HC Deb 31 March 1960 vol 620 cc1516-20
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will 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:

As I have already informed the House, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget on Monday, 4th April.

The general debate on the Budget Resolutions and on the Economic Situation will be continued on the two following days and brought to a conclusion on Thursday of next week, 7th April.

At the end of business on Thursday, we shall ask the House to consider the Motion to approve the Horticulture Improvement Scheme.

Friday, 8th April—Consideration of private Members' Motions.

Monday, 11th April—Second Reading of the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Bill, which will be presented tomorrow, Friday.

The Ballot for Motions on moving Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on Civil Estimates, 1960-61, will be taken in the House after Questions on Thursday, 7th April.

Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I may make a short statement on the proposal to set up a Welsh Grand Committee.

As the House will recall, during our debate on Procedure, on 8th February, I undertook to have discussions on the sort of arrangements which might be made to meet the wishes of those with a special interest in the affairs of Wales.

I myself take a considerable interest in this matter and have been much helped by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs. He, in turn, has had a number of conversations with hon. Members representing the constituencies of Wales and Monmouthshire.

As a result, it has been agreed to recommend the appointment of a Welsh Grand Committee which will, during the remainder of the present Session, have three sittings prior to the usual day's debate on Welsh Affairs on the Floor of the House.

The necessary Motion to provide for these arrangements will be tabled.

I trust that hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome this experiment, which will enable us more clearly to gauge the more permanent requirements.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his announcement about the Welsh Grand Committee will be warmly welcomed on this side of the House, that it was one of the proposals mentioned in our election manifesto, and that, while we are accustomed to the Government adopting our suggestions, we are particularly glad that they have done so on this occasion? Everyone will agree that this act gives recognition to the Welsh language and culture and enables the Welsh Members to discuss much more adequately than has hitherto been possible the Annual Report on Wales and Monmouthshire.

Will the hon. Gentleman say something about the composition of the Welsh Grand Committee? Will it be composed of simply those Members who sit for Welsh constituencies, or are others to be drafted into it?

Mr. Butler

All these matters have been negotiated with the Members especially interested in Wales. There will be a certain number of added Members. The best way to consider this fairly is to see the Motion which we shall put on the Order Paper, which, I hope, will give satisfaction.

As regards the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the Labour Party's election manifesto, I am sure that it is some consolation to him that he occasionally gets a grain of comfort in a somewhat difficult life. I assure him that that comfort is shared by my hon. Friends, because we thought of this idea many years ago.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Will the Leader of the House accept the thanks of all the Welsh Members for the courtesy with which he has met us on this? I desire to say—and I am sure that my desire is shared by all my right hon. and hon. Friends who represent Welsh constituencies—how much we are indebted to my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), who put this concrete plan before the Select Committee on Procedure and, as a result, brought us to this happy issue this afternoon.

May I ask the Leader of the House two questions? First, when is it proposed to move the necessary Motions so that the Grand Committee can meet? Secondly, as regards the right hon. Gentleman's statement in the last paragraph about welcoming this experiment, am I to understand that this referred to the number of sittings we may have in a Session and not to the actual establishment of the Grand Committee, which, we hope, will now become a permanent part of the machinery of the House?

Mr. Butler

In both respects, it is always wise in the House to proceed by trial. We should not wish to go back on the substantive proposal which has been so cheerfully accepted. We should see how it works. The idea at present is that in this Session it should meet early in April, early in May and early in June, so as to have three sittings. After that, in another Session, we can see how it should work. Apart from that, I am sure that we wish the experiment well.

Mr. Gower

As a Conservative Government are responsible for this interesting proposal and change, just as a Conservative Government were responsible for the previous change which, under my right hon. Friend the Member for Wood-ford (Sir W. Churchill), instituted the Minister for Welsh Affairs and a Minister of State, does my right hon. Friend consider it significant that both these biggest improvements in the administration of Welsh affairs have occurred under Conservative Governments?

Mr. Butler

Yes. As we are likely to have a Conservative Administration for many years' hence, there will be room for many further improvements in the interests of Wales.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Welsh people pronounced their verdict last summer?

Sir S. Summers

On future business, can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that, if not before we rise for the Easter Recess, at any rate soon afterwards, we shall have a debate on the Albemarle Report?

Mr. Butler

We will note my hon. Friend's request. I do not think that there will be time before the Easter Recess.

Mr. Short

As Northumbria was a kingdom long before Wales was a Principality, and as the Government are quite unaware of the existence of the North-East of England, can we have a Northumbrian Grand Committee?

Mr. Butler

I very much sympathise with that request, but we cannot have too many of these Committees.

Mr. Harold Davies

When the Welsh Grand Committee is established, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the English constituency of Leek gets some privileges which may be linked with the leek?

Dame Irene Ward

Has my right hon. Friend noticed a Motion on the Order Paper standing in my name and those of other hon. Members? If he agrees with its terms, as I am sure that he must, will he have a word with the Press Council to see what can be done in future to prevent frightful, horrific details of murder trials being placed in the Press?

That, in the opinion of this House, the Press Council should be asked to consider whether the Press could be guided to refrain from publishing horrific details of any murder, such as was given in the case of Byrne, and that a decision of the Press Council in the sense indicated would be in the national interest.

Mr. Butler

I am aware of my hon. Friend's Motion, and I think that the issues raised in it are very important. My right hon. Friends and I have them under consideration. Perhaps I can have a quiet word with my hon. Friend about it.

Mr. Lipton

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to a Motion, signed by a large number of his hon. Friends, concerning National Health prescriptions for private patients? Before too many of his hon. Friends remove their names from that Motion, should not the House have an opportunity to discuss this very important suggestion?

[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 do not think that the hon. Member should question the constancy of the signatories to the Motion. That is a matter for my hon. Friends, and not for him. But I see no opportunity for a discussion before Easter.

Mr. M. Stewart

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of hon. Members being added to the Welsh Grand Committee. In view of certain recent Press reports, can he assure the House that the process of being added to the Welsh Grand Committee will not be used as a disciplinary measure for English Conservative Members who disapprove of fox, hunting?

Mr. Benn

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any news at all about the expected debate on railways and railway finances?

Mr. Butler

Not at present.