HC Deb 25 May 1972 vol 837 cc1627-34
Mr. Harold Wilson

Will the Leader of the House kindly state the business for the week after the recess?

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

The business for the week after the Whitsun Adjournment will be as follows:

MONDAY, 5TH JUNE—Supply (20th allotted day): There will be a debate on an Opposition Motion on Industrial Training.

At seven o'clock, the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration.

Motions on the Explosives (Northern Ireland) Order and the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation Order.

TUESDAY, 6TH JUNE AND WEDNESDAY, 7M JUNE.—Completion of the remaining stages of the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Bill.

THURSDAY, 8TH JUNE—Further progress in Committee on the European Communities Bill.

FRIDAY, 9TH JUNE—Remaining stages of the Parliamentary and Other Pensions Bill.

Motions on the proposed New Palace Yard underground car park, on language courses and on travel funds for Members.

MONDAY, 12TH JUNE—Private Members' Motions until seven o'clock.

Afterwards, there will be a debate on Northern Ireland affairs, when the House will be invited to approve Motions on Northern Ireland Orders relating to appropriation, electoral law, employers' liability and exported animals.

Mr. Wilson

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that I said last week that we would hope to co-operate with him in getting the Criminal Justice Bill at a reasonable time, but he was not then able to say when the Motion for the Whitsun Adjournment would be taken. Does he realise now that, as we are to have two major statements today, on Concorde and on Northern Ireland. and then the debate on the Motion for the Adjournment, it will simply not be possible, if this important Bill is to be treated seriously, to get it at any reasonable hour tonight, the more so since Mr. Speaker has, if I may say so, very appropriately selected a substantial list of Amendments? In the circumstances, will the Leader of the House undertake that if we have not made enough progress by a reasonable hour consideration of the Criminal Justice Bill will be continued further after the recess?

Second, on the business for Monday, 12th June, on which, of course, the right hon. Gentleman may be questioned again, will he confirm that it is intended that the debate on Northern Ireland affairs will go the full three hours to 10 o'clock and that the other items which he mentioned will be taken after 10 o'clock and not introduced earlier?

Third, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the House may expect at the very earliest possible date a debate on Rhodesia in Government time?

Mr. Carr

As to the Criminal Justice Bill, the right hon. Gentleman will recall that we adjusted business in order to try to make the arrangements easier and more convenient for the House. I regret that other adjustments have superimposed themselves on top of that, so that we have not now, I realise, quite the time which we hoped to have for it. However, I think it reasonable that we must see what progress we make, but I shall bear in mind what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Regarding the debate on Northern Ireland affairs on Monday, 12th June, perhaps we might have discussions about the most convenient way to deal with the matter both through the usual channels and with hon. Members on both sides who are particularly interested. The first order I mentioned, the Appropriation Order, would itself allow a wide debate, and each and every one of the four orders to which I referred is entitled in its own right to an hour and a half after 10 o'clock, so that a considerable time would stretch ahead for us late at night or early in the morning if the House wished. But I repeat that we can discuss the most convenient way to take it.

As regards Rhodesia, yes, Sir, I recognise that, pretty soon after the Whitsun Recess, we shall need to find a day for a debate on this important subject.

Mr. Wilson

As the House has by a large majority endorsed the Government's action in taking over full responsibility for Northern Ireland affairs, we recognise that there must be adequate time for debates both on executive decisions of the Secretary of State and upon legislation; and a considerable time is being taken now with Private Notice Questions and the weekly Thursday statement. Will the Leader of the House arrange, therefore, that the debate on Monday, 12th June, will be adequate to cover a wide-ranging discussion on Northern Ireland affairs, with other time found, out of Government time, for other Northern Ireland questions, without encroaching on that part of parliamentary time which needs to be devoted to affairs on this side of the Channel?

Mr. Carr

I shall bear in mind what the right hon. Gentleman has said. As he and the House know, discussions are going on about the most convenient way of dealing with Northern Ireland business and Northern Ireland affairs generally in the House in the present temporary difficult situation.

Sir Robin Turton

Does my right hon. Friend recall that his predecessor always said that he would be most anxious to make the quickest possible response to any report from a Select Committee concerning the procedure of the House, and that, in fact, last November he promised a debate on the recommendations regarding length of speeches? Since then, there have been three reports, one dealing with the election of the Speaker, another dealing with the Consolidated Fund Bill and ministerial statements, and the last dealing with the right of hon. Members to attend Select Committees? With the exception of the first, there is a certain urgency for their consideration. Will my right hon. Friend consider whether time should be given for early discussions on those recommendations so that we may know what the House thinks about them?

Mr. Carr

I recognise that there is great substance in what my right hon. Friend says and that the House will need to debate these matters. I should like to arrange it as soon as possible, but I must in all honesty say that at the moment I cannot tell him when that will be.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

The right hon Gentleman's predecessor promised a debate on the reform of local government in Scotland at some time before we rose in the summer. Will the Leader of the House confirm that such a debate will be arranged before we rise?

Mr. Carr

I recognise that there is a widespread demand among Scottish Members for a debate, but it would be rash of me to make any particular promise at the moment.

Mr. Kilfedder

I welcome the announcement of the debate on Northern Ireland on Monday, 12th June. Will my right hon. Friend not only consult through the usual channels but make sure that hon. Members on both sides from Northern Ireland are consulted about the arrangements?

Second, will my right hon. Friend endeavour to make sure that the affairs of Northern Ireland are not discussed during late hours of the night or early morning but that proper time is given for debate at a reasonable hour?

Third, will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the plight of the Biharis and those who are awaiting trial on charges alleging war crimes?

Mr. Carr

On the first point, I thought I made clear that I wanted to consult not only through the usual channels but with hon. Members who were particularly interested. I note what my hon. Friend said about the other matters. I cannot announce time for any subjects other than those I have already mentioned.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Will the right hon. Gentleman in the first week of the new term make a statement to the House on a matter which I raised yesterday involving EEC legislation? We have waited 18 months for the secondary legislation in the EEC and we have already found 144 pages of mistakes in that secondary legislation. Furthermore, we have had to wait six or seven months for new amending regulations. Surely the right hon. Gentleman should do something to see that by the time the House reassembles we shall get these orders within a reasonable time and in a correct form. Will he make a statement on that matter?

Mr. Carr

I cannot promise to make a statement. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy considered this matter and made a statement in yesterday's debate, which the House will find in column 1,500.

Mr. Fell

As my right hon. Friend is a stout defender of the back benches on both sides of the House, will he step in to save the House from the serious dilemma in which it now finds itself in the nine or ten remaining days of the Committee stage of the EEC Bill, which is becoming a complete farce? We have reached a stage when it has become obvious that Government Ministers have no intention of conceding, accepting—or even considering accepting—any Amendment, however good, to the European Communities Bill, for the reason that the Government are determined to avoid the necessity for a Report stage. Could not my right hon. Friend intervene to put this matter right?

Mr. Carr

I do not know what intervention my hon. Friend expects me to make. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General will continue to advise the House about what they think right and appropriate on each Amendment.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

May I press the right hon. Gentleman about the Criminal Justice Bill? Some Amend- ments which have been tabled for discussion tonight were not dealt with in Committee and raise major questions of bail, legal aid and life imprisonment. I urge him, in the interests of proper debate in this crucial matter of civil liberties and the law, to consider winding up the Committee sufficiently early to enable these maters to be sensibly debated on another occasion.

Mr. Carr

These are serious subjects and we must see how we get on. I hope we shall take a reasonable view in the light of the progress we make.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I welcome the announcement about the business on Northern Ireland, but could the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that on 12th June there will be an opportunity in debate to deal with the problem of security in Northern Ireland? Hon. Members from Northern Ireland have a special interest in this matter as we look at the sad situation which has arisen in our Province? Will he say when there is likely to be an announcement to the House about the means by which an opportunity will be given to table Amendments to proposed legislation for Northern Ireland? Is he aware of the fact that Northern Ireland Members, and, indeed, other hon. Members from this House who are interested in Northern Ireland, can only reject or accept Orders in Council and have no opportunity to amend them? Will he announce the Government's plans to give Northern Ireland full parliamentary rights in this House?

Mr. Carr

I note what the hon. Member has said about security. Before 12th June perhaps we can have discussions with hon. Members concerned on the most convenient way of allocating the time available on this subject. As for the opportunity for the tabling of Amendments, initially we shall be dealing almost entirely with legislation which has been through Stormont, or which has substantially been through that House. Discussions are taking place to decide how to deal with other matters as they arise.

Mr. Latham

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that through his selecting guillotined business for the Tuesday and Wednesday after the recess my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) and myself will become victims in a matter about which I complained to Mr. Speaker last Tuesday? In other words we shall lose the right under Standing Order No. 13 to seek the leave of the House to introduce Bills connected with civil rights and a system of proportional representation in Northern Ireland local government elections. Does not the Leader of the House accept that the fact that we must give 15 days' notice of such a Motion and do not know whether guillotined business will be selected until much later puts us at a disadvantage? Will he provide an opportunity for back benchers to vote on the Motion which I have submitted so that the House of Commons might attempt to redress the erosion of back benchers' rights?

[That, notwithstanding anything contained in the orders of the House relating to proceedings on days allotted to the consideration of Bills subject to a timetable, Members may on such days (being Tuesdays and Wednesdays) seek leave to bring in Bills under the provisions of Standing Order No. 13.]

Mr. Carr

I cannot undertake to alter the timetable Motions under which we are working, which have been approved by the House in the light of past practice. I shall bear in mind the principle raised by the hon. Gentleman if need should ever arise for timetable Motions in future.

Mr. James Johnson

is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there have been two days' hard talking at the Foreign Office about the future of the deep-sea fishing fleet in Icelandic waters? Has it not occurred to him that the House would like a statement on this topic this afternoon? How is the House to be told about fishing within the 50-mile limit?

Mr. Carr

I thought that discussions were continuing today. If I have been wrongly informed I apologise, but I thought that was the position. I am sure that in due course my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will make a statement.

Mr. Clinton Davis

When will the House be given an opportunity to debate the decisions taken at the UNCTAD meeting in Chile? Is he aware that there is great despondency among the develop- ing nations about the state of affairs which has arisen at that conference? Is he also aware that this matter should be debated in the House in Government time?

Mr. Carr

As a Minister who was formerly concerned with overseas aid, I share the hon. Gentleman's interest in this subject. However, I cannot say that time will be given to that subject at the moment.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Will my right hon. Friend try to allow time for a debate on the spread of pornography since it appears that the policy of the Home Office seems to be to let it rip?

Mr. Carr

So far as I can see the situation at present, I must leave it to my hon. and gallant Friend and other hon. Members to raise these matters in private Members' time.

Mr. Shore

Reverting to the subject of the resumed Common Market debate on 8th June, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to recall that this subject is of special importance because we shall then be dealing with the taxation of the British people by the Common Market? Would he please ensure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, rather than the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, is available on that occasion to answer the debate?

Mr. Carr

I take note of the right hon. Gentleman's comments, and I shall talk to my right hon. Friend about them.