HC Deb 28 July 1960 vol 627 cc1861-8
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business of the House for the first week after the Recess?

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

Yes, Sir. The proposed business for the week when we resume in the autumn will be as follows:

TUESDAY, 25TH OCTOBER—Conclusion of the Report and Third Reading of the Administration of Justice Bill [Lords].

Consideration of the Lords Amendments to the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Bill and the following Private Members' Bills.

Noise Abatement.

Road Traffic (Driving of Motor Cycles).

Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings).

It is hoped to obtain this business by about seven o'clock.

We shall then consider amendments to Standing Orders making permanent certain temporary provisions which have operated during this Session.

This will be followed by a short debate on procedural proposals in relation to Control of Expenditure contained in the statement I made on Tuesday, 26th July.

WEDNESDAY, 26TH OCTOBER—Debate on the Report and Accounts of the British Transport Commission, 1958–59, and on the recent Report from the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries on Railways.

THURSDAY, 27TH OCTOBER—It is proposed to meet at 11 a.m. and Questions will be taken until 12 noon.

It is expected that Prorogation will take place after Questions and that the new Session will be opened on TUESDAY, 1ST NOVEMBER.

In regard to business today, following the discussions which have taken place through the usual channels it is proposed that the debate on the road traffic problems should be concluded by 8.20 p.m.

The Government would then propose to move the Adjournment of the House upon which a debate will arise in relation to recent Ministerial appointments.

There is one thing that I should like to add. After consultation through the usual channels, the Government have decided—and the Queen has been graciously pleased to approve—that colour films should be made of the State opening of the next Session. We feel that a vivid record, in this form, of one of our great occasions will be welcomed not only in this country but by all our partners in the Commonwealth, and will be of real and lasting value.

Mr. Gaitskell

On the proposed business for Wednesday, 26th October, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he expects that the report of the Stedeford Committee will have been received by then, and that the Government will have made up their mind on any proposals put forward? Can he give us an assurance that, if this be so, it would also be part of the subject of the debate?

Mr. Butler

The report will be to the Government, but it would, naturally, be hoped that it would have been received and, therefore, lend more colour to the observations of Ministers in the debate. That is our hope, and I hope that it will be so.

Mr. Gaitskell

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman quite understands. I was aware that the Stedeford Committee would be reporting to the Government. We are concerned about whether we on this side of the House shall know what it reports to the Government, and, in particular, what are the intentions of the Government regarding any proposals which are made. Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that these will be published in a suitable form, perhaps as a White Paper, so that they may be covered adequately in the debate?

Mr. Butler

At this early date I can give no absolute undertaking. I would only add the hope that the Government will be sufficiently informed by this date.

Mr. Bellenger

When later this evening we debate the appointment of Her Majesty's Ministers, will it be made clear what are to be the duties of the Lord Privy Seal in relation to Foreign Office matters, in view of the important change which has been made in the traditional procedure of appointing a Foreign Secretary from this House? If we do not have a precise explanation, it will be difficult to know to whom to address some Questions. Today, the Prime Minister answered only two of the 19 Oral Questions put down to him, and if that is to continue the House ought to be informed exactly of the duties of the Lord Privy Seal in a Foreign Office matter.

Mr. Butler

I have no doubt that this evening's debate will elucidate that and many other matters. I will convey to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Shinwell

I wish to ask a question relating to our business and procedure when we return after the Recess. It relates to the Questions to the Prime Minister. I have raised this matter before and I venture to do so again, in the interests of hon. Members. Very rarely does the Prime Minister answer more than two or three Oral Questions. Is it possible to arrange that Questions to the Prime Minister should be answered, or, at any rate, more of the Questions should be answered, by altering the number of the first Question to the right hon. Gentleman from No. 40 on the Order Paper to No. 35; or by deciding that he should begin to answer Questions at 3.15 p.m., or by some other arrangement which is suitable to the Government and the Opposition?

Mr. Butler

This matter would not be damaged by anything I have said about business. This would not be regulated by Order. If we had to make any change, it could still be done by discussion prior to the date. If any right hon. or hon. Member has any observations to make, I shall be glad to have them. I cannot give any undertaking, but I will take into account what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Kershaw

On the business for 25th October and what has been said by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), is my right hon. Friend aware that how far we can get with Questions at Question Time ought to be borne in mind not only by back bench Members but by Ministers?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. Brevity in each case is the soul of wit.

Mr. Wade

In the event of there being an international crisis during the period between now and 25th October which makes it necessary to recall Parliament, and for a statement to be made by the Foreign Secretary, may we have an assurance that this House will be recalled as well as the House of Lords?

Mr. Butler

That was covered in the answer which I gave to the recent debate on the Adjournment Motion, when I drew attention to Standing Order No. 112. It would certainly be invoked if there were any international situation which justified that.

In reply to the rest of the hon. Gentleman's question, the word "Parliament" covers both Houses.

Mr. Popplewell

Will the Leader of the House give a firm assurance that nothing will be done following the report of the Stedeford Committee until this House has had an opportunity to learn and discuss the contents of the Report? Because of the importance of the Select Committee's unanimous recommendations arising from investigations into the working of the Transport Commission, will the right hon. Gentleman give a firm assurance that nothing will be done with the Commission until all the facts have been fully discussed in the House?

Mr. Butler

Naturally, the Government will consult the House on the findings of the Stedeford Committee, which, in the first place, reports direct to the Government. But, first, we have to receive the Report, examine it, and make up our minds on the best method of consultation with the House of Commons. That we shall do.

Mr. Driberg

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us a little more about the film of the State opening? If, as I think he said, it is to be sent overseas and if, as it presumably will do, it includes a record of the Gracious Speech, will he make sure that there is a commentary, or introduction, to the film making clear the constitutional position of Her Majesty in that context? It is very well understood in this country, but it may not be so well understood elsewhere.

Mr. Butler

That is very important, because we particularly do not want, so to speak, to bring the Speech into party politics. One feature of the film, and perhaps one of its advantages, is that the Speech will not be reproduced in full. That has already been decided. The Speech will be only part of the film and will not be reproduced in full, as in a television programme.

I am certain, from the arrangements which are in hand, that it will be preceded by a commentary, the film being a sound film, on the constitutional position of the Speech in our affairs. I ought to say that two films will be made, one by the Central Office of Information, and one by a newsreel company.

Mr. Oram

Has the Leader of the House any news to give the House about the Report of the Committee of Privileges on the matter which was raised recently by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell)?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. We have reached a conclusion in the Committee of Privileges and the Report will be published at 11 o'clock tomorrow, but I happen to know that it will be very difficult to get the evidence printed in time, so the Report will have to precede the evidence we took in the Committee. This was about as quickly as we could possibly do the work and as quick as the printer could have worked.

Mr. S. Silverman

I wish to ask two questions. First, was it not perhaps a slip of the tongue just now when the right hon. Gentleman said that he wanted to keep the Queen's Speech out of party politics? Did he really not mean to say, what we all know to be the case, that the Queen's Speech is, in fact, party politics and the danger is that by people who do not understand the constitutional position it might be thought not to be?

The other question I want to ask relates to the proceedings later today which, I understand, are to come on, it is hoped, about 8.20 p.m. This, in the normal course of our procedure, would leave very little time for discussion of a matter in which a great number of hon. Members on both sides of the House are interested and might well like to take part. I am not suggesting that we ought to shorten the earlier proceedings in any way, or that the right hon. Gentleman has power to do so, but would it not be better to move the suspension of the Standing Order relating to the Adjournment so as to give a little more time for discussion of what is a very important matter?

Mr. Butler

This follows the exact precedent of the occasion of the appointment of Lord Halifax to the Foreign Office. The procedure has been discussed through the usual channels. Therefore, I could not undertake to alter it in view of the business which precedes it.

As to the constitutional explanation of my observations, I am glad, on this occasion, to accept the hon. Member's correction and to say that he has interpreted properly what I should have said.

Mr. Pavitt

In view of the fact that the negotiations between the Government and the professions regarding doctors' and dentists' remuneration may well be completed before 1st November, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, before the Government ratify any agreements which might be reached, the House will have an opportunity of discussing them?

Mr. Butler

I shall have to discuss this matter with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.

Mr. Hector Hughes

On business, and referring to the question which was asked by my right hon. Friend about the Prime Minister answering Questions, has the Leader of the House noticed that one reason for the Prime Minister's Questions so rarely being reached in good time is the inordinate length of the Answers given by Ministers and, also, that those Ministers have departed from the time-honoured custom of postponing long Answers to take the form of statements at the end of Questions? If the ancient custom were adhered to, more Questions would be reached.

Mr. Butler

I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member regards himself as the pot or the kettle.

Sir J. Duncan

Has my right hon. Friend anything to say about the Report of Mr. Speaker's ad hoc Committee on Accommodation and whether consideration has been given to the methods of publication?

Mr. Butler

I understand, Mr. Speaker, from a talk with you yesterday, that you have received this Report. I have ascertained that there is no actual precedent for a Report to Mr. Speaker being published. Therefore, what I suggest is that, if the Report were published by you, you would have to engage the agency of the Administration to publish it and we would at once have consultations with my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), the Chairman of the Committee, with a view to deciding what action we took, consistent with precedent and obviously consistent with the desires of hon. Members who were members of the Committee.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, even more important than the publication of the document, is the execution of its recommendations? They include proposals for structural changes which the Committee very much hoped would be carried through during the Recess, so that improvements could be made with the minimum of delay. Will the right hon. Gentleman consult with Mr. Speaker and the Minister of Works to see that full advantage is taken of the period of the Recess?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. Mr. Speaker, you very kindly handed me a copy of the Report yesterday and, with your agreement, I will show it to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works in an attempt to carry out the wishes of the Report in so far as they can be carried out by the Minister and in so far as that is the right course to take. I shall bear in mind the suggestion made by the hon. Lady.

Mr. Brockway

The right hon. Gentleman said that the Report of the Committee of Privileges on the case raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) will be published at 11 tomorrow morning. Does that mean that hon. Members will have an opportunity of commenting upon it tomorrow?

Mr. Butler

The difficulty is the timing. I do not think that there will be time for a debate on the Report, but perhaps when hon. Members see it they will be satisfied with it and that will do away with any need for a debate.

Mr. C. Pannell

Can the Leader of the House tell us whether this Report is actually to be brought before the House tomorrow? That is what we are trying to ascertain. Or are we to wait until the evidence is printed so that hon. Members can appraise it properly and have it brought before the House in the days following 25th October? What we want to know is whether it is intended to bring it actively before the House tomorrow morning.

Mr. Butler

If it were brought actively before the House a Motion would be necessary and, clearly, we would not have time to move a Motion. Therefore, I think that we had better adopt the procedure which the hon. Member has suggested, namely, that the Report will be in the Vote Office about 11 a.m.—it has been a quick bit of work to produce it in time—and then we can decide whether any action is necessary when we resume after the Recess.

Mr. Monslow

Reverting to the recommendations by the Committee on Accommodation, may I ask whether that Committee is reporting not only on the structural aspects of the problem in relation to the House, but on the salaries, wages and deplorable conditions of the staff of the House?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. That matter is one which I think you, Mr. Speaker, have been investigating yourself, and although, originally, it was under the same umbrella of this Committee, it was not in the particular remit of the Committee. Therefore, we must regard the matter as falling under your jurisdiction.