HC Deb 07 November 1968 vol 772 cc1085-94
Mr. Maudling

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

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)

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

MONDAY, 11 TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Post Office Bill.

Motions on the Immunities and Privileges Orders relating to the International Wheat Council, the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation and the Commission of the European Communities.

TUESDAY, 12TH NOVEMBER—Supply [1st Allotted Day]:

Debate until 7 o'clock on a Motion on the Town and Country Planning General Development (Amendment) Order relating to Airport Development.

On a Motion for the Adjournment of the House, a debate on the need for a National Emergencies Organisation.

Thereafter, procedural Motion on Suspended Sittings.

WEDNESDAY, 13TH NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.

Motion relating to Charges for Drugs and Appliances Regulations.

THURSDAY, 14TH NOVEMBER—Debate on a Motion to take note of the Eleventh Report from the Estimates Committee, Session 1966–67, on Prison, Borstals and Detention Centres, and the related Special Report.

Motion on the Insurance Companies (Accounts and Forms) Regulations.

FRIDAY, 15TH NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the Miscellaneous Financial Provisions Bill and of the Sea Fisheries Bill.

MONDAY, 18TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Representation of the People Bill.

Mr. Maudling

May I asked the Leader of the House two points. First, can he tell us when we may expect the White Paper on the Donovan Report? Secondly, when shall be get the Departmental replies on the Select Committee's Report on Coastal Pollution, and may we expect a debate upon it in Government time?

Mr. Peart

On both matters, I cannot give a precise date. On the second point, I will look carefully into the question of time.

Mr. William Hamilton

Concerning Thursday's business, can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that, as this debate ought to have taken place last Session and did not—through no fault of ours—that day will not be counted as one of the three Sessional days for debates on Reports from the Estimates Committee and the Public Accounts Committee?

Further, can my right hon. Friend assure us that there will be a debate and a free vote on the televising of proceeding of this House?

Mr. Peart

I will look into the question of the televising of the proceedings of the House. My hon. Friend will remember that last time there was a free vote. I even took a different view from some of my colleagues. However, I will bear it in mind.

I hope that my hon. Friend appreciates that it was not my fault that there was no debate on prisons last Session. I thought that I had satisfied a demand for this and that this would have been appreciated. This is certainly the first of the three days set aside each Session for debating Public Accounts Committee and Estimates Committee Reports, two in Supply and one in Government time.

Mr. David Howell

Is it not extraordinary that the Government should have gone ahead of a debate on the new Civil Service Department and that there should be far-advanced plans for a new Civil Service college when neither of the major administrative reforms has been discussed in the House? When will there be a debate on the Fulton Report?

Mr. Peart

I accept the importance of this matter. Indeed, the Prime Minister has said so in the House. I cannot give a precise date, but I will look into it.

Mr. Richard

I wonder whether my right hon. Friend has observed Motion No. 13—

[That a Select Committee be appointed to investigate and report upon the activities of Messrs. Maurice Fraser Associates Limited, and their relationship with members of this Honourable House in connection with the affairs and activities of the present Greek Government; that the said Committee shall further investigate and report upon the desirability or otherwise of Members of Parliament becoming associated with public relations firms in advancing the interests of their clients; whether such activities are not inconsistent with the duty of Members of Parliament to maintain complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament; and to report on the extent to which such independence and freedom of action is at present threatened.]

Would my right hon. Friend agree that this subject needs detailed examination? If he cannot give us time for a debate next week, will he tell whether the Government believe that it needs examination and will examine it?

Mr. Peart

I have read the Motion. My hon. Friend will appreciate that there are difficulties, but I recognise its importance. I cannot offer a day during the coming week.

Mr. Farr

Will the Leader of the House say whether the House can debate at an early opportunity the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement? As he will be aware, negotiations are starting any day now between the Ministry and certain Commonwealth representatives, and there are many important aspects which I feel could be debated in the House, including the absolute necessity of extending the agreement to its full eight-year period of validity.

Mr. Peart

I used to be involved in this as Minister of Food. I recognise its importance not only to this country, but to the countries in the Commonwealth which are affected by the discussions that are going on. I would rather await their outcome before deciding on a debate.

Mr. Heffer

I wonder whether my right hon. Friend's attention has been drawn to Motion No. 24—

[That this House deplores the decision of the Government to refer the modest interim settlement agreed to by the building trade unions and employers to the National Board for Prices and Incomes; further feels that if persisted in then grave industrial unrest could develop in the industry, which can have serious results for the economy; and therefore calls upon the Government to withdraw the reference immediately.]

That Motion has now been signed by 75 of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be an early debate on this matter, because, unless something is done about it, there is likely to be widespread industrial unrest in the building industry.

Mr. Peart

I have read the terms of the Motion. I know that my hon. Friend and his colleagues feel very strongly on the matter. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works made a statement yesterday, on behalf of the First Secretary, dealing with reference to the National Board for Prices and Incomes. If it was necessary to enforce a standstill, an Order would have to be laid before the House and it would be subject to a negative Resolution.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In view of the constitutional and individual importance to every Member of the Representation of the People Bill, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, at the conclusion of the Second Reading debate on 18th November, he will move the necessary Motion to provide for discussion of the Committee stage on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Peart

That is all right, yes.

Mr. Strauss

As this is a constitutional issue on which all parties are divided, and as the Home Secretary expressed the view in the House that when we come to the matter it should be basically decided by right hon. and hon. Members themselves, can my right hon. Friend say that we will have a free vote?

Mr. Peart

Actually, this is the responsibility of the Chief Whip, and not the Leader of the House. The Chief Whip will note what my right hon. Friend has said.

Sir E. Boyle

Returning to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. David Howell), would the Leader of the House agree that it is desirable that we should have the debate on the Fulton Report before Christmas, especially bearing in mind the important decisions which are being taken by way of implementing that Report?

Mr. Peart

I accept that this is a very important matter affecting our Civil Service and its administration. I believe that the Report should be discussed. It is just a matter of timing.

Mr. W. T. Williams

As the activities of the Minister of Technology in the reconstruction of the nuclear energy industry are giving rise to a good deal of uneasiness among workers in that industry, will my right hon. Friend use his influence with that Minister to persuade him, if possible, to make a statement to the House about what is happening, or issue a White Paper?

Mr. Peart

I will convey the views of my hon. and learned Friend to the Minister of Technology.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is the Leader of the House aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) and my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) and myself, concerning the Motion on the building and civil engineering interim wage settlement, are supported by 80 Labour Members?

In view of the disruptive influences of the decision of the Government in this matter, which might bring the major part of the building and civil engineering industry to a standstill in the near future, pending the answer from Aubrey Jones, could the right hon. Gentleman find time for a debate next week on this supremely important matter of all-party interest, and not just the parochial interest of hon. Members opposite?

Mr. Peart

I note that for once the hon. Member is in good company. I have stated the position. Not next week.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

As all the political parties, the trade union movement, the overwhelming majority of the people in the country and Members of the House are in favour of the principle of No. 24, why trouble to have a debate? Why do not the Government operate their policy of accepting the will of the people and accept the Motion?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate now a subject that we will debate if we get time for it. The hon. Member must ask for time.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I am asking the Minister, rather than to allocate time which he says he cannot find, to accept the Motion and thus save time.

Mr. Speaker

It is not a business question to ask for no business.

Mr. John Smith

Could we debate the Services Committee's Report on a new Parliamentary building? This is for the fourth time of asking.

Mr. Peart

That may be so. I know that it is important. This is a matter for the Services Committee, of which I am Chairman, but I could not find time next week.

Mr. Faulds

Will my right hon. Friend draw the attention of those responsible to the fact that the new television annunciators scattered about the House are neither as efficient nor as arresting as the old ticker machines, which were also cheaper? May we have the old ones returned?

Mr. Peart

I sympathise with my hon. Friend's point of view, but the decision has been taken to change to television screens.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

May we have an assurance that the House will have a two-day debate on the White Paper on House of Lords Reform? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the White Paper raises very wide issues, not only in relation to the House of Lords but to the Constitution, the Executive and even the Monarchy? There is no unity on either side of the House about this matter, whatever the consultations between the two Front Benches. In view of the very wide issues, will he give a full two-day debate?

Mr. Peart

I agree that this is a very important constitutional matter and that we should have the usual talks through the usual channels.

Mr. Macdonald

May I revert to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard)? Has my right hon. Friend heard suggestions that some hon. Members are in financial relationship with Common Market "front" organisations? If he does give time for the debate suggested, will he ensure that the terms are sufficiently wide to take that aspect into account as well?

Mr. Peart

Individual hon. Members are connected with many organisations of varying character, no doubt honourably, in the vast majority of cases. I certainly would not comment on any particular matter at this stage. My hon. Friend's question underlines why this is such a difficult problem.

Mr. Channon

In view of the President of the Board of Trade's statement about the sale of the Duccio yesterday and his assurance that he is considering what form an inquiry should take, will the Leader of the House press him to make another statement at the earliest opportunity, preferably next week?

Mr. Peart

I will convey the hon. Gentleman's view to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

Mr. Murray

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will have seen Motion No. 16, about flooding. If he has, he will, I am sure, grant time next week even by the cancellation of some other topic.

[That this House notes the weather forecasts issued by the Meteorological Office for the period containing as they did such phrases as, periods of rain, prolonged and heavy at times and congratulates them; believes, however, that by the use of more forceful terminology more could be done to alert the general public that something more than a period of wet weather was about to occur; and whilst not expecting them to reach the excellence of the concise and unambiguous forecast contained in Genesis, Chapter 7, Verse 4, commends it to their reading in order that they shall have a standard to aim at.]

Mr. Peart

I have taken note of the Motion. While I admire its forceful and precise terminology—Genesis, Chapter 7, Verse 4—I remind my hon. Friend that that section of Genesis conveys a statement of intent rather than a weather forecast, and—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman must not discuss the merits of the Motion. He has been asked for time.

Mr. John Page

In view of the great uncertainty in the civil engineering and building industry, when can we expect a statement from the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity on the present position? A statement should be made either by Monday or very soon afterwards, if that can be arranged.

Mr. Peart

I will convey the hon. Gentleman's view to my right hon. Friend. If a statement is necessary, of course she will make it.

Mr. Leadbitter

Can my right hon. Friend give more precise information about the Hunt Report and when it will be published? In view of its importance and my reference recently to the need to debate regional problems, if my right hon. Friend cannot find time next week will he see that the matter is debated at the earliest opportunity?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of the regional problems and of the matters being examined by the Committee. I cannot give a date for a debate on the Report. I remind my hon. Friend that regional development was discussed during the debate on the Loyal Address, when he himself made a very powerful speech. But I cannot promise a debate.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must remind the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) that there is no second round on business questions.

Sir C. Taylor

Will the Leader of the House provide literally two minutes for Motion No. 4, which has been signed by over 100 right hon. and hon. Members of all parties, so that it can be moved formally and disposed of quickly? In this way, we could put the laudable motives behind the Motion into practice.

[That this House wishes to congratulate all the police who were on duty in London on 27th October, 1968, for their efficiency, good discipline and tolerance under great provocation; requests Mr. Speaker to send a letter of commendation on behalf of the whole House to all concerned especially thanking those who gave up their leave periods to be on duty; and, furthermore, wishes to place on record their admiration of the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police who in the interests of the liberty of all Her Majesty's subjects decided not to invoke his powers to ban the demonstration.]

Mr. Peart

I am always grateful for any Motion which seeks to pay tribute to public services. The conduct of the police during the recent demonstration was impeccable. As Leader of the House, I pay my tribute to them. I cannot find time for a debate, but I will consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

When will the right hon. Gentleman find time for two matters of Welsh interest? The first concerns the new responsibilities of the Secretary of State, announced by the Prime Minister. The second concerns the 1967 White Paper on Local Government in Wales. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that these two matters are not shoved into the parliamentary overflow?

Mr. Peart

These may be suitable matters for discussion in the Welsh Grand Committee.

Mr. Crouch

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that opinion is growing on both sides of the House about the need for an early debate on the services of the House? Tonight, we are to be asked to appoint the Select Committee on Services. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is aware of the concern among right hon. and hon. Members. I hope that he will show some urgency, if not for the rebuilding of the House of Commons, at least to how we can modernise and make ourselves more efficient.

Mr. Peart

My colleagues on the Services Committee, of which I was Chairman for a short time, are well aware of these matters. The Committee has discussed them. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members recently made representations. This is a very important subject. It may well be that, at a later date, we shall report to the House on these matters, including the question of a new building.

Mr. English

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members on this side of the House support the view of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch)? Is he further aware that hon. Members on this side have shown, by their answers to a questionnaire, that they are much in favour of improving the services in the House?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of that. I agree with hon. Members. It is an important matter affecting the work of all right hon. and hon. Members in the House.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker