HC Deb 09 February 1956 vol 548 cc1813-6
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal 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, 13TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Charles Beattie Indemnity Bill, and, if agreeable to the House, the Committee and remaining stages.

Second Reading of the Administration of Justice Bill [Lords.]

Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Committee stage of the Local Authorities (Expenses) Money Resolution.

Committee and remaining stages of the Therapeutic Substances Bill [Lords,] which is a consolidation Measure.

Committee and remaining stages of the Police (Scotland) Bill [Lords,] which is largely a consolidation Measure.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Draft Local Authorities (Stock) Regulations.

TUESDAY, 14TH FEBRUARY—Report stage of the Housing Subsidies Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 15TH FEBRUARY—Conclusion of the Report stage of the Housing Subsidies Bill, if not already concluded, and Third Reading.

THURSDAY, 16TH FEBRUARY—A debate will take place on Capital Punishment, which will arise on a Motion to be tabled by the Government.

FRIDAY, 17TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

I should like to inform the House that since the Second Reading debate on the House of Commons Disqualification Bill we have been considering the best manner of proceeding with this Measure, and have come to the conclusion that, in view of its complexity, it would be appropriate to commit the Bill to a Select Committee. The problem of disqualification is a difficult one, and I hope that the course proposed will commend itself to the House. The necessary Motion will be tabled in due course.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal, first, when the Government Motion on capital punishment will be tabled? Secondly, can he give us an assurance that the debate will be open to a free vote?

Mr. Butler

We hope to table the Motion as soon as possible—if not tonight, then tomorrow. The debate will be open to a free vote.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the Prime Minister—whom we welcome back from Washington—be making a statement upon his discussions there and in Ottawa, and, if so, when? Further, is the Lord Privy Seal aware that we are very anxious to have a debate upon the economic situation at the earliest opportunity?

Mr. Butler

I am sure that all my right hon. and hon. Friends support the right hon. Gentleman in welcoming back my right hon. Friend from his extremely successful trip to the North American continent. He did not arrive back in time to make a statement today, but he hopes to make a statement to the House on Monday, if that is convenient to hon. Members.

I realise that the Opposition have made two special requests, one for a debate on capital punishment and the other for a debate on the economic situation. In view of the interest shown by the House in the latter subject, we shall certainly also try to make arrangements to meet that request in due course.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that, possibly through the usual channels, arrangements might be made for a two-day debate, to which we might contribute part of our time?

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman is showing very remarkable generosity in his offer, and we would certainly agree that at least part of the time—perhaps I might even say all of the time—might come out of Opposition time. At any rate, we accept his offer, and will also consider the request made from this side of the House for a two-day debate.

Dame Irene Ward

If we are to have so many days for discussion of these important matters, could we have time to debate the Phillips Report?

Mr. Butler

I anticipated that my hon. Friend would refer to the Phillips Report, but I can see no hope of a discussion in the immediate future. This is one of the many subjects waiting in the queue.

Mr. Mitchison

To return to the House of Commons Disqualification Bill, while we welcome the Government's somewhat tardy recognition of the complexity of the matters involved, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we may have an assurance that the terms of reference to the Select Committee will be so wide as fully to cover what is involved? May we also be confirmed in our opinion that, after the Select Committee has made its Report, the matter will, in the ordinary course, come before the whole House as a Committee?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. The answer to the latter part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question is that the Bill will, of course, have to be recommitted. The reason why we are choosing a Select Committee is because of the intense complexity of the Bill in the parts relating to offices of profit and to contracts. A Motion will be placed on the Order Paper to enable us to take this step, and it is at that stage that the hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. and right hon. Friends will be able to judge whether the terms of reference and so forth, are suitable.

Mr. Carmichael

May I ask the Leader of the House whether a Minister from the Scottish Office will take part in the debate on capital punishment?

Mr. Butler

I cannot say at present who the Government's speakers will be, but my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary himself must play a very prominent part in putting the Government's case. I do not know whether there will be time for a representative of the Scottish Office also to speak, but it is a matter which I will discuss with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Warbey

Can the Leader of the House say when we can have a debate on foreign affairs, in view of the fact that we have not had such a debate for seven months, and of the desire to debate the highly important matters discussed last autumn at Geneva and more recently at Washington?

Mr. Butler

No doubt, first of all, the hon. Gentleman will discuss that with his right hon. Friends on the Front Opposi- tion Bench. We shall discuss it through the usual channels, and when we have finished with these preliminaries we may be able to reach agreement.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Government will be able to provide time to discuss the very important Report on the National Health Service by the Guillebaud Committee?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. This matter has been raised before in Questions and Answers. I can give no undertaking as to a day, because I think that the Report of the Guillebaud Committee needs a little more consideration than hon. Members have yet been able to give it. It is a massive Report, and I would suggest that a little more time is necessary for consideration before we have a debate upon it.

Mr. Wigg

When the right hon. Gentleman is framing the Motion in connection with the House of Commons Disqualification Bill, will he bear in mind that this is primarily a House of Commons matter and not solely one for the two Front Benches? Will he also take note of the important Amendments already on the Order Paper in the names of myself and some of my hon. Friends?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the hon. Member's particular interest in this Bill. We shall endeavour to serve the House, as we have done already in suggesting that the Bill should go to a Select Committee, a course which I believe the hon. Gentleman himself supported.

Mr. de Freitas

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those of us who were particularly interested in getting a debate on capital punishment, and who have been waiting anxiously Thursday after Thursday to hear the announcement, were somewhat galled to learn, not from the Leader of the House, but from the B.B.C. 8 o'clock news, that the debate would be next week?

Mr. Butler

I can be responsible for a good many people, but I certainly cannot be responsible for the B.B.C. 8 o'clock news. As far as I am concerned, this decision was taken by the Government, and has been announced after immediate consultation with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his return from North America. Some people are better prophets than others.