HC Deb 30 November 1961 vol 650 cc626-36
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business of the House for next week?

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 4TH DECEMBER—Committee and remaining stages of the Coal Industry Bill.

Completion of the Committee stage and remaining stages of the Civil Aviation (Eurocontrol) Bill.

If there is time, Second Reading of the Forth and Clyde Canal (Extinguishment of Rights of Navigation) Bill.

TUESDAY, 5TH DECEMBER, and WEDNESDAY, 6TH DECEMBER—Committee stage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill.

THURSDAY, 7TH DECEMBER—Committee stage of the Army Reserve Bill.

Consideration of the Motion on the Commonwealth Preference (Western Samoa) Order, 1961

FRIDAY, 8TH DECEMBER—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 11TH DECEMBER—The proposed business will be: Consideration of private Members' Motions until seven o'clock.

Afterwards, consideration of the Motions on the Highlands and Islands Shipping Services and on Summer Time.

Mr. Gaitskell

In view of the fact that, as the right hon. Gentleman undoubtedly knows, Sir Grantley Adams, Prime Minister of the West Indies Federation, is arriving in this country on Monday, and will, I understand, have discussions with Her Majesty's Ministers, including the Prime Minister, about the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, would not the right hon. Gentleman consider it courteous, to say the least, to defer the consideration of the Committee stage?

Mr. Macleod

With respect, no. A considerable number of countries are concerned in this matter. I have not said that we should complete the Committee stage in the business which I have announced.

Mr. Hirst

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the Motion in my name and the names of hon. Members on both sides of the House in the matter of anthrax precautions, and if so, will he find time for a discussion of this important matter?

[That this House views with very great concern the provision of Statutory Instrument No. 2040 (Anthrax Prevention (Goat Hair and Shaving Brushes) Order, 1961), dated 24th October 1961, which empowers Her Majesty's Government to permit imports of goat hair irrespective of source without disinfection, thus removing from the workers in the cashmere trade the protection from anthrax so well provided since 1935 when the provision for compulsory disinfection was estab- lished; deplores the action of the Minister of Labour in so advising Her Majesty's Government in spite of the unanimous advice to the contrary on the part of every employers' and employees' organisation concerned; considers that the Order in Council will permit the less scrupulous overseas manufacturers and agents to undercut British manufacturers, not through fair competition but because the provisions of this Order enable them to compete with insufficient health standards, thus putting in danger, first the health of those employed in the industry, second the valuable export earnings which the trade has built up over the last 20 years; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take action to remedy these serious defects forthwith.]

Mr. Macleod

I have studied that Motion. I understand that the Order was made as the result of a unanimous opinion of a committee of inquiry by the Minister of Labour, who is satisfied that it will not have the ill-effects which my hon. Friend suggests.

Mr. Hirst

Yes, but is not my right hon. Friend aware—*

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did not call the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst). Mr. Gaitskell.

Mr. Gaitskell

Reverting to my previous question, since Sir Grantley Adams is coming here to make representations to the Government about the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, which has very great consequences for the West Indies, how can these consultations be taken seriously if the Government proceed with the Bill meanwhile?

Mr. Macleod

The Leader of the Opposition knows very well that although he disagrees with the amount of consultation which we have done, consultation on this matter has been going on for some time. I am sure that we should make a start with the Bill, because it is clearly right that the views of the House should be taken and as much finality as possible reached in this important matter.

Mr. F. Harris

Will the Leader of the House say whether it is his intention that there should be a debate in the House on the White Paper published on the future of local government in London?

* Note: See Official Report 4 December, 1961; c. 932–3.

Mr. Macleod

We shall certainly discuss it in the House, but I am sure that it should not be this side of the Christmas Recess. There are many hon. Members who want to study it before they express their views.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answers to my previous questions seem completely unconvincing? May I ask him two other questions? First, does he propose that the whole of the Committee stage of the Army Reserve Bill should be taken on Thursday? If he has that thought in mind, will he think again? Secondly, will he find time before the Christmas Recess for a debate on the Berlin situation and also a debate on the economic situation?

Mr. Macleod

The Army Reserve Bill, although important, is a Bill of eight Clauses. I note what the right hon. Gentleman has said. We will see how we get along.

On the question of days for debates on foreign affairs and economic affairs before the Christmas Recess, I cannot at the moment see an opportunity for these in Government time.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is it not extremely important that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should at last have the opportunity which we wish him to have of presenting us with a succinct and clear account of what he understands by the wage pause, how long it will last and what will take its place when it ends?

Sir G. Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend, as one of the guardians of the rights of the House, try to see that all Bills involving expenditure are accompanied by an explicit and clear Financial Memorandum? I ask the question because the Army Reserve Bill is notoriously failing in that respect.

Mr. Macleod

If that is part of my duties—I am new to my duties—I shall be glad to consider it.

Mr. Mayhew

What proposals has the Leader of the House for enabling the House to approve the B.B.C. Agreement and Licence? In view of the absurd muddling of the Government last night, will he give an assurance, first, that adequate time will be given to this important subject at an early hour, and, secondly, ensure that the proper documents are available to hon. Members before the debate?

Mr. Macleod

If I may say so, that is full value for what happened last night. The position is a little more complicated than the hon. Member thinks. He may like to look at HANSARD of 17th July, 1956, when he will find the arrangements which were laid out by the Financial Secretary at the time and which met with the general approval of the House. This is a very difficult matter. Of course, I will carefully look into what happened last night.

Mr. W. Yates

Has my right hon. Friend observed two Motions on the Order Paper, one in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson) and one in my name, dealing with individual liberty of the subject and the State? Will he consult the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General and let us know when we may have debates on those subjects?

[That a Select Committee be appointed to examine the need for a Parliamentary Commissioner and a Committee of Personal Petitions, in the light of the report of Sir John Wyat to Justice; to examine the reports concerning the office of Ombudsman, and the present legislation on this matter before the Parliament of New Zealand; and to make recommendations for the establishment of a system suitable for, and in keeping with, the ancient traditions of this House, Parliament and the Constitution:

That the Committee have power to call for persons, papers and records.]

[That this House, appreciating that justice to the individual, uprightness in public administration and single-minded enforcement of the law should at all times be manifest, urges Her Majesty's Government immediately to appoint a Parliamentary Commission, on the lines of the Scandinavian Ombudsman, with powers to investigate and report publicly upon complaints by individuals against administrative and executive authority.]

Mr. Macleod

There has been a recent report from "Justice" on that which the Government would like an opportunity of studying before they make their own comments.

Mr. M. Stewart

In view of the Ruling given last night by Mr. Speaker about documents, what arrangements is the Leader of the House making to see that for all future business brought before the House such documents as will be covered by that Ruling are available to hon. Members?

Mr. Macleod

I spent a good deal of time this morning going into that point. I repeat what I said a moment ago—that, apart from anything else, this is a good deal more complicated than any of us thought last night. Perhaps the hon. Member would like to look at the reference which I gave.

Mr. Rankin

Is the Leader of the House aware that a week ago yesterday the Toothill Report was published? Is he aware that it received wide prominence in the Scottish Press and that its recommendations, if implemented, will affect not only the Scottish economy but the United Kingdom economy? In view of the fact that the Report was Government-sponsored, will he consider giving us a day before Christmas to debate the Report, or as soon as possible after we return?

Mr. Macleod

Certainly not before Christmas. I will bear in mind the possibility of a later day. I agree that this is an important subject.

Sir C. Osborne

Reverting to the point made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that Sir Grantley Adams speaks only for 2 million people whereas in India, Pakistan and Nigeria there are 530 million people to be considered? Will he see that this important problem is not looked at too exclusively from the West Indian point of view?

Mr. Macleod

Sir Grantley Adams speaks for a very well-loved and very important part of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Jay

Will the Leader of the House not, then, defer the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill in order to consult representatives of India, Pakistan and the West Indies?

Mr. Fell

In view of the sense of shame felt by many British people at the Government's intention to alter the Kenya Constitution to allow an ex-criminal to become Chief Minister of that Colony, may we have a debate on that subject?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. In any case, that is not an accurate rendering of my right hon. Friend's recent decision.

Mr. Grimond

When the right hon. Gentleman said that there had been adequate consultation concerning the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, does he mean that the Commonwealth considers that there has been adequate consultation on the Bill?

Mr. Macleod

I do not know. Views on this matter may obviously differ. At the time I was associated most closely with it as Secretary of State for the Colonies, I carried out as much consultation as I thought right.

Mr. Gaitskell

Does that mean that the right hon. Gentleman consulted Commonwealth Governments about a proposal for the British Government to control immigration from the Commonwealth?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. That side of it was dealt with by the Prime Minister. I have nothing more to add.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

Can my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House arrange for a special hour to be allocated next week simply for the use of the Leader of the Opposition?

Mr. Wigg

Is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster aware that on the Second Reading of the Army Reserve Bill, the Government spokesman managed to get through the debate without giving the House any information about the basic strength of our reserve forces? As it is impossible to discuss the Bill intelligently until one has that information, will the Minister arrange for it to be given at the opening of the Committee stage or, if the reason that the Government have not given the information is security grounds, will he arrange for a debate to be held in secret session?

Mr. Macleod

It would be a pity for that purpose to go into secret session, but the point made by the hon. Member is an important one. As he knows, I have had some discussion of the matter and I will again consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War.

Mr. McLeavy

Further to the request by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) concerning the Motion signed by hon. Members, on both sides, regarding the Anthrax Order, while it is true that this was based upon the unanimous Report of a Committee, is the Minister nevertheless aware that the section relating to the wool textile industry was opposed by both sides of industry and that they are seriously alarmed about the danger of infection and the danger to our export trade? Furthermore, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is extremely concerned about the export trade, how is it that in defiance of and against the expressed views of both sides of the industry, the Minister of Labour should create a position which may endanger not only the health of the workers in the industry, but also the exporting ability of the industry?

Mr. Speaker

We must, in the general interest, confine these questions to matters of business.

Mr. Milne

Has the Leader of the House noted and considered the Motion, in the name of a considerable number of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, protesting against the action of the Minister of Labour in deferring the operation of the decision of the Laundry Wages Council until April next year?

[That this House strongly condemns the action of the Minister of Labour in postponing the operation of the Laundry Wages Council Order until 2nd April 1962; notes that in obedience to the Chancellor's statement of 25th July the Council by majority decision declined to recommend any increase to male workers in receipt of 147s. 10d. per week and that the recommended increase for female workers provides for a weekly wage of only 112s. 10½d.; and therefore calls for the implementation of the Order forthwith.]

In view of the undesirability of inflicting the pay pause on a body of workers whose wages are well below the national average, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an opportunity of discussing the matter?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I cannot see any opportunity for discussing that matter.

Mr. Pargiter

When will the right hon. Gentleman be in a position to give me an assurance that the Motion standing in my name concerning the Southall air disaster will be discussed very shortly?

[That this House deeply deplores the failure of the Attorney General to institute proceedings for breaches of the Air Navigation Order and Regulations following the Southall air disaster on the 2nd September 1958 as a result of which 7 people lost their lives; draws attention to the fact that clear and documented evidence of overloading was submitted to the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation on 11th October 1958 and the Director of Public Prosecutions on 30th October 1958 and at the same time attention was drawn to two other serious breaches which required investigation; requests Her Majesty's Government to make available to the House the whole of the documents relative to this case either in the Department of Public Prosecutions or the Ministry of Aviation, then the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, including any correspondence that may have been written by Members of Parliament and replies thereto; and further regrets that the Attorney General allowed inaccurate information to be given to the House on 14th July 1959 which remained uncorrected until the Attorney General's reply to a question from the honourable Member for Southall on 5th June, 1961.]

Mr. Macleod

I should not like to give the hon. Member that assurance. I recognise that this is to him an important matter. As far as I read the papers, I think that he was given an adequate answer two and a half years ago. If the hon. Member does not think so, perhaps he will discuss it with me.

Mr. Dugdale

Referring to the question of the West Indies, in view of the fact that the Leader of the House said that there has been adequate consultation, is he saying that the visit of Sir Grantley Adams to this country is unnecessary?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I have never said anything of the sort. Sir Grantley is a welcome visitor to this country.

Mr. Thorpe

Have the Government given up all hope of discussing the reform of the House of Lords'? Is the Leader of the House aware that there are many people who believe that reform is long overdue and that the system has already produced in this House an hon. Member who was rejected by an overwhelming majority of the electors? If the official Opposition are not willing to start discussions, will the Leader of the House nevertheless proceed?

Mr. Macleod

I do not know whether that is a take-over bid. I am hopeful—perhaps I may say this in open court—of having discussions on this matter within the next few days. It certainly has not swung out of my ken.

Mr. Warbey

The Leader of the House has put down three items of business for Monday. Will he bear in mind that on the Coal Industry Bill some of his hon. Friends have already put down a wrecking Amendment and that other Amendments, not wrecking, but possibly controversial, may yet be put down and, therefore, there may not be much time left for other items?

Mr. Macleod

I will certainly bear that in mind. If, however, the hon. Member studies the second and third items, he will see that they are matters which have either been started before or are probably not of immense interest.

Mr. Mellish

May I ask my usual weekly question about Northern Ireland? When shall we get a debate? This small part of Britain is facing severe economic problems. Is it not about time that we found out what was going on and what the Government intend to do? This time, may I, please, not get my usual answer?

Mr. Macleod

I will try to phrase it in slightly different words, but it will still be the usual answer. I am very sorry, but there is no time for a debate on Northern Ireland next week.

Mr. M. Foot

Did I understand the Leader of the House to say earlier that there was no possibility of or that no time would be provided for a debate on foreign affairs before Christmas? Will he take into account that there is to be a most important meeting in Paris in December, that it has been indicated to us this afternoon that conceivably there may be discussions about fresh terms under which nuclear arms may be supplied to the Germans under either N.A.T.O. or some other authority and that this matter had been discussed in the German Parliament?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that if the German Parliament can discuss the matter, we should have the right to discuss it here? Therefore, will he give an undertaking that, preferably before the meeting in Paris, or, at least, immediately afterwards, time should be provided for a debate on a matter which could settle the whole future of the world?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I will not give an undertaking to provide time, but I will, of course, take into account the points which have been made. As the hon. Member knows, the difficulty about finding time is that we are now approaching the Adjournment for the Christmas Recess and, therefore, the number of days available for debate in the House are considerably limited.

Mr. Chapman

Can the Leader of the House give us an idea of his time-able for the later stages of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill? Is he aware that on Tuesday the Prime Minister gave an assurance that if any Prime Minister in the Commonwealth asked for consultation on the contents and principles of the Bill, he would give it? If that assurance is to be real, should we not have a reasonably leisurely pace of procedure on the Bill so that such consultations can be carried out?

Mr. Macleod

Obviously, the timetable for the later stages of the Bill depends upon how we get on in the early stages.