HC Deb 14 June 1956 vol 554 cc765-71
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, 18TH JUNE—Committee stage of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Consideration of the Motions to approve the Draft Ploughing Grants Scheme, and a similar Scheme for Scotland.

TUESDAY, 19TH JUNE—Committee stage of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 20TH JUNE—Report and Third Reading of the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Bill.

THURSDAY, 21ST JUNE—Supply [15th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate on Technical Education.

Committee and remaining stages of the Underground Works (London) Bill.

FRIDAY, 22ND JUNE—Report and Third Reading of the Family Allowances and National Insurance Bill; and of the Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Supplementation) Bill.

Mr. Gaitskell

I should like to raise three points. Will the Lord Privy Seal bear in mind that it will be most unreasonable to take the Draft Ploughing Grants Scheme Motions after the Committee stage of the Finance Bill on Monday, if the debate on the Finance Bill continues to a very late hour? Secondly, would he consider suspending the Standing Order for one hour on Wednesday, when the Report and Third Reading of the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Bill is being discussed? Thirdly, is he aware that on Thursday we propose to take Supply formally, and debate a Motion which we shall put on the Order Paper?

Mr. Butler

I think I can give an accommodating answer to the right hon. Gentleman on all those points. We shall hope to get the Draft Ploughing Grants Schemes, provided the hour is reasonable. On the second point, we agree to a continuation by one hour of the debate; and, on the third point, we understand that the procedure suggested by the Opposition is that there will be a Motion, which we shall be pleased to debate.

Mr. C. Davies

May I refer the Leader of the House to a Motion, standing in my name and the names of other hon. Members, which refers to the case of Mr. Lang? This is a matter of urgency, which raises the question of personal liberty as well as the security of the State. Could an early date be provided for a debate on this Motion?

[That this House, being gravely concerned both over the efficiency and humanity of the security services in their actions and decisions as evidenced by the case of Mr. Lang, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to review again the machinery for dealing with cases which arise outside the Civil Service and to institute a panel of independent judicial advisers to whom the evidence in such cases can be brought for consideration and advice before action is taken so that, as recommended in the findings of the Conference of Privy Councillors, the public may be convinced that the procedures in force will not be exercised unreasonably.]

Mr. Butler

I have the Motion to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman refers before me. The Minister of Supply gave some answers on this matter which, I should have thought, might have given some indication of the Government's point of view on this matter and the extent of the Government's responsibility. While I agree that the matter is an important one, I cannot at the moment hold out hope of giving time for a debate.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Leader of the House aware that we should like to support the proposal of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) for a debate at an early date on the Motion standing in his name and the names of other hon. Members?

Mr. Butler

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will examine with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery the possibility of using some of the time which is available to the Opposition for debates.

Major Legge-Bourke

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the all-party Motion. which appeared on the Order Paper this morning, embodying a tribute to Her Majesty's Armed Forces who served in Egypt? Will he say whether the views expressed therein are sufficiently in line with the views of Her Majesty's Government on the same matter to make any further debate unnecessary?

[That this House, on the occasion of the final evacuation of the Suez Canal Zone by British troops, desires humbly to reaffirm its abiding appreciation of the exemplary devotion to duty shown during three-quarters of a century by all ranks of Her Majesty's Forces in upholding the honour of Great Britain and the sanctity of her covenanted word, in bringing justice, compassion and enrichment to the weak, and in boldly withstanding the assaults of dictatorial Powers; and, more especially, in renewing its homage to the blessed memory of all those of Her Majesty's subjects who have laid down their lives in defence of Egyptian sands and soil, this House earnestly prays that the mutual interests of Great Britain and Egypt may be furthered by truth and cordiality in the years to come.]

Mr. Butler

My hon. and gallant Friend has certainly made it easier for me to reply. I noticed the Motion on the Order Paper, of which notice was given on Wednesday, embodying a tribute to Her Majesty's Forces in the Canal Zone. I am sure that I speak on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my colleagues in the Government when I say that we certainly endorse the tribute given in this Motion, which is of an all-party character, to the services rendered by Her Majesty's Forces, and the homage expressed to the blessed memory of those who lost their lives in the Canal Zone, and endorse the hope for good relations and cordiality between Britain and Egypt in the future.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, say that we, also, would desire to associate ourselves with the sentiments expressed in the Motion?

Mr. C. Davies

May I refer again to my Motion? It is of a far wider character than was indicated by any answer we obtained from the Minister of Supply the other day, which was very limited in its information. Surely this is a matter in which the Government should provide time for a debate on the broad question of the liberty of the subject.

Mr. Butler

As I said, I do not under-estimate the importance of this subject. My difficulty is a physical one of finding Parliamentary time. If I were to delude the House, I should not do it a service. I do not at the present time see a chance for a debate on this subject, unless it is taken in the manner suggested. But that does not mean that I underrate the principles to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman attaches importance.

Mr. Crouch

May I ask my right hon. Friend when he will give time for a debate on the Motion on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Sir A. Braithwaite), in my name, and in the names of many of my hon. Friends, on the question of further Commonwealth development?

[That this House, being of the opinion that the development of raw materials throughout the Commonwealth is vital in assisting the balance of payments and is essential to the prosperity of the United Kingdom and of all other countries within the Commonwealth, urges Her Majesty's Government, by achieving an annual economy in national expenditure to make available an amount equal to five per centum of the annual revenue of the United Kingdom for the exclusive purpose of providing facilities of communication, water and power which are essential to such development.]

Mr. Butler

I have been approached about this by some of my hon. Friends and by some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is, of course, an important matter, in view of the visit of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, and important in itself. I have, however, been obliged to say that I do not at the moment see an opportunity for an early debate. There may be an occasion when we can discuss this matter; if so, we shall bear the Motion in mind.

Mr. Bevan

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the Motion to which reference has been made is supported, I believe, by upwards of 250 Members on both sides of the House? There is very great interest now being taken in the development of the physical resources of overseas dependencies, and we ought to have a discussion on this matter so that we may have an appraisal of our existing opportunities, and know what is happening there.

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. As I know well, having attended the Conference in Sydney, Australia, this matter was one which was very much pushed forward; and it is one which is of great interest to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. I think it certainly would be in the public interest for it to be aired and that an opportunity should be given to show what great resources this island of ours is making available in one way or another for overseas development. But my difficulty is a physical one of finding the time. I do not underestimate the importance of the subject.

Mr. Bevan

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this is now a matter of increasing urgency? Money is being made available by the Exchequer which is not, in fact, being invested, and money is also being made available for the development of our resources by other nations. We are not even having a discussion about it in the House of Commons. Would it not be far better for the right hon. Gentleman to allow these matters to be discussed on the Floor of the House much more than they are, and send more of his Bills upstairs?

Mr. Shinwell

Important as are the merits of the subject, is there not something equally, if not more, important here? We have almost 250 Members on both sides of the House appending their signatures to a Motion which they think ought to be debated in the House. At this time, when there is so much talk on both sides of the House about the rights of private Members, how are the rights of private Members to be exercised, if the Government reject the views of private Members to the extent indicated by the Leader of the House?

Mr. Butler

We have given our usual quota of private Members' days, and there is the usual number of Supply days. It certainly is the desire of the Government that as much opportunity as possible should be given to private Members to put their views, because they can then be met by the wisdom of the Government in reply, which gives us a further opportunity of showing the success of our policies.

Mr. Patrick Maitland

Will the Lord Privy Seal bear in mind that hon. Members on both sides of the House attach very great importance to this subject, and that we hope to have a debate upon it before the House rises in July?

Mr. L. M. Lever

Might I draw to the attention of the Leader of the House the all-party Motion on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons), and other hon. Members relating to 1914–18 war disability pensioners? Is he aware that the question has now been before the Government for four years? Is it not time that the matter was debated, and, more than that, the pensioners' grievances: were redressed?

Can we have an undertaking that the matter will be put before the House in the next few weeks before the House rises for the Recess, because thousands of these men are dying every day and we want to do something before they are dead and buried?

[That this House, mindful of the great services rendered to the nation by those who lost their limbs or suffered other grievous wounds in the 1914–18 war, and seized of the fact that advancing age has aggravated the disabilities they sustained during their war service, calls upon the Government to make some additional provison, beyond that provided for by the basic disability pension assessments, to compensate them for their increased disabilities and loss of activities and amenities, and therefore, in view of the fact that the average age of these 1914–18 war disability pensioners is now sixty-five years, urges the Government to take immediate action to aid them in their remaining years.]

Mr. Butler

I do not underestimate the sincerity with which the hon. Member has put his case, but I cannot accept it in every detail. Nevertheless, I will look into the request that he has made. The House must remember that this is a very congested time of year, and that it is very difficult to give undertakings on all these subjects which can be carried out.

Mr. Shinwell

On a point of order. Might I, Mr. Speaker, ask for your guidance in the matter I referred to earlier? How are we to exercise our undoubted rights if the Government refuse—this is a very serious matter—to take notice of the wishes of private Members? Will you use what influence you possess to persuade the Government to allow us to debate this very important subject?

Mr. Speaker

I have no influence whatsoever in that quarter. I have not found the right hon. Gentleman slow to exercise the rights of a private Member. I think he is an example to the House as a whole of the way a private Member should behave.

Mr. Simon

My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor made a statement last week on a matter of great importance relating to the rights of the subject and the administration of justice, namely, affecting the right of the Crown to exclude evidence otherwise relevant from courts of justice. The two bodies most authoritative to speak on this matter, the Bar Council and the Law Society, have made known their views as to the extent of the reforms that are necessary and the method of the reforms, and my noble and learned Friend's reforms—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—really do not go very far to meet them. Can my right hon. Friend say whether there will be an opportunity to discuss the statement?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the importance attached to the question of Crown privilege, but I cannot give any undertaking that we can have a debate in the immediate future. We intend to try to give an opportunity for the subject to be debated, but I cannot guarantee that it will be before the Recess.

Mr. Callaghan

Can the House be told when we are likely to make some further progress with the Coal Industry Bill? Are we to wait until the Government have squared their supporters before the House can give further consideration to it? Who is winning the fight at the moment, the Government or hon. Members opposite below the Gangway?

Mr. Butler

The Government and their supporters are ranged solidly behind the Measure and are awaiting the support of the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends in order to make further progress.