HC Deb 06 November 1958 vol 594 cc1110-7
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business for next week?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 10TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Agriculture (Small Farmers) Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Consideration of a Motion to refer the Building (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee for Second Reading.

Report stage of the Ways and Means Resolution relating to Armed Forces Housing Loans, when the Bill will be brought in.

TUESDAY, 11TH NOVEMBER—A debate will take place on Provision for Old Age, which will arise on a Government Motion welcoming the White Paper.

WEDNESDAY, 12TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Emergency Laws (Repeal) Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

THURSDAY, 13TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Town and Country Planning Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

FRIDAY, 14TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Development of Inventions Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Second Reading of the Armed Forces Housing Loans Bill.

In regard to business today, we propose to suspend the rule for the Second Reading of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill and the Committee stage of the Money Resolution. We hope that it will be agreeable to the House for us to obtain these items so that Amendments can be tabled for the Committee stage.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the Prime Minister make arrangements for an early debate on the Grigg Report, since I understand that it will not be possible to discuss the contents of this important Report during the debate today? Also, will he consider, in consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland, the desirability of a separate Town and Country Planning Bill for Scotland, since it is evident that the Bill as at present drafted will lead to great confusion because of the number of subsections which deal with Scotland? I believe that it would be for the convenience of everybody if the Scottish sections could be taken out and presented in a separate Bill.

The Prime Minister

I understand that Mr. Speaker has ruled that it would not be in order to discuss the Grigg Report on this immediate occasion. Therefore, perhaps we should arrange through the usual channels what would be a convenient opportunity for discussing it.

The matter of the Town and Country Planning Bill was considered by the Government, and it was decided that it would be more convenient to have a single Bill and to include Scotland within its scope.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether Tuesday's debate, on provision for old age, will be an absolutely free debate, and whether the whole question of those living on small fixed incomes can be raised? Does my right hon. Friend realise that I am feeling in a very belligerent mood about these people, because nothing has been done about them for a very long time? May we have a free vote?

The Prime Minister

The debate arises by agreement between the Opposition and ourselves that it would be convenient to have a day's debate on the White Paper, and there will be a Motion welcoming the White Paper. Whether all the points that my hon. Friend has in mind will be in order in that debate is a matter for you, Mr. Speaker, and not for me.

Dame Irene Ward

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am a private Member and I have not agreed with the Opposition, and I do not agree with them, and I want to know whether my side is going to stand up for me.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order.

The Prime Minister

I would always stand up for my hon. Friend in any way consistent with the rules of order.

Mr. D. Johnston

Is the Prime Minister aware that since the publication of the Town and Country Planning Bill there has been considerable protest in the Scottish Press at the method of drafting the Bill and that it has been suggested that the method is a contravention of the recommendations of the Balfour Committee, which the Government accepted some years ago?

The Prime Minister

That matter was considered, but the conclusion reached was the one which I have stated to the House.

Mr. Mitchison

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman could make it clear why this practice is increasing. Ever since the Rent Act it has been getting worse and worse. We get Scots in Committee having to listen to a lot of English stuff that does not concern them and Englishmen having to listen to a lot of Scots stuff that does not concern them, and it is wasting everybody's time. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman put it right in this instance?

The Prime Minister

My recollection of Rent Bills is that we have to listen to quite a lot of stuff anyway. I am surprised that this point has been raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman. We have not heard very much about the Rent Act lately.

Miss Herbison

Will the Prime Minister have consultations with the Secretary of State for Scotland? Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the Commission which reported in 1954 made a very strong recommendation that where legislation was controversial there ought to be a separate Bill for Scotland? Surely he will take into consideration the very great complaints which have come particularly from the legal profession in Scotland about the Scottish part being taken in conjunction with the English part. I beg him to have the matter reconsidered.

The Prime Minister

With regard to the drafting of the Bill and what should be in it, the Secretary of State for Scotland has taken full part during the whole preparation, but, as I said, it was considered, on the whole, to be more satisfactory to treat the subject in a single Bill.

Mr. H. Morrison

Does the Prime Minister intend to afford further facilities for a debate about the proposed inquiry into the use of official machinery for the purpose of disseminating party propaganda, as was disclosed in the debate yesterday? Also, does he think it right, as Ministers are involved, and as there may be political questions, that a high civil servant, Sir Norman Brook, for whom I have the highest respect, should he in charge of the inquiry, or does he think he ought to institute an outside, independent inquiry?

The Prime Minister

When I heard of this matter last night I decided that the best immediate way to deal with it was to ask Sir Norman Brook to make a report on the allegations made against members of the Civil Service. I think that it w ill be very quickly completed, and when I receive it I shall make a statement upon it. I think that that would be the time to consider whether any further action or any wider form of inquiry was required.

Mr. J. Harvey

Can my right hon. Friend hold out any hope of an early opportunity for the House to discuss the Report of the Royal Commission on Common Land, bearing in mind that hon. Members on both sides of the House have constituents much interested in recommendations made in the Report for dealing with the problems created by animals straying into urban areas from forests and other places?

The Prime Minister

I recognise the importance of the Report, and we will certainly see whether it will be possible to have a discussion. It occurs to me that it might be a suitable subject for a Private Member's Motion.

Mr. Rankin

May I appeal to the Prime Minister, as a man with some Scottish blood in his veins, to have another look at this matter of tying Scottish legislation to English legislation? Those of us who have served on Standing Committees have experienced the difficulty of working when two interests are tied up in one Bill. Invariably, the practice has operated unfavourably for Scotland. England can look after herself. Would not the Prime Minister reconsider this? With the amount of Scottish legislation involved in this Measure, there is no reason why there should not be a separate Bill.

The Prime Minister

I can only repeat that this matter was most carefully considered by the Secretary of State and other members of the Government and their advisers. We thought that, on the whole, it would be more convenient to deal with these matters in one Bill.

Mr. Gaitskell

In view of the fact that since the Bill was published there has been strong opinion against this procedure of taking English and Scottish matters in one Bill—not for party reasons, but because, legally, it is extremely complicated and inconvenient from the point of view of Parliamentary procedure—will the Prime Minister and his colleagues reconsider the matter? Would it not be for the Government's convenience, as well as for ours, to have two Bills instead of one?

The Prime Minister

I will always reconsider anything which the right hon. Gentleman, individually, asks me to do, but at present I see no reason to change my decision.

Mr. J. Hynd

Will the Prime Minister present the House with an opportunity to discuss the Free Trade Area negotiations, or will we have to wait until those are completed so that we will be able to discuss only failures and omissions? Why should the House not have an opportunity of expressing its views so that those views as well as the rigid attitude of the Government can be made known?

The Prime Minister

It will be more helpful to the purposes which I think the hon. Member has in view, as I have, if the negotiations taking place next week and the week after are allowed to proceed.

Mr. Farey-Jones

Can time be found for the House to debate the methods at present being employed by the Communist Party in Great Britain? I referred to this matter some months ago. It has now become of such grave danger and insidious poison that the House will neglect it at its peril.

The Prime Minister

In the business which we have in mind for between now and Christmas there will be no opportunity for that to he discussed in Government time, but perhaps my hon. Friend, or one of his hon. Friends, will be fortunate in the Ballot.

Mr. Dugdale

Further to the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), will the inquiry of Sir Norman Brook be in public or private?

The Prime Minister

Sir Norman Brook is making an inquiry—which I understood to be agreeable to hon. Members opposite—and he will report to me. When I receive that report, I will have to inform the House of it and then we shall have to judge whether anything more ought to be done in accordance with its character.

Mr. Ernest Davies

On a point of order. Yesterday, Sir, in reply to a Question of mine, the Minister of Transport, in a Written Answer published in HANSARD, in columns 51 to 64, stated that he was circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the full Report to him of the Chairman of the British Transport Commission. He added: …and also a copy of my letter to him, which sets out the Government's attitude in the matter. They are as follows:…"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1958; Vol. 594, c. 52.] There then followed, in 13 columns of HANSARD, the Report of the Chairman of the British Transport Commission. However, the Minister's letter in reply was not published. I do not know what can be done about that at this stage.

Is it in the usual precedent of the House to occupy so much of HANSARD with a report which a Minister of the Crown has received? Would it not be more customary for the report to be published as a White Paper, and would that not be far more convenient for members of the public as well as hon. Members?

Do you not consider it discourteous of the Minister, Mr. Speaker, to give a Written Answer to a Question like this, when an important statement is made, rather than seeking your permission to reply at the end of Oral Questions?

Mr. Speaker

I am not aware of all the circumstances of the matter which the hon. Member has raised. I shall have to look into the hon. Member's complaint and find out what it is all about. At the moment, I can say nothing else.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

Further to that point of order. Will you particularly look into the matter of this long statement being available only in HANSARD, although it is of interest to a very large number of people? Do you not agree, Mr. Speaker, that to follow all precedents it should have been published in a White Paper which would have been handy for hon. Members and for others? When you are considering this matter, will you pay special attention to that aspect of it?

Mr. Ernest Davies

Could you not give instructions, Sir, that a full Written Answer should be given, with the omissions rectified, in tomorrow's HANSARD?

Mr. Speaker

I think that the hon. Member should take up that with the Minister concerned. If a Minister has not done what he said he would do, it is the ordinary thing for the Member to take it up with him.

Mr. D. Jones

Further to that point of order. May I call your attention, Sir, to the fact that at the bottom of col. 53 of yesterday's OFFICIAL REPORT there is a note by the OFFICIAL REPORT that it was not possible to reproduce Appendix "B" in HANSARD? It is important that that should be reproduced.

Mr. Speaker

I thank the hon. Member for calling my attention to that fact.

Mr. Lawson

Is it in order to ask whether the Secretary of State for Scotland agreed to the form of the Town and Country Planning Bill which is to be discussed next Wednesday?

Mr. Speaker

It is not in order. The Scots Members have had a very good run on business questions. If I may speak as an impartial observer, I am left in no doubt whatever as to their views and think that the House, also, is fully seized of them.