Does my right hon. Friend recall that it is now a considerable time since the House of Commons has had an opportunity of debating any question of foreign affairs, and that in view of the fact that there are now proceeding in the world a great many matters, some of which are the subject of Motions on the Order Paper, which are causing great anxiety in all parts of the world, can he hold out any early hope that the House will have an opportunity of discussing them?
One of the difficulties is, of course, that we are running into the period of the year when we have six days at least on defence, but I appreciate the importance of a foreign affairs debate, particularly in view of the situation in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the United Nations. We will have a look at what can be done in this field.
In support of the last question, I asked last week whether we could have a debate about Vietnam. Does the Leader of the House think that he could go a little further? This is a serious situation. Despite the fact that no fewer than half of his hon. Friends, back-benchers, have signed a Motion criticising the Government, is he aware that he can count on our support in a debate of this kind?
There are consultations going on at present between the Government and the United States about Vietnam. I think that it would perhaps be unwise to promise a very early debate, but the House can be assured that as soon as there is anything to be said a statement will be made.
Can my right hon. Friend say how flexible the timetable for Tuesday's business is, particularly with regard to the first half? Do the Government expect the debate on the Estimates Committee's Report to be completed by seven o'clock or will it be allowed to continue?
Secondly, can my right hon. Friend say when he intends to make a statement on the control of the Palace of Westminster?
It is hoped that the debate on the Estimates Committee's Report on the Treasury Control of Establishments will not take the whole day, and to provide an adequate time for a debate on the Motion on the Prayer Book, in which there is a great deal of interest. We shall have to see how this goes. If the first Order takes the whole day, there might be some adjustment later.
On the question of the control of the Palace of Westminster, as soon as it is possible to say anything, a statement will be made, but it will be appreciated that this is not entirely a matter for Parliament.
In view of the numerous references in the Press and on the radio that a reduction in the import surcharge is imminent, could the Leader of the House arrange for the First Secretary of State or the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make an early announcement of what exactly the Government have in mind, and thus help the business houses, who do not know where they are until the position can be made clear?
May I ask my right hon. Friend a question on a matter which is causing me considerable apprehension? Can he say whether the statement which has been made, and which is in the nature of a forecast, by the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour), who is the owner of the Spectator, I believe—a very interesting periodical—that there will be an election in March, is accurate?
The right hon. Gentleman kindly said a fortnight ago that he would consult the Minister of Housing about the possibility of a debate on the development of the South-East, following the Minister's important statement. Is the right hon. Gentleman now in a position to tell us when we may have such a debate?
Has the Leader of the House seen the Motion in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends on the subject of the difficulty of potato growers in selling their potatoes and the Government's refusal to give the Potato Board any facilities for support buying? As the Board has given a tremendous amount of help in evening out the rises and falls in the potato market, and as this affects a great many constituencies, will he bring it to the attention of his right hon. Friend and give us time to debate it?
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has already said that he is keeping the potato market under review. I understand that the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Sir Richard Glyn) has given notice that he intends to raise the matter on the Adjournment.
In view of the great anxiety felt in the South-West and elsewhere as a result of the announcement of Dr. Beeching's latest proposals, will the Leader of the House make time available for a debate on this subject? Is he further aware that a Motion has been tabled today on this matter in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and myself?
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the question of the change in the surcharge is of the utmost importance and that it is appropriate that it should first be announced to the House of Commons? Will he reconsider this matter? When the surcharge was first announced the House was not sitting. The announcement was made in a White Paper. But surely, when the House is sitting, the announcement should be made in the House.
There are difficulties about this, which the right hon. Gentleman himself appreciates, but I take the point that the announcement should be made here first—because, in the general interest of the country, it should be made here first. We will bear that in mind.
Has the Leader of the House taken note of Motion No. 94 on the school building minor works programme, standing on the Order Paper in my name and the names of a large number of hon. Members? Will he be able to find time for debate on this subject, which is causing the gravest concern to local authorities throughout the country?
[That this House notes the termination by the Government of the scheme whereby local education authorities enjoyed discretion to proceed with improvements to school buildings where the cost of the improvement was less than £2,000; regrets that this action by the Government will mean considerably less being spent on school building improvement in1965–66 than in 1964–65, and will also result in unnecessary administrative delays in the commencement of important improvement projects; and shares the deep concern already expressed by teachers, local education authorities and chief education officers throughout the country as to the damaging effect that the Government's action will have on the programme to modernise schools.]
In view of the dispute with the doctors, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware of the anxiety which is felt among a large section of the public, particularly those living on small fixed incomes, about what is to happen to them? As there was no reference at all to them yesterday, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman when the Government will be making a statement about that section of the community, who are suffering great anxiety?
Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the answer which he gave to the request for a debate on Motion No. 94, to do with school building? Does he realise that the answer which he gave is erroneous, because a Written Answer given to me yesterday, from the Secretary of State for Education and Science, admits that this amounts to a reduction of £1 million? In view, of the fact that—
Order. I do not wish to single out either side of the House, but if we discuss questions of fact on the business question, it becomes much too long an interchange.
I have not said that it will not be made in the House. I said that it is desirable to make such statements in the House whenever that is possible, but that there are difficulties. I will go a little further and say that I think that in this case it almost certainly will be made in the House; but there are difficulties.
In view of the fact that the Governor of the Bank of England, for the second time in 10 days, has warned that the 3,000 million dollar loan will not be renewable in a short time unless there are great cuts in expenditure, both centrally and locally, will the right hon. Gentleman give time to debate this very urgent question, since it will affect all social services?
Can my right hon. Friend tell the House whether it is the Government's intention to provide time to debate the important subject of housing, which has not received as much time as it is entitled to receive?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that two of his Ministerial colleagues from that Dispatch Box gave us an assurance that we should have a debate on the arts early in the new year? Is he aware that on the last occasion that he answered a Question from me on this subject he hoped that we might have a debate. Today, he has been even more indefinite. In view of the disquieting rumours about the content of the White Paper on the Government and the Arts, can he give a more firm assurance now?
Although the Leader of the House last week said that he was aware of Motion No. 80, and although no doubt he has paid attention to the Prime Minister's statement that Britain is not in a position to consider entering the European Common Market, is it not time that the House had a two-day debate to discuss questions concerning our relationship with the Commonwealth before we open fresh negotiations with Europe?
May I ask about Questions next week? As today is the first occasion since Christmas on which the First Secretary has had the opportunity of answering Oral Questions, and as he will not come up to answer Oral Questions again for nearly another two months, will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether he can rearrange Questions next week so that the First Secretary will be available to answer Questions? Or is this deliberate policy by the Government to protect the First Secretary from Oral Questions from my hon. Friends?
The First Secretary needs no protection from anyone. Nevertheless, I am rather concerned about Questions. The system adopted in the last Session, which I approved and which I still think is the right system, whereby we have one Department once a week, which means seven per day instead of eight, ought theoretically to mean that Departments come up for Questions rather more quickly.
But what has happened, in addition, is that we are taking much more time over supplementary questions and much more time over supplementary answers. We have in being a Select Committee on Procedure, which could probably look at this question. If it does, it will find from its researches, as I have found from mine, that in the last 25 years we have fallen from 80 Questions a day to 33.
Following the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (The Earl of Dalkeith), is the Leader of the House aware of the Motion which has been tabled today in my name and in the names of some of my hon. Friends drawing attention to the very grave threat to Scotland's air communications created by the statement made yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Aviation? In view of the alarm and concern aroused in Scotland by that statement, will he provide time for an early debate on that Motion?