HC Deb 16 December 1954 vol 535 cc1982-5
Mr. Attlee

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal to state the business for next week? Will he also say how far it is the intention of the Government to go tonight in dealing with the very large number of Parliamentary Constituencies Orders which are set out on the Order Paper?

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

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

MONDAY, 20TH DECEMBER—Motion to approve:

Draft National Assistance (Determination of Need) Amendment Regulations, which it is hoped to obtain by about 9 o'Clock.

Motions for appointment of:

Select Committee on Estimates.

Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure.

TUESDAY, 21ST DECEMBER—Second Reading:

Army Bill.

Air Force Bill.

Revision of the Army and Air Force Acts (Transitional Provisions) Bill.

Motions to approve:

Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Regulations, and similar Regulations for Scotland.

Two Draft Lace Industry Orders.

WEDNESDAY, 22ND DECEMBER—It is hoped to adjourn for the Christmas Recess until Tuesday, 25th January, 1955.

As is customary we shall propose that the House meet at 11 a.m., take Questions until 12 noon and adjourn at 5 p.m.

In reply to the other question the right hon. Gentleman put to me, we shall proceed with the consideration of the draft Orders in Council. We cannot say at the moment, but we hope to get them. Anyhow, we shall have to ask the House to let us have them before we rise for the Christmas Recess.

Mr. Attlee

In view of the very great importance of these matters—and, obviously, they are of interest to a large number of Members who have constituency points to raise—it would be unfortunate to have to take any of these Orders at a very late hour.

Mr. Crookshank

We must see how we get along. The right hon. Gentleman knows that yesterday quite a number of them went through quite easily.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Is the Leader of the House aware that about the National Assistance scales Regulations, which are to be submitted for approval on Monday, there is great indignation among the poorest of the poor and among the organised interests who look after them? Is he further aware that approximately 150 hon. Members of the House have signed a very strong Motion against them? Is he aware that hon. Members in all parts of the House share our concern about them? Will he consult the Prime Minister and the Ministers responsible between now and Monday with a view to withdrawing these proposals?

Mr. Crookshank

The first part of what the hon. Member said would be a suitable matter for speeches during a debate on the scales.

Mr. S. Silverman

Has the attention of of the Leader of the House been drawn to a Motion on the Order Paper signed by nearly 50 hon. and right hon. Members referring to a recent action of the Home Secretary? Will he bear in mind that the Motion is a definite and serious criticism of the action of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in his exercise of a matter for which he is responsible to the House of Commons and that the Motion contains the signatures of a number of Privy Councillors and of Members learned in the law as well as other Members? Having regard to the great public interest of the matter, and to the necessity that Parliament should control these matters in the end, will he find some time in which the House may give consideration to that Motion?

Mr. Crookshank

I do not see that there is any time before we rise for Christmas, nor would I commit myself to this particular Motion. But I do see that the latter part of it refers to the Report of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment. The House knows that some little time ago I said that I had that matter very much in mind and that I would try to see how we could fit it in for a debate. I hope it will be possible to fix a day, fairly soon after the resumption of the House after Christmas, in which to discuss a Report of the Royal Commission.

Mr. Silverman

I am very grateful for that statement and should like to express my acknowledgement of it. Nevertheless, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that we attach very considerable importance to the first part of the Motion as well as to the more general matter of principle which was added to it because it is obviously connected with it? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it is now nearly 12 months since the Commission's Report was laid, and that it has never been discussed, that the Home Secretary and the Government made no statement with regard to it and that if it had been discussed the lamentable affair referred to in the Motion might not have happened at all?

Mr. Snow

With reference to the question put by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about this afternoon's business, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he is prepared to take off the Government Whips so as to avoid giving the impression of taking party advantage? Many of the Orders are very contentious.

Mr. Crookshank

Whipping has nothing to do with me.

Mr. Lee

Can we take it from the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), that National Assistance scales would be appropriate for discussion on Monday, that the Government have an open mind and that if the speeches on the issue are convincing they will take the matter back for further consideration?

Mr. Crookshank

The hon. Gentleman must read nothing at all into what I have said.

Mr. H. Morrison

While agreeing cordially, in general terms, with the last observation of the right hon. Gentleman, is he not asking the House to believe too much when he says that he has nothing to do with whipping? Is not it well known that the relationships between any Leader of the House of Commons and the Chief Whip are bound to be close—properly close? Does he mean to assure the House that he is never consulted by the Chief Whip about whipping?

Mr. Crookshank

There are many things into which the right hon. Gentleman had better not probe.

Mr. Pannell

There has been a suggestion that we should not sit too late tonight and that we might take some of the Parliamentary Constituencies Orders next week. Will the Leader of the House bear in mind that in the case, for instance, of the West Riding of Yorkshire and Leeds, that Order is last but one in the list and that there would be very little advantage in adjourning at an early hour tonight if we are to sit until a late hour some time next week? Would not it be better and more courteous to hon. Members on both sides if, when we have adjourned for tonight, this started again at 3.30 on some day next week? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this is a very serious matter and that the House would hardly be consulting its dignity if it considered these Orders when only about hah0 a dozen of the Members intimately concerned were present? Does that not make a farce of the whole proceedings?

Mr. Crookshank

We are due to start that at 3.30 today.