HC Deb 20 April 1961 vol 638 cc1387-94
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:

MONDAY, 24TH APRIL—Consideration of Private Members' Motions until seven o'clock.

At seven o'clock, the following Government business will be considered:

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.

TUESDAY, 25TH APRIL—Report stage of the Budget Resolutions.

Second Reading of the Department of Technical Co-operation Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Report and Third Reading of the Hyde Park (Underground Parking) Bill; and of the Sheriffs' Pensions (Scotland) Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 26TH APRIL—Conclusion of the Recommittal stage of the Land Drainage Bill, and progress with the remaining stages.

THURSDAY, 27TH APRIL—Supply [12th Allotted Day]: Committee.

A debate will take place on the Operation of the Government's New Pension Scheme, until seven o'clock.

Afterwards, opposed Private Business will be taken.

The Chairman of Ways and Means informs me that he proposes to set down the Trunk Pipelines Bill for Second Reading at seven o'clock on that evening.

FRIDAY, 28TH APRIL—Consideration of private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 1ST MAY the proposed business will be: Second Reading of the North Atlantic Shipping Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Committee and remaining stages of the Republic of South Africa (Temporary Provisions) Bill.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the Leader of the House find time for an early debate on the shipbuilding industry as a whole, particularly in the light of the Dunnett Report, which has been published this morning? Will he also take note that the Opposition will wish to discuss education and agriculture before long?

Mr. Butler

I will note those requests by the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps we can discuss them.

Mr. Fell

Can my right hon. Friend help me? I note that we are to have the liberal allowance of three hours to discuss the Republic of South Africa (Temporary Provisions) Bill. Cannot my right hon. Friend somehow find more time for that Bill? If not, will he at least make certain that at any rate his own Front Bench practises a very strict self-denying ordinance, and that Government speakers do not speak for more than ten minutes, because they have nothing to say anyway? It would be far better if we were to have a proper debate on this tragic and most important matter.

Mr. Butler

I will endeavour to discuss the question of that ordinance with my right hon. Friends principally concerned. I think that we should have time, but I will bear my hon. Friend's observations in mind.

Mr. Jay

Can the Leader of the House say why we are not to have the Second Reading of the Weights and Measures Bill next week? Have the Government now abandoned this important Bill?

Mr. Butler

The main reason is that we cannot do everything at once.

Mr. Ridsdale

In view of the difficulty at Question Time of discussing foreign affairs by Question and Answer, thus not getting all the information and views which we would like, is it not time that my right hon. Friend found time for a debate on foreign affairs?

Mr. Butler

I can only note my hon. Friend's request and discuss it with my right hon. Friends.

Mr. Marquand

While the right hon. Gentleman is bearing in mind the representations made to him by his hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), will he not agree that to give only three hours to the Second Reading of the South Africa Bill is most unsatisfactory, unless he provides reasonable time for the Committee stage and does not expect it to go through formally on the Monday of the following week?

Mr. Butler

I will pay attention to what the right hon. Gentleman says, but I think that we should have time to transact the later stages of the Bill. Most of the issues will arise in the general debate rather than in the particular.

Sir T. Beamish

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that we have not had a foreign affairs debate since last December, and that many important things are happening in the world? While appreciating that he is in some difficulty over this matter, as this is a House of Commons issue, is it not possible that the Opposition will be willing to provide a Supply day?

Mr. Butler

I will draw that to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and he may reply.

Mr. Brockway

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on this as well as on that side of the House there is a great desire that more time should be given to the South Africa Bill? Is he not aware that to attempt to pass a Second Reading with two other items of business on Monday, and to have a Committee stage on a day when there are other items, is to ignore the very wide desire for a thorough discussion of the Bill?

Mr. Butler

I try to transact business in as reasonable a way as possible. Last night the Government provided extra time for a discussion of a Prayer. We try to find time when it is requested. The two later items after the Second Reading debate are not very controversial and should not take very much time, so that most of the time should be given to the Second Reading. However, I will look into the matter.

Mr. P. Williams

Will my right hon. Friend take up what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition about a debate on the report on the shipbuilding industry and see whether that debate could not be widened to cover shipping as well as shipbuilding, two subjects which are practically never discussed in the House although they are of paramount importance in our economy? Will he assure the House that there will be a chance of debating shipping and shipbuilding matters?

Secondly, to sustain what has been said about the debate on the South Africa Bill, is it not perfectly obvious to my right hon. Friend that African affairs are of paramount importance in the affairs of the Government and that not just South Africa, but the affairs of Kenya as well, concern many people, especially at this time?

Mr. Butler

The latter question is one upon which the Chair would have to adjudicate, but the Bill deals with the Republic of South Africa, and, while I do not doubt the importance of the points raised by my hon. Friend, I presume that we shall have to keep in order in the debate on the Bill.

I would be glad to attach shipping to shipbuilding in the consideration of the request made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams), with his knowledge of the North-East Coast; and I would like to have a word with my hon. Friend.

Mrs. Castle

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his promise to give more consideration to the South Africa Bill. To encourage him to reach the right conclusion, may I stress again how many hon. Members on this side of the House are anxious to take part in the debate on Second Reading and how wide and detailed are the issues involved, and to urge him most seriously to meet our request?

Mr. Butler

Part of the difficulty arises from the great generosity of the Administration and the Leader of the House in giving time for Private Business up to seven o'clock, otherwise we could have had a whole day, but I will pay attention to what the hon. Lady has said.

Mr. Shinwell

In case there should be any misunderstanding, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when we discuss the North Atlantic Shipping Bill we may discuss—with respect to you, Mr. Speaker—the question of shipping generally?

Mr. Butler

I should certainly hope that that would come very much into the debate.

Mr. McMaster

May I add to what the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and many hon. Members on this side of the House, representing not only the North-East Coast and the Clyde, but also Northern Ireland, have said, and press my right hon. Friend for an early debate on shipping?

Mr. Snow

May I ask the Leader of the House whether his attention has been drawn to the large number of Questions which have been put to Ministers in recent weeks concerning the rather sad plight of the Sudan Government British pensioners, and whether he will take note of the feeling among many hon. Members that these men are the victims of an historical accident whereby the British Government are not wholly responsible for their welfare in their retirement? Will he consider a modest debate on this subject?

Mr. Butler

I will discuss it with my right hon. Friend principally concerned, and perhaps discuss it, also, with the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Tilney

Following the question asked by the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow), will my right hon. Friend consider discussing with the Opposition the possibility of a debate for, say, half a Supply day not only on the Sudan pensions position, but on the pensions of those who have served the Crown either directly or indirectly overseas?

Mr. Butler

I will certainly take that into account as well.

Mr. Dugdale

Whatever he may have thought to the contrary, may I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Committee stage of the South Africa Bill will certainly not be a mere formality?

Mr. Butler

Yes, I will note that.

Dame Irene Ward

In view of the many requests for a debate, may I ask my right hon. Friend to inform the House how many days the Government will find for debate? Is it always essential that the decision as to what we debate should come from the Opposition? Can we not have some Government days so that we can debate certain matters?

Mr. Butler

The classical procedure of the House, which has been sanctified by many years' observance, is that on Supply days the time is chosen by the Opposition. That takes up many of our days. On many occasions the Government have given time for important debates, including, at the end of March, a debate on South Africa. The Government will always listen to any reasonable request for time, consistent with the rather extensive programme which we have.

Mr. M. Foot

Reverting to the answers which the right hon. Gentleman gave earlier about the attempted invasion of Cuba, would he not agree that the situation may be extremely grave and may call for a debate in the next few days? If the Government cannot find their voice to say something adequate about the situation, is it not all the more necessary that the House of Commons should have an opportunity of doing so?

Mr. Butler

Yes, but I think that we must see how the situation develops. It may be that it will develop in such a way that a debate will not be so important.

Sir T. Moore

Has the attention of my right hon. Friend been called to the frequent comments in the Press of late about the ageing groups of the Opposition, and to a lesser degree, of hon. Members on this side of the House? Will he remember what I said the other night, that the mental equipment of hon. Members grows increasingly less as the hours grow older? Will he therefore consider having the South Africa Bill brought in on another day, when we can have a complete day to discuss it and when our mental equipment is brighter?

Mr. Butler

It always seems to me that the mental equipment of my hon. Friend is about the same. I am sure that he will make a good showing at that hour.

Mr. McInnes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that ten weeks ago I asked him to consult his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland with a view to introducing legislation following the Guest Committee's Report? Will he tell us the result of his consultations?

Mr. Butler

I think that it is common sense to say that it is very unlikely that any fresh legislation will be introduced, because I think that at present we have quite enough.

Mr. Zilliacus

Reverting to the matter of a foreign affairs debate, are not the forthcoming N.A.T.O. Conference in Oslo and the recent developments, with their potentialities, in Laos and Cuba, reasons for having such a debate at an early date?

Mr. Butler

I will make a note of that.

Mr. Fernyhough

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the pressure from the benches behind him to provide more time for a specific debate is a little hypocritical? Is he not aware that hon. Members opposite, a fortnight ago, voted for a longer Easter Recess than we on this side wanted? Would not the right hon. Gentleman be in a happier position if his right hon. and hon. Friends thought as much about Government business and about getting it through as we do?

Mr. Butler

This is really a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Mr. Rankin

Reverting to the question of time for a debate on shipbuilding, is it not the case that the subcommittee which reported yesterday on this question of shipbuilding was appointed by the Government and was the outcome of Government action? Therefore, should not the time to debate its report be provided by the Government?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of what the hon. Member has said in the first part of his question.

Mr. Hector Hughes

From the exchanges which have taken place on business today, it may appear to the Leader of the House that shipbuilding and shipping are English interests only. I should like to draw attention to the fact that they are also Scottish interests, and I join hon. Members opposite in asking for more time to debate the twin subjects of shipping and shipbuilding.