HC Deb 02 February 1961 vol 633 cc1190-7
Mr. G. Brown

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 the next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 6TH FEBRUARY AND TUESDAY, 7TH FEBRUARY—A debate will take place on an Opposition Motion relating to the Economic Situation.

At the end of business on Tuesday we propose to take the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY—A debate on the Opposition Motion of censure relating to the National Health Service.

Afterwards, we shall ask the House to take the Committee stage of the Ways and Means Resolution relating to the National Health Service contributions.

THURSDAY, 9TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the National Health Service Bill; and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Report stage of the Ways and Means Resolution, when the National Health Service contributions Bill will be brought in.

Committee and remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill.

FRIDAY, 10TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 13TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be: Second Reading of the Crown Estate Bill, which it is hoped to obtain by about seven o'clock.

Afterwards, Committee and remaining stages of the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill.

Mr. Brown

I understand that, subsequently, a Bill will be necessary to deal with the National Health Service contribution about which a Ways and Means Resolution is to be debated on Wednesday. May I have an assurance that all stages of that Bill will be taken on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House why he has put the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill down to follow the end of Tuesday's debate when the first Order of the Day is likely to take the whole of the time? I know that the Consolidated Fund Bill is exempt from the Standing Order, but is not that debate an occasion on which private Members may raise all kinds of grievances with the Government for which they have no other opportunity? Does he not know that there are a great many such questions outstanding, some of which he has been evading and avoiding dealing with for many months? Would it not be better to have the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill on a day and at a time when it would not defeat the rights of hon. Members to raise questions with him?

Mr. Butler

I think it important that the House should apprehend that this is rather different from the ordinary March Consolidated Fund Bill and the July Appropriation Bill. This particular Consolidated Fund Bill is brought in for the specific purpose of giving authority for the issue of moneys relating to recommendations of the Royal Commission on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration. There were Supplementary Estimates for this purpose which have already been taken in Committee.

While the hon. Member, with his knowledge of the House, is not incorrect in referring to it as a Consolidated Fund Bill, it is not the ordinary Consolidated Fund Bill, but a special one. Therefore, I maintain that special reasons make it legitimate to put it at the place we have chosen to put it.

Mr. Nabarro

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the profound public anxiety concerning the increase in crimes of violence and murder? Having regard to the fact that there has been no opportunity, on a Government Motion or otherwise, to debate in this House the effects of the 1957 Homicide Act, and that widely differing opinions are held in the House on these issues, would he not consider allotting time on an early day, on a Government Motion, for this matter to be debated?

Mr. Butler

I do not underestimate the grave anxiety, particularly in the light of recent statistics of murder, although I think that they must be kept in perspective in relation to the whole situation. I am aware that there are varying views on the 1957 Homicide Act which have been put to me from various quarters of the House, and, of course, I am available to hon. Members who wish to express their anxieties or views to me. I have not previously had across the Floor of the House an actual request for time to debate this subject. I think that the best thing I can say to my hon. Friend and to the House is that we shall give this matter consideration.

Mr. Nabarro

I am very grateful.

Mr. Hamilton

With reference to Wednesday's business, would the Leader of the House consider the possibility of giving us a separate day for debating the Scottish aspect of the Health Service charges, in view of the fact that there is more unemployment in Scotland and, generally, lower wages—particularly among the lower-paid workers—and that, therefore, the hardship will be proportionately greater than in England? If he cannot arrange for that on the Floor of the House, will he make representations to the Secretary of State for Scotland so that we might use the extra day which is now available to the Scottish Grand Committee for debating this question?

Mr. Butler

As to debate on the Floor of the House, I am well satisfied that this subject is to be aired on a considerable number of occasions during the next week or two, partly in view of the answer I gave to the right hon. Member. Therefore, I think that the hon. Member can take it that the Secretary of State for Scotland will appear to answer questions on more than one occasion when they are put by Scottish hon. Members. The point about the Scottish Grand Committee is one which I must discuss with my right hon. Friend.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

In view of the desirability of informing the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the views of hon. Members in advance of the framing of the Budget, will my right hon. Friend consult with the Opposition with a view to the Opposition's Motion on Monday being so framed as not to exclude the structure of taxation?

Mr. Butler

The first point to notice is that that debate will not be on the Adjournment. Therefore—subject to what you say, Mr. Speaker—it should be possible to raise a great variety of subjects and not to exclude such matters as my noble Friend desires to raise; but it is a matter for the Chair.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one reason why we did not want that debate to be on the Adjournment was that we wanted to discuss the possibility of quite wide-ranging legislation, including taxation, because many hon. Members on this side of the House will want to raise questions on that point which are substantially different from those to be raised by the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke)?

Mr. McMaster

Will my right hon. Friend set aside an early day for a debate on the critical situation in the shipbuilding industry? If that is not possible, will he ask the Minister of Transport—who, I see, has just come into the House, and who continually protests that he is not overburdened with transport responsibilities—whether he will speak in the debate on the economic situation either on Monday or Tuesday? Then, many hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House who are interested in shipping and shipbuilding industries would have an opportunity of raising the many important grievances of their constituents and getting answers to the questions they raised.

Mr. Butler

I cannot but say that this subject would be in order in discussing the economic situation. Whether my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will be replying is another matter. I should like to consider further the request made by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster).

Mr. H. Wilson

Will the Leader of the House take into account the fact that, obviously, hon. Members on both sides will want to discuss the serious position in the shipbuilding industry—and the backward character of certain sections of that industry?

In regard to the question of the Minister put up to reply, does the Leader of the House recognise that we regard this as a really serious debate and that we could no: possibly contemplate the suggestion which has been made?

Miss Herbison

Last Thursday, I asked the Leader of the House whether he would find time for a debate on the Report of the Guest Committee. He brushed my request aside by saying that he would have discussions about this being debated in the Scottish Grand Committee. Is he aware that this is an important Report, which has caused great interest in Scotland? I would have thought that the Government would want to get the views of hon. Members on both sides of the House and their reactions to the recommendations. Is he aware, also, that, if we have a debate of two and a half hours, it will be quite impossible to get those views? Indeed, it would perhaps be better to have no debate at all than to have one of two and a half hours. Will he, therefore, arrange for time to be given to discuss the Report on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Butler

We have such a press of business that I can give no undertaking, but that does not mean that I do not appreciate the value of the Report

Mr. C. Osborne

As a great number of hon. Members on both sides will wish to take part in the debate on the economic situation on Monday and Tuesday, will my right hon. Friend make an appeal through you, Mr. Speaker, for a self-denying ordinance that back benchers should not speak for more than ten minutes so that we can all have a chance?

Mr. Butler

I hope that other hon. Members will follow the lead suggested by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Mitchison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the last Bill he mentioned—the Crown Estate Bill—is not yet available? Will he arrange for it to be printed before asking us to read it?

Mr. Butler

Yes. That Bill will be immediately available.

Mr. Rankin

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the National Health Service (Scotland) Act is a separate Act from the English Act and went through the House separately? Does he also realise that some of the changes proposed affect the Scottish Act differently from the way they affect the English Act? A separate debate is, therefore, necessary. The desire of Scottish Members cannot properly be met by a Minister who intervenes from time to time during the debate, or at a part of the debate, to answer points which have been put. It is not satisfactory. We want a separate debate.

Mr. Butler

I will discuss the Scottish aspects of the Bill with my right hon. Friend, but, meanwhile, we had better see what progress we make.

Mr. Thorpe

I think that the Leader of the House was in the Chamber last Monday when the Private Notice Question of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was dealt with. Will he not agree that there was intense feeling on the issue of the coloured ratings being landed from H.M.S. "Victorious" en route for South Africa? Is he aware that a Motion has now been tabled in the names of my hon. Friend the Member far Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and others?

So far, Her Majesty's Opposition have not given tangible evidence of their equally intense feeling by a single Labour Member of Parliament adding his name to the Motion. Notwithstanding that large-scale and massive oversight, which, no doubt, will be rectified, will the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is not a party political matter, but one which has a very real principle behind it? Will he try to provide time for this important matter to be debated?

[That this House deplores the decision of the Board of the Admiralty to disembark six coloured members of Her Majesty's Royal Navy from H.M.S. "Victorious" at Gibraltar, since such action appears to condone South Africa's racial policies and is wholly inconsistent with the ideals of the Commonwealth and with any system of joint Commonwealth defence.]

Mr. Butler

I do not see any chance of debating the Motion in the immediate future. Meanwhile, I will wait and see what other Members follow the hon. Member's advice.

Mrs. Butler

Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to find time for a debate on the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London before the Minister reaches a decision on its iconoclastic recommendations?

Mr. Butler

This raises a very large issue, and we are at a rather early stage before the Minister makes up his mind. In view of the many interests involved in the neighbourhood of London and in London, it is certainly a matter which will have to be fully aired before it is finally decided.

Mr. Lipton

May we take it that the Leader of the House does not intend to find time for discussion of the Motion signed by 100 of his hon. Friends about drugs for private patients being obtained under the National Health Service? Is it not rather deplorable that the first opportunity many of his hon. Friends will have of ventilating the matter will be on the Motion of censure to be moved next Wednesday?

[That this House is of the opinion that private patients should be enabled to obtain their medicines and drugs on the same terms and conditions as National Health Service patients; and urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce the necessary legislation without further delay.]

Mr. Butler

We must leave my hon. Friends to avail themselves of what opportunities they can in this matter.

Mr. S. Silverman

May I revert to the question asked by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)? Is it the Government's intention to provide time to discuss the working of the Homicide Act, 1957? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, while there obviously are fundamentally different points of view on this, there is complete unanimity—or virtually complete unanimity—that it is irrational, unjust and so uncertain in its working as to bring the whole law into contempt? Will he give the House of Commons an opportunity of debating the matter?

Mr. Butler

I will give the same answer to the hon. Gentleman as I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). This matter has been raised across the Floor of the House. It will now receive consideration.

Mr. Brockway

Responding to the non-party spirit alluded to by the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), as discontent was expressed on both sides of the House about what happened on H.M.S. "Victorious", will the Government give us an opportunity to discuss the Motion relating to this subject? I ask this question particularly, because it was stated in answer to Questions that this has been a long-term practice of the Navy, but in a Written Answer to me yesterday the Civil Lord admitted that the instructions were given as recently as last April.

Mr. Butler

I cannot go into the merits at business time. I was asked whether we could provide time to discuss this. In view of the heavy business immediately before us, I cannot see an opportunity at the moment.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that in the exchanges we had he not only promised to consider whether a debate should be held, but also said that he would consult with his right hon. Friends to see whether the views of the House, strongly felt, could find some expression?

Mr. Butler

I have had consultations, but we have before us immediate business, including the Motion of censure and other matters which are taking up Parliamentary time. It is not that I have not discussed it. I have discussed it and brought to the attention of my colleagues the feelings expressed in the House, but I cannot at present give an undertaking.