HC Deb 17 November 1960 vol 630 cc556-61
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:

MONDAY, 21ST NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, and Committee and remaining stages of the necessary Money Resolution.

Committee and remaining stages of the Administration of Justice (Judges and Pensions) Bill.

TUESDAY, 22ND NOVEMBER AND WEDNESDAY, 23RD NOVEMBER—Committee stage of the National Insurance Bill.

THURSDAY, 24TH NOVEMBER—Concluding stages of the National Insurance Bill.

FRIDAY, 25TH NOVEMBER—Consideration of the Motions to approve the Army Act, 1955 (Continuation) Order and the Air Force Act, 1955 (Continuation) Order.

Committee and, if agreeable to the House, the remaining stages, of the Ministers of the Crown (Parliamentary Secretaries) Bill.

MONDAY, 28TH NOVEMBER AND TUESDAY, 29TH NOVEMBER—The proposed business will be the Second Reading of the Licensing Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Mr. Gaitskell

Can the Leader of the House tell us what has been the outcome of the consultations between the usual channels on the possibility of a debate on the Ford transaction? May we be assured, first, that this will take place during the course of next week, and secondly, that it will take place before, and not after, the decision of the Government has been made?

Mr. Butler

I cannot add very much to what my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said this afternoon. In the event of his making a statement on Monday—about which he reserves his position—I suggest that we should make available time for a debate in the afternoon or evening.

The right hon. Gentlman asked whether a debate would take place next week in any case. My answer must be that it depends upon the time taken by my right hon. and learned Friend to come to a decision.

The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's third point is that my right hon. and learned Friend must reserve his position constitutionally, that is to say, if he chooses to make a decision and come to the House he still remains answerable to the House as a Minister.

Mr. Gaitskell

Nobody questions the constitutional position, but would not the right hon. Gentleman agree, as Leader of the House, that there are occasions when it is desirable that Members of the House should be allowed to make their views felt before the Government reaches a decision? This applies not only to hon. Members on this side of the House, but also to hon. Members opposite. Is not this a case where what we need is more information? We are still very much in the dark about this deal. If we had that additional information we could have a debate and could give our opinions. Having heard them, the Government could then reach their conclusions.

Mr. Butler

I cannot go further than to say that I must reserve the position of my right hon. and learned Friend. It would certainly be equally legitimate to convey to him the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Gentleman.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

In view of the fact that we are to take the Committee stage of the National Insurance Bill in a Committee of the whole House, would my right hon. Friend agree to reconsider the decision he gave last week regarding Part I of the Land Drainage Bill? As Part I provides that many people who have never paid rates before will have to pay them, will not he reconsider his decision and see whether the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will agree that at least Part I should be dealt with by a Committee of the whole House?

Mr. Butler

I regret that we have not the time to accede to my hon. Friend's request.

Mr. Shinwell

Has any progress been made in relation to having a debate on the subject of the Polaris submarine base? Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in connection with the Ford transaction, suggested that the Government should seek the views of the House before coming to a decision? Would that not apply equally to the question of the Polaris submarine base? Has the Leader of the House noted that yesterday and today many Questions have been asked on the subject? Would it not be desirable to have this matter brought into open discussion in the House?

Mr. Butler

The House has had the benefit of very full answers by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I am aware of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman and many others would like further to discuss it. In the forward programme that I have announced I have not been able to give any indication of time, which shows that it is not likely to be in the near future. But I would be wise to bear in mind the fact that there is a considerable body of opinion in the House that the matter should be further discussed.

Mr. Rankin

Does the Leader of the House not understand the importance of having a debate on this subject? Did not he realise today that the more the Prime Minister talks about it the cloudier the issue becomes? Does not he recollect that this afternoon, in reply to my Question, the Prime Minister once again confused the question of the written agreement and the understanding? Surely it is important that we should now clear our minds, and of course, in turn help to clear the Prime Minister's mind, because of the vast interest and importance of this subject to the country.

Mr. Butler

I do not agree that there is any confusion but I do agree that this matter is of very great importance. All I can say at present, in view of the immediate outlook that I have outlined, is that I do not see time for debate.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Leader of the House aware that it has been announced in America that one of these submarines has left America and may appear in the Clyde, and that this submarine is equipped with fire power equal to all the bombs dropped in the Second World War, thus establishing a new nuclear power on the Clyde? Will he give an assurance that we shall be able to have this debate before the submarine arrives?

Mr. Butler

I have no knowledge of the whereabouts or the itinerary of the submarine, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman is exaggerating when he thinks that the vessel can come to the Clyde before a proper reception has been prepared for it.

Mr. Mayhew

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to the Motion on the Order Paper, in the name of a number of hon. Members and myself, calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Press in all its aspects? Is he aware that the whole question of the freedom of the Press is involved? Can the Government provide facilities for a debate at an early opportunity?

[That this House calls for the setting up of a Royal Commission to inquire into the Press in all its aspects, with particular reference to the growth of monopolistic control.]

Mr. Butler

This matter came up at Question Time, when the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) put to me an equivalent Question about it. There may be an opportunity during private Members' time. I realise the importance of this matter, but at the moment I cannot carry it any further.

Mr. C. Pannell

May I recall to the memory of the Leader of the House the Privilege case which was considered before the Recess and the Report of the Committee of Privileges, which found that there was a breach? Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to bring the Report on that matter before the House? Will he bear in mind that since the Committee reported there has been a great deal of trouble from the offending people named in the Report—there have been breaches of the peace in Leeds? Will he also bear in mind that from the same address in Princedale Road, apparently, came the fireworks which were dropped under the Lord Mayor of London the other day?

Mr. Butler

While feeling very disturbed about the incident to which the hon. Member referred, we must be careful to divide up this matter between what is a breach of our own Privilege and what is an inconvenience to other people. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the recommendation of the Committee in paragraph 10: that while Mr. Jordan's conduct constituted a breach of privilege, the House should not in this instance take any further notice of the offence. While any hon. Member is at liberty to raise this in a Motion, I do not feel justified at present, despite the importance of the incident, to give time for this matter.

Mr. Lipton

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to the Motion on the Order Paper standing in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), deploring the Government's decision to sanction complete American ownership of the British Ford Motor Company? Would not it help to clarify the situation—because some of us are getting a little tired of the Government's evasion on the matter—if the Leader of the House offered some time for a discussion of this Motion next week?

[That this House deplores the decision of Her Majesty's Government to sanction complete American ownership of the British Ford Motor Company.]

Mr. Butler

I cannot take this matter further than I did in reply to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Further to the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) for a Royal Commission on the Press, may I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the fact that this is essentially the kind of problem which should be the subject of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (a) because it involves a large number of workers; (b) because it involves the freedom of the Press; and (c) because the request for such a Royal Commission is very general in the country? Will he reconsider the request of my hon. Friend?

Mr. Butler

I will bear in mind the question of what time is available in one way or another. As to the merits of a Royal Commission, I do not think that I should answer that at business time. The fact is that we have already had a Royal Commission.

Mr. Janner

In view of the extreme interest which the right hon. Gentleman himself takes in the Albemarle Report, will he give himself and other hon. Members an opportunity to debate it on an early occasion?

Mr. Butler

I will certainly discuss that with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, who is principally responsible.

Mr. Warbey

Returning to the question of the Polaris base, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that important as is the question of the American take-over at Dagenham, the question of the American take-over at Holy Loch is even more important, affecting as it does literally the lives and deaths of all the people in the British Isles? Will he take a less cavalier attitude to the matter and say that we shall have an early opportunity for a debate; or is it that the Government are so pusillanimous that they dare not face the House?

Mr. Butler

The more the Government face the House the more successful they are. In reply to the alleged cavalier attitude, I have said on several occasions that this is a major issue. My difficulty is to find time for an opportunity for a debate.