HC Deb 10 March 1960 vol 619 cc635-9
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will announce 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, 14TH MARCH—Supply [8th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Consideration of Civil Supplementary Estimates relating to Agricultural and Food Grants and Subsidies; Board of Trade (Assistance to Industry and Trading Services); National Health Service, England, Wales and Scotland.

Second Reading of the Road Traffic Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation Measure.

Consideration of the Instruction relating to the Public Bodies (Admission of Press to Meetings) Bill and of the Civil Defence (Disease) Regulations.

TUESDAY, 15TH MARCH—Supply [9th Allotted Day]: Report.

Consideration of Civil Supplementary Estimates relating to Commonwealth Services; Colonial Services; Development and Welfare (Colonies, etc.).

At 9.30 p.m. on Monday and on Tuesday, the Question will be put from the Chair under Standing Order No. 16, in Committee and on Report, respectively, on the Vote under discussion and on all outstanding Votes required before the end of the financial year.

Committee and remaining stages of the Road Traffic Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation Measure.

WEDNESDAY, 16TH MARCH—At the request of the Opposition, it is proposed to take the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill formally.

Afterwards, a debate will take place on an Opposition Motion relating to Retirement Pensions and other National Insurance Benefits.

THURSDAY, 17TH MARCH—At the request of the Opposition, it is proposed to take the Committee and remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill formally.

Afterwards, a debate will take place on an Opposition Motion on Housing.

FRIDAY, 18TH MARCH—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

On MONDAY, 21ST MARCH, the Government propose to afford an opportunity for a debate on the Report of the Central Advisory Council for Education (England)—that is, the Crowther Report.

Mr. G. Thomas

Do I understand that the Government are giving only one day for discussion of the Crowther Report? In view of the widespread interest, on both sides of the House, in this subject, it is quite clear that unless further time is available many hon. Members will be unable to get into the debate.

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. The Government have deliberately managed to fit in a day this side of Easter for the purpose of considering the Crowther Report. We do not have an opportunity for finding an extra day and we have not so far been able to elicit or produce a day from Her Majesty's Opposition.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Has it not been the practice in the past that the first of the two days on the Consolidated Fund Bill—the Second Reading day— might be taken formally followed by a debate, but that on the second day, when the Committee and remaining stages are taken, a general debate has been allowed so that private Members, on both sides, may examine the Government on various aspects of public expenditure?

If the Government have surrendered to the Opposition's desire to have these two days taken formally so that they can have their own debate subsequently, does that not admit of the possibility that the Consolidated Fund Bill may be amended by a reasoned Amendment for rejection to enable some of the proposals of my hon. Friends and myself to be put forward so as to restore the regularity with which the House has examined these matters in the past?

Mr. Butler

There is no question whatever of the Government surrendering to the Opposition. A convention has been established for fifty years or more under which, on Supply, in which is included these proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill, Her Majesty's Opposition have the right, by an understanding, to choose the business. We are following the normal procedure which we ourselves followed when we were in opposition.

I do not think that there is anything in the point raised by my noble Friend, which has been widely canvassed both inside and outside the House, but in pursuing this practice we are doing nothing irregular. I do not think that the procedure suggested by my noble Friend would necessarily be the best for airing the difficulties which he has in mind.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the Leader of the House also confirm that the noble Lord is in error in supposing that there is anything unusual in taking the Report stage of the Consolidated Fund Bill formally? The noble Lord is probably thinking of the Appropriation Bill, which comes on in July, and not the Consolidated Fund Bill, which comes on in March.

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir; that is generally correct. In the course of my membership of the House, which is a long one, I have known occasions when hon. Members have made speeches on the Consolidated Fund Bill, with the approval of the Chair; and, of course, it is absolutely in order for such speeches to be made on general topics. It is equally understood that if the Opposition designate a special debate the Government of the day accept that request.

Mr. Peyton

Can my right hon. Friend say when it is likely that we will have a debate on the railways and Transport Commission finances? Would this not be particularly suitable for discussion on the Consolidated Fund Bill and very much more suitable than either of the subjects chosen by the Opposition?

Mr. Butler

That is a matter of opinion. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is just about to make a statement, we had better await that.

Mr. Short

The right hon. Gentleman will have noticed the inclusion on the Order Paper of a Private Member's Bill called the Public Service Vehicles (Travel Concessions) Act, 1955 (Amendment) Bill. He will be aware that last Friday one of his hon. Friends blocked the Bill under a procedure which allows one Member to prevent the Bill from going to Committee. As the powers contained in this Bill are urgently required by 50 or 60 local authorities throughout the country, and as it is a matter of considerable importance to many hundreds of thousands of blind, retired and disabled people, will the right hon. Gentleman please ask the Government Whips to "lay off" next Friday and to let the Bill at least go to Committee?

Mr. Butler

I could not acknowledge that there was any association between my hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary, the Government Whips and the action taken by an individual Member.

Mr. D. Price

Has my right hon. Friend seen the Motion on the Order Paper dealing with the subject of lengthy speeches in the House? Does he suggest that any action can be taken to put the matter right?

[That this House, concerned with the large number of honourable Members who are unable to catch Mr. Speaker's eye in major debates, considers that in major debates speeches in this House should be restricted to thirty minutes from the front benches and fifteen minutes from back benches, including Members of Her Majesty's Privy Council.]

Mr. Butler

We discussed this during our debates on procedure. I think that it can more easily be put right by understanding than by any distinct rule.

Mr. Mulley

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider again the allocation of only one day for the debate on the Crowther Report, particularly in the light of his own former interest in our education system? If it is not possible to make it a two-day debate, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of extending the debate by an hour, because many hon. Members will wish to take part?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir; I would certainly consider that in the light of expressions of opinion which may be received. I sympathise with the wish for two days for debate. If we had two days, there might be a definite danger that I might speak myself.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister of Works assured us recently that something would be done about accommodation in this House before the first half of the twenty-first century, and that if the right hon. Gentleman continues to delay our debate on this matter much longer he will be running it pretty close? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that some of us are beginning to feel that our chances of getting anything done are now wellnigh hopeless?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Lady must be patient, because she herself never gets older. There is likely to be a debate quite soon.

Dr. King

May I press the Leader of the House further concerning the Crowther Report? He knows, I am sure, that it raises profound issues which are of importance to education for the next quarter of a century and involve the fate of his own valuable Education Act. Will he give serious consideration to the provision of a two-day debate on this important Report?

Mr. Butler

It has been difficult at this time, with Supply and the period immediately preceding the Budget, to find a day. I think it is certain that we can at least see that the subject is to be considerably discussed, although it may well be necessary to consider it again.