HC Deb 23 February 1961 vol 635 cc790-801
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, 27TH FEBRUARY, AND TUESDAY, 28TH FEBRUARY—A debate will take place on Defence, on a Government Motion inviting the House to approve the White Paper.

At the end of business on Tuesday, we shall ask the House to consider the Motion to approve the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Faroe Islands) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 1ST MARCH—Report and Third Reading of the Post Office Bill.

Completion of the Committee stage and remaining stages of the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Eggs (Protection of Guarantees) (Amendment) Order.

THURSDAY, 2ND MARCH—Supply [6th Allotted Day]. The Navy Estimates will be considered in Committee on Vote A.

FRIDAY, 3RD MARCH—Consideration of private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 6TH MARCH—The proposed business will be: Supply [7th Allotted Day], when the Army Estimates will be considered in Committee on Vote A.

The provisional business for Wednesday, 8th March, will be: Supply [8th Allotted Day], when the Air Estimates will be considered in Committee on Vote A.

Mr. Gaitskell

Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that he is putting far too much business in for Wednesday, 1st March, when he expects us to dispose of the Report and Third Reading of the Post Office Bill, and of the Committee stage and remaining stages of the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill? Will he bear in mind that it may not be possible to carry out such an ambitious timetable?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what are the intentions of the Government about the length of the debate on the Navy Estimates? Are they proposing to suspend the Standing Order for that night in the ordinary way? Can he also say whether he will find time for a debate on the White Paper on Housing, for which I asked him last week?

Mr. Butler

The debate on housing will normally take place on the introduction of the Second Reading of the Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked me about the Navy Estimates, and presumably he was also referring to the other Service Estimates. It has been the practice in recent years to have a Limited suspension, and that is a matter we can consider. I do not want to give any final answer about it today.

As to Wednesday's business, we have already had a considerable discussion on the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill, which it is important to get in the interests of the industry, as hon. Members on both sides of the House must realise. I do not think that it is necessary for the Report and Third Reading of the Post Office Bill to be unduly controversial.

Mr. F. Harris

In view of the very strong feeling in the country about the provisions of the Homicide Act, 1957, will my right hon. Friend find time for a full debate on it at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Butler

I am certain that if we find time for a debate there will be many expressions of opinion on the Act. Very strong opinions are held on both sides in this matter. I do not preclude the possibility of discussion, because it is a very important and vital matter, but if a debate does take place varied opinions will be expressed.

Mr. A. Henderson

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider finding time for a debate on the Motion relating to underdeveloped countries, signed by 100 right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House?

[That, in the opinion of this House, there is an urgent need to increase United Nations aid to the underdeveloped areas of the world.]

Mr. Butler

I have seen the Motion, but I cannot at the moment promise a day for debating it.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

If the official Opposition continue their obstructionist tactics—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—will my right hon. Friend consider punishing them by allocating them a third day on defence next week?

Mr. S. Silverman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to accuse my right hon. and hon. Friends of obstruction?

Mr. Speaker

It was not an unparliamentary word, else I should have intervened. May I express the hope that we now ooncern ourselves with business?

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will the Leader of the House arrange that for once we have fish served at an early hour next Wednesday?

Mr. Butler

We certainly expect fish to be served at an early supper.

Mr. Nabarro

Can my right hon. Friend say what consultations have taken place since midnight last night on the Opposition's agreement, reached through the usual channels, to conclude the Consolidated Fund Bill at midnight, especially having regard to the undisciplined behaviour of 15 Socialist Members?

Mr. S. Silverman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is not an accusation by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) of undisciplined behaviour on the part of other hon. Members a reflection on the Chair?

Mr. Speaker

I suppose that it would depend on the nature of the indiscipline, not at present specified.

Mr. Nabarro

In the circumstances, can my right hon. Friend say What he is doing to unblock the usual channels, or to open fresh channels with the unofficial Opposition, so that some discipline may be restored to our business?

Mr. Butler

The question of discipline is entirely a matter for Her Majesty's Opposition. The business of the House is conducted by proposition and opposition and also, at fames, by understanding. When understandings are broken the business of the House does not run.

I do not regard last night as an occasion when the Opposition—that is, the official Opposition—broke an understanding. I regard as an occasion when some guerrillas—[Interruption.] I would not like to be understood to call them gorillas—pursued us until the early hours. My answer to that, and to other forms of opposition, is that the Government propose to proceed with the business that they have put forward.

Mr. Morris

Has the Leader of the House noted the Motion on the Order Paper in the name of several of my hon. Friends and myself with reference to Richard Thomas and Baldwins?

[That this House, deploring the intention of Her Majesty's Government to proceed with the sale of Richard Thomas and Baldwin's, Limited, to private hands, and noting the fine trading figures of this publicly-owned company for the last financial year, in that it made a net profit before taxation of £11,188,733, deeply regrets the additional strain on the management, staff, and workpeople caused, according to its chairman's statement, by the time and thought that has had to be devoted to work, argument and discussion on possible schemes for divesting the company, and accordingly calls upon Her Majesty's Government to declare forthwith that it will not, within the life of the present Parliament, proceed with its intention to sell this firm.]

If so, will he provide time for a debate on the Government's intention to sell that firm in the near future?

Secondly, is he aware of the great concern that is felt about the statement of the chairman of Richard Thomas and Baldwins that while it is in the middle of its large expansion plan considerable time will be spent by its staff, workpeople and management—resulting in a considerable strain on them—in working out divesting schemes?

Thirdly, does he not agree that the activities of I.S.H.R.A. are a matter for concern in the steel industry?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of this issue and I will discuss it with my right hon. Friend who is principally concerned, but at the moment I can give no undertaking in the matter.

Mr. Proudfoot

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the Motion on the Order Paper relating to decimal coinage, which has been signed by over 100 Members of all parties?

[That this House calls attention to the need for decimal coinage, recognises the increasing and once-for-all cost of the change, notes the number of Commonwealth countries which have changed, or are changing, believes it to be a practical business decision, and urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce a decimal system of coinage at an early date.]

Will he be able to find time for an early debate on that matter? Does he realise that this topic has not been debated during this century?

Mr. Butler

In view of the priority afforded to this subject by my hon. Friend, I made myself aware of the number of signatories to the Motion before coming into the Chamber. I realise the importance attached to it, but in view of the present state of business I cannot promise a debate on it.

Mr. M. Stewart

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Housing Bill contains many new principles and can be considered properly only against the whole background of housing policy, and that if it is to receive proper examination more than one day is required? Does not he agree that two days would probably be necessary, and that the best method to deal with this subject would probably be by having a debate on the White Paper before debating the Second Reading of the Bill?

Mr. Butler

It is a reasonable proposition to say that this matter requires adequate ventilation and examination. At present, it is the Government's intention that the debate should take place on the Second Reading of the Bill.

Mr. Stewart

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider that intention?

Mr. Butler

I have stated the present attitude of the Government in the matter.

Mr. Prior

Is my right hon. Friend aware that failure to obtain the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill quickly might result in severe unemployment in small shipyards, including those in Scotland?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I am glad that my hon. Friend has stressed what I said a few minutes ago, namely, that the Bill is badly wanted by the industry. It is against that background that I hope the House will examine it.

Mr. G. Brown

Am I not right in saying that under the Bill a scheme is to be drawn up, and that it is the date when that scheme comes into operation that controls the matter of assistance? Is the Leader of the House saying that he is being held up in his preparation of the scheme?

Mr. Butler

Her Majesty's Government have all eventualities under consideration. All preparations are going on, but we want the Bill. The problem is that it has to go to another place.

Mr. Shinwell

Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that we are to be asked on Monday and Tuesday to approve the Defence White Paper? Has he read this amazing document? Is he serious in his suggestion that we should approve it?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will confine his question to business.

Mr. Shinwell

I should have thought that this was a matter of business, Sir.

Mr. Speaker

I was unable to share that view. That is why I called the right hon. Gentleman to order.

Mr. Wilkins

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted the Motion on the Order Paper in the names of some of his hon. Friends and some of my hon Friends and myself relating to the imposition of Health Service charges?

[That this House is of the opinion that persons of limited means should not be required to apply to the National Assistance Board for the refund of National Health Service charges, but that instead all persons entitled to treatment under the National Health Service whose total net income is below an agreed income tax code number or its equivalent shall, on production of evidence of that income rating, be excused payment of all National Health Service charges.]

As this is so closely related to the debate that we shall be having later today, will not he consider abandoning the business for today and having a discussion on the Motion first, so that we may be guided in the matter? This is bound to affect the Money Resolution.

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. We propose to continue with the business for today.

Mr. G. Thomas

A fortnight ago the Leader of the House promised me that he would consult his hon. Friend concerning the Motion on the Order Paper dealing with the leasehold problem in South Wales.

[That this House, noting with deep disquiet the cruel exploitation of leaseholders in South Wales by finance corporations and ground landlords who are demanding excessive premiums before renewing leases for a period of 80 years, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to repeal the Act of 1954 dealing with the leasehold system and to introduce a measure granting to leaseholders the right to purchase their freehold at a fair and reasonable cost.]

As about 100 Members have signed that Motion, and it is important to Wales, will the Leader of the House provide time for its discussion?

Mr. Nabarro

Another day for the Welsh Grand Committee.

Mr. Butler

At present, I do not see an opportunity for doing so in the near future, although I realise the importance of the matter.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the number of hon. Members attending Estimates Debates is getting smaller and smaller each year? In view of the large sums involved, will he consider issuing a four-line Whip?

Mr. Butler

I leave that to my hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary.

Sir B. Janner

Can the Leader of the House say whether he has changed his mind about the importance of the Albemarle Report? If he has not, what does he intend to do about providing an opportunity to debate it?

Mr. Butler

I have not changed my mind. I regard this as a very important Report. But it is quite another matter to find time to debate it.

Sir B. Janner

That is an astonishing statement.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Whatever may be the Government's present intention, is it not monstrously unfair that there should be no debate on the Housing White Paper?

Secondly, has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the Motion standing on the Order Paper, signed by 57 Members on both sides of the House, concerning political bias in advertising?

[That this House notes the increasing practice by certain large private industrial firms and trade organizations of inserting full page or half page advertisements of a semi-political character in selected newspapers, which advertisements are designed in influence opinion rather than to sell products, are set-off against profits as a trading expense and thus are largely paid for by the taxpayer; and deplores the practice of most of such advertisers in selecting for these advertisements principally newspapers that reflect one political viewpoint in public affairs, thus strengthening the already excessive concentration of newspaper influence behind one party.]

In view of the growing concern in the Press and throughout the community on this subject, will the right hon. Gentleman provide time for a debate on that Motion?

Mr. Butler

It will be difficult to find time for a debate on that Motion.

As for the first part of the hon. Member's question, I have nothing to add to what I have already said.

Mrs. Castle

Has the Leader of the House got in his dossier a copy of the Motion standing on the Order Paper in the names of a number of my hon. Friends and myself concerning the stiuation in the Congo?

[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; and 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 law and order by the United Nations until a new government appointed in conformity with the constitution, is able to function effectively.]

Does not he agree that, in view of the serious threat to world peace caused by the developments there, this matter should be debated at an early date?

Mr. Butler

In response to suggestions from the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), among others, I have discussed this matter with my noble Friend and with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Nobody can possibly underestimate the seriousness of the position in the Congo, but at the moment all I can do is to take note of the hon. Lady's request.

Mr. C. Pannell

A few weeks ago the Leader of the House said that he intended to read Ludovic Kennedy's book "Ten Rillington Place", to see what went wrong on that occasion. Before we discuss whether the law relating to homicide should be amended, does not he think that he should complete his researches and bring the results to the House, telling us what he proposes to do about the Evans case?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir, but I am not in a position at present to make a statement on the matter. The author of that book took many months to investigate it. This is a matter which should not be rushed. It will be brought forward when I am ready.

Mr. Stonehouse

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great interest expressed at Question Time by hon. Members on both sides of the House about matters to be discussed at the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. Can he tell the House the results of his discussions with the Prime Minister as to the possibility of a debate on those matters?

Mr. Butler

At present, I cannot add anything to what I said before.

Mr. M. Foot

Is it not quite evident to the Leader of the House, from the nature of the questions put by hon. Members on both sides, that there are many topics which the House would prefer to discuss than those which the Government are presenting to it? Does not he think, therefore, that if he changed some of the timetable and the proposed subjects for discussion he would get himself out of many of his difficulties? If he would like to talk it over with some of my hon. Friends we would be glad to help him out.

Mr. Butler

That is not an unusual situation in the House of Commons; nor is it unusual for the Government to put forward proposals which they intend to carry out as part of the legislative programme.

Mr. Lipton

Is the Leader of the House aware that many of us view with growing concern the present state of Parliamentary business? Would it not be convenient to all hon. Members, especially hon. Members opposite, if the right hon. Gentleman drove some of the bats out of the Government belfry, the cause of the present difficulty?

Mr. Butler

Perhaps in that exercise I might have the help of the hon. Gentleman himself.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will my right hon. Friend try to allocate a full day to discuss exports? I know that a short debate took place last night, but there were very few speeches and they were long ones, and only four hon. Members of the Opposition were present during the discussion on this important subject. Ought not we to have a full day to discuss matters like that which affect the lifeline of the country?

Mr. Butler

This is a vital matter for the country. I will keep in touch with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, but I cannot say any more today.

Mr. S. Silverman

Reverting to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) about Timothy John Evans, does the right hon. Gentleman propose to provide any Parliamentary time for the further stages of the Bill which my hon. Friend obtained leave to bring in with regard to the remains? The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the Bill attracted no opposition. It is in simple terms. It will lead to no controversy, and require virtually no time. Does he not think that a little time might be found to render this small act of acknowledgment of the failure of our justice on that occasion?

Mr. Butler

I cannot necessarily accept all the statements made by the hon. Gentleman. All I say is that this matter must be left to be a Private Member's Bill.

Mr. McInnes

Will the right hon. Gentleman impress on his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland the need to introduce legislation on the Guest Committee Report dealing with Scottish licensing laws?

Mr. Butler

I will certainly discuss that with my right hon. Friend.