HC Deb 22 June 1961 vol 642 cc1688-95
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, 26TH JUNE—Completion of the Committee stage and remaining stages of the Army and Air Force Bill.

TUESDAY, 27TH JUNE and WEDNESDAY, 28TH JUNE until seven o'clock on Wednesday, Report and Third Reading of the Housing Bill.

At seven o'clock, private Members' Motions will be considered.

Also, on Wednesday, we hope to obtain the Second Reading of the Crown Estate Bill and of the Suicide Bill [Lords]; and the Committee stage of any necessary Money Resolution.

THURSDAY, 29TH JUNE—Conclusion of the Committee stage and remaining stages of the North Atlantic Shipping Bill, which it is hoped to obtain by about seven o'clock.

Committee and remaining stages of the Human Tissue Bill.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill.

FRIDAY, 30TH JUNE—Consideration of the Motions to approve the Cereals Deficiency Payments and Protection of Guarantees Amendment Orders.

Second Reading of the Public Health Bill [Lords].

MONDAY, 3RD JULY—The proposed business will be to begin the Report stage of the Finance Bill.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the right hon. Gentleman find time for an early debate on the deplorable events in Angola and the reasons why the Government chose this time to underline their friendship and esteem for the Portuguese Government, and why the Government have carefully refrained from any criticism or condemnation of what the Portuguese Government are doing in Angola?

Mr. Butler

I will not enter into the merits of the case at present, but simply note the Opposition's request that this subject should he debated.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is it impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the business for next week and to enable us to have this debate quickly?

Mr. Butler

As far as I know I have had no previous notice of this request. As usual, the proposed business was sent to the Opposition. I do not think that it is possible to reconsider it at this stage.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Can my right hon. Friend give a date on which the House will take the Motion in his name on House of Lords reform? Is he aware that if the debate is not taken soon it will inevitably be regarded as an expedient to secure a Parliamentary result on the Wedgwood Benn case? Is there any reason why this joint Select Committee should not be set up and its members named before the court hearing the Election Petition has reached its decision?

[That it is expedient that a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament be appointed to consider, having regard among other things to the need to maintain an efficient Second Chamber,

  1. (a) the composition of the House of Lords,
  2. (b) whether any, and if so what, changes should be made in the rights of Peers and Peeresses in their own right in regard to eligibility to sit in either House of Parliament and to vote at Parliamentary elections; and whether any, and if so what, changes should be made in the law relating to the surrender of peerages, and
  3. (c) whether it would be desirable to introduce the principle of remuneration for Members of the House of Lords, and if so subject to what conditions,
and to make recommendations.]

Mr. Butler

I cannot accept my noble Friend's reflections about the placing of the Motion on the Order Paper. As I said last week, we have a great deal of important business to complete, and I cannot at the moment give a date for the submission of the Motion to the House.

Mr. Brockway

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to three Motions on the Order Paper dealing with Angola, one of them signed by a large number of hon. Members? In view of the mounting horror in this country about what is happening in Angola and the suggestion made yesterday by the Foreign Secretary of Norway that the West, and even N.A.T.O., should dissociate itself from the policy of Portugal, is it not time that the House had an opportunity to declare its opinion upon the matter?

[That this House, noting with grave disquiet the reports from Christian missionaries in Angola indicating forced labour and brutal ill-treatment of working people in that territory and being aware of threatened wholesale massacre in the near future, deplores the abstention by Her Majesty's Government from voting on the Security Council resolution on this subject and urges the recall of Her Majesty's Ambassador from Portugal until the Government of that land behaves in a more civilised manner.]

[That this House deeply regrets that Professor Veiga-Pires, who is 70 years of age, recovering from pneumonia and due shortly to retire from the position of lecturer and examiner at St. Antonio's Hospital, Oporto, and who, on the occasion of the recent visit of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to Portugal, endeavoured to make known to the Secretary of State the concern felt by himself and other Liberals and Democrats in Portugal over the denial of human rights to many persons both in Portugal and its overseas territories, was, after the Secretary of State left Portugal, arrested and imprisoned without charge or trial, and therefore calls on Her Majesty's Government to make representations to the Government of Portugal and urges that Professor Pires be released or brought to trial in accordance with the elementary principles of human rights.]

[That this House deplores the aggression by the Portuguese authorities against defenceless Africans in the Colony of Angola, which has resulted in death and suffering of tens of thousands of people and has become a threat to good relations between the independent African states and the allies of Portugal within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take urgent action at the United Nations with a view to action to prevent further bloodshed and chaos; and believes that peace and security in Angola can only be achieved on the basis of full respect for human rights and the establishment of a democratic constitution.]

Mr. Butler

I have already told the Leader of the Opposition that we should reflect upon the proposal which he made.

Dame Irene Ward

Does my right hon. Friend think that the Radcliffe Committee will present its report before the long Recess, or does he think it likely that it will be carried over? In the event of the report not being available, would it not be a good idea to have a discussion on the security services before the House rises?

Mr. Butler

I can give no assurance that we shall have such a discussion before the House rises, nor can I say at present when the Committee will report, but I will investigate what my hon. Friend says.

Mr. Mendelson

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman stated that when the usual channels agreed on the programme for next week nothing was said about Angola, may I ask whether he is aware that in recent days many hon. Members have had a large number of letters from supporters of all parties, and from representatives of the churches in their constituencies, urging them to put all pressure on the Government for an early debate and an early statement by the Government disapproving of the Portuguese policy? In view of that fact, could he not give an assurance that he will arrange time next week for a debate on this urgent matter?

Mr. Butler

I note the urgency which has been expressed in certain parts of the House, but I cannot go further than in my original reply.

Mr. Gardner

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the Motion on the Order Paper dealing with life imprisonment for murder? In view of the disquieting state of the law relating to murder generally and the growing sense of insecurity which this is causing in the country, can my right hon. Friend say that the House will have an early opportunity to debate this Motion?

[That this House, deeply concerned about the number of murders and mindful of its duty to give society effective protection, notes that in recent years a sentence of life imprisonment for murder has not on average exceeded a period of nine years, and urges Her Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to introduce legislation to ensure that a sentence of life imprisonment for this crime shall be a period of not less than 25 years, unless a court in its discretion orders otherwise.]

Mr. Butler

I have noted the Motion, and realise its importance, but at the moment I can give no assurance of a debate.

Mr. Jay

When he is failing to find time for so many important Bills and other matters, why does the right hon. Gentleman give such extremely high priority to the Suicide Bill [Lords]?

Mr. Butler

It is not a very high priority. It is being taken rather late. It is a very important social Bill to reform the law, as requested by one of the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends, who initiated the subject. I do not think that the House will have much difficulty in finding the very short time needed for it.

Mr. W. Yates

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, following the report of the British Red Cross Society, there are other hon. Members in the House, besides the Opposition, who would like to express some opinions on Angola?

Mr. Butler

I will certainly note what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. Shinwell

If the right hon. Gentleman is seeking time for a debate on the important question of Angola, will he not suspend consideration of the North Atlantic Shipping Bill and have the debate on Angola next week?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. It is our intention to proceed with that Bill.

Mr. Fell

In considering the request for the debate on Angola, by the Opposition chiefly—

Mr. Lipton

And by one hon. Member opposite, the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates).

Mr. Fell

I said "chiefly".

In his consideration, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there are many hon. Members, I imagine some even on the other side of the House and certainly many on this side, who do not believe that it helps matters in Portugal or Angola for this House to have a debate to interfere in the internal affairs of Portugal?

Mr. Butler

All those considerations will be borne in mind. I will simply give consideration to the requests which have been made.

Mr. G. Brown

Pontius Pilate could have said nothing better.

Mr. Darling

Will the right hon. Gentleman say when we are to have the Second Reading of the Weights and Measures Bill?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend hopes to be able to give an answer on this subject before long.

Mr. Strauss

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any information about the Road Traffic Bill? Would it not be better to admit that at this stage of the Session it is quite impossible to deal with that Bill before the end of the Session?

Mr. Butler

I have no statement to make on that subject today.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed the Motion on the Order Paper about disturbances in Calais? Apart from the international considerations, does he not realise that the great majority of our young people, being very well behaved, are eager to be protected against such behaviour? Will he give time for the House to consider this matter?

[That this House deplores the lamentable behaviour of British youths on a passportless trip to Calais during the weekend of 17th-18th June, tenders its regrets to the citizens of Calais for the disturbance of their festivities and calls on the Minister of Transport to make such regulations as will render the recurrence of exhibitions of had manners unlikely.]

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I regret that I cannot give any undertaking of time for the Motion, but I have read it.

Mr. Manuel

Will not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the plea made by the Leader of the Opposition that we should debate Angola next week? Will he not consider dropping the Human Tissue Bill next week and debating the great loss of human life in Angola, which is something which I think we all deplore, on both sides of the House?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that there is any relation in time between the two subjects, since one would obviously take longer than the other. It would need greater consideration than the other. However, I cannot add to the answer I have given to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Fernyhough

Has either the Leader of the House or any of his colleagues had any recent discussions with the Cunard Company about the building of the new "Queen"? Is he not aware that doubts are being expressed now? Would it not be a good thing to make sure that, if the House of Commons does give approval to the North Atlantic Shipping Bill, the Cunard Company will take advantage of it?

Mr. Butler

My right lion. Friend is continually in touch with the interests concerned, and we have decided to proceed with the Bill.

Mr. C. Pannell

In view of the present state of Government business, and the extent to which it is in arrears, can the Leader of the House give us any guarantee that we shall be able to adjourn for the long Recess in time for our respective party conferences?

Mr. Butler

Government business is proceeding according to plan. We have made very nice progress with certain of our most important Bills and have to some extent been helped by right hon. Members opposite. I realise that hon. Members opposite will need a very long holiday before their conference, and we shall see that they get it.

Mr. S. Silverman

Is the right hon. Gentleman serious when he tells the House that Government business is proceeding according to plan? Does he really mean that this is how the Government foresaw it at the beginning of the Session?

Mr. Butler

Being something of an old hand, I certainly foresaw difficulties.