HC Deb 13 April 1961 vol 638 cc493-8
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business of the House 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. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget on MONDAY, 17TH APRIL.

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

The General debate on the Budget Resolutions and on the Economic Situation will be continued during the week and brought to a conclusion on THURSDAY, 20TH APRIL.

FRIDAY, 21ST APRIL—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 24TH APRIL—The proposed business will be: Consideration of Private Members' Motions until Seven o'clock.

Second Reading of the Republic of South Africa (Temporary Provisions) Bill.

Consideration of the Motions relating to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; and the European Free Trade Association (Immunities and Privileges) Orders.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is it not a little unusual for the Budget debate to be interrupted by opposed Private Business, particularly as this business is, I understand, likely to be fairly controversial and the debate might well be prolonged? May I ask, also, whether the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to suspend Standing Order No. 95A in respect of the Prayer against the abolition of subsidy for welfare foods?

Mr. Butler

The first matter is entirely for the Chairman of Ways and Means and I cannot comment on it. The general Budget debate, of course, will continue for the rest of the week but these are only observations on my part and I cannot take the responsibility of the Chairman of Ways and Means.

As for Standing Order No. 95A, may I have notice of that and perhaps communicate with the right hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Gaitskell

On the second point, the right hon. Gentleman will be aware that if we do not have a suspension of the Standing Order all we shall have will be one and a half hours in which to discuss this extremely important matter of public interest? Does he not think it possible to approach the Chairman of Ways and Means with a view to the Private Business being taken on some other occasion?

Mr. Butler

I certainly regard it as my duty to respond to any request to approach the Chairman of Ways and Means, though I do not know what result it will have. As for the other matter, I should like to have notice and I will give consideration to it in the light of what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a great many issues are arising now on foreign affairs, including the extraordinary and quite indefensible vote by Britain, a few days ago, adverse to the interests of South Africa? Would my right hon. Friend give time at a very early date for a full-dress debate on foreign affairs?

Mr. Butler

I will discuss this with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and send a reply to my noble Friend.

Mr. Willis

In view of the fact that the Government were defeated five times this morning in the Scottish Standing Committee, has the right hon. Gentleman anything to say about future proceedings on the Crofters (Scotland) Bill?

Mr. Butler

There was a series of mischances this morning, connected with linked Amendments to the Crofters (Scotland) Bill. It is true that these linked Amendments resulted in what appears to be a more considerable reverse than is exactly the case. The Government, of course, will consider this matter and, if necessary, take appropriate action. [HON. MEMBERS: "Resign."] The appropriate action under the Constitution is not such as will affect the future of Her Majesty's Government beyond strengthening the Government. The matter will be considered to see whether it should be rectified and what effect it will have on the Bill, and that I have undertaken to do with the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Nabarro

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the business which he has announced for next week curtails the general Budget debate to three-and-a-half days, which is the shortest time allowed for a Budget debate since 1945? Would he, therefore, arrange for the Private Business to be taken on another day of the following week and could not the Standing Order be suspended on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, at least until midnight, so that a large number of hon. Members on both sides of the House may make their voices heard?

Mr. Butler

There is a precedent for this in 1958, but apart from that, if I have further representations, I will certainly consider what my hon. Friend has put to me about the nature and length of time.

Mr. Dugdale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is being exceedingly optimistic in sandwiching such a controversial Measure as the Republic of South Africa (Temporary Provisions) Bill in the middle of the large amount of other business on Monday week?

Mr. Butler

It is not exactly sandwiching, because private Members' Motions can go on until seven o'clock and then we propose to take the Bill at a normal hour. What the future of the Bill would be I do not know, but taking it at seven o'clock is reasonable.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

May we have a debate on Kenya? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the economic life of this Colony seems to be dwindling to a close? Since it is many months, if not years, since the House, which has responsibility in the matter, has debated Kenya, is it not possible, not next week but in the near future, to turn our attention to it?

Mr. Butler

I cannot accept the conclusion that the Kenya business is dwindling to a close, but I agree that it is a highly important subject. All I can do is to undertake to discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Mr. T. Fraser

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by saying that it was by a series of mischances that Her Majesty's Government were defeated five times in the Scottish Standing Committee this morning? Is he aware that there were full discussions on all the Amendments before those decisions were arrived at? What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by saying that he will consider whether this matter will have to be put right at some point during consideration of the Bill? Is he aware that Scottish Labour Members consider that the Bill is very much improved as a result of this morning's decisions?

Mr. Butler

That is precisely why this matter should be discussed with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. If we find that the Bill is not consistent now with the Government's policy, we shall have to take some action. If, however, we find that the Bill has been improved, there is no need to take action. I would rather not prejudge the matter.

Mr. Arbuthnot

In considering next Monday's Private Business, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it used to be the practice that the general debate on the Budget did not normally begin until the next day, so that Members would have an opportunity to consider what was in the Budget statement before they started talking about it? It therefore seems reasonable to set Private Business down for Monday, which would enable a length of time to elapse.

Mr. Butler

When I first entered the House, many years ago, it was the practice that very little debate took place, after the Budget statement and the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, until the next day, but latterly the natural wish of hon. Members to take part in the debate has prevailed. It was the general desire of the House that they should be able to take part. I adhere to my undertaking to discuss this matter with the Chairman of Ways and Means.

Mrs. Slater

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in the near future, we shall be discussing the Weights and Measures Bill?

Mr. Butler

We had better wait and see.

Mr. Farey-Jones

In view of the profound effect on the minds of thinking men throughout the world by the brilliant success of Russian scientists, achieved yesterday, will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate in the House in the near future on British and Commonwealth participation in a space research programme?

Mr. Butler

A variety of tributes have be paid by heads of Government and of State to the achievements of the Russian scientists. I do not doubt that this House would wish also to add its own congratulations. At the same time, of course, it would be our desire to take every opportunity to further our own research and scientific achievements, and I will, therefore, consider my hon. Friend's request.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

When the right hon. Gentleman talks about considering action to reverse this morning's votes in the Scottish Standing Committee, does he contemplate removing the Whip from Scottish Conservative Members who were not there?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. We do not do things quite like that.

Mr. C. Osborne

My right hon. Friend said that if he had more representations he would consider the length of time given to discussing the Chancellor's Budget statement. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). Many Members on both sides of the House want to say something about the economic situation—doubly so in view of the terrible export trade difficulties now facing us and the fact that our exports and production have not increased during the past nine months. May I beg my right hon. Friend to give us the maximum time for debate, for the debate, so that every point of view can be brought to bear on this very important matter?

Mr. Butler

I must now confine myself to answering questions on business, but I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne), after hearing my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, may not take quite the same attitude as he has done today. I am sure, however, that he will still desire to speak, and I will bear what he has said in mind.

Mr. Ridsdale

I should like to support my hon. Friends the Members for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) in asking for enough time for the Budget debate. I also ask my right hon. Friend to find time to debate foreign affairs. We seem to have plenty of time to debate some of the issues affecting the country at home, but we do not seem to have time for more general issues.

Mr. Butler

I will note my hon. Friend's request.