§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)
Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on business.
Following the exchanges on Friday, and bearing in mind the pressure of business, I have been considering the opportunities for a debate on the Pay of Building Workers.
I recognise the wish that, subject to the negotiations, the debate should take place as soon as possible and I propose that, if still desired, there should be a discussion of, say, three or four hours during Wednesday's sitting.
§ Mr. R. Carr
We welcome the readiness of the Leader of the House to seek to provide an opportunity for debate on this important matter. But may I probe the right hon. Gentleman a little further on what he means by the phrase "if still desired"? It seems to us that this will obviously depend to a large extent on the outcome of tomorrow's discussions. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if these discussions, as we hope, are success-full in averting the immediate crisis, we might feel that it is not necessary to have a debate before Christmas?
§ Mr. Heffer
The hon. Gentleman can not. Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the timing of this debate with a view to bringing it forward so that the building operatives, employers and all those concerned can hear the views of hon. Members prior to the meeting taking place? I realise that the meeting is to morrow, but I believe that my right hon. Friend should bring it forward at the 876 earliest possible moment so that the view of the House can be thoroughly aired.
§ Mr. John Page
Will the Leader of the House give us an assurance that, even if a final decision has not been made by the unions about the attitude that they will adopt towards the direction from the Government, the debate can still take place on Wednesday and will not be indefinitely postponed?
§ Mr. Michael Foot
Will the Leader of the House tell us more clearly what he means by a debate during the course of Wednesday's proceedings? Will he specify what it means? Is that not a rather an original form of statement to the House on how debates are to take place? Should we not be told what my right hon. Friend proposes?
§ Mr. Peart
There is no attempt to conceal anything from my hon. Friend. When he says that it is an original form of statement, I am grateful that he assumes that I am original in my approach to the matter. I am anxious to satisfy the wish of the House, and I thought that what I said was reasonable.
§ Mr. Sharples
Will the Leader of the House say whether it is still proposed to proceed with the business already put down for Wednesday, the Representation of the People Bill, or whether it is proposed that this should be abandoned for Wednesday?
§ Mr. Turton
Surely it is most unusual for the Leader of the House to avoid giving the House the order of business. Will the right hon. Gentleman say definitely when this Order will be taken? Will it be taken at the beginning of Wednesday's business?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Having regard to unfortunate precedents in situations of this kind, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he can give my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself an assurance that no impediment will be placed in the way of the official Opposition voting in a matter of this kind, supported by Members opposite who have made such loud noises on behalf of building operatives?
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
Would the Leader of the House say whether the vote will be taken between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Thursday? Has he ascertained from the Deputy Leader of the House whether there will be a whip on that vote?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
When shall we have an opportunity of debating the Motion for the dates of the Christmas Adjournment?
§ Mr. Pannell
Is the Leader of the House aware that it would be very unfortunate if the Representation of the People 878 Bill had to be considered through the night or in the early hours of Thursday morning? Bearing in mind his statement this afternoon, if we take the question of the building trade operatives on Wednesday afternoon, does he propose that we should take the rest of the Representation of the People Bill on Thursday morning? Is he aware that many of us place a great deal of importance on that Bill and do not think that it ought to be taken in the wee small hours of any night or morning?
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
How much time does the Leader of the House propose to devote tomorrow to debate the Motion for the Adjournment? A number of us want to speak on that Motion. We think that this is no time for the House of Commons to go into Recess.
§ Mr. Onslow
Why is the Leader of the House beating about the bush about Thursday morning? If we are to sit on Thursday morning, would it not be a good thing to say so, so that a large number of people who propose to visit the House do not put themselves out to no purpose?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not recognise the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) to have more right than any other Member of Parliament. He has put his business question.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
On a point of order. I was certainly not seeking to claim that I have any rights before any other hon. Member, Sir, but I think that it is the right of an hon. Member to rise to put 879 a supplementary question on a matter. There is no Ruling of the House which provides otherwise.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is the custom of this Speaker to call one hon. Member to put one business question on one business statement. I am not prepared to vary that.
§ Sir Harwood Harrison
You called my name, Mr. Speaker. If you had not done so, I should not have risen, because the Leader of the House has since answered the question put by hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths).