HC Deb 30 May 1957 vol 571 cc609-18
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, 3RD JUNE—Report stage of the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Bill.

Committee and remaining stages of the Church of Scotland (Property and Endowments) Bill [Lords].

TUESDAY, 4TH JUNE—Supply [17th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate on Racial Policy in the Central African Federation, Kenya and Tanganyika.

WEDNESDAY. 5TH JUNE—ading of the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Bill until 7 o'clock.

Consideration of the Lords Amendments to the Rent Bill.

Committee and remaining stages of the Solicitors Bill [Lords], and the Dentists Bill [Lords], which are consolidation Measures.

THURSDAY, 6TH JUNE—Third Reading of the National Health Service Contributions Bill.

Second Reading of the Superannuation Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Consideration of the Motions to approve the Eggs (Guaranteed Prices) Order, and the Draft Fertilisers (United Kingdom) Scheme.

FRIDAY, 7TH JUNE—It is proposed to adjourn for the Whitsun Recess until Tuesday, 25th June.

May I add, Mr. Speaker, a short statement on the Shops Bill, which has recently come down from another place? At this stage of the Session the first claim on the time of the House must necessarily be the essential financial business and the concluding stages of the legislation, including urgent Bills recently introduced. It is clear, from studying the passage of the Shops Bill in another place, that it would require prolonged discussion in this House, particularly in Standing Committee upstairs.

The Government have, therefore, come to the conclusion that it will not be practicable to proceed with it in the present Session.

May I also make a short statement on the order of Oral Questions? The House is aware that for some time there have been representations about further opportunities for asking Questions on colonial affairs.

After discussions through the usual channels, it has been decided to rearrange the order of Oral Questions. It is proposed that, after Whitsun, Colonial Office Questions should be answered twice weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays instead of once only as at present, and that Questions to the Minister of Labour should be answered once a week on Wednesdays instead of twice weekly as at present.

In view of the much larger number of Questions put down to the Colonial Secretary than to the Minister of Labour, it is hoped that this change will commend itself to hon. Members.

As a consequence of these changes, it is proposed that the Attorney-General should answer on Tuesdays and the Secretary of State for War on Wednesdays.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his statement about the Shops Bill is completely at variance with many statements made by Government spokesmen in another place? Is it still the intention of the Government to implement the Gowers Report?

I have one other question on business. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we shall hope to have, indeed we feel that we must have, a debate on disarmament immediately after the Whitsun Recess? We would have wanted one this week had it not been represented to us by the Government that there would be great difficulty on their part, because of the present state of negotiations, in saying anything at all definite. In view of that, may I ask the Leader of the House to consult the Foreign Secretary and to see whether there can be produced for the convenience of hon. Members a White Paper, setting out the various proposals which have been put forward?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. We are obliged to the Opposition for accommodating us in the matter of not having a debate on disarmament next week. I will draw to the attention of my right hon. Friends who are chiefly concerned the question of the publication of a White Paper which might make the debate more valuable when it takes place.

In reference to the Shops Bill, I thought it my duty to make the position clear to the House. It is obvious, if we look at the long time the Bill has taken in another place, that there would not be a hope of getting the Bill through in the present Session. I could not give any undertaking about the future, because I could not anticipate the Queen's Speech for next Session.

Mr. C. Davies

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been drawn to a Motion standing in my name and the names of a great number of hon. Members relating to the much delayed meeting of the United Nations to consider the reform of the United Nations Charter? Could the right hon. Gentleman assure us that, as we obviously cannot have a debate on the matter before Monday—the United Nations meeting is to be held on Monday—awe can have the matter debated soon after we return from the Whitsuntide Recess? In the meantime, may I ask for a clear statement from Her Majesty's Government about the policy that they propose to put forward at that meeting on Monday?

[That, since the United Nations has decided to meet on 3rd June to discuss the problems involved in convening a Charter Review Conference, and since the reform of the Charter to strengthen the Assembly and Security Council and so place both in a position to command the confidence of all nations and ensure that their decisions will be respected and obeyed is desirable, this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to propose the following alterations in the Charter, namely, that the United Nations should include as of right every Sovereign State, that the Charter shall define a Sovereign State, that should a dispute arise as to whether a State is entitled as of right to be a member the question shall be decided by the International Court at The Hague, that the United Nations Assembly shall be granted such new powers and authority as may be necessary to enable it to form a directly recruited permanent United Nations Police Force and to seek the lease of such territories as may be needed to form permanent bases for this United Nations Force; that it is also the opinion of this House that such minor changes so made should lead eventually to the endowment of the United Nations with full power and authority in a defined and limited sphere to make, interpret and enforce world laws and universal national disarmament.]

Mr. Butler

I will draw the right hon. and learned Gentleman's request to the attention of the Foreign Secretary. I cannot give any undertaking about a debate after the Recess, but I will bear in mind the right hon. and learned Gentleman's request.

Mr. Nabarro

Is the Leader of the House aware that his statement announcing the demise of the Shops Bill will be greeted with enthusiasm by the shopping public, as well as by a large number of hon. Members on this side of the House?

Mr. H. Morrison

May I refer to the question put to the Leader of the House by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies)? Her Majesty's Government were invited to put forward ideas for amendment of the Charter of the United Nations. In the light of all sorts of events, the future of the United Nations is of great importance to our country. Would the Leader of the House therefore take into favourable consideration the desirability of an early debate on the organisation and future operations of the United Nations?

Mr. Butler

I always hesitate to answer policy questions at business time, but I realise the importance which the two right hon. Gentlemen attach to this matter. The general wish of the British Government for revision has been made clear. I will discuss this matter with my right hon. and learned Friend, and I will do my best to see that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are given an opportunity to state their own views.

Mr. Padley

Since the Government have described the Shops Bill as a measure to improve the social and working conditions of the 2 million people who work in the distributive trades, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it is a shameful thing that this House should adjourn for twice the length of the usual Whitsun Recess when urgent matters affecting the working population remain to be discussed? Is not this yet another betrayal of shop workers?

Mr. Butler

I sympathise with the sincerity of the hon. Member, whose speeches on the Shops Bill I have myself read. I was obliged to put before the House the stark facts of the situation. It would not make a difference even if we had one more week. We should not have a chance of getting the Bill through in time.

Mr. Padley

Why did not the Government bring the Bill in earlier?

Mr. Butler

Although the Bill was brought in at the beginning of the Session it has taken a great deal of time in another place. I recognise the sincerity of the hon. Member, but I cannot take the matter further.

Mr. Robens

Is it really the case that the Leader of the House cannot anticipate the Gracious Speech, in view of the fact that the Government have said so many times that they will implement the Gowers Committee Report? Is he not able at least to say that the Government will give favourable consideration to the reintroduction of legislation to implement the Cowers Committee Report next Session?

Mr. Butler

I cannot go further. The Gowers Committee's recommendations covered a very wide field indeed. In addition to shops, Part II of the Gowers Report includes very far-reaching suggestions for legislation which would take even more time than the present Shops Bill, which is largely concerned with regulating the hours of work in shops. It is the second part which deals with conditions in shops. I cannot go further than to say that the Cowers recommendations are, of course, of very great importance.

Dr. D. Johnson

Will my right hon. Friend find a day before the end of the Session to discuss the Report of the Royal Commission on the Law Relating to Mental Illness and Mental Deficiency?

Mr. Butler

I have just received the Report. Affecting, as it does, so many of our fellow citizens suffering from mental illnesses, I should like a little more time before deciding on a possible day for a debate on the subject.

Miss Bacon

As one who sat for a considerable time on the Gowers Committee, may I ask what use it is for hon. Members of this House and people outside to waste months of valuable time on such committees if the Government do not intend to take any notice of their recommendations?

Major Legge-Bourke

With reference to the Motion standing in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), may I ask my right hon. Friend not to assume that that Motion in any way reflects the majority opinion of this House?

Mr. Lee

Is the Leader of the House aware that his announcement that we are now to be prohibited from asking Oral Questions of the Minister of Labour on more than one day a week is viewed with grave concern? Is he aware that many of us are concerned about future levels of employment and the method by which transfers of people are taking place, and view with great concern this limitation of our opportunities to question the Minister on these important matters?

Mr. Butler

This arrangement about Oral Questions was made after consultation through the usual channels and after careful analysis of the numbers of Questions submitted to particular Ministers. On what may be described as the actuarial basis, it is right that the Minister of Labour, at the moment, should have one day. We are always proud, in this House, of being able to adjust our procedure to meet necessity and, if necessary, we can adjust it again.

Sir P. Agnew

In view of the questions addressed to my right hon. Friend about the Gowers recommendations, will he make clear that in the case of agricultural workers those relating to health, safety and welfare have already been implemented by a Conservative Government and are now the law of the land?

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether the decision to have two days for colonial Oral Questions is to be a permanent arrangement because a large number of Questions are put on colonial matters? On the assumption that a large number of Questions may be down to the Minister of Labour, will there be a reversion to the present position? What is to happen then? Does he not regard the domestic issues which arise under the functions of the Minister of Labour as at least of equal importance to colonial matters?

Mr. Butler

Yes, certainly. I remember that when I was Minister of Labour there were a great many Questions. No doubt that was due to my handling of affairs, but, thanks to the efficiency of my right hon. Friend, those Questions have been largely reduced in number and now we have received a request from all quarters of the House—not from one quarter—to have more time for colonial Questions.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the right hon. Gentleman make clear that this arrangement is not necessarily for all time and, in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), make it plain that it will be modified if, in fact, the number of Questions put changes considerably?

Mr. Butler

I am sure the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) will be grateful for the support of his right hon. Friend. I can reassure him in person that we shall readjust it if necessary.

Mr. Bellenger

In future, is the order of Questions to be decided by the volume of Questions put on the Order Paper? If so, does not the Leader of the House see where that might lead? Some hon. Members might like to have their full ration of Questions every day, as one hon. Member used to have before the war. Probably the right hon. Gentleman knows of the person, now deceased, to whom I refer. Such an hon. Member might decide to increase the volume of Questions to various other Departments. Therefore, ought we not to keep some sense of proportion in these matters, even though I recognise that once the usual channels have decided these matters they are settled?

Mr. Butler

In considering this matter with the aid of my right hon. and hon. Friends and of right hon. and hon. Members opposite, we looked at the figures relating to Questions over the last three or four years and examined, in particular, the number asked of the Minister of Labour. I think that this arrangement is for the convenience of the House.

Mr. Ross

The Leader of the House will be aware that representations have been made quite often, in particular fairly recently, in respect of the need for greater opportunities for Scottish Questions. Has the right hon. Gentleman considered what would be the effect of this rearrangement on existing opportunities in respect of Scottish Questions on a Tuesday? Can we have the assurance that this is not just the first step and that, in future, Scottish Questions can be put as well as Questions to the Colonial Secretary on Tuesdays?

Mr. Butler

We analysed the Scottish Questions and found that in recent months they have been fewer than those for Departments to which Questions are asked twice weekly. We think that the arrangement will work out well.

Mr. J. T. Price

With reference to the Shops Bill, as no doubt the announcement of the Leader of the House will be greeted with digust and dismay by millions of shop workers, will he give further consideration to the statement he has just made, that there will not be sufficient time to get the Bill through before the end of this Session? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the innumerable precedents in the records of this honourable House by which Bills have been kept alive by a Motion tabled in suitable terms? In view of the repeated pledges to shopworkers given from the Front Bench opposite, following the publication of the Gowers Report, will he give an undertaking to consider agreed machinery to keep the Bill alive, as it has already been considered for some time in another place?

Mr. Butler

I cannot enlarge on the statement I have made. I made it after very careful consideration of the situation and cannot say any more.

Mr. Hamilton

Can the Leader of the House give us any enlightenment as to the fate of the Arundel Estate Bill [Lords]? Is he aware that there is great interest in that Bill on both sides of the House? Can he give an assurance that it will not be treated any more generously than the Shops Bill?

Mr. Butler

The Arundel Estate Bill is a Private Bill and, therefore, I cannot make any statement on it myself. It must follow the usual Private Bill procedure.

Mr. Blenkinsop

With further reference to the publication of the Report of the Royal Commission on mental illness, will the right hon. Gentleman consider having a fairly early debate on it after the Recess, because of the importance of getting what, I think, will be a fairly unanimous view of the House on this vital issue and the need for the Government to press forward with its implementation?

Mr. Butler

Certainly. I will discuss that with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.

Mr. P. Morris

Have the Government filed the recommendations of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire in respect of the recommendation for a Secretary of State and other developments? That Report has been in the Government's hands for several months. If the Government attach importance to the Council, when are we likely to hear something about this Report?

Mr. Butler

We have not time at the moment. The Government attach great Importance to the Reports of the Council. Perhaps I might talk to the hon. Member about a possible opportunity.

Mr. S. Silverman

May I ask the Leader of the House whether, in view of his statement just now that the falling off in the number of Questions addressed to the Minister of Labour is due to the Minister of Labour's efficiency, he applies the same reasoning to the increase in the number of Questions directed to the Colonial Secretary?

Hon. Members


Mr. H. Morrison

I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman if he would like to answer that question. If not, may I ask a question arising out of the Arundel Estate Bill [Lords]? May we take it, as I presume we can, that the Whips will be off in relation to that Bill, as it is a Private Bill?

Mr. Butler

I am not at the moment in a position to make a statement further to that which I have made, namely, that the Bill will follow the usual Private Bill procedure. I have nothing to add to that.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Could the Leader of the House tell us whether he has observed the result of the Edinburgh, South by-election, in which it has been shown that the Government have not a majority to go ahead with the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Bill? Is he now prepared to drop this Bill for the two days next week and to give the time to the Shops Bill?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. We are gratified by winning the by-election in question and we intend to go ahead with the legislation to which the hon. Member refers.