HC Deb 16 February 1961 vol 634 cc1764-72
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, 20TH FEBRUARY—Supply [5th Allotted Day]:

Committee stage of the Civil Estimates and Estimates for Revenue Departments Vote on Account, 1961–62.

A debate will take place on Fuel and Power.

Also, the Committee and remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill, which we do not propose to take tonight.

TUESDAY, 21ST FEBRUARY—Report and Third Reading of the Land Drainage Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 22ND FEBRUARY—Completion of the Committee stage and remaining stages of the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill.

Committee and remaining stages of the Patents and Designs (Renewals, Extensions and Fees) Bill [Lords].

Report and Third Reading of the Trusts (Scotland) Bill, and of the Local Authorities (Expenditure on Special Purposes) (Scotland) Bill, until seven o'clock.

At seven o'clock, consideration of private Members' Motions.

THURSDAY, 23RD FEBRUARY—COmmittee stage of the National Health Service Contributions Bill.

FRIDAY, 24TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 27TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be a debate on Defence on a Government Motion inviting the House to approve the White Paper.

Mr. Gaitskell

Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that Wednesday's business, which is a rather long list of Orders of one kind or another to get through by seven o'clock, is a trifle unrealistic? Supposing that he does not succeed in getting all this business completed by seven o'clock, when Private Members' Motions are to be considered, is it proposed to return to public business after ten o'clock?

May we assume that there will be a second day's debate on Tuesday, 28th February, on defence?

Mr. Butler

Wednesday's business is not very controversial. We are lured into dividing our business into controversial and non-controversial matters. No final decision has been taken on the matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. namely, post-ten o'clock.

I do not know whether a second day will be necessary for the debate on defence, but I suggest that we discuss that through the usual channels.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, although business may not be controversial it may, nevertheless, be exceedingly important? I am sure that a number of my hon. Friends will wish to make their views known, particularly on the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when the Minister of Housing and Local Government will make a statement in the House of Commons on the Government's new housing policy so that hon. Members can question him?

Mr. Butler

I will discuss that with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Dudley Williams

Does not my right hon. Friend think that if Government business on Wednesday is not completed by seven o'clock we should use up part of the private Members' time?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. The arrangement for private Members' time was deliberately made and it should be reserved for private Members.

Mr. Driberg

Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in view of the recent grave events in the Congo, he will be able to find time soon for a debate on the Congo situation?

Mr. Butler

I have already mentioned this matter to my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The whole matter is at present very much in the hands of the United Nations. I will reaffirm to him that there has been a request for a debate and discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Fell

My right hon. Friend will have seen a Motion on the Order Paper on Northern Rhodesia.

[That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government in considering the constitutional future of Northern Rhodesia to maintain the basis of non-racial representation, laid down by Her Majesty's Government in 1958, within the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.]

Could he tell us whether there will be a statement on the Conference very shortly?

Mr. Butler

That matter is governed by the fact that the Northern Rhodesian Conference is still sitting. It is impossible to make a statement during the sitting of the Conference, because the matter has not yet been brought to finality. But it is our wish that a statement should be made to the House at the earliest opportunity consistent with what I have said.

Mr. Callaghan

is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this statement is awaited with even graver anxiety in Northern Rhodesia than in the House? In the concluding stages of these negotiations, would the right hon. Gentleman represent that it is vitally important that an agreement, if such can be reached, should enable delegates to the Conference to return to their country knowing that they can carry their people with them?

Mr. Butler

That does not strictly arise on business, but I can say that I believe it is the wish of all of us that this Conference should reach a successful outcome which should be to the satisfaction of all the people of Northern Rhodesia and accepted by the House as a fair and honourable settlement.

Mr. Bowles

If the right hon. Gentleman does not know now, can he say whether he will know this time next week how many hon. Members who have signed the Motion mentioned by the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) have been the guests of Sir Roy Welensky in the last six months?

Mr. Fell

On a point of order. Time and again there have been smears against certain hon. Members on this side of the House from the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles). Can we not be protected, Sir?

Mr. Speaker

We cannot debate it now, and all observations in the form of questions from the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) were wrong, as this is really business time.

Mr. Paget

Is it not against order to pass reflections upon a head of State or upon the head of a Commonwealth State, as was the case when the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) said that a suggestion that somebody is a friend of Sir Roy Welensky is a smear?

Mr. Fell

Further to that point of order—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It appears that it is the view of the House, and it is my view, that unless we are careful to confine questions at business time to questions on business we shall allow them to run altogether too wide.

Mr. Fell

This has happened on at least six occasions in the last six weeks or three months, each time involving the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles). On each occasion there has been a slur on certain hon. Members, not confined to this side of the House, and it has not been answered on a single occasion. I hesitated myself to get up because I hoped that another hon. Member would rise and defend his fellow Members.

Mr. Speaker

I understand the general enthusiasm of hon. Members on both sides of the House, but no amount of enthusiasm makes this a topic relating to business.

Mr. M. Stewart

Arising out of the last question asked by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, may I ask whether the Leader of the House would notice that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government pursued the unusual course of presenting a White Paper on a major topic without any statement to the House?

Would the right hon. Gentleman take note that there is considerable feeling that we ought to have an opportunity to debate the general principle set out in that White Paper before we proceed to a Bill, because before we proceed to a Bill it will be desirable to have the reactions of local authorities? Failing anything else, could the right hon. Gentleman suggest to his right hon. Friend that he should take advantage of the few moments during which he will take to present the Bill, in a few minutes' time, to make a statement about the plan?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that that possibility will arise, because of lack of notice, but I have said that I will discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend. We had better leave it at that.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

If business which the Government class as unconstitutional—[Laughter.]—business which the Government class as uncontroversial is in future to be deemed such by the Opposition, and if, in consequence, debates are likely to be protracted to the extent that the duties of hon. Members about this building and elsewhere are likely to be disrupted, will the Government respond to that situation by introducing a time-table Motion on such business?

Mr. Butler

There are respectable precedents for time-table Motions, but they are always entered into with regret and they are not entered into lightly. We do not propose to enter lightly into any such arrangement, particularly since the right hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. G. Brown) has said that, while there is no doubt that there will be full discussion on Wednesday, it is not a subject which arouses great ire or anger, but rather interest.

Mr. Lipton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it would considerably facilitate Parliamentary business if he were able to devote personally a little more time to his duties as Leader of the House? For that reason, would he not consider resigning his positions as Home Secretary and chairman of the Conservative Party?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That has nothing to do with business.

Mr. Gaitskell

On the proposed debate on the Defence White Paper, is the Leader of the House aware that it has been the custom for many years to have two days for discussion on the White Paper? Although this document this year is more than usually inadequate and devoid of any information, that, in our view, does not justify limiting the debate to one day.

Mr. Butler

The practice in announcing business is to announce business for Monday week, which I have done. We would prefer, I think, that the debate should be for one day, but I shall have this matter discussed.

Dame Irene Ward

When are we likely to have legislation dealing with Cunards'? Can I have an assurance that before legislation is introduced we shall have a day to debate the problems of shipping. shipbuilding and ship repairing so that we shall have an opportunity to discuss them before we discuss that legislation?

Mr. Butler

At this stage I can only note my hon. Friend's request.

Mr. Warbey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many hon. Members will support the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) for an early debate on the Congo, and that there is already a Motion on the subject on the Order Paper?

[That this House expresses its abhorrence at the murder of Mr. Patrice Lumumba and his colleagues and calls upon the United Nations Organisation which, at the request of Mr. Lumumba as head of the Congolese Government, was made responsible for maintaining law and order in the Congo and for eliminating all external intervention in its affairs, to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice; further condemns Her Majesty's Government for its failure to take effective action through the United Nations to check the blatant intervention in Congo affairs by foreign nationals and particularly the Belgian intervention condemned by the United Nations special representative, Mr. Dayal; calls upon Her Majesty's Government to support the following demands in the United Nations; the withdrawal of all Belgian personnel from the Congo, the disarming and disbanding of all military units except those under the command of the United Nations, the recall of the Congolese Parliament for the purpose of appointing a new Prime Minister acceptable to the majority of the Congolese people, and the maintenance of taw and order by the United Nations until a new government, appointed in conformity with the constitution, is able to function effectively.]

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider it right that this awful tragedy, for which we have collective responsibility [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense:]—in view of the actions of the United Nations and the actions of the Government therein—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—should be played out without a word being said in this House?

Mr. Butler

I cannot add to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg).

Sir P. Agnew

Can my right hon. Friend say when the Government will make a statement or issue a White Paper on the constitutional affairs of Malta?

Mr. Butler

When we are ready we shall do so.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when we are likely to rise for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. By the usual date, with our business thoroughly completed.

Mr. Gower

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the War Office is embarking upon a wholesale programme of altering and closing some of its depots in this country, including supply reserve depots, one of which is in my constituency? Would he consider having a general debate on this topic?

Mr. Butler

My hon. Friend has brought in a subject which is of burning importance to him in the guise of a business question. All I can do is to examine it, now that he has given me notice.

Mr. Thorpe

On the question of the Motion on Northern Rhodesia, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there are many hon. Members who feel that while the Colonial Secretary is engaged in this very difficult and delicate task, which we all hope will be a success, the least these matters are publicly debated and varying points of view canvassed the easier his job will be?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I think that my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary is bearing up very well in his arduous responsibility. It is clearly a matter which is beyond my control, but when hon. Members put Motions on the Order Paper I do not think that Motions should be confined to one particular point of view.

Mr. C. Osborne

Will my right hon. Friend give a categorical assurance that, no matter what pressures he is subjected to through any of the usual channels about next Wednesday's business, private Members' rights will not be infringed, for three good reasons? First, because it would infringe on the rights of private Members; secondly, because we shall be discussing an important matter in private Members' time; and thirdly, it is my time.

Mr. Butler

I have my hon. Friend's point of mind. In general, I can assure the House that during the last year or so we have deliberately given more time to private Members. It is not our intention on this occasion that there shall be an erosion. It is not our policy that there should be an erosion of private Members' time.

Mr. Peyton

Will my right hon. Friend confine the defence debate to one day, if only out of kindness to the Leader of the Opposition and that section of his party which supports him?

Mr. Lipton

Will the Leader of the House be able to make an official statement today on the state and condition of the Chief Patronage Secretary?

Mr. Butler

The Chief Patronage Secretary seems in better health than ever.