HC Deb 20 November 1958 vol 595 cc1324-9
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, 24TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves Bill, which it is hoped to obtain at a reasonable hour.

Afterwards, there will then be an opportunity to debate the Report of the Advisory Committee on Recruiting and the Government's comments thereon, on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

TUESDAY, 25TH NOVEMBER—Third Reading of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, until about 7 o'clock.

Committee and, if agreeable to the House, the remaining stages of the Development of Inventions Bill; and Third Reading of the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 26TH NOVEMBER—A debate will take place on a Government motion to take note of the Report of Homosexual Offences and Prostitution.

THURSDAY, 27TH NOVEMBER—A debate will take place on a Government Motion relating to proposals for constitutional change in Northern Rhodesia.

FRIDAY, 28TH NOVEMBER—Consideration of private Members' Bills.

Mr. Gaitskell

On Tuesday's business, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman, first, whether he is aware that, in our opinion, half a day for the Third Reading of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill is totally inadequate, whether or not the Government choose to allow the House to go into secret Session?

Secondly, may I ask what precisely the Government's intentions are on the Motion for Thursday's business? Will the Motion be in terms approving the Government's proposal? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the desirability of not narrowing the debate too much on that occasion?

Thirdly, will the right hon. Gentleman find time for an early debate on European affairs? I do not mean the Free Trade Area, but European political problems. We on this side of the House think such a debate desirable.

Mr. Butler

If I may take the points made by the right hon. Gentleman in the reverse order, we shall certainly be willing to discuss through the usual channels the possibility of a debate on foreign affairs.

On the question of Northern Rhodesia, the Government will table a Motion early next week. We will attempt to bear in mind what the right hon. Gentleman has requested.

On the Third Reading of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, I used the expression "until about 7 o'clock," but I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he and his right hon. and hon. Friends did not oppose the Clauses when they were put to the Committee on Tuesday, and, therefore, their opposition to the Bill cannot be as severe as they attempted to make out. Furthermore, if they had wished the Bill to be thoroughly considered by the public they would not have moved from their side of the Committee to make the sitting a private one.

Mr. Gaitskell

In view of the fact that the Government allowed the Committee to go into secret session, may we take it that the Government themselves did not wish any limelight to be thrown on their misdeeds in this matter? If the right hon. Gentleman is in doubt at all about our opposition to the Bill, we will make that perfectly plain by continuing the debate on Tuesday.

Mr. Butler

All I can say in reply to the right hon. Gentleman is that the Government got their business, and I think that the Government had a very good day on that occasion. The only losers by this rather ridiculous Motion, moved under Standing Order No. 105, were right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Dame Irene Ward

Having regard to the fact that the Prime Minister has said that he would always support me if I were in order, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is the Government's intention to find time to debate the Government's recent defeat in another place on a Motion relating to officers' retired pay and widows' pensions? Will the Prime Minister implement his pledge to me, which was so graciously given?

Mr. Butler

I think that we must first see some sort of Motion that we can take and then we will consider whether we have time to debate it. Therefore, my hon. Friend had better put herself in order before she is considered by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Parkin

In view of the great importance of Wednesday's business, which covers two subjects, and the fact that hon. Members may have special local reasons for taking part in the debate, will the right hon. Gentleman take the precaution of suspending the Standing Order for an hour?

Mr. Butler

I have not so far had any request for that. Naturally, the debate will be a very wide and far-reaching one owing to the width of the subject. I think that we would have to consider further evidence of a desire for a longer debate before we decided. It is my business to take the general opinion of the House before the Government decide.

Mr. Patrick Maitland

May I ask when a debate is to be arranged on the Montreal Economic Conference? Is my right hon. Friend aware that failure to give this subject priority looks like contracting the opportunity of expressing our faith in an expanding Commonwealth?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the interest of my hon. Friend and other hon. Members in the great success of the Montreal Conference, and it would he our desire to give the maximum publicity to its results. We are inhibited only by lack of Parliamentary time. If, by ingenuity or otherwise, we can find the time I am sure that my right hon. Friends who are principally concerned would be glad to have the opportunity of discussing the matter.

Mr. Callaghan

The Government laid the whole constitutional proposals for Northern Rhodesia before the House in September, in Cmnd. 530. Is it their intention, in their Motion on this subject, to ask the House to support the proposals contained in that White Paper?

Mr. Butler

The Government would not have put forward proposals such as I have here before me, to which the hon. Member refers, unless they believed in them. I would ask the hon. Member to await the exact nature of the Motion.

Mr. Callaghan

Is there, therefore, any proposal to depart from what is contained in the White Paper. If not, what is the difficulty about telling us that these are the proposals which the Government want us to debate?

Mr. Butler

Neither the hon. Member nor the House should deduce from what I have said that there is any departure from the lines of the White Paper which has been laid. That would be a mistake and would create a wrong impression. It is that we wish the artistry of our Motion to be perfect before we lay it.

Mr. Turton

May I remind my right hon. Friend of the precedent that after the Ottawa. Conference there was an early debate in the House? Would he not agree that it is surely far more important to discuss the Montreal Conference than the Wolfenden Report? Can we have an assurance that there will be a debate on the Montreal Economic Conference at least before we adjourn for the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Butler

I would not like to draw comparisons between the two subjects of debate, and the debate for Wednesday next has been somewhat delayed, the Report of the Wolfenden Committee having been made over a year ago. Therefore, we cannot compare the two subjects, but that does not mean that there is not great virtue in the proposition of my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) that a debate on the Montreal Economic Conference would be of the greatest value. Our difficulty is that we have introduced a certain amount of Government legislation and that we have little time before Christmas. I will let my right hon. Friends who are principally concerned know about the pressure which my hon. Friends feel should be exercised in favour of a debate of this sort.

Mr. Bottomley

Is it not typical of the Government that they always delegate Commonwealth affairs to the last item on the list?

Mr. Butler

I should have thought that the observations made by my right hon. and hon. Friends and the general world acceptance of the results of the Conference belied the right hon. Member.

Sir G. Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that high priority ought to be given to a debate on Treasury control? May I remind him that, so far as I know, the House has never debated the whole subject of Treasury control? As one of the primary duties of hon. Members is control of Supply, is this not a golden opportunity?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the Report of the Committee on Estimates and the important issues there involved. We are all aware—alas! many of us to our disadvantage—of the importance of Treasury control, but I cannot at the moment see an available day. If it is possible to find time, we shall certainly consider what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Farey-Jones

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to a Motion on the Order Paper standing in my name, and supported by an important volume of opinion in the House, with reference to the future of the aircraft industry?

[That this House is of opinion that, in order to safeguard the future of the British aircraft industry and civil aviation generally throughout the Commonwealth, Her Majesty's Government should at the earliest opportunity make available to the aircraft industry the capital necessary to preserve within the Commonwealth and thereby to prevent their sale to foreign powers of certain outstanding new inventions in the field of aeronautics, which are of most vital and revolutionary importance in the development of aviation throughout the world and can, if maintained in the United Kingdom, safeguard a high and stable level of employment in the British aircraft industry for many years ahead.]

In view of the very pressing problems involved, will he make available in the immediate future a full day's debate on this issue? If the Parliamentary timetable makes that impossible, will he, on behalf of the Government, give an undertaking that certain inventions will not pass or be sold to foreign Powers and that even the research and development on those inventions will remain within the Commonwealth?

Mr. Butler

I cannot, in reply to a business question, answer the substance of my hon. Friend's observations, but I will bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friends principally concerned. It will be very difficult to find time to fit in a debate on this before Christmas.