First, can the Leader of the House give us any more information yet about the possible timing of a statement on Rhodesia and the debate to follow it which has been promised?
Second, on the London Government Bill, set down for Tuesday, as a good many Amendments have been tabled, I do not see how it can be completed in the one day which the Leader of the House has allotted to it.
Third, on Orders under the Prices and Incomes Act, the right hon. Gentleman will remember that we put to him that we attached great importance to these and we asked that they should come as the first Order of the Day. The Leader of the House said that he would discuss this through the usual channels, which he has done, but he has not been able to meet us on the question of the particular Order regarding laundry prices. There are other very important Orders on the Order Paper. Will he reconsider this matter and give an assurance that those to which we attach great importance will be taken as the first Order of the Day?
On Rhodesia, all I can say is that we expect a statement by the Prime Minister early next week. I think that we ought to consult through the usual channels the moment we have that statement to see when the debate should take place.
On the London Government Bill, we are, perhaps, a little more optimistic than the Leader of the Opposition is. We had better see how we go, and we might discuss it afterwards.
On the Orders, I recognise the difficulty. There are really two groups, and there might be some other Orders as well coming along. On the Prices and Incomes Orders, we have to bear in mind that next week we are to have a two-day debate on economic affairs, when the issue can be discussed all over again. I think that we ought to see the Orders more in proportion in relation to that debate and the two days to be devoted to it, and we can, I think, regard them as normal business for after 10 o'clock.
We cannot take a general debate on economic affairs as being a substitute for a debate on particular Orders laid by the Government. We must press the Leader of the House that, when these Orders are of importance, the Government should give time for them to be taken as the first Order of the Day and not late at night, after other business.
This is a matter which we ought to consider, and I shall certainly discuss it through the usual channels, but my present view is that the issues involved in the Orders will undoubtedly be in order during those two days. This seems to me to be the point we ought to bear in mind.
Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to Motion No. 269, put down by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) and signed by many other hon. Members, including myself? In view of the very serious situation which has arisen in Germany, in spite of the denials of the neo-Nazi party there that it has no sinister intents, will my right hon. Friend see that we have an early debate, because precisely the same kind of statement was put out by the Nazis when they came into power, with disastrous results for civilisation?
[That this House, gravely concerned at the evidence of the rise of neo-Nazism in West Germany in the recent elections in Hesse and Bavaria, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to seek urgent discussions with the Governments of France, the Soviet Union and the United States of America with a view to makingjoint representations to the West German Government about ways and means of dealing with the Nazi threat.]
I agree with my hon. Friend that anyone who remembers the events of the 1920s, when the Nazis were a negligible party in precisely that part of Bavaria, has a very macabre feeling of seeing what looks like history repeating itself. But I do not think that one should jump to that conclusion.
We are to have, I believe, a two-day debate on foreign affairs, and this would seem to me to be a suitable subject for that occasion. On the particular proposal which is made in the Motion for dealing with this problem, it does not seem that that is the only or the right way of solving it.
Has the Leader of the House observed that he has carefully and calculatedly arranged the debate on economic affairs on next Wednesday and Thursday at times to coincide precisely with the immersion of 12 Tories upstairs in Standing Committee D, each one of whom would wish to take part in this important debate but who will be tied in that Committee from 4 p.m. till 10 p.m., or later, on each of those days? Is not this a deliberate and undemocratic attempt to muzzle my hon. Friends and myself?
Many of us on this side welcome the announcement of the economic debate next week because we shall then be able to discuss the seriously deteriorating economic situation, but will the debate also cover the new White Paper on severe restraint, or when are we to have that discussed?
Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the House will not be rushed into a debate on Rhodesia until the White Paper has been available for study for at least three or four days, and also give an assurance that there will be no reference of any aspect of this situation to the United Nations until the White Paper has been debated in both Houses?
We had better wait until we have the statement next week, and we had better discuss through the usual channels what is the best way of reconciling all the interests concerned in getting the right time for the debate. I am not absolutely sure that the Opposition have made up their mind when would be the most favourable moment for a debate. I think that we could find that out more easily next week when we have heard the statement.
The Leader of the House has given very specific undertakings to the House on this matter already, and I am sure that there cannot be any question of moving away from those undertakings. We made our position quite clear in previous exchanges across the Floor. Of course, we want to hear the Prime Minister's statement and see the White Paper before we can actually settle the time of a debate.
On the subject of huff and puff, will the Leader of the House give greater facilities for the Minister of Transport to answer Questions, as there were 85 Oral Questions down to her yesterday which remained unanswered orally and she has a preference for making statements outside the House rather than in it?
If the hon. Gentleman is serious about that, I can assure him that the question of the order and arrangement of Questions is one which we settle for the convenience of the House. I am prepared to consider this through the usual channels.
This is a subject on which there is some demand in the House, but I suggest that it is also a subject on which private Members might well use their enterprise and initiative to get some time for themselves on it.
Will the Leader of House consider moving from Wednesday to Monday Questions either to himself or the Attorney-General, because both Ministers are receiving a great many at present, thus seriously reducing the number answered by Ministers at the top of the list? Will he keep in mind particularly the fact that Ministers answering at No. 35 on a Monday are receiving few Questions and one of them, the Paymaster-General, gives a very short answer?
[That this House, having considered the report of the Monopolies Commission on Films, notes the findings that a monopoly exists and that it operates against the public interest, and urges the Government to follow the logic of these findings which the Commission itself has failed to do and to serve the public interest by taking sufficent powers of control and/or share of ownership in the industry to free it from domination by the Rank/ABC monopoly.]
I repeat what I said, that preparation of the Bill is going very well and that in due course it will be published. I cannot give my hon. Friend a specific date for its publication.
I want to make perfectly clear what I said. I said that immediately the Prime Minister has made his statement we shall seek, if the Opposition wish, to arrange a debate at the earliest possible moment. We shall arrange a debate if we are able to do it before any question of the reference to the United Nations comes.
I had hoped to make the statement in the debate on procedure, which would have come earlier had it not been for certain other pressing debates, but I hope that it will come as soon as possible.
[That this House, mindful of the limited opportunities for hon. Members to speak in major debates, calls on the Leader of the House to request the Leader of the Other Place to make arrangements to present Her Majesty's Commission to the Commons at times previously agreed to suit the convenience of hon. Members.]
May I return to the subject of Rhodesia? Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that whatever other considerations arise, the primary consideration must be a debate in this House after proper consideration of the statement and the White Paper before any decision is taken by the Government?
I will make my statement again. If we can do it in our time, I think I can give the assurance that we will have it as early as possible before a decision is taken. But it will be an occasion of our doing it in the time we want to do it.
No. It is a question of time-tabling. If the Opposition are to require a later time period more difficult for us, and insist on postponement of the debate, it will be difficult to fit it in, but if they will have it as early as we would like it I can keep the assurance; it would however depend on having it in the time we would wish for it.
The right hon. Gentleman has always said that it will be possible for the House to debate the matter before action is taken in the United Nations. But, at the same time, the debate, as far as the House is concerned, must take place after the House has had time for proper consideration of the Prime Minister's statement and the White Paper. Provided that the right hon. Gentleman accepts both of these, there need be no difficulty.
Since there is growing monopolisation of the Press, and danger of its becoming concentrated in the hands of one person, can we have an assurance that there will be an early debate on the subject?
Having regard to the requests for a future debate on Rhodesia, and appreciating what the right hon. Gentleman has said, may I ask whether the Prime Minister did not say yesterday that he supposed, or expected, or hoped that there will be some finality in the exchanges with Salisbury by the end of this week? Therefore, in view of the undertakings that have been given, are we to suppose that no further action in the matter will be taken by the Government in anticipation of the debate? That is the problem that is worrying many of us on both sides. Could the right hon. Gentleman clarify the position?
I do not think that there is need of clarification. The position is clear. I have given an assurance that, if we can fix it in our time, we will fix it as soon as possible and do it before the debate. This assurance stands. Provided that the Opposition are prepared to debate it in a reasonably short time after the statement, there is no difficulty.
We must be quite clear on this, because it is a matter of the utmost importance. What the House must have is full and proper time for consideration of the Prime Minister's statement after it is made and consideration of the White Paper after it is published before there is a debate. It is not a question of just being prepared to have it in the Government's time without that proper consideration. This is essential.
Bearing in mind the publication of the Church report on putting asunder and the Royal Commission recommendations, will the right hon. Gentleman give an opportunity to debate divorce and family law, or time for the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse)?
The right hon. Gentleman has caused confusion on the question of the Rhodesian debate. The normal practice, as I understand it, in such matters, is to prepare a White Paper, issue it and have a statement and then a normal discussion between the usual channels to agree on the appropriate time that should elapse before the debate. The way that the right hon. Gentleman has presented his case gives the impression that something rather different from that normal practice is to take place. He gives the impression that he has a keen idea of the subject of the debate before we debate it.
I have a keen idea of the subject of the debate and of its importance, but I also get the impression that there are really divided views opposite. I thought that I had made it absolutely clear that, if he were to have a statement, as soon as possible after the statement, with due time to consider the White Paper, we would have a debate. If that is what the Opposition want, that is what they can have next week. We will rearrange business for them and have a debate.
The right hon. Gentleman says that he is to have the debate next week, whether or not there is time—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman has said clearly that he can rearrange the business for next week and that can only mean that, regardless of whether the House regards that as being a proper time for consideration, he is determined to have the debate next week. That is what has emerged from the exchanges.
I put it to the right hon. Gentleman clearly that we must await publication of the White Paper to see its scale and the documents, and that right hon. and hon. Members should have proper time to consider it and, if necessary, discuss it among themselves before there is a debate.
No one takes up the position that the Opposition can dictate, but there are well-established traditions about what is a reasonable time for consideration of a Government White Paper in an instance such as this. The whole House has been extraordinarily cooperative with the right hon. Gentleman in not pressing for a debate while these vital talks are going on. If the Government are to publish conclusions in the White Paper, it is only reasonable that the House should have proper time to consider them before the debate.
Will my right hon. Friend take into account that both sides of the House have been extremely patient on this subject and that what some of us would regard as quite improper and injurious to the interests of this country is that, following a breakdown—if there is a breakdown—of the talks, and the publication of the White Paper, there should be a long interval in which the country's policy was unknown? This could be most damaging. It appears to many of us that that is what the Opposition desire.
As the right hon. Gentleman has endorsed the view of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), I flatly deny that what the hon. Gentleman said is the case. The impression we are getting from the right hon. Gentleman is that he is trying to bounce the House into a debate without even 48 hours in which to consider a White Paper of the utmost importance. If the Prime Minister is to make a statement, presumably he will indicate the Government's policy in any case. It would not be unusual for him to do so. We must have proper time to consider it. The Opposition will be perfectly reasonable about the amount of that time, but we are not going to be stampeded into a rush debate without proper time to consider it.
In view of the recent correspondence between the National Executive of the Labour Party and the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers concerning the control of the investment policies of insurance companies, might we expect next week either a White Paper or a statement from the Government on their proposals to secure greater control over the investment policies of the pension funds of private insurance companies?
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of the House has perfectly clear principles on the Rhodesian issue, that any normally educated person can read a White Paper in 24 hours, and that we on this side of the House do not need three days in which to paper over cracks in a complete chaos of principle on this important issue?
Mr. Gresham Cooke:
Has the right hon. Gentleman seen item No. 19 in the Orders of the Day published this morning, in which my hon. Friends and I ask that it be an Instruction to Standing Committee E to have power to make provision in the Road Safety Bill for any matter with respect to road safety?
Is he aware that the Long Title of the Bill is so tightly drawn that only subjects relating to drink and driving and heavy vehicles can be discussed and that subjects of general road safety are being ruled out of order, and—
This is a subject which it would be easier for the hon. Gentleman to discuss with me not across the Floor of the House. I shall certainly listen to what he has to say to see whether I can find a way out of the difficulty.
Recognising the extreme complexity of the rate support grant Order which will be brought before the House very shortly, will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that there will be at least 10 days between the publication of that Order and the debate on it?