HC Deb 08 February 1962 vol 653 cc617-26
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, 12TH FEBRUARY—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.

TUESDAY, 13TH FEBRUARY—Conclusion of the Committee stage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill.

Report stage of the Health and Agriculture Supplementary Estimate.

WEDNESDAY, 14TH FEBRUARY—A debate will take place on the Opposition Motion on the Growth of Private Monopolies.

Consideration of the Motions on the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure).

THURSDAY, 15TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill, which it is proposed to take formally to allow for a debate on an Opposition Motion on Shipping and Shipbuilding.

FRIDAY, 16TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 19TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be: Committee and remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill.

A debate will take place on a subject to be announced later.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Malta) Order.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he can say when the debate on the proposed change in London government is likely to take place; whether he can yet say whether it will be a two-day debate and whether he will say that the Motion, which, I think, has now been put down officially by the Government, to take note of the proposals in the White Paper, indicates that the Government have not yet decided their attitude on this matter, that they are not committed on the question of principle, but merely wish at this stage to take the views of the House as a whole?

Mr. Macleod

I hope that there will be a two-day debate and, in the event, I think that it will take place in the week after next.

My right hon. Friend made a statement on 29th November and announced the general acceptance of the views of the Royal Commission, that is, that the borough should be the main unit. But a vast number of matters, including the size and make-up of boroughs, the size of the central education authority and its area and how that authority should be chosen, are open, and we shall be very glad to hear the views of the House upon them.

Mr. Grimond

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he proposes to have a debate on Kenya?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I answered that question last week. I have consulted my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary and we do not think it advisable to suggest that there should be a debate in advance of the Kenya Conference, which opens next week.

Dame Irene Ward

As it is such a long time since we have had a debate on ships and shipbuilding, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether the Consolidated Fund Bill, which is now being taken formally, is exempted business? Can my right hon. Friend arrange—so that every hon. Member knows about it—for the period of debate to be extended, at any rate until eleven o'clock, because there are many hon. Members who would desire to take part in this very important debate?

Mr. Macleod

The arrangements this year are rather exceptional and I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for making this possible. The position is that there is an extra Consolidated Fund Bill this year, made necessary because of the Supplementary Estimates for health and agriculture. A debate on the Bill itself would be very narrow and restricted to those subjects. Such a debate would be exempted business. It will be for the advantage of the House if we follow this procedure, that is, to take the Second Reading formally, and then have a discussion on shipping and shipbuilding on an Opposition Motion which would follow the ordinary course of debate for the day.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my right hon. Friend make arrangements for us to have an extra hour, which was what I asked in my first question?

Mr. Macleod

I should consider any representations made on that point, if it be the general wish of the House.

Mr. M. Stewart

Further to the question from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about the debate on London government, may I ask whether the Leader of the House will make clear, setting aside matters like boundaries of boroughs and details, whether it is the resolve of the Government—whatever may be said in the debate—to legislate in accordance with the main principles of the White Paper? Or is it envisaged that the Government might change their view on those principles in the light of arguments which might be advanced in the debate?

Mr. Macleod

On a considerable number of matters, we shall, as I have said, take the view of the House. That will affect the attitude of the Government towards legislation. But, as the hon. Member knows, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government made the attitude of the Government clear on the 29th November in a statement to the House. Naturally, during questions on business I should not wish to embroider on that.

Mr. Brockway

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has now been able to consider—as he promised to do last week—the appeals made to him to provide facilities for the Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill, and whether he would be prepared to receive an all-party deputation of hon. Members on this subject?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. I have considered this very carefully indeed and have consulted my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I believe that the view which I expressed last week on this matter is the right one, and after careful consideration I think that I should adhere to it, that is to say, that I do not think, however admirable—as I am sure they are—may be the desires of the hon. Member, or the motives behind the Bill, that they could effectively be carried out by legislation. I am, of course, ready to receive a deputation from all parties on the subject.

Mr. David James

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has seen the Motion on the Order Paper in the names of myself and about 130 right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House? In vew of the interest in this subject and in the hope that one day there will be legislation on the Roberts Report, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend can hold out any hope of a debate on the matter?

[That this House, mindful that the export of British ideas and British books depends on a live home market, and that eleven books are borrowed from public libraries for every one purchased, urges Her Majesty's Government to look sympathetically at the resultant effect on authors and publishers.]

Mr. Macleod

I saw this Motion with considerable interest and even, for a moment, contemplated signing it. However, I have consulted my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education and he is not convinced of the case which my hon. Friend puts forward in his Motion. I can only suggest that the Motion would provide a suitable opportunity for the use of private Members' time, if my hon. Friend is successful in the Ballot.

Mrs. White

Reverting to the question of the Bill on racial discrimination, may I ask whether the Government have studied this matter and looked at what has been done by legislation in New York City and Massachusetts? Is not the Leader of the House being completely irresponsible in suggesting that this matter cannot be dealt with by legislation when it has been tackled with great success in Boston and New York City?

Mr. Macleod

There are many precedents, many by no means successful, but the position is that the law of this country does not recognise racial discrimination. That is a very serious step to contemplate before legislating in the sense of the hon. Member's Bill. I will gladly discuss this with hon. Members, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) knows that the provisions of this Bill, in one way or another, have been before the House for a very long time. I can assure her that the matter has been most carefully considered by the Home Secretary and by the Government.

Mr. Rankin

Has the Leader of the House yet found time for a debate on the Toothill Report?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. There is no news on Toothill.

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order. I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Sir J. Pitman

Will my right hon. Friend recognise that in last Monday's debate it was made quite clear that on both sides of the House there is a great deal to be contributed on what might be done in regard to the United Nations? Would the Government consider the Motion, signed by a large number of hon. Members, asking the Government to consider what they might do to carry out improvements to the United Nations?

[That this House, noting the numerous areas of likely conflict in the world and the need to prevent them exacerbating the main ideological conflict, and noting the effort made by the United Nations in Sinai and Congo, believes that such efforts would be more effective, were they to be within a framework of law enforcement known in advance, and to this end urges that Her Majesty's Government should propose at the United Nations that an autonomous commission should be set up to explore and report on the creation of a permanent force with an individually recruited personnel owing allegiance direct to the United Nations and paid by it, and whose prime purpose would be the enforcement, in areas where it was directed to operate, of laws preventing the ownership, use or manufacture of arms, or the incitement to such, except by consent of the United Nations and in fulfilment of the United Nations' force's task of preventing violation of frontiers; and that Her Majesty's Government should announce in advance that if acceptable proposals were to result, it would give its support and supply bases and personnel.]

It was made evident on Monday that there is this desire on both sides of the House.

Mr. Macleod

I shall certainly draw that specially to the attention of my right hon. Friend, but, clearly, it is not concerned with next week's business.

Mr. S. Silverman

The Leader of the House said that it was proposed to take the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill formally. Will he tell us who has made that proposal and who has agreed to it and whether hon. Members are to have their rights curtailed in this way without their consent? Or does he agree that their rights are not in any way curtailed by any such proposition?

Many of us consider that the fact that the Consolidated Fund Bill is exempted business affords private Members one of their few opportunities of raising matters of their own choice. Does he agree that if he does not put it in this way the desire of hon. Members to make some other matter the subject of the main debate is in no way prejudiced, whereas if he does put it in this way the time is cut short and withdrawn from private Members?

Mr. Macleod

On an ordinary Consolidated Fund Bill that is perfectly true and I dare say that as a matter of doctrine it is perfectly true also on this Bill. In the usual spring and summer Consolidated Fund Bill debates hon. Members have an opportunity—as is traditional—of raising grievances before Supply is granted, but this is a special and extra Consolidated Fund Bill which is made necessary for the one purpose of these Supplementary Estimates. Therefore, it seemed, after discussion through the usual channels, that it formed a suitable opportunity for discussion, not of the narrow subjects we would have if we stuck to the Consolidated Fund Bill alone, but of wider subjects which the House may wish to debate.

Mr. S. Silverman

The right hon. Gentleman talks about consultation with the usual channels. I am not inviting him to enter into private arrangements, or even private disputes, but he, as Leader of the House, must know that there are hon. Members who are not represented in the discussions which take place in what he calls the usual channels. We are just as much entitled to have our rights consulted as any other hon. Members.

Mr. Macleod

I do not dispute that for a moment. I am very ready to receive representations from unusual channels, as well.

Mr. Pym

Could my right hon. Friend say when and if he intends to put down a Motion on House of Lords reform?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, I propose to table such a Motion today.

Mr. Mellish

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that next Thursday we shall hear about the desperate plight of shipyards of Northern Ireland, but that this is a most unsatisfactory way of discussing the economic problems of that part of the United Kingdom? It is about time that we stopped the nonsense of having to pester the Leader of the House every week on a subject which concerns a very important part of the United Kingdom. Will he take us all seriously and tell us when we can debate thus question properly?

Mr. Macleod

The very important part of the problems of Northern Ireland will be very relevant in the debate we may have next week. For the moment I cannot go beyond that.

Mr. McMaster

May I add to what my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward) said? Will my right hon. Friend consider favourably her request to extend the time of the debate on shipping and shipbuilding because of the considerable amount of redundancy at Messrs. Harland and Woolf and in other shipyards and the desire of many hon. Members on both sides of the House to take part in that debate?

Mr. Macleod

I have certainly noted that, but I never think that an extension of one hour—except in most unusual circumstances—really meets the convenience of the House. If such a general wish is expressed, we can discuss it through the usual channels.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will the Leader of the House be a little more specific about the scope of the debate on shipbuilding? Will it be wide enough to include unemployment in the shipbuilding ports, where it is growing? Will it include ship-repairing and the recent foreign competition, which has been encouraged by Government policy?

Mr. Macleod

This debate will take place on an Opposition Motion, so perhaps the Leader of the Opposition would be able to tell his hon. and learned Friend what Motion he intends to put down for the debate. I should have thought that the opportunity for asking questions on employment and unemployment would be bound to be a major feature of the debate.

Sir D. Robertson

Can my right hon. Friend now state when time will be provided to debate the Motion dealing with the breach of Standing Orders by the Selection Committee?

[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

No, Sir. It is not, in my view, a breach of the Standing Order. If I may summarise it, the position is that this House set up the Committee of Selection on 2nd November without discussion; the Committee reported in relation to the Sea Fish Industry Bill on 22nd November, and it operated strictly under a Standing Order of the House, as was said last week by the Chairman of the Selection Committee. I cannot feel that the House would think it right to move any censure on a Committee of this House which has strictly carried out the wishes of this House. If, however, beyond that the wording of the Standing Order is in any way thought to be unfair to those who are in what may be, I hope, temporary disagreement with their parties, I shall be glad to have discussions at the proper time.

Mr. Lipton

Will the Leader of the House say why this House has not been given an opportunity of tendering loyalty to Her Majesty on the tenth anniversary of her accession? While it is true that, according to reports of which this House has no official knowledge, some kind of message went from the Cabinet, is it not rather slighting on everyone concerned that this conspicuous event should have been passed over in this somewhat niggardly way?

Mr Macleod

It is not in accordance with precedent to pass such a Motion, but, although it is not for me to say it, I take the opportunity of what has been said by the hon. Member of offering our very humble and respectful good wishes to Her Majesty on this occasion.

Mr. Mellish

May I again draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the debate next Thursday? We shall have a very ragged debate in so far as there will be an emphasis on unemployment in various parts of the shipyards, but many of us feel that this is a most unsatisfactory way of dealing with the question in Northern Ireland, where the unemployment figure is over 9 per cent. Surely he knows the urgency of the matter and that we cannot talk in isolation about shipbuilding.

Mr. Macleod

As I have told the hon. Member, I had hoped that it would be possible to find time for a debate on the affairs of Northern Ireland as such, although the key part of the problems of Northern Ireland will be in order in Thursday's debate.