Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th November 1970.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Birmingham Stechford 12:00 am, 12th November 1970

May I ask the Leader of the House if he will state the business for next week?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 16m NOVEMBER—Supply (5th Allotted Day): Debate on a Motion to take note of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Reports from the Committee of Public Accounts in Session 1969–70, and the related Treasury Minute.

Motion on the Motor Cars (Driving Instructions) (Amendment) Regulations.

TUESDAY, 17TH NOVEMBER and WEDNESDAY, 18TH NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the Income and Corporation Taxes Bill and of the Family Income Supplements Bill.

THURSDAY, 19TH NOVEMBER—Motions on the Army Act 1955 (Continuation) Order and the Air Force Act 1955 (Continuation) Order.

Debate on a Motion to approve the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy (Command No. 4521).

FRIDAY, 20TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Fire Precautions Bill.

Motions on the Purchase Tax (No. 2) Order, on the Patents (Fees Amendment) Order and on the Selective Employment Payments Variation Order.

MONDAY, 23RD NOVEMBER—Supply (6th Allotted Day)—The topic for debate to be announced later.

Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Birmingham Stechford

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman three brief questions? First, on the business for Thursday, there are two Motions relating to the Army Act and the Air Force Act, but there is no proposal for the introduction into this House of the Armed Forces Bill, which I understand is being introduced into the House of Lords. Is not this unusual? Does it not raise certain possible constitutional issues?

Second, is it the intention towards the end of Wednesday's Business to proceed with the Report stages of the two important Bills—the Income and Corporation Taxes Bill and the Family Income Supplements Bill—without any interval between Committee stage and Report stage?

Third, can we expect any statements on economic policy from Ministers during the forthcoming week?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising the first point, because it enables me to make the position as I see it clear.

Until the 1950s, the supply and numbers element in the Armed Forces Bill made it necessary for it to start in the House of Commons. After that time the supply and numbers element was separated from the Bill and is now taken in the Commons during the Supply debates.

It therefore seemed to me to be perfectly reasonable, so long as the undertaking that when the Bill comes to the Commons it should go to a Select Committee was honoured, that it started in the House of Lords.

I recognise that this is an unusual procedure. I took the decision myself because I thought that it made for a more convenient arrangement of the business of the two Houses. If it is found to be unsatisfactory on this occasion I would be prepared to consider a change back in the future.

As for the business for Tuesday and Wednesday, I hope that there will be little trouble about taking the remaining stages of the Income and Corporation Taxes Bill. I recognise that there may be a considerable number of amendments in Committee to the Family Income Supplements Bill, and I should like to see how we get on before coming to a final conclusion about the concluding stages.

I will ensure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer notes what the right hon. Gentleman has said about a statement on economic policy; and, if there is to be a statement, naturally it will be made to the House.

Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , South Angus

When will the House be given the opportunity to get shot of British Standard Time?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

The House will have an opportunity to decide what it wishes to do about British Standard Time in the reasonably near future, but not next week. It may be in the week after that, but I cannot be certain as yet.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Can I pursue a little further with the right hon. Gentleman, in his capacity as guardian of the historic rights of the House of Commons, the question of the Armed Forces Bill? Is the Leader of the House aware that there will be some dispute about his historical analysis and that the Bill concerns the long established rights of the House of Commons regarding supply and administration of the Armed Forces in peace time, over which one king lost his head and another lost his throne? Would the right hon. Gentleman care to justify to the House of Commons rather more fully than he has done why, for the first time in 300 years, this Measure is being introduced by the present Government in the House of Lords?

Mr. Whitelew:

It was my judgment that under the changed circumstances of the Bill this was reasonable. It was my personal judgment. I recognise that it has not been done before. I considered the matter personally, and I think that I am reasonably entitled so to do. I came to the conclusion—I do not mind saying after having had it pointed out to me perfectly plainly and clearly that this was a change from previous practice—that in the circumstances as they were it was a reasonable action to take and was for the convenience of the business of both Houses.

Having done that, I simply say that I believe that all the undertakings about the past are carried out provided that the Bill when it comes to this House goes to a Select Committee. I give that undertaking absolutely plainly. Equally, I think that since the element of supply and numbers has been removed from the Bill and is discussed in the Supply debates on defence a new situation has been created.

I merely repeat that, if there are strong feelings that, I have been wrong in what was essentially a very personal discussion, I am never so proud to believe that I am right; and, if I am wrong, we will change it in the future.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

Can my right hon. Friend persuade the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to make a statement to the House next week about some of the details of the negotiating proposals which he is putting to the Common Market on behalf of Britain? Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many people in Britain who are quite unaware of what these proposals are, yet they are widely known on the Continent?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

The undertaking which was given on behalf of the previous Government and which I gladly repeat on behalf of this Government is that, whenever there is a question of reporting on negotiations which have taken place over our application to join the Common Market, that statement will be made to the House when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster returns from such negotiations. I should like to hold to that undertaking. I do not know when the next statement is likely to be made. That will depend on my right hon. Friend's visit and on the negotiations.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

Will the Leader of the House tell us something about the machinery intended by the Government? As we are rightly devoting two days next week to debating the £8 million which is being granted to the poor, will there be any debate on the £42 million which is being granted to Rolls-Royce? Will this be done by a Supplementary Estimate or by a Bill? Will there be an opportunity for a debate?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

There will not be any opportunity to debate this subject next week. It is open to be debated on any Supply Day at the Opposition's choice if they wish. I should like to look into the other matter the right hon. Gentleman has raised and let him know the answer.

Photo of Mr Tom Iremonger Mr Tom Iremonger , Ilford North

Will my right hon. Friend provide time soon for a debate on my Motion on Police Pay?

[That this House regards the maintenance of law and order as a prime duty of government and the police forces as a prime instrument in the discharge of that duty; is concerned at the current and increasing shortage of police officers; believes that low pay and bad pay structure is a prime element in creating this shortage; and, while recognising that the Secretary of State for the Home Department and this House have no part in negotiations now proceeding through the established machinery to increase police pay and change the structure, calls upon the Secretary of State for the Home Department to give sympathetic and constructive attention to whatever agreement may be reached, and further, to recognise the general loss of confidence on the part of the police in the Police Council and, independently, to influence the Cabinet to give emphatic and urgent priority to the claim of police officers for a scale and structure of pay that will enable the Conservative Government to honour its commitment to strengthening the police forces, with special reference to differentials between ranks and the need to reward long service in any one rank; and, finally, records its admiration of the traditional British virtues of courage combined with patience and sympathy invariably shown by police officers in carrying out their duty, often in the face of vicious provocation from nihilistic and anarchical political idealists.]

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

The discussions about police pay are going on with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. When a statement has to be made on this subject, it will be made. I cannot say when that will be.

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

May I revert to the interchanges which have already taken place about the proposal to start defence and Armed Services expenditure in another place? I have not given it the same thought as the right hon. Gentleman already has, but my mind simply recoils from the proposal. Will he think even more deeply about it, because, although one might envisage this at a time of comparative peace, the situation would be impossible if, during the coming year, for example, we had increased Votes for arms in a national emergency or time of war? There must be some consistency here. I feel that the hon. Gentleman's proposal is a constitutional monstrosity.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

Perhaps I may make plain to the right hon. Gentleman that the question of Armed Forces expenditure, which comes under the heading of Supply, is dealt with in the normal way in this House when it comes up in the spring Estimates. The Armed Forces Bill now the subject of discussion is concerned mainly with discipline, not with Supply and expenditure matters. With that in mind, I took my decision, simply because it was a different sort of Bill from what it had been in the past. But I repeat that, although I thought it reasonable, if the House does not feel the same, I shall have learned my lesson and we can change it again in the future.

Photo of Mr Harold Soref Mr Harold Soref , Ormskirk

May I call my right hon. Friend's attention to Early Day Motion No. 117? In the light of the immense public interest in this subject, could he afford time for an early debate?

[That this House is deeply concerned that on the occasion of the National Remembrance Service at the Royal Albert Hall, the "Frost Programme" of Independent Television was utilised for the purpose of encouraging drug taking, violence, obscenity and the vilification of the police force; it greatly regrets that this means of public communication should lend itself, particularly on such a solemn day, to this form of anti-social and subversive propaganda calculated to undermine respect for the law and public decency; and it regrets that those so engaged, including a defendant in the Chicago conspiracy trial, were provided with the opportunity subsequently of addressing an "underground" Press conference at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, an Arts Council-sponsored establishment.]

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I note the terms of the Motion. Equally, I note that there is widespread concern on the subject in the country. I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that matters of programme content, rightly, I believe, remain the responsibility of the broadcasting authorities, and I have no doubt that the terms of the Motion will have been noted by those concerned.

Photo of Mr Frank McManus Mr Frank McManus , Fermanagh and South Tyrone

Will the Leader of the House give time for an early opportunity to debate the transport of arms from sources in this country to Northern Ireland? Is he aware that many of my hon. Friends and I feel that this could be a serious development, and does he realise that there is reliable information to the effect that 600 police-type pistols have already been dispatched, and this whole matter should be cleared up—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Gentleman may ask for time to debate a matter, but he must not debate it now.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

It would be wrong for me to enter into the policy matters which the hon. Gentleman has raised. I am afraid that I could not offer him Government time to debate the subject next week. I appreciate the importance which he attaches to it. He has his opportunities, through a Private Member's Motion if he is fortunate in the Ballot, and I shall call the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to what he has said.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the grave anxiety caused by the announcement of a 16 per cent. increase in the price of industrial coal. As we have been awaiting the Coal Industry Bill since the beginning of this Parliament, could he assure us that the Bill will be brought to the House and read the First time next week, followed by an early Second Reading debate, so that we may discuss these important matters before the Christmas Recess?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I cannot give my hon. Friend an undertaking about next week. What I can promise him is that the Bill will be introduced as soon as possible, and I very much hope that it will be possible to have the Second Reading certainly before Christmas.

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall his answer to me last week when he said that his integrity was at stake on the question of the Coal Industry Bill? Could he not tell us now when the Bill will be brought to the House for Second Reading, as his integrity and our patience are getting very thin?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I am always sorry if the hon. Gentleman feels that my integrity is getting thin, and I must look to that. I promised that the Bill would be introduced as soon as possible. By that I stand. I have already told my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) that I cannot give a guarantee for next week. I do not think that it will be next week, but it will be as soon as possible.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

Has my right hon. Friend seen the Motion standing in my name drawing attention to the views put to the Government by a deputation from the National Council of Women on certain aspects of British Railways and the transport system?

[That, in the opinion of this House, the views of the deputation, on 28th October, of the National Council of Women representing several large women's organisations led by the hon. Member for Tynemouth to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport should be conveyed to the British Transport Commission, namely, that the deputation considered the transport users' consultative committees were ineffective and in danger of breaking down, that the pledges regarding buses to replace closed-down railways should be implemented, that there should be better co-ordination between railways and buses, that the Parliamentary Secretary should ask the chairman of the British Transport Commission, Sir Henry Jones, to receive the deputation to discuss domestic issues affecting the railways, and that the deputation expressed its satisfaction that the Parliamentary Secretary had instituted two county inquiries on the problems arising from the closing down of railway lines and the need to provide other means of transport.]

As the matters raised in the Motion are matters for the Government, not for the British Railways Board, and as British Rail is getting into worse and worse habits—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Lady is drifting into the debate for which she would like time. She must only ask for time.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

I am asking for time, Mr. Speaker, and all I am doing is trying to persuade my right hon. Friend to give it.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The rules of the House apply to the hon. Lady as they do to everyone else.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I cannot promise my hon. Friend Government time to debate her Motion in the near future. However, I shall see that its terms are brought to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries.

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth Vauxhall

In view of the intense indignation felt by the whole art world and very many outside it about the Government's intention to impose an entrance fee tax on visitors to museums and galleries, will the Government provide an early opportunity to discuss this ridiculous proposal?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I cannot offer Government time to debate that subject in the near future. In giving that answer, I do not necessarily accept all that the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Hampstead

Has my right hon. Friend seen the Motion in my name and the names of about 40 hon. Members from both sides on the subject of telephone rental arrears? Does he expect to be able to find time for the House to debate the matter, even if it should mean the Minister giving a direction to the Post Office under the Act?

[That this House regrets that the Post Office Corporation has seen fit, without prior notice to its relevant subscribers, to claim a retrospective month's rental and to show it on the account as an arrears item; further considers that this action, although probably legal, is not in keeping with the best and most honourable commercial practices of private industry; and therefore calls upon the Post Office Corporation to cancel this item and, where already paid, to credit subscribers with the appropriate sum on their next account.]

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

Naturally, I have noted the terms of the Motion, but I am afraid that I cannot at present see when I shall be able to give time to debate it. It is an important matter. It will, naturally, be considered by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Posts and Telecommunications, and I shall see that his attention is drawn to it.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

May I press the Leader of the House on the question of the Coal Industry Bill? If we cannot have it next week, will he give an undertaking that we shall have it the week after, on these grounds in addition to the ones already put: first, that it would give an opportunity for my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Con-cannon) and others to repudiate the slanders which have been uttered against the miners—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Gentleman is drifting into merits.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Second, may I press the right hon. Gentleman on the ground that the Bill was all fully prepared, it was ready and already introduced to the House, and we cannot, therefore, understand the delay?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I can give the hon. Gentleman the undertaking which I have previously given, that the Bill will be introduced as soon as possible. I gave that undertaking in July. I am sorry that the Bill has not so far been introduced. There is nothing whatever sinister as regards the terms concerning redundant miners. I am most anxious to see the Bill introduced as soon as possible, but I cannot give an exact date as to when that will be.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

My right hon. Friend may have seen in yesterday's HANSARD that it was stated that his right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries hoped shortly to recast the Transport Act, 1968. When does the Leader of the House hope to give us an opportunity to get on with this necessary Measure and to dismantle some of the unnecessary bureaucratic structure—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not drift into merits.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

Not next week, or, I suspect, the week after, or the week after that.

Photo of Mr George Lawson Mr George Lawson , Motherwell

Can the Leader of the House say when he may be able to give us time to debate the Report of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I could not give the hon. Gentleman any indication of when that would be possible, but I note what he says and I shall most carefully consider it.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

At least, will the Government make a statement next week explaining to the country what their incomes policy is?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I cannot add to the answer which I gave the right hon. Gentleman last week.

Photo of Mr Thomas Urwin Mr Thomas Urwin , Houghton-le-Spring

Has the Leader of the House noted the terms of Early Day Motion No. 111 standing in my name and those of many of my hon. Friends dealing with the question of labour-only subcontracting in the construction industry?

[That this House deplores the decision of Her Majesty's Government not to introduce legislation to deal with labour-only sub-contracting in the construction industry, thereby condoning and encouraging a chaotic and completely unsocial system; and, in view of their support when in Opposition for the former Construction Industry Contracts Bill, calls upon the Government to revoke this decision, and to introduce appropriate legislation.]

Does he realise that the Government's refusal to legislate on this matter is construed as condonation of the continuation of a somewhat pernicious practice—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Gentleman must do no more than ask for time to discuss his Motion.

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is difficult for us to hear the questions and answers because there is some sort of political conference taking place immediately behind me.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

It is discourteous for hon. Members to talk in the House in such a way as to disturb other Members wishing to listen to what is being said.

Photo of Mr Thomas Urwin Mr Thomas Urwin , Houghton-le-Spring

Am I being invited to repeat my question, Mr. Speaker?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I think that most right hon. and hon. Members heard it the first time.

Photo of Mr Thomas Urwin Mr Thomas Urwin , Houghton-le-Spring

In view of the seriousness of the situation, will the Leader of the House allow time for a constructive debate to take place on this very important subject in the near future?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

If I resist the temptation to follow the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members into discussing some of the policy matters behind their questions, it does not mean that I agree with what they say. I could not offer time for a debate on this subject in the near future.

Photo of Mr Neil McBride Mr Neil McBride , Swansea East

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the chief negotiator for entry into the Common Market to find time to come to the House to give periodic reports, which should be made soon, on the business that he is conducting on our behalf?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I made it perfectly clear in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) that, just as the last Government gave an undertaking that their negotiator would make progress reports regularly to the House, so will my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Photo of Mr Don Concannon Mr Don Concannon , Mansfield

Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Employment to make a statement as soon as possible so that he can lay before the House what evidence he has for accepting that there has been violence and intimidation by mineworkers on picket duty throughout the country?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I will draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to what the hon. Gentleman has said. I cannot guarantee that a statement will be made.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock , Bedwellty

The right hon. Gentleman said earlier that the Armed Forces Bill is about discipline. Would he not accept that, because it is about discipline and affects thousands of British citizens who have comparatively few avenues for the redress of grievances, it should be dealt with in this House and not in another place?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

It will be taken in this House. All that I have done is to allow it to start its progress in another place. But, having been there, it will come to this House and will go through exactly the same procedure here as similar Bills have gone through in the past. In particular, it will go through a Select Committee.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

The right hon. Gentleman must now recognise that progress reports on a subject as important as the Common Market are not adequate. Therefore, would he reconsider the question of having an early debate? In the interim, will he put it to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that these matters will be decided, not by him in Brussels over a cup of coffee, but by the people and Parliament of this country?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. When the right hon. Gentleman gets the debate for which he asks, he will be able to talk about the cup of coffee—but not now.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I would not imagine that either my right hon. Friend or anyone else in this House would imagine that the decision will be made by anybody other than the people of this country, when it comes. I cannot promise a debate at this time. There are opportunities through the usual channels, and if the Opposition wish to choose one of their Supply Days to debate this subject that will be understood. I cannot give Government time in the near future, but I will certainly reconsider what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan Shadow Spokesperson (Scotland)

As the Leader of the House appears not to have prevailed on the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement about the Scottish economy and the impact on it of the recent economic measures announced by the Government, will he take particular heed of the request for a debate on the Report of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs so that we can make the Government aware of how much we detest their measures and how irrelevant they are?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot enter into the merits of the matter.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

It is not for me to enter into the merits of the matter. I would not accept what the hon. Gentleman says. I can understand why the hon. Gentleman should put his request to me in those terms, if he thinks that it might encourage me to give time for a debate. I cannot see that there will be time for a debate. The Secretary of State for Scotland has made various parts of the policy abundantly clear. He has spoken on the subject a great deal more often, and has made matters much clearer, than his predecessor in the last Government.

Photo of Mr David Ginsburg Mr David Ginsburg , Dewsbury

Yesterday, the Minister of Aviation Supply admitted that there would have to be a Supplementary Estimate in respect of Rolls-Royce. When will the Supplementary Estimate be presented, and may we have an early debate on it when it is presented?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman when it will be introduced. I will look into the point.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

Reverting to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) about the recent transfer of a large number of revolvers to Northern Ireland, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that there is grave disquiet that these weapons may be used for rearming the R.U.C.? If this is not true, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Home Secretary to make a statement in the House at the earliest opportunity?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I will draw my right hon. Friend's attention to what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney

I should like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to Motion No. 107, which is on the Order Paper in my name and the names of my hon. Friends.

[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Order, 1970 (S.I., 1970, No. 1537), dated 19th October, 1970, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th October, be annulled.]

As this is a prayer against a Statutory Instrument, will time be given for it either next week or before the expiry of the number of days permitted for prayers to be laid?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

The prayer relates to the Reorganisation of Central Government White Paper, which was debated on 3rd November. I cannot promise a further debate next week, but I am willing to have discussions through the usual channels if there is a wish for the prayer to be debated.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's brief but vital announcement in answer to business questions that British people will decide the issue of whether Britain enters the Common Market, will he find time next week for a statement to be made in the House amplifying his announcement this afternoon?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

What I thought I said—and perhaps, as usual, it may have been put rather badly—was that naturally when the terms came to be known a decision as to this country joining the Common Market or not would certainly be a matter to be decided in this House. I would have regarded it as very surprising if hon. Members did not reckon that they were representative of the British people.

Photo of Mr Raymond Carter Mr Raymond Carter , Birmingham, Northfield

May I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention, for the second time, to Early Day Motion No. 84 entitled "Contradictions in Government Fuel Policy"?

[That this House, in view of the possible strategic vulnerability of part of Great Britain's fuel oil supplies, as evidenced by Her Majesty's Government's obsessive anxiety to maintain a military presence East of Suez and, at least by South African proxy, in the Indian Ocean, believes that it is essential to maintain a viable coal industry in Great Britain.]

As the contradictions are growing day by day and are leaving the country in a perilous fuel situation—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot argue about his Motion. He must ask for time for a debate.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

On a point of order. I appreciate that it is extremely difficult to draw a distinction between arguing the merits and proposing an argument for why a debate should take place, but surely if an hon. Members says that the country is in an extremely perilous situation that is a question of urgency which is directly concerned with the matter of the debate. Would you not consider, possibly on reflection, Mr. Speaker, that my right hon. Friend was in order?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

The hon. Gentleman is quite right: it is difficult to draw the margin between what an hon. Member wants to say in a debate and what he wants to say when asking for time for a debate on a topic.

Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Birmingham Stechford

Further to that point of order. It will be generally recognised that it would be an abuse of Business Question Time for an hon. Member to attempt to deploy, even in outline, the arguments which he would use during a debate if a debate were granted by the Leader of the House. But equally, as I understand it, it is the practice that an hon. Member can do more than merely ask for a debate and should be allowed, within the compass of a single sentence, to deploy an argument as to why he regards the holding of a debate as important.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

As the hon. Member has said, the line is a difficult one to draw.

Photo of Mr Raymond Carter Mr Raymond Carter , Birmingham, Northfield

I will keep my comments brief. In view of what has been said before and what I have just said, will the Leader of the House find time next week to debate my Motion? If he can find time, I am prepared to give it up so that the Coal Bill can be brought forward.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I am afraid I cannot give time for a debate on the Motion next week. I note the hon. Gentleman's generous proposition and I wish I were able to take advantage of it and respond to it at once. I promise that the Bill will be introduced as soon as possible when the matters in his Motion will be able to be discussed.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan

The right hon. Gentleman in reply to my hon. Friend has said that he cannot give time for a Scottish debate on a particular issue, but is he also telling us that he can make time for a debate on the Bill?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I could not offer time for such a debate next week.

Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw

In view of the speculation about inflation and the offer of Mr. Vic Feather that there may be some restraint, which shows that he is willing to talk to the Government, does not the Leader of the House think this might be an opportune time for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a statement of his intentions on a forthcoming prices and incomes policy?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I will certainly call the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what the hon. Gentleman has said.