HC Deb 23 March 1961 vol 637 cc579-84
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House to 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, 27TH MARCH—SeCOnd Reading of the Housing Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

TUESDAY, 28TH MARCH—Motion to approve the Report from the Business Committee on the Allocation of Time for the remaining stages of the National Health Service Bill, which is a formal proceeding.

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

Report and Third Reading of the Hyde Park (Underground Parking) Bill.

Committee and remaining stages of the Patents and Designs (Renewals, Extensions and Fees) Bill [Lords]; and the Human Tissue Bill.

We also hope to make progress with the remaining stages of the Sheriffs' Pensions (Scotland) Bill, and the Local Authorities (Expenditure on Special Purposes) (Scotland) Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 29TH MARCH—Report and Third Reading of the National Health Service Bill [Allotted Day].

THURSDAY, 30TH MARCH—It is proposed to meet at Eleven a.m. Questions will be taken until Twelve noon, and the House will adjourn at Five o'clock.

Adjournment for the Easter Recess until Tuesday, 11th April.

Mr. Gaitskell

First, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government propose to make an early statement on the recent espionage case, and its implications?

Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Motion for the Adjournment for the Easter Recess is likely to be taken? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the amount of business which he proposes that we should take on Tuesday seems to us to be impossibly large, and that it is very doubtful whether we will be able to get through it all in the time? Thirdly, may I ask when it is proposed to debate the Report of the Committee of Privileges?

Mr. Butler

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is making a statement on the espionage case immediately after business questions.

I think that we shall probably take the Motion for the Easter Recess on Tuesday.

I agree that there is quite a list of Bills for Tuesday, but most of them are not of a very controversial character? [HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] In the prevailing spirit of good will we must just try to make as much progress as we can.

I do not think that it will be possible to take the Report of the Committee of Privileges before Easter, so we shall have to take it at as early a date as possible thereafter.

Sir. B. Janner

Why has the right hon. Gentleman lost his enthusiasm for the Albemarle Report? Does he ever propose to bring it forward to the House? Why does he not bring it forward, so that we can discuss the very important topic with which it deals?

Mr. Butler

I have not lost my enthusiasm for the Report, but I am not able at present to find time for it.

Mr. J. Howard

When does my right hon. Friend hope to find time to discuss the Motion relating to decimal coinage, bearing in mind that the longer the problem is left the more costly it will be to deal with?

[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.]

Mr. Butler

I cannot, at the moment, promise a definite date.

Mr. M. Foot

In view of the extremely disturbing Written Reply that the right hon. Gentleman himself gave to us last week on the case of Timothy John Evans, and replying, as he did, in circumstances in which the House was not able to put any Questions to him about it and was not able to debate it, does he not think that his own reputation as Home Secretary rests on whether he is prepared to arrange for a full opportunity to debate the matter?

Mr. Butler

I indicated to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) at the time that I was not at all against an opportunity for further explanation of the reasons that led me to my very serious and difficult decision. Whether we can find time for it, I do not know, but there would, presumably, be opportunities of which hon. Members could avail themselves. At any rate, I stand in the position of being perfectly ready to answer further for my action if opportunity offers.

Mr. Ridsdale

In view of the growing seriousness of the situation in Laos, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether we might not have an early debate on foreign affairs?

Mr. Butler

I can only note what my hon. Friend has asked, and consult those of my right hon. Friends principally concerned.

Mr. Grimond

In view of the position of the electors of Bristol, and also of the gentleman concerned, who is now suspended between heaven and earth—[An HON. MEMBER: "Which is which?"] I do not want to cause embarrassment by defining too closely which it is—will the Leader of the House do his best to find time for an early debate on the Report of the Committee of Privileges?

Mr. Butler

In so far as the Committee of Privileges presented a Report which, I think, in respect of the law, is of a definite character, the situation may be described as clearer, but I agree that until the House has had an opportunity of discussing, and either endorsing or rejecting, the Report, the situation will not be completely clear, because the matter is one for the House as well as for the Committee of Privileges. I fully understand that but, in view of the length of the Report and the importance of the issue, it will not be very easy to find an immediate day, although we shall try to choose an early date.

Mr. Hector Hughes

As white fish and herrings have kept the House up so late on several previous occasions, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange the business on Tuesday in such a way that white fish and herrings can be taken at a more appetising time?

Mr. Butler

It is, in fact, the first course for Tuesday. We cannot have it any earlier.

Mr. McMaster

In view of serious unemployment in Northern Ireland, particularly in the shipbuilding industry, will my right hon. Friend find an early opportunity to discuss the Motion standing in the name of many hon. Members and myself on the state of the shipbuilding industry?

[That this House notes with very grave concern the serious problems facing the British shipbuilding industry, and urges Her Majesty's Government to take all possible steps to remedy the situation.]

Mr. Butler

On this occasion, I can only note my hon. Friend's request.

Mr. S. Silverman

Would not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the answer he gave a few minutes ago to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot)? Does he not think that we are getting to a very abnormal, not to say anomalous, Parliamentary situation? Does he remember that quite a long time ago a very large number of hon. Members put down a Motion about the exercise of the Royal prerogative, and that his reply then was exactly what he said to my hon. Friend now, to the effect, "I am not against a discussion if only time could be found for it"?

Time never has been found. Does the right hon. Gentleman hold out any hope whatever that there will be time on this occasion? Is he not really using his opportunities and functions as Leader of the House to avoid or evade his obligation as Home Secretary to account to the House of Commons for what he does in this matter?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I should say that, if anything, the fact that I am Leader of the House as well as Home Secretary makes me consider the Home Secretary's wishes more than I otherwise would. I fully realise the importance of an exchange of views of this character, but I do not see any very great opportunity for time being found unless hon. Members themselves take an opportunity that is very often available under the process of Parliament.

Mr. Peyton

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House what use he would make of the time that would be saved if the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) were a good deal more silent?

Mr. S. Silverman

If I may follow that as a point of order which the hon. Member has just put, may I ask—

Mr. Speaker

It could not have been a point of order. It was a question addressed to the Leader of the House.

Mr. Silverman

Then may I put a point of order, Mr. Speaker? May I ask you, Sir, whether all of us, in whatever place in the House we sit or in whatever capacity, will have the protection of the Chair in exercising our Parliamentary functions however objectionable they may be to hon. Members opposite, and perhaps all the more if they are objectionable?

Mr. Speaker

I hope that all hon. Members will have my protection properly at all times so far as it is mine to give, but one or two jests do slip out from time to time.