HC Deb 28 April 1960 vol 622 cc389-95
Mr. H. Wilson

Will the Leader of the House state 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, 2ND MAY—Supply [12th Allotted Day]: Committee.

A debate will take place on Housing and Local Government in England and Wales and Scotland in Committee of Supply on the appropriate Votes.

TUESDAY, 3RD MAY—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 4TH MAY—Report and Third Reading of the Radioactive Substances Bill [Lords]; and of the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Bill.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the draft Census Order, 1960.

THURSDAY, 5TH MAY—We shall begin the Report stage of the Betting and Gaming Bill.

I have already informed the House that we shall propose that the House do not sit on Friday, 6th May, in view of the Royal Wedding.

We shall make good the time for the private Members' motions which will thereby be displaced and I will make a statement later.

MONDAY, 9TH MAY—The proposed business will be Supply [13th Allotted Day]: Committee. A debate on Primary Education will take place on the appropriate Votes.

Mr. H. Wilson

Has the right hon. Gentleman taken note of the request by the Opposition for a full-dress debate on foreign affairs, including disarmament and other matters that are likely to be raised at the forthcoming Summit Conference, and if so, what does he propose to do about it?

Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the proposal to debate the Finance Bill on Tuesday means that there is a rather short interval between now and then in which the House can study this long and complex Bill? Is he aware that the Bill consists of 73 Clauses of great legal complexity and that there is at least a little controversy, I understand, on his own side of the House as well as on this side? In view of all this, will not the Leader of the House reconsider the matter and bring up the Finance Bill for Second Reading a little later?

Mr. Butler

I should prefer to consider the question of a debate on foreign affairs, disarmament and other important matters when my right hon. and learned Friend returns. But I will discuss it with my right hon. and learned Friend and with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. There will be some difficulty about finding time, but the wish of the Opposition has been noted.

On the question of the Finance Bill, to be discussed on Tuesday, I have looked up the precedents and I find that the interval is the same as last year and in 1957, and that it has been within that margin previously. I realise that the time is short, but we had a late Easter and I think that it would be difficult now to alter the date. I wish to say, however, that we are allowing what amounts to a fortnight between the Second Reading debate and the Committee stage, which should give hon. Members an opportunity to put down their Amendments in good time. I think that the general sense and the lines of the Bill are known. It would be very difficult to alter the arrangements now.

Mr. Wilson

I do not wish in any way to praise the Finance Acts of 1957 and 1959, which we criticised at the time, but they did not have anything like the same degree of legal complexity that we find in the present Bill. Is not it a fact that the Bill raises some difficult questions involving principle and judicial matters and independent tribunals, mote evasion and things of that kind, to which a great deal of thought must need be given?

We welcome the proposal to have a fortnight's interval between the Second Reading debate and the Committee stage, but does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that it would be more in accord with the convenience of the House as a whole if we had a longer interval before the Second Reading debate; in return for which I am sure that hon. Members on this side of the House would be prepared to accept a shorter interval between the Second Reading debate and the Committee stage?

Mr. Butler

I do not want to be unreasonable—the right hon. Gentleman has put his points reasonably—but I think that it would be better to stick to the programme, which is the best we can do, and allow good time for Committee points to be considered and for Amendments to be put down. I notice that the Finance Act of 1948 contained 76 Clauses and 10 Schedules, but so reasonable were the Opposition of the day— namely, our party—that we managed to get it through in five sittings of the Committee.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Regarding the postponement of the Motions to be debated on Friday, 6th May—I am so glad to know that now there is no risk of my Motion stealing the headlines on Saturday morning—will my right hon. Friend say when he hopes to make a statement about when these Motions will be taken?

Mr. Butler

I have noted the very moderate and reasonable view of my hon. Friend. I will make the statement fairly soon. I do not think that we shall be able to provide time before Whitsun, but we shall, however, provide it.

Mr. Ede

The right hon. Gentleman is asking us to take the Report stage of the Betting and Gaming Bill next Thursday. Will he make a statement about what he proposes to do regarding the Report of the Peppiatt Committee? Will he see that any charge imposed on any subject as a result of the Report is settled in this House and not in another place?

Mr. Butler

I was hoping to make a statement on the general attitude of the Government towards the Peppiatt Report, and the procedure relating thereto, before the Report stage begins on 5th May. I think that it would be convenient, and I will try to make it. I believe that there may be a Question put down on 4th May, but if not, I will make it on 5th May. I will try to make a statement before reaching the Report stage. I do not anticipate that an actual charge will be levied on the subject as a result of this, which is a recommendation regarding a levy. Nevertheless, the point about considering these matters in this House should be borne in mind.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Will it be good enough if we get the right hon. Gentleman's statement as late as that, and if it indicates that the Government intend to incorporate, or try to incorporate, the proposals of the Peppiatt Committee in the Bill? To do that Amendments will be needed on Report stage straight away, and we should need considerable notice in order to consider whether we should put down Amendments, what Amendments the Government have put down and whether we should seek to amend the Government Amendments. If the statement is to be as late as that, I hope that it will be to the effect either that the Report stage will be postponed, or that the Government will not try to incorporate the Peppiatt proposals in the Bill.

Mr. Butler

In view of that, I should be prepared to try to make a statement earlier. In any case, I think that it is revealing no secret to say that it would be difficult to include the recommendations of the Peppiatt Committee in the Bill on Report. The Peppiatt Report, although an excellent one, does not include the detailed scheme which has still to be worked out and considered properly by the House and then put into force. I suggest that I take an earlier opportunity to make a statement, but I do not want to get involved in the dangers which the right hon. Gentleman foresees.

Mr. Ross

In view of the increasing concern in Scotland, and among hon. Members on this side of the House, about the unemployment situation there, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he will find an early date on which we could discuss the Motion, in the names of every Labour Member on this side of the House who represents a Scottish constituency, urging the Government to take the new step of participating in industry in Scotland?

[That this House, while welcoming the efforts being made to induce development of private industry in areas of high unemployment, believes that where those efforts prove insufficient it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to bring full employment to those areas by setting up and operating publicly owned enterprises.]

The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is concerned and that the reluctance of the Government to give us any information reveals that the gravity of the situation is such that they do not wish even their supporters to know what it is. Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the best way to deal with the matter is in a debate and not by means of questions and answers?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that during questions on business is the right time to go into the merits of this matter. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and other members of the Government would be only too glad to tell not only our supporters but the House as a whole about the beneficial effects of our policy—

Mr. Ross

There have not been any.

Mr. Butler

—but I see a little difficulty in finding a date owing to the pressure of business. But that does not mean that I do not realise the importance of the subject.

Mr. Wigg

Will the right hon. Gentleman say how many days he proposes to allocate for consideration of the Betting and Gaming Bill? Will he say whether the second, third or subsequent days will be in the following week?

Mr. Butler

It is not easy for me to give advance notice, but I think that the next day will probably be in the following week—that is a simple statement, and on that I do not think that I can go far wrong. I hope that we shall not be long on the Report stage. There is no question of allocating time. We hope to get through the Report stage as quickly as is reasonably possible. We shall hold the usual discussions with hon. Members who are chiefly concerned, and through the usual channels, about handling this matter with efficiency and speed.

Mr. W. Hamilton

Would not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross)? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that people in Scotland will be offended at the apparent complacency revealed by his answer to my hon. Friend? Would not he think it extremely appropriate if a debate on this question took place on 6th May?

Mr. Butler

I think that it would be a little difficult and might not result in a sufficient number of hon. Members being present to do justice to the importance of the subject. As for complacency, we are fully aware of the need for help for Scotland and Scotland is fully aware of our interest.

Mr. C. Pannell

Are we likely to have a statement from the Leader of the House at a fairly early date about when he proposes to announce the membership of or the setting up of an ad hoc committee which was contemplated during the debate on accommodation in the House? Some hon. Members think that the right hon. Gentleman is rather unwilling to get round to this subject.

Mr. Butler

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Works hopes to announce his plans and produce a model, and so forth. I have already talked with the Leader of the Opposition about the constitution of this committee. There is no question of any dilatoriness in this matter. It is the path of wisdom which I am following.

Mr. Houghton

Is there any hope of the Leader of the House persuading his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to circulate, in advance of the debate on the Finance Bill on Tuesday, an explanation of the more unintelligible Clauses in the Bill so that the Government spokesmen may be able to address a House which is not so bewildered as usual?

Mr. Butler

I think that we may rely on the pellucid clarity of my right hon. Friend and hon. Friends.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Can the Leader of the House tell us what reason he has for thinking that sufficient hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies would not be prepared to be present on 6th May to discuss the question of unemployment in Scotland? Does he not realise that there are a sufficient number of hon. Members from Scotland prepared to use that opportunity to discuss the greatest economic and social problem in Scotland at present?

Mr. Butler

The Government propose to put down a Motion that we should not sit on 6th May. I realise the importance of this subject and I do not doubt that hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies would appear on any occasion to speak indefinitely on any subject. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is satisfied with that answer.

Mr. Callaghan

Has the Leader of the House noted that the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), relating to Welsh leasehold reform, has still failed to make any progress? If we were to offer him facilities, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman, in his turn, would give a little Government time to allow us to get this Measure through?

Mr. Butler

I should like to examine carefully the facilities which the hon. Member would offer to me.