HC Deb 20 July 1961 vol 644 cc1468-76
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, 24TH JULY—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.

We propose to facilitate the consideration of Lords Amendments to the following Private Members' Bills:

Rivets (Prevention of Pollution) Bill.

Police Federation Bill.

Highways (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

TUESDAY, 25TH JULY—Supply [26th Allotted Day]: Report.

A debate on East and Central Africa, which will take place on the Colonial Office Vote.

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

My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will seek permission to make a statement on the Economic Situation at the end of Questions on Tuesday, 25th July.

WEDNESDAY, 26TH JULY, and THURSDAY, 27TH JULY—Debate on the Economic Situation.

FRIDAY, 28TH JULY—Report and Third Reading of the Public Health Bill [Lords], and of the Suicide Bill [Lords], if these Bills are completed in the Standing Committees.

Consideration of any further Amendments to Bills which may be received from another place, and other business.

MONDAY, 31sT JULY—The proposed business will be: Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.

A debate will take place on Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Gaitskell

Can the Leader of the House now say whether, following the Prime Minister's statement, there will be a debate on the Common Market? Can he also tell us precisely what form the debate on Wednesday and Thursday will take? Is there to be a Government Motion, is the debate to be on the Adjournment, or in what way will the matter be brought forward?

Mr. Butler

The proposal is that the debate on Wednesday and Thursday should be on a Government Motion, to be put on the Order Paper. It is proposed that arrangements should be made, in our time, to have a debate on the Common Market in the week following the statement by the Prime Minister but, in answer to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot), not on that same day, as I have already announced a foreign affairs debate on that day. But I undertake that it will be on one of the days in that following week.

Dame Irene Ward

It is proposed to take the Report and Third Reading of the Public Health Bill on Friday of next week. Will my right hon. Friend ask the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will then take powers to deal with the position outlined by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) yesterday, relating to turnstiles in public lavatories? Will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend to take those powers in that Bill, so that we shall all be satisfied?

Mr. Butler

The Bill is not yet through Standing Committee. Therefore, I cannot give a final answer on these points.

Sir G. Benson

Is the Leader of the House aware of the Report of the Estimates Committee on the Library, and of the Library Committee's reply thereto? As both Committees are very desirous of a debate in the House, is it possible to arrange one at an early date?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the anxieties about the Library, which are under discussion with the parties concerned and with my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope that the discussions will not be unduly prolonged, and that they will be resolved in a satisfactory way. I cannot, at the moment, give an undertaking about time.

Mr. Eden

Will my right hon. Friend arrange to give at least two days to the debate on the Common Market statement and, if necessary, postpone the date of the rising of the House for the Summer Recess so that hon. Members, wherever they may sit, may have an opportunity to express their views on this important matter?

Mr. Butler

I cannot undertake to give two days for the debate on the Common Market, but there will be time for a debate.

Mr. Denis Howell

In view of the growing concern about some features of the life of the youth of the nation, and particularly in view of the remarks of the Minister of Education, in the House this week, can the Leader of the House say why the House has not debated, a year after its publication, the Albemarle Report? When are we likely to have the views of the Government on this matter and debate them? Further, when is the House likely to have the results of the Government's study of the Report of the Wolfenden Committee on Sport and Recreation? Can we have something done about the much-needed facilities for youth, instead of the drivelling from the Government?

Mr. Butler

It is very difficult to deal with these matters now. I cannot give an undertaking for a debate before we rise. I will, however, undertake to discuss the hon. Gentleman's apprehensions with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

If it is intended to put all outstanding Votes from the Chair on Monday, may I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House whether he has considered three Motions on Civil Supplementary Estimates in my name and in the names of noble and hon. Friends of mine? In view of the duty of this House more closely to scrutinise Government expenditure, the desire of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to cut overseas expenditure, the strong feeling in various parts of the House about the United Nations' activities in the Congo, and, in particular, in Katanga, hostile to British interests, can my right hon. Friend say what opportunity we shall have for a debate on those Motions?

Mr. Butler

I have copies of those Motions, which I have studied. They relate, in each particular, to the Foreign Office Vote so, presumably—although it will be difficult to find time to discuss them on the Estimates themselves—it would be possible to discuss them in the foreign affairs debate. I trust that my hon. Friend and his hon. Friends who have signed these Motions will bear that in mind.

Mrs. Castle

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the Motion on the Order Paper, in the name of myself and over 100 of my hon. Friends, containing an instruction to the Kitchen Committee about the letting of private dining rooms in the House of Commons? In view of the exceptionally widespread interest that there is in this matter, will he provide facilities for a debate on the subject before the Summer Recess?

[That this House, believing that the private dining rooms of the House of Commons should be reserved for the social and political needs of Members and ought not to be used for furthering the commercial interests of any person or organisation, instructs the Kitchen Committee to obtain from any Member applying for such a room a statement of the purpose for which it is required and the name of the person or organisation by whom the account is being paid, in order to ensure that no letting is made to any Member acting as the agent of a commercial interest.]

Mr. Butler

There is always great pressure of business in the July of any Session, and there certainly is in this. I do not think that I can give an undertaking to provide time, but perhaps the hon. Lady would like to discuss the matter with me.

Sir G. Nicholson

As the decision of the Government about entering into negotiations with the Common Market countries will be one of the most crucial ever taken by this country in peacetime, does my right hon. Friend think that it really is consonant with the dignity of the House and its sense of history that only one day should be given to debate the matter?

Mr. Butler

I think that my hon. Friend, anxious as he is, and anxious as we all are, about this subject, must await the Prime Minister's statement. I feel that it is only in the light of that statement that a judgment can be made about the adequacy of the time for the debate. After the Prime Minister's statement, it may well be found that the arrangements made for a day's debate are satisfactory.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the proposed foreign affairs debate on Monday, 31st July, is to take place on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill, or whether it is expected to take it in some other way—either on the Adjournment or on a definite Motion? Will the Leader of the House bear in mind, in answering this question, that there is deep and growing anxiety in the House and in country about the Government's conduct of this whole negotiation, and that many of us would desire an opportunity of recording our disquiet and anxiety by means of a vote?

Mr. Butler

That is a matter we shall have to see about when the time comes. The debate will take place in the normal classical manner, on the Appropriation Bill, and, therefore, nothing will be out of order. That is all I can say.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Will my right hon. Friend say when the House is likely to rise for the Summer Recess? He will appreciate, from the questions which have been asked him, that there are quite enough subjects to keep us here all through August and September, and that it might be desirable to have a firm date to work to.

Mr. Butler

It is proposed that the House should rise for the Summer Recess in the latter part of the first week in August. I hope to announce the exact date next week.

Mr. C. Pannell

In view of the scarcity of Parliamentary time, will the Leader of the House bear in mind that many of us consider that a debate on the Library would be completely misconceived? Further, will he bear in mind that some of us believe that the Estimates Committee took an equally misconceived decision in undertaking an investigation, and that an unruly brawl between two bodies of hon. Members over a comparatively minor sum of expenditure for services given to Members would not advance the cause of the House at all?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of differences of opinion on this subject. The most important thing is to have the atmosphere and attitude to the Library right and its future assured. As this is of the utmost value to the House, I hope that it will be done, but I have to say to the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Sir G. Benson), who asked me about it earlier, that I do not think that we shall have time for a debate.

Mr. Turton

Will my right hon. Friend interpret the reply he gave two minutes earlier when he said that the Prime Minister's statement on the Common Market would be such that it would not be likely to promote much debate? If that is so, will he tell us why the statement is not being made earlier, and why he expects that hon. Members will not want to take part in what will be a quite crucial decision for this country?

Mr. Butler

I am very glad to give a further interpretation of my remarks. I said that we should await the Prime Minister's statement on 31st July and that we must not jump to conclusions such as were, I think, suggested by my hon. Friend who put the point to me earlier. I think that we cannot decide now about the length of the debate, whether it would be adequate, or anything else, until we have heard the Prime Minister's statement. I repeat that I think that the arrangement we are making will be satisfactory.

Mrs. Hart

May we be assured that, apart from the essential discussions we need to have on the Common Market and apart from the, no doubt, diffuse debate we shall have on foreign affairs, we shall have time before the House rises to debate the critical question of Berlin and the need for negotiations on Berlin in order to be sure that we safeguard peace?

Mr. Butler

We have the Appropriation Bill, which is the time when hon. Members can put forward any subject they like. I hope that the hon. Lady may find that a suitable opportunity.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Reverting to the question on the Estimates put by my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), does my right hon. Friend agree that the practice by which the Opposition take the whole time of the House on the Estimates derives only from the period when they became monolithic and that it is not an ancient practice? Now that the Opposition are no longer monolithic, is there not something to be said for dividing the time available on the Estimates between different groups in the House, as we do on Adjournment debates before Recesses, so that at least the different points of view of hon. Members on the Estimates may be put.

Mr. Butler

I am aware that my noble Friend and others feel this as some grievance, but it is a constitutional practice which has endured from the time of Mr. Balfour, later Lord Balfour. If it is to be adjusted, it must be done by the general agreement of the House. I am aware of the difficulty, but that is the constitutional position.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware—and will he inform his noble Friend—that we gave up one of our days on the suggestion we made last year in order to give some time for debate on Estimates Committee Reports and the Reports of the Public Accounts Committee? When we had a very far-reaching debate into Reports of the Public Accounts Committee on Government expenditure, was it not the fact that we were not helped in that debate by any representative of the monolithic or paleolithic group below the Gangway on the benches opposite?

Mr. Fell

Does my right hon. Friend realise that, whatever the Prime Minister's statement about joining the Common Market may be, hon. Members will probably want a two-day debate anyway? If my right hon. Friend says that we are not to enter into negotiations, many people will want to know why there has been all the fuss. If he says that we are to enter into negotiations, many people will want to know why we are to go into negotiations at all. If he says that he does not know, then we shall want to press him very hard to know why he does not know.

Mr. Butler

My hon. Friend puts all these alternatives, and that makes it all the more intriguing to wait to hear what the Prime Minister has to say.

Mr. Greenwood

For his guidance, will the Leader of the House bear in mind that, if the Prime Minister announces that the proposition is to abandon the Common Market proposal, many of us on this side will be prepared to dispose of it within far less than the day which the right hon. Gentleman has allocated to it? If, on the other hand, the Government propose to go ahead, many of us will regard that as the gravest decision which the House has been invited to take since 2nd September, 1939, and that two days will be far too short a time to allocate.

Mr. Butler

In that case, the compromise of one day is probably the best.

Mr. Jennings

If, or when, we have a vote on the question of the Common Market, may we have a free vote?

Mr. Butler

I think that we had better wait to decide these matters until we have heard the statement of the Prime Minister. What is quite certain is that this Government have a policy, and, when they have a policy and they put it to the House, they expect to be supported.

Mr. S. Silverman

In view of what the right hon. Gentleman said in response to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), does he realise that what a great many hon. Members would like to have is an opportunity to discuss the German and Berlin situation on its own without it being mixed up with a kind of general dog's breakfast of a wide variety of matters so that the subject is only tangentially covered at odd moments in the debate? Will the Leader of the House arrange for us to have an opportunity of discussing this very grave and anxious matter on its own and giving a decision about it if we can?

Mr. Butler

The constitutional position on the Appropriation Bill is that there may be any number of subjects raised. On this occasion, the debate has been canalised at the request of the Opposition to deal with foreign affairs, although, of course, that does not bind any individual Member on the Appropriation Bill. The fact that it has been so canalised is, I think, a good start, and the fact that the German question is so overpowering in its importance will ensure its proper attention.