HC Deb 23 May 1957 vol 570 cc1396-401
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, 27TH MAY—Report and Third Reading of the Agriculture Bill.

Second Reading of the Solicitors Bill [Lords] and of the Dentists Bill [Lords], which are consolidation Measures;

Consideration of the Motions to approve the Draft Ploughing Grants Scheme, and a similar Scheme for Scotland; and the Draft Motor Vehicles (International Circulation) Order.

TUESDAY, 28TH MAY and WEDNESDAY, 29TH MAY—Further progress will be made in Committee on the Finance Bill.

THURSDAY, 30TH MAY—It is proposed to take the Second Reading of the Win-frith Heath Bill, if the necessary preliminaries have been completed.

Afterwards, we shall resume the Committee stage of the Finance Bill.

FRIDAY, 31ST MAY—Consideration of Private Members' Motions.

It may be convenient if I inform the House that we expect to adjourn for the Whitsun Recess on Friday, 7th June. If good progress is made with essential business, we think it would be desirable for the Recess to extend over two weeks. I will name the date of return before putting a Motion on the Order Paper.

Mr. Gaitskell

However desirable it may be, particularly in the interests of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, that we should adjourn for a fortnight instead of ten days, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that the idea of linking this up with progress on any particular Bill is a very unfortunate suggestion to make and that we can give no possible undertaking on that subject?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I have no intention of making any conditions, because I understand the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends well enough not to do that. I simply said, "if good progress is made with essential business ", which is an obvious caution which I must put in. That is why I have not yet named the date of return. Judging from precedent by the party opposite and the Labour Governments—in 1949, 1950 and 1951 there were two weeks adjournment at Whitsun, and in the Coronation year, 1953 and in July, 1955, for other reasons, there were longer periods—I think that in relation to the general efficiency of Parliament it would be a good idea to have two weeks.

Mr. H. Wilson

Are we to assume that in the phrase "essential business" the right hon. Gentleman includes the Finance Bill, which is somewhat controversial? If he does, is he aware that hon. Members in all parts of the House will be most desirous of giving that important Bill most constructive examination and that, as an earnest of that, his own back benchers have put down about 70 Amendments, dealing principally with the Clauses relating to the overseas trade corporations? Does he intend that Amendments should be as adequately discussed as they were last year?

Mr. Butler

We rejoice to see the return of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) to the field. With his presence in discussions on the Finance Bill, we may be assured that there will be meticulous care in its handling. We are prepared to submit the Amendments of my hon. Friends to the attention they deserve and we intend that the Finance Bill should be properly considered. It also means that we should like to see some progress made, because it is a compensation for some progress that we should also get some relief from our labours.

Dame Irene Ward

In dealing with the business for next week, could my right hon. Friend see that we have some new flowers put in the boxes on the Terrace, because they are dead and look appalling?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that that is relevant to the business before the House.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether this additional week at Whitsun which is in contemplation is attributable to the anxieties expressed about Ministers being overburdened, or is intended to provide additional relaxation for overburdened hon. Members?

At the same time, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Private Bill, introduced in another place, which is intended to transfer Arundel Castle from its present owner to the State, is likely to come before this House soon?

Mr. Butler

I cannot say anything today about the Private Bill which refers to Arundel Castle. If I can, I will give the House any information when I have it in my possession.

In reply to the first part of the question of the right hon. Member, our idea was that we might freshen up the Opposition by giving them a little more relaxation. As to Ministers, we are so confident in the outcome of the report of the committee of Privy Councillors that we are already refreshed.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Is it still the intention of the Government to have an early debate on the European Free Trade Area, or has so little progress been made in three months with the work that the Chancellor gave to the working committee that it is not possible to have a debate?

Mr. Butler

We should not be able to do that before Whitsun. It is not true that no progress has been made, but it is true that the Treaty of Rome has been signed and the Customs Union has been established. That does not mean that the initiative of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is less effective than it was. When we are ready we shall be eager to have a debate.

Mr. Hamilton

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that when the Bill dealing with Arundel Castle comes before the House adequate time will be given for its discussion, because if he wants to enliven the Opposition there would be no surer way of doing so than by giving adequate time for discussion of that Bill.

Mr. Butler

That is a matter rather for the Chairman of Ways and Means than for the Government and myself, in following the normal procedure for a Private Bill.

Mr. Ede

Inasmuch as the Winfrith Heath Bill was introduced only yesterday, and is to be debated next Thursday and the deposited plans relating to it have to be studied in Dorchester, will the right hon. Gentleman consider putting a copy of the plans in the Library, or some other convenient place in this House?

Mr. Butler

I will do anything I can to ease the problem of hon. Members in examining the Bill.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that last Thursday I raised the question of the substantial salary increases to be granted to the judiciary, and that I asked him whether he could tell the House when the necessary legislation to give Parliamentary sanction to those increases would be introduced, and that he said he would discuss the matter through the usual channels? Could he now tell us what the result of that discussion was, and whether he thinks it is a desirable practice to pay out public money before having Parliamentary sanction for doing so?

Mr. Butler

I will not animadvert at the moment on the latter part of the hon. Member's supplementary question. On the former part, I would say that we cannot at present give a date for the consideration of this Bill, but we shall as soon as possible.

Mr. Ross

Has the Leader of the House consulted the Secretary of State for Scotland about the question of an extended Whitsun Recess? The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that it was, I think, only yesterday forenoon, but also at various times during the preceding night, that the Secretary of State for Scotland kept the Scottish Grand Committee sitting for 26 hours—[HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Member did."]—on the plea that he could not afford to delay the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Bill for another day. Does not the proposal to extend the Whitsun Recess make nonsense of our having been kept there all that time, instead of having adequate discussion at a reasonable time of day?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I would not say it was my right hon. Friend who kept the Committee sitting. I should say that the responsibility lay elsewhere for keeping the Committee sitting so long. The reason my right hon. Friend wanted consideration of the Bill to be concluded was so that we could make progress with it. I do not think that that is very much affected by the extension of the Whitsun Recess.

Mr. Lewis

The Leader of the House has said that he has discussed the business for next week through the usual channels. Is he aware that apart from the official Opposition the largest opposition now is the independent Conservative Party? Can he say whether or not the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinching-brooke) and the independent Conservative Party have been consulted and, if so, whether they have agreed the business for next week?

Mr. Usborne

In view of the fact that on 3rd June the United Nations is sitting in full session to discuss the possibility of rewriting the Charter which was evolved at San Fransisco, and that the United States Secretary of State has apparently been saying that the voting arrangements need complete changes, is there any possibility of this House having a debate before then to discuss this very important subject?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I will discuss the matter with my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary when he returns from abroad, but I do not see any chance of a debate on it before Whitsun.

Mr. Lewis

On a point of order. I asked a question a moment ago of the Leader of the House, and now I wish to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. We know your prerogatives, and we admit that you honourably carry out protection of the rights of back benchers, particularly of minority groups in the Opposition. It is for that reason that the Liberal Party, which is small in number, is given —and rightly so—certain rights and privileges. What I want to ask you is: what is the position of a large, declared party of about eight members, larger than the Liberal Party, which has officially appointed a leader, when it is not given any opportunity to discuss the business arrangements? Is it not right that either the Leader of the House, or, with respect to you, Mr. Speaker, you yourself, should see that those rights are dealt with in the same way as are those of the Liberal Party?

Mr. Speaker

I do not know of any parties but the three which are recognised in this House. I am aware that there are, in all parties no doubt, differences of opinion, but I have never heard it suggested that any group inside a party should be entitled to what is called "a usual channel". Until I observe any active attempt at suppression of those groups I do not think it my duty to intervene.