HC Deb 28 November 1957 vol 578 cc1284-8
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, 2ND DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Import Duties Bill.

Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Committee stage of the Isle of Man Bill.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Registration of Restrictive Trading Agreements Order.

TUESDAY, 3RD DECEMBER—Motion to approve the Draft Army Act, 1955 (Continuation) Order, 1957, which it is hoped to obtain by about 8 o'clock.

Afterwards, a similar Motion relating to the Draft Air Force Act, 1955 (Continuation) Order, 1957.

WEDNESDAY, 4TH DECEMBER—Motion for an Address seeking the opinion of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on the interpretation of the Parliamentary Privilege Act, 1770, in accordance with the recommendation contained in the Fifth Report from the Committee of Privileges.

Consideration of the Reports from the Select Committee on Procedure.

There will then be an opportunity to debate the methods by which Private Bills are objected to.

THURSDAY, 5TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Post Office and Telegraph (Money) Bill.

Committee stage of the New Towns Bill.

Consideration of the Motion relating to the Government of India (Family Pension Funds) (Amendment) Order.

FRIDAY, 6TH DECEMBER—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

It may be for the convenience of the House to know that the Crown Estates Commissioners are issuing their statement this evening on the subject of the future of the Regent's Park houses. Hon. Members may like to know that copies of the statement will be available in the Vote Office at 5 o'clock this afternoon.

Mr. Gaitskell

On Thurday's business, would not the Leader of the House agree that, normally, a full day's debate is allowed for the Second Reading of a Post Office and Telegraph (Money) Bill? That being so, will the Government consider deferring the Committee stage of the New Towns Bill until a little later?

Secondly, may I ask whether the Leader of the House will find time for a debate on foreign affairs at an early date?

Mr. Butler

On previous occasions we have taken similar Bills relating to the Post Office on a Friday, which is a half-day, so that I do not think it unreasonable to see how we get on on Thursday next I should like to leave the business as it stands so that we may see how we get on. I hope that we can make some progress, also, with the New Towns Bill.

I think that we should discuss the second request of the right hon. Gentleman through the usual channels.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

May I reinforce the plea of the Leader of the Opposition for a full day's debate on foreign affairs? Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the short foreign affairs debate on 8th November, no answer at all was returned by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs to queries raised by my hon. Friends about British sovereignty and independence in the Middle East and elsewhere? Will the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that a debate will be held in this House before the forthcoming N.A.T.O. meeting, at which irrevocable decisions may be taken, so that the new policy of interdependence may be fully explained and discussed in the House?

Mr. Butler

We will certainly discuss with the Opposition the possibility of a foreign affairs debate, and I shall be very glad to discuss it with the noble Lord, if he so desires. I realise the importance of the subject. I must also point out that there were opportunities during the debate on the Address for these matters to be raised and that, in fact, a certain opportunity was taken to raise some aspects of foreign police.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

We are grateful to the Lord Privy Seal for informing us that the Crown Commissioners are presenting their statement on the Nash Houses today. Can he say when he expects to be able to announce Government policy, and, when an announcement is made, will there be an opportunity to discuss it in the House if necessary?

Mr. Butler

Hon. Members had better read the statement. If they obtain great satisfaction from it, there may be no necessity to have a debate. I think it quite likely that they may find it very agreeable to their point of view. I certainly think that they should read it first, and then we can discuss the possibility of a further statement by the Government and a debate.

Mr. Nicholson

On Wednesday, will the whole sphere of the Report of the Committee of Privileges be under review, or will the debate he limited?

Mr. Butler

We shall be tabling a Motion tonight and my hon. Friend will then be able to see that the scope is, in fact, restricted to the point about referring this matter to the Judicial Committee. That does not mean that ingenious people may not he able to raise wider issues. But, on the whole, I think it would be in the interests of the House if the wider question in the first part of the Report were retained until we have the views of the Judicial Committee. I consider that the two things hang together. But when my hon. Friend sees the Motion which will be tabled tonight, he will be able to get a clear idea of how far he can go.

Mr. Woodburn

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what will be the form of the debate on the Select Committee on Procedure? Am I right in assuming that it will be an exploratory debate, to ascertain the views of the House, and that the Government are not proposing to table any definite proposals?

Mr. Butler

That is so, because we wish to obtain the opinions of hon. Members. While I shall probably express the attitude of the Government on these matters, without which hon. Members would not be able to make up their minds, it will not be the final and concluding debate on the subject. We shall be glad to obtain the reactions of hon. Members.

Mr. Ede

Referring to the first part of Wednesday's business, do I understand that there will not be a Motion that the Report of the Committee of Privileges be taken into consideration?

Mr. Butler

The Motion will relate simply to the one point of referring the point of law to the Judicial Committee and, therefore, it will be limited to that extent.

Mr. C. R. Hobson

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that the Post Office Bill is far wider in scope than the usual bi-annual Bill, inasmuch as the whole of the Post Office's accounting system has been changed? Will the right hon. Gentleman again consider giving a whole day to the debate? There is the further point that we have Money Orders laid before the House regarding Post Office charges which there has been no opportunity to debate whatsoever.

Mr. Butler

I realise that the form of accounting has been changed. We do not want to restrict the discussion and that is why I used the simple English expression that we should "see how we get on." If we do not get on very fast, we shall just have to listen to what hon. Members have to say.

Mr. S. Silverman

Referring once again to the projected discussion of the Report on the Committee of Privileges, does not the Leader of the House consider that the procedure proposed by the Government is most unusual, in that the Report contains three recommendations, one being that the matter was a proceeding in Parliament and the second and important recommendation that what happend in relation to it was, in fact, a breach of Privilege?

Would it not be much more in accordance with the practice of the House, and the precedents in such matters, and for the convenience of debate, if the whole Report were put in issue in the debate at one time, even though it were accompanied by some such Motion as the right hon. Gentleman proposes to put down?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I think that if the hon. Member will return to the Fifth Report of the Committee of Privileges, he will see that the Committee asks, as a result of this procedure—namely, the reference to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council—that the matter be referred back to the Committee of Privileges, because I think it will influence the view of the Committee of Privileges as to what is the conclusion of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Therefore, I think it better to refer this point of law first and have a general debate later.