HC Deb 05 July 1973 vol 859 cc721-34
Mr. Harold Wilson

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. James Prior)

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

MONDAY, 9TH JULY—Supply [26th Allotted Day]; Debate on motions to

take note of the Second Report from the Select Committee on Expenditure in Session 1972–73, on Urban Transport Planning, and on the Report from the Expenditure Committee in Session 1972–73 on Further and Higher Education, and the relevant Government Observations.

Remaining stages of the Education (Scotland) Bill and of the Government Trading Funds Bill.

TUESDAY, 10TH JULY—Report stage of the Finance Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 11TH JULY—Third Reading of the Finance Bill, until about 7 p.m.

Remaining stages of the Protection of Aircraft Bill [Lords] and of the Pakistan Bill.

THURSDAY, 12TH JULY—Supply [27th Allotted Day]: Until 7 o'clock there will be a debate on the Export of Live Animals, on an Opposition motion.

Afterwards, a debate on an Opposition motion to Call Attention to the Shortage of Police Manpower.

Motions on the Elections (Welsh Forms) Regulations and on the Redundancy Payments (Merchant Seamen Exclusion) Order.

FRIDAY, 13TH JULY—A debate on Privacy, which will arise on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY, 16TH JULY—Supply [28th Allotted Day]: There will be a debate on an Opposition motion on Scottish Affairs.

Mr. Wilson

While the whole House will hope that it will be possible for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to be able to conclude his discussions with the parties there before the Summer Recess so that we may deal with the motion to validate the new establishment there, in the event that he does not find it possible or feels that rushing it may provide the wrong answer, will the right hon. Gentleman be prepared, after appropriate consultations, to recall the House during the recess to deal with that motion? I say that so that there shall be no impediment in the Government's mind about recalling the House.

Dealing with next week's business, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that we hope that what was carried in Committee on the Pakistan Bill will be accepted by the Government and the House, which will enable us to give a reasonably speedy passage to the Bill? However, if the Government are not willing to accept what was carried in Committee, is he aware that we shall have to ask the Government to reconsider the business and to make this the only business after 7 o'clock on Wednesday?

Since there was great publicity a week ago about what the Leader of the House told the 1922 Committee, which I understand is a committee that meets upstairs, about Members' outside interests, will the right hon. Gentleman kindly consider making a similar statement to the House of Commons, which is concerned with this matter? Is he aware of our own proposals—and those of the Liberal Party—in which we include not only a register of the interests of Members but also a register of the interests of parliamentary journalists who report and influence our proceedings, and also a register of all lobbies operating on hon. Members?

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen Motion No. 383 on the Order Paper?

[That this House, noting that the housewives of the Midlands, who were treated as the most desirable women on earth by the Leader of the Conservative Party when he was wooing them for their votes in 1970, are now described by Conservative Party officials as 'this bloody crowd'; recognising that this adds insult to the severe injury which they have suffered from record increases in the price of food and other essentials, urges the Prime Minister to apologise to those housewives for the cynical and deliberate political seduction practised by him upon them in June 1970, and to take immediate and radical steps to stabilise the cost of living.]

This is signed by a large number of hon. Members deploring the behaviour—[Interruption.] It is about "this bloody crowd", if the right hon. Gentleman wants the title. It is about a case where a Cabinet Minister went into some supermarket and had to get out in a hurry. The report in the Daily Telegraph quoted a Conservative Office official. Could we have a statement in the House either by the Minister con- cerned or by the Leader of the House in his capacity as Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party, since it was "this bloody crowd" that believed in the price policies the right hon. Gentleman promised in 1970?

Mr. Prior

Before I turn to the rather more controversial remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, may I answer his questions on Northern Ireland by saying that I am extremely grateful to him and the Opposition for their co-operation with Northern Ireland business during this difficult Session. I cannot exclude the possibility that the House might have to be recalled—I hope very much that it will not be necessary—on account of Northern Ireland affairs. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will have heard the exchanges.

I have noted what the right hon. Gentleman says about the Pakistan Bill. I gladly give the assurance that the Government's attitude to issues which have been raised in respect of the Bill is such that if a long debate could be expected we would take the Pakistan business first and drop the business dealing with the protection of aircraft. We will, of course, consult on this.

Turning to Members' outside interests, it would be much better, now that consultations have been going on within the parties, that I should now begin consultations between the parties about what would be an acceptable arrangement and what are the difficulties in arranging a register of Members' interests. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I am now ready to begin consultations with the Labour and Liberal Parties.

As for the visit of my right hon. and learned Friend to Birmingham, he tells me that he very much enjoyed his visit. He was in no way aware of the so-called jostling that took place. which appears to have been no more than a figment of certain peoples' imagination. My right hon. and learned Friend and other hon. Friends will be ready at all times to talk to housewives, because we at least can show what is our attitude whereas the Opposition do not have one.

Mr. Harold Wilson

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for showing his great sense of humour in this matter. It is a pity that the Sunday Telegraph should have been repudiated by the Prime Minister on Tuesday and now the Daily Telegraph by the right hon. Gentleman.

Dealing with the question about Northern Ireland, which the right hon. Gentleman appropriately dealt with seriously, I think he has probably taken the point—I am sure the Secretary of State has—that it is partly that if the Secretary of State feels it is undesirable to rush things to get the right answer he should not feel inhibited by the need to ask the House to take a decision before the recess. Secondly, should the Secretary of State, as we would hope in such circumstances, be able to make sufficient progress in the recess, it might be in his view a disaster to have to wait until October for the House to ratify the situation. We want to give the Secretary of State the right to choose the moment. He should feel absolutely uninhibited about the Government recommending you, Mr. Speaker, after the appropriate consultations, to recall the House whether it is to delay a rushed answer or to avoid postponing ratification if agreement is reached.

Mr. Prior

My right hon. Friend will have listened to this exchange. I know that I express his gratitude when I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the view he has expressed.

Mr. Ramsden

Now that the bulk of the proceedings on the Finance Bill are in Committee, might it not be cutting things rather fine to have only one day for Report and one day for Third Reading on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Prior

Certain parts of the Bill were taken in Committee of the whole House. We had better see how we get on. I hope very much that we shall be able to get through it in the day-and-a half allowed.

Miss Boothroyd

May I draw to the attention of the Leader of the House to Motion No. 383, which stands in my name and the names of about 80 of my hon. Friends? It was mentioned just now by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. It calls upon the Prime Minister to apologise to housewives for the misstatement—I think that is the correct parliamentary term—which he made to them in June 1970, and urges him and the Government to take im- mediate and radical steps to stabilise the cost of living. Will it be possible to debate the motion next week, and, if not, as a matter of urgency to millions of families in this country, when might we debate the increased prices that are being agreed by the Price Commission?

Mr. Prior

I hope the hon. Lady will recognise that if prices have gone up by 26.4 per cent. average earnings are up by 37.8 per cent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] I hope she will also realise that real disposable income per head has risen 12¾ per cent. in the last three years compared with 9½ per cent. in the six years of Labour Government. If she would like to include those matters in the debate, I am certain that we can arrange one.

Mr. Powell

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the registration of Members' interests is a matter for the House, of which he is the Leader, and not for Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Prior

I am well aware that Members' interests are a matter for the House of Commons as a whole. That is why I have been proceeding with such care in consulting hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is certainly my intention to do so. As Leader of the House, I am, naturally, concerned to protect against unfair innuendo hon. Members of the House who have told me they feel strongly that a register of Members' interests is now necessary.

Mr. Pannell

The Leader of the House will be aware that the Committee of Privileges has considered the style and title of the former hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, Lord Lambton, and come to a unanimous conclusion. As the former hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed has left us, there is nothing personal in what I say. Is the right hon. Gentleman seized of the need to implement the report of the Committee of Privileges so that the situation in which an hon. Member wishes to renounce a title but still retain it in the House does not again arise?

Mr. Prior

I will consider what the right hon. Gentleman has said, particularly in the light of the fact that the former hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed is no longer with us. I will consider this further and at a suitable time give the House my views upon it.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

The hon. Member for West Bromwich (Miss Boothroyd), whom I welcome as representing my next-door constituency, and the Leader of the Opposition have referred to the visit of the Minister for Trade and Consumer Affairs to my constituency to meet shoppers.

Hon. Members

Ask a question.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must put what he wants to say in the form of a question.

Mr. Chapman

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the newspaper reports were exaggerated? Is my right hon. Friend aware that I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition has said on previous repeated occasions, that one should not believe everything one reads in the Press?

Mr. Prior

If we had to debate some of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition we should be here for a long time.

Mr. William Hamilton

Does the right hon. Gentleman's reply to questions about Members' interests mean that we shall have a debate on the Select Committee's Report on this matter and on the result of the inter-party negotiations before the recess or in any event before Government proposals are put before us? Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that when the Select Committee's Report on the Anti-Discrimination (No. 2) Bill is published—as it will be in a few days—he will find an opportunity to debate it before the House rises for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Prior

I hope that the Select Committee's Report will be published towards the end of next week. I can give no undertaking about a debate before the Summer Recess. At a time when the House will wish to debate the whole question of Members' interests, the 1969 Select Committee's Report will need to be considered. It is still much too early to decide what form the debate should take—whether on a resolution for debate by the House or on the motion for Adjournment. A great deal of work and consultation still remains to be done. We have made some progress, but I doubt whether there will be time for a debate before the Summer Recess.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Will my right hon. Friend undertake to find time before the Summer Recess for a debate on the Government's stance on world monetary and world trading positions, subjects that will be debated at forthcoming conferences? This is especially desirable in view of the statement issued in Brussels that the important question of freedom of trade in food would not be discussable?

Mr. Prior

I will consider what my right hon. Friend has said. We have just had a two-day debate on foreign affairs, to which some of these points were relevant. I am in difficulty between now and the beginning of the Summer Recess, and I cannot give a firm undertaking to find time for a debate on this subject.

Mr. Faulds

When does the right hon. Gentleman intend to arrange for the Government to bring in an amendment to the copyright law to allow the introduction of public lending right for authors?

Mr. Prior

Certainly not between now and the beginning of the Summer Recess.

Dame Irene Ward

I understand that the Government's decisions on the recommendations of the Booz-Allen Report on shipbuilding are making good progress. May I ask that no action be taken to implement the Government's proposals on the recommendations until the House has had an opportunity to debate them?

Mr. Prior

I will not overlook my hon. Friend's wish that the Government's policy should not be implemented until after their decision has been debated. I have to be a little careful because we are getting short of time for debates and we shall not be meeting again perhaps until October. I am not certain how much delay there can properly be on this. I will communicate with my hon. Friend this week after considering further what she has said to me today.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is The right hon. Gentleman aware that next Thursday's debate on the police will be widely welcomed, not least by the Police Federation and by the Joint Branch Board of the Police Federation in the Metropolis?

Mr. Prior

I am glad to have that information from the hon. Gentleman. who knows a good deal about these matters.

Mr. Marten

Shall we be debating my Motion No. 243 on not raising the age for the issue of driving licences from 17 to 18 and, if so, when?

[That this House rejects the proposals contained in a draft directive of the Corn-mission of the European Communities (No. C 119/1 dated 16th November 1972 in the Official Journal of the EC) namely, the Raising of the Age for a Driving Licence from 17 years to 18 years and other related matters.]

Mr. Prior

Not next week, but before the Summer Recess.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement to be made next week by the responsible Minister about yesterday's judicial decision on a pay claim which had been turned down by the Government and has now been upheld by the courts? May we have a full statement on this and on what the Government intend to do in view of the serious damage the decision may do to their policies? Will he not draw the conclusion—a conclusion which many of us have tried to tell the Govermnent—that the Government can make decisions but cannot make law? Only Parliament can make law, and the courts have so decided.

Mr. Prior

This matter could still be subject to a further court action, and, therefore, it would be unwise for me to go further than that today, except to convey what the right hon. Gentleman has said to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Since we saw from the "tape" this morning, if that information is correct, that the defendants in this case have announced they are not to appeal, are the Government considering whether they can find some way of appealing in a civil case which is taking place between two other parties? [interruption.] Perhaps the Official Solicitor or the former Solicitor-General can advise them on this matter. When the right hon. Gentleman has clarified this matter, will he consider making a statement about how the Government are to react to this slap in the fact from the judiciary at the Government's attempt to act without the rule of law?

Mr. Prior

Without accepting the adjectives used by the right hon. Gentle- man, I shall look at the matter to see whether a statement can be made.

Sir Gilbert Longden

My right hon. Friend keeps on referring to the beginning of the Summer Recess. When is it to be?

Mr. Prior

Not next week, but I hope to be able to make an announcement about that next week. Provided that we can get through our business reasonably quickly, I hope that hon. Members will not be disappointed.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs made some pertinent and relevant observations about land use in Scotland, which is very important in the current situation? Is he also aware that the report has been in the Government's hands for nine months? Does he accept that this gestation period is long enough even for a Conservative Government to reach a decision? May we have a debate on this matter before the recess?

Mr. Prior

I am certain that there will not be an opportunity for a debate, but many of the matters which are relevant to the report will be debated on Monday week.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is widespread public concern that the present rise in food prices might be aggravated by the introduction of metric weights in pre-packed foodstuffs in the shops? Does not he think it a good idea for the House to have a statement soon about Government policy on metrication and for there to be a full-scale debate on the future of the country's progress towards metrication?

Mr. Prior

Yes, I think we should have a debate on metrication. I cannot see time for it this side of the recess, but I hope that the matter will be discussed soon after we come back. I do not believe that any suspicions about metric packs causing increases in the price of food are justified. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] But this is perhaps something that could be discussed in the debate.

Dr. Dickson Mahon

Will the Leader of the House confirm that before we rise for the Summer Recess there will be at least three ministerial statements: one on the Booz-Allen Report on the future of shipbuilding, one on the Hardman Report on the dispersal of the Civil Service to other parts of the United Kingdom outside London; and one on the Cyrriax Report affecting the future of can sugar and beet sugar refining in the United Kingdom? Although we are not asking for the statements next week, will the right hon. Gentleman accept that individual Members of Parliament want to meet Ministers before these statements are made? Will he make sure that this is agreed?

Mr. Prior

I know that in respect of the Hardman Report my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department has said that he is willing to meet deputations of Members from all parts of the House. On Booz-Allen, I do not know whether the negotiations and consultations with the shipbuilding industry will be completed in time for a statement to be made before the recess. I shall look into the situation. On the Cyrriax Report, I know that this matter has been outstanding for a considerable time and has a particular bearing on, and could be worrying for, the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I will ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture whether he is in a position to make a statement, or whether he is able to convey any information to the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon).

Mr. Kilfedder

In view of the tremendous interest aroused in Great Britain and in this House by the system of proportional representation which was used in the elections in Northern Ireland, the system known as STV, will my right hon. Friend provide time for the House to debate the desirability of introducing such a system in respect of election to this Parliament?

Mr. Prior

I congratulate the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) and the people of Northern Ireland on being able to understand the system. I am afraid I have never got round to understanding it myself, and I certainly could not find time to debate it.

Mr. Lawson

Have the Government completed their consultations on afforestation policy for the United Kingdom? If so, may we have a statement on this matter very soon?

Mr. Prior

No, Sir. The Government's consultations are not completed. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government put their views to the industry. This is the first major change in forestry policy for 30 years, and the consultations are still going on. Because they are rather complex, they are taking some time to complete. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture says that he is not yet in a position to make a statement about the outcome of the consultations

Mr. Monte

May I ask my right hon. Friend to put off the date of the Summer Recess to give the House ample time to debate the GATT negotiating position? Does he recall that he said that this was a suitable subject for debate, but agreed that a foreign affairs debate was not a suitable vehicle to discuss these negotiations, which are probably the most important trade negotiations that have ever been held?

Mr. Prior

I do not for a moment under-estimate the importance of those negotiations, but it is very difficult to fit everything into the time available. I shall give careful consideration to the views which have been expressed this afternoon.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

Are we to have a statement from the Government before the Summer Recess announcing the postponement of the third London airport project?

Mr. Prior

No, Sir. I think the hon. Gentleman knows the Government's position very well.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Will the Leader of the House resist any request to waste the time of the House in debating the report of the Committee of Privileges in respect of the style and title of the former Member for Berwick-on-Tweed, Lord Lambton, in view of the fact that three members of that particular Privileges Committee, who sat in adjudication of the hon. Member's claim, have tabled a condemnatory motion? Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that some hon. Members, particularly myself, would take grave exception to the House wasting its time debating a motion when three members of that Committee have placed themselves in a prejudiced position?

Mr. Prior

I do not wish to enter into the merits of the matter at all. I have always felt that this was a matter on which the House should be able to come to a reasonable decision without the need for a debate.

Mr. Edward Short

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Badgers Bill completed its Committee stage this week, and that, therefore, there is not very much time left. Is he also aware that a great many hon. Members are concerned about the future of this delightful mammal, and, indeed, about most of our native mammals? Will he consider giving us a little time after ten o'clock so that the House may reach a decision on this Bill?

Mr. Prior

I notice from today's Notice Paper that the Bill, as amended, is down for consideration on 20th July, when it will be among the top half-dozen Bills. Judging by the progress of the Bill so far—I am not aware of any opposition to it—I think there is general acceptance in the House that this is a Bill we should all like to see on the statute book. I see no reason at all why it should not go through on 20th July. I would find myself in an impossible position if I were to allow Private Members' business to run outside the time allocated for it. Therefore, I very much hope that it will go through without trouble on 20th July.

Mr. Paget

A point of order, Mr. Speaker—a very short point on the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved). Is there anything to discuss? I understand that you had ruled that what a Member is called and when a Member is called is for you, and you alone, and that you would normally choose the name by which the Member chose to be known. Does not that conclude the matter?

Mr. Speaker

I am not prepared to become involved further in this controversy. I have given a ruling. That stands until the House decides otherwise.