HC Deb 16 March 1972 vol 833 cc764-9
Mr. Harold Wilson

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, 20TH MARCH.—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.

TUESDAY, 21ST MARCH.—My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget Statement.

Remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.

Motions relating to the Coal Industry Orders.

At Seven o'clock, the Chairman of Ways and Means has named Opposed Private Business for consideration.

WEDNESDAY, 22ND MARCH.—Continuation of the Budget debate.

Motions on the Transitional Relief from Income Tax Orders.

Thursday, 23rd March.—Continuation of the Budget debate.

Second Reading of the Road Traffic Bill [Lords].

Motion relating to the Raising of the School Leaving Age Order.

FRIDAY, 24TH MARCH.—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 27TH MARCH.—Conclusion of the debate on the Budget Statement.

Mr. Speaker, the House will wish to know that, subject to progress of business, it is intended to propose that the House should rise for the Easter Adjournment on Thursday, 30th March, until Monday, 10th April.

Mr. Wilson

Recalling the question of yesterday about the police raids at an emotively early hour yesterday morning, and recognising, as we all do, that police action to deal with anyone who is suspected of violence is one thing, now that the House has seen some deeply disturbing Press reports on these interventions, would the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the House will be given a statement on their implications some time next week?

Second, on the subject of Northern Ireland, is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the deep concern that six weeks after a Government initiative was envisaged and publicly known to be coming—[Interruption.]—six weeks after a Government initiative on Northern Ireland was known to be coming, as confirmed by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, which would then be laid down and imposed after consultation, with the authority of the right hon. Gentleman, there is still no announcement?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House have shown very great patience in this matter and have not pressed on the Government during this period the proposals for all-party talks which I thought had been accepted in all parts of the House 16 weeks ago—indeed, at various moments, understanding the difficulties, right hon. Gentlemen have said that we were not pressing for an immediate announcement—and is he aware now of the dangers of further delay and of the deep fears that the delay that has occurred has led to a regrouping of forces and new threats from more than one side in Northern Ireland?

Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that there is concern, which I share, that even after all this pressure we are now told that the two Prime Ministers are not to meet until next Wednesday? For my part, I do not believe that it is the responsibility of this Prime Minister, but this shows some lack of concern for the strong feeling in the House about the dangers that we are facing. If there is to be no statement until next week, there can be no debate until just before Easter or even after Easter, which is intolerable. In those circumstances, when we have had the right hon. Gentleman's answer—we understand why he cannot promise time for a debate next week, because of the Consolidated Fund debate and the Budget debate which follows—I should like to give informal notice to you, Mr. Speaker, that if we cannot get a guarantee of a debate, I shall seek later this afternoon at the appropriate time to make application under Standing Order No. 9 for an immediate debate.

Mr. Whitelaw

On the right hon. Gentleman's two points, after the question of yesterday I naturally did what I promised and put the views that were expressed to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I understand that the searches referred to were authorised by magistrates and were carried out in accordance with the law. It is not for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to intervene in these matters. If those concerned wish to take proceedings it is open to them to do so. I have taken great care to use the correct words, and I hope that the House will accept that that is the position.

On the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about Northern Ireland, I have noted what he said. As is known, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has asked the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland to come here for discussions next Wednesday, and, whilst accepting the patience of the House in these matters I think it is reasonable now for the House to await these discussions.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is my right hon. Friend aware that anxiety about the delay in a Government statement is not confined to any one part of the House, but is it not more important that the statement, when it comes, should be right rather than that it should come quickly?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what my hon. Friend says and his particular interest in this matter. Everyone in the House is all too conscious that in this very difficult situation it is extremely important to take the right course.

Mr. Rose

Is the Leader of the House aware of the very deep and widespread disappointment at the failure of the Government to announce a political initiative? Is he aware that every day that goes by there is a hardening of attitudes, lives are lost and the ultimate solution becomes more difficult? However split his Cabinet may be, does he realise that there is a need for an immediate initiative and an immediate debate on this subject?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not accept all the hon. Member's remarks. He refers to my Cabinet—which, very fortunately for this country, it is not. But I can absolutely confirm to him that what he suggests in that regard is quite wrong. I note all that has been said, but I have nothing further to add to what I said to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Would my right hon. Friend agree that now that the British Cabinet has decided on its course of action it would be politer, swifter and more salutary for the Home Secretary to fly to Northern Ireland and explain to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland what course he proposes to take, and then we could have a swifter debate than is now proposed?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what my right hon. Friend says. I have nothing to add to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has invited the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland to come here next Wednesday to discuss these matters. Personally, I think that that is the right way to proceed.

Mr. Heffer

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that the statement he has made this afternoon in reply to the points raised yesterday—whilst we are very thankful that the right hon. Gentleman has made such a statement—really cannot be a substitute for the Home Secretary coming to the House and making a statement, in view of the political implications in relation to certain of the raids that took place?

No one opposes the idea that those who were responsible for the outrage at Aldershot, and similar outrages, must be tracked down. But when people's views are involved this becomes a different, political matter, and a matter of the gravest importance. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his statement and ask his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to make a statement to the House so that he can be questioned by the House. Then, if the House is totally convinced of the correctness of the position, no question arises.

But the statements that have been made, the letter by Mr. Paul Foot in The Times this morning and the statement made by—[Hon. Members: "Speech."]—the Guardian writer, are very important, and on that basis I ask the right hon. Gentleman to confer with his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, or the Prime Minister, who is sitting next to him, so that we may have a statement on this issue.

Mr. Whitelaw

As the hon. Member for Liverpool. Walton (Mr. Heffer) will appreciate, the relationship between politicians and the police in this country is very important and very delicate on all sides. I have done my best to set out perfectly clearly what I believe to be the correct constitutional position. I will see that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary notes what the hon. Member says, but I cannot add to what I understand to be the correct position as I have set it out. It is very important that I should have done it in that way.

Mr. McMaster

With respect to the proposed statement and debate on Northern Ireland, it should be remembered that over the last seven months between 30 and 40 persons have been killed each month and between 300 and 400 have been seriously injured each month in Northern Ireland. In the meantime there have been many debates in the House. It would be much better to restore law and order immediately in Northern Ireland rather than debate the matter. The men who are principally responsible are, clearly, beyond the ears of the House and even of their own church leaders.

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what my hon. Friend says and I noted what the Leader of the Opposition said he was intending to do later. All these matters have to be considered by right hon. and hon. Members in deciding what is for them the right course of action.

Mr. C. Pannell

Would the Leader of the House tell us what progress we are likely to make on the House of Commons pensions Bill following the Boyle Report? Will he bear in mind that as the operative date for the other Boyle proposals was 1st January the Bill will have retroactive effect from that date.

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. On his second point: yes, I think that can be arranged. On the first point, I am moving as fast as I can in a very complicated field, or, rather, those who are planning this very complicated matter are moving as fast as they can, which is much faster than I can move because I find it difficult to understand. But I have very much in mind how important it is to bring this forward as soon as possible based on the Boyle Committee's Report, and I promise that that will be done.

Mrs. Knight

Whatever the timing and content of the Northern Ireland debate, can my right hon. Friend give any hope that the House will shortly take steps to outlaw the I.R.A. in this country?

Mr. Whitelaw

That is another matter. All these matters can be considered carefully in the context if there is to be a debate, or in other ways.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

Has the right hon. Gentleman had time to read Motion 265:

[That this House, whilst deploring disorderly conduct of any Member or disrespect to the Chair, considers

  1. (a) that the power to order a Member to withdraw immediately from the House during the remainder of that day's sitting is normally an adequate method of dealing with the immediate situation;
  2. (b) that the current procedure in relation to the naming of a Member is unsatisfactory in that it fails to provide either for any cooling-off period or for adequate time to enable honourable Members to discover the facts upon which they may be called upon to vole; and
  3. (c) that Standing Orders Nos. 23 and 24 should be amended on lines similar to those proposed by the honourable and learned Member for Dulwich in his Motion, Order in Debate.]
which stands in the names of myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends and also Order No. 10 on today's Order Paper headed "Order in Debate".

[That the Amendment to Standing Order No. 23 (Disorderly conduct)and to Standing Order No. 24(Order in debate) hereinafter stated in the Schedule be made.

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