HC Deb 30 November 1967 vol 755 cc652-61
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 will be as follows:

MONDAY, 4TH DECEMBER—Supply [4th Allotted Day]:

Debate on the STATE OF THE AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY, which will arise on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motions on the Commonwealth Countries and Republic of Ireland (Immunities) (No. 3) Order and on the Building Societies (Special Advances) Order.

TUESDAY, 5TH DECEMBER—Remaining stages of the Coal Industry Bill.

Prayer on the Prices and Incomes (Continuous Review) (No. 1) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 6TH DECEMBER—Second Day's debate on Procedure.

THURSDAY, 7TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Health Services and Public Health Bill.

Motions on the Double Taxation Relief Orders relating to Malaysia and Belgium, and on the Mink and Coypus (Importation and Keeping) Orders.

FRIDAY, 8TH DECEMBER—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 11TH DECEMBER—The proposed business will be: Supply [5th Allotted, Day]:

Debate on a topic to be announced later.

Mr. Heath

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how he proposes that the debate on procedure should be handled? Also, when do the Government propose to debate the White Paper on Fuel Policy?

Mr. Crossman

I do not think that the debate on the White Paper on Fuel Policy will be included in the business announced next week, but I want to consider it further.

In the debate on procedure I think that it would be for the convenience of the House if we took the Motions seriatim and discussed and voted on them separately so as to take each on its merits. I propose, to start with, to group them in three. The first group will be those relating to the Finance Bill. The second group will be the allocation of time to Bills. The third group will be those relating to sittings of the House. Those are the three main groups.

I propose to take after that the secondary Motion on Lords Amendments, the one in which the right hon. Gentleman for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) was interested. I was going to leave wigs and gowns to another occasion.

Mr. Winnick

Will there be an opportunity before the Christmas Recess of having a debate on foreign policy, and, in particular, a debate on Vietnam?

Mr. Crossman

I have been considering this question. I think that there is a good chance, as I said last week, of having a debate on foreign affairs.

Mr. Hogg

Can the Leader of the House say when we may expect to have the debate on the Second Reading of the Gaming Bill?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, Sir. There have been certain personnel changes in the last 24 hours. I was thinking of allowing a little time to elapse. I was hoping to have this debate next week, but I think that it might be convenient to postpone it at least from next week to give rather more time to the Minister concerned.

Mr. Pavitt

Has my right hon. Friend studied the terms—practical, important and urgent—of the Motion on Rhodesia which stands in my name and in the names of many of my hon. Friends?

[That this House welcomes the Government's renewed determination to avoid compromise on the principles at stake in the Rhodesia crisis; recognises that there is a difference between the avoidance of compromise and the achievement of positive results; believes that it would now be impossible to place any confidence in an agreement with the illegal Smith regime and that No Independence Before Majority African Rule can therefore be the only basis for a solution; and urges that, towards its implementation, the Government should tighten the policy of existing sanctions, blockade Laurenço Marques, bring to justice British businessmen evading sanctions and if necessary, strengthen the law to this end, examine ways of extending sanctions, propose to the United Nations ways in which the supervision of sanctions and the investigation of sanction-breaking can he internationalised, concentrate on presenting to the British public the injustices, erosion of civil rights and pernicious racialism of the illegal régime, and seek positive ways of providing increased assistance to African countries, particularly Zambia, whose economics have been closely linked with that of Rhodesia.]

If he cannot find time for a debate on this Motion next week, will he do so before Christmas?

Mr. Crossman

I will certainly try to find time. I cannot give any guarantee that I shall be able to find time before Christmas, but time sometimes finds itself for back benchers.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he has now dropped the impossible intention he had last week to couple together for one debate the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology and the White Paper on Fuel Policy? Will he now give an assurance that we can have a separate debate on the Report of the Select Committee?

Mr. Crossman

I certainly will not give an assurance that the two things will not be debated together. I said that I would consider the possibility of having two separate debates. The House must appreciate that if it is desired to have two separate debates the chances of one of them falling through are somewhat increased because we have a limited amount of time. I will certainly bear in mind the two rival arguments on this matter.

Mr. John Lee

As economic affairs are so much in the forefront of our minds, will my right hon. Friend say when we may have a debate on the internal affairs of the Bank of England, which many of us would like to discuss?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of my hon. Friend's intense interest in that subject, but I think that his ingenious mind must find ways and means of raising it himself. I doubt that I shall find Government time in which it will be raised, at least before the Christmas Recess.

Mr. Younger

Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify his previous answer about a debate on the White Paper on Fuel Policy? Did I understand him to say that it might still take place next week, or did he really mean the following week?

Mr. Crossman

I said that I was not vet clear about it. It is not included in the business for next week, and I do not expect to include it when I make my next business statement.

Mr. Lipton

Could my right hon. Friend be a little more definite on the important subject of clerks' wigs, about which there is a widespread lack of public demand?

Mr. Crossman

I was thinking of putting it down for a separate time after I had seen how things went in the procedure debate.

Sir F. Bennett

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that there was a referendum in Gibraltar on 10th September, relating to the Colony's future relations with this country, and this is to be followed fairly shortly, we understand, by a constitutional conference. Can he give a guarantee that, if not next week, the House will have the opportunity to debate this matter, which is required by all hon. Members, before the conference opens?

Mr. Crossman

I could not possibly give an assurance of that kind. It is one subject within foreign affairs, which the Houses wishes to debate, but I should not have thought that there was an essential need for a debate in the immediate future.

Mr. Palmer

In considering the possibility of a debate on the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on the nuclear reactor industry, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that this Report ranges over a wide field in relation to fuel policy and that it is one of the first Reports of the new specialist Committees?

Mr. Crossman

I shall keep that point very much in mind. Over the weekend I had time, not to read through the Report, but to dip into it, and I agree with my hon. Friend about its importance. As it is the first of its kind, I am particularly anxious that the House should have full occasion to debate it.

Mr. Ramsden

Has the Leader of the House been able to consider the point raised in Motion No. 49, in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratfordon-Avon (Mr. Maude) and myself, which deals with the reform of Standing Order No. 15, a matter which has been a cause of substantial difficulty in the Public Bill Office and elsewhere?

May we have an opportunity to discuss this matter when we consider procedure next week, or on a subsequent day on procedure?

[That Standing Order No. 15 (Order of Disposing of Orders of the Day) be amended as follows

Line 6, at end add—

Government business means business set down by the Government to be taken in Government time.]

Mr. Crossman

I had thought that over. I considered that, on the whole, we ought to discuss next week the group of Motions which I have already tabled. I recognise that there is a point of serious importance to the House in the relation between Government time and time for Private Members' Bills. The opinion which I hold is different from the right hon. Gentleman's opinion, but I agree that it might well be a good thing to debate the question, and I shall try to find time for a debate.

Mr. Mapp

My right hon. Friend will recall that we lost a day last week for discussion of the North-West. Will he promise the House that there will be an opportunity to debate the North-West between now and Christmas?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot promise a discussion. I can only agree with my hon. Friend i n regretting that the Opposition's day on this matter was lost, and hope that they will restore it on a suitable occasion.

Sir T. Beamish

Why have the Government taken so long to make a statement about making up the pay and allowances of the Armed Forces and others serving overseas, pay and allowances which have been so much reduced as a result of devaluation? Will there be a statement next week?

Mr. Crossman

If I remember aright, there was a statement by my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration at the end of last Monday's debate.

Dr. David Kerr

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, although the health industry is a little under-represented in the House in relation to the coal industry, the "omnium gatherum" nature of the Health Services and Public Health Bill would justify an extension of debating time by the same 1½ hours as was given to the Coal Industry Bill? Will he give this matter urgent consideration?

Mr. Crossman

We extend the time of our debates not according to the importance we give to the subject, but according to the likely number of speeches. This is a matter for the convenience of the House. If there were a demand. and Members felt that we needed extended lime, I should consider it, but I should be surprised if we needed more time than the normal on the Second Reading of a health services Bill.

Mr. Powell

With reference to the question asked by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish), will the Leader of the House bear in mind the extreme urgency of the statement to which he referred and the fact that the statement in this week's debate was a purely holding statement which gave no concrete information?

Mr. Crossman

I shall communicate those wishes to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. We all appreciate the importance of the matter.

Mr. J. T. Price

Although many hon. Members will, no doubt, be greatly interested in our debate on procedure next Wednesday, does my right hon. Friend realise that many of our constituents think that this matter, though interesting, is not one of high priority in the present state of our nation's affairs? When can we have a debate on better machinery for controlling rising prices, a matter of far greater and more immediate importance to the people we represent than consideration of how we conduct our business in this place?

Mr. Crossman

I am surprised that my hon. Friend does not appreciate that our own business in this House might have something to do with prices outside.

Mr. Blaker

Can the Leader of the House yet say what are the likely dates for the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Crossman

No, Sir. I would rather postpone a statement on that, at least until next week, when I shall have had an opportunity to see how things are going.

Mr. John Fraser

May I draw to my right hon. Friend's attention Motion No. 65 standing in the names of 74 hon. Members and myself? Is my right hon. Friend aware of the deep feeling on this subject on both sides? Can he find time for a debate?

[That this House believes that there is evidence that Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, has been violated by the Greek Government; and requests Her Majesty's Government to refer the breach to the European Commission on Human Rights under Article 24 of the Convention.]

Mr. Crossman

This is a subject which we could discuss in the foreign affairs debate, but I notice that there is a Question down to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on 13th December, which will provide an opportunity to bring the House up to date from the Government's side.

Mr. Emery

Does the Leader of the House realise that there is growing concern, as each week goes by, that the Government have not found time to debate the Tress Committee's Report? If time is not found before very long, the chairman will have resigned and it will be someone else's Report.

Mr. Crossman

I shall bear that in mind. I have not received many representations on the subject during the last fortnight.

Dr. John Dunwoody

When my right hon. Friend is considering finding time for a debate on the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, will he give equal consideration to finding time to debate the Report of the Select Committee on Agriculture, a Report which was published during the Summer Recess?

Mr. Crossman

Yes, I shall consider that. I am glad to say that, at 2.30 today, we had the Departmental Observations on that Select Committee's Report. Now that we have them, I think that it is time to look at them to see whether we can give time for debating them together, as is neccesary.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

Reverting to the question about the Armed Forces put by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish), is the Leader of the House aware that I put down a Question on the same matter and had a most unsatisfactory answer? Will he make sure that there is a statement next week? Further, I have put down Questions relating to people serving overseas in the High Commissions and embassies. Will a statement be made about them, too, as they are seriously affected?

Mr. Crossman

I was not aware that the hon. Gentleman was upset by the answer to his Question, but I shall bear the matter in mind.

Mr. Hannan

Knowing my right hon. Friend's great interest in the social services and pensions matters generally, may I ask him to tell us when we shall have an opportunity to debate the legislation concerning social services in Scotland which was promised in the Gracious Speech?

Mr. Crossman

It will not be included in the business for next week. I should like notice of my hon. Friend's question, and I shall try to answer it in the near future.

Dame Irene Ward

Reverting again to the matter of the pay and allowances of the Armed Forces and others serving overseas, will the Leader of the House take it that we are not satisfied by his bearing the point of mind? What we want to know is whether we are to have a statement next week.

Mr. Crossman

I shall content myself with saying that I hope to satisfy the hon. Lady before she asks me a question about it again.

Mr. Russell Kerr

In view of the increasing danger of the situation and the growing worries of hon. Members on this side about the Government's policy regarding Vietnam, will the Leader of the House consider an extension of the debate on foreign affairs so that we may have a full day on the subject of Vietnam instead of having it included in one day's debate?

Mr. Crossman

It will depend on a good many other things, but I think it unlikely that we should devote a whole day to Vietnam. There are many right hon. and hon. Members who wish to consider the situation in the Middle East, for example, and it would be unwise to have a foreign affairs debate isolating only one part of the world.

Sir A. V. Harvey

May we have a statement from either the Minister of Labour or the President of the Board of Trade about the position in B.O.A.C. and the possible strike next week, which, if it takes place, will do untold harm to the economy? Cannot something be done in the meantime to bring some sense into the situation?

Mr. Crossman

As the hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friends are fully appraised of the position, and I am sure that one of them will make a statement at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend find time for debate of my Motion No. 30, to give sailors' wives the pleasure of seeing their husbands when they come home from the sea?

[That this House is of opinion that for social, family, economic and other reasons the withdrawal by British Railways of the cheap fare railway vouchers hitherto available to seamen and their families is wrong as it frustrates family reunions, deprives British Railways of fares, diminishes British Railways income and now calls upon Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Transport, by legislation or otherwise, to restore to British seamen and their families the relevant facilities which they have hitherto enjoyed.]

Mr. Crossman

I am glad that my hon. Friend has reverted to that Motion. I can only revert to my obstinate belief that he himself should find ways and means of having it debated on the Floor of the House.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Gunter.