HC Deb 16 May 1957 vol 570 cc577-80
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, 20TH MAY—Committee stage of the National Health Service Contributions Bill;

Report and Third Reading of the Magistrates' Courts Bill [Lords], and of the Naval Discipline Bill.

Committee and remaining stages of the Naval and Marine Reserves Pay Bill.

TUESDAY, 21ST MAY—Committee stage of the Finance Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 22ND MAY—Supply [16th Allotted Day]:

It is proposed to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on Civil Estimates and Estimates for Revenue Departments, 1957–58.

The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) informs me that he is not moving the first Amendment, relating to amenities of the countryside. The next Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) relates to the regrouping of water undertakings.

THURSDAY, 23RD MAY—Committee stage of the Finance Bill.

FRIDAY, 24TH MAY—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

Mr. Gaitskell

It would seem as though the business on Monday is rather overcrowded in comparison with the business on Wednesday, in view of the decision of the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) to withdraw his Amendment. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we cannot give an assurance that the business on Monday will be completed in that one day?

Mr. Butler

I think that it is by no means certain that Wednesday's business will be as easy as it sounds, for reasons which will appear later and which have to do with the Chairmen of Committees.

We think it quite reasonable that we shall get the business that we have put down for Monday. But we must see how we get on—I feel sure that the Opposition will collaborate.

Mr. Fernyhough

As the Lord Privy Seal will be aware, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has recently granted striking salary increases to certain members of the judiciary, ranging from £500 to £1,200 a operating can the right hon. Gentleman say when the necessary legislation for Parliamentary sanction will be enacted? Can he say what would be the position in Parliament did not give sanction and, also, why Her Majesty's Government look so sympathetically on the claims of judges and so indifferently on the claims of others no less needy?

Mr. Butler

I have no doubt that the group to which the hon. Member refers are those sitting round us in this Chamber this afternoon. I should like notice of the hon. Member's question. I will discuss the matter he has raised through the usual channels with a view to giving him an answer.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask my right hon. Friend about the Motion in my name, relating to Admiral Sir Dudley North? It is not now necessary to raise the matter owing to the gracious decision of the Prime Minister to read the papers. May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that his calculation that there would be plenty of time for me to speak during the debate on the Navy Estimates last Monday proved incorrect? Is he further aware that I had to put the Motion on the Order Paper to get the main points of my speech into the OFFICIAL REPORT, because the information about the time required for the Navy Estimates was incorrect?

[That, in the opinion of this House, the unprecedented request made by five Admirals of the Fleet, that a full naval inquiry into the removal of Admiral North from his command should have been accepted; that this opinion is strengthened by the facts, first, that Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope was Commander in Chief, Mediterranean, at the significant date when the French ships passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and, subsequently, as First Sea Lord. 1943–46, had full access to the papers: second, that Sir John H. D. Cunningham was First Sea Lord, 1946–48, with access to the papers; and, third, that Lord Fraser of North Cape, a member of the Board of Admiralty in 1940, referring to the position of Admiral North, said in another place, "That he had sufficient grounds for misunderstanding": that the fact that three separate independent authorities did not think there was a matter of urgency rather indicated that there was something wrong with orders at the time; that, as the present First Sea Lord, Lord Mountbatten, on active service supported Admiral North's view and, on his present appointment, has strengthened his case by seeing the papers at the Admiralty and advising that no inquiry can be held, it would appear that the Admiralty has something to prevent being made the subject of the inquiry his predecessors pressed for; that the Admiralty, in planning operation "Menace" was to blame for not alerting Admiral North, Admiral Somerville, and General Liddell that previous instructions relating to the French Fleet might be revised; that the Government of the day, faced with public criticism at the failure of operation "Menace", decided to censure Admiral North, and have lacked courage to face an independent assessment: and that the request of the five Admirals of the Fleet that a full naval inquiry should be held is more acceptable than the decision of Her Majesty's Government to reject it.]

Mr. Butler

My hon. Friend is in some difficulty, but I think that we had better await the result of the Prime Minister's reading before I give a further answer.

Mr. Beswiek

The Lord Privy Seal will remember that he undertook to look into the inconvenience caused to hon. Members by the practice of passing Parliamentary Questions from the Prime Minister to other Ministers. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has looked into that matter, and, if so, whether he proposes to make a statement?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

Certain questions were raised by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). I tried to meet the hon. Gentleman by saying that I would readily take all the Questions that were appropriate. There have been a considerable number of Questions about the hydrogen and nuclear bombs and there is some difficulty in knowing to which Minister Questions on those subjects should be addressed. Is that what the hon. Gentleman has in mind?

Mr. Beswick

Yes, except that the matter did come up again the following week, when it was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) and others.

The Prime Minister

I quite recognise that these Questions cover a very wide field. They cover disarmament, defence questions, scientific questions and the question of our tests. There are matters of fact and detail which fall entirely within the responsibility of Departmental Ministers on which Questions can most conveniently be addressed to them.

In view of the importance which the House rightly attaches to these matters I have, as hon. Members have probably seen recently—and I hope certainly to continue the practice—decided that all Questions which raise what one can call major issues of policy in relation to nuclear weapons and their testing, especially those which do not fall within the province of one particular Department, should be addressed to me, and I have made arrangements on that accordingly. I think that this has been operating during the last week or two.

V. Yates

I understand that the business on Wednesday on the Civil Estimates will be only up to ten o'clock Bearing in mind the most unusual experience this year that hon. Members who wished to speak on other Estimates have not be able to do so, may I ask whether there will be adequate opportunities for hon. Members to speak on the Civil Estimates?

Mr. Butler

It is not the practice to suspend the rule for the Civil Estimates

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Can the Lord Privy Seal explain why the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) has gone on strike? Can he assure us that the noble Lord has not followed the example of the Irish Member who was so disgusted with the attitude of the Government that he proposed to go on hunger strike?

Mr. Butler

The noble Lord must give his own reasons for actions which are, I am sure, perfectly honourable.