HC Deb 03 July 1958 vol 590 cc1587-92
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, 7TH JULY—Supply [19th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Consideration of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance Estimates.

TUESDAY, 8TH JULY—Consideration of the Reports from the Committee of Privileges on the complaint relating to certain sections of the London Electricity Board, and of the opinion of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council concerning the Parliamentary Privileges Act of 1770.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Import Duties General Tariff Order.

WEDNESDAY, 9TH JULY—Supply [20th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate of Safeguards for the Consumer, which will take place on the Board of Trade, Agriculture and Health Votes.

THURSDAY, 10TH JULY—Supply [21st Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate on Industry and Employment in Scotland.

FRIDAY, 11TH JULY—Second Reading of the Chequers Estate Bill, and the State of Singapore Bill.

Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolutions.

Committee and remaining stages of the several consolidation Measures.

I think that it may be for the convenience of hon. Members if I inform them that I shall move the following Motion on Tuesday in the debate on the Committee of Privileges Reports, "That this House doth agree with the Committee of Privileges in its Reports".

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the debate on Monday has been selected by the Opposition partly because it is the tenth anniversary of the introduction of the great National Insurance scheme, and that we would hope to have at an early date and, for the same reason, a debate on the tenth anniversary of the National Health Service?

Sir W. Anstruther-Gray

Would my right hon. Friend consider moving the suspension of the rule for one hour for Tuesday's business to allow longer to debate the Report of the Select Committee of Privileges, particularly in view of the fact that, as I understand, we on this side of the House will not have the inestimable benefit of advice from my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary about going into the Division Lobby? The question of dividing may very well come up on the other side of the House, too. In view of that, it seems highly desirable that we should have every opportunity of listening to the matter being fully debated.

Mr. Butler

I will certainly consider what my hon. and gallant Friend says, but it will be rather difficult because we have given notice of debate on the Import Duties General Tariff Order that evening. However, it will be my business to canvass opinion on this matter and to add that to the opinion of my hon. and gallant Friend. My hon. and gallant Friend referred to the question of a free vote. I should like to make it clear that we on this side of the House agree that the vote should be entirely free. I have no reason to suppose that that view is not taken on the other side of the House, too.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we would not wish this matter of the debate on the Committee's Report to be restricted in any way and that it is our view that it should be treated as a completely House of Commons matter into which party considerations do not enter in any way whatever?

Mr. H. Morrison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of us feel that the added importance of this debate makes it rather desirable that the Division, if any, should take place at 10 o'clock and that there should be no suspension of the rule since that might prejudice the representative character of the Division, should there be a possibility of a Division?

I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving the House the nature of the Motion which he proposes to move, and to say that some of us, if permitted by Mr. Speaker, will wish to move that the letter by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) of 8th February, 1957, was a proceeding in Parliament and wish to differ from the Report of the Select Committee—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not a proceeding in Parliament."] Yes, that is right; I am obliged. Not a proceeding in Parliament. It does make a difference.

We all appreciate that the vote ought to be with the Whips off on both sides and we are very glad to know that that will be so.

Mr. Butler

I will certainly weigh what the right hon. Member says. It may well be that without our attendant ministering angels we may prefer to vote a little earlier. I will bear that in mind. Subject to the consideration of the Chair, and the rules of our procedure, it is certainly up to any hon. Member either to put an Amendment on the Order Paper or to exercise his vote in any way he likes. That would be up to any hon. Member to choose.

Mr. W. Yates

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the Motion on the Order Paper concerning the Territorial Army? If so, can the Government give time for debate on the Army Council Order to reduce the training grant by 25 per cent.?

[That this House notes with pleasure the Golden Jubilee of the Territorial Army and congratulates them on their splendid service for Queen and country in both peace and war; and wishes them success as an important part of Great Britain's national defence.]

Mr. Butler

I do not see any immediate chance of giving time for this, because we have already passed the time of the year when we consider the Army in detail, but no doubt my hon. Friend may find an opportunity, either on the holiday Adjournment or before that. If he likes to have a conversation with me, I shall be glad to hear what he has to say.

Mr. Yates

In view of that, I should like to raise the matter on the Adjournment, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether the Government propose, at an early date, to make a statement on their proposals for the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence, in view of fresh reports about possible resignations of Service Ministers?

May I also ask whether, preceding any debate, if such is intended, the right hon. Gentleman will issue a White Paper so that Members may be fully informed of the Government's intentions and, as possible constitutional issues may be raised, for example, reducing the status of Service Ministers and Secretaries of State, whether the Opposition, which may become the Government at an early date, will be fully consulted on the matter?

Mr. Butler

The basis on which the right hon. Gentleman puts his question is quite unsound. There is no question of the Opposition becoming the Government for a very long time but, leaving that on one side, I should like to say that the solidarity of the Government and Service Ministers is intact.

On the constitutional point which the right hon. Gentleman raised, I am sure that it will be the wish of the Prime Minister, and of the Minister of Defence, that when the time comes the House should be informed and have an opportunity of considering the matter properly. Further than that I cannot go. I could not give an actual undertaking about a White Paper, but if the House is to consider the matter then certainly it must be told what the matter is.

Mr. H. Fraser

Before the House goes into Recess, would my right hon. Friend give time for a debate on the plight of various refugees from Egypt? One and a half years have passed and we and they, and, I think, the whole House, await a statement or decision on this question.

Mr. Butler

This depends on how things develop in relation to the situation of the refugees. I realise that there is a great deal of feeling on this matter. I cannot give an undertaking today, but my hon. Friend must realise that we understand its importance.

Mr. Wade

In relation to the debate on Wednesday on safeguards for the consumer, may I ask how wide is the range of subjects which the debate is to cover? Is it intended to limit it to any particular aspects of the problems of consumer interest?

Mr. Butler

The Votes which I mentioned were the Board of Trade, Agriculture and Health Votes, and we have heard from the Opposition, whose choice this is, that it wishes among other matters to discuss weights and measures, quality standards, the marking of goods, monopolies, pure food, hire purchase, and so on, and Scotland will also be included. I do not think that there will be any difficulty about the width of the debate.

Sir G. Nicholson

On the question of Tuesday's debate, may I put to my right hon. Friend the consideration that on this important matter, which affects the whole House without distinction of party points, it is highly desirable that as far as possible the House should speak as one? In view of that, will my right hon. Friend keep an open mind and listen to the debate and the opinions expressed and not be quite determined necessarily to press his Motion to a Division?

Mr. Butler

One has to balance the considerations. I think that the general view of the House would be that in this important matter it would wish to decide upon the merits of the case. My duty, as Chairman of the Committee of Privileges and Leader of the House, is to put the case before the House, which I shall endeavour to do as fairly as I can. It will be then for hon. Members to decide what line they should take. There is evidently a desire that there shall be a free vote on both sides of the House. Therefore, I think that we are doing the fairest possible thing by hon. Members.

Mr. Rankin

Will the right hon. Gentleman find time before the Recess to debate the Annual Report of the National Film Finance Corporation which has just been issued? We have not had a chance of discussing the Corporation's affairs for a long while.

Mr. Butler

We had better discuss that.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that we had a debate not very long ago in which I moved a Motion on the working conditions on the railways and that this was accepted by the Government. An assurance was given that legislation would be introduced. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether we can expect that legislation before the Recess and, if not, when we can expect it?

Mr. Butler

There is no possible chance of any such legislation before the Recess. We have quite enough to keep us busy and I do not think that even the hon. Member would wish to sit throughout the summer for legislation of any kind.