HC Deb 23 July 1959 vol 609 cc1527-33
Mr. Gaitskell

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

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Botler)

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

MONDAY, 27TH JULY—Committee and Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.

The Opposition have chosen the following subjects for debate.

Consumer Protection.

The Hola Report and Illegal Detentions.


Industrial Health Conditions.

TUESDAY, 28TH JULY—Debate on the Nyasaland Commission of Inquiry.

Motion to approve the Import Duties (Various Goods) Order.

Committee and remaining stages of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Bill [Lords]; and the Colonial Development and Welfare Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation Measure.

It is proposed to give facilities for the Consideration of the Lords Amendments to the Legitimacy Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 29TH JULY—Debate on the Report and Accounts of the British Transport Commission and on the Plan for the Modernisation and Re-equipment of British Railways.

THURSDAY, 30TH JULY—It is proposed to meet at Eleven a.m.

Questions will be taken until Twelve noon, and at Five o'clock Mr. Speaker will adjourn the House without putting any Question.

Adjourn for the Summer Recess.

At the end of business already announced for tomorrow, Friday, we shall ask the House to take the Second Reading of the Colonial Development and Welfare Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation Measure.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the right hon. Gentleman announce the date in the autumn when the House will meet again?

Mr. Butler

As I think is customary, I propose to announce that early next week.

Mr. Hirst

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether his attention has been drawn to the Motion standing on the Order Paper in my name relating to compensation for compulsory purchase? I wonder whether my right hon. Friend knows this sad story and that the life of one man concerned with the property in question has already been shortened. Bearing in mind what happened to Mr. Pilgrim and the lack of time for debate, will my right hon. Friend personally interest himself in the matter, or even be willing to see me upon it?

[That this House views with very grave concern the refusal of the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs to take any steps to remedy or alleviate an injustice to one of Her Majesty's subjects notwithstanding the clearest possible evidence repeatedly advanced that part of his premises situated in Bingley, Yorkshire, to be acquired compulsorily under the appropriate Acts, is and has been always shop property, but is to be compensated by his actions only nominally as housing unfit for habitation; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take such steps whether by legislation or otherwise to remedy this wrong forthwith.]

Mr. Butler

I have read the Motion of my hon. Friend and I am aware of his difficulty and of the difficulty of the case. I would certainly be prepared to see him about it if he so desires, but I cannot undertake to give time to debate the Motion before we rise.

Mr. Ernest Davies

Has the Leader of the House seen the Motion on the Order Paper, Trunk Roads (Minister's Speech), which has been signed by well over 100 right hon. and hon. Members? In view of the deplorable behaviour of the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation in attacking a Select Committee of the House outside its precincts, will the right hon. Gentleman find time to debate the matter, so that the Minister can explain his behaviour?

[That this House, having noted the speeches of the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation at Hendon and Stamford on 21st July, in which he commented adversely on the First Report from the Select Committee of Estimates (Trunk Roads) and described their inquiries as cursory, deprecates his discourtesy in so acting before making a statement in the House or submitting to the Select Committee any observations on their Report.]

Mr. Butler

I entirely repudiate the reflections on my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend, in so far as questions of good manners towards the Select Committee are concerned, has already expressed his own regret to the Select Committee, and I think that that indicates a proper attitude on his part. There will not be time to discuss the matter before we rise.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will spend some of his summer holiday driving on some of the roads.

Mr. H. Morrison

May I suggest that the Leader of the House take this matter a little more seriously? Is he aware that the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation has not apologised to the Select Committee? He has said that if the Committee is offended he is sorry. That is another matter. But is there not a perfectly well established procedure, when a Select Committee reports to the House, for the Government to have the opportunity to reply on financial matters to the Select Committee in a proper manner and, if they so wish, to have their reply published? I put my own name to this Motion with some regret, because it is a pity that this kind of thing should happen.

Mr. Nabarro

The right hon. Gentleman should have sent a telegram.

Mr. Morrison

May I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman tries gently to persuade the Minister to "come clean" with an apology, and then the incident can be forgotten?

Mr. Butler

My right hon. Friend's intention was to express his regret to the Select Committee. As I understand, the right hon. Gentleman does not think that that is a sufficient expression of regret. No doubt there are other methods of replying to the Select Committee, and if I can discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend I shall be only too glad to do so, because I know that he does not wish in any way to insult the honour or dignity of a Select Committee of this House.

Mr. Tilney

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has looked again at the Motion calling attention to the plight of ex-colonial civil servants and whether he is aware that those who have gone abroad are now treated less favourably than those who have stayed at home?

[That this House draws the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the wide differences between pension scales paid to retired colonial civil servants by Her Majesty's Government and those paid by certain Governments of both dependent and independent territories within the Commonwealth; and urges Her Majesty's Government to use its influence with the Governments of the territories whose scales of pensions fall below present standards to make compensating increases.]

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I am aware of the Motion, but at this stage of the Session I cannot give any time to discuss it.

Mr. C. R. Hobson

Is the Leader of the House aware that he is completely misinformed about the apology of the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation? As Chairman of the Select Committee, Sub-Committee F, may I say that no apology has been received by my Committee, neither has there been a written apology to the full Committee on Estimates, which met as recently as 4 o'clock yesterday? Will the right hon. Gentleman do something about it?

Mr. Butler

I did not say that an apology had been sent to Sub-Committee F or to the main Committee. I said that my right hon. Friend had made an expression of regret, and I said in reply to the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) that I would discuss with my right hon. Friend whether it could be put through more orthodox channels than has been done already. We must not exaggerate this matter. My right hon. Friend was submitted to considerable criticism. He has been responsible for a very fine forward programme, and he undoubtedly felt somewhat put out by the criticisms. I have undertaken to discuss the matter of apology with him, and I am sure that hon. Members will not wish to press the point any further.

Mr. Gaitskell

Whatever may be the merits of the dispute or apparent dispute between the Minister and the Select Committee, would not the Leader of the House agree that it is most inappropriate for Ministers to speak in this way outside the House about the Report of a Select Committee? Does the right hon. Gentleman really feel that this half-hearted apology, or so-called apology, made in this House is adequate? Would it not be far better for the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to write a letter of apology to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Estimates? I feel sure that if that were done my hon. Friends and members of the Committee would be satisfied.

Mr. Butler

I am not prepared to go further today than to say that I will consider the point put to me by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South and the point put to me by the Leader of the Opposition, but I think that it would be a great mistake to underestimate the expression of regret made by my right hon. Friend in the House. To say that that is totally inadequate, when we know that he intended to express his regret, is to exaggerate the affair to too great an extent.

Sir G. Nicholson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this incident calls attention to the state of affairs which can sometimes be unsatisfactory, in that when a report of a Select Committee on Estimates is published it comes out at, say, 11 o'clock in the morning and is seized on by the Press, who in this case, hardly took the trouble to read it and produced an absolute travesty of it?

Mr. C. R. Hobson

That is not true. Read the Report.

Sir G. Nicholson

It is most unfair on the Minister in question, whatever Minister it may be, who has to pursue the lies after the lies have started.

Mr. Hobson

That is not true.

Sir G. Nicholson

The Minister has to pursue a caricature of a professed Report which is biassed and unbalanced. Cannot something be done about the matter?

Mr. Butler

I think that it is true to say that the Press version was somewhat abbreviated, but I would not be ready to accept totally the description of my hon. Friend. I think that we had better leave the matter as I have said, namely, that my right hon. Friend was suitably contrite. He was also suitably indignant. I have undertaken to examine whether anything more can be done.

Mr. Mulley

Would the Leader of the House consider suggesting to his right hon. Friend that he seeks permission to make a statement after Questions next week so that hon. Members on both sides of the House can put the Report in its proper perspective?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that I can carry the matter any further than I have said in answer to the Leader of the Opposition and to the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will my right hon. Friend recommend to the party opposite that it directs its views towards Nottingham and obtains an apology from that quarter?

Sir G. Benson

I do not know whether it would be in order to revert to the matter of Sir Roger Casement, but may I ask the Home Secretary whether he is aware that we have had a copy of the diaries in the Library?

Mr. Butler

I was aware that there was a copy of what is called the "Black Book" in the Library, but that book does not contain all the material that is going to the Public Record Office. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the exact nature of the material that is to be put in the Public Record Office. It can then be compared with the "Black Book".