Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that on Thursday's business it is the intention of my right hon. Friend to move the Opposition Amendment at the earliest possible stage in the proceedings so as to get the fullest possible debate on it?
Secondly, reverting to a question which I put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman last week, is he yet in a position to tell us when the Minister of Aviation will make a statement on the question of the cancellation of the VC10, in view of his regrettable inability to deal with this question at Question Time?
I understand the point which the right hon. Gentleman made about Thursday's business. It is hoped that the form of the Amendment will be such as not unduly to restrict the discussion, but will be wide, so that the debate can go as wide as possible on Welsh affairs.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation hopes to make a statement as soon as possible.
[To call attention to the need to speed up the good business of the Government; and to move, That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that there should be a speeding up of legislative or administrative action where good results would accrue to the nation; and in particular that this House would welcome a decision on the provision of higher technological education for the North-East coast as is envisaged through the appropriate upgrading of Rutherford College, particularly in view of the need to convince employers taking advantage of the progressive policy of the Board of Trade to establish factories in the North-East that a sufficient number of higher qualified personnel is readily available; that it would further welcome legislative action by Her Majesty's Government prior to the receipt of the Allen Report on rating to relieve local authorities of certain education charges or interest charges on public loans as a means of relieving those living on small fixed incomes of the ever-increasing burden of rates for which, in order to meet their liability, they are quite unable to extend their static incomes; and that this House, which congratulates Her Majesty's Government on providing ever additional financial support for the arts, would at the same time welcome an independent inquiry into the controversy arising over the London Opera Centre, having regard in recent years to the Arts Council's methods of using grants and appointments to protect their own hierarchy and to eliminate those who dare to criticise the policies pursued.]
In view of the large number of electors already on holiday in the autumn, will my right hon. and learned Friend find extra time for further consideration of the Representation of the People Act 1949 (Amendment) Bill, introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies)? In view, also, of the desirability of getting all-party agreement before changing the rules governing voting, would my right hon. Friend have discussions with the Opposition to see whether they would facilitate the passage of the Bill?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that as many people as possible should have the chance to vote. I think that he is quite right in indicating that it would be difficult for the Government to facilitate a Private Members' Bill dealing with the electoral law except after consultation between the parties. That, I think, has been the practice in the past.
I think that there must be some uncertainty about time, but if the Opposition are willing to join in trying to make this a workable Measure the Government will be prepared to consider the question of facilitating its passage further.
While recognising the need for the Governor to take prompt action during the crisis in British Guiana, may I ask whether the Leader of the House can tell us what has happened to the Statutory Instrument, which does not appear to be laid on the Table and is not available in the Library, concerning the state of emergency in British Guiana?
As there is a constitutional discussion concerning South-West Arabia in progress at the moment, in which far-reaching changes are proposed without the consent of the people, will my right hon. and learned Friend allow the House to have time to debate the matter as soon as the results of the conference are announced?
Mr. H. Wilson:
May I revert to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's previous answer about consultations concerning one aspect of electoral law reform? Is he not aware that there are very many suggestions from both sides of the House covering a wide area of electoral law reform, covering many subjects, including the legitimacy of certain forms of election expenditure? We are more than willing to enter into discussions with the right hon. and learned Gentleman on all these questions, but is he aware that there would be a general feeling that one should not legislate on this piecemeal by taking so late in this Parliament one item out of the hundreds of reforms that are necessary?
This is a Measure dealing with one aspect, namely, the ability to vote at the forthcoming General Election, which might be a matter of substantial urgency and importance to certain people. Therefore, I think that a case could be made out for taking this Measure piecemeal and, if the Opposition are willing, dealing with it.
Is it not a fact that none of them would have been on holiday if the Prime Minister had had the courage to face the electorate earlier? [Interruption.] Have it any time you like. Liverpool, Scotland, last week, was quite a good sign.
May I, therefore, put this point to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who suggests that we take this one Measure and that Government time be provided for it? Would he, then, be prepared to provide Government time also for a Measure to deal with the question of publication of election expenditure?
We should have to look at the proposed Measure. With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I suggest that this is not a matter of political debating points. This is the convenience of the electorate.
Without commenting on the form of the hon. Gentleman's question, may I say that I know that the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) has a Question on the Order Paper for Tuesday, 23rd June, for answer by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think that we had better await that answer.
May I direct my right hon. and learned Friend's attention to items Nos. 19, 20 and 21 of the Orders of the Day, of each of which this is said:
This Instrument has not been considered by the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments."?
Surely it is a bad practice that there should be put down amongst the Orders of the Day Statutory Instruments which have not been considered by the Select Committee?
I think that my hon. Friend is on a perfectly good point that these Statutory Instruments should not be taken until there has been a reasonable opportunity for consideration. However, I do not think that there is any suggestion that they should be taken today.
Has my right hon. and learned Friend seen Motion 118, in the name of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) and other hon. Members, on the question of Abortion Law Reform?
[That this House views with concern the present unsatisfactory state of the law in relation to abortion due to difficulties of interpretation and to the uncertainty of the judgment of the courts in particular cases; it deplores a situation in which pregnant women who can afford sympatheticand skilled treatment have the possibility of a legal abortion on health grounds, while those who lack the means or proper advice are driven to take desperate and harmful measures; it therefore calls for revision of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 so as to clarify and liberalise the law with a view to reducing the havoc and danger of illegal abortion.]
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman reconsider his answer about legislation to meet the urgent problems connected with the electoral register? The law purports to give every young person a vote at 21. As it stands, a large number of people who have been 21 for some months will not be able to vote at the coming election because of the curious electoral registration arrangement. Some of them will not vote until they are 24 or 25. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman intends to legislate for this election, would he consider this very urgent problem?
I certainly agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is a matter for consideration. I would like to see the form of legislation designed to deal with it before answering the latter part of his question.
May I revert to the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition? Is the Leader of the House aware that the Minister of Aviation has had Sir Giles Guthrie's Report in his hands for some time now? We are not asking him to wait until his conclusions on Sir Giles's Report are ready. We would prefer to have his report on Sir Giles's recommendations on the VC.10. Is the Leader of the House aware that we understand that the Minister of Aviation's report back to Sir Giles is due on 31st July and that we believe that to be just a little late?
I will take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said and convey it to my right hon. Friend. I understand that the matter is still under discussion, but my right hon. Friend has told me that he will make a statement as soon as possible.
Since the travel concessions Bill, which would enable old, blind and disabled people to keep their cheap fares, has been blocked by Tory M.P.s on six occasions, and since the right hon. and learned Gentleman now understands this matter rather better because I have explained it to him, will he say whether the Government will now give time for my Bill, or introduce legislation of their own before the Summer Recess?
In view of what the Leader of the House said about the Government's willingness to facilitate the passage of one Private Member's Bill before the end of the Session, will he say whether there are any other Bills which the Government are prepared similarly to treat? Could we be told the titles of those Bills?
Mr. H. Wilson:
Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there have been discussions under the aegis of the Home Office on this question with all the parties represented? Is he not aware that expert opinion is that to give effect to the Bill would mean that the date for registering postal votes would have to be made one week earlier—in other words, almost immediately after the dissolution of Parliament—which would rule out many thousands of people entitled to postal votes so that those going on holiday should be included? Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman avoid committing himself too far on this principle until it has been properly examined?
As we have a limited time for the debate on nationalisation which follows shortly, could the right hon. and learned Gentleman set aside—we would welcome it—another day for a debate on nationalisation?
Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman, even at this late stage, accept the Motion which we have tabled and which would meet everybody's point of view?
[That, notwithstanding the Order of the House of 13th November, 1963, relating to the business for Thursday, 18th June, private Members' notices of motions shall have precedence until Ten o'clock on that day.]
The right hon. Gentleman is making a suggestion in that Motion to increase the amount of time given to private Members. He will recall that he was a member of the Government which, during their six years in office, gave an average of seven days a Session to private Members. We have given 21 days.
May I press the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give time to debate the Government's international economic policy in view of the fact that the Government have committed this country to some fairly far-reaching decisions at the recent conference on world trade at Geneva? Will the Government submit those decisions for the endorsement or otherwise of the House?
Seeing that the Report on Nuclear Power for Ship Propulsion has been studied by the Government for the last five or six weeks—at least, I hope that they have been studying it—could the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us whether or not he will fulfil the promise which was made and enable us to debate that Report?
Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) about Private Members' Bills, is it not a fact that all such Bills will be guillotined on 26th June? If the Government seek to facilitate the passage of other Private Members' Bills, does this not mean that there must be some amendment of the Standing Orders or other special Orders before that can be done?
I do not think that the hon. Member can have studied the available documents as carefully as one might have expected, because official notification has been given that the Report has been submitted, and it will be published as soon as it can be printed.
In view of what the Leader of the House has said about amending the Representation of the People Act prior to the next General Election, and of the Government's sympathetic attitude towards the Bill of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and the practical difficulties in the way of implementing his proposals, which have been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, would the Government consider giving time for the Representation of the People Act, 1949 (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, which deals with a more limited section of the electorate, and which is entirely non-controversial?
In view of the debate on agriculture which the right hon. and learned Gentleman announced for next week, would he make arrangements for his right hon. Friend to be prepared to tell the House on how many occasions during the last 50 years, other than this week, we have had to import carcase meat at the expense of hard-earned dollars?