HC Deb 06 June 1957 vol 571 cc1464-8
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business for the first week after the Whitsun Recess?

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

Yes, Sir. The business for the first week after the Whitsun Recess will be as follows:

TUESDAY, 25TH JUNE—Supply [18th Allotted Day]: Committee, which it is proposed to take formally.

Debate on an Opposition Motion relating to the Gowers Report on Health, Safety and Welfare in Shops, Offices and Railway Employment, and Shops' Closing Hours.

WEDNESDAY, 26TH JUNE, and THURSDAY, 27TH JUNE—Further progress will be made in Committee with the Finance Bill.

FRIDAY, 28TH JUNE—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

Mr. Gaitskell

Can the Leader of the House say when the White Paper on disarmament, for which we asked last week, is likely to be ready? Also, can he say whether the Government will find time for a debate on the Report of the Royal Commission on the Law Relating to Mental Illness and Mental Deficiency?

Mr. Butler

Did the right hon. Gentleman ask when we could announce the policy on mental health?

Mr. Gaitskell

No, whether the Government would find time for a debate.

Mr. Butler

In reply to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I regret that we are not in a position at the moment to publish a White Paper on the disarmament talks. Negotiations are at present proceeding on a basis of informal consultations rather than set proposals, and they may go on for some time. As soon as we are in a position to do so, I will inform the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.

With regard to the subject of a debate on the very important Report on mental health, I suggest that we discuss that through the usual channels on the understanding that a little more time had better be given for the full consideration of this important Report.

Mr. Gaitskell

Would the Government agree that it might be desirable to have the debate on mental health before they have made up their mind, so that they can take into account views expressed in all quarters of the House?

With regard to the proposed White Paper on disarmament, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government will seriously consider publishing, at any rate, what they can, because we really are in some difficulty in this matter? The disarmament negotiations appear to be taking place in a sort of half-secret atmosphere in which some things are published and some are not. It would be very helpful to the House if, before we debate disarmament —and we wish to do it as soon as possible—we could have a statement from the Government indicating the various proposals that have been made.

Mr. Butler

The difficulty here is that we are really running under rules laid down by the General Assembly about the proceedings being held in private. I am informed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary that it has not been the custom to release the Sub-Committee's records and papers until after the end of each session. Therefore, we have to consider our partners in this enterprise as well as ourselves. Subject to that, I would certainly consider, with my right hon. and learned Friend, the right hon. Gentleman's request.

The subject of mental health is clearly a subject about which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health must have the views of not only the authorities and bodies in the country but, naturally, this honourable House. We shall endeavour to fulfil that request.

Mr. Russell

Can my right hon. Friend arrange for us to have a debate on roads soon after the Whitsun Recess, in view of the great developments which have taken place both here and abroad since we last debated the subject?

Mr. Butler

I realise that everybody is interested in roads, but we shall have to see whether there is time.

Mr. S. Silverman

Has the right hon. Gentleman given any consideration to the date—it should, if possible, be an early date—on which he could give the House an opportunity of debating a matter which is causing considerable anxiety in the House and considerable public anxiety outside, namely, the growing and secret encroachment of the Executive on the principles of civil liberty by means of the wire tapping of telephones, secret reports, and the handing out of confidential information to unauthorised persons?

Mr. Butler

I think that the hon. Member is grossly exaggerating the situation. He will be aware that any Government must take precautions to secure public order and the security of the State. There is no question of there being any enlargement of powers which are an acknowledged part of any Government and which do not form a very suitable subject for public debate. Therefore, I can give no undertaking to the hon. Gentleman, but I should like to assure him that there is nothing, I think, to which he need take undue exception.

Mr. Cole

May I support my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) and ask my right hon. Friend seriously to consider the request for a debate on roads when we return after Whitsun, in view of the developments which are taking place in this connection and also of the great importance of this matter to the House and to the economy of the country?

Mr. Butler

Certainly, Sir. It is my business to consider points of view put forward by hon. Members. As two hon. Members have expressed a view upon it. this matter will certainly receive consideration.

Miss Lee

May I ask the Leader of the House how soon he expects to have the report of the investigation which he asked Sir John Harding, Governor of Cyprus, to make into certain alleged abuses by some officers and some personnel of the Special Branch? Will he undertake to give the House an opportunity to debate the report as soon as he receives it?

Further, will the right hon. Gentleman supplement the investigation which the Governor of Cyprus is making in Cyprus by sending an independent committee to Wormwood Scrubs this afternoon to examine certain Cypriots who are there? It is alleged that these Cypriots, if they are examined now, will be important witnesses, as they claim that they have been very badly treated. If we wait until the House meets after Whitsun, this important evidence—[Interruption.] It is only alleged—I do not know—but I think that the matter ought to be investigated by an independent committee.

Mr. Butler

I.wsill immediately discuss this matter, which the hon. Lady describes as urgent, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Miss Lee

On a point of order. I give notice that I will not raise this matter on the Adjournment, because if it is true that the Home Secretary, as guardian of individual liberty, is concerned in these matters, I am entitled to have an answer now, or to take other steps to see whether these allegations about prisoners in Wormwood Scrubbs are true.

Mr. Butler

I say quite simply that I did not know that there were any Cypriots at Wormwood Scrubbs and, therefore. I must investigate the matter to which the hon. Lady has drawn my attention before I can give an answer, and also consult my right hon. Friend. If she would care to see me after the debate this afternoon and give me the facts, I will, of course, look into them immediately.

Mr. Nabarro

Having regard to the publication yesterday of the Annual Report and Accounts of the National Coal Board, accompanied by the Chairman's statement predicting further increases in the price of coal, can my right hon. Friend say whether he will be able to arrange the nationalisation days, which we are allocated, within a reasonable period so that we can discuss this important Report and the Accounts within a few weeks of publication, instead of, as on previous occasions, up to twelve months in arrears?

Mr. Butler

I will certainly look into my hon. Friend's request.

Mr. Grimond

Reverting to the question of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), does not the Leader of the House agree that it would be useful to have some discussion on how the security procedures established by the Privy Councillors are working, particularly as they seem to be extended a good deal more widely than most of us thought would be the case when we last discussed them?

Mr. Butler

This is obviously a matter of great interest to all hon. Members, as it concerns the liberty of the subject. Dr. Johnson said that to try to combine unbounded liberty with reasonable protection of the State was a very difficult thing to do. I will, therefore, be very glad to discuss this with the hon. Member. We shall see how we can best consider the matter

Mr. Paget

Has the Leader of the House observed that the Prime Minister's Questions have not been reached today and that failure to get through the Prime Minister's Questions is becoming the rule rather than the exception? As they tend to be important, will he consider the possibility of advancing the Prime Minister's Questions perhaps from Question No. 45 to Question No. 30?

Mr. Butler

I should have to consult my right hon. Friend on his convenience in this matter. Very often we have made sufficient progress to reach his Questions, but there was a particular interest in the earlier part of Question Time today in port wine, which somewhat delayed us.

Mr. Awbery

When can we expect the report of the negotiations with Abdul Rahman on the independence of Malaya?

Mr. Butler

I will inquire from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.