HC Deb 31 January 1957 vol 563 cc1171-7
Mr. Gaitskell

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, 4TH FEBRUARY—We find it necessary to ask the House to consider a Time-table Motion for the Rent Bill.

Hon. Members


Mr. Butler

The terms of the Motion will appear on the Order Paper tomorrow morning.

TUESDAY, 5TH FEBRUARY—Supply [1st Allotted Day].

Committee stage of the Army Supplementary Estimate and of the necessary Ways and Means Resolution.

Consideration of the Double Taxation Relief (Netherlands Antilles) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 6TH FEBRUARY—Third Reading of the Homicide Bill.

Report stage of the Army Supplementary Estimate, and of the Ways and Means Resolution, when a Consolidated Fund Bill will be brought in.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Motor Vehicles (Variation of Speed Limit) Regulations.

THURSDAY, 7TH FERBUARY—SeCOnd Reading of the Rating and Valuation Bill.

Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

FRIDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of the Private Members' Motions.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Government's proposal to introduce a Time-table Motion for the Rent Bill seems to us to be totally unjustified? Is it not extremely wrong that on a Bill of this kind, which is extremely unpopular in the country and which has by no means the universal support of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the Government should be using their power in this way? Will the right hon. Gentleman please reconsider this matter?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. The Government have given very careful consideration to the matter. It is always our wish to get this sort of Measure through by agreement if we can. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreement?"] I mean by agreement on procedure. It is clear that without this recourse to a time-table the proceedings on the Bill will be unduly protracted. It will be in the interests of everybody concerned if we accept the fact that we are putting down a Time-table Motion and pass it through the House.

Hon. Members


Mr. Mitchison

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Rent Bill is very complicated and that it affects directly millions of people, many of whom are poor tenants in small houses? Is the right hon. Gentleman's proposal to introduce a Guillotine Motion an effort to stifle discussion in view of the by-election in Lewisham, North or in view of the Tory revolt on the Bill?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir, in no sense. Our object, in introducing the time-table, is to provide a proper opportunity for issues affecting the very persons to whom the hon. and learned Gentleman refers to be properly discussed at a proper time of day. We are following the precedents of the Socialist Government on the Transport Bill and the Town and Country Planning Bill, which were introduced at this time of the year, in 1947. We are doing nothing in relation to the Rent Bill which is without precedent.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister of Housing and Local Government has publicly announced that he is thinking about the Rent Bill? Is it not highly important that the Leader of the House should give his right hon. Friend the fullest opportunity of thinking?

Mr. Butler

I am very glad to hear that my right hon. Friend is thinking about it.

Mr. Wigg

Would the Leader of the House bear in mind the importance of the Supplementary Estimate on Tuesday, and be kind enough to suspend the rule and ask the Patronage Secretary not to employ the Closure?

Mr. Butler

We will certainly consider, if the Opposition so desire, suspension for an extra hour, which would be reasonable in view of the nature and importance of this Supplementary Estimate.

Mr. T. Fraser

Will the Leader of the House tell us whether there has ever been a Guillotine on Scottish legislation? Is he aware that the Scottish part of the Rent Bill has not yet been reached in Committee and that his proposal means that consideration of Scottish legislation is being guillotined before it has been started? Will he reconsider this decision?

Mr. Butler

There are a few Clauses in the Bill of great importance relating to Scotland. The hon. Gentleman had better look at the time-table, which will be put on the Order Paper, when he will see that the Secretary of State for Scotland has taken care to see that Scottish interests are looked after in the time allotted.

Mr. Fraser

The Leader of the House will recollect that a long time ago we offered a suggestion to save time, which was that the Scottish Clauses should be dealt with by Scottish Members in the Scottish Standing Committee. Will he reconsider his previous decision and allow that to be done?

Mr. Butler

I saw the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends myself, and so did the last Secretary of State for Scotland with me. We brought forward reasons, which, I think, are very strong, why we should not refer this matter to the Scottish Grand Committee. It is particularly bound up with the Bill. It is much better that Scotland's interests should be considered in the way that we are considering them.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

In view of the poor show which the Opposition put up following the announcement of Monday's business, is it not clear that the debate on the Time-table Motion will be disposed of in a few hours'? That being so, can we not have half a day's debate on something else?

Mr. Shinwell

When will the Leader of the House provide facilities for consideration of the Motion in the name of myself and several of my hon. Friends on the subject of the proposed appointment of General Speidel as Commander of the N.A.T.O. land forces? Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance, in lieu of an early debate on this subject, that the appointment will not be implemented until the House has had an opportunity of debating it?

[That this House deplores the decision of Her Majesty's Government in giving their support to the appointment of General Speidel as Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation land forces.]

Mr. Butler

I could not give the latter assurance. As to the former point, I will discuss it with the right hon. Gentleman or through the usual channels, whichever he prefers, or both if he desires. I note his preference. I shall discuss it through the usual channels. It is my business to listen to the observations of private Members, and if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to discuss the matter with me I shall be happy to do so.

Mr. Blyton

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when is it intended to bring in regulations to give effect to the agreement between the National Coal Board and the Miners' Union for increased pensions for retired miners and widows?

Mr. Butler

I cannot give any date.

Mrs. Braddock

Has any guarantee or any prior information been given to property owners, in view of the fact that, in anticipation of the Rent Bill, many of them have requested and obtained from tenants sums of money with a view to purchase of the houses that they have rented for years, when the Bill becomes law?

Mr. Butler

My difficulty in answering the hon. Lady is that I do not think that point arises on the business for next week. It should be put to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Leader of the House aware that there is on the Order Paper a Motion, signed by 140 influential hon. Members of the party behind him, condemning the policy of the United States of America? Is he also aware that this embarrasses the Minister of Defence who is negotiating in America? Can he use his influence to have the Motion withdrawn?

[That this House congratulates the Foreign Secretary on his efforts to secure international control of the Suez Canal, and deplores both the Resolution of the General Assembly calling for immediate and unconditional withdrawal of British and French troops from Egypt, and the attitude of the United States of America which is gravely endangering the Atlantic alliance.]

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. Our party, on this side of the House, is very ready to listen to any point of view at any time. We are not ashamed, nor is my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence in the least embarrassed, that this Motion is on the Order Paper. Anglo-American relations are in a position which is in no way strained by such a Motion.

Dame Irene Ward

In view of the beneficent attitude of my right hon. Friend towards private Members, would he like to listen to me on the position of those in the small fixed income groups.

Mr. Butler

I have been listening to my hon. Friend for upwards of thirty years.

Mr. Ernest Davies

Reverting to the Motion to be discussed on Wednesday, can the Leader of the House say whether it is anticipated that the rather large amount of business which is to precede that Motion will last until 10 o'clock? As he knows, there are differing views on both sides of the House about the Regulations which were postponed from last night. Inadequate time will be available if the discussion does not begin until 10 o'clock.

Mr. Butler

I am aware of that. We would like to get the business which I announced for Wednesday, but we also realise that time will be required for the Regulations. That is a matter which can be discussed.

Mr. Gaitskell

We appreciate the action of the Government in withdrawing the Motor Vehicles (Variation of Speed Limit) Regulations last night, but we feel that in view of the desire of a number of hon. Members to speak on the Third Reading of the Homicide Bill it would be desirable further to postpone the discussion of the Regulations. They do not come into force, I understand, until May. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider that. I also wish to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said about Tuesday's business, that we should have an hour's extension so that the debate would close at 11 o'clock.

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir, the hour's extension is agreed for Tuesday. On the question of Wednesday's business, I think that we had better discuss how long the debate is to go on on the Regulations.

Mr. Ede

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not forget that we did not have other than a formal Report stage on the Homicide Bill.

Mr. Butler

That is precisely why I adopted so lenient a tone on the business for Wednesday.

Mr. G. Thomas

In view of the fact that the Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire has been in the hands of the Government since October, and deals with the period ended last June, why has a debate on that again been postponed? Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that it has been considered offensive in Wales that whenever the Government want time they push Welsh business out of the way?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. It is because my right hon. Friend is so anxious to steep himself in this subject that he does not wish to make a too hurried arrangement.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is he learning the language?

Mr. Gibson

As the Rent Bill is so complicated that lawyers disagree about what it means, and as it is quite obvious that the Minister is not quite clear what it means, is it not essential that it should have full and adequate discussion rather than be guillotined, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests? Would it not, therefore, be a good thing to postpone the Motion put down for Monday?

Mr. Butler

No, I think not. I think that, in the event, it is often the case that a Time-table Motion, properly conceived, provides a better opportunity for discussion.

Major Legge-Bourke

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have heard that the Leader of the House has announced that Tuesday's business will be the Supplementary Estimate for the Army. I am wondering whether, to help the House, you would, between now and then, be able to consider giving a ruling before that debate starts as to the extent to which it can be turned into a foreign affairs debate and the extent to which that cannot be done.

Mr. Speaker

As the debate is to be in Committee that is entirely a matter for the Chairman of the Committee.