Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY, 24TH FEBRUARY—Supply [7th Allotted Day]: Committee stage of the Civil Estimates and Defence (Central) Estimate, Vote on Account, 1964–65, when, at the request of the Opposition, there will be a debate on the Provision for Science
Remaining stages of the Uganda Bill.
TUESDAY, 25TH FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Agriculture and Horticulture Bill, and of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Bill [Lords].
FRIDAY, 28TH FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.
MONDAY, 2ND MARCH—Proposed business will be: Supply [8th Allotted Day]: Navy Estimates, 1964–65, will be considered in Committee on Vote A.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware—and I ask this now for the convenience of the House—that on Monday we propose to table an Amendment to the Vote on Account to provide for a token reduction in the provision for the Office of the Minister for Science, so as to enable the House to concentrate the debate on all questions affecting the Minister, including the proposed reorganisation scheme which has been announced by the Government?
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the four weeks are now up in which he promised to let us know about the resale price maintenance Bill? I appreciate that the Government may be in serious difficulty over this whole business, because of their lack of forethought, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman now make a definite statement on the matter?
Has the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman been directed to a Motion relating to a request by myself that there should be referred to the Select Committee on Procedure, whether it exists or whether the Government contemplate reappointing it, the refusal of Mr. Speaker to allow Questions to be put to the Prime Minister as to his conduct both at home and abroad?
[That this House requests the Prime Minister to refer to the Select Committee on Procedure the refusal of Mr. Speaker to allow Questions to be placed on the Order Paper which refer to statements by the Prime Minister when not in the House of Commons, either at home or abroad.]
Mr. H. Wilson:
While we recognise that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is slipping a little in the time table about the Bill on resale price maintenance, about which he has been so positive for four successive weeks, may I ask whether he will now tell us whether, in addition to tabling the Bill, which has now been promised for early next week, the Government intend to fulfil their undertaking to publish a White Paper on their whole attitude to the problems of monopolies?
Can my right hon. and learned Friend give me an assurance that the Bill for the abolition of resale price maintenance will have sufficient safeguards for small shopkeepers?
Mr. H. Wilson:
The right hon. and learned Gentleman used the words, "not an undue interval". Will he be a little more specific? I do not ask him to tie himself down to a time, such as four weeks or four days, or anything like that, but will he tell us whether it is intended that we shall have the White Paper next week?
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that the Committee stage of the Hire-Purchase Bill starts next week? Can he say what consultations he has had with a view to sending Schedule 2 of that Bill, which applies exclusively to Scotland, to the Scottish Standing Committee, as this was the practice to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman agreed with the Police Bill? Does he not recognise that this Bill affects the whole of the Scottish hire-purchase law and that there is only one hon. Member from this side and one from the other from Scotland who are on the Committee? Is not this outrageous treatment of Scottish interests?
I would have been willing to discuss the matter. We had discussions about the Police Bill as a result of which we came to satisfactory arrangements. However, in view of something said in the House, I have had a look at the Hire-Purchase Bill and, although I am willing to discuss it with hon. Members, on the face of it it seems very difficult to divide the Bill in the way suggested.
The whole point is to get the law in England and Scotland on these matters the same and, therefore, it seems doubtful whether it would be wise to discuss what is hoped to be the common law of the two countries in two different Committees. However, I am prepared to discuss the matter.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that the opportunity now presents itself as never before? Is he not aware that the Secretary of State for Scotland—and there may be something in this in relation to the abolition of resale price maintenance—last week quietly dropped a Bill which had had its Second Reading, the Countryside and Tourist Amenities (Scotland) Bill? That means that we have the opportunity to deal with another Bill in the Scottish Committee? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman therefore seriously consider the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton)?
As the Government have declined to divide the Hire-Purchase Bill, is it now proposed to add more Scottish Members to the Standing Committee so that the Scots can play their part?
Certainly. If, as a result of conversations, I am able to persuade hon. Members that it is better to proceed as we intend, we will certainly have to add other Members to the Committee.
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman be good enough to consider the circumstances in which the Countryside and Tourist Amenities (Scotland):Bill has been withdrawn, with a view to making a statement to the House next week? Is he aware that although in the Votes and Proceedings for last Tuesday there appears the item that the Scottish Standing Committee was discharged and the Bill withdrawn, there was no item of business on the Orders of the Day and no reference in HANSARD other than the information conveyed to a back bencher in a Written Answer?
As many people are interested in the Bill, ought not the Government to make a formal statement about the matter? Is it not very undesirable that legislation should be brought to an end without any permanent record being made in HANSARD other than a Written Answer?
In view of all the re-organisation that is going on in the building industry, both private and Government, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reconsider his decision of last week and bring forward the debate on the Ministry of Public Building and Works and the building industry? Is not that as important as any question of resale price maintenance?
In connection with the proposed rail closures in Scotland, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he is aware that the Prime Minister, in giving information to the House last week and the week before, indicated that the decision would be left to the Minister of Transport, yet he gave different information to a Scottish deputation which waited on him yesterday to get the matter cleared up?
Will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to make a statement in the House next week so that we may know what is the correct position? Surely, if a statement is made to a Scottish deputation, a similar statement should be made to the House of Commons?
May I ask the Leader of the House whether he recollects that during the debate on aviation, earlier this week, the Minister of Aviation gave the House an assurance that the contents of the Lang Committee's report would be conveyed to the House? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman be good enough to see that that is done at the earliest possible moment? Will he ensure that the report is published as a White Paper, and that as soon as it is published the House will be given an opportunity to discuss the matter?
Reverting to the question of the Hire-Purchase Bill, will the Leader of the House recognise that we would regard the suggestion to put more Scottish Members on the Standing Committee considering the Bill as an inadequate alternative to having Schedule 2 of the Bill dealt with by the Scottish Standing Committee?
Mr. H. Wilson:
Will the Leader of the House use his influence, which I am sure is considerable, to ensure that next week we get an authoritative statement from the Government Front Bench about the country's balance of payments position? May I ask the Leader of the House whether, in view of the statement thrown out, perhaps somewhat lightly, by the Prime Minister on television on Monday night, and because of the totally different figures produced, and statements made, by a succession of different Ministers, he realises that there is great confusion in the country?
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman, with his great experience of the problem of perceiving an incipient balance of payments crisis, persuade one of his right hon. Friends to make a statement—or perhaps make one himself—so that the House and the country can be put in picture?