HC Deb 01 August 1961 vol 645 cc1147-51
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business of the House for the first week after the Recess?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)

Yes, Sir. It is proposed that the House should resume after the Summer Recess on Tuesday, 24th October.

The proposed business will be as follows:

TUESDAY, 24TH OCTOBER—Consideration of Amendments, which are expected to be received from another place, to the Housing Bill.

Afterwards, a debate will take place on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House on a subject proposed by the Opposition, which will be announced later.

WEDNESDAY, 25TH OCTOBER—Debate on the Annual Report and Accounts of the National Coal Board for 1960.

THURSDAY, 26TH OCTOBER—It is proposed to meet at 11 a.m. and Questions will be taken until 12 noon.

It is expected that Prorogation will take place after Questions and that the new Session will be opened on Tuesday, 31st October, at 11.30 a.m.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask, with rather special emphasis this year, the usual question? Will the Government be prepared to recall Parliament if either the international situation or the economic situation, both of which are somewhat threatening, require it, and will they consider seriously any representations which may be made by the Opposition to this end?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. There are powers under Standing Order No. 112 for the House to be recalled during the Recess if it is represented to Mr. Speaker by the Government that the public interest requires an earlier meeting. I give the undertaking that the right hon. Gentleman requires, namely, that, if there are representations and if, after the matter is weighed by the Government, it is thought that this procedure should be put into force, it will be put into force in what is, in many ways, a very serious and important year.

Mr. Turton

My right hon. Friend will recall that, earlier in the Session, he gave an assurance that there would be a day in the summer for the discussion of the Reports of the Estimates Committee and Public Account Committee. This has not happened. I gather from the business he has just announced for the week after we resume that there will be no opportunity then. What will happen to the day which has been lost for discussion of these Select Committee Reports?

Mr. Butler

There will not be time in the overspill period, but I give an undertaking to my right hon. Friend that the day will not be lost. We shall try to find time in the new Session which starts very soon afterwards.

Mr. Popplewell

The Leader of the House will be aware that the Annual Report and Accounts of the Transport Commission have been out for many weeks. Can he give us any idea of when he may be able to provide time to discuss this very important matter, in view of the changes now contemplated and taking place in the Commission's affairs? Will he provide time when we reassemble in the new Session, or even before the House rises?

Mr. Butler

That, also, will have to be a matter for the new Session.

Sir G. Nicholson

Reverting to the matter raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), is it not true to say that, in effect, the day has been stolen? Is it not quite without precedent for the Leader of the House to say that a day which was pledged in one Session should be kept, as it were, on ice and that the debt should be repaid in a subsequent Session? How long can this go on? One might pile up a series of stolen days for years.

Mr. Butler

I think that my hon. Friend will feel satisfied that, out of the great bounty of Her Majesty's Government, the day will be available within a very short period of what I think he would desire.

Mr. Grimond

May I make use of the Leader of the House as a sort of go-between or conduit pipe to find out when we may expect to know the subject for the day in October which he says is not yet fixed?

Mr. Butler

That depends on Her Majesty's Opposition.

Mr. Harold Davies

Is the Leader of the House prepared to keep the House informed of progress at the Geneva Conference in discussions about Laos during the Recess? Shall we have an opportunity of discussing the matter when we come back in October?

Mr. Butler

It really depends on the choice by the Opposition for the day immediately we come back. If not in that way, there will be the debate on the Address to start immediately after we resume, very early in November, and that will give an opportunity.

Mr. Denis Howell

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that. a fortnight ago, he expressed concern about matters affecting youth and undertook to consult his right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, since when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has singled out the Wolfenden Report on Sport and the Community for specially regrettable treatment? When are we likely to have a discussion as a result of the right hon. Gentleman's talks with his right hon. Friend?

Mr. Butler

It is perfectly clear from what I have said that it cannot, I fear, be before we adjourn, and it cannot, I think, be immediately we resume; so it will have to be after that.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Since we are living in an age of nuclear weapons and rockets, when a dangerous war situation may develop very quickly, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that this country will not be landed in any kind of war without the will of Parliament?

Mr. Butler

It is most unusual—in fact, it is without precedent—for Parliament not to be associated with a decision of that magnitude.

Mr. Woodburn

May we take it that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government have given up all idea of tinkering with the House of Lords?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I do not quite understand the inference to be drawn from the right hon. Gentleman's ques- tion, but the matter remains on the Order Paper.

Mr. Thorpe

If the Leader of the House is troubled by inferences, may I put it expressly? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that events yesterday make it all the more urgent that the question of House of Lords reform should be debated by the House, and that perhaps some reform should be considered by the House? If not, is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman joined that august body?

Mr. Butler

I am in no hurry to do the latter. As regards the former, the Government have always thought it a good idea to proceed on the lines we suggested, and we were sorry that Her Majesty's Opposition felt that they could not join in that project. There has not been time to carry it through at the end of the Session, and it would certainly be rather difficult to do in the overlap, because there must be messages between both Houses. Therefore, it must be left to the new Session.

Mr. Awbery

Are we to have a discussion on the affairs of Malta before the introduction of the new Constitution?

Mr. Butler

I must have notice of that, and then I will inform the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Gaitskell

Reverting to the question of House of Lords reform, are the Government prepared, while the House is in Recess, to reconsider the question of the terms of reference?

Mr. Butler

If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to have a conversation with us, we shall be very glad to have it.

Mr. S. Silverman

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that, however we may have been compelled to act as we did yesterday, the result is anomalous, that there is a very serious anomaly which the House of Commons ought to deal with at as early a date as possible? It must be a very long time since the House of Commons accepted as a Member of this honourable House a man in regard to whom the only really non-controversial thing one can say is that the electors of Bristol, South-East did not want him.

Mr. Butler

I think that we are all aware of the constitutional issues involved. We should not be good Parliamentarians if we were not. I think that that is the best answer I can give the hon. Gentleman.