HC Deb 13 April 1972 vol 834 cc1433-40
Mr. Michael Foot

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. Robert Carr)

The Business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 17TH APRIL.—Further progress on the Report stage of the Local Government Bill.

TUESDAY, 18TH APRIL and WEDNESDAY, 19TH APRIL.—Further progress in Committee on the European Communities Bill.

THURSDAY, 20TH APRIL.—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (No. 3) Bill.

Motions on the Immunities and Privileges Orders.

Remaining stages of the Betting and Gaming Duties Bill [Lords], which is a Consolidation Measure.

FRIDAY, 21ST APRIL.—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 24TH APRIL.—Progress on the Report stage of the Housing Finance Bill.

Mr. Foot

First, may I tell the right hon. Gentleman that we wish most strongly to have a debate at a very early stage indeed on the appalling situation in Bangladesh? This should be debated in Government time. Will he undertake to consider that matter and make some proposition to us at a very early stage?

Second, as regards the proposal for the debates on Tuesday and Wednesday on the European Communities Bill, will the right hon. Gentleman take into account that on the Tuesday we shall be discussing possibly two Amendments dealing with the question of how the consent of the people is to be secured for what the Government may be proposing, and would he take into account, and possibly make representations with us about, those two Amendments being discussed separately? That may be the best way for the House to proceed.

Mr. Carr

On the hon. Gentleman's first point about Bangladesh, I am afraid that I cannot give any commitment about it, but I take note of what he has said.

On the second point, the hon. Gentle man and the House will realise that this is a matter for the Chair. I understand that the hon. Gentleman did not object when those two Amendments were originally grouped a month ago by the Chairman, no doubt because they deal with related subjects. But, however the debate may take place, it is not unknown, as the hon. Gentleman will realise, that the possibility of separate Divisions for the two Amendments—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have allowed the question and the answer, but we cannot go any further into the question of what happens in Committee.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Further to the point about Bangladesh, which the House must realise is extremely urgent, and appreciating that there is not time for a debate, could my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, or my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, come to the House as soon as possible and declare what Her Majesty's Government can do and are doing to carry out relief operations in that country?

Mr. Carr

My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has heard what has been said, and I assure the House that I shall discuss the matter with him.

Mr. Michael Foot

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry that I did not intervene previously on this point. I do so only because it seems that it would be a peculiar precedent to have set that you should rule that when the Minister makes a statement about business next week indicating that we are to discuss matters in Committee representations should not be made at that stage about what further representations the Government may make when we come to that proceeding. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I would hope that that could be the case, particularly as the right hon. Gentleman indicated that he had thought that we had changed our minds on the desirability of those two debates being separate. That is still our view. I ask the right hon. Gentleman—I think it is perfectly in order—to make the same kind of representations as we have made on this.

Mr. Speaker

Sometimes the Chair is in some doubt as to what it should rule. I have no doubt today. The question of separate Divisions in Committee is not for me or for the House. It is for the Chairman of Ways and Means when the Committee is a Committee of the Whole House, and so I rule.

Mr. C. Pannell

Would the Leader of the House ask the Home Secretary to make a statement next week on the inquiry that was conducted and concluded some weeks ago into the affairs of the Leeds police? The right hon. Gentleman has been approached several times. The inquiry was started on the instigation of hon. Members on both sides of the House representing the City of Leeds, and it is a matter now causing some concern. It brooks no further delay. May I inquire at this stage whether the Home Secretary has read the report?

Mr. Carr

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has read any important document of that kind that may be before him. I shall pass on the right hon. Gentleman's comments and his request.

Mr. Skeet

Would my right hon. Friend indicate when the report of the Vehicle and General Tribunal is likely to be debated in the House? It was published two months ago.

Mr. Carr

My predecessor as Leader of the House gave an undertaking to the House about this matter, and I can only assure the House that it is my intention to keep to that undertaking; but I cannot give a date at present.

Mr. Driberg

Has the right hon. Gentleman had time to consider the question of a debate—his predecessor gave firm undertakings of an early debate—on the question of the televising of the proceedings of Parliament?

Mr. Carr

I am aware of my right hon. Friend's actions and thinking on that subject. I have not yet had time to consider it, but, again, I most certainly intend to follow the indications that my right hon. Friend gave.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the weight of legislation already initiated at Stormont, including a local government Bill which is vital to the contentment and reconciliation of the communities? May we have a statement next week on how the Government propose that Parliament should be able to scrutinise and amend that legislation?

Mr. Carr

I shall discuss that with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is very early days for these matters, but I know that he is giving consideration to the sort of problem raised by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Skinner

Crittal Hope Ltd., a subsidiary of Slater Walker, which has some indirect connection with the Secretary of State for the Environment—

Hon. Members


Mr. Skinner

—has issued a leaflet to its employees indicating that they will be in a position very shortly to buy their council houses as sitting tenants. We have had no statement in the House. So will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for the Environment to make a statement very quickly on what can be regarded as a scandalous situation?

Mr. Carr

I cannot accept, certainly not without much more evidence than so far produced, the implications of the comments of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). It is certainly not a matter for next week's business.

Mr. Hunt

When are we likely to have a statement on the railway dispute? Many of my constituents, although suffering a great deal of hardship and inconvenience, are most anxious to hear that the Government intend to stand very firm in face of this unreasonable wage demand.

Mr. Carr

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is meeting both sides in the dispute this afternoon, and I am sure he will wish to keep the House informed when it is appropriate. I am sure I would be wrong to make any further comment.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is not the innuendo behind the question from the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) unparliamentary to the extent that the association of my right hon. Friend's name, while in office, with the procedure the hon. Member has outlined suggests corruption? Should it not be substantiated at once or withdrawn at once?

Mr. Speaker

I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) but I do not believe that the suggestion, whether it is well-founded or not, that people should be buying their council houses is necessarily improper.

Mr. Faulds

Peterborough falls again! In view of the pressure on the time of the House, would the Leader of the House ease the situation by arranging for his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to withdraw her petty little Measure, the Museums and Galleries Admission Charges Bill?

Mr. Carr

I can give no such undertaking, and certainly not next week.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

In view of the public concern, shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House, at the soaring price of houses and land, and also in view of the statements attributed to my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development in this morning's newspapers, can my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House urgently consider the possibility of a day's debate so that positive suggestions can be made from both sides?

Mr. Carr

I realise that the whole subject of housing is one in which the House is always properly interested, and I will take note of that, but I cannot give an undertaking of a date at the moment.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Would the Leader of the House arrange for the Home Secretary to make a statement, perhaps on Monday, explaining why a sponsored Question was put down last night to the Home Secretary asking for the name of the new chairman of the Tote Board when the details were published last night? Lord Mancroft is to get the job at £6,900 a year on a part-time basis. Why is a sponsored Question put down if the information is already given to the Press? Is that not abusing the normal procedures of the House? Is this not happening almost every day of the week? Will the Leader of the House confirm or deny whether Lord Mancroft has accepted the job on the conditions that everyone knows about?

Mr. Carr

I cannot accept the implication that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has done anything improper. The question of substance should be addressed not to me as Leader of the House but to the Home Secretary.

Captain W. Elliot

In view of the difficulties caused to commuters by the disorganisation already taking place on the railways, can my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House arrange for one of his right hon. Friends to tell us that he is considering emergency parking arrangements in London—the opening of additional areas and so on—for the convenience of Londoners?

Mr. Carr

I take the point very much, and I will discuss this with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries to see what action he can take. I know he will inform the House about it.

Mr. David Steel

Among the commitments that the Leader of the House inherited is one for a debate on the Vehicle and General Tribunal. Although this cannot be next week, how soon will it be?

Mr. Carr

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) has already asked me about that. I took on my predecessor's commitment, but I am sorry I cannot yet name a date.

Sir T. Beamish

Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House discuss through the usual channels the possibility of a voluntary timetable on the European Communities Bill? Would this not be in the best interests of both pro-Europeans and anti-Europeans by ensuring a full debate on all selected Amendments?

Mr. Carr

It would be very helpful to the House if such an arrangement could be made, and I shall be ready to discuss such a possibility with any hon. Member of good will. But we must see how we get on next week.

Mr. Ron Lewis

On the question of railway pay and conditions, and in view of the apparent opposition to the claim from the Government benches, will the Leader of the House agree that the National Union of Railwaymen is quite justified in trying to establish a £20 a week minimum wage these days?

Mr. Carr

Even if I still held my previous position I would be wrong to express a view on the merits of the case. I will certainly not do so as Leader of the House.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

May I ask my right hon. Friend at this early stage in his new career about a matter which, even if it does not do so at the moment, may concern the House in due course? Having regard to his previous post, will he promise the House, notwithstanding the progress or otherwise on the E.E.C. Bill, that he will ensure that we shall have a 60-day cooling-off period for our summer Recess?

Mr. Carr

That is a proposition with which I have great sympathy. I shall be very disappointed if I cannot cool myself off for some time during the summer.

Mr. Freeson

In view of the number of non-attributable statements emanating recently from the Department of the Environment about the scandalous rise in land and property prices and the action being considered, and in view of the statement by the Minister concerned to a back bench group of Conservative M.P.s, may I press for a considered statement by the Minister on this subject and for a debate as soon as possible, in view of what has been said from the Government side?

Mr. Carr

I realise that this is a subject which the House always wishes to debate, although I cannot make any statement about it. As for a statement, I will discuss that with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

If the work to rule on the railways continues into next week, would the Leader of the House invite his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to procure copies of the rule book so that they may be placed in the Library for hon. Members to examine?

Mr. Ron Lewis

I will send you one.

Mr. Carr

I will ask my right hon. Friend about that.

Mr. Jay

Will the Leader of the House seriously consider the suggestion by one of his hon. Friends that next week we should debate the present extortionate rise in land and housing prices, since one main cause of this critical situation is the Government's Housing Finance Bill?

Mr. Carr

I am afraid not next week.

Mr. Heffer

I hope the Leader of the House has a more peaceful year and also that he has a cooling-off period after his strenuous efforts last year. If he is in a very good mood, which I am sure he will be if he has his cooling-off period, will he arrange for a debate on the problems of the North-West region—the unemployment, the dereliction and the many other problems? We rarely discuss the North-West in the House, and we should like to debate it at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Carr

I take the hon. Member's point. I would imagine that, as a result of the proposals in my right hon. Friend's Budget, there will be opportunities to discuss regional problems and methods of dealing with them. Private Members' debates may also provide other opportunities.