HC Deb 17 June 1971 vol 819 cc649-56
Mr. Harold Wilson

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

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)

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

MONDAY 21ST JUNE—Supply [22nd Allotted Day]: There will be a debate on museum charges which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

Motions on the Price Stability of Imported Products (Specified Commodities) Orders, the fatstock (Guarantee Payments) Order, and the Import Duties (General) (No. 3) Order.

Motions relating to the Price Stability of Imported Products (Minimum Import Price Levels) and (Levy Arrangements) Orders.

At Seven o'clock, the Chairman of Ways and Means has named Opposed Private Business for consideration.

TUESDAY 22ND JUNE—Supply [23rd Allotted Day]: A debate on agriculture, fisheries and food.

Remaining stages of the Investment and Building Grants Bill.

WEDNESDAY 23RD JUNE and THURSDAY 24TH JUNE—Remaining stages of the Licensing (Abolition of State Management) Bill.

FRIDAY 25TH JUNE—Second Reading of the Medicines Bill.

Remaining stages of the Pensions (Increase) Bill, the Pool Competitions Bill, the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Bill and of the Wild Creatures and Forest Laws Bill [Lords],

MONDAY 28TH JUNE—Supply [24th Allotted Day]: Debate on a topic to be announced later.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Has the right hon. Gentleman taken into account in his business programme the fact that the Government have today published the Consultative Document on Industrial Relations Code of Practice? Since this document though not having the force of law, is taken into account in many legal decisions under the Industrial Relations Bill, will he give an undertaking that Government time will be made available for the House to debate it at an early opportunity? Is he aware that, since this document has been published only today, the House would be satisfied if he agrees to discuss this proposal through the usual channels. Secondly, will he take note that the Opposition are tabling a Motion of censure on the Government on their handling of the economy, in particular in relation to prices and unemployment?

Mr. Whitelaw

On the right hon. Gentleman's first point, I agree that this document has only just been published and the House naturally will wish to consider it carefully. I am prepared to discuss through the usual channels how this matter may be handled.

On the second point, I take note of what the Leader of the Opposition says. I assure him that the Government would welcome an opportunity to debate the economic situation before the House rises for the Summer Recess. The Govern-men believe that it would be convenient for this debate to last two days. If the Opposition are making available for this purpose a Supply Day the Government will undertake to provide a day of their own time. If this is agreed, I am prepared to have discussions through the usual channels about the date of such a two-day debate.

Mr. Harold Wilson

I thank the right hon. Gentleman, and I trust that the debate will be on a very early occasion. We had understood that if we were to table a Motion of censure the Government would provide a day in response to that and would have a discussion through the usual channels. We will be happy to co-operate with the Leader of the House in supplying a Supply Day to enable a two-day debate to take place, if that is the wish of the House.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In view of the importance of the National Insurance Bill and the fact that there are a number of Amendments, including Government Amendments, down for Report, does my right hon. Friend intend to take all the remaining stages tonight after the Immigration Bill has terminated, at whatever hour that may be?

Mr. Whitelaw

We would hope to do so. We should see how we get on.

Mr. Stonehouse

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to Early Day Motion 592 dealing with genocide in East Bengal and the recognition of Bangla Desh, which has now been signed by 163 right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House? Will he arrange for an early debate on this subject in view of the widespread concern about the continuing genocide in East Bengal? Alternatively, would he ask his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to make an early statement announcing that he is referring this question to the Security Council?

[That this House believes that the widespread murder of civilians and the atrocities on a massive scale by the Pakistan Army in East Bengal, contrary to the United Nations Convention on Genocide signed by Pakistan itself, confirms that the military Government of Pakistan has forfeited all rights to rule East Bengal, following its wanton refusal to accept the democratic will of the people expressed in the election of December, 1970; therefore believes that the United Nations Security Council must be called urgently to consider the situation both as a threat to international peace and as a contravention of the Genocide Convention; and further believes that until order is restored under United Nations supervision, the provisional Government of Bangla Desh should be recog- nised as the vehicle for the expression of self-determination by the people of East Bengal.]

Mr. Whitelaw

I have noted that Motion and the very strong support it has received. I cannot undertake that this subject will be debated next week. I can say that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, on the matter of aid as distinct from the political side of the matter, will hope to make a statement to the House early next week.

Sir T. Beamish

Since my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment in a Written Reply said that he hoped that a Green Paper on local government finance would be published before the Summer Recess, and in view of the great importance of this question and the widespread interest in it, could the Leader of the House be more positive on this matter?

Mr. Whitelaw

Not at this stage, but I certainly share my hon. and gallant Friend's hope.

Mr. Pentland

In view of the Prime Minister's statement today on the E.E.C. programme, will he look at my Early Day Motion 593? If he finds that he is unable to arrange a debate on this subject, would he give serious consideration to my suggestions and report back to the House next week?

[That this House, in supporting the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in their efforts to promote a national debate on the implications involved in Great Britain's application to join the European Economic Community, and in view of the need for the electorate to be kept fully informed at this stage, urges Her Majesty's Government to ensure that all future debates taking place in the Chamber of the House of Commons on this historic issue shall be televised and broadcast to the nation.]

Mr. Whitelaw

I have noted the hon. Gentleman's Motion about televising debates on the E.E.C. The problem is that one cannot divorce the televising of that particular debate from the general problem of televising Parliament as a whole. Up to now we have said, as I believe has been generally accepted by hon. Members in all parts of the House, that it would be right to take some time yet in this Parliament before we decide to come to a decision on the general issue of televising Parliament.

Mr. John Page

With further reference to the excellent document which has been produced on industrial relations, will my right hon. Friend try to ensure that the debate takes place before the Bill comes back to this House from another place?

Mr. Whitelaw

I cannot give any such undertaking. It would be wrong for me to go any further than the proper undertaking I gave to the Leader of the Opposition that we would discuss the whole handling of this matter through the usual channels.

Mr. C. Pannell

Although, mercifully, there have not lately been many cases of breach of privilege, will the Leader of the House bear in mind that time passes and that it will soon be five years since the Select Committee reported on the law of privilege? I would point out that we will be running into a case where this matter will arise with great urgency. It is no credit to the right hon. Gentleman as Leader of the House that things have gone on so long and we want some action taken in this matter.

Mr. Whitelaw

There is controversy on the subject; the nearer the time comes to bringing this matter forward the more complicated I find the subject becomes. Nevertheless, I undertake to bring the matter forward for decision by the House before the Summer Recess.

Mr. Wiggin

Would the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for the Environment to make a statement next week about the announcement last night concerning the closure of 40 main road bridges and delay on the construction of more than 60 others? Will he accept that, although a decision may have been taken on safety grounds, the cost of delay will be great and a large number of questions still have to be answered?

Mr. Whitelaw

I recognise the importance of that matter and I know that the Secreary of State for the Environment will wish to inform the House of any development on this matter.

Mr. Leadbitter

Would the right hon. Gentleman take into account the fact that a considerable amount of disturbing information has come to light since the Foreign Secretary made his statement on East Pakistan earlier this month? Would he bear in mind the point made in Early Day Motion 592, which was mentioned earlier by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse), since it is imperative, despite the Foreign Secretary's attitude, that we should take this matter to the Security Council? Would he reconsider this point and ask his right hon. Friend to make a statement to the House next week, because we fear that the trail of disaster will bring more troubles in East Pakistan and that intervention by the Security Council appears to be essential?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am certain that the Foreign Secretary will take note of these views. So that there should be no misunderstanding, I should stress that the statement by the Foreign Secretary, which I have promised for next week, is on the subject of aid.

Mr. Marten

On which day next week will the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster make his statement about the next Common Market negotiations, and how soon thereafter shall we expect to have the White Paper?

Mr. Whitelaw

I cannot be specific on any of these dates. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to make his statement on Thursday next week, but I cannot be absolutely specific on this point. I cannot say anything at this stage about the timing of the White Paper.

Mr. Bob Brown

In view of the insistence of the Prime Minister on honest and open government, may we expect the Patronage Secretary next week to announce a Writ for the Macclesfield by-election?

Mr. Whitelaw

That will be a matter for my right hon. Friend and not for me.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer

I thank my right hon. Friend for so quickly bringing forward the debate on museum charges. Will he be kind enough to ensure that the debate on Europe in the autumn will be long enough to ensure that not only Privy Councillors, senior Conservatives, and middle-aged Conservatives, but also young Conservatives, have time to catch Mr. Speaker's eye?

Mr. Whitelaw

I would never deny myself the credit for something whether or not I have earned it, but I am afraid that I cannot take credit for having brought forward the debate on the museum charges to Monday. It was done entirely at the choice of the Opposition on one of their Supply Days. If I had not recognised their wish, they would have forced me to do something about the matter. Therefore, it is down for debate on Monday.

On my hon. Friend's second point, it is clear—and we will have discussions on this matter—that this particular subject will require a long time for debate.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

When will the House have an opportunity to discuss the effects on Wales and Scotland of entry into the E.E.C.? Does he appreciate that last week in the debate on Welsh affairs neither the Secretary of State for Wales nor the Minister of State said a word about this matter?

Mr. Whitelaw

Wales and Scotland are both parts of the United Kingdom and, inevitably, will be included in the general debate on the whole subject.

Mr. Lawson

Is it not time that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry gave us the long-awaited statement on steel plans for 1971–72? Will he be making this statement next week?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am afraid I cannot add anything at this stage to what I said at this time last week.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Has the Leader of the House seen Early Day Motion 589 on probation officers salaries, which is in my name and in the names of 85 other hon. Members? In view of the serious situation that may ensue if something is not done about probation officers, will he give time for a debate or will he see that some member of the Government makes a statement on prospects for the future?

[That, in view of the urgent need to expand the Probation Service in order to deal with young offenders and alleviate the present serious overcrowding in prisons, this House calls on the Home Secretary to put forward a substantially increased offer for the salaries of probation officers.]

Mr. Whitelaw

I have noted this Motion. I have also noted that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will answer some Questions on this matter next Thursday. I believe that we should await those replies.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Will the Leader of the House press upon the Prime Minister the necessity to bring in a Bill for a Scottish Assembly without further delay, since vital questions such as the Scottish economy, Common Market entry, and so on, are awaiting decision and should be discussed by such an assembly? Will he induce his right hon. Friend to bring forward such a provision as soon as possible, or must we regard this as yet another election promise that has not been honoured?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what the hon. Member has said and I will see that it is conveyed to my right hon. Friend most closely concerned.

Mr. Adley

Might it not also be possible for English members to have a debate on English affairs?

Mr. Whitelaw

This is a United Kingdom Parliament and all matters concerning the United Kingdom are properly discussed here.

Mr. Ashton

As the Industrial Relations Bill has to come back from the other place into a crowded Session, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will be imposing a Guillotine on the remaining stages?

Mr. Whitelaw

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the original Guillotine Motion he will find the answer there.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I am afraid that we must move on. There is a lot to do today.