HC Deb 10 December 1959 vol 615 cc744-51
Mr. Gaitskell

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

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)

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

MONDAY, 14TH DECEMBER—Debate on European Free Trade Association, on a Government Motion.

TUESDAY, 15TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Air Corporations Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Report of Supplementary Estimates.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Post Office (United Kingdom and Iceland) Agreement.

WEDNESDAY, 16TH DECEMBER—Consideration of the Motion to approve the Local Government General Grant (Increase) Order.

Afterwards, there will be an opportunity for a debate on the Opposition Motion relating to Telephone Tapping.

THURSDAY, 17TH DECEMBER—It is proposed that the House should meet at 11 a.m., that Questions be taken until 12 noon, and that Mr. Speaker be empowered to adjourn the House at 5 o'clock without putting any Question.

We then adjourn for the Christmas Recess until Tuesday, 26th January.

Mr. Gaitskell

When is it proposed to take the Motion for the Christmas Adjournment?

Mr. Butler

We have not finally decided, but it will be on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Mr. Gaitskell

What has happened about the proposed debate on accommodation, which was to have been a full-day debate? Since it has apparently been squeezed out of next week, can the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that we shall have that debate immediately we return after Christmas?

Mr. Butler

There is no question of squeezing out the debate. We were quite ready to have the debate on accommodation on Wednesday, but the Opposition then put down a Motion on telephone tapping, and it is right to take that Motion. We still offered half a day on accommodation, but that was not agreeable to the Opposition. We have in every respect attempted to meet the wishes of the Opposition. As the Opposition did not want half a day on accommodation, we must have a day on it some time after the House returns.

Mr. Gaitskell

Could we not have had it in place of Monday's debate?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. The issue of Monday's debate is one of supreme importance to the economic future of the country, and I think that that debate should be held.

Mr. Shinwell

Why has not the right hon. Gentleman provided time for a debate on a Motion on the Order Paper which relates to the provision of certain weapons to West Germany? Is he aware that 108 Members have appended their signature to this Motion? How are the views of private Members to be presented to the House unless an opportunity is given to debate Motions which are placed on the Order Paper from both sides of the House?

[That this House regrets the supply to Western Germany by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and with the full consent of Her Majesty's Government, of tactical atomic weapons and missiles of nuclear capability; believes that this policy will foreclose debate on some of the most vital issues to be discussed at the delayed Summit Conference; and, therefore, urges Her Majesty's Government not to continue this policy until the Summit Conference has been held.]

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the importance of the Motion to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, but there simply has not been time to fit in a debate upon it before the Christmas Recess.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, instead of discussing accommodation, I should prefer to discuss the shipbuilding orders which have been given to Tyneside?

Mr. Butler

I will bear that in mind.

Mr. Mellish

Would the Leader of the House be good enough to answer two questions? First, what is the present position in the discussions which, I gather, have been going on about public accountability in the nationalised industries, so far as the House is concerned?

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to let us know when he will pay attention personally to the important Bill in Standing Committee upstairs, the Betting and Gaming Bill, and will attend there himself, so that we may have his guidance and help?

Mr. Butler

I made it clear on the Floor of the House that I should be unable to attend the Standing Committee upstairs, where I am most ably represented by my right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, himself a man of considerable stature and experience in these matters, and by my hon. Friends the other junior Ministers. I am perfectly well satisfied of the ability of my right hon. and hon. Friends to negotiate in a friendly manner with the critics of the Bill a way through the Committee stage. I shall be available for the latter stages and I shall be available for consultation all the time.

There is no solution at present to the vexed question of accountability. The Select Committee on Nationalised Industries has been set up again, but this does not fall literally within its purview. While certain conversations have taken place, we have not yet reached a solution.

Lord Balniel

Will my right hon. Friend consider allocating time for the debate on the Younghusband Report on Social Service Workers soon after the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Butler

I will take note of what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Zilliacus

In view of the fact that the Thor missiles are being made operational at 15 minutes' notice, will the Leader of the House seek an early opportunity for a debate on civil defence?

Mr. Butler

Coinciding with that fact, the accuracy of which I must attribute to the hon. Member, we have a considerable easing of tension in the international situation. I think that we should mark both those points before we decide on what our debate should be on that subject.

Mr. C. Pannell

Before the debate on accommodation, will the Leader of the House consider the possibility of introducing legislation to take this House into public ownership? Does he appreciate that there is an increasing view on both sides of the House that the next thing to be nationalised is the House of Commons, and that we rather suffer in this place from a very mixed and tangled economy?

Mr. Butler

Having read the Stokes Report, I am aware of the proposals that there should be Commissioners of Parliament and a different organisation of the Palace of Westminster. This raises issues rather outside our purview. It is one of the topics which we can discuss when we debate accommodation. I do not think that there will be universal agreement with the hon. Member, although the merits of his case can certainly be canvassed; but I think that there is general agreement that there is some need for improving our accommodation.

Mr. Wyatt

Will the Leader of the House find time either before Christmas or immediately after our return to debate the demand made by the British Transport Commission that it should have immediate permission to pull down the Gothic arch and the Great Hall of Euston Station, despite the fact that this was the first railway station ever built in any capital city and that it is listed as an historical monument?

Mr. Butler

That is one of the problems of the nationalised industries to which we should pay attention.

Mr. George Craddock

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will try to provide time to consider two Motions on the Order Paper, one in my own name and the names of 81 of my hon. Friends, and the other in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) and Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman)? This is a matter which concerns the position of juries. Would he be good enough to provide the necessary time for a debate before the Christmas break?

[That this House deplores the direction given to a jury at Nottingham Assizes on 25th November by Mr. Justice Stable, who said: "I will leave this court in 10 minutes, and if by that time you have not arrived at a conclusion you will be kept locked up here all night and we will resume when I get back tomorrow morning at 11.45 a.m.", believing that such pressure exercised upon any jury is calculated to undermine the faith of the nation in our courts of justice.]

[That this House reaffirms its belief that the sound administration of justice rests upon the proper discharge of their duties by juries whose independence and integrity is impervious to pressure from judges, however strong minded, and who bear in mind that it is for them alone to decide in their own time the guilt or innocence of accused persons.]

Mr. Butler

There is no hope of providing time before Christmas. I have the Motions before me, and I am ready to discuss the matter with the hon. Member if he so desires.

Mr. D. Price

In view of the mouse of a debate which we had on the new post of the Minister for Science last Monday, would my right hon. Friend undertake to give Government time after Christmas for a full-scale debate on the Government's scientific policy, with particular reference to the annual report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy?

Mr. Butler

I think that the more we can discuss the matter the better. I will endeavour to improve the stature of the mammal to which my hon. Friend refers.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Leader of the House aware that there has been considerable criticism of the proposal to spend £l¼ million on No. 10 Downing Street and adjacent buildings? Will the House have the opportunity to discuss this before the Government are unequivocably committed to this expenditure?

Mr. Butler

I am sure that nobody is at all keen to see any undue disturbance at No. 10 Downing Street, but this is a matter which has been for long canvassed, and which my right hon. Friend has discussed with the Leader of the Opposition. It is a matter which is, I believe, necessary in the long-term interest of these buildings. At the moment, I do not see any chance of discussing it in the House, but I will certainly pay attention to the representations of the hon. Member.

Mr. Ross

Can the Leader of the House tell us whether we shall be dealing next week with the Money Resolution on the important Measure which the Government have introduced to nationalise shipping in the Highlands and Islands? Will this be dealt with on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week? This is a very important issue, and dear to the hearts of hon. Members opposite, I am sure.

Mr. Butler

It cannot come before the House until it has finished its course through the Scottish Grand Committee.

Mr. Swingler

Further to the question asked by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), does the Leader of the House realise that many hon. Members are seriously concerned about the revelations that the Government are now considering joint Anglo-German co-operation in the production of nuclear weapons, and that a series of decisions appears to have been taken in N.A.T.O. which creates a new military situation? Surely, we should have some time to discuss this. Would the Leader of the House assure us that as soon as we return after the Christmas Recess we shall have an opportunity of discussing the subjects raised in the Motion on nuclear arms for Western Germany?

Mr. Butler

I cannot discuss the actual merits of the proposal in answer to business questions, but I will certainly bring the points expressed by the hon. Gentleman to the attention of my right hon. Friends principally involved.

Mr. Lipton

Will the right hon. Gentleman have a look at the Motion which I put down for the removal of a magistrate from the Wokingham Bench, about which the Prime Minister said that he would have a talk with the right hon. Gentleman, and which he himself said last week he would look at? Can he now give an undertaking that he will find an hour or two, after the House resumes after the Christmas Recess, for a debate on this Motion?

[That this House takes note that, on 19th October last at Wokingham Juvenile Court, Mr. Leonard Hackett, J.P., addressed an accused person in the following terms: "What you richly deserve is such a thorough thrashing that you would be senseless for about forty-eight hours. Very unfortunately this court has no power, and no other court has any power, to order you to be so punished. However, I have no doubt that if you continue in your present way of life this punishment you will receive, and it will not be ordered by a court of law but by other men in whose society you will find yourself"; and this House is therefore of the opinion that Mr. Hackett should be removed from the list of magistrates.]

Mr. Butler

I cannot add further to the answers given on this subject up to date.

Mr. Short

As old-age pensioners are so tightly budgeted, and as we are told that they have never had it so good, will the Government give some time to the House next week to consider the Motion on the Order Paper which advocates Christmas bonuses for old-age pensioners?

[That this House requests Her Majesty's Government to make arrangements for each retirement pensioner to be paid a bonus of five pounds during Christmas week and that this payment be disregarded in assessing National Assistance allowances.]

Mr. Butler

Except for the possible opportunities on the Motion for the Adjournment, I do not see how we can provide an opportunity for such a debate.

Mr. Allaun

Will the Leader of the House tell us why the Christmas Recess this year has been extended to six weeks all but two days? Does not this 40-day period contrast with 30, 30, and 31 days in the previous three years? Does he not think that this is tending to bring the House into disrepute, when there is already plenty of anti-Parliamentary feeling about? So that we should have adequate time to debate the problems of the homeless, the unemployed and the aged, will he consider bringing us back, not on 26th January, but a week earlier?

Mr. Butler

I think that it is quite within the bounds of reason that we should have this interval. I do not think that, necessarily, legislation alone brings about an improvement. I think that we could well do with this interval. We came back purposely very soon after the General Election, adhering to the date announced before the election, and I do not think that we have lost very much Parliamentary time. Therefore, I do not think that we could respond to the hon. Gentleman's invitation.

Mr. Gaitskell

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that we shall wish to discuss this matter when dealing with the Motion for the Christmas Adjournment?

Mr. Butler

Having had some experience of these matters, I have foreseen this, before the right hon. Gentleman so wisely rose to put it.