HC Deb 26 February 1959 vol 600 cc1297-302
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, 2ND MARCH—Second Reading of the Colonial Development and Welfare Bill.

Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

TUESDAY, 3RD MARCH—Supply [4th Allotted Day]: Army Estimates, 1959–60, will be considered in Committee on Vote A.

WEDNESDAY, 4TH MARCH—Report and Third Reading of the House Purchase and Housing Bill.

THURSDAY, 5TH MARCH—Supply [5th Allotted Day]: Air Estimates, 1959–60, will be considered in Committee on Vote A.

FRIDAY, 6TH MARCH—Consideration of Private Members' Motions.

Mr. Gaitskell

I have three points. First, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we have grave doubts whether the time provided for Report and Third Reading of the House Purchase and Housing Bill will be adequate, and that we can give no possible undertaking, as far as we are concerned, that we can necessarily get through the business that day?

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind our request for a debate on Cyprus as soon as possible?

Thirdly, may I ask whether it is the intention of the Government to give the House any information about the situation in Southern Rhodesia? I realise that what has been done by the Southern Rhodesian Government is within their own jurisdiction. Nevertheless, in view of possible repercussions on other Colonial Territories, may I ask whether Her Majesty's Government were consulted, whether they have any information, and whether an early statement will be made on this subject?

Mr. Butler

The House will remember that no less than three days were taken on the Floor of the House on the Committee stage of the House Purchase and Housing Bill. We think that it is perfectly reasonable to make the progress that we have indicated on Wednesday, so we shall desire to make the maximum progress possible.

I have already noted the right hon. Gentleman's wish for a debate on Cyprus as soon as possible. We can discuss that through the usual channels.

In reply to the right hon. Gentleman's third point, I think that we must be careful over this, because it is an area which does not fall within the jurisdiction of Her Majesty's Government upon which I could answer. What I think that the right hon. Gentleman perhaps has in mind are the general repercussions upon areas for which we could be responsible. It is in that spirit that I will, consider his request. I do not think, as at present advised, though I undertake to consult my right hon. Friends principally concerned, that it is likely that there will be a statement before the week-end.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I press the right hon. Gentleman a little further on the last point? The situation is apparently rather serious. There are riots in Nyasaland. Now there is a state of emergency in Southern Rhodesia. The African National Congress has been banned. I understand that some persons have been arrested. There is an obvious danger of repercussions. I asked whether Her Majesty's Government had been consulted on this matter. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider what he said just now. It is extremely important that some information on this matter should be given to the House before the week-end.

Mr. Butler

I have said that I will consult my right hon. Friends principally concerned. Indeed, it will not surprise the right hon. Gentleman to know that the situation in general is a matter of considerable anxiety to Her Majesty's Government. But I must be very careful not to answer on behalf of another Government, and I would have to frame any answer I gave or that was given in the light of that consideration. I cannot take this matter further, but perhaps the usual contacts can be maintained.

Major Legge-Bourke

Has the attention of my right hon. Friend been called to the Special Report that was submitted to the House on 9th February by the Committee on Group B of Private Bills which covered four separate Bills? My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) has objected again to the Report on the Bucks Water Board Bill, which will, therefore, at some time in the near future be debated on the Floor of the House. Would my right hon. Friend consider arranging for possibly the Special Report on the four Bills to be considered at the same time?

Mr. Butler

This would be a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means. While I would be glad to consider the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend, I do not think that the decision lies entirely with me.

Mr. Hamilton

The right hon. Gentleman will recall a question that I asked at this time last week. Is he aware that since then the Scottish unemployment figures have risen by 20,000, so that there are now probably more unemployed in Scotland than there are red deer? The House has already spent 16½hours debating 100,000 red deer in Scotland and not one hour on the 120,000 unemployed. Since it is the Government's policy that has created this state of affairs, will the right hon. Gentleman now undertake to give Government time to debate the whole unemployment situation?

Mr. Butler

This is a matter that can be raised by the Opposition on a Supply day. It is one to which the Government give constant attention. I think that it gives a misleading expression to compare the matter with a Bill, because time is always given to legislation, whatever the subject may be. It must not be thought that the Government are not interested in this vital aspect of the unemployment situation in Scotland.

Dame Irene Ward

Can my right hon. Friend say when we are to hear about an increase in the pensions of widows of Service officers and other ranks, which has been the subject of discussion for a very long time? Will he bear in mind that in a two-day debate on defence it is rather unfortunate that there has not been a statement on this question? It is very hard on the widows to be kept in suspense for such a long time. Can we, please, have a speed-up?

Mr. Butler

I will note what my hon. Friend says. We still have a further day on the defence debate. I cannot give any undertaking now.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton), has the Leader of the House considered the Motion on the Order Paper, in the name of some of my hon. Friends, calling for a much more urgent and spectacular Scottish public works programme; and, in particular, for the building soon of the Tay Road Bridge as a means of alleviating unemployment? Would the right hon. Gentleman consider giving time for a debate on that Motion?

[That this House, in view of the latest grave rise in Scottish unemployment, and in view of the fact that there is now a surplus of steel and the Scottish steel industry is operating seriously below capacity, urges Her Majesty's Government to extend immediately the provision of major public works and, in particular, to name an early date for a start to the building of the proposed Tay Road Bridge, believing that this project is now essential both for alleviating local unemployment and for providing the east of Scotland with a modern system of transportation necessary to attract new industry to the area.]

Mr. Butler

I have the Motion before me, and I am aware of the interest of hon. Members in it. I cannot, at the moment, give any definite undertaking, but this is, perhaps, a matter that will arise in the course of our normal discussions.

Mr. Beswick

To return to the subject of the review of certain existing Service pensions, does the right hon. Gentleman realise that next week we are to debate two of the Service Estimates; and that it would be quite wrong to discuss them without reference to pensions?

Mr. Butler

I will note the hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. Chetwynd

Would the Leader of the House consider extending the time for debating the Service Estimates on Tuesday and Thursday of next week?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I think that, according to precedent, we shall probably move for a suspension of Standing Orders, but, this year, I anticipate that the Motion will be to suspend for two hours in each case.

Mr. Brockway

Reverting to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about Central Africa, while it is not within the competence of this House to discuss what the Government of Southern Rhodesia have done, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, before we have a discussion in the House, Her Majesty's Government will not extend to Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland the ban on the Central African Congress that has been applied in Southern Rhodesia?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are on business, and I do not think that that question relates to business.

Mr. Slater

In view of the many Questions that have been asked today about Civil Defence, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it advisable that we should debate this important matter so as to allay the fears and anxieties of the general public, and also to learn the attitude of local authorities?

Mr. Butler

It had struck me, because of the number of Questions put down, and the number of Answers given by myself and by my hon. Friends the Joint Under-Secretaries of State, that there is considerable interest in civil defence. I may say that at any time, when it is for the convenience of the House, I should be very glad to give further information. There is a debate on defence today, when it would be in order to refer to this subject. I dare say, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater) will attempt to catch your eye.

Mr. Sydney Irving

Does the Leader of the House anticipate that the House will have an early opportunity to discuss the Roberts Report on Public Libraries?

Mr. Butler

It cannot be regarded as one of the more pressing of our anxieties, but I note the genuineness of the hon. Member's request.

Mr. Skeffington

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered giving time to debate a Motion that has been on the Order Paper for a considerable time, signed by some of my hon. Friends and myself, relating to the future of the aircraft industry, a subject that arouses considerable concern among hon. Members on both sides?

[That this House, viewing with grave concern the contraction of the aircraft industry and the consequent dispersal of skilled men and valuable design teams, and bearing in mind its importance in regard both to the nation's defence and economic interests, and noting the large sums of public money already expended in the industry, urges the Government to appoint an independent Committee of Inquiry to consider and make recommendations as to the future of the aircraft industry.]

Mr. Butler

I cannot give any undertaking, but I am aware of the interest as expressed in the Motion.