HC Deb 30 January 1958 vol 581 cc514-20
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal 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)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 3RD FEBRUARY—Debate on the Report of the Bank Rate Tribunal.

TUESDAY, 4TH FEBRUARY will be the 2nd allotted Supply Day, in accordance with the arrangements previously made with the Leader of the Opposition.

It is proposed to take formally the Report stages of the Civil Supplementary Estimates relating to Agriculture and Food Grants, which are being considered in Committee today.

The debate on the Report of the Bank Rate Tribunal will be resumed and concluded.

WEDNESDAY, 5TH FEBRUARY—committee and remaining stages of the British Nationality Bill [Lords]; the Overseas Resources Development Bill; and of the Entertainments Duty Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation Measure.

Third Reading of the Import Duties Bill.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Draft Cinematograph Films (Distribution of Levy) (Amendment) Regulations

THURSDAY, 6TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill, which it is proposed to take formally.

A debate will take place on Industrial Relations on a Motion to be tabled by the Opposition.

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

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he can say when the reply to Marshal Bulganin about a Summit Conference is likely to be sent? Various reports are appearing in the Press and it is desirable that this matter should be cleared up as soon as possible. Can the right hon. Gentleman also say when he will be able to make a statement on the exact position regarding aircraft on patrol carrying hydrogen bombs? Is he further aware that we shall very likely wish to have a day to debate this matter and other aspects of foreign affairs in the near future?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. We had received definite notice that the Opposition would wish to debate foreign affairs. I cannot give a date for the reply to Marshal Bulganin, but it will be sent when we have completed it. The question of making a statement on the aircraft had, I think, better arise in the light of any Questions which are on the Order Paper as to a particular or noted aspect of this matter on which the right hon. Gentleman would wish further information.

Mr. Gaitskell

On that last point, the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to say he would consider making a definitive statement of the position. Am I to understand from that that he does not intend to do so unless further Questions are put down? We can easily arrange for such further Questions, if he requires them.

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I do not wish there to be further repetition. I wish to examine the nature of further points that hon. Members may desire to make before finally deciding on the nature of any statement that may be made. I should be the first not to desire any further repetition. Indeed, I am in some doubt whether any further repetition would be in order, considering the number of times that this matter has been raised.

Mr. Gaitskell

It is not a question of repetition it is a question of the Government making a clear statement in view of the contradictory remarks on this subject made by Ministers from the Treasury Bench. I am asking the acting Prime Minister now whether he will be good enough to make a clear statement showing exactly what is the position.

Mr. Butler

I certainly will not go back on what I said in answer to a Question, namely, that I have been considering the best occasion on which to make a statement. Being a wise man, I wanted to examine the Order Paper first to see what matters were to be raised.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he can tell us what Motion we are to have on the Order Paper to debate on Monday and Tuesday? Will he bear in mind that I should like to see a very strong Government Motion castigating the Opposition for their despicable attack on men of integrity?

Mr. Butler

I hope that my hon. Friend may have an opportunity of expressing her views during the debate, if she has the honour to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. The Government are tabling a Motion tonight which, I hope, will not disappoint my hon. Friend.

Mr. E. Fletcher

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that if we are to have a comprehensive debate on the Report of the Bank Rate Tribunal, and the circumstances leading up to it, there is one most important and relevant document which has not yet been published? I refer to the report of his own private investigations made by the Lord Chancellor to the Prime Minister. Will the Leader of the House arrange for that report to be circulated and to be in the hands of hon. Members before the debate on Monday?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I thought that it had already been stated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—and if not, if I am wrong, I will say so now—that it is not our intention to publish that report—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]We can go into this in more detail on Monday and Tuesday, but the position is that the Opposition put certain evidence before my right hon. Friend and the Government. My right hon. Friend asked the Lord Chancellor to find whether there was a prima facie case for a further inquiry. The Lord Chancellor came to the conclusion that there was not, and the Opposition then pursued the matter nevertheless. Eventually, after some rather distressing circumstances which I will not go into this afternoon, the Government decided to set up a tribunal. It is not our intention to publish the report of the Lord Chancellor's preliminary investigations.

Sir A. V. Harvey

With reference to the question by the Leader of the Opposition about aircraft carrying hydrogen bombs, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend will give an undertaking to give full information to the House and the country only when the Soviet Union does likewise?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Peart

Will the acting Prime Minister take note of the Motion on today's Order Paper condemning the economy circular of the Minister of Education?

[That, in the opinion of this House, the economies envisaged by Ministry of Education Circular 334, 27th January, 1958, will cause irreparable harm to the education service; and, in view of the need for a rapid expansion of technical education, this House asks Her Majesty's Government to withdraw the circular.]

Will he make arrangements for his colleague to make an announcement to the House next week that he has withdrawn this mean circular?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir—again, I use the words prima facie, I would not agree with that description.

Mr. J. Griffiths

May I ask whether the Minister of Education proposes to make a statement in the House and whether other Ministers who are issuing these circulars will do so? Are we not entitled to get from the Government what their new proposals are for cuts in the social services?

Mr. Butler

There are endless opportunities in the much maligned procedure of this House to debate and air grievances. It would be just as well to examine the matter a little further before any more criticisms are levelled against my right hon. Friend and the Government. If there is a desire for a debate, I am sure that my right hon. Friend would be the first to wish to explain his position.

Mr. Blyton

In view of the important debate on industrial relations to be held next Thursday, is the right hon. Gentleman aware there are a number of back bench Members who would like to take part? May I ask whether the debate can be extended for one hour?

Mr. Butler

It is a normal Supply Day, so I think that we should stick to the normal procedure. In the comings and going today I will see whether there are a great number of hon. Members who are interested and whether the request of the hon. Member should be examined. But my first reaction would be to say that it would be difficult to arrange for an extension of time as it is a Supply Day.

Mr. D. Jones

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the Motion on the Order Paper, in the names of a number of my hon. Friends and myself, dealing with health, safety and welfare conditions on railways?

[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.]

To save us from being obliged to keep the Motion on the Order Paper indefinitely, will the right hon. Gentleman now name a day for a debate on it?

Mr. Butler

At the moment I have not a day available. I am aware of the Motion, a copy of which I have before me.

Mr. Drayson

The Leader of the House will have, noted that while the Opposition require two days for the debate on the Report of the Bank Rate Tribunal, the Leader of the Opposition considers that one cay would be sufficient to debate foreign affairs. Will the Leader of the House consider having a two-day debate on foreign affairs?

Mr. Butler

I had observed the request of the Opposition, which is only a preliminary one however, for a one-day debate on foreign affairs. I think that we had better leave it at that for the time being. The question of two days for debating the Report of the Bank Rate Tribunal arises because the Government thought one day was sufficient and the Opposition offered a Supply Day. It is constitutional to accept the offer of a day from the Opposition, and I think that these things should be retained because they are part of our tradition.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Leader of the House not aware that I did not mention one day, two days or three days? Since the subject has been raised, may I now ask him whether he will find time for a two-day debate?

Mr. Butler

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will oblige with two Supply Days.

Mr. Mitchison

May I ask the Leader of the House to bear in mind that if there is to be a debate on circulars there is not only one from the Ministry of Education but a corresponding one, equally important, from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government? Can the right hon. Gentleman make arrangements for abundant copies of both circulars to be placed in the Library?

Mr. Butler

I do not know whether I can arrange for abundant copies, but I can certainly see that the circulars are brought to the attention of hon. Members. Part of the object of circularising is to make their contents known.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

Referring to the question which was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones), may I press the Leader of the House, and remind him that the subject of that Motion is of considerable interest to many workers, and that a specific promise was given about it by the Government some years ago? When does the right hon. Gentleman intend to do something about it?

Mr. Butler

We have a great deal to do at the moment. In due course, I hope that this Motion may take its place. I cannot go any further than that today.