HC Deb 05 December 1957 vol 579 cc615-20
Mr. J. Griffiths

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

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

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

MONDAY, 9TH DECEMBER, and TUESDAY, 10TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Local Government Bill.

Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

At the end of business on Tuesday, we propose to take the Committee stage of the Money Resolution relating to Land Drainage (Scotland).

WEDNESDAY, 11TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Park Lane Improvement Bill.

Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution, which it is hoped to obtain by about 7 o'clock;

Committee and remaining stages of the Milford Haven Conservancy Bill.

Report and Third Reading of the Trustee Savings Banks Bill.

THURSDAY, 12TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Defence Contracts Bill.

Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution, which it is hoped to obtain by about 6 o'clock;

Second Reading of the Maintenance Orders Bill.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Draft Lace Industry (Scientific Research Levy) (Amendment No. 2) Order.

FRIDAY, 13TH DECEMBER—Consideration of Private Members' Motions.

Mr. Griffiths

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider withdrawing the Second Reading of the Defence Contracts Bill on Thursday, because we believe that the Maintenance Orders Bill will, perhaps, require a full day's discussion in the House? Further, can he now make a statement as to when we may expect time to be provided for a debate on foreign affairs?

Mr. Butler

I am not sure that the Defence Contracts Bill need take a very long time; but we ourselves will certainly have a discussion as to what to do about it. We should like to try to obtain if it we can.

As regards a debate on foreign affairs, it would be the Government's wish, if we can manage it, to fit one in in the last week before we adjourn. I cannot give an exact date. That also might be arranged not only with the Opposition, but with other hon. Members who have raised the matter previously.

Mr. Griffiths

I take it that the debate will be arranged? I think that that is the general desire of hon. Members. Will the right hon. Gentleman consult with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and arrange that a White Paper shall be published dealing with the circumstances of agreements regarding the use of nuclear weapons on patrol or otherwise? This is certainly one of the subjects that ought to be raised in the foreign affairs debate, and it would be for the convenience of the House if we had a White Paper before that debate took place.

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. It may well be for the convenience of the House, but I have checked with my right hon. Friends to whom the right hon. Gentleman refers, and no actual undertaking was given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. If we can, we will; but there was no absolute undertaking. I will take note of the right hon. Gentleman's statement.

Mr. Griffiths

I agree that there is no absolute undertaking, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman did promise to consider it, and there was general approval for that promise to consider it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House will take it up with his right hon. and learned Friend in that spirit.

Mr. Beswick

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to the Motion on the Order Paper, signed by over 120 right hon. and hon. Members of the House, asking for early Government initiative in the establishment of the United Nations Force, individually recruited, as a permanent force? Can he say whether he proposes to give any time to discuss it?

[That this House, noting the withdrawal of the Indonesian contingent from the United Nations Emergency Force and the announcement that the Finnish contingent has also decided to withdraw, calls on Her Majesty's Government to support the creation of an individually recruited and permanent force of 20,000 men, operating under the control and direction of a specially constituted council set up by the United Nations, the prime task of such a force being to take up a position between opposing national armies and to garrison areas of potential conflict]

Mr. Butler

I have a copy of the Motion here. I should have thought that one opportunity for debating this would be in the debate on foreign affairs. In any case, I do not think that it would be a subject which would be kept out of such a debate. That is as far as I can go at the moment.

Mr. Harold Davies

Will the debate on foreign affairs be kept narrow in relation to our obligations or agreements within N.A.T.O. so that we can ascertain exactly what is the Government's policy? Further, can the House be assured that a Minister will be able to attend, because, during that week, the N.A.T.O. conference will be proceeding? The House should have a senior responsible Minister on the Front Bench when the debate takes place.

Mr. Butler

Our idea was to try to arrange the debate in the last week, with the idea, also, that the responsible Ministers could be present. The reason I have not named a date is that it rather depends upon the progress of the discussions at N.A.T.O. I think that it would be wrong to fix a time absolutely until we see when the Ministers can be present. We want to try to arrange a time which suits the convenience of the House and enables the Ministers to be present.

I do not think that the House would wish the debate to be limited, although, of course, coming in the same week as N.A.T.O., it would, naturally, concentrate to a large extent on that subject.

Mr. Braine

Will my right hon. Friend reject completely out of hand the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies)? Many of us here, on both sides, are acutely worried about the economic implications of the declaration of interdependence of the Western allies, and we should like, in the general context of a debate on foreign affairs and the future of the Western Alliance, to consider economic arrangements and their effect upon trade.

Mr. Butler

Certainly, provided that the debate is described as a foreign affairs debate, and not purely an economic debate, I am sure that we should welcome any interventions by any hon. Members which bring out their anxieties, because the more their anxieties are brought out the more are Her Majesty's Ministers able to dispel them.

Mr. S. Silverman

Is the House to infer from the answer given by the Leader of the House to my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) that what is planned is a foreign affairs debate after the conclusion of the N.A.T.O. discussions? Is that what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind? If so, would it not be very much better if, even at this late stage, an effort could be made to have a Parliamentary debate before the country has been committed to agreements which it would then have an opportunity of no more than commenting on?

Mr. Butler

In the circumstances, I think that it would really be better if the debate took place after the discussions at N.A.T.O. The hon. Gentleman has perceived that it is unlikely to take place before, and I can give no undertaking that we could alter the business to make it possible to have the debate before. We have discussed this matter with the Opposition, and I think that it is very difficult to find a mutually convenient date before; and it is for that reason that we have been obliged to have the debate in the next week when Ministers return.

Mr. Rankin

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the appearance of two very important Motions on the Order Paper today dealing with the desirability of marking the bi-centenary of the birth of Robert Burns, the world's poet, by the issue of special commemorative postage stamps?

[That this House is of the opinion that the bi-centenary in 1959 of the birth of Robert Burns, the National Bard of Scotland, should be marked by the issue of a commemorative postage stamp.]

[That this House, desiring to commemorate on 25th January, 1959, the bi-centenary of the birth of Robert Burns, urges the Postmaster-General to authorise a special issue of postage stamps for that occasion.]

Will the right hon. Gentleman note that those Motions have the support of both sides of the House and that they also have the support of English, Welsh and Scottish Members, betokening, therefore, a general desire on the part of the House to note this important occasion? Will he consider, in the New Year, trying to provide a day so that we might have a friendly discussion with the Postmaster-General on this matter?

Mr. Butler

It so happens, by good fortune, that the Bill we are about to discuss, the Post Office and Telegraph (Money) Bill, might give "Rabbie" Burns an opportunity of enlivening and poetising our debates on this occasion. I think that that would be to the general advantage of the House.

Mr. Griffiths

May I ask the Leader of the House whether, for the convenience of hon. Members, he will state what are the dates of the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Butler

I think that it is likely that we shall adjourn for the Christmas Recess on Friday, 20th December. I cannot at present give the date for resumption, but I will do so at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Lee

To assist the right hon. Gentleman in his avowed objective of dispelling the doubts of hon. Members, can he give a date on which he would be willing to permit the House to debate the Motion standing on the Order Paper, in the names of about 80 hon. Members, which condemns the Government's policy towards wage negotiations?

[That this House condemns the actions of Her Majesty's Government in abusing its political power by destructive interference with the established processes of collective bargaining in nationalised industries, and attempting to condition the minds of those who serve on Arbitration Tribunals to refuse applications for increases in wages, irrespective of the merits of such claims; and that it is convinced that a continuation of these policies will result in the breaking down of the negotiating machinery in these industries.]

Mr. Butler

I think that we have had a good deal of discussion about this at Question Time, and in the course of debates. I have not at present anything more to add to the enlightening replies already given by Her Majesty's Government.

Proceedings on the New Towns Bill exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[Mr. R. A. Butler.]