HC Deb 15 December 1960 vol 632 cc602-6
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week?

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

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

MONDAY, 19TH DECEMBER—Supply [3rd Allotted Day]:

Motion to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair, when the Second Report from the Public Accounts Committee, 1959–60, will be debated until Seven o'clock, on an Amendment to take note of this Report with special reference to Development and Production of Guided Weapons.

Afterwards, there will be a debate on an Amendment to take note of the Fourth Report from the Estimates Committee, 1959–60, relating to the Colonial Office.

TUESDAY, 20TH DECEMBER—Report and Third Reading of the Betting Levy Bill.

Second Reading of the Human Tissue Bill.

Report on the National Health Service Supplementary Estimates.

WEDNESDAY, 21ST 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 shall then adjourn for the Christmas Recess until Tuesday, 24th January, 1961.

Mr. Gaitskell

When do the Government expect to announce the outcome of the Stedeford Report on transport?

Mr. Butler

It is hoped to make an announcement in the form of a White Paper before the House rises.

Mr. S. Silverman

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House why it has not yet been found possible to find any time for the Motion standing in the names of myself and my hon. Friends—about 80-odd of them? [HON. MEMBERS: "Odd."] Is he aware that the Motion has been on the Order Paper for nearly three weeks and that if time cannot be found before the Christmas Recess it will have been standing on the Order Paper for about two months at least before it is disposed of? Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that that is satisfactory?

[That this House places on record its profound regret that the Secretary of State for the Home Department failed to advise Her Majesty the Queen to exercise Her Royal Prerogative of mercy in the cases of Francis Forsyth and Norman Harris, the first of whom was only a month or two over eighteen years of age and the other twenty-three years of age, both of whom were said by the learned counsel who prosecuted them to have had no intention to kill, and one of whom, namely, Norman Harris, was admitted to have struck no blow and was not present when any fatal act of violence was committed.]

Mr. Butler

I have already said that this Motion raises very important issues, but I have nothing to add to what I said last week, namely, that there is not time to take this Motion before Christmas. What I said before has proved to be correct, and I cannot depart from that position.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

Arising out of the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister of Transport, on Tuesday, leaked the story, which was widely published in the Press, that the White Paper will be published on Tuesday or Wednesday? Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm on which day it will be published? Is it being delayed deliberately to make it impossible for Parliament to discuss the future of the railways before the end of January? How much longer are the Government determined to keep the railways in agonising uncertainty as to their future?

Mr. Butler

I cannot announce the exact date, but it will be one day early next week when the White Paper is ready. The question of preventing the House from discussing it does not arise. The whole point of publishing it before Christmas is to give plenty of time for hon. Members and the country to look at the plan which we have taken the trouble to prepare and which is of a detailed character. After the House resumes there will be opportunity to have full discussions on this matter before any question of action arises.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Could an economic debate be arranged for an early date after the Recess under such terms on the Order Paper as will enable taxation to be discussed in relation to expenditure?

Mr. Butler

We have had one discussion on economic affairs, but I will certainly consider what my noble Friend says in the light of the press of business after we have returned.

Dr. Stross

Has the Leader of the House noticed that there is a Motion on the Order Paper referring to backstage conditions in theatres? In view of the fact that he is no longer responsible for this subject, but has handed it over to the Minister of Labour, will he realise that I am not asking him to give time to debate the Motion before Christmas but asking him at least to speak to the Minister of Labour and to see that in the provisions of a Bill now being drafted we can provide some justice for these people?

[That this House deplores the fact that many theatres offer inadequate facilities, backstage, for actors and actresses either for washing or lavatory accommodation; is disturbed to note that out of 156 theatres examined, 78 per cent. had neither baths or showers. 26 per cent. were without wash basins and six of the theatres examined were without a water closet or lavatory of any kind; and urges the Minister of Labour to take prompt action, and issue regulations following appropriate legislation.]

Mr. Butler

I will discuss this matter in the wings with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Warbey

Can the right hon. Gentleman say, in accordance with the usual custom, on which day he proposes to table the Motion for the Adjournment for the Christmas Recess? Is he aware that this will have considerable importance, in view of the fact that there are a number of matters, such as the political situation in Laos, in the Congo and in other territories for which we share some responsibility, on which we shall expect the Government to make a statement before we adjourn?

Mr. Butler

At least one of those subjects is arising on the Adjournment. All I can say is that we shall table the Motion according to precedent on one of the days before we adjourn next week.

Mr. Donnelly

May I return to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman)? Is the leader of the House aware that he invited my hon. Friend to put down this Motion on this very grave issue? How does he reconcile his inability to find time for a debate with his invitation to my hon. Friend to put the Motion down, because it was a very grave constitutional matter which the House of Commons has no opportunity of discussing in retrospect? It is life and death.

Mr. Butler

I was not aware that the situation was exactly as the hon. Member has framed it. Perhaps he could discuss it with me. I do not quite understand his interpretation. I have no doubt about the seriousness of the matter. The ability to discuss it is thwarted only by the lack of opportunity.

Mr. S. Silverman

Does that mean that the right hon. Gentleman is assuring the House that at the earliest convenient opportunity he will find time to discuss this Motion?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I can give no guarantee.

Mr. Kershaw

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the possibility of making time available after the Christmas Recess to debate the signing of the O.E.C.D. Convention which took place in Paris yesterday?

Mr. Butler

I will examine that and consult my right hon. Friends.

Mr. Lipton

In view of the pressure of events and various topics which have been brought to his attention, is the right hon. Gentleman likely to consider any alteration in the date of the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir.