House Of Commons
Thursday, 20th March, 1969
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Prize Competitions (Publication Of Solutions)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that in competitions by many commercial firms the winning line or solution is not published, although lists of winners are published; and if he will introduce legislation to make it necessary for the winning line, combination or solution to be published in all commercial and newspaper competitions.
My right hon. Friend has noted this matter for consideration when legislation is next introduced to amend Part HI of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 dealing with lotteries and prize competitions.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the millions of people who enter for these competitions will welcome his statement that the Department intends to look at the problem? Will he accept that it is not a question of the marking or judging being unfair but of information? It is not a matter of justice being done but of justice being seen to be done.
Yes, I accept that suspicions can easily be aroused as to whether or not results are fixed, and that it would therefore be appropriate to look at the operation of Section 47 of the 1963 Act.
If there were a legal requirement for such winning lines to be published, could that be the basis for legal action by aggrieved losers?
The law at present does not impose safeguards on the manner in which competitions are to be held or the results declared.
Medicines And Drugs (Accidents To Children)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the latest statistics available of accidents to children resulting from swallowing medicines and other compounds in tablet form; and if he will consult with sweet and confectionery manufacturers with a view to taking steps to prevent the manufacture of sweets which are similar in appearance to medical preparations.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department in order to reduce the accidental consumption by children of dangerous drugs whether he will have consultation with the pharmaceutical and sweet-making industries with a view to taking steps to cut out the similarities between some dangerous drugs and some children's sweets.
Particulars of fatal accidents to children from swallowing medicines and drugs were given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) on 14th March: there is no precise information about non-fatal accidents. Consultations on this problem have already taken place between the industries concerned and the Medical Commission on Accident Prevention. Although no complete solution has been found, the pharmaceutical industry is attempting, by means of special packaging to reduce the risk of medicinal tablets being mistaken for sweets. But the best safeguard is for all medicines to be kept in a safe place out of the reach of children.—[Vol. 779, c. 379–80.]
Whilst we welcome the consultations which have taken place and the steps which are being taken, will my hon. Friend accept that there is an increasing fear that the advertisement of sweets which are sold loose in their thousands will result in a rapid increase of accidents of this kind?
We realise the nature of the problem, which is not an easy one to solve. We put out a great deal of publicity in various ways to bring it to the notice of parents.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that packaging by itself does not go far enough? It is the absolute similarity of the drugs and the sweets which is a danger to children. The cost falls ultimately on the Government through the Department of Health and Social Security. Will the hon. Gentleman see if anything can be done about the similarity of pills and sweets?
The question of the colour and shape of medicinal products comes under the Medicines Act, 1968, and any Question on that ought to be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to complete his review of the effects of CS smoke in cases of riot control.
There is no intention that CS smoke shall be used by the police for controlling rioting crowds and no review is being made of its effects when so used.
Is no review to be made?
No review in this connection is to be made. I should like to make it plain once again to my hon. Friend that there has been no change since the statement made by the then Home Secretary in this House on 20th May, 1965, to the effect that CS smoke would be used only for the dislodging of armed criminals or dangerously insane persons.
Brockhill Remand Centre (Women)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many women on remand from Birmingham have been sent to Holloway and elsewhere since the closure of Brockhill Remand Centre to women: and what is the total number of journeys involved for these women and their escorts.
Up to 5th March, 94 women were received at Holloway prison from Birmingham Magistrates' Court. Their transfer and the reappearance of some of them before the magistrates' court involved 137 journeys for the women and 88 journeys for prison escorts. In addition eleven women were produced at Birmingham Assizes and fourteen at Birmingham Quarter Sessions, involving an additional thirteen journeys by prison escorts. There were also 22 prison escorts to the assizes and quarter sessions at Birmingham to take custody of women surrendering to bail.
Will the hon. Gentleman recognise that all these journeys are excessively time-consuming, exhausting and harrowing not only for the women but for their escorts and their drivers? Bearing in mind that it turns out that there was no valid or legal reason why Brockhill Remand Centre should have been closed to women, will the hon. Gentleman consider reopening it and, therefore, earn the gratitude of the Birmingham City magistrates, the Birmingham City Council and all the women concerned?
I dealt with this matter in the Adjournment debate on 22nd July last year. I do not accept the hon. Lady's contentions, in that it is quite clear that it was absolutely essential for that remand centre to be closed—
The position with regard to the Midlands is being kept under review and, in the event of a new remand centre for women being necessary, priority will be given to the Midlands.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further plans he has in hand to deal with women remanded from Birmingham courts in the future.
Accommodation is available at Shrewsbury prison for detention overnight during trial, and will soon be ready at Birmingham prison; but my right hon. Friend has at present no other plans for changing the existing arrangements.
Will the hon. Gentleman take it from me that his assurances that the situation is merely being kept under review in his former Answer and in what he has just said will be deeply disappointing to many people connected with the courts, because Brockhill was set up recognising the need for this type of accommodation?
I think that it would be appropriate for the hon. Lady to acknowledge that, because only a small number of women are committed in custody, it means that, wherever a centre is set up, because the catchment area is so large, of necessity, it entails substantial travelling distances.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that, in a very populous area like this, which could be repeated three or four times across the country, the lack of suitable accommodation for remand purposes is more than likely to interfere with the final judgment of the court? In view of that, should not urgent steps be taken to review the position, taking into account the difficulties of magistrates' clerks in trying to find appropriate accommodation?
It is not the lack of suitable accommodation which is responsible for the situation, but the size of the catchment area itself.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his estimate of the cost per journey of taking women remanded at West Midland courts to and from Holloway Prison following the closure of the women's section at Brockhill Remand Centre.
About £17 per prisoner for an average return journey.
This amounts to a very large sum of money. Why is the Home Office so obstinate over this matter, against the advice of local magistrates and against local opinion, which knows all about Brockhill? It was built in the first place as a tailor-made remand home. Will he reconsider this decision and, if needs be, build two houses to accommodate nurses?
As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, owing to the lack of medical staff at Brockhill, it became absolutely necessary in the interests of the inmates and their safety that it should be closed.
Metropolitan Police Officers (University Courses)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will take steps to restore the compensatory grant, corresponding to payments in lieu of rest-days, to officers of the Metropolitan Police undertaking a course at university; and if he will backdate payment to June, 1967.
The Police Council for Great Britain, which is the negotiating body for police pay and allowances, is examining the question; and my right hon. Friend will await its recommendations before making a decision.
Is it not true, however, that the initial allowances were granted without reference to the Police Council, that the question has been raised with the Home Office since July, 1967, and that the reference was made only at the end of 1968? Will he, therefore, expedite this consideration so that we can get a restoration of these grants that were promised in the first instance?
I cannot anticipate the recommendations of the Police Council. But, before 1967, most Bramshill scholars who went to universities went in the rank of sergeant. As a result of changes in the promotion regulations in 1967, they now go in the rank of inspector, and it was considered that the increased pay on promotion would compensate for the loss of overtime pay.
New Police Station, Crediton
10 and 11.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) why he authorised expenditure on a new police station at Crediton, Devon, in view of the need to economise in Government expenditure;
(2) whether, before reaching his decision to authorise the building of a new police station at Crediton, Devon, he took into account conditions at the present station and the number of man-hours to be saved by the erection of a new building.
A larger sub-divisional station at Crediton forms part of a scheme which the Devon and Cornwall police authority are considering for a reorganisation of police cover in the surrounding area with a view to the more efficient use of manpower and other resources. A new building is required because the existing site is too restricted to enable the necessary facilities to be provided by adaptation and extension of the present station.
That is all very well, but, in view of the economic problems and the squeeze that we are experiencing, why should this money be spent? It is a complete wast of time. I think that it is monstrous that we should be going on with this at the present time. Will the hon. Gentleman look into the matter and see that this decision is reversed?
While I welcome the hon. Gentleman's concern for economy, nevertheless I cannot accept his contentions There is no room at the present station for garages or parking. More police vehicles will be based on Crediton and will need facilities at the sub-divisional station under the new policing arrangements.
Justices Of The Peace (Payment For Loss Of Earnings)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when payment for loss of earnings to justices of the peace will commence.
I regret that I cannot yet say when payment will begin
Will my hon. Friend accept that, by refusing to pay justices of the peace loss of earnings, he is placing the working men who serve the community in this capacity at a very serious financial disadvantage, and, further, that if he continues to refuse in this way he will deter men from accepting these positions?
I have considerable sympathy with my hon. Friend's views. As the House will know, when Section 4 of the Justices of the Peace Act, 1968, comes into force, it will be possible for these payments to be made. In the debates on the Bill, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General made it clear that the financial loss allowance could not be introduced at present in the economic circumstances obtaining.
Commission On The Constitution
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on when he now expects the Commission on the Constitution to start its work.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the Commission on the Con stitution will commence its work.
My right hon. Friend hopes that the Commission will start its work within the next few weeks
Can the hon. Gentleman explain why more than five months have passed since the Government announced the setting up of this Commission and why, since then, nothing has happened except the appointment of a chairman? Is he aware that, during this period, the Constitutional Committee on Scotland, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) in the chair, has been hard at work and getting on with its job?
That Commission which the Conservative Party set up is at a much lower level than the one which the Government are setting up. This is a high-level Commission. It is not just a matter of thinking up a number of people to sit round a table. This is important work which will last a large number of years; in other words, it is not party political.
Does not this show appalling complacency, in that six months will have passed before any work has been done? Is not the Government's lack of success in hawking round places on this Commission due to the fact that it is now crystal clear that the Government will be out of office before any report can be produced?
This Commission will make deep investigations. It is not intended for the sort of thing that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) is good at—writing a letter to the newspapers. This is real stuff, and it takes time.
When will this slow-moving constitutional elephant ever get anywhere? In view of the fact that my hon. Friend says that its work will last a number of years, when will it arrive at any conclusions about Scotland?
I have answered the question. It will be set up very shortly.
When will it do anything?
It will consider, in the sort of way that my hon. Friend is good at, all the various points which have to be taken into account.
While not entering into competition about whether this Commission, when it exists, will be real stuff, will the hon. Gentleman realise that some of us are very much dismayed to know that it will in advance be committed for several years? Cannot we expect some mouse to emerge from this monkey in a shorter period of time?
I cannot compete with the length of time that it requires to get results in the sense in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman puts it. They are important matters for many people, especially those on the periphery of this Kingdom. They should be considered and, taking into account all the facts and all the people who will take a part in it, five months is not too long to prepare for this sort of thing.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements are made to achieve standard reading of breathalyser tests under different coloured artificial lights at night.
My right hon. Friend has advised the police that in some conditions of artificial lighting the breath-testing device should be read by the light of a torch, an interior car light or the light of a headlamp.
Immigrants (Admission Of Dependants)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many dependants of immigrants have been admitted since the passing of the Immigration Act, 1962, giving men, women and children, separately; how many more he estimates will be admitted; and how soon he now estimates this type of immigration will end.
Between 1st July, 1962, and 31st December, 1968, 257,229 Commonwealth dependants were admitted. I will with permission circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the numbers of men, women and children included in that figure. As regards the second and third parts of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to a Question by the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) on 2nd December.—[Vol. 774, c. 421–2.]
Since I cannot remember what the hon. Gentleman said to my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson), that Answer is useless and stupid. Is not the hon. Gentleman and his chief anxious about this flood of people coming into this country? Has he no thought for the survival of the English race in their own country?
The hon. Gentleman says that he cannot remember that Answer, which is germane to this matter. Has he bothered to read it?The 4,000-odd Commonwealth immigrants who came into this country last year with vouchers was the lowest figure since the introduction of the 1962 Act. Last year the number of dependants fell for the first time for a number of years. To state, in the face of that information, that there is a flood is ignoring the facts of the situation.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the nature of the Question and the blanket term "immigration" is designed to camouflage the hon. Gentleman's anxiety about coloured immigrants, and that white immigrants far outnumber coloured immigrants? The nature of such a Question can only make a situation, such as that in my constituency, ten times more difficult.
A smaller number of Commonwealth immigrants is now coming into this country than for many years past. In face of that, it really is nonsense to use the word "flood".
On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I shall seek leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the first available opportunity.
Following are the figures:
Commonwealth Citizens Admitted as Dependants: 1st July, 1962 to 31st December, 1968.
Dangerous Wild Animals
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will seek to amend the law so as to ensure that when dangerous wild animals such as pumas, jaguars and snakes are kept as pets by private individuals adequate security is ensured.
My right hon. Friend has no reason to think that escapes of dangerous wild animals are so numerous as to create a need for legislation.
Does my hon. Friend realise that the escape of a small number of fierce animals which could do, and has done, considerable damage to other animals is something about which due care should be taken, because not only the lives and safety of other animals which have been attacked, but of human beings who are likely to be attacked, should be protected?
My hon. Friend seeks to know whether we need to amend the law. It would not be easy to devise a system of licensing for the keeping of wild animals which could distinguish between dangerous or potentially dangerous wild animals and others. Of course there is concern, but the problem is extremely small. There is always recourse to the civil law.
On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature—
Order. The hon. Gentleman is too late. Mr. Costain.
Will the Minister confirm that there has been less damage to the human race from wild animals than from wild dogs?
I am sure the answer is right—yes.
On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I shall seek leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.
Fairmile Hospital (Mrs B F Browne)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why he has given his consent to Mrs. Barbara Frances Browne being granted occasional leave from Fairmile Hospital near Wallingford.
Consent was given in the light of the advice of the responsible medical officer, who reported that occasional leave was necessary for the patient's rehabilitation and would not involve any risk to others.
While gratefully acknowledging the Under-Secretary's courtesy in discussing this case with me, may I ask whether he understands that the granting of occasional leave so shortly after the trial, which was on 29th April 1968, inevitably arouses anxiety in the area concerned? Can he give an assurance that, before the Home Secretary gives permission for the person concerned to be totally released, very careful consideration will be given to the aspect of public safety?
In all these cases my right hon. Friend must bear in mind the representations made by those who have the custody of such patients and the clinical factors involved. In addition, he is always mindful of the factor of public safety. This case will be dealt with in the same way as every other case.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to provide for the observance of 21st March, Sharpeville Day, as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
I have sent to the Chairman of the United Nations Association a special message in this connection reaffirming the Government's support for all those working for the elimination of racial discrimination.
While welcoming that action by my hon. Friend, may I ask whether he is aware that the General Assembly of the United Nations has specifically asked all Governments to mark this day as an expression of solidarity against the oppression that is going on in South Africa? In view of the historic share of responsibility of this country for the situation in Southern Africa, does he not feel, perhaps, that some further action should be taken?
I think that the best way to deal with this is to leave the observance of international days of this kind to non-Governmental organisations to decide for themselves. The Government have taken many practical steps in recent years—in particular, the Race Relations Act. In view of my own responsibilities, I think that it is a much better idea to work for good race relations on 365 days of the year.
If ever it is thought unwise enough to commemorate man's inhumanity to man, will the Government bear in mind that the number of place names which could be considered as candidates is almost legion?
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps by legislation or otherwise to expedite the bringing to trial of defendants in criminal causes.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to a Question by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) on 19th December last.—[Vol. 775, c. 443.]
Will the hon Gentleman take account of the fact that there have been many cases in recent years where the delay has been years rather than months? Without expressing anything about the subject matter of any particu- lar case, is it not intolerable and unfair to defendants when they have to wait five or six years before cases are brought to trial, as in the case of Rolls Razor and others that I could mention?
I will not comment on any particular case. I understand that the average delay, concerning assizes, is about two months. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Royal Commission on Assizes and Quarter Sessions has made a special study of delays and their causes in criminal proceedings, and will be publishing its findings.
Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that the problem of comlicated financial frauds is quite separate from the rest of this group of cases? Can he not think, where the inspectors appointed by the Board of Trade have reached a definite conclusion, of a quicker way of disposing of a case than starting all over again and entering the 18th century buggy provided by the present law?
Despite the temptation, I cannot and must not comment upon this particular case on this question.
Following on the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point, if, as is often the case, a person desires to go straight to trial without committal proceedings, why must there be all the expense and time of committal proceedings?
There is no question of a person going direct to trial without committal proceedings. The 1967 Act enables committal proceedings to be greatly shortened.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to bring up to date and republish the Home Office Research Unit Report on murder in order that the public may be fully and accurately informed on this issue.
My right hon. Friend has arranged for the publication, entitled "Murder" to be supplemented by a further report, to be published later this year.
Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that this is as up to date as possible? In view of the public debate that is bound to take place between now and July, 1970, the importance of making the discussion a well informed one on the basis of information provided by the Home Office can hardly be exaggerated.
The publication will cover the years 1957 to 1968. I am afraid that in so far as the figures for any year are concerned it is necessary for all the cases to pass the courts, and that does not normally happen until about May of the following year.
Will my hon. Friend try to ensure that the report contains figures showing the trends and practice in other countries so that a more intelligent comparison can be made?
I note my hon. Friend's remarks.
Cock-Fighting (Police Inquiries)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the chief constable on the action taken in respect of the cock-fighting that has recently taken place at a farm in Sussex, details of which have been sent to him.
I understand that the police are making inquiries. I do not think that my right hon. Friend would be justified in calling for a report.
As this monstrous so-called sport of cock-fighting has been illegal for so many years, is it right that the Home Secretary should sit in his office and not take further action and call for some report while we await these long drawn out investigations, in view of the factual evidence, accompanied by photographs, which I have sent to the Home Secretary, and which appeared in the Daily Sketch on 12th March last?
It is not the prime responsibility of the Home Secretary to prosecute cock-fighting cases. That is the prerogative of the chief officer of police for the area concerned. I do not think that this case is such that it could properly justify the expenditure of police time by calling for a report.
Easter Act, 1928
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will implement the provisions of the Easter Act, 1928.
My right hon. Friend awaits the result of the consultations being undertaken by the World Council of Churches.
Does not my hon. Friend think that the 40 years which have passed since the Easter Act was put on the Statute Book have afforded ample time for consultation with all these bodies, and that it ill-becomes a modern dynamic Government not to have taken a decision on this matter before now?
My hon. Friend may care to know that the World Council of Churches has sent a questionnaire to 230 member Churches, and that so far there is a majority in favour of a fixed Easter. Although the Catholic Church, through the Vatican Council, has declared in favour of the principle of a fixed Easter, it has let it be known that it will not go ahead until agreement is reached with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Consultations are now to take place between the Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Secretariat for Unity. I think that this is not a matter in which a good dynamic Government should interfere at this pitch. My hon. Friend may be interested to know that a great deal of progress has been made in the last five years in this respect, just as he knows a great deal of progress has been made in other respects.
Will the hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of having a fixed Christmas Day as well?
I think that in all these things it must be one thing at a time.
Unlicensed Vehicles (King's Cross Area)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action the Metropolitan Police at King's Cross Station took as a result of the breaking of the law requiring a vehicle to be licensed by F. G. Radia Cars Limited, Calshot Street, N.1; and whether a prosecution will be undertaken.
The police reported to the Greater London Council particulars of a number of apparently unlicensed vehicles in Calshot Street and Collier Street on 11th March, including the vehicle to which the hon. Member refers. It is for the Council to decide what action to take, including whether or not to prosecute.
I thank my hon. Friend and the police for that action. Is my hon. Friend aware that this firm runs a fleet of these cars, that they are unlicensed, and that the firm has refused to license them? Is my hon. Friend also aware that these cars are run with the name-plate of minicabs? As this is illegal, will my hon. Friend ask the police to take some action about that?
I shall relay that information to the police, but, as my hon. Friend by now no doubt appreciates, it is a matter for the G.L.C. to decide whether a prosecution should take place.
Parkhurst Prison (Inquiry)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why he ordered an investigation at Parkhurst Prison on the basis of alleged evidence supplied by felons to a newspaper; and why he did not require the prisoners concerned to use the normal channels available to them for making complaints.
My right hon. Friend decided that immediate inquiry into these very serious complaints was in the public interest and that of the prison service. A first aim of the inquiry is to establish whether there is foundation to any of the allegations.
Does not the hon. Gentleman think it rather disgraceful that this is the second occasion in the last 12 months when his Department has taken the word of a felon and initiated inquiries without going through the normal processes? We had the occasion last year when Prison Officer Jackson had to stand trial and go through all the mental anguish that that involves, only to be acquitted. Why cannot the Government go through the normal processes, instead of taking notice of what is published in the newspapers?
I am not willing to prejudge this issue in as flagrant a way as the hon. Gentleman has done. I am certain that it is in the best interests of prison officers, and in the general public interest, that allegations as serious as this, to which 120 persons seem to have put their names, should be investigated.
Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the machinery for complaints within prisons is adequate? It seems wrong that the Home Secretary should take notice of an article in a Sunday newspaper without taking a more careful look at the machinery of complaint.
I think that the machinery is generally adequate. A prisoner's normal channel of complaint about prison treatment is by petition, by seeing the visiting committee, or the board of visitors, or the visiting officer of the Secretary of State. If a prisoner has used one of those means and is not satisfied, it is still open to him to write to his Member of Parliament.
While accepting what the hon. Gentleman said about the matter now under inquiry, may I ask whether he will accept that this sort of device could be used in a way very damaging to the prison service?
I concede that it is open to abuse.
On a point of order. In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.
Mail (Time And Date Stamping)
asked the Postmaster-General for how long the practice of using a time and date stamp for postage collection has been in existence; and why, in many instances since the introduction of the two-tier system, time is missing from the stamps and in some instances the date is also missing.
I have been asked to reply.Date stamps were introduced in 1661 and time stamps in 1794. Omission of times is not new. Since 1922 they have not been shown on the lower paid mail because they serve no useful control purposes. Dates were omitted on some second class letters posted when the second class service was recently suspended. I must apologise, Mr. Speaker, for the absence of the Assistant Postmaster-General. He is away ill.
I congratulate the new Postmaster-General, and wish him well in his appointment. May the House be assured that the reason for dropping the time and date stamp is not so that the public will not be able to judge whether the postal service is now as efficient on a time basis as it was prior to the two-tier system?
I think I can give my hon. Friend that assurance.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, since the abolition of clocking off is one of the more laudable objectives of the party opposite, and of these benches, the abolition of time stamping is to be welcomed?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that comment.
Balance Of Payments
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what were the factors that caused Her Majesty's Government to borrow £1,300 million in 1967–68; to what extent these factors ceased to operate to enable this borrowing to be reduced to nil in 1968–69; and what special new action Her Majesty's Government is now taking to produce a surplus in 1969–70.
In 1967–68 the central Government more than covered its direct expenditure from receipts other than borrowing. This surplus helped to finance part of the Government's lending to the rest of the public sector; the remainder was met by borrowing. In the current financial year, public expenditure has been firmly contained, and the Government's receipts are higher than in the previous year as a result of measures taken in the Budget and on 22nd November. As regards 1969–70, I cannot anticipate my right hon. Friend's Budget statement.
Since the Chancellor and his predecessor were both wrong in their forecasts for the coming year, why should the House believe that the present Chancellor's forecast of a surplus for the current year will prove correct?
Every Minister of every party tries to give the House the best information that he can.
Is the Treasury considering following the example of the Gas Council and borrowing large sums of money from Germany to pay the cost of Polaris submarine material and American aircraft?
That question does not arise immediately out of the Question on the Order Paper.
Ministry Of Defence
Raf, Bentley Priory (Radar)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many Russian military aircraft have been detected by radar from Royal Air Force Bentley Priory in each of the last convenient 12-month periods; and whether he will make a statement.
I am not prepared to release figures which could be used to give an indication of the efficiency of our air defence radars.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, in the Harrow Observer and Gazette of 11th March, the air officer commanding was reported as having said that his radar screen has revealed a large number of Russian aircraft? Is it not right, if that is so, that the public should have access to the fullest possible information? Surely it is wrong that the air officer commanding can give this information to the Harrow Royal Air Forces Association but my hon. Friend cannot give it to the House? What will he do about this matter?
The Harrow Observer was a bit inaccurate.
House Of Commons
Closed Circuit Television
asked the Lord President of the Council if he will arrange for the chimes in the closed circuit television sets, showing which right hon. or hon. Member is speaking and the business being discussed on the Floor of the House, to take place a few seconds before a change is announced rather than after one.
I understand that it would be technically feasible to arrange for the chimes in the closed circuit television sets to be altered to take place a few seconds before rather than after a change is announced. I will place the hon. Member's suggestion before the Services Committee for its opinion.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that such a change would be sensible, since one could then tell what has taken place as well as what is about to take place?
I have noted what the hon. and gallant Gentleman says and I will put this to the Services Committee.
Will my right hon. Friend take some steps to stop phasing the Division bells through the television apparatus, because it makes a hideous and quite unnecessary extra row?
I will also put this before the Services Committee.
Who was the "person"—I use that expression because it is a mild one and Parliamentary—responsible for this contraption? In view of the waste of time and money involved, would my right hon. Friend return to the old-fashioned and practical annunciator?
I can assure my right hon. Friend that I was not responsible. This occurred before I took up office as Lord President. I have great sympathy with what my right hon. Friend says.
We are ahead of time, so I can call the Prime Minister's Questions if the hon. Gentlemen concerned are here and the Prime Minister is willing.
Royal Mint Premises, Wales
asked the Prime Minister what plans he has to visit the new Royal Mint premises in Wales.
I have no plans to do so at present, Sir.
That is a great pity, but when the right hon. Gentleman gets around to it, can he, on his way to the Royal Mint, stop off at Bristol and make once again that speech about buying food in the cheapest markets of the world and how he dislikes the levy system? How does he reconcile his dislike of the levy system with his passion for entering the Common Market?
Order. A supplementary question must have some connection with the original Question.
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of paragraphs 22 and 23 of the Final Communiqué of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting, he will take steps to secure a standstill agreement on further national expropriation of the ocean floor.
No, Sir. I do not think that such a standstill would be useful or desirable but we shall continue to be guided in this matter by the internationally agreed provisions of the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, very properly, these agreements take time and that, unless there is an embargo in the meantime, by the time that we have an agreement there may be nothing left to agree upon?
I do not feel that there is that danger. Of course, the urgent question—my hon. Friend knows what I have said on this matter before—is the international effort now being made with our full support to ensure that the sea bed is not used for nuclear installations or other weapons of mass destruction.
President De Gaulle And British Ambassador
asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the discussions he had with the Federal German Chancellor on the recent conversations between President de Gaulle and the British Ambassador in Paris.
asked the Prime Minister whether he will seek an early opportunity to meet the President of France so as to resolve present misunderstandings.
I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and I have already told the House on a large number of occasions during the past four weeks.
Did Dr. Kiesinger approve the idea of bilateral talks between the British and French Governments? Has my right hon. Friend given any thought to the idea of British adherence to the Franco-German Treaty of January, 1963, as a means of furthering our European policies?
On the first point, I am sure that I answered that question when it was put last week. When I met Chancellor Kiesinger and we had the discussions of which the House has been informed, I said that we were, of course, very willing to enter talks with the French Government, and I had every impression that the Chancellor welcomed that approach on our part. On the second part of the question, that also has been fully answered in the debate.
As, on 4th February, the President of France suggested talks on the creation of a wide free trade area, will the right hon. Gentleman now swallow his pride and apologise for a betrayal of confidence which is preventing the opening of such talks.
There is no question of pride or of an apology being required, although, if one were given, I should have to apologise to five other European countries for going back, as I would have done if I did what the right hon. Gentleman wants, on our undertaking to all the other countries to keep them fully informed, as they do us, on all exchanges in Europe on matters of common concern. On the free trade area, we have made it clear over a long period that any proposals from the Six as a whole on the question of free trade arrangements between the Six and Britain and other countries we should be ready to discuss with the Six.
While clearly no case for an apology arises, would it not be in the interests of all concerned if the Prime Minister were to consider initiating discussions between Eastern and Western European Powers in response to the recurrent declaration of the Warsaw Pact countries? Would it not be much more fruitful to consider an approach to a European security conference rather than harking back always to what has happened between ourselves and President de Gaulle?
At the right time, as we have often said, a discussion between Eastern and Western European countries could be helpful, but my hon. Friend will know that, before Czechoslovakia, at the conference in Iceland of N.A.T.O. countries last year, we put specific proposals to the Warsaw Pact countries for mutual troop reductions Unfortunately, they were not taken up, and the invasion of Czechoslovakia happened soon after.
The right hon. Gentleman undertook, in answer to a supplementary question from me, to inquire into the reports that, at their recent meeting, the President of France told Dr. Kiesinger that France would not take any further part in W.E.U. Has the right hon. Gentleman obtained any information yet on this?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I think that the Press report that He had in mind—I have looked into this—was one by Agence France Presse, based I think, on what was said to be briefing from the Quai d'Orsay on this matter. I have looked into this and other reports that we have had on these discussions and it seems clear to me that the line indicated by General de Gaulle, if the report was right, was exactly in conformity with what the French Government had already announced before the talks took place and arising out of the decisions at Luxembourg and the action taken to follow u p those decisions. It had nothing to do with what is called the "Soames affair".
asked the Prime Minister what recent consultations he has had with the Prime Minister of Nigeria about steps towards the achievement of a peace settlement there.
In my talks with General Gowon in Lagos later this month, I hope to have a full discussion of the deep problems facing Nigeria, of the prospects for progress towards a settlement, and of the scope for assistance by this country in reaching such a settlement. I hope also to be able to get the fullest information about food and other relief supplies, and about other questions which greatly disturb hon. Members in all parts of the House.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that he has the good will of all those who wish to see an end to this war? Is it his intention to see representatives of the Biafran side, including Colonel Ojukwu? Will he try to convince the Nigerian Federal Government that there must be a political solution and not a military one?
There are no plans for meetings with Colonel Ojukwu but, of course, that would not be ruled out if circumstances, from every point of view, appeared favourable. I would regard it as very problematical, so far as forecasting such a meeting is concerned.As I have already made clear, the purpose of this visit is not to propose any further mediation. My right hon. Friend and I have both made it clear that there is no lack of mediators. Most of us agree that, where mediation is needed, this is fundamentally an African problem and not a problem for Western nations. Many issues have been raised in debate by hon. Members, whatever may be their general view of the Nigerian war, and it is, therefore, right that I should look into some of these problems and try to get for myself a full and accurate account of the situation.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether these problems will include the question of tabling at the United Nations a motion for an embargo on arms supplies to the whole of Nigeria and the policing of it?
The question of arms supplies naturally arises out of any consideration of Nigeria, as it did in the debate in the House last Thursday. I have previously said in the House that, because of the supplies which arrive through clandestine channels, I would be very doubtful indeed of any effective embargo based on an agreement by the arms-supplying countries, even if we could get such an agreement.If it were a question of having an effective means of stopping arms arriving, this would mean not only international policing, but it would be totally ineffective without a cease-fire, and a cease-fire would be ineffective without arrangements or prior agreement to have negotiations and, therefore, the three questions are closely bound up together.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make known to the Federal authorities the horror which is felt in all quarters of the House about the bombing of civilian targets by either side? To get a balanced view, will he make an effort to see Colonel Ojukwu and possibly the Emperor of Ethiopia, who has also been closely concerned?
I have no doubt that the Federal authorities will have read the full account of the debates which have taken place on this subject in the House and the statements which have been made in other connections. I have equally no doubt that Colonel Gowon and the Federal military Government are determined to do everything in their power to stop the bombing of civilian targets. That is what they have made clear not only in public statements but in the instructions which they have given to their military authorities.
Can my right hon. Friend hope to achieve a cease-fire if he sees only one side? To achieve this, will Her Majesty's Government disavow any commitment to a military settlement and underline to the Biafran leadership security, personally, if they should need it?
To comment on my hon. Friend's suggestion, I have made it clear that the main purpose of my visit is not to try to negotiate a cease-fire. This has been tried, with our help, on many occasions. For example, we were instrumental in getting the two sides together at one of the earlier meetings, and the Emperor of Ethiopia has also been successful in this context. I made clear the grave limitations on any hopes of mediation from outside in this matter and the fact that, if it were from outside, it would have to come from Africa.
Would my right hon. Friend make it clear that he is going to Nigeria as a friend and supporter of the Nigerian Government and not as an emissary of the Biafran rebels—[Interruption.]—or to try to obtain for them terms which the Nigerian Government do not wish to concede?
Without relying on provocative langauge from any source, I am going there as the representative of British interests, as the representative of the views of this House as expressed clearly by hon. Members of different shades of opinion and as one who, in common with every other hon. Member, desires to see the earliest possible end to this carnage and a political settlement in Nigeria which will preserve the unity of that country and which will preserve full security for the life, liberty and future development of the people of Eastern Nigeria.
While the whole House, whatever may be our individual views, must, on this matter, wish the Prime Minister the best of good fortune on his mission, may I ask him to ponder the fact that what applies in the granting of self-determination to the 6,000 people of Anguilla is an equally strong argument in the battle for self-determination on the part of 16 million Biafrans, a population four times that of Scotland?
To answer the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, and considering the very strong commitment into which he has entered in expressing his views in the House, I am grateful for what he said about my visit. The answer to the second part is that I can see no parallel whatever between the two cases.
Former Ministers And Senior Officials (Commercial Appointments)
asked the Prime Minister whether he will include in his proposed review of hon. Members' relations with extra-parliamentary bodies the conditions governing the movements of retiring Ministers and senior Government officials into commercial bodies with which they have had Departmental relations.
On retiring Ministers, I would refer to my reply to a similar Question by my hon. Friend on 20th June, 1968. As regards senior officials, I see no need to review the existing rule that they must obtain Government approval before taking up an appointment with a firm or organisation which has some contractual or financial relationship with the Government.
In view of the increasing involvement of Government in industry, would it not be desirable to have clear and formal rules about the employment of ex-Ministers, as is the case with ex-senior civil servants?
In connection with Ministers, as I said in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend on 20th June, 1968, these matters are better left to the discretion and good sense of the individuals concerned. A number of ex-Ministers of all parties since the war have, on ceasing to be Ministers, taken up positions in British industry. As far as I am aware, in every case their position within industry has been known to their fellow hon. Members, to Ministers, to civil servants and to the public generally, and I see no case for any change.
On the question of having a register of the interests of hon. Members, does the right hon. Gentleman recall that it is more than three years since he told my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) that he was in favour of having such a register? Since he last reaffirmed this policy, what consultations has he had with the Leader of the Conservative Party and with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Party to implement that policy?
That is a separate question, since the Question relates to ex-Ministers and Government officials. However, since the hon. Gentleman has raised the matter, it might help if I point out that I have made it clear that we are considering this subject urgently and I hope to make a statement in the near future. I will certainly consider the question of consulting the leaders of the other parties, since that would be a necessary part of any action which might have to be taken.
Would my right hon. Friend make it clear that the precedent set by Mr. Baldwin in about 1935 of firing a senior civil servant who applied for a commercial job while serving with a Ministry is a precedent which he will follow?
As my right hon. Friend says, I think that that case arose in 1935. I have not had such a case put before me, but I would certainly want to consider all the aspects of the case and I fully understand what my right hon. Friend has in mind.
Commercial Radio Stations
asked the Prime Minister what proposals he has received for setting up commercial radio stations; and what action he is taking.
Would my right hon. Friend accept that such stations would endanger the local Press throughout the country by siphoning off advertising revenue? Would he, as a positive alternative, encourage the B.B.C. local radio experiment and resist any proposals for 100, or any other number, of commercial local radio stations? Does not he think that the "phoney" figure of 100 underlines the gimmicky nature of these mischievous Tory proposals?
The answer to the first three parts of my hon. Friend's supplementary question is, "Yes, Sir." In this connection, I was interested to note the speech made yesterday in Leeds by the Chairman of the B.B.C., who has considerable experience in both public sector broadcasting and commercial broadcasting, in which, in relation to local newspapers, he said that if there were commercial advertising to finance these stations, then even if the newspapers got a modest share of it, local newspapers would be ruined; and that would not be the desire of any hon. Member.As for the proposals which have been put forward, I am not clear whether they are the proposals of the Conservative Party—or whether it matters if they are—but they are, I think, proposals put forward by the shadow Postmaster-General, and I do not believe that the local press is afraid of shadows.
Is it not characteristic; of the Prime Minister and hon. Members opposite that they should so bitterly oppose a proposal which it is quite obvious the majority of people in this country want? [Interruption.] Is it not particularly foolish to do so on the fallacious ground that the local Press will suffer when it is quite plain that the local Press, having an interest in local commercial radio stations, will stand to benefit in the same way as the national Press is benefiting from national commercial television. In this matter—[Interruption.]
Order. There are too many local stations at the moment.
In this matter the present Chairman of the B.B.C. can hardly be described as a disinterested body.
The right hon. Gentleman has not yet made clear in his supplementary question whether the statement by the shadow Postmaster-General carries his authority, or whether it is another case of pressing what he thinks will be popular in the country and half going along with it without committing himself. Not every newspaper, many of which are facing very serious trouble, would agree that commercial television has been in the interests of the British Press as a whole. Some have gained from it, of course, but not all have and it is arguable whether the Press as a whole has done so. As to local broadcasting, I still say that the Chairman of the B.B.C., who has vast experience of it, both of commercial broadcasting and public sector broadcasting, spoke with great authority yesterday. I should have thought that, as he is a former colleague of the right hon. Gentleman in the Cabinet, the Leader of the Opposition would not make such snide remarks about him today.
Will my right hon. Friend pay full heed to the experience of Australia and the United States in this connection and take every opportunity of exposing the sordid commercialism of the Leader of the Opposition and his friends?
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is guilty of commercialism in this way. I have said all I have to say about him. Maybe if there is a register of lobbies in any form or if interests are to be declared we shall learn a great deal more about Questions which are put from all parts of the House. I am not referring to any party or any individual hon. Member. So far from looking at the experience of America and Australia—and some of us have experience of part of that at any rate—I should feel that the whole House would agree that the experiment so far conducted in local broadcasting is extremely interesting. We must all review it coolly and impartially and without ideological bias—and as soon as it has been running long enough there is to be a review, this summer—but my impression of it from what I have seen of it is that it is very good. There are still financial problems but some have been highly successful in raising finance from local interests who want to see local views expressed in broadcasting.
On a point of order. May I direct your attention to this conspiracy on the part of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to prevent me from putting my Question No. Q8? Is it not obvious to you that this is a Question which they find disagreeable and that probably they have no adequate or satisfactory answer to it? I am entitled to put my Question. It was obvious that they were just wasting time. [Interruption.]
Order. The right hon. Gentleman is not alone in having the experience of a Question being just missed—
They are always doing it to me.
—because other hon. Members ask supplementary questions. I have never known the right hon. Gentleman to be backward in asking supplementaries.
While fully appreciating the anxiety of the Prime Minister to ingratiate his Government with the local Press, may I ask if he has also seen the remarks of a former colleague of his, the Chairman of I.T.A? Is there any reason to believe that his party is more likely to be right about independent radio than it was about independent television which it first strenuously opposed and then promised to modify or to abolish?
The hon. Member the shadow to the shadow Postmaster-General will no doubt be aware that his Government opposed commercial television until, in June, 1952, facing an extremely desperate situation with a narrow majority, they gave way to a very strong pressure lobby—[Interruption.]
Order. I want to hear the answer.
The then Government in rejecting it, and ours in opposing it, have both proved to be wrong. We have all said this publicly. That did not make more honourable the particular circumstances in which the then Government changed their mind.
May we at least take it that the creation of 100 commercial radio stations, unlike the decision of the Opposition, is not regarded by this Government as of the highest social priority for the nation?
This figure of 100, which was plucked out of the air by the shadow Postmaster-General, is not a serious proposition before the nation at this time. I am responsible for Government action. I do not even know whether it has the support of the Leader of the Opposition. I do however, know that the Chairman of the B.B.C. yesterday gave an indication that with various technical improvements and for other reasons we could look forward to every major town in the country having its own public broadcasting service.
Questions To Ministers
On a point of order. May I ask your guidance Mr. Speaker? Last week, you very kindly allowed the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to answer a Question after the hour had passed. Would it be possible to follow that precedent and to allow the very distinguished right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shin-well)—
I do not want any help from the hon. Member.
Will you allow one of the oldest Members of this House to ask his Question, in which both he and the House are deeply interested?
Order. This reaching across the Floor of the House by one old Parliamentarian to another is touching, but I have not had any request from the Prime Minister for permission to answer the Question.
Further to that point of order. I would not have said this but for your comment. The last person from whom I would accept help is the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne).
Business Of The House
May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business of the House for next week?
Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY, 24TH MARCH. Supply (15th Allotted Day):
Debate on foreign affairs, on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.
At Ten o'clock the Question will be put from the Chair on all outstanding Votes.
Motions on the New Towns (Scotland) Act, 1968, Order, on the Bacon Curing Industry Scheme and on the White Fish and Herring Subsidies Schemes.
TUESDAY, 25TH MARCH. Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.
WEDNESDAY, 26TH MARCH. Remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.
Motions to extend Sections of the Post Office Act, 1961.
Motion on the Housing Corporation Advances (Increase of Limit) Order.
Consideration of any Lords Amendments which may be received to the Horserace Betting Levy Bill.
Motion on the Police Amalgamation (South Wales) Order.
THURSDAY, 27TH MARCH. Lords Amendments to the Representation of the People Bill.
Remaining stages of the Decimal Currency Bill.
FRIDAY, 28TH MARCH. Private Members' Bills.
MONDAY, 31ST MARCH. Committee stage of the Parliament (No. 2) Bill.
The House will wish to know that the present intention is that we should rise for the Easter Adjournment on Thursday, 3rd April, until Monday, 14th April.
May I ask three questions? First, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when the Minister of Housing and Local Government will make an early statement about amendments to the Land Commission Act which he has promised to make? In view of the high cost of the Ford dispute and the urgency of improving industrial relations, can the Leader of the House give an undertaking that the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity will introduce legislation this Session? Thirdly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the contrast between the promise by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to expand farm production which he made last November and the Price Review which he announced yesterday is so great that we must have an early debate on the future of the farming industry? Can he promise time for that?
I cannot specify the date when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government will make an announcement. I will certainly consult my right hon. Friend and put to him the right hon. Gentleman's point of view.On the point about the Ford dispute, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity said that she would consider this. I will again convey to her that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues regard this as an important matter. I cannot go beyond that.
On the question of the Price Review, when I introduced my first Price Review and the Opposition expressed their displeasure they chose the date themselves for the debate. It would be interesting if they were to do that.
In this case, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food made a statement last November in which he promised a very large and immediate expansion in agricultural production. He is not now providing the wherewithal for this. It is therefore important that, because of this contrast, the Government should provide time for an early debate.
I should have thought that the procedure I have mentioned would have been satisfactory.
When will the final composition of the Commission on the Constitution be announced?
I cannot say. I will certainly bring the right hon. Gentleman's question to the notice of my right hon. Friend when he returns from the conference he is attending.
Has my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House seen Early Day Motion 228?
[ That this House, noting the contributions made in the Second Reading Debate on Tuesday, 11th March, 1969, on the Children and Young Persons Bill, regrets the decision of the Committee of Selection to remove the names of the hon. Members for Oldham, East, and Wellingborough from Standing Committee G in respect of the Bill, as reported in the Votes and Proceedings of the House on Friday, 14th March, 1969.]
Is my right hon. Friend aware that usually this Committee sits once a week, on a Wednesday. Last week we had on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday three different decisions on three succeeding days. What happened on the last occasion makes it clear and evident that this Committee has been influenced by Ministerial pressure. In these circumstances, will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on the working of the Committee?
I have noted my hon. Friend's Motion on the Committee of Selection. His is the second signature to the Motion. This is a matter for the Committee of Selection. I cannot find time next week.
On the proposed business for Monday, 31st March, does this mean that it is the considered view of the Leader of the House and of the Cabinet that there is nothing more urgent facing us than the reform of the composition of the House of Lords?
The hon. Gentleman knows that this is a collective decision. This is the Government's view.
In view of the mounting danger of war in the Middle East, will my right hon. Friend consider whether it would not be wise to have a debate on the Middle East rather than a general round the world review which never succeeds?
It is expected that the Front Bench spokesmen will concentrate on two matters—Europe and the Middle East.
On the proposed business for Monday, 31st March, has the Leader of the House seen reports in the Press that two further days are to be given in that same week for discussion of the Parliament (No. 2) Bill in Committee? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake not to do that and to give priority to the discussion of Motion 171—
[ That this House applauds the declaration of President Nixon in his Inaugural Address that he seeks an open world, open to the exchange of goods; and urges Her Majesty's Government to examine the possibilities for the creation of a free trade association of countries based on the United Kingdom, Canada, the United Kingdom's partners in the European Free Trade Association, and the United States of America and open for all, including the European Economic Community, to join.]—
which is a far-seeing, imaginative and constructive Motion and which has great support on both sides of the House, asking for an exploration of the possibilities of an Atlantic Free Trade Area?
I am intrigued by the way the right hon. and learned Gentleman has pressed the case for his Motion. I know that it is an important matter. No doubt he will be able to raise it, if he so wishes, in the foreign affairs debate. I am not responsible for Press speculation.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the debate on mortgage rates yesterday brought some criticism from back benchers because four Front Bench speakers—two on each side—were balanced by only four back bench speakers and some hon. Members who wished to take part in the debate could not be called because of shortage of time? Will my right hon. Friend consider this matter and provide some time next week, or at least before Easter, for a further debate on this very important subject, which has not yet been properly aired?
The question of the length of speeches comes up from time to time. I will look into this matter.
In view of the great relief to the Government's programme for the next year or so which would result from a collective decision on a free vote on Early Day Motion 232—
[ That further consideration of the Parliament ( No. 2) Bill be suspended, seeing that the question of the future composition and powers of the House of Lords is within the scope of the Royal Commission on the Constitution.]—
will the Leader of the House consult his own interests and find time for a debate on it next week?
I have noted with interest the Motion in the name of the right hon. Gentleman and other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. I know the right hon. Gentleman's views on this matter, but he knows full well what the Government's policy is on this.
Will my right hon. Friend consider having a debate on the procedure of Select Committees, especially their practice of sitting in public, in view of the selective and sensational reporting in the Press, which seriously distorts the evidence of witnesses?
I note what my hon. Friend has said. This is an important matter affecting procedure. I will examine my hon. Friend's suggestion.
Will the Leader of the House ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement next week on the problems affecting the management of B.O.A.C. and the pilots bearing in mind that if this matter is not resolved in a matter of days there could be another serious strike losing millions of £s of foreign currency to Britain and causing great inconvenience?
I will have a word with my right hon. Friend on this matter.