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Business Of The House

Volume 721: debated on Thursday 25 November 1965

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

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

MONDAY, 29TH NOVEMBER—Motion on the Temporary Charges on Imports (Continuation) Order, and the remaining stages of the Housing (Slum Clearance Compensation) Bill.

TUESDAY, 30TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Agriculture Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 1ST DECEMBER—Private Members' Motions until Seven o'clock.

Remaining stages of the Pensions (Increase) Bill.

THURSDAY, 2ND DECEMBER—Remaining stages of the Coal Industry Bill.

Motion on the West Midlands Order.

FRIDAY, 3RD DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Post Office Savings Bank Bill.

Remaining stages of the Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Amendment) Bill.

MONDAY, 6TH DECEMBER—The business proposed is the Second Reading of the Rating Bill, and the remaining stages of the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Bill.

Is the Leader of the House aware that to take the Second Reading of the Rating Bill on Monday, 6th December, when it has not yet been published, is pressing the House fairly hard? Can he tell us when the Report of the Plowden Committee and the White Paper on the Territorial Army will be published? While we understand that this will be before Christmas, will he give the exact date, for that would be extremely helpful, and bear in mind that many hon. Members would like to have a debate on these two items before Christmas? May I also remind him of his undertaking about our having a two-day foreign affairs debate before Christmas?

To answer the right hon. Gentleman's first point, about the Rating Bill, this Measure is being presented tomorrow, which gives the House two full weekends before its Second Reading on Monday, 6th December. That is not an unduly short period, although, on the other hand, Bills are often laid for a longer period. It is an urgent and important Bill, it will help local authorities to get it quickly, and I am sure that the whole House wants it.

On the question of the Plowden Report and the Report on the Territorial Army, both of these White Papers will come before Christmas, although I cannot give the exact date at the moment. The question of a debate on these matters will have to arise later. To answer the right hon. Gentleman's question about a two-day foreign affairs debate, that will certainly be before Christmas and I hope that one day will be provided by each side of the House.

With reference to the foreign affairs debate, in view of the pressure which is being put on the President of the United States to escalate the war by bombing Hanoi, Haiphong and the dam supplying water to a large area, is it not essential that the House of Commons should bring its opinion to bear on this matter before my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has his discussions with the President? In view of this, will, my right hon. Friend arrange for the House to have one day of the two days' debate on Vietnam and before the Prime Minister leaves for Washington?

It is never very convenient to divide a debate into two days in that way. I would have thought there was a distinct advantage in having the debate when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister returns from his Washington visit—[HON. MEMBERS: "No:]—and we may consider this.

Is the Leader of the House aware that, contrary to usual practice, I was not informed of the change of order of business for next week and that I consider it most inconvenient to have the remaining stages of the Pensions (Increase) Bill taken after 7 o'clock on Wednesday, considering the large number of important Amendments which will have to be considered on that occasion?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was not warned of the change in business, which I understand took place quite late. However, I think that starting at 7 o'clock—and we will start dead on 7 o'clock—should give a reasonable amount of time for the remaining stages of the Bill; and if the increases are to be paid as early as we all wish, the Bill must go through quickly.

Will the Leader of the House provide time for a debate on Britain's defence rôle in the area east of Suez, bearing in mind the fact that we should have an opportunity to debate this before discussing the Defence Review and particularly before taking any decision to buy the F.111?

The question of Britain's rôle east of Suez could easily arise during the foreign affairs debate.

In regard to the Rating Bill, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it will be published as well as presented to-morrow? Is he aware that while this is a Measure which, in view of its purpose, I do not think the House will wish to delay, it is also, by the nature of it, a Bill on which hon. Members may wish to have discussions with local authorities? Would he, there- fore, consider having discussions through the usual channels in respect of the timing of its Committee stage, when these issues will arise most acutely?

We can certainly discuss the question of the Committee stage. The presentation and publication will, I understand, be tomorrow. It is not a long Bill—seven or eight Clauses—and this should be adequate time.

Although legislation will be arising out of the White Paper on housing, would my right hon. Friend tell us whether we could have, prior to the legislation coming forward, a full discussion on the housing White Paper since there are many hon. Members, certainly on this side of the House, who want to raise additional matters which it is felt should be in the White Paper?

I must have a look at that one. I do not think that I could promise a debate on the White Paper this side of the Christmas Recess.

Is my right hon. Friend able to say whether the Minister of Health will take the opportunity next week to make a statement on the report on drug addiction out today and, if not, will he consider finding time for the House to discuss this important matter before the Christmas Recess?

I will certainly consult my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health about making a statement. On the question of a debate, I should have thought that this could easily arise on one of the opportunities which hon. Members have during the half-hour Adjournment at the end of the day or on one of the half-days.

In view of the Second Reading of the Rating Bill on Monday week, would the right hon. Gentleman say when the working party's report on rates generally will be published? While I appreciate that this is not directly connected, it would be helpful if hon. Members could see that report before taking the Second Reading of this Bill.

I am afraid that I cannot answer that at the moment, but I will make inquiries and write to the hon. Gentleman.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that he has a duty to protect the rights of hon. Members as well as the interests of the Executive? If he cannot arrange for an early debate on foreign affairs, as he previously promised, will he at least arrange for the House to have a debate on a Motion for a Select Committee of Inquiry into the breakdown of the peace negotiations over Vietnam, especially in the light of the fact that today's Questions have demonstrated that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been grossly misinformed on this matter.

[ That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the circumstances which caused Her Majesty's Ministers to be misled into informing the House and the British public that the Governments of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and of the Chinese People's Republic were solely responsible for the breakdown of all the efforts, during 1964 and 1965, to bring about negotiations for a settlement of the conflict in Vietnam.]

I think the Motion on the Order Paper could well be debated on a Private Members' Motion opportunity.

Will the Defence Review be published before we have the foreign affairs debate before Christmas?

My right hon. Friend made a clear statement about this yesterday. The Defence Review is a continuing operation. Some of the recommendations, such as the TSR2, have already been made. These will come along, the Territorial Army being one of them.

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the answer he gave a moment ago about having a debate on Vietnam before the Prime Minister goes to America? Will he bear in mind that there are a great many hon. Members who think that it would be of great assistance to my right hon. Friend if he had the views of the House before going to America, rather than having to face the House of Commons with a fait accompli after he comes back?

One thing is certain. We cannot provide more than two days, even if the Opposition give us one day, before the Christmas Recess. I repeat what I said earlier; that there would be a distinct advantage in having a report from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he returns, but I am prepared to look at this. All our attempts on previous occasions to divide a major debate of two days in this way have always led to something not quite useful to the House.

Would my right hon. Friend say what discussions have taken place through the usual channels on the Report from the Select Committee of Procedure on proxy voting and whether there will be an opportunity to debate that Report before the Christmas Recess?

I am not absolutely sure whether there will be an opportunity before Christmas, but one thing is certain; there is a general desire on both sides of the House that we should try to prevent for all time the sort of thing we saw last Session, when hon. Members who were sick and who should have been at home in their beds or in hospital were brought here to vote. At this stage this is a question of discussions through the usual channels.

Would the right hon. Gentleman clarify his remark about the continuous Defence Review? Does it mean that it will not he published under one cover?

Of course, there will be the White Paper on Defence as usual in mid-February. Some of the proposals in the Defence Review have already been before the House, the TSR2, for example, and the Territorial Army and Reserve Army is another. Even after the White Paper the Defence Review will continue.

Might I again direct the attention of the Leader of the House to the Fifth Report of the Select Committee? Would he not agree that it is not a matter of leaving it to the good will of any individual hon. Member, no matter how kind he may be, but that this is a subject which should be decided upon by the House as a whole?

I am sure that it is the object of the whole House to make quite sure that never again is any hon. Member who should be in hospital or in bed because he is sick be brought to the House to vote. How we achieve that is a different matter. At the moment discussions are going on through the usual channels. If at some stage we have to bring proposals from the Select Committee before the House we shall do so.

Would the Leader of the House say whether the Government's proposals concerning Civil Defence, the absence of which is causing great hardship to the morale of that organisation, will be laid before the House by the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for Defence and when we are likely to hear from the Government on this subject?

The question of the rôle of the Territorial Army in Civil Defence is a matter for the Minister of Defence. The Home Secretary will make a statement on Civil Defence when there is an opportunity for him to do so and when he has anything very new to say on the subject.