and I am sure that there will be opportunities for it to be debated. However, I cannot offer Government time in the near future.

Mr. Lawson

Why has there been a delay in setting up the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? Will it be set up next week?

Mr. Whitelaw

I cannot promise exactly when it will be set up. I have responded to the first of the hon. Gentleman's requests by saying that there will be a debate on the last Report. That will happen, as I promised it would. I said that such a debate would take place early in the year. I cannot give any further information on the matter today.

Mr. Moate

Is my right hon. Friend aware of several Motions which have been tabled on the subject of the siting of the third London airport? Now that the Roskill Commission's Report has been published in full, may I ask my right hon. Friend when we will debate this vital and crucial subject? When such a debate is arranged, will he make the maximum amount of time available in view of the immense importance which many hon. Members attach to this issue and in view of the large number of hon. Members who will wish to speak?

Mr. Whitelaw

My hon. Friend will appreciate that I have already undertaken that Government time will be provided for a debate on the question of the siting of the third London airport before any decision is reached by the Government.

Mr. J. T. Price

In view of the declared policy of Her Majesty's Government to sell off to speculators the profitable portions of the national assets in the nationalised industries and the bonanza that is likely to be created by that process, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman for an assurance that if and when the Government decide to dispose of the Crown jewels, we will be more suitably informed and given better notice?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not in the least accept the hon. Gentleman's premise as to what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government; and therefore what he said following that does not arise.

Mr. Harold Wilson

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to be rather more specific about his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) on the question of Thomas Cook? I did not understand whether or not the Leader of the House was giving an undertaking not to take any action in this case by selling all the assets, or by inviting tenders for their sale, until the House had had a chance to debate the matter. Does he appreciate that this is, in a sense, different from the Carlisle case because he can at least claim that legislation is coming?

Next, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that we have a clear Government statement—and, if necessary, a debate; let us have the statement first—about the Government's attitude to apartheid in sport? Has his attention been drawn to the Motion No. 245 standing in the names of many hon. Members on this subject? Is he aware that this matter is causing great concern in the House and the country in that the point was not answered in the House when it came up the other day? On that occasion it was totally ducked and no attempt was made to answer it—to the point where many hon. Members wondered whether there was something going on about which we should be told. Will he ensure that a clear statement is made next week by a responsible Government Minister? If the Minister responsible for sport cannot do it, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for somebody else to make the statement?

[That this House, noting the ambivalent statement of the Minister responsible for sport on Wednesday, 27th January at Question Time, concludes that the Government is considering a major change of policy, involving issues of apartheid, in order to enable British sports teams to take part in South African sports events at the expense of the British taxpayer; and deplores any such change of policy, which cannot be in the long-term interests of British sportsmen and of international sport.]

Mr. Whitelaw

The answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question is that I understood his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) to be raising a rather wider point, which was the whole question of assets in general and whether Ministers were involved. I did not understand him to be referring directly to Thomas Cook. I think it right for me to say at this stage that I will immediately investigate what the right hon. Gentleman has said and have discussions with my right hon. Friend who is concerned with this matter. I certainly note the important point which he made.

I come to the second part, about the need for a statement. I have seen the Motion about apartheidin sport. For my part, I had no knowledge of any change in the existing position on this subject. If there has been any change, then of course there will be a statement. However, I do not quite see the need for a statement if there has been absolutely no change in the present position, which I understand to be the case. Nevertheless, I will look into the matter and refer the question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Mr. Harold Wilson

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his last answer, which was more specific than the one that was given by his Ministerial colleague. If he is now saying what his colleague refused to say, and which caused the suspicions to which I referred—if he is saying that no taxpayers' money will be used for the purpose of sending British sportsmen and sportswomen abroad to take part in racially segregated sport—and if he, having gone into these matters, has satisfied himself that there has been no change in the position, then we are grateful to him and must invite him to take over his right hon. Friend's portfolio because we like straight answers.

Mr. Whitelaw

Perhaps I have let myself into a certain danger by the straightness of my answer. I will certainly look into the facts because the right hon. Gentleman has now specifically raised the question of grants. I think the right position for me to take is to look into the subject, and if there has been any change in the policy on the lines put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, then of course my right hon. Friend will make a statement. I will investigate the position, naturally without commitment at this stage.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Will my right hon. Friend take an early opportunity next week to have what could be a dangerous inaccuracy put right? The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has spoken of "loot" and it has been said in reply by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries that extortionately high prices will be asked for Thomas Cook's assets. This, with other questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition and other hon. Gentlemen opposite on this subject, may have given the wrong impression of it being a bonanza.

If the return on capital is taken into account, none of the suggestions made by hon. Gentlemen opposite fit the facts. Will my right hon. Friend ensure the removal of this wrong impression so as not to allow it to interfere with the correct disposal of these assets, if their disposal fits in with Government policy?

Mr. Whitelaw

Perhaps I have already strayed far enough into matters of policy in answering questions today. I do not think I will be able to find time for a specific debate on this issue next week. There will, no doubt, be opportunities for this matter to be raised; and, for my part, I think there is nothing in what is being done for one to draw some of the conclusions that have been stated in the House.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Chair is in some difficulty, as often happens at this time. I have already permitted business questions to continue for 25 minutes. I will allow them to continue for a further five minutes, though I ask hon. Members to be brief in putting their questions and to try to avoid asking questions which have already been asked.

Mr. Edward Lyons

Has the Leader of the House noticed Motion No. 246, which has been signed by over 130 hon. Members on both sides of the House, relating to the arrest of the Dean of Johannesburg?

[That this House deplores the arrest of a British subject—namely the Dean of Johannesburg—by the South African Government on what are apparently political charges; and urges Her Majesty's Government to press for his immediate release on his trial on a charge universally recognised as criminal.]

As the Dean was arrested under the Terrorism Act, which denies fundamental human rights, and charged under the Suppression of Communism Act, which for vagueness is equalled only by the criminal statutes in the Soviet Union, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to have a debate on this matter next week so that we may consider the Dean's present situation?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have certainly noted the very important Motion to which the hon. Gentleman refers and which has been signed by hon. Members in all parts of the House. Hon. Members will have noted from reports in the Press—and I understand this to be the case—that the Dean has now been released on bail. In these circumstances, I do not think it will be possible to have a debate next week, but I undertake to make sure that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is made well aware of the feelings of the House on this subject, and I know that he will wish to keep the House fully informed about it.

Mr. Braine

Reverting to the question of the Roskill Commission's Report, may I ask my right hon. Friend to be a little more explicit? Is he aware that there is not only widespread interest in the subject in constitencies like mine but also deep anxiety? Will he undertake to look into the possibility of a debate taking place in the House, and not in another place—their Lordships do not represent anybody—in the early part of February?

Mr. Whitelaw

I cannot be more specific than I have been in the past on this subject. I appreciate the anxieties to which my hon. Friend very properly refers on behalf of his constituents and others. I understand that there will be a debate in another place. I cannot say exactly when the debate in this House will be, but I give an absolute undertaking that it will be before the Government reach any decision.

Mr. Ashley

In view of the disappointing reply to a recent Adjournment debate on the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, can we have an early debate on Early Day Motion No. 222, dealing with the subject?

[That this House call for the immediate implementation of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act and urges the Government to take vigorous action to ensure that every eligible person receives their entitlements under the Act.]

Mr. Whitelaw

I did not know that there was a disappointing reply. I am sure that it cannot really have been so. However, I note what the hon. Gentleman says. I shall see that the important question which he raises and in which he has so much interest is brought to the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends concerned. I could not undertake to make time available for a debate in the near future.

Mr. Kilfedder

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the Second Reading of the Hare Coursing Bill was not reached last Friday. Will he now reconsider the possibility of providing time for this important and merciful Measure which has considerable support on both sides of the House and tremendous support in the country?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what my hon. Friend says. It is fair to point out that there is considerable time in the House for private Members' legislation and for Government legislation. It has always been my belief that it was right to keep them separate and that, as far as possible, Private Members' Bills should be taken in the time allotted to private Members' legislation. I do not rule out the possibility, in exceptional circumstances, that some Private Member's Bill will be given time if it is widely wanted in the House. However, in principle it is right to leave private Members' legislation to private Members' time. That is a proposition to which I hope to adhere.

Mr. Urwin

Does the Leader of the House appreciate that there is considerable disappointment on this side of the House, and not a little surprise, that when his hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) referred to the three Early Day Motions in her name, she did not ask the right hon. Gentleman to provide time for a debate on them? In view of the continuing escalation in unemployment figures in the Northern Region and the deep disappointment in the region about the continuing absence of a coherent regional policy, will the right hon. Gentleman please ensure that time is given for an early debate on a matter which is of serious concern in the North?

Mr. Whitelaw

I appreciate the importance of the subject and the feelings in the area, because obviously I have considerable firsthand knowledge of them. I do not accept all the hon. Gentleman's premises, and I am afraid that I could not arrange for a debate in Government time. There are other opportunities, of course, for raising the subject.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker