HC Deb 29 October 1959 vol 612 cc375-80
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:

The debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech will be continued on MONDAY, 2ND NOVEMBER, and be brought to a conclusion on TUESDAY, 3RD NOVEMBER.

It would be convenient, Mr. Speaker, if you would be good enough to indicate to the House which Amendment or Amendments you propose to call and the days upon which they will be taken.

WEDNESDAY, 4TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Sea Fish Industry Bill and of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolutions.

Consideration of Motion to approve the Import Duties Order (Lighter Flints).

THURSDAY, 5TH NOVEMBER—Consideration of a Motion for an humble Address to Her Majesty the Queen relating to the Retirement of Mr. Speaker Morrison.

Second Reading of the Cinematograph Films Bill and of the Lord High Commissioner (Church of Scotland) Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

FRIDAY, 6TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Marshall Scholarships Bill and of the Foreign Service Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolutions.

Mr. Speaker

It is probably for the convenience of the House if I respond at once to the invitation to indicate the Amendments selected.

I have considered them and propose to select the Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and other right hon. Gentlemen relating to Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia.

[But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech contain no proposals for ending the state of emergency in Nyasaland, for the release or trial of political prisoners; or for an early and substantial extension of the franchise in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia so that the Governments of these Protectorates may truly represent their peoples at the proposed Conference on Central African Federation.]

I propose to call that on Monday, and I propose also to select the next Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman, relating to home affairs.

[But humbly regret the omission of any effective proposals for achieving continuous industrial expansion without rising prices; for dealing adequately with the problems for industries facing special difficulties such as coal mining, cotton and shipbuilding; or for assisting old people and widows, those who are sick, disabled or unemployed and others still living in poverty and hardship.]

If the aforementioned Amendment is disposed of on Monday, I propose to call the latter Amendment on Tuesday.

Mr. Gaitskell

I am much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House when the Local Employment Bill is likely to receive a Second Reading and whether he can give us two days for the debate on that Bill?

Mr. Butler

It is likely that the Government will attempt to provide two days for debate. The exact date will take into account the need for the Opposition and the House generally to study the Bill. I think that adequate time will be given and in due course I will intimate the date to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Could the Leader of the House tell us what are his intentions about the Lord High Commissioner (Church of Scotland) Bill? This Bill was never mentioned in the course of the General Election at all. I do not know what mandate the right hon. Gentleman has had. Will it be considered by the Scottish Grand Committee, or be put to a Committee packed by English landlords?

Mr. Butler

In the latter event, the Committee would be highly respectable.

Mr. Hughes

That does not reassure me.

Mr. Butler

In answer to the hon. Member's former observations, the Measure is one which is designed to make possible the distinguished and important duties of the Lord High Commissioner and will be considered on its Second Reading, as I have indicated to the House, on Thursday next.

Mr. Hughes

Will the Committee stage be taken on Wednesday as well?

Mr. Butler

I think that we had better pass the Second Reading first and then consider those matters.

Mr. Harold Davies

Can the Leader of the House tell us whether the Government have prepared, as some of us understand they have, a land drainage Bill, which was promised to us and of which nothing is mentioned in the Gracious Speech? Is there a likelihood of that Bill being presented to the House this Session?

Mr. Butler

I cannot give a definite answer. The hard-working propensities of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture are well known. I feel convinced that he has the matter of land drainage well up to date and that when he is in a position to make an announcement in the House he will do so.

Mr. Mellish

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that next week we shall be putting questions to various Ministers and that some of us are very dissatisfied that we still have a system by which we are not able to ask the Minister of Transport more detailed Questions, particularly relating, for example, to British Railways? Will the right hon. Gentleman note that there is a very strong feeling that the time has now come when we should have the right to ask the sort of Questions that we want to ask?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir, I will take note of the hon. Gentleman's point. We have made adjustments in the matter of Questions in the past, particularly those relating to labour and colonial affairs. I will now pay attention to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman, subject, of course, to the general reservation about interference in the day-to-day activities of the nationalised industries.

Mr. Mellish

That is the whole point. We know that when this arrangement was started there may have been good reasons for such Questions not being asked, but we think that the time has now come when they should be asked. We can ask Questions about the day-today administration of the Post Office, so why can we not ask similar Questions on anything we like?

Mr. Butler

I think that it is accepted and has been accepted from the other side of the House that to answer a Question asking why the 8.53 train from one place to another was late is rather awkward on the Floor of the House. The relationship of the nationalised industries to Parliament is a large matter. Within reason I think that we would wish all questions to be possible. I do not think I should go further now, when dealing with business questions, but I will certainly meet the hon. Gentleman if he so desires.

Lieut. - Colonel Bromley - Davenport

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is not a question of the 8.53 train being late or early, but rather that a whole lot of these beastly trains are dirty, late and very often dangerous?

Mr. Butler

My hon. and gallant Friend's question appears to raise wider issues.

Mrs. Braddock

When the Leader of the House is considering Questions about the British Transport Commission, will he bear in mind that it may be necessary to ask Questions about the inland waterways, which are also controlled by the Commission? There are very important questions to be asked about the closure of parts of canals and the danger to children from canals which are not closed. Those are matters with which it should be possible to deal at Question Time.

Mr. Butler

The hon. Lady's question also raises wider questions of policy which surely could be ventilated on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Shinwell rose

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Driberg.

Mr. Driberg

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the arrangements about not dealing with day-to-day problems were only provisional arrangements in the first instance, agreed between both sides of the House and Mr. Speaker of that time? Will he also bear in mind that during the war, when there was a Ministry of War Transport, it was possible to put down Questions about the 8.53 train and that the Order Paper did not get unduly overloaded?

Mr. Butler

I am very much interested that at the opening of the new Parliament this issue should have been raised. I think that it should now be properly considered, not merely discussed across the Floor. I certainly undertake that it will be considered.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Shinwell.

Mr. Shinwell

I am very grateful to you, Mr. Speaker; I am very glad that Privy Councillors are not to be penalised. In passing, let me say there are ways and means of getting in. Let there be no mistake about that. We are going to have freedom in this House. I hope that the young Tories will demand freedom and be on their toes—arise ye starvelings from your slumbers!

This is a matter of very great importance. Surely the time has come when the right hon. Gentleman should have made up his mind about this matter, which has been raised in the House over and over again. No one wants to ask Questions about the time at which a train arrives at or leaves a station. That is not the issue. We demand the right to ask the Questions. At present, when these Questions are put to a Minister we are referred to the National Coal Board or to the British Transport Commission. Surely we ought not to be placed in that invidious position. Will the right hon. Gentleman consult my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench—and perhaps some other Members of the House—as to the best means of dealing with this very difficult matter, so that we have some freedom of movement?

Mr. Butler

This is a matter of concern not only to the usual channels, which I will certainly consult, but also to hon. Members and the Table and Mr. Speaker, because at present they are working under certain assumptions. It would be necessary to have proper consultation, but, subject to that, I think that we may well leave the matter there.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

As one who had to answer Questions about transport during the war, it was my experience that Parliamentary Questions always helped to promote efficiency in industries under public control and it was my later experience that Parliamentary control and debate were very powerful factors in improving the efficiency of public industries.

Mr. Manuel

Can the Leader of the House say whether, if the Minister of Agriculture brings forward a Bill dealing with land drainage, there will be a similar Bill to deal with outstanding schemes and the necessary drainage legislation for Scotland?

Mr. Butler

I think that it is better to deal with one thing at a time, but I will discuss that with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland as well.

Mr. Blackburn

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the recommendation of the Select Committee on Procedure, that details of business for the following Monday week should be given?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I think that that was partially covered by my answer yesterday, namely, that we now want to analyse the various recommendations of that Select Committee and to bring them forward in due course for the consideration of the House. In doing so, I will certainly pay attention to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman.