HC Deb 26 April 1956 vol 551 cc1972-4
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will announce the business for next week?

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

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

MONDAY, 30TH APRIL—Supply [11th Allotted Day]: Committee, which it is proposed to take formally.

Debate on Opposition Motion relating to Agriculture, which is on the Order Paper.

[That this House is of the opinion that the Annual Review and Determination of Guarantees, 1956, Command Paper No. 9721, together with the Government's continued failure to formulate a long-term plan for agriculture, undermines the confidence of the industry in its future, fails to halt the decline in the numbers of skilled farm workers, and makes it impossible for the industry to assist the nation in its balance of payments problem to the full extent of which agriculture is capable.]

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Additional Import Duties (No. 1) Order relating to Lime Oil and Bananas.

TUESDAY, 1ST MAY, WEDNESDAY, 2ND MAY and THURSDAY, 3RD MAY—Committee stage of the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill.

FRIDAY, 4TH MAY—Consideration of Private Members' Motions.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that we have a number of subjects which we are anxious to discuss in the House and which seem to us to be a great deal more important than the extremely doubtful Restrictive Trade Practices Bill—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—yes—upon which the Government are insisting and about which we have made a number of criticisms? May I ask him whether he will ensure that between now and Whitsun we shall have reasonable time to discuss those other matters, which include technical education, the Guillebaud Report and a number of Colonial Office matters as well?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. Nothing will interrupt the normal flow of the Supply Days, which we shall take in the normal course of business and I hope that nothing will interrupt the normal flow of Government business, in which we believe, namely, the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill, which we propose to pass through this Parliament. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will have opportunities available to them. For example, I think that there will be a day next week when there will be an opportunity for Supply and the Opposition can raise questions in which they are interested, leaving us the opportunity of putting through our business as well.

Mr. Awbery

Will the Leader of the House find time for the discussion of the Motion in my name on the Order Paper about the price of potatoes, about which housewives are very much disturbed? A fortnight ago potatoes reached famine prices.

[That this House regrets the failure of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to ensure an adequate supply of potatoes in Great Britain at a reasonable price; considers that, as the price of potatoes is governed by supply and demand, his action in leaving the farmers to determine what the supply and prices shall be has resulted in the recent rise in price almost to a famine figure; and calls upon him to take steps to enforce greater production of potatoes in future, so as to avoid the present violent fluctuation of prices.]

Mr. Speaker

We cannot have potatoes now.

Mr. Peart

Do I take it from the Lord Privy Seal's reply that it is not the intention of the Government to take the initiative in arranging a debate on technical education? Surely the right hon. Gentleman remembers past promises on this subject.

Mr. Butler

I have said on more than one occasion that the topic of technical education is of the first importance, but I hope that it will be chosen by the Opposition as one of their first subjects for a forthcoming Supply day. We shall certainly bear it in mind as being a matter which should be discussed in the House and I undertake to the right hon. Gentleman that we will do so; but it could be considered on a Supply day.

Mr. Marquand

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the normal flow of Government business. Does he recollect that on 8th March, when I asked him whether the Government would find time for the Bill to implement improvements in widows' pensions, he replied: … we shall certainly take the earliest opportunity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1956; Vol. 549, c. 2329.] Can I have an assurance that that promise has not been forgotten?

Mr. Butler

It has not been forgotten, and I hope that it will not be long before it is implemented.

Mr. C. Howell

Do the Government intend to provide time in the near future to consider the topic of widows' pensions, particularly the 10s. widows, who are having an increasingly difficult time?

Mr. Butler

I cannot give any undertaking on the subject of the 10s. widow, but I can give an undertaking on the other matters to which the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) has referred.

Dame Irene Ward

Can my right hon. Friend say whether legislation about widows' pensions will be introduced this Session, because there seems to be some doubt about the matter? I and many of my hon. Friends think that it is extremely important that we should make progress with that matter. I would rather deal with that than with the Motion of censure on the Government's agricultural policy.

Mr. Butler

For once we are in agreement with the hon. Lady. I hope that we shall soon introduce our legislation. We have made it more comprehensive than was originally intended, and it will include references to widows whom the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East mentioned.

Mr. Hyde

Can my right hon. Friend say when further progress with the Death Penalty (Abolition) Bill is likely to be made?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir, as soon as possible; and if the House approaches it in the spirit of yesterday, I see no reason why we should not make very rapid progress with that Bill.