HC Deb 27 March 1958 vol 585 cc593-7
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, 31ST MARCH—We find it necessary to ask the House to consider a timetable Motion for the Local Government and Miscellaneous Financial Provisions (Scotland) Bill, which is now before the Scottish Standing Committee.

The terms of the Motion will appear on the Order Paper tomorrow morning.

It is hoped to dispose of this business in time to allow the Second Reading of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Bill to be moved at a reasonable hour.

TUESDAY, 1ST APRIL—A debate will take place on Malta, on a Government Motion.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Import Duties Antimony Order.

WEDNESDAY, 2ND APRIL—Third Reading of the Life Peerages Bill [Lords], which it is hoped to obtain by 7 o'clock.

Concluding stages of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill.

Consideration of the Motions to approve the Draft Police Pensions (No. 2) Regulations, and similar Regulations for Scotland.

THURSDAY, 3RD APRIL—It is proposed to meet at 11 a.m. and take Questions until 12 noon.

Adjournment for the Easter Recess until Tuesday, 15th April.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government's decision to stifle discussion on the Local Government and Miscellaneous Financial Provisions (Scotland) Bill will be received with indignation, in Scotland, at any rate? Is he also aware that this is a Bill of great constitutional importance, involving financial provisions which are highly controversial?

Will he give the House an assurance that the Second Reading of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Bill will not be taken at a late hour, as it is quite wrong that a Bill of this degree of importance should be brought on late in the evening?

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman wreathed his indignation with the most delightful of smiles. We admire his synthetic enthusiasm. The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends know quite well that great efforts have been made to reach agreement on a timetable for this Bill not only by hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies, but also by many of us who are interested in avoiding the use of the timetable procedure. But, this having been unsuccessful—we are still discussing Clause 2—I believe that the only manner in which proper consideration of this Bill can take place in the future is by means of our very lenient timetable.

It is our wish to take the Disabled Persons (Employment) Bill at a reasonable hour.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Government intend to make a statement on the future of Cyprus before the Easter Recess, remembering that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary told the House, in reply to a Question from me, that it was considered desirable to bring whatever negotiations might be going on to an end as soon as possible?

Mr. Butler

It is important that when we make a statement it shall be a valuable one. I cannot give any undertaking that various circumstances, including the international position, would make this possible by the date my hon. Friend desires.

Mr. Ross

Does the Leader of the House appreciate his own position following his announcement about Monday's business? Does he recollect that it is not so long ago since he sponsored a proposal whereby a considerable number of hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies were excluded from the Scottish Standing Committee, and that this is the first Bill of major importance to be dealt with by that streamlined Committee?

How can the right hon. Gentleman stand at that Dispatch Box without being aware of what has happened in that Committee? There is no justification for this proposal in relation either to the importance of the Bill or what has happened in that Committee. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if there has been any holdup it is due to the sheer incompetence of the Scottish Office?

Mr. Butler

I do not accept the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's statement.

I am aware that this is the first Bill taken by the Scottish Standing Committee as constituted under the revised Standing Order. That makes it all the more regrettable that we have had to resort to a timetable. We would rather that saner counsels had prevailed, and that we had been able to reach agreement on a timetable which was manifestly quite fair and gave an adequate opportunity to discuss the Bill.

Mr. Teeling

As, in the last debate on Malta, the Motion was to "take note", and there was no Division, and as the Opposition have stated that this is a nonparty issue, may we be assured that we shall be allowed a free vote, on both sides of the House, in the debate on Tuesday?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. There will be a Motion, and we shall make that a Government Motion.

Mr. Hoy

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that only this morning, in the Scottish Standing Committee, the Joint Under-Secretary of State asked the Committee to meet on Wednesdays and that that met with unanimous approval? In those circumstances, we regard it as a great betrayal of our interests that his announcement about a timetable Motion should be made a few hours later?

Mr. Butler

We regret very much that we have had to put a timetable on this Bill. I always prefer to see an agreed timetable, if possible.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House can debate the merits or demerits of the timetable Motion on Monday.

Mr. Darling

Will the Leader of the House say what has happened to the Slaughterhouses Bill?

Mr. Butler

It has passed through the Standing Committee and its later stages will, in due course, be taken on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Peyton

Can my right hon. Friend say whether he has given further consideration to the constructive and useful suggestion made last week by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), that some of the time taken in debating legislation could be devoted to more important subjects on the Order Paper—for instance, the Motion in my name which deals with the problems of the shipping industry, and which should be given time for discussion?

[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

This, as I said last week, is a busy time of the year for legislation. But I agree with my hon. Friend that the more occasions we can have for general discussion, the better.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Government have only a minority representation of Members from Scotland and that his timetable Motion is a case of the minority guillotining the majority? Is the right hon. Gentleman suffering from the delusion that his party won the Kelvingrove by-election, instead of losing it?

Mr. Donnelly

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the last full statement that we had on Cyprus was given before the last Recess, and that we have had only an interim statement since? Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House a little more information? We have been reasonable and forbearing up to now, but is it not over-stepping the bounds to ask for reasonable tolerance and more time for negotiation, there having been no statement?

Mr. Butler

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary made a statement on 18th February. It is true to say that hon. Members on all sides of the House have been most patient in relation to this very intractable question, but I cannot carry it further this afternoon.

Mr. Callaghan

This is the answer that the Leader of the House has given now on two or three occasions when he has been asked about it at Question Time. Will he please take note of the growing impatience on both sides of the House at the failure of the Government to make their position clear on this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, on both sides of the House. We have already had one question from the Government benches this afternoon.

May I put it to the Leader of the House that, in the interests of the people of Cyprus, as well as of the people of Britain, the time is coming when the Government should make a full and considered statement about their own position in relation to a situation in which there are emergency regulations operating in the island, in which there is no constitutional Government, and in which there are hundreds of men and women imprisoned without trial?

Ought not the House of Commons to be interested when such a situation persists? Does not the duty fall upon the Government to make their position clear at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Butler

I will note the observations of the hon. Gentleman and of other hon. Members who have put forward their views on this important matter.