HC Deb 29 June 1961 vol 643 cc665-72
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, 3RD JULY—Report stage of the Finance Bill.

TUESDAY, 4TH JULY—It is hoped to conclude the Report stage of the Finance Bill by about eight o'clock.

Afterwards, the following Scottish business will be taken:

Lords Amendments to the Flood Prevention Bill and the Sheriffs' Pensions Bill, and Report and Third Reading of the Trusts Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 5TH JULY—Arrangements have been made at the request of the Opposition for a debate to take place on Angola on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House, until seven o'clock.

Afterwards, the Report and Third Reading of the Crofters (Scotland) Bill.

THURSDAY, 6TH JULY—Third Reading of the Finance Bill, which it is hoped to obtain by eight o'clock.

Committee and remaining stages of the Crown Estate Bill.

Consideration of the Motions to approve the Calf Subsidies Schemes.

FRIDAY, 7TH JULY—Report and Third Reading of the Trustee Investments Bill [Lords].

MONDAY, 10TH JULY—The proposed business will be: Supply [19th Allotted Day]: Committee.

A debate will take place on Science, on the appropriate Vote.

Mr. G. Thomas

Is the Leader of the House aware that that will be a very disappointing list for the people of Wales? Is he further aware that since I last asked him for a debate on the leasehold problem three of his hon. Friends have publicly supported a statement of mine that the people of South Wales are being held to ransom by finance corporations? Does he realise that the leasehold question is becoming increasingly important to our people? Will he give us an opportunity to debate the matter before the House goes into recess?

Mr. Butler

Perhaps the hon. Member can persuade his right hon. and hon. Friends to raise that matter on a Supply Day.

Mr. Darling

Last week, when I asked the Leader of the House where the Weights and Measures Bill had got to, he said that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade would make a statement, since when the President of the Board of Trade has given a Written Answer to a contrived Question, and we obviously cannot question him about any new Bill that he will introduce. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when the promised statement can be made, so that we can question the President of the Board of Trade?

Mr. Butler

I cannot take up matters of policy when we are discussing the future business of the House, but my right hon. Friend indicated that he has decided to introduce, in the near future, a Weights and Measures (No. 2) Bill, with Amendments which are the result of communications with the trade, and so forth, and which will make it a practical matter to issue this Bill for the purpose of public consideration. I cannot say any more than that today.

Mr. Gaitskell

Surely the Leader of the House can tell us whether it has been decided to drop what is now presumably to be called the Weights and Measures (No. 1) Bill. Can he answer that question? Can he also tell us whether the No. 2 Bill will be introduced this Session, next Session, the year after, or at some other time?

Mr. Butler

The answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is in the affirmative—that is to say, "Yes". The answer to the second part is that the Bill will be published this summer, so that it can be examined, and that its future progress will then depend on what happens when we return again.

Mr. Gaitskell

Can the right hon. Gentleman answer a rather curious point? If the No. 1 Bill—or the Bill that might have been the No. 1 Bill—is to be dropped, why is it necessary to call the No. 2 Bill the No. 2 Bill?

Mr. Butler

Because of the greater clarity resulting, which is a consistent characteristic of my right hon. Friend.

Sir C. Osborne

Does my right hon. Friend think that he is providing enough time for us to discuss the Third Reading of the Finance Bill on Thursday, which is the most important Bill of the Session, by giving us until eight o'clock? If hon. Members want to have a longer debate, can that time be extended?

Mr. Butler

It has been agreed on certain sides that we might hope to obtain the Bill by eight o'clock. That was the expression I used. We hope to obtain it by eight o'clock, and I hope that we may have the help of my hon. Friend in doing so.

Sir C. Osborne

As the Finance Bill is the most important constitutional Bill to go through the House, and private members surely have a right to talk on it, arrangements aught not to be made between the Front Benches to close the debate when other hon. Members may want to take part. Can we have an assurance that the debate will be continued, if hon. Members still want to talk on the Bill at eight o'clock?

Mr. Butler

I am quite accustomed to dealing not only with the usual channels, but with several other channels, such as my hon. Friend, who continually assert themselves. I will do my best to consult my hon. Friend on the matter, but I still hope to obtain the Third Reading by eight o'clock.

Mr. Strauss

Since the right hon. Gentleman has made a statement about the abandonment of the Weights and Measures Bill, can he tell us what are the prospects of the Road Traffic Bill—the No. I Bill? Is he satisfied that the progress of this Bill is going according to plan?

Mr. Butler

I cannot make any further statement about the Road Traffic Bill today.

Miss Vickers

Since we did not take the Suicide Bill last night, and we have waited for 1,000 years for a reform of the suicide law, can we be assured that the Bill will not be dropped?

Mr. Butler

I was here, and I was quite ready to take the Bill at midnight, but I listened to representations made from the other side of the House. It was a little late to take a Bill of this social importance. We therefore decided not to take it last night. I hope to proceed with it later in the Session and to carry it through its remaining stages.

Mr. Ross

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it entirely inappropriate that so important a Bill as the Crown Estate Bill should come after the Finance Bill on Thursday? Bearing in mind what happened last night, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that there will be a Scottish Minister and a Scottish Law Officer in attendance when we reach the Bill next Thursday?

Mr. Butler

I think that it is reasonable to take the Bill at that time. I will draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the hon. Member's request.

Mr. Zilliacus

In view of the recent developments in the international situation, can the Leader of the House say whether we shall have an opportunity to discuss the subject of Germany and Berlin before the House rises for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Butler

I can give no undertaking today. That does not mean that I underestimate the importance of the matter. I will discuss it with my right hon. Friends who are principally concerned.

Mr. Jay

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there will be a Finance (No. 2) Bill this Session?

Mr. Butler

I have nothing to add to the statements that I have already made.

Mr. Mellish

Will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement about Northern Ireland, and say whether the Government's proposals to alleviate the present economic plight of that country will be announced shortly? Are we likely to have a debate on it? If so, when?

Mr. Butler

A special committee to co-ordinate activities in Northern Ireland, with the agreement of the Northern Ireland Government, has been set up and is now at work. We must give it an opportunity to examine the subject with fresh eyes and to decide when a report shall be made. It has not yet been promulgated by the committee, and I think that the House would wish to know what progress has been made in this direction.

Mr. M. Foot

I should like to refer to the Motion on today's Order Paper in connection with the reform of the House of Lords.

[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.]

Since this Motion has been dropped down the list on the Order Paper, can the right hon. Gentleman say when it will drop off altogether, and, if so, what was the purpose of putting it on the Order Paper in the first place?

Mr. Butler

It was put on the Order Paper because we propose to make progress with it at a suitable date. It goes up and down on the Order Paper. The hon. Member has not been following its fate quite as closely as I would have hoped, but if he examines the Order Paper daily he will see that these Motions go up and down.

Mr. G. Brown

May I ask the Leader of the House when he proposes to put a No. 2 Motion on House of Lords Reform on the Order Paper?

Mr. Butler

We are not in a position yet to make an announcement, as we are anxious to obtain some important legislation; in particular, the Finance Bill.

M. W. Hamilton

Is not the right hon. Gentleman unduly optimistic in expecting to get the Scottish business through in half a day? Is it not his experience that he will not get any Scottish business through in half a day? Is he further aware that there are some very importnat Scottish implications in the Crown Estate Bill, and that there will be several Scottish Amendments to it? Will he therefore underline the undertaking that he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) that there will be a full complement of Scottish Ministers when we come to the Committee stage?

Mr. Butler

As to the latter pant of the hon. Gentleman's question, we have certainly been warned about that, and I will see what I can do. I am always optimistic about Scottish business, and usually proved right in the end.

Mr. Dodds

Reverting to the right hon. Gentleman's amazing statement that the Weights and Measures Bill—the No. 1 Bill—is to be dropped, as we have been waiting for years for the Bill, and as a promise was made at the beginning of this Session, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that he owes the House, and the housewives, too, a little more explanation as to why the No. 1 Bill has been dropped? What is the difference between the No. 1 and the No. 2 Bill?

Mr. Butler

The Bill cannot be proceeded with because there is not time, which is the simple reason. I have not noticed a great sense of disappointment or disillusionment among housewives up to date. The No. 2 Bill is an improvement on the No. 1 Bill. As a result of discussion in another place and amendment in the light of representations made in the trade in other ways, this will be a more convenient Measure for us to consider at a later date.

Mr. Marquand

Is the Leader of the House making arrangements for next week so that we can ask Questions of the Secretary, Department of Technical Co-operation?

Mr. Butler

We will just have to see. I will certainly investigate that.

Mr. S. Silverman

On the question asked by one of my hon. Friends about Scottish business, and the right hon. Gentleman's optimism about getting the Third Reading of the Finance Bill in a short time, will the Leader of the House pay attention to Mr. Speaker's Ruling last night that it is quite improper for the House to come to a decision unless every point of view has been represented in the debate? Bearing that Ruling in mind, will not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the timetable?

Mr. Speaker

If that is meant as criticism of the Ruling, it is out of order and, if it is not meant as criticism of the Ruling, it does not help with next week's business.

Mr. Silverman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was asking the right hon. Gentleman whether, in the light of certain facts which I put to him, he would reconsider the timetable for next week. Is that out of order?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that that is out of order.

Mr. Silverman

That is all I asked.

Mr. Speaker

I thought that the implication in it might be, but, if it was not so, I do not mind. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman desires to answer that question or not?

Mr. Hector Hughes

Would the Leader of the House find time for a very important but small Scottish Bill—which is much desired by the people and the legal profession in Scotland—to amend the law on intestacy in Scotland? It is a Private Member's Bill, presented by me, which has been blocked by a Government supporter every Friday that it has come up. Will the right hon. Gentleman find a way of giving facilities for that Bill to proceed before the end of the Session?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that we can take it over as a Government Bill. I must just sympathise with the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Thorpe

Can the Leader of the House say when time will be set aside for a debate on the Northern Rhodesian Constitution? Will he bear in mind that this will become a subject of increasing urgency in view of the threatened strike in that country?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I will bear it in mind, but I cannot make a statement at present.

Mr. Lipton

When will the House be given an opportunity to consider the legal provision that will have to be made by the Government to validate the presence in this country of German troops?

Mr. Butler

I cannot give the date at present, and I have no statement to make this afternoon.

Mr. Darling

If the Leader of the House knows the changes to be made in the Weights and Measures No. 2 Bill as compared with the previous Bill, could we have the No. 2 Bill printed and published before the Summer Recess so that we can have discussion about it, even among ourselves?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. There seems to be such a passionate interest in this Bill that the sooner we get it out for public consideration during the summer holidays the better.

Mr. Darling

No, before.

Mr. C. Johnson

Now that the Report of the Working Party on Compensation to Victims of Crimes of Violence has been published—for which we are indebted to the right hon. Gentleman—and as there is wide interest both inside and outside the House, will the Leader of the House bear in mind the desirability of the Government affording an opportunity to debate this Report in the near future?

Mr. Butler

I would say that the "near future" was not a very good thing, because this is a very complicated subject, but when time has been given to consider the Report we shall certainly bear that in mind.