HC Deb 20 July 1972 vol 841 cc908-21
Mr. Harold Wilson

Will the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House kindly state next week's business?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department, 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, 24TH JULY—Supply (27th allotted day): Motion to take note of the Second Report from the Expenditure Committee, together with subsequent evidence published by the Defence Sub-Committee.

Remaining stages of the National Insurance Bill.

TUESDAY, 25TH JULY—Lords Amendments to the Housing Finance Bill.

Remaining stages of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Bill, and Second Reading of the Contracts of Employment Bill [Lords] and of the Land Charges Bill [Lords], which are consolidation Measures.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named Opposed Private Business for consideration.

WEDNESDAY, 26TH JULY—Lords Amendments to the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Bill.

Remaining stages of the Harbours Development (Scotland) Bill, the Administration of Justice (Scotland) Bill [Lords], the Contracts of Employment Bill [Lords], and the Land Charges Bill [Lords].

Motions relating to the British Railways Board Order, the Electricity Boards Order and the Mortgaging of Aircraft Order.

THURSDAY, 27TH JULY—Supply (28th allotted day): There will be a debate on Scottish Affairs, on an Opposition Motion.

Remaining stages of the National Health Service (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

FRIDAY, 28TH JULY,—Remaining stages of the Industry Bill.

MONDAY, 31ST JULY—Supply (29th allotted day): Debate on Electoral Law in Northern Ireland.

The Chairman will put the Question on all outstanding Votes.

Mr. Wilson

I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman on the double load he is currently carrying, and, equally, I would express the regret we all feel about the departure of the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling).

Would the right hon. Gentleman be a little clearer about the business on the Housing Finance Bill and Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Bill? Is it or is it not the Government's intention to impose a guillotine on Lords Amendments? If that is his intention, is he aware that this means that both Measures, which even the Prime Minister found it hard to defend this afternoon, are to have their final stages pushed through the House under guillotine?

Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman now in a position to answer the question I put to him last week on whether he has any statement to make on the likely date of the adjournment for the Summer Recess since hon. Members in all parts of the House, particularly those with families, would like to have some idea about that date?

Thirdly, since it is understood that another place will be sitting in September, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government at this moment in time have any plans for sittings of this House during that month, other than for an emergency recall?

Mr. Carr

On the first question, I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that the timetable Motion under which the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Bill was taken provided a supplementary Motion on this stage as on previous stages, and that will be the position—[Interruption.] Under the normal rules of order that will be so. I was not being other than blunt about the situation. The timetable Motion provides for subsequent Motions in subsequent stages, and this will be carried out.

On the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman about the Summer Recess, perhaps one of the reasons why we have a rather full programme next week is that I believe that hon. Members on all sides of the House would wish to rise as soon as possible. Although I cannot be absolutely certain at the moment—it will depend on progress—I hope it will be possible to rise during the week beginning Monday, 7th August—about the middle of that week. That is our hope. As for a September sitting, I can only say, in Asquithian words, that we must wait and see.

Mr. Wilson

On the question of the guillotine Motion, we are all prepared to make allowances for the right hon. Gentleman in the double load he is now carrying. However, is he aware that we have read the timetable Motion—indeed we voted against it, and how right that decision has proved since—but it only provided for the possibility of a Business Motion next week. Is it not extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman, whatever the pressures upon him, failed to omit that from his original statement? It is only permissive upon him, not mandatory. Now he says there will be a guillotine. It is unfortunate that it was not in his original Business Statement.

Mr. Carr

I apologise if I did not make that clear. Let me make it clear now. I also make it clear that it applies to the other Bill on the previous day.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Will my right hon. Friend, now that he has taken on the Home Secretary's office, be kind enough to arrange for a statement to be made by one of his Ministers on the establishment of the office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation?

Mr. Carr

I shall draw my own attention to this. My other self has informed me already that I am at the top of the list for Questions a week today, and that there are Questions on this subject, when I shall try to bring together and make clear the position.

Mr. Loughlin

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to two Motions standing on the Order Paper dealing with the low wage rates of industrial civil servants? May I also remind the right hon. Gentleman that during Questions when he was unfortunately unable to be present, both sides of the House were vehement in their condemnation of the low rates currently applying? I think that the whole House is ashamed of the rates that we pay our industrial civil servants. Can the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a debate on this issue?

[That this House, being conscious of the long standing and effective service provided to the nation by civilian employees in Naval Dockyards, Ministry of Defence establishments, Department of the Environment depots and other Governmental centres, believes that it would be intolerable to exploit the loyalty of these men and women; and therefore calls upon Her Majesty's Government to ensure that their pay and conditions of employment are at all times commensurate with the indispensable contribution which they make to the fulfilment of defence and other Governmental policies.]

[That this House is appalled at the Government's miserable offer of £1.50 on the adult male rate made to industrial civil servants through the negotiating machinery, particularly in view of the extremely low wages rates now applying, such rates being as low as £17 per week gross; and calls upon the Government to make a substantially improved offer forthwith]

Mr. Carr

I doubt whether I can arrange for a debate in the near future. Of course I have noticed the Motions to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. As the hon. Gentleman and the House will know, the whole question of low pay is one of the matters right at the centre of the current talks with the CBI and the TUC.

Sir Bernard Braine

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to Early-Day Motion No. 415, calling upon the Government to reconsider their view about the need for a Select Committee to review the British overseas aid performance, which has already attracted 125 signatures from both sides of the House in only a few days? I do not expect my right hon. Friend to give a snap answer today, but will he reflect on the fact that this House has little or no opportunity to scrutinise a most important sphere of British policy? Will he consult his colleagues and give the House an assurance that he will come back in the autumn to make an announcement on this to the House?

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to reconsider its view as set out in its Green Paper on Select Committees of the House of Commons published in October, 1970, and to recommend to the House that a Select Committee on Overseas Development be established, whose functions would include the review and appraisal of British performance in relation to the International Development Strategy for the Second United Nations Development Decade.]

Mr. Carr

Certainly I will consult on that, and perhaps I might say, as I once had the honour to be a Minister concerned with overseas aid, that I shall look at it carefully.

Mr. Thorpe

Reverting to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is a farce to run this House on a sort of cat and mouse procedure to fit in with what the Government might find convenient as a timetable? Is there any reason why this House should not have normal dates laid down for the Summer Recess, and merely put off the date of Prorogation until we have finished all our business? Surely that is the logical way in which any mature House of Commons should operate.

Mr. Carr

That sounds nice and easy. If and when the day comes, that I am no longer Leader of the House, it will seem nice and easy to me once again. However, it is not as easy as that. The right hon. Gentleman will realise that there are occasions when certain measures have to be got through by certain dates, and that certain subjects need to be debated within certain time scales. Within reason, I hope that we can work in the future under somewhat less pressure and with more certainty than we have been able to this year.

Mr. Hastings

May we expect another debate on Rhodesia before the Summer Recess? Although my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has said that be needs a period for reflection, this has gone on for some time. Will my right hon. Friend ask the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary how it helps for the Foreign Office to make gratuitous protests to the West German Government about the possible participation of a multi-racial Rhodesian team in the forthcoming Olympics? Certain of us resent this very much.

Mr. Carr

I shall speak to my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary about this. I cannot see any chance of a debate before the recess. As a matter of fact, I ought to put the House straight immediately. The Foreign Office responded to a specific question from the West German Government about the status of Rhodesian citizens. There was no question of offering gratuitous advice, or anything like that. The Foreign Office responded to a specific question put to it by the West German Government.

Mr. Hattersley

Monday's debate concerns a report of the Expenditure Committee which was published in February. Rather unusually, the Department has not yet commented on that report. Shall we have the Department's comments before the debate begins on Monday?

Mr. Carr

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised that. I think that the answer is "Yes". I am hoping that a memorandum will be published tomorrow.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Does my right hon. Friend expect to find time before the Summer Recess for the remaining stages of the National Health Service (Family Planning) Amendment Bill?

Mr. Carr

As my hon. Friend probably knows, the Procedure Committee produced its report this morning. I wish to have a chance to look at that. I am sure that my hon. Friend will realise that whatever decision I may be able to take about this can apply in the overspill period and need not necessarily apply before the Summer Recess.

Mr. Palmer

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in spite of the great pressure on time before the recess, time will be found for us to debate the Government's apparently ruthless determination to implement the Rothschild's proposals on Government research and development and their contemptuous ignoring of the views of the Select Committee on Science and Technology?

Mr. Carr

I am afraid that I cannot accept the emotive phrases in the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question. There may be genuine differences of opinion. But I am sure that the Government would not regard the Select Committee's disagreement with the Government's views as being contemptuous. Nor do I think that the Select Committee should in reverse. I understand that my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal has had an invitation to meet the Select Committee, and he hopes to be able to accept that. When, as will happen as soon as possible, the Departments have replied to the Select Committee's four reports. I hope that there will be a debate in this House. I shall do my best to find time for that in the autumn.

Mr. Evelyn King

Is my right hon. Friend aware that last Friday the House was asked to appropriate £250 million to the Government of Northern Ireland covering almost the whole range of Departments? Many hon. Members took the trouble to be here on Friday. However, we were asked to do that in less than two hours. Does not this place the Chair in great difficulty when, allowing for Front Bench speeches, it is trying to get in a representative selection of views? In this period of time, it is impossible. When this sort of Vote comes up again, may I ask my right hon. Friend to treat this House a little generously?

Mr. Carr

Certainly we shall do the best that we can in these matters. We are dealing with a temporary, difficult and emergency situation. That must be taken into account. Certainly we need as much time as we can reasonably have. On the two appropriation Bills and other orders on Northern Ireland that we have dealt with in the last few weeks, I think that there have been a considerable number of hours for debate.

Mr. Shore

Very important matters have been discussed in Brussels yesterday and today. Will the Leader of the House make sure that his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster makes a report to the House early next week so that we may have an opportunity to put questions to him? Will the Leader of the House also consider the other very important matters which have been discussed at the meeting of other European Ministers during the past week? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the whole strategy of making reports to this House arising from such meetings?

Mr. Carr

Yes. In the longer run, when we become members of the Community, we hope to find means of discussing the right procedures to adopt in these matters. But on the issue that the right hon. Gentleman mentions, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food made a statement a day or two ago. Of course I shall convey the right hon. Gentleman's wishes to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Further to the point raised by the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore), my right hon. Friend will be aware that there have been a number of developments in agricultural matters, and I have in mind especially the statement concerning the two draft orders from the Commission in Brussels. Can my right hon. Friend assure us that there will be time to debate those two draft orders, if not the rest of agriculture, before any finalisation of the orders by the Commission?

Mr. Carr

I take note of what my hon. Friend says, and perhaps I might discuss this with my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy.

Mr. J. T. Price

May I ask for a little more information about one of the items of business next Tuesday, the Land Charges Bill [Lords]? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to use the occasion of that short debate to make a statement on the continuing unchecked and outrageously criminal escalation of land prices, which is affecting all building operations? Should not the Government, who are concerned about the economic future of the country, understand that the gravest situation confronting the country in the escalation of prices and everything else, undermining our economic strength, is the outrageous speculation in land? Yesterday at Altrincham, Cheshire, half an acre of land was sold for £26,000. Will the Government make a statement at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Carr

Of course this is a very important matter, but I do not think it arises on a consolidation Measure.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department, answering a Question on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council on 10th May, said that there would certainly need to be a debate on the new parliamentary building, and since the Services Committee has, I understand, recommended that the winning design, with modifications, should be built as soon as possible, will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on this important matter before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Carr

I agree that it is an important matter, but I do not think we shall have a debate before the Summer Recess. I hardly imagine that the House has any fear that building operations could conceivably have started before the autumn.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to Motion No. 423, headed, Who Are The Greedy Men?"?

[That this House notes the growing practice of Ministers, chairmen of companies. Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords, many with vast land and property interests and excessive incomes within the £15,000 per annum to £65,000 per annum range, attacking the workers with a few pounds a week total income when they seek wage increases to off-set the rise in the cost of living, caused by the economic policies of Her Majesty's Government; feels that it ill-behoves these people to call such claims by workers greedy when on Tuesday 12th July it was reported that Sir Leslie O'Brien, the Governor of the Bank of England, had a pay rise last year of £3,541 to £30,723, a rise of 13 per cent., one other director received between £20,001 and £22,500, one other between £17,501 and £20,000 and three between £15,001 and £17,500 and that 23 employees received between £10,001 and £20,000 per annum; and notes that not a whisper of protest has come from those who profess to support honest and open government and would urge the Foreign Secretary to condemn these greedy men.]

In view of the discussion between the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition today about the Governor of the Bank of England, and the fact that the Governor had a £3,500 rise last year, bringing his salary up to £30,000, and that some 30 members of his staff are drawing hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange, if not a discussion on the Motion, a discussion with the Governor of the Bank of England to ask that he should try to define who are the greedy men?

Mr. Carr

I do not think it would need a debate for the Governor of the Bank of England to do that.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I should like to ask my right hon. Friend about the business proposed for next Friday, the remaining stages of the Industry Bill. Since it is a Measure involving large and open-ended amounts of taxpayers' money, is in many respects controversial, and is also a Measure of considerable significance in the Scottish context, is it not rather an unsuitable matter to be discussed on Friday?

Mr. Carr

I will consider what my hon. Friend says, but the House is under some pressure, and I regard it as the general wish of hon. Members that we should be able to rise at not too late a date in August. While as a general rule we try not to have important matters on Friday, which I accept is for the general convenience of the House, I do not think we can allow ourselves to get into the position of saying that Friday is a day on which we can never discuss anything of importance.

Sir G. de Freitas

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the general problem of finding time for debates of public importance, such as debates on the reports of Royal Commissions? Will he particu- larly consider this when confronted by fellow Ministers demanding even more legislative time in the next Session?

Mr. Carr

Yes, Sir, I certainly will. It is a new experience for the Leader of the House to realise quite what pressure there always is for new legislation. I do not think I have any less violent a reputation as a butcher of my colleagues' legislative ideas than any of my predecessors.

Mr. McMaster

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House how the business on Monday, 31st July, relating to Northern Ireland is to be taken? Are orders to be introduced dealing with local authority elections, proportional representation and a referendum? If so, in view of the exceptional importance of this business, will my right hon. Friend refer again to the last two days when Northern Ireland orders were debated, 24th June and 14th July, and note what was said then? Many hon. Members on both sides, including a reasonable cross-section of Northern Ireland Members, were disappointed because of their misunderstanding about the extended time that would be given to the debate last Friday. In view of the extreme gravity of the situation in Northern Ireland, will he consider giving a small extension of time so that a reasonable cross-section may speak on 31st July?

Mr. Carr

I do not think we can have more than the normal day on Monday, 31st July. I will consider what my hon. Friend says, but I should be less than honest if I led him to expect more than a normal day. However, I can say that it is not the intention to follow the debate then with any orders. What I thought it best to do was to allow the House to have a general debate on the problem of electoral law, and then some time later, not on the same day, to put down the necessary orders. In other words, the House will not be asked to vote on the orders until hon. Members have first had time to have the general debate and reflect on it. I believe that the amount of time does not compare unfavourably with the amount of time that, for example, appropriation Measures have been given at Stormont or that other matters of great importance to the United Kingdom have been in this House.

Mr. Ross

Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he proposes to proceed with the Bill on the reorganisation of the National Health Service in Scotland on Thursday after 10 o'clock? If so, will he reconsider the matter? It is a very important Bill. It is not all that controversial—we got on very well with it—but it is one that could wait. Bearing in mind that the Scottish Committees are meeting on Tuesday and Thursday the amount of Scottish business the right hon. Gentleman is putting on next week is just too much.

Mr. Carr

One week I am accused of not putting on enough Scottish business and the next week it is said that there is too much. But I take the right hon. Gentleman's point, and will consider it. However, I think that having reached this stage of this important Bill, a Bill about which there is not an undue amount of controversy, as the right hon. Gentleman says—[Interruption.]—I also think that at this time of the year many hon. Members would on the whole prefer, and I think it is probably to the convenience of the majority of hon. Members, to work a little harder and a little later at night than we normally wish in order to go on our holidays a little sooner.

Mr. Pavitt

Is it usual for a White Paper so controversial and important as the "Framework for Government Research and Development" to be introduced into the House without a statement from the Secretary of State responsible? In view of the question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) about the present Government timetable, is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to arrange for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make a statement next week in order that preliminary questions can be put on the future of medical research, of which about 40 per cent. will now be shifted from one quarter to another?

Mr. Carr

I cannot make a definite promise, but I have listened to what the hon. Gentleman said, and I shall discuss it seriously with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Molloy

With regard to the remaining stages of the Housing Finance Bill, will the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to help those of us who as Members of Parliament are in very close con- tact with councillors working on our local authorities? We have been giving them wrong information. Will the right hon. Gentleman treat it as a very serious matter and be prepared to make a statement before we further debate the Bill? We have been told this afternoon that what we have been telling our councillors is altogether wrong. No less a person than the Prime Minister has advised us that matters of housing policy are their concern, and that therefore we have been misleading them. This is an extraordinarily serious situation. Will the right hon. Gentleman examine it and make a statement to the House?

Mr. Carr

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman reads in HANSARD precisely what my right hon. Friend said.

Mr. Lawson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of us coming from Scotland in order to give Scottish business due consideration would be quite happy to go on for another week and forgo a week's recess? Does he not agree that he is asking Scottish Members to do an impossible job and that they cannot give reasonable consideration to the mass of business he is bringing forward next week? Who agreed that we should have such a programme of Scottish business for next week?

Mr. Carr

Whatever consultation there may have been, I must and do, as Leader of the House, take full responsibility for the business which I put before the House, and I must take the blame if it is wrong. I do not under-estimate the point put by the hon. Gentleman, but I am trying to take account of what I believe to be the overall wishes and interests of the majority of right hon. and hon. Members.

Mr. Edward Short

Looking back over the Session, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the business has not been handled very well? We have not had all our Supply Days—the Government still owe us three. We have had hardly any Prayers. We have had very few debates on general matters, such as reports of Royal Commissions, referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas). Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that he has congested the House and that the Opposition have been treated extremely badly?

Mr. Carr

I appreciate the gentleness with which the right hon. Gentleman has chided my predecessor and me. It is true that the House has had a very heavy legislative programme this Session, and that always makes things difficult in finding time for other matters. But I would not accept that the business has been mismanaged—indeed, rather the reverse. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned Prayers. It has been difficult. I hope to find some time for Prayers before we rise in the second week of August.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have had 27 minutes of business Questions. Mr. Whitelaw—statement.

Mr. J. T. Price

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Is it a point of order arising out of Questions?

Mr. Price

It arises, Mr. Speaker, from today's Order Paper. May I raise it before the Leader of the House leaves the House?

Mr. Speaker

It would be more appropriate, if it does not arise from Questions, to raise it after the statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.