HC Deb 01 July 1971 vol 820 cc581-9
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)

The business for next week will be as follows:—

MONDAY, 5TH JULY and TUESDAY, 6TH JULY—Report stage of the Finance Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 7TH JULY—Completion of the Report stage and Third Reading of the Finance Bill.

THURSDAY, 8TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Social Security Bill.

FRIDAY, 9TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Housing Bill, the Hijacking Bill, the Recognition of Divorces and Legal Separations Bill [Lords], the Mineral Working (Offshore Installations) Bill [Lords], and the Friendly Societies Bill [Lords].

MONDAY, 12TH JULY—Consideration of Private Members' Motions until Seven o'clock.

Afterwards, Second Reading of the Diplomatic and Other Privileges Bill and the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill [Lords].

Remaining stages of the Merchant Shipping (Oil Pollution) Bill [Lords] and the Land Registration and Land Charges Bill [Lords].

Motions on the Anti-Dumping Duty (No. 3) Order, the Electricity (Borrowing Powers) (Scotland) Order and the Medicines (Surgical Materials) Order.

Mr. Harold Wilson

When does the right hon. Gentleman expect the White Paper on the E.E.C. to be published? Secondly, in view of the strong feelings expressed yesterday, which drove the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry into lifting the veil a little on the secret manoeuvrings, will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will make a full statement to the House next week on the question of steel and of coal? Thirdly, may I remind the right hon. Gentleman that a fortnight ago, when we gave notice of a Motion of censure on the economic situation, he said that the Government wanted a two-day debate? We have not heard about that recently. When does he intend to have a two-day economic debate? Will he confirm that it will be fully in Government time, as I think was understood?

Mr. Whitelaw

The White Paper will be published next week. It will include all the details, and therefore I do not think that the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested from my right hon. and learned Friend will be necessary.

As the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate from the sense of my other suggestion a fortnight ago, we have had, properly and naturally, in Government time, a one-day debate on the censure Motion which the Opposition tabled on the economic situation. Now, of course, we have to fit in a long debate, as the House wishes, on the "Take Note" Motion on the Common Market, which has been promised. I cannot give any undertaking about a further debate on the economic situation, but I am always ready to have discussions on this or any other matter through the usual channels.

Mr. Harold Wilson

For the first time within the knowledge of most of us the right hon. Gentleman is being a little disingenuous here, and I am sure that that is not his wish. When I gave notice of a one-day Motion of censure two weeks ago today he said that the Government wanted a two-day debate. That was then his intention. While it is true that we have now had the one-day debate—and, of course, it became clear that the Government were postponing a two-day economic debate—will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Government intend to initiate a two-day, one-day or any other length of economic debate between now and the recess, or whether, despite what he said, the Government are not proposing to have an economic debate before the House rises?

Mr. Whitelaw

The right hon. Gentleman is not being quite fair in saying that I was slightly disingenuous. The suggestion I made for the two-day debate was put forward in response to his statement that he was tabling a censure Motion on the economic situation. If he looks at my words on that occasion he will see that what I suggested was that the Government might have another day and that together we could have a two-day debate tied in with the Motion. The right hon. Gentleman will find that that is what I said then and I stand by that today. I do not think that I have gone back on the question of a two-day debate. I have now said that, having had a one-day debate on the censure Motion, I am prepared to consider the possibility of a further debate. In view of the timetable before the recess, however, I cannot give a further undertaking now, but I will consider it through the usual channels.

Mr. Harold Wilson

The right hon. Gentleman is obviously floundering. We all know why. We have sympathy with him and conclusions will be drawn from his statement. Is he aware that when he referred to a two-day debate he said that this could be discussed through the usual channels? When that discussion took place it turned out that the Government did not want to have our Supply Day for the censure Motion but were thinking of a debate rather later on. Now they are no longer interested in a debate later on. Has this anything to do with the division in the Cabinet about economic policy?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am beginning to wonder who is floundering now. I am not floundering. I have my words here, but I will not bore the House with them now. What I have said is correct. What I have always said, and what I repeat, is that of course I am prepared to consider the possibility of a one-day debate, which was the original plan before the House rose, on the economic situation. I am simply not giving any undertaking today in view of the other business we have before the House rises.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a large number of questions relating to matters for inclusion in the White Paper on the E.E.C. are still awaiting answer, although in many cases the days they were set down for answer have already passed? Will he use his influence to see that these questions are answered as quickly as possible—and answered to the effect that these important matters will be specifically dealt with in the White Paper?

Mr. Whitelaw

I will look into that point.

Mr. Heffer

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that at the same time as the White Paper is published, or at about that time, the memorandum of the E.E.C. Commission on proposals put to the Government about the British steel industry will be published so that hon. Members can see what those proposals are?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said earlier. All matters relating to this and the position will be set out in the White Paper, but parts of the negotions of course will not.

Dame Irene Ward

Can we have an assurance that the Industrial Relations Bill will be on the Statute Book before the House rises for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Whitelaw

That is the Government's intention.

Mr. Shore

In view of the number of serious fires that have occurred in the London area this year, including the unfortunate and tragic fire in Cable Street, Stepney, last night, and in view of the allegations that there is a possibility of arson in some of these cases, will the right hon. Gentleman consult the Home Secretary as to the desirability of making a statement next week on this general subject, which, if these allegations are true, is a worrying phenomenon?

Mr. Whitelaw

I will certainly do what the right hon. Gentleman asks.

Mr. Kilfedder

Can my right hon. Friend provide time to debate the inept and bungling way in which the United Nations is organising relief for East Pakistan? Can he also provide time, on a separate occasion, to debate the situation in Pakistan itself?

Mr. Whitelaw

It would be wrong for me in my answer to accept the accusations my hon. Friend has made. It is not for me to comment on them. I cannot see time for such debates before the House rises for the Summer Recess.

Mrs. Castle

As the Secretary of State for Employment earlier repudiated any responsibility for seeing that the House had an opportunity to discuss the Consultative Document on the Code of Practice for Industrial Relations, can the right hon. Gentleman give us any indication now that the House will have that right and, secondly, when? Will he also deal with another point with which the Secretary of State refused to deal, namely, the possibility of putting the draft Code before the House of Commons in a form which is amendable, which was the desire expressed on both sides of the House during the Committee stage of the Bill?

Mr. Whitelaw

I will discuss with my right hon. Friend the points which the right hon. Lady has put forward. Naturally, I should welcome a debate and I would like to discuss the question of timing through the usual channels.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

When may we expect a statement on Rolls-Royce and the negotiations taking place? Does my right hon. Friend realise that it would be most unsatisfactory if we went into recess before we had any idea of what was going to happen about Rolls-Royce?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what my hon. Friend says, but I cannot indicate when such a statement might be made.

Mr. John Mendelson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not good enough for him to say, with reference to the White Paper to be published next week, that he has nothing to add to what the Prime Minister said? He must be aware that the contents of the documents submitted by the Community to the British negotiating team on 5th May are in the hands of a newspaper and that large chunks of it have been published. Hon. Members representing steel and coal constituencies, as well as other hon. Members, have a perfect right to have the details of that document laid on the Table of the House so that those most directly concerned before the "Take Note" debate can see what the E.E.C. is ruling out as inadmissible after sovereign decisions have been made by this House about our publicly-owned industries?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, but whether he thinks it good enough or not, the truth is that I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said.

Mr. Harold Wilson

But the Prime Minister made clear, when I was asking—as I am asking now—for a statement by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, that this matter would be dealt with by the White Paper. Is that so? If not, can we have the text of this document?

Mr. Whitelaw

I answered that I believed it would be, and that is what my right hon. Friend said. That is why I said that I could not say more than I did.

Mr. Bob Brown

The right hon. Gentleman will have seen a Motion on the Order Paper dealing with the proposed location of the value-added tax centre at Southend, signed in the main by Labour Members, and largely by members of the Northern group of Labour Members.

[That this House deplores the decision of the Government to place the central control organisation of the Value-Added Tax Office at Southend, which is totally irreconcilable with the policy of successive Governments on the dispersal of Government departments outside the congested area of London and the South-East, because this decision flagrantly disregards the acknowledged claims of the development areas and, in particular, wholly ignores the claims of the Northern Region with its critical unemployment, including 4,000 clerical workers, thus exacerbating the serious consequences of closing and shelving important Government headquarters in the Region by the present Government.]

We might have expected the hon. Members for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott) to sign the Motion, although I can understand why the Leader of the House has not signed it. However, I am sure that he will have brought pressure to bear on the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Chancellor will make a statement indicating that the matter has been reconsidered and that the centre will be located where it should have been proposed in the first place—in the Northern Region?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I cannot give him any hope about the statement which he requests.

Mr. Whitehead

In view of the immense and unique importance of the debate on the White Paper on Britain's entry to the Common Market, has the right hon. Gentleman put to the appropriate Committee the request which I made to him last week about broadcasting on sound radio the whole of the "Take Note" debate?

Mr. Whitelaw

The Services Committee will consider next week the question of the sound broadcasting of the Common Market debates. I do not think that it will be possible to broadcast the "Take Note" debate. The Services Committee will be considering the matter and will recommend to the House about the possibility of broadcasting the main debate in October.

Mr. Callaghan

I should like to revert to the question of the European Coal and Steel Community. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the document which it is said emanated from the Commission contains a list of nearly five foolscap pages of restrictions and practices in force in the National Coal Board and the British Steel Corporation which will become out of order and will have to be discontinued if we join the Community? Is it not fair that the House should know whether this document, which has had unofficial circulation, is genuine and whether the list of prohibitions and restrictions is accurate? Is it not right that we should be able to see that document and know whether it is official and the Government's reply to it? As I imagine that it is too much to expect it to be contained in the White Paper—and it is a very long document which I have seen—would it not be better if the Minister were to make a separate statement or publish a separate White Paper on the issue?

Mr. Whitelaw

I was not aware of the facts which the right hon. Gentleman has adduced. I shall naturally look into them, but I cannot give any further undertaking.

Mr. Rose

In view of the astonishing amount of business before the House and the declared intention of the Leader of the House to force through the Industrial Relations Bill before the end of July, will the right hon. Gentleman explain how the House will have adequate time to debate the more than 180 Amendments which have been made in the Lords? Is he already beginning to sharpen another guillotine?

Mr. Whitelaw

The hon. Gentleman should look at the terms of the original Motion put before the House.

Dr. Gilbert

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many days he proposes to give to the "Take Note" debate? If he cannot tell us now, when may we know?

Mr. Whitelaw

I cannot give the exact time. I have discussed this matter, and will continue to do so, through the usual channels and, I hope, reach a conclusion which is satisfactory to the House. I hope to be able to do so next week. But I can guarantee that the time given will be very reasonable and that all the House will think so.

Mr. Skinner

I should like to revert to the secret document relating to the E.C.S.C. Treaty. As the Leader of the House was a little coy about saying whether a White Paper will be published, may I take it that the Questions which I have on today's Order Paper relating to the practices and provisions of the E.C.S.C. Treaty and the restrictions on the National Coal Board and the British Steel Corporation and the Coal Board being prevented from operating its own pricing policy will be answered?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not think that I have been coy about the publication of a White Paper. I said that a White Paper will be published next week. If the hon. Gentleman puts Questions on the Order Paper they will be answered.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

If the implication of the right hon. Gentleman's previous answer is that he proposes to truncate or prevent discussion in the House of Amendments made in another place, does he agree that that would be a constitutional scandal of the first order? It would be resisted on this side of the House by every possible means.

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not think it would be a constitutional scandal. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the previous motion he will see the basis on which we shall proceed when the Bill comes back from another place.

Mr. Gwynoro Jones

In view of the refusal of the Secretary of State for Wales to publish a White Paper on the possible consequences for Wales of Britain's entry to the Common Market, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the White Paper will include a chapter on the consequences for the development areas as a whole? Unless that is done, the people of Wales and Scotland will not be able to make an accurate judgment.

Mr. Whitelaw

It would be wrong for me to prejudge what will be published in the White Paper next week.

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