HC Deb 08 December 1966 vol 737 cc1573-81
Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business of the House for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Richard Crossman)

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

MONDAY, 12TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill, for which I shall recommend that the rule should be suspended for two hours.

TUESDAY, 13TH DECEMBER—Third Reading of the London Government Bill, which it is hoped to obtain by 7 o'clock.

Motions on the Police Pensions Regulations, the Cotton Industry Development Council Order, and the Import Duties (General) (No. 9) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 14TH DECEMBER—Debate on Procedure.

Consideration of Lords Amendment to the Armed Forces Bill.

THURSDAY, 15TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Housing Subsidies Bill.

Motions on the Winter Keep (Scotland) Scheme and on the Apple and Pear Development Council Order.

FRIDAY, 16TH DECEMBER—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 19TH DECEMBER—Consideration of Private Members' Motions until 7 o'clock.

Afterwards, Second Reading of the Sexual Offences (No. 2) Bill.

TUESDAY, 20TH DECEMBER—Motions on the Rate Support Grant Order and on the General Grant (Increase) Orders.

Consideration of any other Lords Amendments to Bills which may be received.

WEDNESDAY, 21ST DECEMBER—It is expected that the House will meet at 11 a.m., that Questions will be taken until 12 noon and that the House will adjourn at 5 o'clock.

The House will wish to know that it is proposed that we shall return on Tuesday, 17th January.

Mr. Heath

On Wednesday's business, is the Leader of the House aware that we on this side believe that in the debate on procedure the Whips should not be on? Can he give an assurance that this will also be the case for his side of the House, particularly as, I gather, nearly 100 of his hon. Friends have put down a Motion to this effect?

Secondly, as to the business for Tuesday week, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House would like to have the Rate Support Grant Order at the earliest possible moment? I know that this depends on Royal Assent to legislation, but hon. Members will want to consult local authorities about the matter. It is a very important one and we would like to have the utmost time to consider it.

Mr. Crossman

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his two questions. On procedure, I intend to have a general debate on a Motion to take note of the Reports and then to proceed to a very complex package Motion, on which it would be important to give clear guidance.

Hon. Members


Mr. Crossman

I appreciate what the right hon. Member has said about the Rate Grant Order. We had to put this debate as late and as near the Christmas Adjournment as possible to give time for the Order to be prepared. It will be published the moment it is prepared, as the right hon. Gentleman wishes.

Mr. Heath

While I appreciate that the House will, no doubt, be glad to have clear guidance from the Government for the first time, what I was really asking was whether the Leader of the House is prepared to leave it to each Member to come to his own conclusion on that guidance.

Mr. Crossman

Whatever the Opposition do is their business. On this side, we shall give guidance to our members as to how they should vote on this occasion.

Mr. Edelman

Has my right hon. Friend given further consideration to the increasing difficulties of the motor industry, which are causing particular concern in the Midlands? Has he given any further consideration to the question of a full-scale debate?

Mr. Crossman

We had a full scale two-day debate on economic affairs not too long ago, when it was possible to raise these issues and when, in fact, they were raised.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

In the debate on procedure, which Reports does the right hon. Gentleman propose to take note of? There are a considerable number of Reports outstanding. The right hon. Gentleman promised that he would give the House the maximum notice of what exactly we would be talking about. It is, therefore, vital that we should have this package guidance, or whatever it may be, as soon as possible.

Mr. Crossman

I am hoping that it will be ready today or tomorrow to give plenty of time to hon. Members, as it is extremely complicated to read. The Reports will be those on financial procedure, on morning sittings and on specialist Committees in particular.

Mr. Strauss

Will the procedure proposals be put to the House in the form of one suggestion, or in the form of separate items on which the House can come to a conclusion on the separate proposals?

Mr. Crossman

I will take my right hon. Friend's suggestion into account. We have not yet decided precisely how to present the matter.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the Leader of the House aware that we on this bench deplore the imposition of a party Whip on the decision to be made by the House on Wednesday on the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure? We regard this as very much a matter on which individual Members of the House of Commons should make up their minds themselves.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall my question last week about the White Paper on Decimal Currency? Will he try to find time for a debate on this extremely important matter between now and Christmas?

Mr. Crossman

No, I cannot possibly find time between now and Christmas, nor, I must warn the hon. Member, am I likely to be able to find it in the week immediately after Christmas.

Mr. William Price

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to Motion No. 275, standing in my name and signed by 91 of my hon. Friends, on the subject of live hare-coursing?

[That this House regards live hare-coursing, particularly the Waterloo Cup, as a disgrace to a civilised society and calls upon the Government to bring this alleged sport to an end.]

In view of the interest in this subject, and, indeed, in blood sports generally, will my right hon. Friend endeavour to find time for a debate on this subject sometime in the New Year?

Mr. Crossman

I notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) is to seek leave on 31st January to introduce a Bill to prohibit hare-coursing. Let us see how he progresses with that.

Sir C. Osborne

On Monday, 19th December, after 7 p.m., the Government are finding official time for the Sexual Offences (No. 2) Bill. The Bill will give great offence throughout the country. It is understood that there will be a free vote on it. Why are the Government taking up a Private Member's Bill like this, escaping the responsibility themselves in the most cowardly way, finding Government time for it and shutting out much more important business for which hon. Members on both sides of the House have pressed? This is a most cowardly thing to do.

Mr. Crossman

I do not feel from what the hon. Gentleman has said that we are escaping responsibility for what we are doing. In view of what has happened in the other place, and the earlier indication of opinion in this House the Government feel that it is right to give half a day to this important social Measure, with a free vote at the end. I feel that that is the right way to handle this business.

Mr. J. T. Price

With reference to Tuesday's business on the Cotton Industry Development Council Order, would my right hon. Friend advise his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that unless the Government take urgent steps to arrest the completely out-of-hand imports into this country from Formosa, Portugal, and other parts of the world, there will be no cotton industry left to develop in this way?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member can only ask business questions now. He cannot speak on them.

Mr. Price

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I am referring to the business for Tuesday, which includes the Cotton Industry Development Council Order, and I am asking that the President of the Board of Trade should be advised to give the House information about the steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to make it possible to develop the cotton industry in the present chaotic state of the world textile trade.

Mr. Crossman

I am sure that my hon. Friend will be able to repeat that advice at greater length on Tuesday, when the occasion arises.

Mr. G. Campbell

On the business for Tuesday, 20th December, will the Rate Support Grant Order be for England only? If so, when will the Scottish Order be considered? Will General Grant (Increase) Orders which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned be for England only or for both Scotland and England?

Mr. Crossman

It will be for England only, and the Scottish one will come later.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a very large number of Lords Amendments are appearing in the Order Paper, showing that the other place is working overtime in protecting the interests of the landlords? Does he not think that we should do something to remedy that nuisance?

Mr. Crossman

I think that that is something to reflect on. Meanwhile, we shall be handling the Amendments on Tuesday week.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

With regard to the procedure debate, is it not an abuse of the office of Leader of the House to allow it to become part of a party political manoeuvre where the rights and procedure of ordinary Members are concerned?

Mr. Crossman

It would be a very grave thing if the Leader of the House let his office be used in that way. My office is to arrange the business of the House. All I did was to reply to a question and to say what had been decided about the advice we would give my hon. Friends. There is no abuse of the House in saying that.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the proposals for the conduct of the debate on procedure will receive very widespread support on this side of the House for reasons which are apparent to all whole-time Members? Nevertheless, would my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will publish his package Motion at the earliest possible moment, so that every hon. Member can have the opportunity to consider the matter?

Mr. Crossman

I have already given the assurance that it will be published several days before we have the debate. I am aware that there is a deep division of opinion here, but those who studied the Report of the Select Committee will realise that there was a deep division of opinion in the Committee on strictly party lines.

Mr. Godber

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us some reassurance in relation to the business which should have been discussed after 7 p.m. tonight, and which was taken off the Order Paper because of the Rhodesia debate, namely, the Agriculture Bill? He said nothing about it either in relation to next week or the week after. He must be aware that we went to great pains in the Committee to facilitate progress because we thought it necessary to get it before Christmas so as to provide grants for farmers. Many hon. Members are concerned about this. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when it will proceed?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. The Bill became a casualty of the Rhodesia debate. I can give an assurance that at the earliest possible opportunity after our return adequate time will be given to complete consideration of the Bill.

Mr. Dickens

As The Guardian, Daily Mail, Sun and Daily Sketch are in grave financial difficulties, and bearing in mind the forthcoming Monopolies Commission report on the merger of The Times with the Thompson organisation, can my right hon. Friend very seriously consider the need for an early debate on the condition of the Press as soon as Parliament resumes in January?

Mr. Crossman

I certainly would not exclude the possibility of the House discussing what is, I believe, a grave situation of which we should take cognisance, but we should await developments and see what proposals are made.

Earl of Dalkeith

Can the Leader of the House assure us that the Secretary of State for Scotland will not escape the dangerous cross-fire of Questions on 21st December as a result of the business that he has announced for that day?

Mr. Crossman

Nobody will escape anything on that Wednesday.

Mr. Milne

Will my right hon. Friend take note of the imperative need for a debate on the Geddes Report on the future of the shipbuilding industry, particularly in regard to the smaller ship yards?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of the demand for that, but we must await progress and see how we get along after the Recess.

Mr. Iremonger

Can the Leader of the House stop beating about the bush on the matter of procedure and acknowledge that he has put Government Whips on a House of Commons matter, and that that is intolerable and absolutely unprecedented?

Mr. Crossman

I would challenge the hon. Gentleman's view that it is either intolerable or absolutely unprecedented.

Mr. Archer

Has my right hon. Friend observed that in its Report, Reform of the Grounds of Divorce (Cmnd. 3123), the Law Commission invited the House to express a view as between various courses of action? Will he give the House an early opportunity of expressing it?

Mr. Crossman

That is a subject that the House can well discuss, but I cannot promise an early opportunity.

Mr. Channon

Will the Leader of the House have discussions with the Minister of Housing and Local Government to make sure that the Money Resolution for the Housing Subsidies Bill is widely drafted as possible so that we may discuss all relevant matters such as cash grants to help with deposits?

Mr. Crossman

I shall certainly pass on the hon. Gentleman's message, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend knows his own business in drafting his Money Resolution.

Mr. Hamling

Will my right hon. Friend give an early opportunity in the New Year of discussing the House of Commons (Services Committee) Report, particularly in relation to accommodation in the House?

Mr. Crossman

I shall certainly consider the possibility of that, but I would have thought that we had better see how the new accommodation goes before having such a debate. We may well need a debate on our arrangements in the House. It is an important issue.

Mr. J. H. Osborn

On the question of the procedure debate, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the 12 Conservatives on the Iron and Steel Bill Standing Committee will be in Standing Committee and would like to have an opportunity of taking part in the debate, so that they know the arguments before voting?

Mr. Crossman

There is a remedy for that which the 12 Conservative Members could apply.

Mr. Deedes

Will the Leader of the House tell us when the Whips were last put on for a matter affecting the House of Commons?

Mr. Crossman

I should like notice of that question.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker


Mr. Bessell

May we have an early opportunity to debate the White Paper on Transport? Although I realise that this cannot be done before Christmas, would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the Paper was originally promised before last Christmas? We did not receive it until the late summer and we have not yet had an opportunity of discussing this matter of vital importance to the whole country.

Mr. Crossman

I appreciate that and I shall certainly consider it as a subject for debate after Christmas.

Mr. C. Pannell

On the question of procedure, will my right hon. Friend take note that in all the Select Committees that took place during the 13 years of the previous Conservative Administration in many cases their Reports were never brought to the House at all? In effect, the Government killed them by seeing that they were never discussed.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Is not the fact that the Leader of the House did not acquaint himself with any precedents, if there were any, proof that the Government do not attach much importance to the vital matter of who should have the responsibility of altering our procedures—the Government or the Members who have to work under them?

Mr. Crossman

It is an important matter. I will look up the precedents and give them to the hon. Gentleman straight away, since he has asked for them.

Mr. Hamling rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must inform the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) that there is no second round of business questions.