HC Deb 13 July 1961 vol 644 cc586-95
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will 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, 17TH JULY—Supply [22nd Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate on Education in England and Wales.

Consideration of the Motions to approve the Police Pensions (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations; the National Health Service (Superannuation) Regulations; and similar Regulations for Scotland; and the Diplomatic Immunities (Conferences) (Cyprus) Order.

TUESDAY, 18TH JULY—Supply [23rd Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate on the Economic Situation, on the appropriate Votes.

WEDNESDAY, 19TH JULY—Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Rating and Valuation Bill.

Afterwards, consideration of the Motions to approve the Exchequer Advances (Limit) Order, and the Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order.

THURSDAY, 20TH JULY—Supply [24th Allotted Day]: Committee, which it is proposed to take formally.

A debate will take place on Price and Use of Land on an Opposition Motion.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Greenwich Hospital and Travers' Foundation Accounts.

FRIDAY, 21ST JULY—Consideration of the Motion for the appointment of a Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform.

MONDAY, 24TH JULY—The proposed business will be Supply [25th Allotted Day]: Committee.

A debate on Trade and Industry in Scotland.

At 9.30 p.m. the Question will be put from the Chair on the Vote under discussion and on all outstanding Votes.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Land Drainage Bill.

Mr. Gaitskell

May we take it that the Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order will come on at a reasonably early hour on Wednesday? May I ask why the Government propose to take such an important constitutional debate as the proposal for a Joint Committee on House of Lords reform on a Friday? Is not this really quite extraordinary? Have not many hon. Members engagements in their constituencies on Fridays? Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider this, with a view to that debate being taken at a time when all of us can be here?

Mr. Butler

We certainly hope, and that is the object, that the Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order will be taken at a reasonable time of day. This time of year Fridays are days for Government business. It so happens that it suits for us to take the business on that day, and I think that that would be the best day to take it.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his last remark was already known to us? Is he aware that we do not think it is the best day? Will he consider again what I have said? Although we know very well that it is a day for Government business, nevertheless Friday is a day when many hon. Members have to be in their constituencies. It is certainly most unusual to take business of this degree of importance on a Friday. Will the right hon. Gentleman please reconsider this?

Mr. Butler

We have taken the Finance Bill and other important business on Fridays. It is not at all exceptional, but, of course, every word that falls from the right hon. Gentleman has my earnest consideration.

Dame Irene Ward

Has my right hon. Friend noticed my Motion on the fishing industry on the Order Paper?

[That this House considers that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has failed to support the real interests of the fishing industry, and that neither he nor the Secretary to the Treasury have repaid by Government action the co-operation of the British trawler owners, captains and crews during the Icelandic dispute; condemns the inability of the Minister to ensure the survival of the port of North Shields, in view of the fact that for years every Minister of Agriculture has besought the North Shields trawler owners and the local authority which owns the fish quay, to rebuild on modern lines its fishing fleets and that at the moment of success the port is being put in jeopardy by Government policy involving among other factors concessions for tin ports of fish by European Free Trade Association countries; and further, considers that it is a damaging policy to the Tyne for Her Majesty's Government to encourage, through the Local Employment Act, financial assistance for new industries and to withhold support for the traditional industries, and that the lack of a coordinated policy for the fishing industry is to be deplored and strains the loyalty of some Government supporters.]

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be another Motion on the Order Paper on the same subject tomorrow? In view of the fact that most hon. Members representing fishing ports disagree with Government policy, will my right hon. Friend consider withdrawing the business for tomorrow so that we might at least have something else tomorrow more acceptable to Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Butler

I cannot accept my hon. Friend's strictures of the Government. We must adhere to Government business.

Mr. Wigg

Will there be a debate on Kuwait before the House rises, bearing in mind that the Minister of Defence, in his statement on Tuesday, varied the reason which the Prime Minister gave for entering into that operation, that, futhermore, there is grave disquiet that the scandal of Suez has been repeated on this occasion, and that the House should have an opportunity of discussing it?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that anybody who has studied the matter could possibly accept the hon. Member's remark. In relation to the debate, there is nothing at present arranged although I know that there are certain views on the subject.

Mr. Turton

Now that two Ministers have returned from the Commonwealth and the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is expected to return early next week, may I ask my right hon. Friend when it will be possible to arrange a debate on the Commonwealth and its relation to the Common Market?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the interest in this matter, but we must await the return of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations before making any such decision.

Mr. Grimond

Even if we cannot have a debate on the subject, can we have any indication that we shall have a statement on the Government's intentions in the light of the consultations with the Commonwealth?

Mr. Butler

I know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was intending to answer a Question on that subject today.

Mr. John Hall

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to a Motion on the Order Paper in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Sir W. Robson Brown) and myself and 80 hon. Members calling attention to the need to look into trade union elections?

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take such action as may be necessary to give to the chief registrar of friendly societies power effectively to supervise the elections within trade unions and to exercise such other powers as may he necessary to protect the interests of individual trade union members.]

In view of the widespread public interest in this matter, will my right hon. Friend try to find tune to debate it?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that we should debate it before full consideration is given to it and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has been able to express his opinion about it.

Mr. Awbery

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that since March of this year he has had in his possession the Report of the Blood Commission on Malta? Is it the Government's intention to introduce a new Constitution in Malta and hold elections before we have a debate on the Blood Report in the House?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that it would be in order for me to answer policy questions at business time, but I will undertake to discuss it with my right hon. Friend and perhaps see the hon. Member.

Sir G. Nicholson

Did my right hon. Friend listen to the interchange of questions and of points of order to Mr. Speaker about the Prime Minister's Questions? Is he prepared to give an opportunity to discuss this matter, which is of considerable public importance?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had to leave the Chamber as he was going to see Major Gagarin, but he asked me to say that he entirely concurred with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition that it was agreed that there should be a trial period. Latterly, there has been more success in reaching the Prime Minister's Questions, but today we were not so successful. We shall review the matter, perhaps in concert with the Leader of the Opposition, in the light of what has happened.

Sir G. Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend give the House an opportunity to express its views?

Mr. Butler

Much as I should like the views of the House, we are at a rather crowded time of the year. We are well aware of those views, but if my hon. Friend has views which he would like to express to me I should be glad to see him.

Mr. Ross

On Wednesday, we are dealing with Lords Amendments to the Rating and Valuation Bill. In view of the recent unexpected and troublesome experience over such Amendments, may I ask what steps the right hon. Gentleman is taking to ensure that when the Amendments come to us they will bear some intelligible relationship to the Bill as it left this House?

Mr. Butler

That was a rather disturbing experience, but not without precedent. It was spotted by the acuity and perception of Scottish Members. I am examining the matter in the light of that experience.

Mr. G. R. Howard

In view of the enormous importance of the issues involved in the present Common Market controversy, will my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that there will be a debate before the House adjourns for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Butler

I am quite certain that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my colleagues principally concerned wish to take the House into their confidence before we adjourn for the Summer Recess. What arrangements are made must depend on the return of all the emissaries from the Commonwealth. We shall then be able to take a decision, which I hope will take account of the obvious anxiety and interest of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) and other hon. Members.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind, with regard to the Common Market, that this is not a question of the Prime Minister taking the House into his confidence when the three Ministers have all returned from the Commonwealth, but a question of his assuring the House that he will not persist in endeavouring to bring about this shotgun marriage between two reluctant parties without first giving the House the opportunity of discussing it and of either authorising negotiations or refusing to authorise them?

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that we are coming rapidly towards the end of the Session, with a great many most anxious questions undiscussed, and that the House is greatly disappointed that he has not so far indicated any opportunity for discussing, for instance, the German question—quite apart from the fact that German troops are coming to this country—before the Recess? We are most anxious to have that opportunity.

Mr. Butler

There are a great many heavy problems weighing on the nation and the House of Commons at this time of year, and especially this year. I am aware of the need for some of them to be discussed. At present, we are finishing business of Supply, on Supply days, the subjects of which have been chosen by the Opposition according to the constitution. There are days on the Appropriation Bill and other opportunities. I will bear in mind the requests that have been made to me.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the last debate which the House had on the Common Market was short and inconclusive? Is he further aware that I have no wish to press him, in his difficulties, to name a date for a full-dress debate, provided that the Government can assure us that, before any negotiations are opened with the European Economic Community, the House will have an opportunity fully to discuss the question?

Mr. Butler

I am aware that the only opportunity that there has been for a debate was on a Private Member's Motion. That debate was of very high quality. It was not on the subject of a Government statement. I have no doubt that some such statement will have to be made before the Recess.

Mr. Marquand

Last week, the right hon. Gentleman undertook to examine the possibility of making arrangements for Questions to be put to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Department of Technical Co-operation. Has he made such arrangements?

Mr. Butler

There have been some delays in the final transfer of functions to my right hon. Friend. When these are completed—I think that this will only be towards the end of the month—there may or may not be opportunities for Questions to my right hon. Friend before the Recess, but I have it in mind to see that he informs the House.

Mr. Marquand

Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that it would be a breach of constitutional practice if a newly appointed Minister did not submit himself to Questions until perhaps November or December?

Mr. Butler

I am sure that we would all wish my right hon. Friend to submit himself to Questions, when we shall see him acquit himself with distinction.

Mr. Hirst

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, long before we come to the position of the Common Market, we have a lot to consider at home, and that one day's debate on the economic situation is quite insufficient and will probably grievously restrict the opportunities of back benchers on both sides of the House?

Mr. Butler

I must draw the attention of the House to the fact that next Tuesday's debate is on a Supply Day, at the request of the Opposition. It may well be that there will have to be future opportunities.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In view of the fact that Kuwait seems to be the strangest military campaign since the grand old Duke of York's—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether we will be out of Kuwait before he can give us a date to discuss it? Will the right hon. Gentleman give an opportunity to the Chancellor of the Exchequer or someone else to explain what has been the cost of this adventure?

Mr. Butler

The latter point cannot be dealt with at business time. The Kuwait operation has been one of the most successful which Britain has undertaken.

Mr. G. Thomas

In view of the highly controversial nature of the Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order, and of the controversy which the proposal to bring Germans to train in Wales is already causing, will the right hon. Gentleman realise that there is bound to be a long debate on this on Wednesday, and that to take it at the end of other important business is not good enough? Will he reconsider the business for Wednesday?

Mr. Butler

My answer to the right. hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was correct. This should not come on at too late a time.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Can the Leader of the House say when we may expect the Road Traffic Bill?

Mr. Butler

I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) has a Question down to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport on this subject, which will be answered next week. I have nothing further to say now on this subject.

Mr. Warbey

May I support the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) for a full day's debate on the Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order, in view of the strong opposition in the country and in this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—to German forces coming here in organised units under their own command? Will the right hon. Gentleman say when he is proposing to lay before the House the Order applying the whole of the Act to the Federal Republic of Germany? Or is he not proposing to do so and, therefore, proposing to treat German forces as second-class allies in N.A.T.O.?

Mr. Butler

I should want notice of the latter part of that question. It is a technical one and I wish to give an accurate reply.

In regard to the Order to be discussed on Wednesday, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence put this matter in the right perspective when he said that the decision which had been taken was a N.A.T.O. decision. I believe that there will be adequate time to debate the Order.

Mr. M. Foot

In connection with the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the previous debate that we had on the Common Market, will he remember, and take into account, the fact that Mr. Speaker himself said that there could be no vote on that occasion because there had not been sufficient time for the debate? Will the right hon. Gentleman also give an undertaking that none of the information which has been withheld from the House about these negotiations, or proposed discussions, about the Common Market will be divulged to the 1922 Committee tonight?

Mr. Butler

As the information is neither full nor complete I do not think that any divulging of it would be possible at the present time.

Mr. Thorpe

As far as debate on the Common Market is concerned, there will obviously be opportunities for the 1922 Committee tonight, and perhaps that meeting can be thrown open so that we on this side of the House can go along and assist.

I want to revert now, however, for the third time, to Northern Rhodesia, which the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to bear in mind for the last two weeks. Has he any further news about the possibility of a debate, in view of the new Constitution?

Mr. Butler

I cannot give any news about a possible debate on this subject.

Mr. Harold Davies

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House may be in need of a technical answer about the Statutory Instrument for visiting forces under the Visiting Forces Act, 1942, which amended the 1952 Act? [Laughter.] It is the other way round. That Act gives extra-territorial rights to visiting forces. Is he aware that the House would like to know whether or not the new Order to be laid will give the same rights to the German forces?

Mr. Speaker

It is essential that we should deal only with business at business question time, else we consume so much time in the wrong way.

Mr. Swingler

I understood the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House to tell his hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) that before any negotiations were opened about the Common Market with the European Economic Community there would be a Government statement, but he did not give an assurance to his hon. Friend that there would be a debate. Could he now give that assurance?

Mr. Butler

As I have said in answer to various questions, this is a matter of the greatest importance, where we could not proceed without the help and guidance of the House. I am not in a position today to say anything about a debate, but I have mentioned a statement. I cannot take the matter further until my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations has returned. I will let the House know at the first opportunity.