HC Deb 18 November 1971 vol 826 cc628-34
Mr. Roy Jenkins

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, 22ND NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill. Motions on the Local Loans (Increase of Limit) Order and on the Purchase Tax (No. 6) Order.

TUESDAY, 23RD NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Bill. Motions on the Industrial Court (Appeals) Orders and the Legal Aid (Extension of Proceedings) Regulations.

WEDNESDAY, 24TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Transport Holding Company Bill, which it is hoped to obtain by about seven o'clock. Afterwards, procedure Motion on the Scottish Standing Committees.

THURSDAY, 25TH NOVEMBER—Supply (2nd allotted day): Debate on a Motion to take note of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Reports from the Committee of Public Accounts in Session 1970–71, and the related Treasury Minute (Command No. 4817). Motions relating to the Civil Aviation (Designation of Aerodromes) Order and the Crown Court Rules.

FRIDAY, 26TH NOVEMBER—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 29TH NOVEMBER—Supply (3rd allotted day): Debate on a topic to be announced.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Does the Lord President realise that his hope that the Transport Holding Company Bill will be disposed of by seven o'clock on Wednesday is somewhat optimistic, as this is a highly controversial Measure and the House may well think that the debate should run until ten o'clock? If that happens, will he tell us what will be his proposal for the procedure Motion on the Scottish Standing Committees?

In view of today's unemployment figures and the grave concern which has been expressed in the House, what plans have the Government for putting before the House, in Government time, their proposals, which are hinted at outside but never expounded in the House, for dealing with this problem?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what the right hon. Gentleman says about the Transport Holding Company Bill. If the debate does run all day, I shall stand by my undertaking to Scottish Members and will not proceed with the Scottish Standing Committees procedure Motion.

On the right hon. Gentleman's second point, I certainly appreciate what he says, and I will make sure that his representations are passed to my right hon. Friends. I can give an absolute assurance that when and if my right hon. Friends have measures on the subject to announce in the House they will of course do so.

Mr. McMaster

In view of the continuing murders, bombing and other atrocities in Northern Ireland, when will a general debate on Northern Ireland take place?

Mr. Whitelaw

As my hon. Friend knows, we had a debate yesterday on the Compton Report. I am, of course, prepared to have discussions through the usual channels as to when it would be appropriate to have a full debate on Northern Ireland.

Mr. Rose

Will the Leader of the House convey to his right hon. and expansionist Friends that today at 5 p.m. a deputation from Hawker Siddeley will be meeting hon. Members representing the Manchester area to discuss the future of the Mariner and the 748 contracts. Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that an announcement will be made by the Government next week on the future of Hawker Siddeley and the contracts, in view of the 2,500 redundancies last year and the worse prospects this year? Will he also undertake to allow time for a debate on unemployment generally in the North-West of England?

Mr. Whitelaw

I will certainly take note of what the hon. Gentleman says, and will pass it on to my right hon. Friends concerned. I cannot give a commitment that a statement will be made, but I will see that the attention of my right hon. Friends is called to what the hon. Gentleman has said. I cannot, however, give the time in the immediate future.

Dame Irene Ward

Has my right hon. Friend examined the all-party Motion on the proposals for dealing with the police service in the Local Government Bill?

[That this House notes with anxiety the egect of the Local Government Bill on the future organisation of the police service; recalling the far-reaching programme of amalgamations completed in 1969, is concerned at the probable breakup of efficient police forces which will result if Her Majesty's Government insists that police force boundaries must be coterminous with those of local authorities; notes that these proposals have created fresh uncertainty and anxieties among serving police officers in respect of their careers and family circumstances; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to consider, as a matter of urgency, entering into further consultations, with the Police Federation and other police organisations, with a view to devising a system of police administration which will retain existing forces as far as is consistent with the interests of police officers.]

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that before further action is taken the House will have an opportunity to discuss the view of the police service in relation to the Local Government Bill? This is important to the police, and it is important that we should be able to debate this matter and hear the Government's reasons for making these alterations.

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what my hon. Friend says and appreciate the importance of the subject. I will see that her representations are made to my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for the Environment, and I will discuss with them the question she has raised.

Mr. J. T. Price

Will the Leader of the House take note that every hon. Member on this side of the House, right, left and centre, will put up a united opposition to the Transport Holding Company Bill and similar Measures which are in the pipeline to hive off profitable sections of the nationalised industries for the benefit of the commercial and political friends of hon. Gentlemen opposite? In the event of the Labour Party being returned to power, as it will be, we shall dedicate ourselves to refusing to pay compensation to the people who are foolish enough to burn their fingers by taking advantage of Government policy.

Mr. Whitelaw

I should be wise not to be tempted by the hon. Gentleman to any comment other than that these are all matters which can be debated when the Bill is discussed next week.

Mr. McCrindle

Does my right hon. Friend envisage an early opportunity to discuss the White Paper "Strategy on Pensions".

Mr. Whitelaw

I cannot see one in the immediate future, but I note what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Leadbitter

I am sure the Leader of the House accepts that unemployment has priority over all other subjects that concern the House. Many people on this side of the House and in the country consider that the position in the development areas is now out of control. Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to bring before the House at an early date the Government's regional policies so that we can scrutinise them?

Mr. Whitelaw

I would not agree with what the hon. Gentleman said, but I note the importance of having a debate on regional policy.

Mr. Marten

Could my right hon. Friend say when we are likely to debate amendments to Standing Order No. 40?

Mr. Whitelaw

No, Sir.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to Early Day Motion No. 38? Will he give consideration to a debate on this matter next week? Many hon. Members, and certainly many people in the country, deeply resent the fact that the Government are doing nothing about unemployment but give priority in this House to the betting and gambling fraternity, who seem to be supporters of the Government. They resent the fact that the Government give priority to those sort of people rather than affording an opportunity to discuss in the House the important subject of unemployment.

[That this House notes that from June 1970 the Government have created the largest number of unemployed since the 1930s, the highest cost of living in peace or war, the greatest depreciation in the purchasing value of the £ sterling ever recorded, the rapid deterioration in the already objectionably low standard of living of the poor, sick, and disabled, retirement pensioners, and those on welfare benefits, and all of those on limited fixed incomes; at the same time they have refused to take action to assist industry in general and the so-called lame duck industries in particular, whilst showing their deep concern for the lame duck betting and gambling industry, in giving urgent priority to the Horserace Totalisator and Betting Levy Boards Bill, to give help and succour to the so-called poor, hard-pressed and distressed horserace owners and the gambling and betting fraternities; congratulates the Editor of the Daily Telegraph on his leading article of Saturday 13th November, 1971, entitled Propping up the Tote; and calls upon the Government to withdraw this Bill forthwith and to give urgent priority to introducing measures to deal with the real and serious problems deliberately created by Her Majesty's Government which are now confronting the overwhelming majority of Her Majesty's loyal and hard working subjects.]

Mr. Whitelaw

I have noted the hon. Gentleman's Motion. I am afraid I cannot give time for it to be debated. He has explained his points to the House and I take note of them.

Mr. Crouch

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the large number of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have signed Early Day Motion No. 30, which stands in my name? Has he also noticed the wide interest which this Motion has created among the public and in the Press, and could he say whether we may expect an early debate on this subject?

[That this House favours the televising of its proceedings for an experimental period; and calls for an early debate on the question.]

Mr. Whitelaw

I have noticed the Motion in my hon. Friend's name and the signatures to it. I have also noticed the Motion in a contrary sense in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) and his supporters. I have always undertaken that, if the House thought it right to come to a decision on this matter, I would provide Government time for such a decision to be reached. This remains my position. I should not like to say when the moment is right to do so. I am prepared to have discussions about it.

Mr. Heffer

Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his remarks about a debate on unemployment? This is one of the most serious issues facing our people at present. Is he not aware that his replies to-day were as complacent as was his attitude at the end of the debate on the Queen's Speech? Therefore, in the light of the Prime Minister's statement on television last night that efforts were to be made to bring down unemployment figures, will he now allow a debate on this subject next week, or at least the week after, to deal with the whole problem of unemployment?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what the hon. Gentleman says. I will not be tempted into commenting on the hon. Gentleman's reference to myself. Nobody would wish to minimise the immense importance of this subject. I have already, in answer to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins), said that I cannot find time for a debate on this matter next week.

Mr. Atkinson

If the right hon. Gentleman cannot find time for this debate next week, will he perhaps help the House in some other direction? Is he aware that on Wednesday and Thursday next trade unionists from all over the British Isles will be coming to this House to make their protest about the unemployment of their comrades in industry? Will the right hon. Gentleman now demonstrate his sincerity by suspending the Sitting of the House during the time those trade unionists are here in order that hon. Members opposite can go into the Central Lobby and hear the realities from people who are experiencing unemployment? Will he also give an undertaking that he will ask his colleagues in the Cabinet to go into the Central Lobby so that they, too, may hear the true stories of degradation which unemployment has brought to many people?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note that this deputation will be coming to the House next week. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends will be prepared to see their constituents who come to the House on that occasion. I do not think it will be necessary to suspend the Sitting of the House on that occasion. I am also certain that my right hon. Friends in the Cabinet will be prepared to receive a deputation on this matter.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Two weeks ago the right hon. Gentleman gave me an assurance that he would convey to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment my concern about the accidents on the killer stretch of the Ml between Watford and Hemel Hempstead. I then put to him my suggestion for a six-lane carriageway. To date we have heard nothing. Will he arrange for his right hon. Friend to make a statement to the House in the very near future? Accidents will not wait.

Mr. Whitelaw

I have already reported the hon. Member's remarks to my right hon. Friend. I cannot say if my right hon. Friend is in a position to make a statement on this matter, but I will once again draw his attention to the hon. Member's remarks.

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