HC Deb 28 January 1960 vol 616 cc373-80
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, 1ST FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Legal Aid Bill and of the Populations (Statistics) Bill [Lords], and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolutions.

TUESDAY, 2ND FEBRUARY, and on WEDNESDAY, 3RD FEBRUARY—Report and Third Reading of the Local Employment Bill.

THURSDAY, 4TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Requisitioned Houses Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Second Reading of the Water Officers Compensation Bill [Lords].

Motions to approve the Import Duties (Cork Stoppers) Order; and the Post Office Agreement relating to a submarine telecommunication cable system between the United Kingdom and Canada.

FRIDAY, 5TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

In the statement which I made before Christmas, on procedure, I undertook, wherever practicable, to announce the business for the following Monday.

On MONDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY, we propose to arrange for a general debate on procedure on the Motion which is already on the Order Paper to implement certain of the Recommendations of the Select Committee.

The Government have also tabled a Motion allotting the additional four half-days for Private Members' Motions which we are trying as an experiment and for making the necessary arrangements for the Ballots.

As we propose that the first occasion should be the first half of Monday, 22nd February, and it being desirable to hold the Ballot for subjects in reasonable time before the day, namely, on Tuesday, 9th February, I hope that it will be agreeable to the House to pass this Motion formally on Monday next.

Mr. Gaitskell

On the last point, may I put a question to you, Mr. Speaker, as I think that it falls within your province? During the debate on procedure, which is to take place on Monday, 8th February, will it be in order for the House to discuss the proposal on which a Motion has already been tabled and which is to be taken by the House next Monday, that this additional private Members' time shall be made available? In other words, if the Motion that we are to consider on Monday is to be taken formally, I am quite sure that hon. Members will wish to have an opportunity to discuss the substance of the point on a later occasion, namely, during the procedure debate. Can you clear up that matter?

Mr. Speaker

Yes. I think that the right answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question is this. It would not be in order, assuming the House to accept the Motion today, to traverse the decision then arrived at, that is to say, about these particular days for private Members' time, during this Session. Otherwise, in my view it would be open to hon. Members to debate the whole subject of private Members' time as regards what arrangements could be made for the future or general consideration.

Mr. Gaitskell

I am obliged, Sir.

I have two other questions for the Leader of the House. First, is he aware that in our opinion the time has come when we should have a major debate on foreign affairs? We have not discussed foreign affairs for a very long time. Could he find perhaps two days in the fairly near future for that? Secondly, when are we likely to have a statement by the Government on the Cyprus negotiations?

Mr. Butler

We have noted the wish of the Opposition that there should be a two-day debate on foreign affairs. I hope that this means that we shall be able to get through the Government business next week so as to have all the more time during the week after, and that the right hon. Gentleman will be generous by perhaps helping us with one of the days from his allocation.

I cannot make any further statement today about Cyprus, as negotiations are still proceeding, but I shall take it for granted that the House will wish to be informed on the earliest possible occasion.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Is my hon. Friend aware that, ever since the Economic Survey was issued, at about this time of year there has been a full-dress debate on economic affairs and finance? When the White Paper was issued in conjunction with the Budget, there was still such a debate, notably on a Government Motion in February, 1958. Can such a debate be arranged within the next fortnight?

Mr. Butler

I am aware that the noble Lord and some of my hon. Friends desire to have such a debate. It has not been the invariable precedent that there should be such a debate. It has often been rolled up in the Budget debate. All I can do at this stage is to note my noble Friend's request.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on the Order Paper there is a Motion in the names of 123 right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House relating to the provision of certain types of weapons to the West German Federal Government? As this is a matter of urgency and considerable importance, will he arrange for a debate on the subject, or, as an alternative, can we understand that the subject will be regarded as a major item in the forthcoming foreign affairs debate?

[That this House regrets the supply to Western Germany by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and with the full consent of Her Majesty's Government, of tactical atomic weapons and missiles of nuclear capability; believes that this policy will foreclose debate on some of the most vital issues to be discussed at the delayed Summit Conference; and, therefore, urges Her Majesty's Government not to continue this policy until the Summit Conference has been held.]

Mr. Butler

I would not like it to be thought that my relations with the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friends on the Front Bench are closer than his. I had understood that this was likely to be covered in the debate on foreign affairs.

It certainly does form an important aspect of our foreign policy and, therefore, I expect that it will be covered by the two-day debate.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if that is the position and if he has been made acquainted with what is the intention of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, he has more up-to-date information than has yet been conveyed to me? Is he aware that I can see no reason why I should not be taken as much into the confidence of my right hon. Friends as he?

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman has already made representations to me that I should regard him as a "special third channel."

Mr. George Craddock

Does the Leader of the House recall the interview we had before the Christmas Recess to consider a Motion on the Order Paper in my name and in the names of 101 of my hon. Friends concerning a statement by Mr. Justice Stable at Nottingham Assizes, on 15th November, and that on that occasion you said that there was to be an appeal on 12th January and that after that date you would invite me to London to discuss the matter on a date mutually convenient? I wrote to you on 10th January—

Mr. Speaker

To avoid confusion the hon. Gentleman should address his observations to me.

Mr. George Craddock

I am sorry, Sir. I may have been slightly carried away by the circumstances.

I offered five dates to the right hon. Gentleman and I received a reply from his private secretary, which I did not think was proper in the circumstances, in which I was informed that the Home Secretary had told him to write and say that in the present circumstances there was no need for this discussion until the House reassembled on 26th January. On that date I made four other efforts, and so far I am without a reply. The public relations at the Home Office are simply deplorable.

[That this House deplores the direction given to a jury at Nottingham Assizes on 25th November by Mr. Justice Stable, who said: "I will leave this court in 10 minutes, and if by that time you have not arrived at a conclusion you will be kept locked up here all night and we will resume when I get back tomorrow morning at 11.45 a.m.", believing that such pressure exercised upon any jury is calculated to undermine the faith of the nation in our courts of justice.]

Mr. Butler

As the hon. Gentleman's difficulty is in making an appointment with me, I express my regret that it has not already been made. I invite him to come to see me this afternoon. We will arrange that behind the Chair.

On the issue itself, this case was the subject of a decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal, in which the complete independence of juries and the need for giving the fullest consideration to juries when they are arriving at their verdicts were strongly vindicated by the Court of Criminal Appeal. That does not make it any the less important for me to see the hon. Member, but it does mean that the principle for which he was standing has been vindicated by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Mr. S. Silverman

On a point of order. Now that the issue has been more or less disposed of as a matter of substance, may I ask you, Mr. Speaker, for some guidance as to the putting of Motions on the Order Paper which, by our rules, it would be out of order to discuss? What I have in mind is that there is an old rule of the House whereby the conduct of one of Her Majesty's judges cannot be criticised in the House of Commons except on a petition for the removal of that judge.

Though my hon. Friend's Motion criticises the conduct of a learned judge, it does not go so far as to petition for his removal. Therefore, it seems clear that the Motion could not, under our present Standing Orders, be discussed. How far, then, is it possible to put on the Order Paper, within our rules of order, a Motion which, clearly, we could not discuss if it were called?

Mr. Speaker

I conceive it not to be in order to put on the Order Paper a Motion which we could not discuss, but I do not quite follow the hon. Gentleman in suggesting that it is not open to discuss in the House, upon a substantive Motion, the conduct of a learned judge. I have not the hon. Member's Motion before me at the moment, but my recollection is that that is what it purports to do.

Mr. Wigg

As the time of the year at which we normally discuss defence is approaching, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that a Defence White Paper will be published in plenty of time for full consideration to be given to it before the debate takes place?

Mr. Butler

Yes. I will endeavour to comply with the hon. Member's request. May I say, Mr. Speaker, how glad we all are to see the hon. Gentleman and that he has recovered from his recent operation?

Mr. C. Pannell

May I revert to the procedure debate to be held on Monday, 8th February? As I understand, the Leader of the House will be bringing forward a string of rather smaller matters on which the Government propose to bring in recommendations. We propose to have a general debate on the subject. What will be the procedure for putting down Amendments, if necessary, either to alter the recommendations coming forward from the Government or to extend them within the terms of the Report of the Select Committee?

Is the Leader of the House aware that the great majority of Members are not satisfied that full advantage has been taken of the Report of the Select Committee and that the recommendations coming forth from the Government are far too timid?

Mr. Butler

The Motion on the Order Paper to amend the Standing Order follows the statement I made before we adjourned for Christmas. It will, of course, be possible for hon. Members to amend the Motion in any sense they like. It will also be possible in the debate, subject to you, Mr. Speaker, for any wider suggestions to be made by hon. Members which can, in their turn, be followed up. I do not think that there will be any limitation on the power of hon. Members to make critical or constructive observations.

Mr. Short

Further to the question asked by the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), as the Bank Rate has been recently raised to counteract inflation in some parts of the country while we have rather serious regional unemployment in others, is it not obvious that the Government are not giving any serious thought to regional unemployment? Is it not time that we had a debate on the economic state of the country?

Mr. Butler

The first Measure of this Session was a Bill precisely to deal with regional or local unemployment. The Report stage is to be taken next week. Therefore, I think that there should be ample opportunity for hon. Members.

Mr. Mellish

May I ask my usual question about being allowed to table Questions about nationalised industries and may I receive a different reply this time?

Mr. Butler

This is a matter which perplexed the intelligence of various of my predecessors, including the present Lord Morrison of Lambeth and other predecessors of mine as Leader of the House. There is no easy solution. I propose to go on studying it.

Mr. Lipton

Has the Leader of the House had another look at the Motion standing in my name and the names of other hon. Members calling for the removal of the chairman of the Wokingham Magistrates' Bench? While it is true that the conduct of this gentleman has improved slightly since the Motion was tabled, nevertheless does not the Leader of the House think that he could perhaps give an hour or two to enable us to dispose of it?

[That this House takes note that, on 19th October last at Wokingham Juvenile Court, Mr. Leonard Hackett, J.P., addressed an accused person in the following terms: "What you richly deserve is such a thorough thrashing that you would be senseless for about forty-eight hours. Very unfortunately this court has no power, and no other court has any power, to order you to be so punished. However, I have no doubt that if you continue in your present way of life this punishment you will receive, and it will not be ordered by a court of law but by other men in whose society you will find yourself"; and this House is therefore of the opinion that Mr. Hackett should be removed from the list of magistrates.]

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I can hold out no hope of time for this discussion.