HC Deb 02 February 1956 vol 548 cc1082-8
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state 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, 6TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Bill.

Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

TUESDAY, 7TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of the Motion relating to the Parliamentary constituency of Mid-Ulster, which it is hoped to obtain by about 6 p.m.

Second Reading of the Licensing (Airports) Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY—Report and Third Reading of the Food and Drugs (Scotland) Bill.

Second Reading of the Police (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution. This is largely a consolidation Measure.

THURSDAY, 9TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Transport (Disposal of Road Haulage Property) Bill.

FRIDAY, 10TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of Private Members' Motions.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he can tell us when the debate on capital punishment will take place, and, also, whether he can give us an assurance that the debate will be open to a free vote of the House?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the wish of the House as a whole to debate the question of capital punishment. I cannot give an exact date for the debate, but I can say that it will take place within the next two or three weeks. I will discuss it with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister immediately on his return from North America with a view to being able to let the House know when such a debate will take place. No final decision has been taken on the question of a free vote, but I understand the right hon. Gentleman to attach importance to this aspect of the question——

Mr. Gaitskellindicated assent.

Mr. Butler

—and I will bear in mind the importance he attaches to it when the final decision is taken.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman when the Government will find time for a debate on the economic situation, with special reference to the cost of living, in view of the further remarks made by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury this afternoon?

Mr. Butler

I am aware, also, that there is a desire for a debate on the economic situation. But I cannot undertake that it will take place in the immediate future; for example, it is not likely to take place next week, in view of the business we have announced. I will bear in mind the desire of hon. Members for such a debate and will discuss it with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Dame Irene Ward

Does my right hon. Friend think that the question of the Leader of the Opposition meant that at last the Opposition want to debate the Phillips Report?

Mr. Butler

It might be a good thing if the hon. Lady put herself in touch with the leader of the Opposition in order to find out for herself?

Mr. Lee

Can the Leader of the House say whether he has now had sufficient time to study the vitally important Motion on the Order Paper signed by over 100 hon. Members, relating to living costs? If so, could he now announce a date for its debate?

[That this House is gravely concerned at the unprecedented increase in living costs during a period when world prices favour their reduction; declares itself completely opposed to those economic policies pursued by Her Majesty's Government which have been responsible for this increase, and condemns the Government for the irresponsible manner in which it continues to jeopardise industrial peace in pursuit of partisan ends.]

Mr. Butler

When I announced business last week I drew attention to this Motion, a copy of which I have with me for greater accuracy. I realise that when the economic situation is discussed it would be appropriate to pay attention to the important issues raised in the Motion.

Mr. S. Silverman

Reverting to the question of the proposed debate on capital punishment, has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been called to certain statements in some of the newspapers this morning that there is a procedural difficulty which might stand in the way of the House doing what it wishes to do in this matter? If so, can he assure the House that there is no such difficulty?

Mr. Butler

The question of procedural difficulty depends upon a Ruling from the Chair and I would not presume to intervene in that matter. I am satisfied, however, that the view of the Prime Minister, as stated on 24th November, that it would be difficult for the Government, for example, to give precedence to a Private Member's Bill, still prevails. Nevertheless, that does not necessarily mean that we should be prevented from having a debate. All these matters are under discussion in the highest quarters and through the usual channels, and I would like to assure the hon. Gentleman that his sincerity, and that of his hon. Friends, in wishing to have such a debate, should not be thwarted, in my view, by any procedural difficulties if we can possibly avoid it.

Sir F. Medlicott

As the Licensing (Airports) Bill contains questions of principle connected with the sale of alcohol, and may to some extent cut across the normal Parliamentary lines, can my right hon. Friend say whether there is a possibility of a free vote being allowed?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. Although the question of alcohol is an important one, I should prefer this to remain a Government Measure and not have a free vote on this side of the House.

Mr. Gaitskeil

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that the Opposition intend to have a free vote on that Bill?

Mr. Beswick

May I ask the Leader of the House to reconsider his answer to his hon. Friend? The fact that it has been found necessary to bring forward the Licensing (Airports) Bill on a Tuesday is an indication of the deep opposition among hon. Members on both sides of the House, and, since it creates an offence in their minds and to their consciences, would he not reconsider his decision and allow a free vote?

Mr. Butler

I have noted the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition about the party opposite, but, as at present advised, I see no reason to revise the attitude of the Government towards maintaining this Bill as a Government Measure.

Mr. Nabarro

In view of the salutary importance of the publication earlier this week of the first of the independent reviews of a nationalised industry, namely, the electricity industry, and the fact that the affairs of this important nationalised undertaking have not been debated in the House for two years, can my right hon. Friend say whether it will be possible at an early date to debate both the Report and the affairs of the industry?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I am, of course, aware of the contents of the Report. As it has only just appeared, however, it would be as well for hon. Members to have a little longer to study it before we consider the possibility of debating it. This is also tied up with the study which is being urgently undertaken with a view to ascertaining how we can best consider the position of the nationalised industries in this House. The Report is a separate issue, and I think we should consider it when we have had more time to study it.

Mrs. Castle

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's admission a little while ago that jamming of broadcasts in Jordan is now taking place with the technical co-operation of the British Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—yes: the right hon. Gentleman did not deny that the technician who has aided in the installation of the equipment is employed by the British Foreign Office—will he find time for a discussion of the Motion on jamming of broadcasts which stands on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker), my name, and the names of a number of our hon. Friends?

[That this House deplores the decision by Her Majesty's Government to authorise the jamming of broadcasts from foreign transmitters and calls on Her Majesty's Government to reaffirm the traditional British acceptance of the principle of free speech in whatever form.]

Mr. Butler

I must state the position in regard to the Government of Jordan as I stated it in answer to the hon. Lady's Question earlier this afternoon and not go back on any of the statements that I then made. As for Parliamentary time for a debate on jamming, I must warn the House that we are already very full up with business and that the claims on the time for public business in respect of debates, Motions and Bills are such that I can give no undertaking that time will be found at present.

Mr. Osborne

In view of the immense importance of the debate on economic affairs, the desire of hon. Members on both sides of the House to take part, and the misunderstanding that there is both in the House and in the country on economic affairs, will my right hon. Friend consider whether it is possible to have a two-day debate instead of one day so that back benchers on both sides of the House may have a fair chance of catching Mr. Speaker's eye?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I must consider the desires of hon. Members on both sides of the House when we arrange the business in this fashion.

Mr. C. Pannell

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether there is any great enthusiasm on the benches behind him to discuss the Guillebaud Report?

Mr. Butler

The word "enthusiasm" is not one which I should have chosen, but there is a general feeling that the Report has shown how valuable the Health Service is. As my right hon. and hon. Friends have always been in the van of social progress, it is virtually very satisfactory for them to read the Report to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention. It may well be, however, that certain criticisms of the Report may also be raised by my hon. Friends.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it would not only be desirable for his hon. Friends to read the Report, but, in view of his statement that the Conservative Party regards itself as in the van of progress, it would also be desirable for them to give expression to their pleasure at the Report? Will he, therefore, find time for a debate on the subject?

Mr. Butler

I cannot undertake that there will be time for a debate on the subject as we are just entering the very busy period of the Votes on Account and Supply, but I will say that if hon. Members on all sides of the House will study the Report we shall be all the more ready for a debate, perhaps on a Supply Day provided by the Opposition.

Mr. Bevan

As there are certain recommendations in the Report concerning the capital expenditure on the Health Service and the undesirability of the level of charges, will the right hon. Gentleman make proposals to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to include some of the recommendations in his Budget?

Mr. Butler

I was unable to give any advance information about my own Budgets, and it would be far from me to give any advance information about my right hon. Friend's Budget.

Mr. Bevan

I did not ask for that. I asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would make representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer so that he may include these proposals in his Budget?

Mr. J. T. Price

While the House will welcome the announcement made by the Leader of the House that legislation will be brought forward next week to extend safety and welfare provisions to the agricultural industry, will he note that in hundreds of thousands of shops and non-industrial establishments there is great disappointment that the recommendations of the Gowers Committee Report have not yet been applied to such establishments? Can the right hon. Gentleman state the Government's intentions in this respect?

Mr. Butler

I can only say that this is one of the recommendations of the Gowers Report. We cannot take them all at the same time. The fact that we have given priority to one recommendation does not mean that we are not interested in the position of the shops. That is as important, but it must take its time in coming forward.

Mr. D. Jones

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to the Motion on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy), which draws attention to the unfair criticism of London bus drivers which was made recently by a London magistrate? Will the right hon. Gentleman find time to debate that Motion?

[That this House regrets the comments made by Mr. Geoffrey Raphael, the Marylebone magistrate, reflecting upon the general conduct of drivers of public service vehicles in London during the hearing of a case before him on Tuesday, 24th January, 1956; places on record its appreciation of the high standard of safety and courtesy maintained by the crews of public service transport in London under the ever-growing congestion of London traffic; and believes that it is not in the public interest that magistrates should resort to unwarrantable charges against omnibus drivers and Metropolitan Police.]

Mr. Butler

My attention has been drawn to the Motion, a copy of which I have here, but I can give no undertaking at present, important as we all realise the subject to be, to find time for its early discussion.