HC Deb 13 March 1958 vol 584 cc610-5
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, 17TH MARCH—Supply [10th Allotted Day]: Report.

Consideration of Civil Supplementary Estimates.

Class III, Vote 1, Home Office. Vote 6, Fire Services, England and Wales.

Class V, Vote 5, National Health Service, England and Wales. Vote 11, National Health Service, Scotland.

Class II, Vote 2, Foreign Office Grants and Services.

At 9.30 p.m., under the provisions of Standing Order No. 16, the Question under discussion and on all outstanding Votes required before 31st March will be put from the Chair.

Committee and remaining stages of the Nationalised Industries Loans Bill.

TUESDAY, 18TH MARCH—Second Reading of the Agriculture Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 19TH MARCH—At the request of the Opposition the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill will be taken formally, and we shall then resume and conclude the Second Reading debate on the Agriculture Bill and also take the Committee stage of the necessary Ways and Means Resolution.

THURSDAY, 20TH MARCH—At the request of the Opposition it is proposed to take the Committee and remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill formally and debate will then take place on an Opposition Motion relating to Education.

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

Mr. Gaitskell

When does the Leader of the House expect to try to make further progress on the Maintenance Orders Bill?

Mr. Butler

I think that we shall have no difficulty in making progress with the rest of that Bill in the week after next. I think that a little patience will be a good thing.

Dame Irene Ward

Has the attention of my right hon. Friend been drawn to several Motions in my name dealing with the subject of the subsidising of opera?

[That this House is of opinion that efforts in conjunction with the Sadlers Wells Trust to plan a tour for the British isles on the basis of an adequate and economic spread of opera was torpedoed by Covent Garden, whose general administrative director, though equally dependent on public money, refused cooperation and seriously embarrassed the proper presentation of opera in the Provinces by his piracy of artists; that the presentation of the Covent Garden Accounts, which provides no separate balance sheets for opera and ballet, prevents the general public from knowing the losses on opera and assessing the public money spent on the three opera companies and the fairness of the subsidies given; that too much power is in the hands of the general administrative director and that the Covent Garden Trust, by failing to reappoint a musical director has substantially increased his power causing dismay to the artistic world; and that there are many undesirable features in the conduct of affairs at Covent Garden which no one appears to have authority to check, least of all the Arts Council.]

[That this House is of opinion that the merger suggested by the Arts Council of the Carl Rosa and Sadlers Wells Opera Companies has reinforced the growing opinion that no effective control of affairs free from patronage exists; that the methods to force the amalgamation by financial sanctions are not fairly designed; that the shock tactics have angered and disturbed public opinion; and that a rationalisation of opera subsidies designed to preserve a fair balance between London and the Provinces, provide high standards and protection for those employed in the opera world and an attraction to foreign visitors cannot be enforced without a penetrating investigation into Covent Garden administration as well as Sadlers Wells and Carl Rosa.]

[That, in the opinion of this House, although it is possible that unfair emphasis may have been laid on some aspects of subsidising opera, this is due to the complete inability of any individual to ascertain the true facts; that the methods of subsidising opera no longer commend themselves to a large and interested public; that patronage tends to increase power to the few to the detriment of the many; and that if public confidence is to be restored action and probing from which no one is exempt is essential.]

In view of the many difficulties that have arisen and the general interest of the public in the whole future of opera, when will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on this important matter?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that we can find Government time for that, but no doubt it will be possible in private Members' time.

Mr. Houghton

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed the additional and influential support given to the Motion on Unestablished Service to Reckon for Pension in the Civil Service?

[That this House takes note of the recent Report of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service (Command Paper No. 9613) and the observations of the Commission in Chapter XV, paragraph 743, on the subject of the reckoning of unestablished service for superannuation purposes in the Civil Service, to the effect that there is no question of merit or principle outstanding, that it is in fact now common ground that it is right that unestablished service should reckon in full, that Parliament conceded that as regards service after July, 1949, by the Superannuation Act, 1949, that the Royal Commission were of opinion that the Superannuation Act, 1946, afforded a precedent for retrospection and supported the argument that if a certain treatment is right at one point in time it is also right at others, and that in the view of the Royal Commission the sole consideration was that of cost; and this House is of opinion that all unestablished service prior to July, 1949, of civil servants subsequently appointed to established posts should be reckonable in full for superannuation purposes (instead of one-half only) on the grounds put forward by the Right honourable Gentleman, the Member for Monmouth, in his speech to Standing Committee B on the Superannuation Bill, 1949 (HANSARD, 10th May, 1949, Cols. 155–158), and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take the necessary action.]

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the reputation for political consistency of his right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) is heavily involved in this matter? Will he provide time for a short debate on this subject, or, alternatively, commence discussions for a solution of the problem?

Mr. Butler

I cannot promise an early day for a debate. I have the Motion before me, with the signatures supporting it. If the hon. Member so desires, I will see my right hon. Friends principally concerned, but at the moment I can give no further assurance than that.

Mr. Baldwin

In view of the large majority in the House and the large measure of support in the countryside for the Compensation (Acquisition and Planning) Bill, will my right hon. Friend provide a Money Resolution for the Bill in the near future?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the intense interest taken in this subject and the degree of support for the proposition put forward by my hon. Friend. This is a matter which will require a great deal more consideration, in view of its complexity. I shall undertake to keep in touch with my hon. Friend and his. friends, but I cannot make any further promise now.

Mr. Short

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been called to an all-party Motion, signed by most hon. Members from the north-east area, regarding the descheduling of the North-Eastern Development Area and the alarm which statements made by the President of the Board of Trade have caused in the North-East?

[That, in the opinion of this House, to deschedule the whole or part of the North-East Development Area would be prejudicial to the continuing diversification of industry in that area; and that so long as a large proportion of the working population are employed in a small number of basic industries, employment in the area will remain dangerously vulnerable.]

Will the right hon. Gentleman afford an opportunity for that Motion to be debated in the House?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. This forms part of the general problem of dealing with Development Areas and any incidence of unemployment there may be. I have the Motion before me, but I cannot give any time to discuss it specifically. I will, however, discuss the matter with my hon. Friends concerned.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Before any decision is taken on this question, will this House have an opportunity of discussing it?

Mr. Butler

This is, of course, a matter upon which the House should give an opinion. I have no doubt that there will be opportunities for discussing this major subject in all its important aspects.

Dr. D. Johnson

In the light of his statement a week ago to the National Association for Mental Health, will my right hon. Friend provide a day during the present Session to debate future legislation in respect of mental health?

Mr. Butler

We had a general debate on this subject which gave the Government an opportunity of realising the great interest there is on this matter on all sides of the House. Except for private Members' and Opposition time, it would be very difficult to find another day on which to discuss the general issues. I gave an indication, in the speech to which my hon. Friend has referred, that we hope to legislate on this subject. If that is realised, there will be ample opportunity of discussion.

Mr. W. R. Williams

With reference to the reply of the right hon. Gentleman to my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), in view of the fact that the Leader of the House has been in touch with my hon. Friend on this matter for at least six or eight weeks, is there a possibility of those conversations developing into something rather substantial?

Mr. Butler

The mills grind very slowly, but in the end they produce some results.

Mr. Hayman

When considering Development Areas, will the right hon. Gentleman take into account the very serious unemployment position in Devon and Cornwall, as revealed in today's issue of the Western Morning News?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir, but I must learn from previous experience that in answering questions on business I must not go too far on questions of policy.

Mr. Grey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the deep anxiety in the North-East about the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade on the descheduling of the North-East Development Area? Does he not think that a debate in the House might allay those fears?

Mr. Butler

I do not doubt that there will be opportunities from time to time, either through the initiative of the Government, of the Opposition, or private Members individually, to discuss all these matters and, in particular, the anxieties of the North-East Coast. I will bear the matter in mind.