HC Deb 27 February 1958 vol 583 cc549-53
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 MARCH—Supply [5th Allotted Day].

It is proposed to take the Report stage of the Civil Vote on Account formally. There will then be a debate on the Consequences of the Rent Act, 1957, which will take place on an Opposition Motion, until 7 o'clock.

At 7 o'clock, opposed Private Business has been appointed for consideration by the Chairman of Ways and Means.

TUESDAY, 4TH MARcH—Supply [6th Allotted Day].

Navy Estimates, 1958–59, will be considered in Committee on Vote A.

The House will recall that we accepted the recommendation made by the Select Committee on Procedure last Session, that the general debate on the Service Estimates in future should take place in Committee of Supply on Vote A.

WEDNESDAY, 5TH MARCH—Second Reading of the National Health Service Contributions Bill.

Consideration of the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) Order relating to the U.S.A.

THURSDAY, 6TH MARCH—Supply [7th Allotted Day].

Army Estimates, 1958–59, will be considered in Committee on Vote A.

FRIDAY, 7TH MARCH—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask whether it is intended to suspend the rule on Tuesday and Thursday for the Navy and Army Estimates?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. After consultation through the usual channels, and elsewhere, we have decided that a two-hour suspension until midnight will meet the wishes of hon. Members.

Mr. Page

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has noticed a Motion on the Order Paper concerning the United Nations' Report on Tanganyika?

[That this House takes note of the Report on the Trust Territory of Tanganyika made by the Visiting Mission (1957) of the United Nations Trusteeship Council.]

Can my right hon. Friend find time for this Motion, which has been signed by hon. Members on both sides of the House?

Mr. Butler

I have the Motion here, but I do not think at present that there will be time for it. I will, however, give consideration to my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Mr. Fernyhough

When the Leader of the House made the decision to suspend the rule for two hours, did he look at what happened at previous debates on the Army Estimates? Is he aware that some of us had to sit here until 5 o'clock or 6 o'clock in the morning to make our speeches? Does he not think that, when we are asked to pass Estimates of£400 million or£500 million, all Members ought to be given time to make a contribution to the debate if they so desire?

Mr. Butler

I will consider what the hon. Gentleman has said, but we thought that a suspension until midnight would be for the general convenience of the Committee when it takes these Estimates.

Mr. Oram

May I refer again to the decision of the House on 31st January to appoint a Select Committee on Procedure, and to the fact that, despite what the Prime Minister said last Thursday, nothing has yet appeared on the Order Paper? Was it not logical to assume that when the Prime Minister, last week, referred to next week, he meant this week?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir, the Prime Minister did mean this week and the names will be tabled, I hope, either today or tomorrow; at any rate, this week.

Mr. G. Thomas

Is it not unwise for the Government to seek to limit the opportunity of back benchers to criticise, if they so will, such a very large expenditure of public money? Is it not also unwise of hon. Members, who might agree on this occasion with the expenditure, to fetter themselves for occasions when they will be opposed to the spending of public money in this way?

Mr. Butler

There is no desire unduly to fetter the discussion. That is why we suggested a suspension of two hours. After consideration, and as far as we can ascertain, that is as far as it would be wise to go and I think it should give sufficient opportunity to hon. Members.

Mr. Gaitskell

Since the right hon. Gentleman referred to consultation through the usual channels, may I ask him whether it is not the case that we asked for an indefinite suspension for the debate on the Army Estimates? We all realise that we are now involved in a new procedure, and that there is room for some experiment, but we certainly do not feel that the debate should be limited on all three Estimates this year. We feel that the debate on the Army Estimates should have unlimited suspension.

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends certainly expressed the view that the Army Estimates were different from the others, but we thought, after consideration, that a reasonable and fair course would be to give a suspension of two hours for each of the two Estimates. That remains our opinion, but if the right hon. Gentleman wants to make further representations to me, I will be glad to consider them.

Mr. Gower

In view of the increased awareness of the value of the Commonwealth, does not my right hon. Friend think it might be advantageous to have at an early date a general debate on Commonwealth trade and methods of developing it?

Mr. Butler

The Government would regard such a debate as advantageous in every way, but I am not sure how we shall find the time.

Mr. Chapman

Can the Lord Privy Seal yet say when there will be a statement on the negotiations over the European Free Trade Area? Have we not waited rather too long now for a Government statement?

Mr. Butler

My right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General has been busily engaged in these matters. They involve not only Her Majesty's Government, but also very protracted negotiations with the Governments of several other European countries. When we have reached a conclusion which is suitable for a statement, we shall be ready to make it.

Mr. Lipton

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that three or three-and-a-half hours will really be adequate to discuss the consequences of the Rent Act, 1957? Does he not think that a little more time should be allotted to this important problem? I could take up three-and-a-half hours myself, just reading the letters that I have had protesting against it.

Mr. Butler

Many opportunities have been taken by the Opposition to draw our attention to the consequences of the Rent Act, and on each occasion we have had a most triumphant vindication. On this occasion the Government would have been very ready to have the whole day, but the Chairman of Ways and Means has been obliged to put down opposed private business, I presume because there is no other opening in the coming week. That is why there is this coincidence of the business on private matters with the business on the Rent Act.

Mr. Robens

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government propose to provide time for a debate on the Cohen Committee's Report?

Mr. Butler

I am not aware that we have such a project in mind at the moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because we have a certain amount of business to get through. Perhaps the Opposition would care to give up some of their time for this purpose?

Mr. Lewis

On Monday's debate, on the effects of the Rent Act, if the Leader of the House is so convinced that the House feels the same way as he does, will he seriously consider having a free vote so that we can really see what the views of hon. Members are? We know that many hon. Members opposite, including the 40 who have sent a letter to the Prime Minister, are very worried about the matter. If we had a free vote, we could see what the feeling of the House was.

Mr. Butler

Her Majesty's Government prefer to interpret the views of their own supporters themselves and not on the advice of the hon. Member.

Mr. Callaghan

Will the Leader of the House take note of the continued forbearance of the Opposition on the matter of affairs in Cyprus? Although we have no wish in any way to embarrass the Government if negotiations are now taking place, there is no indication that effective negotiations are being pursued. Will the right hon. Gentleman take note that we must return to the subject and ask for a debate in the absence of information from the Government about a statement of their position?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. The Opposition have shown a degree of forbearance on what is an extremely intractable problem and I will certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friends who are particularly concerned to the observations of the hon. Member.

Mr. Fernyhough

Mr. Speaker, in view of the inflexibility of the Leader of the House about extending the time during which we can discuss the Army Estimates, I wonder whether you will turn a blind eye next week, in the debate on the Army Estimates, towards any hon. Member who was fortunate enough to speak yesterday and is able to speak today?

Mr. Speaker

This debate will be in Committee of Supply and not for me to deal with at all. So far as I can contrive it, I never have any blind eyes.