HC Deb 01 February 1962 vol 652 cc1286-95
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will announce the business 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, 5TH FEBRUARY—Debate on an Opposition Motion on the Foreign Secretary's Speech at Berwick-upon-Tweed on 28th December, 1961.

Motions to approve the Workmen's Compensation Amendment Schemes on Supplementation, Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis and Industrial Diseases (Miscellaneous) Benefit.

TUESDAY, 6TH FEBRUARY, AND WEDNES-DAY, 7TH EBRUARY—Progress in Committee on the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill.

THURSDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY—Report and Third Reading of the Army Reserve Bill.

FRIDAY, 9TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 12TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be: Supply [6th Allotted Day]: Committee stage of the Civil Supplementary Estimate for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Purchase Tax (No. 4) Order, 1961.

Mr. Gaitskell

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when it is proposed to find time for the Opposition Motion of censure on the Government's attitude towards the growth of private monopoly?

[That this House deplores the timid and complacent attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards the growth of private monopoly in Great Britain and their refusal to safeguard the public interest by instituting a public inquiry into the proposed merger of Imperial Chemical Industries and Courtaulds.]

Mr. Macleod

It is not in the business for next week, but clearly it would be desirable that it should be debated on a reasonably early date.

Mr. Gaitskell

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is proposed that the Minister of Transport and the Postmaster-General should make statements to the House on the latest developments in the disputes with which they are concerned and the rather welcome change of attitude which at least in the case of the Minister of Transport appears to be developing?

Mr. Macleod

I will consult my two right hon. Friends on the question of a statement.

Dame Irene Ward

Can my right hon. Friend say when we will have the promised debate on the shipbuilding and ship-repairing industry? I am sure that my right hon. Friend will not have forgotten that he has promised a debate. When will that promise be redeemed?

Mr. Macleod

I think that my hon. Friend cannot find words that take what I have said as far as that. What I have said is that I should like to find an opportunity to debate the subject. This is the time of year, as the House knows, when there are claims of essential Supply and of urgent legislation and it is extremely difficult to find opportunities for other debates.

Mr. G. Thomas

Has the Leader of the House seen the Motion on the Order Paper in the names of a great many of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself dealing with the need for a pilot survey into the needs of old people living alone? In view of the Prime Minister's appeal to the national conscience at Christmas time—if it was meant at all—surely the Government will give us time to discuss a Motion of this importance.

[That this House, being mindful of the necessity to obtain more information concerning the needs, other than financial, of old people living alone, and recognising that no adequate machinery exists for collecting this information, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to undertake through local welfare authorities a pilot survey in selected areas and to publish the findings in a White Paper.]

Mr. Macleod

Such an inquiry is being carried out. The field work is being done mainly in Lewisham, and I believe that a report is expected in April or May.

Sir D. Robertson

Will the Leader of the House state when he will provide time for the Motion in the names of some of my hon. Friends and myself, which deals with the failure of the Committee of Selection to observe Standing Order No. 58?

[That this House regrets that the Committee of Selection by not appointing the hon. Members for Banffshire and Caithness and Sutherland to the Standing Committee on the Sea Fish Industry Bill failed to observe the provision of Standing Order No. 58 which requires the Committee to pay attention to the qualifications of Members appointed to serve on Standing Committees.]

Mr. Macleod

I cannot undertake to find time for that. It was a recommendation of the Select Committee on Procedure that Standing Committees should, wherever possible, be smaller, and 25 hon. Members were appointed to the Standing Committee on the Sea Fish Industry Bill, which is the Bill in question. A great number of hon. Members with considerable interest in the Bill who wanted to speak on Second Reading were unable to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.

Mr. J. Hynd

Are the Government considering the early introduction of an Amendment to the Street Offences Act in the light of the latest decision on advertising by prostitutes?

Mr. F. Harris

Has my right hon. Friend reconsidered my request of two weeks ago to have an early debate on Kenya, in view of the constitutional discussions which are to take place shortly and the fact that we have not had a debate for over two years? Can my right hon. Friend also tell us when we shall have a discussion on the White Paper on local government in Greater London, and whether it will be a one-day or a two-day debate?

Mr. Macleod

On the first point, I consulted my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, who was abroad at the time I answered my hon. Friend. He confirms the view which I then expressed that it would be undesirable, in advance of an important constitutional conference, to discuss these matters in the House, which perhaps could lead only to issues being pre-judged.

I hope that we shall have a debate on local government in Greater London during the next two or three weeks. At the moment it looks likely to be a one-day debate with perhaps an extension of time.

Sir L. Plummer

Will the right hon. Gentleman do what he can to facilitate discussion of the Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill which was introduced successfully by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway)?

Mr. Macleod

I will inform myself of the progress of the Bill and take notice of what the hon. Member says.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Quite apart from Monday's debate on the Foreign Secretary's excellent speech on the United Nations, may I ask my right hon. Friend when we shall debate the taking up by Her Majesty's Government of the United Nations Bond issue, which seems to be something of an innovation in our financial and foreign policy? Will there be a Supplementary Estimate?

Mr. Macleod

Subject to the Ruling of the Chair, I think that that is a matter which would be eminently in order in Mondays' debate.

Mr. Callaghan

With reference to the request by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that the Minister of Transport might make a statement, may I ask whether the Leader of the House will consider asking his right hon. Friend to make one tomorrow morning, which will be the last time the House will meet before we are threatened with further chaos on Monday? Then he could either confirm or deny that Dr. Beeching is being given greater freedom in negotiations with the railwaymen and that might have a very beneficial effect on the situation.

Mr. Macleod

Immediately after this exchange, I will put this point to my right hon. Friend, but I would make it clear that it is for him to decide whether or not it is appropriate to make a statement. If it is, then perhaps tomorrow morning might be convenient.

Sir J. Duncan

Have there been any approaches through the usual channels for a debate on the Daily Herald? Some of us would like to know whether it is still a Labour paper.

Mr. Grimond

May I refer to the question raised by the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) about the Bill which was introduced by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway)? Is it not very desirable that the Government should give facilities for this Bill, so that there may be no misunderstanding that the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill does not mean that the Government are in any way in favour of racial discrimination?

Mr. Macleod

There is no misunderstanding and there never has been. I understand the feelings about the Bill, particularly in the context of the other Bill, but it is a dangerous practice for a Government to start picking out Private Members' Bills here and there as ones to which they should give special precedence.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is it really a dangerous practice for the Government to pick and choose when they are choosing something which commands the assent of the large majority of hon. Members, as I believe the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) does?

Mr. Brockway

In view of the questions which have been put about the Bill which I introduced, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he will bear in mind two factors? First, there is the letter in The Times from a very wide and distinguished circle of leading people urging that facilities should be given to the Bill. Secondly, this time the Bill has the support of sponsors from all three parties in the House.

Mr. Macleod

I understand that. Everybody in the House, or virtually everybody, loathes racial discrimination in every form, but it does not follow from that that legislation is always the easiest or the best way of dealing with it.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is very widespread opposition in the House to the introduction of such legislation as the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) is proposing? Will he bear in mind that it would be a deplorable innovation in our Constitution, irrespective of people's views on racial discrimination, and will he please not pick out the Bill for this special treatment?

Mr. Macleod

I note that point of view. It shows the truth of what I said a moment ago—that these matters are appallingly difficult to deal with by legislation, as many countries have found.

Mr. S. Silverman

May I repeat to the Leader of the House a question which I asked him a week or two ago? Can he hold out any hope of a reasonably early debate on civil defence? Will he bear in mind that it is five years since the House of Commons had any opportunity to discuss this matter, that in the meantime the whole picture has changed with regard to the weapons themselves, and that the Government's own Defence White Papers since the last debate have fundamentally changed the situation? Is it not time that the House of Commons had an opportunity of examining the matter again?

Mr. Macleod

We are, of course, coming to the time of the year when, amongst other matters, we debate the Defence White Paper. Clearly, that could be an appropriate time for this.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to a debate on the very important plans put forward by the Minister of Health for hospital building? Although most of them will be built between 1966 and 1975, it is important that the House should discuss the programme at an early date.

Mr. Macleod

I said last week, in reply to a similar question, that no doubt the House would wish to debate this matter. It is of such enormous importance that we should have some considerable time in which to study it. It is a very revolutionary plan.

Mr. Loughlin

Will the Leader of the House reconsider the matter raised by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) about nomination to a Standing Committee? Does not he recognise that this is not a matter of the limitation of Committees, but of the rights of minorities in the House to play their full part in Committees on subjects of which they have expert knowledge?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, I will certainly consider any points put to me on this subject, but what was done was in accordance with the recommendations of the Select Committee on Procedure, and as that is a Sessional Committee presumably its views can and should be ascertained when it is set up.

Mr. Gaitskell

Even if the Leader of the House cannot find time to debate the Motion of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) on this matter, would not he consider referring the matter back to the Committee of Selection, with the suggestion that the Standing Committee concerned be enlarged to enable the two hon. Members who have special knowledge, and whose constituents are very much concerned, to become members of the Committee?

Mr. Macleod

I will certainly consider anything reasonable, and I will consider that point. But if we start doing that, we will find that there are more than two hon. Members who will wish to put forward their claims to be put on the Committee on the Sea Fish Industry Bill.

Sir B. Janner

The right hon. Gentleman has heard a considerable amount of support for the Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill, although one hon. Member has opposed its progress. In view of the right hon. Gentleman's earlier replies, will he say whether, next week, when he is announcing the business for the following week, he will say definitely that the Government will either proceed with the Bill or encourage its progress? Will he take into consideration the very considerable feeling about this, and that we want to dispel any doubts that may be cast on the view of this country about racial discrimination?

Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman say when he intends to give the House an opportunity to discuss the Albemarle Report, which is of such considerable importance to the youth of the country?

Mr. Macleod

We have already had a full discussion on the first point raised by the hon. Gentleman, and to which I have replied many times. I cannot add now to what I have already said.

I cannot see an opportunity for Government time for a debate in the near future on the Albemarle Report, for the reasons which I have given.

Mr. Shinwell

Would it not be wise of the right hon. Gentleman to take the opinion of right hon. and hon. Members on the position of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson)? Or is this the way in which the Tory Party treats people with independent opinions? I ask the right hon. Gentleman, who professes liberal sentiments, to have some respect for the liberty of the subject.

Mr. Macleod

Of course I have considered this matter. I have had correspondence about it with my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson). The appointments to the Standing Committee on the Sea Fish Industry Bill were made by those who select Standing Committees. They have to take into account—they are instructed so to do—the balances in the House. This is a Standing Committee on which more hon. Members would like to serve than there are vacancies In such a case it is bound to happen that some are left out.

Sir P. Agnew

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Committee of Selection, in making this selection, carried out the Standing Orders of the House both in letter and in spirit?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. I know that to be so and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for putting that point.

Mr. Speaker

No doubt the House will think about this matter. No doubt it is proper in this range of business questions to ask when a Motion can be discussed or debated, but we cannot now discuss the merits of the dispute, as it were.

Mr. Shinwell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You are the guardian of the privileges and rights of hon. Members and, naturally, you have the sole authority. But surely you must have some regard for the position of hon. Members who seek to carry out their duties and responsibilities.

Mr. Speaker

I have every possible regard for matters of that kind, but the House itself appoints the Committee of Selection to do this work for it, and it cannot be for me, on a point of order, to reprimand or reprove the Committee or suggest some amendment to the way in which the Committee is performing its duties. That cannot be so.

Mrs. Castle

Can the Leader of the House clarify his earlier answer on the Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill? Do we understand the position to be that he is not willing to give facilities to the Bill because he does not agree with the Government's picking out one Private Member's Bill for such facilities, or because he is opposed to the Bill's purposes?

Mr. Macleod

Of course I am not opposed to the purposes of the Bill, although I very much doubt whether the purposes which the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) has in mind—indeed, which we all have in mind—can be carried out by legislation. Beyond that I think that it would be wrong for me to go.

Mr. Fletcher

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the mere fact that the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill is being dealt with under a Guillotine and that, therefore, discussion on it is being curtailed, is a very special reason why he should find time for debate on the Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill?

Mr. Macleod

The Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill is before the House. If the House so wishes, there may well be later opportunities to discuss it at various stages of its progress.

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