HC Deb 04 February 1960 vol 616 cc1225-31
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 (Mr. R. A. Butler)

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

MONDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY—As already announced, a general debate will take place on Procedure on the Motion which is on the Order Paper to implement certain of the Recommendations of the Select Committee.

TUESDAY, 9TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

WEDNESDAY, 1OTH FEBRUARY—Supply [1st Allotted Day]: Committee.

At the request of the Opposition it is proposed to take Supply formally, and afterwards a debate on FOREIGN AFFAIRS will take place on an Opposition Motion.

THURSDAY, 11TH FEBRUARY—The debate on FOREIGN AFFAIRS will be resumed and concluded.

FRIDAY, 12TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 15TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be the Second Reading of the European Free Trade Association Bill and consideration of the necessary Money Resolution, which it is hoped to obtain by about 7 o'clock.

Afterwards, consideration of the Motion to approve the National Insurance (Earnings) Regulations.

Perhaps I may say, Mr. Speaker, on Monday's debate on procedure, that we have endeavoured to meet the wishes of the House not only to debate the various issues covered by the proposed Amendments to Standing Orders, but to allow for a general debate. Perhaps it would be possible, with your permission, for the various points covered by the Amendments to the Government Motion to be debated during the general debate until, say, about 9 o'clock and afterwards the Amendments could be moved formally and the decision of the House taken if this is thought desirable.

Mr. Gaitskell

I still have some misgivings about Monday's business. We have a series of Government Motions to alter the Standing Orders. Already, we have 13 Amendments on the Order Paper. I do not disagree with what the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, subject to this, that where an hon. Member has his name to an Amendment and he is not called in the general debate, I should have thought that he must be allowed to make the case for the Amendment he is putting forward and there should be some debate on it.

In the light of that, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it might be desirable and, perhaps, possible to end the general debate a little earlier to give rather more time for the specific Amendments.

Mr. Butler

I think that we could, perhaps, work this out as we go along. Perhaps I may confer with you, Mr. Speaker, and with the right hon. Gentleman about how we conduct this matter to the satisfaction of the House.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

May I put again my plea for a general debate on economic and fiscal questions? Is my right hon. Friend aware that if we are to be called upon to support the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget proposals it might be useful for him to hear beforehand some the considerations upon which that support is likely to be forthcoming?

Mr. Butler

I feel sure that my right hon. Friend can have absolute reliance upon my noble Friend, but I think that it would be wise for me to acquaint my right hon. Friend of my noble Friend's intention.

Mr. Blackburn

Reverting to Monday's business, does the Leader of the House think that it will be possible to give an opportunity in one day to all the Members who would like to speak in the procedure debate? Is it the intention of the Government to suspend the rule on Monday? Further, is it to be a House of Commons matter and a House of Commons decision, or will the Whips be on?

Mr. Butler

Our submission will be supported by the strength of the Administration, which is a polite way of saying that the Whips will be on. But, of course, the hon. Gentleman does not know whether we might be gracious enough to accept some of the Amendments. I can assure him that the spirit in which we approach these matters will be a House of Commons spirit. We shall, if it is so desired generally, give a little more time. I will pay attention to what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Major Legge-Bourke

On a point of order. May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker? A few moments ago, the Leader of the Opposition propounded a theory which, I thought, was somewhat revolutionary. He suggested that any hon. Member who tabled an Amendment which was not called during the debate on Monday would automatically have the right to be called in the general discussion. I think that you, Mr. Speaker, would agree that it might set a very dangerous precedent if the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion were adopted.

Mr. Speaker

I did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to be saying that. I understood him to say that if an hon. Member whose name was put to an Amendment was not called in the general discussion, then it would be right to allow him to be called to move his Amendment. I do not wish to discuss this matter further, because we may get the Order Paper littered with Amendments.

Mr. Gaitskell

Further to that point of order. I should like to point out that it was because of the Leader of the House's suggestion that Amendments should be taken purely formally at the end of the general debate that I put in a plea for any hon. Member who had not been called in the general debate to be allowed to speak after it.

Mr. Marlowe

Has my right hon. Friend observed the Motion on the Order Paper in the name of myself and about 100 of my hon. Friends relating to the availability of National Health Service drugs for private patients? Can he say when time will be given to debate this Motion, in view of the fact that it conforms with what has been Conservative policy since 1949? Does not my right hon. Friend think that it is time that we discussed this matter? If it is not ventilated, some of us may become a little restive.

[That this House, noting that the number of doctors in private practice is rapidly diminishing, is of the opinion that the patients of such doctors should be enabled to obtain their medicines and drugs and have their prescriptions made up on the same terms as apply to National Health Service patients; and urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce the necessary legislation to achieve this.]

Mr. Butler

I find it hard to recognise my hon. and learned Friend under that description, but this is certainly a very important matter. I have the Motion before me with the signatories to it. I cannot at present offer any time for debate. Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend would like to discuss the matter with me.

Mr. G. Thomas

As two very important statements on education have been issued in recent days, can the Leader of the House say when we shall have an opportunity of discussing the Albemarle Report and the Crowther Report at some length?

Mr. Butler

We are now entering the period of the year when we have Supply Days, which are at the discretion of the Opposition. I do not doubt that the hon. Member's observation will have fallen upon listening ears.

Mrs. White

Surely the right hon. Gentleman, as a former Minister of Education, realises that the Crowther Report is a major document on education and that it is the Government's business to give time to discuss it.

Mr. Butler

That may be, but it is a question of finding time. I am flattered and pleased to note the manner in which the Report vindicates the Education Act, 1944.

Mr. Mellish

Can the Leader of the House say what is the position concerning the possibility of Questions on the nationalised industries being asked. I have asked the right hon. Gentleman this question every week. Would the right hon. Gentleman also tell my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) that there is nothing mysterious about this matter?

Mr. Butler

I will so inform the hon. Member's hon. Friend. As has been apparent since we resumed after the Recess, this must be a matter primarily for the decision of Her Majesty's Ministers and not primarily a matter for you, Mr. Speaker. The responsibility falls on the Government.

I have discussed the matter with my right hon. Friends principally involved. I am not in a position to make a statement yet, but I should like a further chance of consulting the Opposition through the usual channels. If we can find some reasonable or understandable enlargement, I hope that we may be a able to do so without offending hon. Members on either side of the House. There are feelings on both sides in this matter.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

While the right hon. Gentleman is considering ways in which the House of Commons may be more fully kept informed by Ministers, will he look into the parallel question of urging nationalised boards to provide more information to the general public? For example, there is no reason why the membership and remuneration of the area boards of British Railways should be shrouded in mystery. This is a matter of general public interest.

Mr. Speaker

We are confined to business at the moment.

Mr. Albu

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider giving time to discuss the extremely important Report of the Select Committee on the Atomic Energy Authority, particularly in view of the recent announcements about the development of marine power?

Mr. Butler

I will discuss the matter with my noble Friend principally concerned.

Mr. Chetwynd

On Monday's business, will the right hon. Gentleman note that some of us who have put our names to Amendments do not wish to take part in the general debate, but wish to direct attention to specific Amendments, and that we should resent it very much if we were deprived of the opportunity of speaking to those Amendments?

Mr. Butler

It all depends how much opportunity there will be of the hon. Member's own point being properly considered. That is, I gather, what he would wish.

Mr. C. Osborne

Further to the question of my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), will my right hon. Friend ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ensure that the Economic Survey and other sources of economic information are given to us as soon as possible, so that my noble Friend can make up his mind in the proper manner?

Mr. Butler

I think that that would be the wish of my right hon. Friend. I had that in mind when my noble Friend put his question.

Mrs. Castle

Has the right hon. Gentleman any information about the date of the promised debate on accommodation in the House?

Mr. Butler

Before the Recess, we offered half a day, which the Opposition found not sufficient. Therefore, this would be a matter for discussion. We should certainly be ready for a debate when time is available.

Mr. Monslow

Does the Government's consideration of Questions about nationalised industries include day-to-day administration within those industries? If so, do they think that that is really practicable?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. There has been this considerable caution and some delay, for the very good reason that detailed discussion would not, I think, please either side of the House. That is why we have approached the matter very carefully. What we want to be sure of is that the House of Commons is able to exercise a proper and reasonable survey of and interest in the affairs of these industries. That is why the subject has perplexed my predecessor and myself.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider giving time for a debate on the Report about the disturbances at the Carlton House Approved School? While it would be stupid to have a debate every time that there was trouble of this sort, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that some matters of general principle and administration are raised by this Report?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I think that it would be better if such a debate were, so to speak, on the peg of this Report, but was able to range rather wider to cover matters concerning juvenile delinquents and others. It will certainly be a source of great interest.

Dr. King

While the House understands that the Government cannot commit themselves without much thought about a Report like the Crowther Report, which has such vast implications, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that a general discussion on the Report would not only be of value to the Government in their consideration, but would be of great value to the country in getting a broad picture of this extremely revolutionary document?

Mr. Butler

It is because the Government are so keen to surge forward with their educational plans that we should certainly not wish to avoid the opportunity of a discussion. I think that the Crowther Report, as the hon. Member says, is particularly important. Therefore, I would not wish to be rushed, but, also, I would not wish to underestimate our desire to make clear our general views on this subject.