HC Deb 24 March 1960 vol 620 cc673-8
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 next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 28TH MARCH—Third Reading of the Iron and Steel (Financial Provisions) Bill.

Committee and remaining stages of the Gas Bill.

Report and Third Reading of the Legal Aid Bill.

TUESDAY, 29TH MARCH—Second Reading of the International Development Association Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Consideration of Motions to approve the Fatstock (Protection of Guarantees) (Amendment) Order, the Fatstock (Guarantee Payments) Order, and the Eggs (Guaranteed Prices) (Amendment) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 30TH MARCH—Report and Third Reading of the Payment of Wages Bill.

Second Reading of the Public Health Laboratory Service Bill [Lords], and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

At seven o'clock private Members' Motions will be considered.

THURSDAY, 31ST MARCH—Debate on House of Commons Accommodation, which will arise on a Government Motion.

FRIDAY, 1ST APRIL—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 4TH APRIL—As already announced, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget.

The general Debate on the Budget Resolutions and the Economic Situation will be continued on Tuesday and Wednesday and brought to a conclusion on Thursday of that week.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask, on Thursday's business, what kind of Government Motion is implied? Will it indicate the kind of steps the Government intend to take? Could the right hon. Gentleman give us a little more guidance on this subject, or, at any rate, tell us when the Motion is likely to be put down?

May I also ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government intend to make a statement about the deplorable events in South Africa, which resulted in the death and injury of so many people, and whether, in view of the fact that the United States Government and the Prime Minister of India have both expressed their profound regret at what has happened, he will give the House some idea whether the Government intend to do the same?

Mr. Butler

Taking the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, we shall be putting the Motion on the Order Paper tonight, so that hon. Members may see it. It will simply take note of the measures which we have under consideration for improving accommodation and facilities and will be of a general and straightforward character. [HON. MEMBERS: "What are they?"] They will be announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works and, I hope, supplemented by myself. At any rate, the object of the debate will be to give a general chance to hon. Members to put their views about accommodation.

Turning to the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I do not think that I can, in answer to business questions, make any further statements on policy, some of which have already been announced by my hon. Friend the Minister of State at Question Time this afternoon. But that does not mean— you have yourself used the expression, Mr. Speaker—that we, as well as hon. Members opposite, have not our own profound feelings. As to the best way of handling this matter in the House, I suggest that conversations should take place between us in the normal manner.

Mr. Gaitskell

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I ask that question because there are several Motions already on the Order Paper expressing the regret of the House and, while we certainly would wish the Government to give expression to these views, in the absence of a Government statement we would wish the House of Commons to do so.

Mr. Butler

That is why I phrased my answer to the right hon. Gentleman as I did. I and my colleagues have read the Motions on the Order Paper, and I think that this matter had better be handled in the way I have described.

Mr. G. Thomas

Has the Leader of the House seen the Motion on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) and myself, concerning Government statements of policy in Wales? Can he say when we shall have an opportunity to discuss it?

[That this House, believing it to be the responsibility of Ministers of the Crown and not that of civil servants to declare and to defend the policies of Her Majesty's Government, deplores the Press conference held in Cardiff on 22nd March, 1960, when the Welsh Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government explained and defended Her Majesty's Government's policy with regard to Welsh water resources and the demand for further public supplies; and that this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to ensure that in future such policy statements are made in Wales by a responsible Minister.]

Mr. Butler

I have read the Motion and I must say that I was surprised at it, because the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend evidently take exception to a statement made by a civil servant on policy. Occasionally, this has to be done, but it was not intended to convey any slight upon the great country, part of which is represented by the hon. Member, or to diminish in any way the work done by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs. I am in process of discussing this question with my right hon. Friend, and perhaps we can find some way of soothing the hon. Gentleman's feelings.

Mr. John MacLeod

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the Motion on the Order Paper in the names of several hon. Members and myself on the subject of State management districts? Will he allow time for this matter to be discussed in the House, since there are certain districts treated quite differently from other districts although the reasons for any such difference have changed long since?

[That this House resents the continuance of the State drink monopoly in Annan, Dingwall and Invergordon, which was created under Defence of the Realm Act in 1916 to deal with a state of affairs which came to an end many years ago; and reauests the Secretary of State for Scotland to amend the Licensing (Scotland) Act, 1959, so that those burghs will be governed by the same licensing laws which prevail in the other 195 burghs in Scotland.]

Mr. Butler

Various aspects of the State management district problem both in Scotland and in England have been raised by hon. Members. The difficulty is to find complete unanimity of view about what is best to be done. I do not see any immediate chance of time, owing to the business I have announced, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I will be available to hon. Members who wish to put their points of view to us.

Mr. Short

Is the right hon. Gentle-man aware that, once again, last Friday, two of his hon. Friends blocked the Public Service Vehicles (Travel Concessions) Act, 1955 (Amendment) Bill? Does he realise that about 80 or 90 local authorities urgently need the powers which the Bill would give, and that, until these powers are given, hundreds of thousands of old-age pensioners, and blind and disabled people, are deprived of rights which are available to others? How much longer is the rigmarole of the Government Whips instigating this blocking of the Bill to go on?

Mr. Butler

Hon. Members sometimes attribute too much magic and power to my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary and his Whips. I do not understand the language used by the hon. Gentleman. I am sorry that this Bill was a temporary casualty. That is all part of our life in this House in relation to private Members' business.

Mrs. Castle

I thank the Leader of the House for having kept his promise about an accommodation debate. Does he agree that this is a House of Commons matter rather than a party matter and, if so, will he be willing to allow a free vote on any Motion or Amendments which may be tabled?

Mr. Butler

The Government, as I said, are putting down a Motion which, albeit of a general character, is one which we would wish in general to support. In the circumstances, I should not like to remove the comfort of the support of the Government Whips from us on this occasion. But that does not mean that we would wish to inhibit or stop in any way any right hon. or hon. Member from making his contribution.

Mr. Donnelly

Can the Leader of the House say how far he has gone in obtaining general support for a general debate on the railways?

Mr. Butler

We have a good deal on our plate at the moment, but I am aware of the natural desire of the House to express its opinion on these matters.

Mr. Reynolds

Will the Leader of the House tell us what progress is being made in the discussions he is having on the possible preparation of a simplified form of Order Paper for the business of the House?

Mr. Butler

We are pursuing it in a leisurely but determined fashion.

Mr. Driberg

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when time will be found to debate the Prayer with regard to the Summary Jurisdiction Bill (Isle of Man). which appears on the Order Paper as Early Day Motion No. 56?

[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying her graciously to withhold her Assent from the Summary Jurisdiction Bill, lately passed in the Legislative Council and the House of Keys, which gives magistrates in the Isle of Man wider powers of imposing corporal punishment on children and young persons.]

Mr. Butler

I have information that the House of Keys has passed a Resolution on this matter and I have information, also, from the Member of the House of Keys who raised this matter that there is not a general desire that there should be a major conflict between the House of Keys and the House of Commons, which, I think, we should all deplore. I think that that is well realised in the Isle of Man, as, I hope, it is realised in the House of Commons. Subject to that, various matters of very great constitutional interest arise on this subject. I do not at present see any time for discussion, but, provided we all keep cool, we may resolve this issue.

Mr. Driberg

Keeping perfectly cool, as always, could the right hon. Gentleman at least give an undertaking that the Bill will not be presented for the Royal Assent until this House has had an opportunity to discuss it?

Mr. Butler

No, I could not give any undertaking of that sort; but I certainly think that I ought to have more time myself, as Home Secretary with a special responsibility in relation to the Constitution of the Isle of Man, to consider this matter at more leisure.