HC Deb 12 April 1962 vol 657 cc1505-10
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will 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, 16TH APRIL—Licensing (Scotland) Bill [Lords], Second Reading.

Report stage of the Budget Resolutions.

Motion on the General Grant Increase (Scotland) Order.

TUESDAY, 17TH APRIL—Transport Bill: Progress on the remaining stages.

Motion on the Potato Marketing Scheme.

WEDNESDAY, 18TH APRIL—Transport Bill: Completion of the remaining stages.

THURSDAY, 19TH APRIL—It is proposed that the House should meet at Eleven a.m., that Questions be taken until Twelve noon, and that the House adjourn at Five o'clock, until Tuesday, 1st May.

Mr. Gaitskell

In view of the serious potato shortage, will the Leader of the House confirm that the Motion on Tuesday evening is to be an affirmative one and, therefore, exempted business?

Secondly, can he tell us anything about the two Committees, the Select Committee on Procedure which he has announced is to be set up, and the Joint Select Committee on House of Lords Reform? Are these likely to be constituted before the Easter Recess?

Mr. Macleod

The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's first question is "Yes". In view of the interest in this side of the matter, one of the Law Officers will probably take part in the debate, in addition to the representative of the Ministry concerned.

As the House knows, the Motion on House of Lords Reform has now been accepted by both Houses. I hope to be able to put names before Parliament before we rise for the Recess. The Select Committee on Procedure is in its more or less final stages, and I hope to be able to table a Motion on Monday.

Mr. M. Foot

Does not the announcement about business which the Leader of the House has made mean that there will not be a full debate in the House on the proposed new round of nuclear tests? Has not the Leader of the House seen that there are important Motions on the Order Paper about this subject? Is it not possible that some of these tests, the American tests, may take place before the House returns? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be much better for the House to have a full and open debate on this crisis, which is a good deal more important even than the potato shortage crisis?

Mr. Macleod

I have, of course, studied the Motions and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, they have been recently dealt with by the Prime Minister at Question Time. I should have thought myself that, after the approach which has been made jointly and the personal letter by the Prime Minister to Mr. Khrushchev, the whole House supported that initiative and hoped that good would come of it.

Mr. M. Foot

Is that the right hon. Gentleman's reason for not having a debate? The statement on the tests says that they may go ahead in any case, but, if there is a reply next week on the subject, shall we have an opportunity of debating it then, or are we to go away and let the tests go ahead without the House giving its view on the subject?

Mr. Macleod

If a further statement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister or by another Minister is appropriate, then, of course, it will be made to the House, and, in the ordinary way, subject to the discretion of the Chair, questions will follow.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my right hon. Friend find time to discuss the Motion on the pensions of Regular officers, other ranks and Service widows? If the whole House of Commons were to stand as a demonstration of democracy requiring action, would my right hon. Friend arrange time for a debate, or say straight away that these pensions will be increased without further delay in order to terminate the scandalous treatment of these old widows?

[That this House, recognising the hardship suffered by retired officers, pensioned other ranks and widows of the armed services, especially those who are old, whose retired pay and pensions cannot be debated under Pensions (Increase) Bills and bear no relation to current awards, urges Her Majesty's Government immediately to improve the pensions of widows bereaved before 4th November, 1958, and to examine the conditions peculiar to all armed service pensioners, and, as soon as economic circumstances permit, to introduce special provisions to improve their retired pay and pensions]

Mr. Macleod

I have answered this question on several occasions in the House.

Dame Irene Ward

Not to my satisfaction.

Mr. Macleod

Not, I agree, in response to that particular suggestion by my hon. Friend. I regret that all I can say, as I have said before, is that I have faithfully made the representations which I have been asked to make on this matter, and that action must lie with the Ministers concerned.

Mr. Shinwell

Last Thursday, the right hon. Gentleman promised to direct the attention of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to the Motion on the Order Paper on the prerogative of mercy. Has he done so, and, if so, with what result?

[That this House calls upon the Secretary of State for the Home Department, within the powers vested in him, to advise the exercise of the prerogative of mercy in respect of those persons associated with the Nuclear Disarmament Campaign who were sentenced to terms of imprisonment at the Old Bailey.]

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, or as is reported in the Press this morning—this is the information which I have—in the case concerned the court has given leave to appeal to the House of Lords against conviction, I think. Clearly, in that case, it is the view of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that it would not be appropriate to discuss it.

Mr. Speir

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the Motion on the Order Paper, signed by about 70 hon. Members on both sides of the House, regarding the failure of the Government to find a solution to rural transport problems? Does he appreciate that this type of Motion has appeared on the Order Paper time and again in recent years? If he cannot find time for a debate on the subject next week, will he at least find time to discuss the matter with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, bearing in mind that, if the Government cannot or will not find a solution to the problem, it would be very much better to say so, so that those who live in the country areas may know what the future holds for them?

[That this House, whilst accepting the necessity for the closure of many unremunerative branch lines, nevertheless considers that some form of public transport in the rural areas of Great Britain must be maintained, and therefore urges Her Majesty's Government to decide forthwith to assist the maintenance of adequate rural bus services either by the remission of fuel duty on predominantly rural services or to sustain them by other means.]

Mr. Macleod

I shall certainly discuss my hon. Friend's point with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport.

Mr. Grimond

May I put two questions to the right hon. Gentleman? First, as well as the matter of tests, will he bear in mind that, if the conference at Geneva reaches deadlock, there will be a considerable demand for a debate on foreign affairs and on disarmament?

Secondly, can he say when the Finance Bill may be available?

Mr. Macleod

I shall bear in mind the first point which the right hon. Gentleman makes and take it into account, but the Easter Recess is normally the shortest one in the whole year and is almost of traditional length. We shall, of course, bear those matters in mind.

The Finance Bill will. I think, be available next week.

Commander Courtney

Has my right hon. Friend given attention to the Motion signed by several of my hon. Friends and myself on the subject of the hazards of a Channel bridge? In view of the rather immediate importance of the matter, could he find time for a debate on the technical maritime objections to the erection of a Channel bridge?

[That this House considers that the navigation hazards in peace and the naval risks in war attendant upon the proposed erection of a Channel bridge outweigh the possible economic advantages of this method of establishing a cross-Channel link, and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to reject any such proposal on maritime grounds alone.]

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I could not undertake to find time for that. Some time ago, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport told the House that all aspects—he did, in fact, refer to the question of a bridge—were under consideration. I think that that must cover it.

Mr. Gaitskell

In view of the talks which have taken place between some of Her Majesty's Ministers and the United Nations delegation or committee on Southern Rhodesia recently, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government will be making a statement on these talks? Further, can he confirm that there will be a debate on Central Africa before the Home Secretary visits that part of the world?

Mr. Macleod

The reply to the right hon. Gentleman's second question is "Yes, Sir". There will be a debate before my right hon. Friend visits Central Africa. I should like to discuss the first point with my right hon. Friends concerned.

Mr. Thorpe

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we are likely to have a debate on the Farm Price Review? Is he aware that there has already been a debate on this subject in another place and there are many hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent farming interests who would like to put questions to the Minister of Agriculture and learn his views?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, I understand that. I answered this question last week. At this stage, I cannot give any undertaking about time.

Mr. Hayman

Will the Leader of the House, when he is considering the points made by his hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir), take into account the Amendment tabled by several of my hon. Friends and myself to the Motion to which the hon Member for Hexham referred, namely, in line 1, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add:

"deplores the indiscriminate closure of branch railway lines, advocates the integration of the nation's transport services and, in particular, urges Her Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to ensure the provision of an adequate rural transport system."

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. I have read both the Motion and the Amendment.

Mr. Short

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the House will have an opportunity of debating the two important Boundary Commission Reports on the north-east of England before the Government announce their decisions on them?

Mr. Macleod

I think that that is a long way from the business for next week.