HC Deb 29 March 1972 vol 834 cc435-40
Mr. Harold Wilson

May I ask the Acting Leader of the House to state the business for the week after the Easter Recess?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

The business for the first week after Easter will be as follows:

MONDAY, 10TH APRIL. Supply (17th Allotted Day): Motion relating to Navy Estimates, 1972–73, Vote A.

The House will also be asked to pass the revised Estimate relating to Export Credits (Special Guarantees, Etc.)

Second Reading of the Betting and Gaming Duties Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation Measure.

TUESDAY, 11TH APRIL. Consideration of a timetable Motion on the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Bill.

Progress on the remaining stages of the Sound Broadcasting Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 12TH APRIL. Remaining stages of the Sound Broadcasting Bill.

THURSDAY, 13TH APRIL. Progress on the remaining stages of the Local Government Bill.

FRIDAY, 14TH APRIL. Private Members' Bills.

Mr. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is not very well served by his ministerial colleagues on the subject of Scottish housing any more than he is well served by his English housing ministerial colleagues? Is he also aware that the proceedings on the Housing (Financial Provisions) Scotland Bill have been business-like and constructive and have not led to undue delay in getting to the guts of the Bill? In these circumstances, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot in his capacity as acting Leader of the House reconsider this matter, will he be ready to expect a very rough house from my right hon. and hon. Friends representing Scottish constituencies when the Motion is debated?

Mr. Maudling

I have past experience of how rough at times right hon. and hon. Members opposite representing Scottish constituencies can be. They are seldom right, though.

Mr. Tebbit

Will there be time for a debate in the week after the Easter Recess on the February housing figures, which I understand are very good?

Mr. Maudling

I think that the traditional phrase is "Not next week."

Mr. Lipton

How does it come about that the Motion for the Easter Adjournment is placed before the House on the day before we are due to adjourn? That in itself is somewhat unusual. Normally, such a Motion is put down a day or two or even longer before we are due to rise for a Recess. Secondly, why is it that this Motion for the Adjournment is placed on the Order Paper at the end of Government business, thus whittling away the right of hon. Members on the back benches to raise matters on the Motion at the normal time of 3.30 p.m.? On this occasion, heaven knows when hon. Members on the back benches will have an opportunity to speak to the Motion. It may be three, four or five o'clock tomorrow morning. This is a most unusual episode. I cannot recollect a precedent during the time that I have been a Member of this House. What is the precedent, and what is the reason for this very unusual state of affairs?

Mr. Maudling

I agree that it is extremely unusual, but so are the circumstances in which the House is meeting at present. It is recognised that it is urgently necessary to complete the proceedings on the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Bill, the Second Reading of which was agreed to overwhelmingly yesterday. It is because this business is so urgent that we have had to adopt this unusual procedure.

Mr. Money

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind Early Day Motion No. 221 in the name of the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) and a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House, dealing with the proposed Parochial Fees Order, which will permit 100 per cent. increases with regard to a number of inevitable expenses particularly hitting the very poor? Will my right hon. Friend give us an opportunity to debate this important matter?

[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Parochial Fees Order 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 177), dated 11th February, 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th February, be annulled.]

Mr. Maudling

Certainly I will bear that matter in mind.

Mr. Skinner

Is the newly-appointed Leader of the House aware—

Mr. Lipton

He is acting Leader of the House.

Mr. Skinner

Is he only acting? You could have fooled me. Is he aware that some of us on this side of the House would very much like a debate on the housing figures, slightly improved as the February figures will show, in order to demonstrate that the figures which the Minister for Housing and Construction wanted to brag about are not much better than hitherto and have been dragged from the depths of the lowest housing construction figures for a decade? Will the right hon. Gentleman convey our request to his right hon. Friend in order that he may have the opportunity to give us a pledge that before this Government have finished they will be able to show that they have built at least 400,000 houses in a year?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That cannot arise on the business for the week following the Easter Recess.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Assuming that the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Bill is enacted, can my right hon. Friend give us any indication of the proposed rearrangement of the order of Questions in order to accommodate Parliamentary Questions concerning Northern Ireland.

Mr. Maudling

It is improper to do that until the Bill is enacted. However, consideration has been given to this matter, and as soon as the Bill is enacted the necessary arrangements will be made.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Reverting to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about the proposed guillotine Motion on the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Bill, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we have now reached the stage where the Minister in charge of the Bill has indicated that Schedules 2 and 3 are to be withdrawn and later amended? In other words, our proceedings from now on are fictitious. Is there not a case, therefore, for saying that if we have to have a guillotine Motion at all, which we deplore, it should not be brought in until the end of May in any event and, further, that the Report stage should not be crammed into two days, which we understand is to be the case?

Mr. Maudling

These are considerations which can be debated when the timetable Motion comes before the House.

Mr. English

Much as we like the acting Leader of the House, can he say when the Prime Minister is likely to make up his mind as to whom he likes as Leader of the House?

Mr. Maudling

My job today as acting un—[Laughter.]—as acting Leader of the House is to serve the House as best I can.

Mr. Kaufman

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister of State, Treasury undertook in his wind-up speech last Thursday that I would receive replies from the Minister responsible to four specific questions that I had put in the debate and that I have not so far had replies? Will the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that I have them before the House adjourns for Easter?

Mr. Maudling

I will see that that point is conveyed to my right hon. and hon. Friends responsible.

Mr. Dalyell

Since the other place has had two days to debate the Rothschild Committee's Report on the Research Councils is there any possibility of this House debating the subject before decisions are made?

Mr. Maudling

This is an important matter for consideration, but I am afraid not in the week that we return.

Mr. Michael Foot

Can the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that the Adjournment Motion which is to be taken at this abnormal time will not be put down at such an abnormal time in future without consultations with hon. Members on the back benches, who are always especially concerned, since it is a departure from practice and interferes with the rights of back-benchers? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake not to do it again?

Mr. Maudling

I accept that it is a wholly abnormal procedure. It is quite unavoidable in the circumstances.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to find Government time for the House to discuss the very important Select Committee Report concerned with private practice and the National Health Service, and will he discuss with his colleagues the possibility of adopting a procedure whereby a strong minority might have its views recorded?

Mr. Maudling

This report has only just appeared. Obviously, it must be considered. It is a report of great importance which the House will wish to consider as a whole.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Dr. Mabon.

Mr. Emery

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My right hon. Friend has made clear the reason for the abnormal procedure of taking the Motion for the Easter Adjournment as the last item of business on the Order Paper. We immediately accept his explanation. However, the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Bill appears as the second item of business between the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Bill and the Motion for the Adjournment. My right hon. Friend has made the point that the Adjournment Motion is to betaken last because of the abnormal urgency of the Northern Ireland Bill. However, I cannot believe that the same argument applies to the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Bill. Unless that Bill is expected to go through on the nod, in which case the two items of business could be changed round anyway, should not the Adjournment Motion be taken as the second and not the third item of business?

Mr. Maudling

I understand that the Lords Amendments to the Bill are generally acceptable to both sides of the House.