HC Deb 19 May 1960 vol 623 cc1488-94
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, 23RD MAY—Consideration of private Members' Motions until seven o'clock.

At seven o'clock, as the House is aware, the Chairman of Ways and Means has set down opposed Private Business for consideration.

When the Private Business has been disposed of we shall proceed with the Committee and remaining stages of the Ghana (Consequential Provision) Bill; the Commonwealth Teachers Bill, and the Merchant Shipping (Minicoy Lighthouse) Bill.

TUESDAY, 24TH MAY, WEDNESDAY, 25TH MAY, and THURSDAY, 26TH MAY— Committee stage of the Finance Bill.

FRIDAY, 27TH MAY—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

Mr. Gaitskell

As I believe the right hon. Gentleman is aware, there is a desire on both sides of the House to debate the collapse of the Summit Conference. Will he find time for an early debate on this matter, preferably next week, and make the necessary adjustments?

Mr. Butler

I propose to discuss the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this evening. Perhaps we may then have discussions through the usual channels.

Mr. Grey

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the Motion on the Order Paper in the names of my hon. Friends and myself concerning a statement by the Minister of Education to the effect that in the matter of the reorganisation of schools the County of Durham was the worst county in the country, and that this was perhaps due to the fact that the local authority has been in the hands of the Labour Party for a considerable time? So that the Minister of Education may substantiate what he said, or withdraw it, may we have a chance to debate this matter?

[That this House is of the opinion that the remarks made by the Minister of Education concerning Durham Council Local Education Authority, to the effect that the reorganisation of schools in the county was the worst in the whole country due to the control of the local authority over many years by the Labour Party, are inaccurate and misleading; that they impute infficiency to a local authority which has an unequalled record of educational advance; that they fall well below the standard expected in public comment by a Minister of the Crown; and, for these reasons, calls upon the Minister to withdraw publicly his allegation.]

Mr. Butler

I do not see any early opportunity of debating the Motion. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, in response to a message from the authority, has said that he would see the authority. So far, he has had no answer.

Mr. Grimond

As well as a debate on the outcome of the Summit Conference, would the Leader of the House consider whether we should not have a debate on the result of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference? Also, is there any intention of making a statement on the situation in Cyprus fairly soon?

Mr. Butler

The answer to the hon. Member's question about Cyprus is in the negative.

It would seem very difficult to find an opportunity for a debate on the Commonwealth Conference before the Whit-sun Recess. This is a matter which we shall discuss, but I do not want to raise false hopes.

Mr. Grey

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to refer again to the statement about the County of Durham which was made in the House by the Minister of Education. We take it from the Leader of the House that one of the reasons why we cannot have a debate on the matter is that the Minister of Education has decided to meet the Durham County Council. Surely it may be assumed that if a statement is made in this Chamber the House has a right to debate the matter.

Mr. Speaker: No such principle is known to me and I do not observe any point of order here.

Mr. Hale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware—I am sure that he will hear it with regret, if he is not—that after spending all of last Friday facilitating the passage of Bills promoted by Tory Members, objection was taken to every Bill promoted by a Labour Member of Parliament? As the Bills to which exception was taken included the Cotton Industry (Compensation for Redundancy) Bill, designed to permit the President of the Board of Trade to do what I know that in his heart he would like to do— answer questions about over 2,000 claims rejected or deferred, which are causing great hardship in Lancashire— and as the Table still relies on the quaint and archaic rule which presumes that Ministers still tell the truth and that it has survived even the public claim of the Minister of Transport that Ananias is not in the same street, would he consider giving time for a debate on this issue or facilitating the consideration of the Bill?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Member has had an unfortunate time with his Bill and I am glad that he adopted so generous an attitude towards the Bills promoted by hon. Members on this side of the House—no doubt that was because of their merits. But I cannot offer him any time, nor can I comment on truth.

Mr. Popplewell

Further to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Grey), would the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Education—after he has met representatives from the County of Durham—to make a statement to the House? The Minister of Education delivered a studied insult in this House to one of the finest education authorities in the country. Therefore, would the Leader of the House, on behalf of all hon. Members, whom he represents, ensure that his colleague makes good the evil that he has already done?

Mrs. White

While we accept that this is not a point of order, surely it is a matter for the right hon. Gentleman, as Leader of the House, to protect the interests of hon. Members. This is a most extraordinary statement to have been made by the Minister of Education and I think that the least that hon. Members who represent constituencies in County Durham can expect is a proper statement in this House.

Mr. Butler

At business time, and in answer to business questions, I cannot go into the merits of each particular case. I know that the object of my right hon. Friend is to effect an improvement in primary education wherever that may be possible. I think that we had better await the result of the talks between my right hon. Friend and the Durham County Council before taking any further steps.

Dame Irene Ward

On this controversial issue, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that the North-East Coast generally has not had all the grants and moneys made available to other parts of the country, and that if we have any difficulty—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This sounds unduly like a reference to the merits of a problem, and this is the time for business questions.

Dame Irene Ward

I was coming to the point, Mr. Speaker. I was about to ask my right hon. Friend whether we could not resolve this difficulty by having a debate, whether he would find time for a debate about the amount of money made available to us on the North-East Coast for educational purposes.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Lady constantly inspires me with hope and I am sorry that I stopped her too soon.

Dame Irene Ward

May I have an answer to my question?

Mr. Butler

I wish that we could find time for such a debate. I will certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to my hon. Friend's question.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

The Leader of the House told the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) that there is no chance that we shall have a statement soon on Cyprus. For a long time an Order of the Day on the Order Paper has been the Second Reading of the Cyprus Bill, which is unlikely to be reached for many weeks. In view of the desperately dangerous situation on the island, the danger that the whole basis of the recent agreements may be overtaken by events and the grave political, economic and other difficulties which exist there, would not it be right for us to have a statement in the near future and, indeed, a debate? Is not the House of Commons entitled to discuss this very important and grave matter in the near future?

Mr. Butler

Obviously, this is a matter of the highest importance. I think that a statement must depend on the progress made in the negotiations. Naturally, if there is a statement which can usefully be made, it will be made.

Mr. Gaitskell

Although we are happy that the discussions are still continuing in Cyprus, there will come a point when we shall require to discuss this business if satisfactory progress has not been made.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I do not think that my right hon. Friend followed his usual practice of announcing the business for Monday week, 30th May. Is he in a position to do that?

Mr. Butler

On this occasion, it would be unwise to decide finally on the business for Monday week until I have met my right hon. Friend this evening and also had a discussion, through the usual channels, about the way we shall use the time before Whitsun in relation to the requests which have been made.

Mr. Chetwynd

Reverting to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Grey), is the right hon. Gentleman aware that criticisms of the Durham County Council were made in this House and that they should be answered in this House? My hon. Friend's Motion calls for a withdrawal and an apology. If we do not get that from the Minister of Education, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we shall not withdraw from the Chamber— as has been done in other places—but that, on the contrary, we shall harass the Minister all we can?

Mr. Butler

I think that I had better hastily warn my right hon. Friend of the dangers threatening him.

Mr. Hannan

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what further consideration he has given to the Motion on the Order Paper, supported by all hon. Members on this side of the House who represent Scottish constituencies, referring to the high rate of unemployment in Scotland? Has he consulted his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, as he said last week that he would? If so, as a result of these conversations, may we be given an early date on which to debate the matter?

[That this House, while welcoming the efforts being made to induce development of private industry in areas of high unemployment, believes that where those efforts prove insufficient it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to bring full employment to those areas by setting up and operating publicly owned enterprises.]

Mr. Butler

I am in constant consultation with my right hon. Friend, because this matter is so frequently brought to my attention. I have already announced the opportunities that may be taken for discussing this important question.

Mr. Short

Will the Leader of the House bear in mind that one of the Bills which again was blocked last week by his hon. Friend was the Public Service Vehicles (Travel Concessions) Act, 1955 (Amendment) Bill? As this Bill may be discussed again tomorrow, and as it involves travel facilities for blind, disabled and aged people, will the right hon. Gentleman try to instil a little humanity in the hearts of his hon. Friends? If that proves impossible will he give time for the consideration of the Bill?

Mr. Butler

I cannot add to what I have said, nor can I control private Members.

Mr. Manuel

The right hon. Gentleman can.

Mr. M. Stewart

The Leader of the House says chat he cannot control his hon. Friends. Is he aware that some of them allege that they object to Bills promoted by hon. Members on this side of the House not because they know what is in the Bills, but because they have been instructed to do so by the Government?

Hon. Members


Mr. Butler

I cannot add to the answer I have already given, namely, that this is a free House and a free country.