HC Deb 27 July 1972 vol 841 cc2056-68
Mr. Harold Wilson

May I ask the Leader of the House if he will indicate the business for next week and his prognosis of the possible time and arrangements for the Adjournment of the House?

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, 31st July—Supply (29th Allotted Day): The Chairman will immediately put the Question on all outstanding Votes.

Debate on a Motion to take note of the Order on Electoral Law in Northern Ireland.

Motion on the Northern Ireland Health and Personal Social Services Order.

Tuesday, 1st August—A debate on the industrial situation which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motions relating to the White Fish (Inshore Vessels) and (Research and Development Grants) Orders.

Adjourned Second Reading of the Land Charges Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation Measure.

Wednesday, 2nd August—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.

Thursday, 3rd August—Remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.

Remaining stages of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill [Lords].

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Gas Bill.

Friday, 4th August—Remaining stages of the Companies (Floating Charges and Receivers) (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

Motions on the Parliamentary Commissioner, the Comptroller and Auditor General, Members' Travel Language Studies, and the Northern Ireland Finance and Electoral Law Orders.

Monday, 7th August—Debate on a Motion to take note of the Second Report from the Select Committee on Expenditure, together with the subsequent evidence published by the Defence Sub-Committee.

Remaining stages of the Horserace Totalisator and Betting Levy Boards Bill and of the Land Charges Bill [Lords].

Mr. Speaker, the House will wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, it is hoped to be able to propose that the House should rise for the Summer Adjournment on Wednesday, 9th August, and resume in the week of 16th October.

Mr. Wilson

While the right hon. Gentleman is recovering his breath after that extended recital, may I ask him two questions? First, is he aware that we on this side of the House wish to thank him for the readiness with which he agreed to our proposal that there must be a further debate—I regret the necessity for it—on industrial relations next week and the way he has accommodated this into a very difficult parliamentary timetable?

Secondly, while the right hon. Gentleman cannot perhaps announce a date at this moment, will he take note that on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House—I do not mean the Wednesday series of Adjournment debates, but the Motion that the House on rising on such a date shall come back on another date—it will be convenient for the House, in accordance with our usual practice, though there have been precedents under both recent Governments, that this should take place not on the Wednesday of the Adjournment but on another day? We understand why sometimes it has been necessary under both the previous Labour Government and this Government, but will he do his best to ensure it is accommodated before the Wednesday so that the whole of Wednesday is available to hon. Members to discuss issues which you, Mr. Speaker, select for that purpose?

Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill under the new rules and to some extent under the old is a debate for back-bench Members of Parliament who, subject to the rules which you, Mr. Speaker, lay down and the Ballot, are free to raise any matter within the whole area controlled by the Government and the Consolidated Fund Bill?

Mr. Speaker

On the last point, I shall be giving a ruling later.

Mr. Carr

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said about us finding time quickly for a debate on the industrial situation. I am sure it is right that the House should debate matters of that kind as quickly as possible.

On the Motion for the recess, I will certainly do my best to see that whenever it is debated it is not on the Wednesday. I cannot give an absolute guarantee, but I very much hope to succeed in that.

On the Consolidated Fund Bill, subject to the ruling to be given by Mr. Speaker, I confirm it is a day for back benchers.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Regarding tomorrow's business, my right hon. Friend will have noticed that there are no fewer than 10 new Clauses to the Industry Bill, a dozen Government Amendments, and the possibility—indeed, the probability—of upwards of 30 separate debates. In the light of this, is it not evident that if we are to aim to complete the Bill tomorrow the House will be kept sitting until a very late hour indeed? Will he not rule out the possibility of completing the remaining stages of that Bill on another occasion?

Mr. Carr

I have noticed these things to which my hon. Friend draws my attention. We must await Mr Speaker's selection of Amendments before we know what business lies before us. When we come to the business we shall simply have to see how we get on. As I said last week, there are times in the year when we must regard Friday as a day for heavy and serious business.

Mr. Loughlin

At the risk of being tedious and repetitious, may I again draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the scandal of high land and house prices? Does he agree that he has had every opportunity, by virtue of the number of occasions that the issue has been raised in this House, to have a debate on it? Why does he not ask his right hon. Friend to tell us precisely what the Government are prepared to do to help folk who cannot get houses?

Mr. Carr

I am glad to say that the number of folk who can get houses is going up.—[Interruption.] I think that is a fact. The price of houses is a very important matter. We have had a number of debates on this matter in the few months since I have been Leader of the House.

Mr. Pounder

May I ask my right hon. Friend when the Bill to enable a plebiscite to be conducted in Northern Ireland can be expected to be presented to the House? If this widely sought plebiscite is to be held in the autumn, as has been promised, surely the legislation has to go through before we rise for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Carr

I cannot give my hon. Friend any information about that at the moment, but my right hon. Friend will keep the House informed.

Mr. Strauss

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what action he proposes to take on the report of the Privileges Commit- tee on the appropriate appellation in this House of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Lord Lambton)?

Mr. Carr

I am aware of this matter. There is no question of a debate before we rise for the Summer Recess, but I shall consider it.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Has my right hon. Friend yet had time to consider the report of the Procedure Committee dealing with the Family Planning Bill, and does he expect to find time for the acceptance of this and for the remaining stages of the Bill?

Mr. Carr

I am considering it, and I think I can say that in this case most interested Members would wish for an opportunity for the House to take a vote on the outstanding matter. I shall see what I can do when we come back from our recess.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the Early-Day Motion in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) and others seeking to remove from office the Registrar of Trade Unions?

[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to remove Mr. R. F. Keith from the high office which he holds of Chief Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers' Associations.]

In the light of reports that the union concerned, ASTMS, has plans to take the matter to court, has the right hon. Gentleman any statement to make to the House?

Mr. Carr

Any statement to the House would not be a matter for me. We are debating the industrial situation generally on Tuesday.

Mr. Wilkinson

While appreciating most warmly the earnest efforts which my right hon. Friend is making to expedite business so that we may go away for a holiday early, may I ask whether he and the Procedure Committee will address themselves to the question of getting all our business done in future at a sensible hour so that Members can get some proper work done, instead of going round looking like zombies, half drugged through lack of sleep?

Mr. Carr

I do not know what other hon. Members find, but I find that even when the House rises I have to continue to work considerable hours, and I think that anyone who is a Member of this ancient House will always have to do a lot of work at night.

Mr. Rowlands

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was widely thought that there would be a debate on Welsh affairs next week? This, clearly, is not now possible. Will the right hon. Gentleman say when this debate will take place, especially as this year we shall have the largest number of school leavers out of work that we have had for years?

Mr. Carr

I am aware of the convention that at some time we should have a debate on Wales, but I cannot commit myself at the moment.

Mr. Redmond

Can my right hon. Friend say when there will be a debate on the White Paper on Metrication, which has been hanging around for quite a long time without any democratic, parliamentary decision being taken on it?

Mr. Carr

I know that, but I must say "not before the Summer Recess."

Mr. Leonard

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to Early-Day Motion No. 413?

[That this House deplores the continued delay by the Secretary of State for the Environment in taking action to repeal the Small Tenements Recovery Act 1838, despite his having promised to do so more than a year ago, and the continued use of this discredited measure by local authorities, including the Bulling don Rural District Council, to secure the arbitrary eviction of council tenants.]

The Motion deplores the failure of the Government to take action to secure the repeal of the Small Tenements Recovery Act, 1838, despite the fact that they promised to do so more than a year ago, and despite frequent assurances given by Ministers that this order would be laid before the House shortly. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that it is laid within the next week, so that there is some possibility of debating it in this Session of Parliament?

Mr. Carr

I am assured by my right hon. Friend that he hopes to lay the order before the Summer Recess.

Captain Orr

My right hon. Friend says that he has no information about the publication of the legislation dealing with the Northern Ireland referendum. Will he at least undertake that it will be considered by the House before we rise for the recess; otherwise it will not be possible to hold the referendum in the autumn?

Mr. Carr

I do not think that I can add to what I have said.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

May I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to Early-Day Motion No. 436, which refers to holdings by leading members of the GLC in companies concerned with the development of London?

[That this House considers it undesirable that members or friends of the Greater London Council shall hold stocks and shares exceeding £500 in value in any company concerned with the development of any part of London.]

In view of the revelations in Private Eye and in the Evening Standard this week, would it not be a good idea to have a debate next week on the whole question of holdings by elected persons in this House and in municipalities and the influence which that can have on the development of London?

Mr. Carr

I have noted the hon. Gentleman's Motion, but I cannot offer any hope of a debate in the next week or two.

Mr. Harold Wilson

In view of the pressure on the right hon. Gentleman for an announcement about a referendum in Northern Ireland, will he continue to give no such assurance? Is he aware that to give such an assurance, or to give assurances about early action on this, in the serious state of Northern Ireland could easily lead to further difficulties and troubles and to a further hardening of attitudes which it is the task of the Secretary of State—which we all support—to try to mollify and not exacerbate?

Mr. Carr

I am concerned with the arrangement of the business of the House, not with policy in Northern Ireland. I can only confirm what I have said about business.

Mr. Ramsden

With reference to my right hon. Friend's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg)—I may, of course, have misunderstood it—is it not a fact that for the Government, in connection with a Private Member's Bill, to give time for a vote, as opposed to a further stage with proper debate, would be somewhat unusual, and might, to say the least, set a precedent?

Mr. Carr

This is a difficult matter. The Select Committee on Procedure has looked at it, and I shall not be able to do anything before the autumn. I shall consider carefully what is the right thing to do, but I remind my right hon. Friend that a debate has taken place and, as I understand it, all that is lacking from a procedural point of view is the actual Division.

Mr. Ron Lewis

During the proceedings on the Carlisle and District State Management Bill an undertaking was given that from time to time there would be progress reports to the House. We have repeatedly questioned the right hon. Gentleman's Department on this issue, and a statement was promised before we rose for the Summer Recess. May we have some indication of when a statement will be forthcoming, because a number of my constituents are living under a cloud?

Mr. Carr

My other self tells me that there will be a statement before the Summer Recess.

Mr. Stratton Mills

My right hon. Friend's statement on the referendum in Northern Ireland will be viewed with grave disquiet. May we have an assurance that the debate on Monday will be drawn in such a way as to allow a much broader debate to include the referendum, particularly in the light of the Secretary of State's assurance of 29th June which strongly implied that it would be held in September or the early autumn?

Mr. Carr

With regard to Monday's debate, I gave an undertaking to the House that there would be a whole day to debate the subject of PR in Northern Ireland. I do not think that I can, or should, go back on an undertaking.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Reverting to the business for Monday week, both on Second Reading and in Committee on the Horserace Totalisator and Betting Levy Bill the Minister said that its purpose was to help a lame duck to get out of difficulties; but the board has now published the fact that it is going to make a large profit. No one wants the Bill except the poor racehorse owners. May I suggest that the Minister could save time by dropping the Bill completely and dealing with other business?

Mr. Carr

The hon. Gentleman can suggest it, but I do not accept his suggestion.

Mr. Skinner

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that by saying that the House will return in the week beginning16th October he is creating difficulties for the Table Office, and thereby for Members who wish to table Questions? It means that until a specific date is announced no Questions can be tabled to the Table Office for any day during that week? Will he, as speedily as possible, clear up the matter?

Mr. Carr

As soon as the House has agreed to the recess arrangements I shall arrange for immediate consultation about the new roster.

Mr. Atkinson

Will the right hon. Gentleman persuade the Prime Minister that it would be better if he—that is, the Prime Minister—came to the House at 11 o'clock in the morning, rather than the Secretary of State for Employment, to make an announcement about the docks situation?

Mr. Carr

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has heard that remark, but I am sure he will think it appropriate, if a statement is needed, for it to be made by the Secretary of State for Employment.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is my right hon. Friend aware that neither the Leader of the Opposition nor anyone else opposed the First Reading of my Bill providing for a referendum on the Border? Is my right hon. Friend aware that I do not believe that Her Majesty's Government will not fulfil their undertaking in this matter, but that I shall, if necessary, feel free to legislate again?

Mr. Carr

I note what my hon. Friend says, but I am afraid that I cannot add to what I have said.

Mr. Greville Janner

In the Queen's Speech the Government undertook to introduce legislation in this Session to protect consumers and to ban spurious guarantees and warranties. I was assured by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor that this would be looked into. Nothing has been done. When, if at all, is it proposed that time be given for this matter?

Mr. Carr

Possibly this may be, in this Session, the casualty of some of the other long debates that we have had.

Sir P. Bryan

When will a statement be made on the future of industrial training?

Mr. Carr

I cannot tell my hon. Friend precisely the date, but I think that I can assure him that it will be before the recess.

Mr. Whitehead

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he said in reply to the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg) about my Bill. The Select Committee on Procedure referred to this as a return to precedent if Government time were found for this vote. May I ask about the pledge given by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor—namely, that Government time would be found in this Session for a debate on the experimental televising of Parliament—and ask what has happened to that debate?

Mr. Carr

Yes, I am very conscious of this, because I specifically took on this commitment from my predecessor as Leader of the House. I am disappointed not to see any scope for it before we rise for the Summer Recess, but I hope that we shall have it very soon afterwards.

Sir Gilbert Longden

Referring to the question asked by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), it is not only a question of the roster that we want to know about. Questions have been tabled for 10th August, for instance. When will they be able to be re-tabled? Will my right hon. Friend say whether we shall resume on 16th or 17th October?

Mr. Carr

I cannot at present, but I take the point that there is a problem here and I shall do my best to solve it as quickly as possible.

Mr. Harold Wilson

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the Motion which the House has to pass, which he said he would try to table before the final Wednesday, will state the dates. Will he table that Motion at the earliest possible moment, whenever it is to be taken, so that hon. Members can table Questions without waiting until the last minute?

Mr. Carr

The Motion will give the precise date. My trouble is that I cannot yet be sure of the precise date on which we think the House needs to return.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

As business questions on Thursdays usually last not less than 20 minutes and sometimes half an hour, will the Leader of the House consider the desirability of taking ministerial statements before business questions? He will recollect that last week a very important statement was made by my right hon. Friend on Northern Ireland. It might have been for the convenience of the House had it been taken before business questions, as out of ministerial statements may arise some question proper for the business statement.

Mr. Carr

I shall consider what my hon. Friend says. It is a matter for the convenience of the House. I always thought that the reason why the business question was a business question and not a statement was in order to give it priority over other statements because that was thought to be the wish of the House as a whole.

Mr. Dalyell

In view of the new damaging uncertainties facing the subcontractors in the British nuclear power industry, are we to get the promised statement on the Vinter Committee's Report and, in particular, if not that, at least on the next British nuclear power station, which may be at Stake Ness?

Mr. Carr

I hope that my right hon. Friend will be making a statement in the very near future.

Mr. Michael Cocks

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to avoid in future bringing on Government Measures after Opposed Private Business, even though he may be advised that the Government Measures are supposedly non-controversial.

Mr. Carr

The Select Committee on Procedure is at present looking into the question of Opposed Private Business. and I shall bear the point in mind.

Mr. Guy Barnett

Will the Leader of the House say whether we are right to assume that the Museums and Galleries Admission Charges Bill has been dropped? If we are, may we congratulate the Government on that decision?

Mr. Carr

I am glad to tell the hon. Gentleman that he is quite wrong to make such an assumption.

Mr. Raison

When can we expect a statement on the reorganisation of the National Health Service?

Mr. Carr

I take note of what my hon. Friend says, but I am afraid that I cannot, off the cuff, give any date; but I shall bear it in mind.

Mr. J. T. Price

Reverting to a previous question about the televising of the House on an experimental basis, and before the right hon. Gentleman responds to the blandishments that we have previously endured, is he aware that such an experiment has already taken place some years ago in their Lordships' House and it proved to be a complete disaster? I and other hon. Members in all parts of the House would utterly resist any further attempts to turn this place into a flea-pit.

Mr. Carr

I have heard our behaviour described as being similar to that of a fourth form and other places which I shall not mention, but never before have I heard mention of a flea-pit. But this will be for the House to decide. I think that there is a general view in the House that this should be debated. There will, of course, be a free vote, and it will be up to hon. Members to express their opinion.

Sir Robin Turton

Will my right hon. Friend correct a previous reply in which he suggested that the Select Committee on Procedure was looking into the question of Opposed Private Business, which would be outside the Committee's remit? The Committee is receiving a memorandum on the different times at which Private Business is taken, which is another matter.

Mr. Carr

I apologise to my right hon. Friend, who is Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure. I accept that I got it wrong. But the matter will be examined.