HC Deb 22 May 1958 vol 588 cc1475-6
13. Mr. Donnelly

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is yet in a position to make a further statement regarding the Government's policy towards the Wolfenden Report on Homosexuality and Prostitution.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Many representations have been made since the Report was published. Some of them are in support of the Committee's recommendations, but others are strongly critical. This applies both to the main recommendations on homosexual offences and to those on prostitution. It is clear that the Committee's recommendations have stirred public opinion widely and deeply, and I would not propose to decide on a future course of action until that opinion has had the fullest opportunity of expressing itself.

Mr. Donnelly

Is the Home Secretary aware that, whatever may be our personal views about these topics, the House of Commons has a certain responsibility to discuss them, and that, if we do not discuss them, it looks as though we are evading them? Can he say whether, if the Motion of the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Hyde) is not reached on 13th June, it will be possible to provide some time before the Summer Recess to test the opinion of the House?

Mr. Butler

I have always taken the view that before coming to a final decision on every aspect of the Report, it would be helpful to have a debate in this House. In fact, I think that it is really important that it should be so. The Motion to which the hon. Member refers is second on the Order Paper for 13th June, and I cannot say what fortune it will have. In any case, I shall always be ready to take part in any discussion, if an opportunity can be offered.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Is not this a case where the Government should find time for a debate, perhaps not in the immediate future? This is a matter of public policy, but the right hon. Gentleman and the Cabinet have first responsibility. I quite agree that we should not rush into a decision, but public opinion will be guided and crystallised to some extent by what is said here, and I hope that he will give an assurance that time will be given for a debate in the reasonably near future.

Mr. Butler

So far, I have not had an opportunity to find an occasion in Government time, and I have not heard yet from the Opposition that they will do this on a Supply Day, but as it is not really a matter of controversy in so far as discussion is concerned, perhaps we can all see what opportunity might be found.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Is not it the responsibility of the Government to provide time for a debate upon the Report of a Royal Commission set up by the Government?

Mr. Butler

Not necessarily, because the Opposition have endless opportunities, on Supply Days, for choosing subjects of national importance. While nobody can criticise the Opposition if they do not choose this subject, it is quite legitimate for them to choose it. If they were to choose it, I think that it would be a good thing.