HC Deb 13 February 1958 vol 582 cc575-80
Mr. Speaker

Mr. Gaitskell.

Mr. Gaitskell rose

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Gaitskell

Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, we can begin with the business statement. May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will announce the business for next week?

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

Hon. Members


Mr. Butler

The business next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 17TH FEBRUARY—Supply [3rd Allotted Day]: Committee.

Consideration of the following Civil Supplementary Estimates:—

Class X, Vote 5, National Assistance Board.

Class VI, Vote 10, Ministry of Supply.

Class III, Votes 1, Home Office, and 3, Police, England and Wales.

TUESDAY, 18TH FEBRUARY—Committee and remaining stages of the Commonwealth Institute Bill, and of the Recreational Charities Bill [Lords].

Committee stage of the two Money Resolutions on the Order Paper relating to Private Members' Bills, which it is hoped to obtain by about 6 o'clock.

There will then be an opportunity to debate the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland Electoral Bill, on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

WEDNESDAY, 19TH FEBRUARY—It is proposed to take the Committee and remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill formally.

A debate on Foreign Affairs will then take place on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

THURSDAY, 20TH FEBRUARY—The debate on Foreign Affairs will be resumed and concluded.

FRIDAY, 21ST FEBRUARY—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

Mr. Gaitskell

The House will have heard with some surprise that despite the result by the Rochdale by-election the business for next week is unchanged. One would have supposed that the meeting which took place in the early hours of this morning might have reached a different conclusion. In view of the catastrophe which has overtaken the party opposite, and the decline in the Conservative vote from over 50 per cent, to under 20 per cent, of the electors, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it desirable that the business for next week should be scrapped and Parliament dissolved immediately.

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. We propose to continue with our normal business for a very long time ahead and to transact it with our usual efficiency. I would say, further, to the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends that as his own candidate has been elected on a minority vote there is no reason for self-satisfaction on his part.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that questions will be about the business for next week and not about the recent by-election.

Mr. Edelman

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he will find time for a debate on the Motion on the Order Paper referring to the conduct of certain newspapers in connection with the Munich air disaster?

[That this House deplores the conduct of a section of the British Press in violating the privacy of the victims of the Munich air disaster, thereby hindering the hospital staff, and in exploiting sensation by publishing photographs of the injured and their relatives.]

Mr. Butler

There are two possibilities, either that there may be a Private Member's Motion on the subject or that the Opposition would wish to consider this subject for a Supply Day. I cannot give any undertaking that Government time can be provided to discuss this matter.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Can the Leader of the House tell us when the Prime Minister will be back—and why?

Mr. Butler

The Prime Minister, I am glad to say, will be back tomorrow morning. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The reason he is coming back is in order that the Government may be better conducted than it has been in his absence.

Mr. D. Jones

A fortnight ago today I drew the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the Motion on the Order Paper dealing with the Gowers Report in relation to railways. The right hon. Gentleman was not then able to tell me when it could be debated. Having had a fortnight to consider the matter, and in view of the result of the Rochdale by-election, can the right hon. Gentleman now tell the House when it will be debated?

Mr. Butler

I cannot give a definite date when this subject may be debated. If the Opposition are so interested in it, perhaps they might suggest a Supply Day.

[That this House regrets that, despite the assurance given by the then Prime Minister on 9th June, 1955, in regard to legislation for dealing with the recommendations of the Gowers Committee for dealing with health, safety and welfare provisions on railways, the Government have not yet seen fit to give any firm indication of their intention to implement this firm promise, and therefore calls upon Her Majesty's Government to implement immediately the assurance given by Sir Anthony Eden in June, 1955]

Mrs. L. Jeger

Can the Leader of the House say whether we are ever to hear the proposals of the Government about Cyprus, or have the Government not yet reached a conclusion? Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether a statement may be expected in connection with the foreign affairs debate next week?

Mr. Butler

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary returns today from Athens. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] We are just as keen as hon. Members opposite that progress should be made in this intractable and difficult problem. We should all applaud the efforts and courage of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary in his recent endeavours to find a solution —[Laughter.] This may make hon. Members opposite laugh, but it is a matter for tragic consideration in view of the great difficulties involved. I hope that after consultation with my right hon. and learned Friend a statement can be made. It is quite possible that it may be made in the foreign affairs debate.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is most desirable that a statement on Cyprus should be made at the earliest possible moment, because of the very distressing and difficult situation in the island itself? Will he further bear in mind that after that statement has been made it may be necessary for us to debate Cyprus as such? We do not consider that it would be desirable to debate Cyprus as part of a general foreign affairs debate.

Mr. Butler

It is our duty, under the constitution, to pay attention to what is said by the Opposition. We will note what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I will certainly have consultations with my right hon. and learned Friend on his return and also draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Gower

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he can arrange for a debate on the Welsh industrial problem, with particular reference to south-west Wales?

Mr. Butler

We are aware of the difficulties in South Wales and if an opportunity arises no doubt my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs would like to speak on the matter.

Mr. S. Silverman

Has the Leader of the House had time to consider the Motion which appeared on the Order Paper for the first time today, and which suggests that the Government should not enter into any commitments with any foreign Power about missile bases until after a General Election? Having regard to the fact that, from the demonstration yesterday, the Government no longer enjoy any moral authority, or have any right to represent this country, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government would accept that Motion?

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government not to enter into or ratify or implement any agreement with any foreign Power by which any foreign Power becomes entitled to acquire further bases on British soil or to use such bases for the purpose of missile warfare until after the electors shall have had the opportunity of declaring their wishes in a General Election.]

Mr. Butler

No, Sir, certainly not. When the Government are in a position to make a further statement upon these bases, we will do so.

Mr. Hale

When the Leader of the House refers to the use of Supply Days and Private Members' Motions, does he mean that he is not going to give any time whatever to the discussion of Motions supported by the increasingly diminishing number of back benchers who support the Government?

Further, in planning future business, will the right hon. Gentleman take into account the possibility that if, contrary to his plans, the Government are forced to fight a democratic by-election on a valid register before the President of the Board of Trade has transferred the seat of Government to Washington, Nairobi, or Durban, it may be necessary at short notice to introduce a Government Measure dealing with the question of forfeiture of electoral deposits?

Mr. Butler

The tortuous and carefully-thought-out supplementary question of the hon. Gentleman would be itself an excuse for having a full day's debate, but at the moment we have no time for such consideration.

Mr. C. Pannell

Can the Leader of the House say when the House can expect to receive the Report of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on the matter of Privilege which concerns my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), bearing in mind the increasing disquiet in the country at the operations of the London Electricity Board?

Mr. Butler

I understand that the Judicial Committee is sitting on 10th March. It will have to take its hearings and consider the case, and, ultimately, make a report to this House.

Mr. Speaker

Miss Bacon. I am sorry; Mrs. White.

Mrs. White

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. that you should make that mistake a second time.

May I ask the Leader of the House whether the hope, expressed in the Gracious Speech, of a Measure being introduced in this Session dealing with the adoption of children, including possibly the baby that the right hon. Gentleman himself has been nursing for some time, is likely to be fulfilled?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. We propose to introduce a Bill dealing with the care and adoption of children, and I hope that it will be published early next week.

Mr. Fernyhough

In view of the amount of business that the Lord Privy Seal has announced for Monday, can he say whether the Government intend to suspend the rule?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir.

Mr. Fernyhough

On a point of order. I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman meant that he was not suspending or that he could not tell me.

Mr. Butler

The answer is, No, Sir. It is a Supply Day and it is not our intention to suspend the rule.