HC Deb 13 November 1958 vol 595 cc572-9
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 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Factories Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

TUESDAY, 18TH NOVEMBER—Committee stage of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill.

Committee and remaining stages of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation Bill.

Committee stage of the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 19TH NOVEMBER—We propose to give time for a debate on a Prayer to be tabled by the Opposition relating to the Compulsory Industrial Arbitration Order.

THURSDAY, 20TH NOVEMBER—Committee and remaining stages of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.

FRIDAY, 21ST NOVEMBER—Consideration of private Members' Motions.

Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I may announce the composition of the delegation to present the Mace to the House of Representatives of The West Indies, which has been arranged in consultation with you, Sir. It will consist of my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorkshire (Sir T. Dugdale), who will lead the delegation, the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock (Sir H. Studholme), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede).

The delegation will be accompanied by Mr. D. W. S. Lidderdale, the Fourth Clerk at the Table.

A Motion will be proposed in the course of next week to give leave of absence to the members of the delegation. It is expected that the delegation will leave at the end of this month.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will make arrangements for an early debate, if possible the following week, on the Central African Federation Constitution. with which we could also take the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Federation Order? The right hon. Gentleman will remember that there were exchanges on this matter with the Colonial Secretary before the Summer Recess.

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I cannot guarantee that it will be next week, but we said originally that we would give time for such a debate, and, therefore, if we might discuss it through the usual channels we can no doubt agree a mutually convenient date.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I say that in our opinion it is extremely important to us? This is a matter of urgency in view of the fact that the election in the Central Federation has just taken place.

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. The Government is aware of the importance of this issue, and we will bear that in mind in any conversations about a date for the debate.

Sir G. Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility, fairly soon, of devoting a day to the discussion of the important subject of Treasury control of expenditure? May I remind him that the Estimates Committee recently introduced a Report on this subject, which is, at any rate, an introduction to it, and that it would be a welcome change for the House to leave for one day the pursuance of party warfare and pay attention to one of its main duties, which is the control of supply?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I am aware of the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates and no doubt this would be a thoroughly suitable matter for the House of Commons to discuss. At the moment, however, I cannot foresee a day which would be available. Perhaps my hon. Friend will keep in touch with me on the matter.

Mr. Hale

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that when he announces that the Expiring Laws (Continuance) Bill will be taken through all its remaining stages on one day, he is announcing to the Opposition that Amendments will not be considered or accepted and that the force of the vote will be used to enforce the Committee stage word by word? Is not this a discourteous statement in connection with a Bill of great importance, and in connection with which he has already been given notice that many of us who assented to the taking of the Second Reading as a matter of form had been promised that there would be full discussion of the Bill when it came before the House in Committee?

Mr. Butler

First, it has not always been the case—I looked up precedent—that the Bill in these stages takes a whole day, but we have allocated a whole day. Secondly, if any Amendments are made, we cannot take the remaining stages. Thirdly, we always live in hope and announce what we hope to achieve.

Mr. Patrick Maitland

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind the desirability of a debate on the Montreal Conference, having regard to the fact that there has not been a Ministerial statement in the House and that those of us who raised points about it during the debate on the Gracious Speech did not get any answers?

Mr. Butler

In view of the great success and achievements of the Montreal Conference I will certainly discuss this point with my right hon. Friend principally concerned, with the sole reservation as to the difficulty of finding time.

Mr. Bottomley

Is the Leader of the House aware that I put a question to the Prime Minister on this subject, and that the right hon. Gentleman said that all the information which could be given was contained in the Press release? That is not good enough. We should like to press for this debate.

Mr. Butler

It would be almost impossible to include in a statement the vast achievements of the Montreal Conference, and, therefore, we would certainly like an opportunity of making them more clear.

Mr. Iremonger

Has my right hon. Friend given any consideration to the Motion standing in my name in connection with the Fourth Report of the Committee of Privileges? If so, can he tell the House of his intentions in the matter?

[That this House agrees with the Committee in its recommendation that no further action be taken in the matter of the breach of privilege committed by the Editor of the Romford Recorder newspaper, but, believing that the unique and unfettered power rightly belonging to this House in respect of its privileges puts upon its Committee of Privileges a special responsibility for ensuring that its procedure accords with the principle that no person should be tried and condemned in his absence, deplores the facts that the Editor of the Romford Recorder was not required to attend the Committee to speak for himself, that no reference is made in the Committee's report to the prominence subsequently given in his newspaper to statements which modified the impact of the headline complained of, and that the Editor's explanatory letter to the Committee was neither acknowledged to him nor referred to in the report, and recognises the unfair damage that such procedure might cause to the reputation of a professional man; and, further, regrets the delay in considering this report, during which time the freedom of the Press has been restrained in so much as the newspaper concerned was inhibited by fear of committing a further breach of privilege in making its public explanation of the circumstances.]

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I have before me the Motion of my hon. Friend, dealing with an alleged breach of Privilege by the Editor of the Romford Recorder, which is included in the Report of the Committee published in the Session 1956–57. It is not always that Reports of the Committee of Privileges can be debated. I think that they can only be debated if there is a wide demand among hon. Members. I appreciate that my hon. Friend has considerable constituency associations with this matter, but I cannot hold out hope of the time of the whole House being taken on this matter.

Mr. H. Wilson

While supporting, if I may, the plea of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) that time be given to debate the important Report of the Estimates Committee, on Treasury control, may I also ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that there is a feeling on both sides of the House, and in the country generally, that we are now approaching the time when it is urgent to have a debate on the Free Trade Area negotiations?

We have been very patient, as a House, while these have been going on, but unless there is a successful conclusion in the next few days, would the Lord Privy Seal bear in mind the desirability of having a debate on this matter, and all the dangers resulting from it, before we adjourn for Christmas?

Mr. Butler

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 6th November that he would like the current negotiations to be allowed to continue before the question of a debate arises, but, subject to that, we do not under-estimate the vital importance of this subject. I will note the right hon. Gentleman's request.

Mr. Ernest Davies

In view of the important statement made by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation last week on the affairs of the British Transport Commission, which is now, at the instigation of the Opposition, rather belatedly to be published as a White Paper, can the Leader of the House say what arrangements are being made for a debate? Is he aware of the urgency of having this debate, in view of the Minister's statement at Question Time yesterday that he did not know how he was going to deal with the situation?

Mr. Butler

We might have an opportunity of discussing this on a day allocated to discussing the nationalised industries. We might consider that through the usual channels. Apart from that, I will note the point put by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Usborne

Could the Leader of the House say how soon we may expect to debate the Report of the Wolfenden Committee? Is he aware that a great many people find it a monstrous discourtesy to those who serve on such committees that a Report of that importance should not be debated in this House after so long a time?

Mr. Butler

I have stated that we hope to have a debate before Christmas. We certainly would hope to have it before we adjourn for the Christmas Recess.

Mr. Grey

Is the Leader of the House aware of the great concern there is about opencast mining? Has he seen the Motion about it on the Order Paper, and, if so, can he say whether we shall have a debate on the matter shortly?

[That this House, bearing in mind the likelihood that some collieries may be closed, either because of exhaustion of seams or high stocks of coal, that redundancy will result, and that this process will create a considerable recruiting problem when a policy of national expansion is resumed, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to issue a direction to the National Coal Board to reduce the output of opencast coal until the demand for coal supplies increases to the point when additional supplies of opencast coal are required.]

Mr. Butler

I have the Motion before me, but I cannot give any date for a discussion. It is natural, at this time of the Session, that all claims should be staked. I will take note of the claim of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Reverting to the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley (Mr. Usborne), will the Lord Privy Seal bear in mind that the Wolfenden Report deals with two distinct subjects and that it is important that the views of the House on the one should not be lost in those of the other? Would he, therefore, consider organising the debate in such a way that this does not take place, by having a separate half-day on each subject?

Mr. Butler

Some of my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House have represented this difficulty to me. It is not easy to divide the day and I do not see any chance of having more than one day for this debate. However, in view of what has been put to me on both sides of the House, we must consider the matter, as represented by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he has seen a Motion on the Order Paper concerning the implementation of the Gowers Report on the working conditions of railway-men? In view of the very emphatic assurances that he has himself given on this subject, which were repeated just before the Summer Recess by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, that we should get legislation in this Parliament, when will he give us time for a debate and when shall we get legislation?

[That this House, recalling repeated and emphatic assurances by Ministers that they would introduce legislation to make further provision for the health, welfare and safety of railway and allied workers in the light of the recommendations of the Cowers Committee, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to introduce such legislation forthwith.]

Mr. Butler

I was not aware that any statement had been made about legislation this Session, but I was aware of several expressions of opinion on both sides of the House about the need for dealing with the problem of the welfare, safety and health of railway workers. I cannot give a date for the discussion of this Motion, but I will simply note what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Noel-Baker

With great respect, I think that the Leader of the House has misunderstood the situation. If he will look at what the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said in the debate on 9th May, I think it was, he will see that a categorical undertaking was given that it was the intention of the Government to introduce legislation. Is that so, or is it not? If it is so, when does the right hon. Gentleman expect that we shall get the legislation?

Mr. Butler

Having studied those words, I was not aware that they bore the interpretation that there would necessarily be legislation this Session.

Mr. D. Jones

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that he himself, during a previous Session of this Parliament, said that it was the desire and intention of the Government to implement the Gowers Report in the lifetime of this Parliament? As this is likely to be the last Session of this Parliament, then, obviously, legislation must be introduced?

Mr. Butler

As the House knows, the Government have made progress with the Gowers Report recently as applied to agriculture. We have a very full programme, including the Bill which we are taking next week to deal with conditions in factories, which is an analogous matter. We are doing as much as we can in the time available to us.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Are we to now take it that the Government do not propose to implement fully, in this Parliament, the Gawers Report?

Mr. Butler

We had better wait and see how long this Parliament goes on.