HC Deb 29 June 1972 vol 839 cc1665-73
Mr. Harold Wilson

Will the Leader of the House please state the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robert Carr)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

Monday, 3rd July—Supply (25th allotted day): There will be a debate on industrial relations, which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

Motion on the Electricity Supply (Northern Ireland) Order.

Tuesday, 4th July, and Wednesday, 5th July—Completion of the Committee stage of the European Communities Bill.

Thursday, 6th July—Further progress on the Report stage of the Local Government Bill.

Friday, 7th July—Remaining stages of the Field Monuments Bill [Lords], the British Library Bill [Lords] and the Children Bill [Lords].

Second Reading of the Sri Lanka Republic Bill [Lords].

Monday, 10th July—Supply (26th allotted day): Debate on a topic to be announced.

Mr. Wilson

Since in previous weeks in discussing business questions we have pressed the right hon. Gentleman to provide early facilities to discuss the sub judice rule, is he aware that his efforts are much appreciated? He will be aware that the Motion was rather narrower than some hon. Members wished and that we shall want to make representations to him. However, this means that we can debate the Industrial Relations matter on Monday without the complications of the sub judice rule.

On another matter which has been put to him repeatedly, has the right hon. Gentleman now had a chance to examine the facilities provided by the Government, particularly during the guillotine period, for debating delegated legislation, whether involving affirmative or negative procedures, since this has meant a bigger pile-up now than for a long time past? Will he say what he intends to do about the situation?

Thirdly, in view of the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) about an answer given by the Prime Minister, will the Leader of the House confirm that, while the Prime Minister was right to say that it has long been the practice for speeches to be placed in the Library, it has also long been the practice for the Prime Minister to be answerable for speeches that he has made? Will he further confirm that the remarks made by the Prime Minister this afternoon are not to be taken as guidance to the Table Office to preclude the tabling of further questions on these matters?

Mr. Carr

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's comments about the early debate on the sub judice rule. I took note of what was said last night by the Opposition Front Bench, and I have noted what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. I will consider this matter. As we made clear last night, there is still an outstanding overall major recommendation of the Committee which we shall consider following the Phillimore Report. Perhaps in the course of that consideration we can discuss this subject with the right hon. Gentleman, but I cannot give any undertaking.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about Prayers. I have examined this matter, and I must say quite honestly that my examination has not thrown much hopeful light on what I can do about the situation in the near future. This is a very real problem. If we can move into a period when it is possible to have more Prayers, I shall be delighted. I assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that when we have the report of the Brooke Committee, which is studying the problems of delegated legislation, the Government will consider with urgency what they will do about the matter because we realise that the present situation is undesirable to the House.

On the last point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did not in any way wish to indicate any unwillingness on his part in future to answer questions on major matters of economic policy, and so forth.

Mr. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, on the question of delegated legislation, that it is not enough to say the matter has been looked into in reference to procedure in future Sessions, since it is in this Session that the Opposition and the House as a whole have been denied rights which have been traditional over many years? Is he aware—I make no particular complaint here—that we have to debate a situation which has arisen from certain events connected with the operation of an Act on which Parliament was gagged, so that that Act was not properly considered? Is he further aware that his difficulties over the timetable—and he can have our understanding over that matter, if not our sympathy—arises from the fact that a major Act which seeks to remove parliamentary rights which have existed for centuries is going through the House under the guillotine and that it is at this very moment he is insisting, or is being forced to insist, that we cannot exercise our traditional rights on delegated legislation?

Mr. Carr

I do not want to open old controversies, but when the right hon. Gentleman talks about discussion on legislation being gagged, it is a strange definition of "gagging" when one considers the amount of time allocated not only in total but to various parts of that legislation.

I admit that there is a difficulty over Prayers, and I have already said that I cannot at the moment see much light. However, I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there have been two or three occasions in the last few weeks, one as recently as last week, when the Opposition had an opportunity for a Prayer and decided for their own good reasons—I do not complain about it—not to take advantage of it. I am not suggesting that the opportunities they have had and turned down were enough to deal with the whole problem, but it is right to say there have been some opportunities of which advantage has not been taken.

Sir D. Renton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is many weeks since we had a marshalled list of the many Amendments to the Local Government Bill, despite the fact that I have made many requests to the Table Office for such a list? Will he do his best to ensure that we have a marshalled list ready tomorrow morning so that hon. Members can do some homework on this Bill over the weekend?

Mr. Carr

I am sorry to confess that I was not fully aware of the situation, but I appreciate the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend. I will have the matter investigated urgently and will see what can be done.

Mr. Faulds

Following publication of the report of the working party, when may we expect a statement of Government intentions on public lending right?

Mr. Carr

I take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said. I do not think it will be next week, but I shall draw his request to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for the Minister concerned to make an urgent statement to the House about the situation in which the National Liberation Movement for Palestine has been permitted to set up an office in London, bearing in mind that this organisation claims to be one of the main aircraft-hijacking organisations in the world and has already admitted to the destruction of four aircraft on the ground and the hijacking of a number of others? This makes nonsense of any reports that the Government are making efforts to stop hijacking.

Mr. Carr

I will most certainly put my right hon. Friend's point to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and see that it is attended to.

Sir G. de Freitas

When the Leader of the House is not overwhelmed by the avalanche of Government legislation, will he consider providing Government time for a debate on the pollution problem, in view of the statements by the Secretary of State in Stockholm and the Report of the Royal Commission last year?

Mr. Carr

I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman any specific assurance. However, this is a matter of great and, I am glad to say, growing general interest. When we can find the time for a debate, it will be a good thing.

Dame Joan Vickers

With regard to Thursday's business, when we are to discuss the Local Government Bill, as it is an extremely important Bill which affects the life of every individual in the country, quite apart from local democracy, will my right hon. Friend promise that it will not be an all-night sitting and that the proceedings will end at 10 or 11 o'clock in the evening?

Mr. Carr

I can assure my hon. Friend that I do not like all-night sittings any more than she or any other hon. Member does. But I cannot give any promise. To some extent, it depends on how many speeches hon. Members make and how long they are.

Mr. Hooson

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government intend to provide time this Session for the House to debate the recently published Report of the Criminal Law Revision Committee on changes in the law of evidence? If he cannot, can he assure us that there will be sufficient time between any debate on that report and the presentation of any Bill arising out of the report?

Mr. Carr

I am not sure about the timing. This very important report has only just been published. I know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has said already that he needs time to consider it. I shall discuss it with him. We all realise how important the report is and how carefully it will need to be considered.

Mr. Jennings

In order to allow hon. Members to make necessary plans, will my right hon. Friend announce next week the dates of the Summer Recess?

Mr. Carr

Again, it would give me great pleasure to be able to. I can only say that all hon. Members who want a nice summer holiday should use as much self-denying ordinance as they can.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

May I pursue the matter raised by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson)? Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the Home Office will not consider any legislation until it has had an opportunity to hear the views of the House, since the Report of Lord Justice Davies' Committee makes some very far-reaching and disturbing suggestions for changes in the law of evidence?

Mr. Carr

I have not had an opportunity to discuss this matter with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I do not want to go any further than I should. Clearly, this is an important matter, and I take serious note of what the hon. Lady has said.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the Leader of the House confirm that sufficient time will be available on Monday night for a full discussion of the Electricity Supply (Northern Ireland) Order? When will he be able to make an announcement about the way that Northern Ireland legislation is to be brought before this House? I remind him again that this is not the first occasion on which I have pressed him to make an announcement concerning a matter which affects the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Carr

The time for debate on Monday will be the usual 1½ hours allowed for an affirmative Resolution of this kind. As for my hon. Friend's second point, as every Thursday comes along I am more and more conscious of the question that he will ask me. I am anxious to answer it as quickly as I can. It is a complicated matter to decide what form the Committee should take, its powers and its composition. I will make an announcement as soon as possible, and I repeat my assurance about having consultations before I do so.

Mr. Eadie

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during the Committee stage of the European Communities Bill only two hours were available for hon. Members to discuss the subject of energy and the associated implications of entering the Common Market? He will be aware that there are problems in relation to all the sources of energy—nuclear power, gas, oil and coal. However, we have not yet had an energy debate in this Parliament. Will the right hon. Gentleman rectify that omission before this House goes into recess?

Mr. Carr

At the moment I cannot talk about when we shall go into recess and what we can do before then. The problems of energy are very important, and I know that they engage a lot of the time of my right hon. and hon. Friends. But I cannot promise a debate at the moment.

Sir Gilbert Longden

Reverting to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers), surely the length of Thursday's sitting does not depend only on how many hon. Members wish to speak on this very important Measure. Does it not also depend on the time allowed by my right hon. Friend for the Report stage in this House, and would it not be better to say now that we shall rise at the end of August?

Mr. Carr

I cannot believe that it would be better to say that, and I cannot think that the majority of right hon. and hon. Members would feel that it was. Of course, it does not depend only on the number of speeches and how long they are. I realise that that is not the only factor which will determine how long we sit on Thursday. However it is fair to point out that already we have spent longer on Report on this Bill than on all but one or two Bills in the last 25 years.

Mr. Healey

When will the Government publish their Green Paper on proposals for a tax credit system?

Mr. Carr

I am afraid that I cannot yet give the right hon. Gentleman the date. It is a matter that we have undertaken to publish, but I cannot yet say when.

Mr. McMaster

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great arrears in Northern Ireland business, and will he see to it that more than 1½ hours in the small hours of the morning is allocated occasionally to this business in view of the events in Northern Ireland and the fact that the majority of the population are taking action outside the parliamentary process through the UDA because of their dissatisfaction about the ability of this Government to restore law and order and peace and security throughout Northern Ireland?

Mr. Carr

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will be making a statement shortly, and no doubt he will deal with the main substance of my hon. Friend's question. But, even now, I must say to my hon. Friend that I should have hoped that we might have worked and tried to consolidate on the ceasefire which has occurred this week. I think that everyone in this House and outside it, in this country and in Northern Ireland, should bear in mind that overriding need.

As to the time for debate, of course I have sympathy with the point made by my hon. Friend and his colleagues. However, my hon. Friend exaggerates the position when he insists on using the phrase "in the early hours of the morning." The other week we began at 7 p.m., so that most of the hours were not the early hours of the morning. On Monday next the order will be discussed between 10 and 11.30 p.m., which again is not the early hours of the morning.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Can we be given any idea when we are likely to have positive action with regard to industrial training? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, with the exception of a debate on the consultative document, this matter has been hanging fire since the Queen's Speech of 1970? It is causing great concern to industrial training boards, especially the Engineering Training Board, the headquarters of which is in my constituency and which accounts for 50 per cent. of the money at risk. The inaction is holding up the development of forward planning in industrial training.

Mr. Carr

I think that "hanging fire" is about the most extraordinary phrase it is possible to use about this subject. A most important document about future plans was produced for consultation in January. A period until the end of May was given for consultation, which I think was enough but not excessive. That period for consultation is over, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend is considering the results.

Mrs. Castle

Further to the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) about the Green Paper on the tax credit scheme, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those of us who serve on the Standing Committee which is considering the National Insurance Bill are getting a little tired of having our Amendments turned down on the basis of some mystical and as yet unknown tax credit scheme which we are told will solve all the difficulties? Can we be given by next Thursday some idea of when we are likely to see the Green Paper and whether it is hoped to set up a Select Committee before the recess?

Mr. Carr

I shall speak to my right hon. Friend about what the right hon. Lady has said. My right hon. Friend has promised that the Green Paper will be published before the end of the year. I expect that we shall beat that target easily, but I am not sure by how many weeks or months at the moment.

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