HC Deb 20 March 1958 vol 584 cc1432-6
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, 24TH MARCH—Third Reading of the National Health Service Contributions Bill.

Consideration of the Draft National Health Service (Superannuation) (Amendment) Regulations.

TUESDAY, 25TH MARCH—Consideration of a Motion for an Address relating to the Gift of a Mace to the West Indies.

Completion of the Report stage and Third Reading of the Maintenance Orders Bill.

Committee and, if agreeable to the House, the Third Reading of the Life Peerages Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY, 26TH MARCH—Report and Third Reading of the Land Drainage (Scotland) Bill, which it is hoped to obtain by 7 o'clock.

Second Reading of the Public Records Bill [Lords].

Consideration of the Draft Central Banks (Income Tax Schedule C Exemption) Order.

THURSDAY, 27TH MARCH—Committee stage of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill.

FRIDAY, 28TH MARCH—Consideration Of Private Members' Motions.

The House may wish to know that the Ballot for Notices of Motions on going into Committee of Supply on the Civil Estimates will take place in the House after Questions on Thursday, 27th March.

Mr. A. Henderson

The Leader of the House will be aware that there is a Motion on the Order Paper relating to disarmament, which has been signed by more than 210 Members on both sides of the House.

[That this House, appreciating the deep concern of the people of this nation over the hydrogen bomb, urges the necessity to concentrate on the fundamental issue which is the design and the provision of an authority to be set up by the United Nations, responsible for the abolition under effective control of all nuclear and conventional weapons of mass destruction and for the effective reduction of conventional forces and armaments.]

Will the right hon. Gentleman favourably consider finding time for the Motion to be debated?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the number of Members supporting this Motion, which I have here with me. I will certainly be ready to hear any representations, but I cannot give any undertaking about Government time.

Mr. Peyton

Has my right hon. Friend considered the Motion relating to the difficulties facing the shipping industry as a consequence of flags of convenience, which stands on the Order Paper in the names of very nearly 100 of my right hon. and hon. Friends? Will he consider giving time for discussion of this most urgent and difficult problem?

[That this House, while recognising the value of the recent increase in the investment allowance given by Her Majesty's Government to the United Kingdom shipping industry, nevertheless records its extreme concern at the difficulties caused to the industry by the virtual freedom from taxation enjoyed by ships flying certain flags of convenience, and, in view of the unique position of British shipping as the lifeline of an island nation, calls for further measures to strengthen its competitive power.]

Mr. Butler

I thought that this matter was to be raised in private Members' time. Unfortunately, it was not reached. At present, I can see no hope of giving Government time. We must have discussions and see what we can do about it.

Mr. W. R. Williams

May I ask the Leader of the House, once again, when lie proposes to allocate time for consideration of the Motion on the Order Paper relating to unestablished service reckoning for pension in the Civil Service? It has now been signed by 233 Members of the House.

[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.]

I understand that there is a great deal of sympathy with this very important subject by hon. Members on the benches behind the right hon. Gentleman. Surely this wide expression of opinion merits some consideration of the matter in the House, or, alternatively, action by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What does the Leader of the House propose to do?

Mr. Butler

The only hope I can see for having this discussed—it is a subject of great complexity—would be if it were chosen by the Opposition in their time.

Dame Irene Ward

Referring again to the Motion about, shipping, does not my right hon. Friend think that it would be a good idea if we eliminated the subject of land drainage in Scotland and discussed shipping?

Mr. Butler

We must proceed with the Government legislation and then find what opportunities we can for other Motions.

Mr. Grey

Has the Leader of the House further considered the request made to him last week about a possible debate on the North-East Development Area? I am sure he will remember that there is a Motion on the Order Paper, signed by Members on both sides, and will appreciate that it is extremely important that a debate should take place. Will he undertake further to consider the matter and have an early debate, so that we might have the whole position clarified?

[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.]

Mr. Butler

As I said last week, I do not think that we could confine such a debate to one area, however important that may be. It would have to be a more general subject relating to the economic situation generally if we were to have any hope of time. I cannot give any undertaking today. although I do not underestimate the hon. Gentleman's anxiety.

Mr. Short

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the position has changed since last week? Is he not aware that the situation in the North-East is deteriorating rapidly all the time and that, for instance, only this week 300 men have been paid off in a Sunderland shipyard? When will the Government give the House an opportunity to discuss the alarming statement made by the President of the Board of Trade?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the situation and of events in that particular shipyard, but I cannot at the moment give any specific time.

Mr. Shinwell

Is there not something to be said for setting aside some of the less important items of Government legislation in favour of having debates on important topics, for example, the subject of disarmament, the very important economic problem of the shipping industry of the country, or unemployment? Are these not matters about which the public wishes to know something? In view of the fact that a very large number of Members on both sides are interested in these topics, could not the Government find time for a discussion?

Mr. Butler

This is a time of year when, following the business of Supply, we deal with the Committee stage of Bills introduced earlier in the Session. It is known to any Government that this is the time of year when we are liable to have a good deal of Government business. I welcome general debates in the House; I think that it inures to the dignity of the House if we have general debates. Therefore, if they can be chosen in the time available on the business of Supply, so much the better.

Mr. Randall

Reverting to the Motion concerning unestablished service reckoning for pension in the Civil Service, does the Leader of the House recall his undertaking to the House last week that he would discuss this matter with his right hon. Friends? Has that discussion taken place? If so, what is the result? Will he not agree, having regard to the very large number of Members who have signed the Motion, that the Government should find time to discuss the matter?

Mr. Butler

The discussion has certainly taken place and has revealed to me some of the complexities of the subject, of which I was not fully aware. That does not mean that I think it any the less important, but it has not, so far, brought a debate any nearer.