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Business Of The House

Volume 728: debated on Thursday 12 May 1966

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

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. Herbert Bowden)

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

MONDAY, 16TH MAY—Second Reading of the Industrial Development Bill.

Motion on the Pneumoconiosis, Byssinosis and Miscellaneous Diseases Benefit (Amendment) Scheme.

TUESDAY, 17TH MAY—Remaining stages of the Military Aircraft (Loans) Bill.

Second Reading of the Overseas Aid Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 18TH MAY—Second Reading of the Transport Finances Bill.

Motion on the Judicial Offices (Salaries) Order.

THURSDAY, 19TH MAY—Supply [1st Allotted day]: Committee, which, if agreed, will be taken formally to allow debate on an Opposition Motion relating to the Housing and Building Programmes.

Motion to amend the British Wool Marketing Scheme, 1950.

FRIDAY, 20TH MAY—Remaining stages of the Public Works Loans Bill and of the Transport Finances Bill.

MONDAY, 23RD MAY—The proposed business will be: Second Reading of the Docks and Harbours Bill.

The Leader of the House will recall that, last Thursday, I asked him to explain why it was necessary to have two Bills to deal with the Selective Employment Tax and that he was unable to tell us. May I now ask him again why it is necessary to have a separate Ministry of Labour Bill in addition to those Clauses of the Finance Bill?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the grave difficulties which this will provide far the Committee considering the Finance Bill, in that we shall be able to discuss only the Government having power to tax, without at the same time being able to discuss the exemptions which hon. Members would wish to put forward?

In view of this vital point, which, I believe, is a constitutional point, would the Leader of the House undertake to look at this question and combine the two matters in the one Finance Bill?

The short answer to the reason for two Bills is that the Government regard this as being helpful to the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The House will realise that the Finance Bill this year, because of the General Election, is much later than usual. It is felt by the Government that, if the Ministry of Labour Bill deals with the repayments of S.E.T., it will give a greater opportunity for the Opposition and the country to make representations during the Committee stage of the Finance Bill which could, if accepted, be included in the Ministry of Labour Bill.

On the right hon. Gentleman's second point, there is no reason to think that the actual passage of these Bills through the House will be different, from the point of view of time.

May I press the Leader of the House further on this? From what he has said, the two points do not seem to be consistent. If the Government wish to take into account representations made during the Finance Bill in the Ministry of Labour Bill, I find it difficult to see how they can run concurrently. That does not alter the fact that the Committee will be asked to give the Government power to take this money away without, at the same time, being able to deal with the remissions which will be made.

The Finance Bill will be introduced into the House very quickly and will start its Second Reading and Committee stage after the Whitsun Recess. During the passage of the Bill, no doubt representations will be made about the repayment or additional repayments which could, if accepted by the Government, be included in the Ministry of Labour Bill which will be introduced at that time. These will be contained in the Schedule and there is no reason to think that the Committee stages will be very far apart.

Would my right hon. Friend say when we will have an opportunity of discussing the last Report of the Select Committee on Procedure and the Government's White Paper on countryside policy? Could we take morning sittings for this purpose if we are full up for business at other times?

These are related questions. The question of morning sittings is a matter of procedure. I have said that the Government will provide the opportunity to discuss the Reports from the Select Committee on Procedure dealing with a number of things, with morning sittings, time-tabling, and the Fourth Report from the Select Committee on Procedure in Supply.

Would the Leader of the House find time to discuss the appointment of an arms salesman so that we may be informed to what countries he will sell arms, what sort of arms he will sell, and whether we will now find that every arms deal becomes an act of State?

I cannot promise time for such a debate before the Whitsun Recess. It will be difficult to do so between Whitsun and the end of Juliy, but much of the information which the right hon. Gentleman requires could be elicited by Questions to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Bearing on the question of the legislation for the Selective Employment Tax, if the right hon. Gentleman is to divide the Bills, as he says, will he give an undertaking that the Committee stage of the Ministry of Labour Bill will be taken on the Floor of the House?

Since the Sexual Offences Bill has been passed both in another place and here, since it is now likely to reach this House again and since it is unfortunate that criminal law should be enforced against the wishes of the whole House, would the Leader of the House say whether time will be given in this House when the Bill comes from the other place?

Surely the right hon. Gentleman realises, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget Statement, that the Finance Bill, in effect, is giving the Government the right to write out a blank cheque. Does he realise that there is concern in the country that, at the same time, we shall not have the information available as to precise degrees of exemption or otherwise from the S.E.T. and the right to query them?

No, Sir. I do not think that there is anything valid in that point. I would only add that there is a further point with regard to the division of the two Bills. I hope that it is appreciated that if we have the repayments under the second Bill, the Ministry of Labour Bill, it gives another place the opportunity of discussing them. It would regard it as unfortunate if it did not have that opportunity.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it wholly wrong to push the Transport Finances Bill through as the second Order on Friday? Does he not realise that this is yet another enormous subvention to the nationalised industries which should be fully discussed and which should receive its proper place in the Government's business?

If the Leader of the House cannot promise us an immediate debate about the appointment of an arms salesman, will he consider publishing a White Paper, giving us the full explanation, because I have been unable to find it in the Labour Party's election manifesto?

No doubt my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has heard my hon. Friend's question.

Has the Leader of the House considered the Motion which I tabled this morning and of which I sent him a copy, which is in the following terms:

"That this House calls upon the Minister of Aviation to withdraw at once the false accusation which he made at Question Time on 11th May"
—that is, yesterday—
"to the effect that the setting up of the European Launcher Development Organisation involved an act of fraud by the late Conservative Government, since if this were believed it could have a most damaging effect on Britain's relations with her partners in E.L.D.O."?
Will he arrange for his right hon. Friend to make an early statement to correct this wholly unjustifiable charge?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of the early-day Motion which has been tabled today. May I say, as an aside, that I hope we shall not get into the practice of tabling Motions and expecting answers the same day. But the right hon. Gentleman has given me notice of this Motion. I have drawn it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation and I understand that he intends to make a personal statement today.

Could the Leader of the House say something about providing an opportunity for a short debate either before the Gibraltar talks take place or during the course of those talks and before a decision is finally reached? There is widespread disquiet on both sides of the House about various reports regarding the future of Gibraltar. Since these talks are being held without observers from Gibraltar being present and under duress from Spain, does he not think that there ought to be an opportunity for the whole House to give its opinion on the subject before the talks are held?

I will take note of that view and have a word with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary about this subject. I cannot promise a debate at the moment, but there is something to be looked at here.

Since there is clearly a genuine difference in view about the wisdom of separating the two Bills which will implement the Budget, could not the matter be settled by discussion through the usual channels? Is it not vital that there should be a proper method of ensuring that we give effect to the Budget in the most advantageous way?

I am all in favour of reaching agreement through the usual channels where that is possible, but there are occasions when the Government must take a decision, and this is one of them.

May I, too, refer to these two Bills? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it will be very difficult for hon. Members to make any points on the Fininace Bill about possible exemptions because most of it will be out of order? Is it not, therefore, important that the House should have an assurance that the Ministry of Labour Bill will at least be in the hands of hon. Members while the Finance Bill is in progress? Otherwise, the House will be put in an almost impossible position in which hon. Members are asked to sign a blank cheque for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to collect the money from everyone and only later, in very restricted conditions, will hon. Members be able to discuss the various exemptions which will follow? Could we at least make certain that, even if we cannot consider the two Bills together, we know the contents of both at the same time?

I have already said that I hope that the Committee stage of these Bills will be taken about the same time. Without promising that the Second Reading of the Finance Bill will be delayed, as far as possible I will arrange to make it absolutely clear that the Ministry of Labour Bill shall be available when the Committee stage of the Finance Bill is under consideration.

As the Leader of the House has said that the Government are in introducing the Ministry of Labour Bill for the convenience of the other place, would he take note of the fact that for the convenience of this House we should prefer to have them both the Finance Bill?

As the Minister of Health has stated that his review of hospital building is to be published shortly, shall we have time to debate it?

Certainly not before the Whitsun Recess. I will look at position after that.

Does the Leader of the House feel able to renew a promise which he made some time ago that at some reasonable time he would find time for a half-day debate on the Report of the Inland Waterways Board?

May I press the right hon. Gentleman about the date of the Ministry of Labour Bill? It may well be that the only occasion on which it will be in order to talk about those matters will be on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill. It is, therefore, vital that we should have the Ministry of Labour Bill available before the Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

I have not the date in mind, but I will certainly look at the point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made.

Would the Leader of the House tell the House when the Government intend to introduce legislation on the question of the equal validity of the Welsh language before the law? The report of the Hughes Parry Committee, set up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), was received with all-party approval in the Welsh Grand Committee. In view of the two extremely unnecessary and important cases of young Welshmen in prison at the present time, will the Government take the earliest opportunity to introduce this legislation, which has all-party support?

May I look at that matter? Perhaps the Second Reading Committee procedure might be used for this purpose.

Will the Leader of the House provide time to enable the Prime Minister to explain his personal position arising out of his views on the Rambouillet talks and, in particular, to give him an opportunity to withdraw unreservedly the reckless charges of duplicity which he made against a former distinguished Prime Minister?

No doubt these matters will be fully ventilated in due course. I cannot at the moment promise a debate.

In view of the fact that the Government said that they would use the money from the Betting Tax to finance through legislation aid to the house purchaser buying his house on mortgage, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he will tell us when this legislation will be introduced?

Would the Leader of the House try to find half a day to debate as an emergency the statement made in the Indian Parliament yesterday that tens of thousands of Indians are in danger of dying of starvation unless aid is sent quickly? May we debate what we could do as an emergency to help in that critical situation?

This is a serious situation, as everyone in the world, I hope, appreciates. The Government have already given very considerable aid. I do not know that the position is helped by a debate. India would be greatly helped by additional aid. If there is real value in a debate later I will by all means see whether I can arrange one.

Could consideration be given to some rearrangement of the order of aviation Questions, in view of the desire of many hon. Members to question the Minister of Aviation about defence sales and other matters which are his responsibility, so contriving that we are able to ask the Minister Questions sometimes nearer than two months away?

The subject of the order of Questions arises every week. I am sure that if we alter them in one respect, other Departments will be affected. I think that we had better stick to the order as it is.

We are to have the Docks and Harbours Bill on Monday week. When will that Bill be available to hon. Members?

Will the Leader of the House provide an early day for debate on the Report of the Geddes Committee, published almost two months ago, in view of the great urgency of the matter for British shipbuilders?

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he has observed the Motion relating to abortion law reform?

[That, in view of the desire of a large number of Members of the House of Commons to see a measure of legislation introduced designed to reform the present abortion law, this House requests the Leader of the House to provide the time required at the earliest opportunity this Session.]

In view of the very widespread concern on this matter expressed by responsible people throughout the country, cannot we have time for at least a brief debate on this vital subject?

It would be extremely difficult to find any time at all between now and the Whitsun Recess. The position will be a little easier afterwards. But the House will appreciate that, with the Finance Bill, the Ministry of Labour Bill and Supply, our time will be pretty well occupied up to mid-August.