HC Deb 22 March 1962 vol 656 cc563-73
Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state 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, 26TH MARCH—Second Reading of the West Indies Bill [Lords] and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

Motion to approve the General Grant Increase Order.

TUESDAY, 27TH MARCH—Consideration of early day Motion No. 82 on Rulings of the Chairman of Ways and Means.

Committee and remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.

The Opposition have chosen the following subjects for debate:

Medical, nursing and other professional staffs in the National Health Service;

University grants and salaries of university teachers;

Wage negotiations in the Gas Industry.

WEDNESDAY, 28TH MARCH—Consideration of the Motion of House of Lords Reform, and the Motion relating to the Post Office.

THURSDAY, 29TH MARCH—Report and Third Reading of the South Africa Bill.

Committee and remaining stages of the International Monetary Fund Bill.

FRIDAY, 30TH MARCH—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 2ND APRIL—The proposed business will be: Second Reading of the Colonial Loans Bill, and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

We hope then to be in a position to make further progress with the West Indies Bill [Lords].

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are two subjects of very great importance which, we feel, should be debated in the near future—the Common Market and the Central African Federation? Will the Government find time for debates on these two important subjects?

Has the right hon. Gentleman anything to tell the House about the proposed appointment of a Standing Committee on Procedure which he mentioned on another occasion, and which, I think, he now agrees should be set up?

Further, can he tell us anything about the setting up of Mr. Speaker's Advisory Committee on Accommodation?

Mr. Macleod

I said, in response to earlier questions, that we will discuss through the usual channels the first two matters which have been put by the right hon. Gentleman. As a matter of fact, the Lord Privy Seal is in Brussels for negotiations and will not be back for a few days.

On the question of a Standing Committee on Procedure, which, I agree, would be a good idea, I have, after consultations with the authorities of the House, considered the possible forms of terms of reference for such a Committee and these I hope to circulate today, particularly to the Leaders of the two Opposition parties, and other hon. Members mainly interested.

On the question of accommodation, I have nothing to add to the answer I gave at business Question Time a week or two ago to the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell).

Dame Irene Ward

First, can my right hon. Friend tell me why the Prime Minister has not made his promised statement on the Radcliffe Report?

Secondly, has my right hon. Friend seen the Motion standing in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends about railways? When are we to have an opportunity of discussing the powers of the chairmen of nationalised boards and their abuse of those powers?

[That in the opinion of this House the economic and social life of Tyne-side and the North-East Coast is seriously threatened by the off-hand announcement by Dr. Beeching, Chairman of the British Transport Commission, that the electric train services of North and South Tynside will be closed, from Newcastle-on-Tyne to the coast, and is of opinion that this decision must not stand; this House therefore calls on Her Majesty's Government to examine without delay the recommendation of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries dealing with commuter services with a view to removing the anxieties of areas where the services may not at present pay, and providing realistic and practical proposals for the rail-travelling public which are not a threat to the successful integration of the life of great communities without whose working contribution the life of the nation could not be carried on.]

Mr. Macleod

I cannot give the House a precise date for a statement on the Radcliffe Report, but one will certainly be made to the House before we rise for the Easter Recess.

On the second point, I have nothing to add to what has already been said.

Dame Irene Ward

The Prime Minister gave a pledge last week that he would be giving the House his views on the Radcliffe Report quite soon, so why does my right hon. Friend not know what is in the Prime Minister's mind?

Mr. Macleod

I do, and I underline what has been said about "quite soon". As my hon. Friend knows, apart from anything else, one does not announce ordinary statements that are made as part of the business statement that is made on Thursday.

Mr. Popplewell

Will the Leader of the House look at the Motion standing in the names of hon. Members representing the North-East in connection with Dr. Beeching's recent speech, in which he forecast, as it were, the possible closure of north and south Tyneside's electric train service.

[That this House strongly condemns the transport policy of the Government which refuses to accept the social needs of transport and compels the British Transport Commission to assess each section of its undertaking on a profit and loss basis, and further condemns the closure of several branch lines, in particular the proposal to discontinue the North and South Tyneside electric rail service.]

The Motion calls in question Government policy. Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will give us time for an early debate?

Mr. Macleod

I have, of course, studied this Motion. As the hon. Member knows, this is a matter that is put to the relevant transport users' consultative committee. Apart from anything else there will be opportunities at later stages of the Transport Bill, which we will be taking soon, for such matters to be raised.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Can my right hon. Friend say whether further consideration will be given to the Motion standing in my name, and the names of over 220 hon. Members, dealing with Service widows pensions?

[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.]

If the matter is not deal with at Budget time, can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be an opportunity to debate the subject soon afterwards?

Mr. Macleod

I cannot give an undertaking in those terms. As my hon. and gallant Friend knows, I have drawn the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friends—who, in any case, would have observed the Motion—to the terms of it, but it is not a matter to which I can add anything at this stage.

Dame Irene Ward

Scandalous treatment of widows.

Mr. Bottomley

Can the Leader of the House say whether the Government will find time to discuss the unemployment situation in the Northern Region, particularly the Middlesbrough area, or does he intend that we should wait for the Labour victors at Stockton and Middlesbrough, West to take their seats in the House?

Mr. Macleod

I have heard that voice before. Without prejudice, I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman a more encouraging response on his re-entry to the House.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is the Leader of the House aware that a number of hon. and right hon. Members are obliged to him for his sympathetic attitude to the early day Motion on the rights of minorities in connection with Standing Committees? Does my right hon. Friend propose to arrange a debate or to refer this important matter to the new Standing Committee on Procedure?

Mr. Macleod

My intention, assuming that I could get a reasonable measure of agreement with the terms of reference—to which I referred in response to an earlier question from the Leader of the Opposition—was to put a Motion in my name on the Order Paper in this sense.

Mrs. Braddock

The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt remember that last Thursday I asked a question about the abuses at the count of the Orpington by-election. He said then that he would consult the Home Secretary to see whether a statement could be made. Can I take it that the absence of the Home Secretary means that a statement is not to be made today? If so, can one be made next week?

In the interim, since so many hon. Members have been to me to say that they did not know what happened at the Orpington by-election—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—will the right hon. Gentleman make arrangements to obtain from the B.B.C. a copy of the film and show it in the House so that every hon. Member will have an opportunity of seeing what actually happened?

Mr. Macleod

Unlike the hon. Lady, I know what happened in the Orpington by-election. Representations have been made to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has the main responsibility in this matter, and I think that it is contemplated that a statement will be made to the House.

Sir M. Lindsay

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to a Motion standing in my name and the names of a number of my hon. Friends? Can he say what possibility there is of finding time to debate it, if not next week, at any rate the week after?

[That this House deplores the conduct of Lord Beaverbrook in authorising over the last few years in the newspapers controlled by him more than seventy adverse comments on members of the Royal Family who have no means of replying]

Mr. Macleod

I do not exactly leap to Lord Beaverbrook's defence, but I am bound to say that I cannot find an opportunity in Government time for such a Motion.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this matter is of sufficient public importance to give some time to debate it, say, before next Christmas?

Mr. Macleod

I am supposed to be dealing with the business for next week.

Mr. Dugdale

Did the right hon. Gentleman say that he intended to circulate a report to hon. Members and particularly to certain hon. Members? If so, how can he do that?

Mr. Macleod

I did not say that. When one tries—and obviously in a matter which affects the procedure and Standing Orders of the House one does try—to obtain general agreement between the parties, one circulates a Motion which one would like to put on the Order Paper with all-party agreement through the usual channels and in other ways. Obviously, it is impossible to consult every Member of the House.

Mr. Blyton

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has agreed with the Leader of the Opposition, through the usual channels, on the question of the Common Market? Will he issue a White Paper tolling the British public exactly what is happening in the negotiations and explaining the disastrous application that we have made to join the Common Market?

Mr. Macleod

That does not arise out of the business statement. However, I will, of course, call the Lord Privy Seal's attention to what the hon. Gentleman has said

Mr. Harold Davies

Will the House have the chance of at least a half-day's debate on the deterioration of the situation in South-East Asia and Vietnam before the Recess? Can the right hon. Gentleman arrange to let the House hear what is the Government's policy for alleviating that situation?

Mr. Macleod

I cannot see an immediate opportunity to discuss that subject.

Mr. C. Royle

Will the Leader of the House say when the House will have an opportunity to discuss the Report of the Departmental Committee on the Probation Service, which is very much delayed?

Mr. Macleod

That is a matter which could, perhaps, be most appropriately discussed in Supply time.

Mr. Slater

Do we take it from the right hon. Gentleman's reply to the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) that the Government are not interested in the unemployment on Tees-side? Is he aware that the people there are very concerned because of the rise in unemployment which is taking place from The Hartlepools along to Middlesbrough and up to Stockton, and that even the visit of the Prime Minister to Stockton will not alleviate their anxiety?

Mr. Macleod

The hon. Gentleman knows vary well that one is always deeply concerned when the unemployment situation worsens. The immediate question before the House is whether Government time can be found to discuss such a subject in the immediate future. I remind the hon. Gentleman that next Tuesday, 27th March, we shall be discussing the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill. On that, it is in order to raise many subjects—indeed, almost any subject.

Mr. P. Williams

Reverting to the question of the Common Market, can my right hon. Friend say When documents which have been promised to the House will be made available? I refer to the documents on the agricultural policy of the Six. Until these documents are available, and the facts are to hand, the Government would be taking an unwise step in negotiating further.

Mr. Macleod

That is a long way from the business announced for next week, which does not make any provision for discussing this subject. However, as I said in answer to a question from the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton), I will draw the Lord Privy Seal's attention to what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain an answer which he gave a few minutes ago about getting the agreement of the parties on the terms of reference of his Motion proposing the setting up of a procedure Committee? May I once again draw his attention to the fact that, fortunately or unfortunately, there are Members of the House who are not members of the parties as they are organised here and that the difficulty which led to the setting up of this Committee arose out of this? Does not he think it necessary, therefore, to ensure that other Members besides the official representatives of the major parties are consulted whenever consultation is necessary?

Mr. C. Pannell

The hon. Gentleman was returned as a Labour Member and nothing else.

Mr. Macleod

I intended my answer to cover the point put by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). He will understand chat it is very difficult to consult all those one would like to consult. As I said last week, I would discuss the terms of reference, not only through the usual channels, but rather more widely.

Mr. Peyton

When we get opportunities such as that afforded by the Consolidated Fund Bill next week, and at a time when we are faced with greatly increased expenditure, would it not be fitting, without denying the rights of the Opposition, to discuss ways and means of limiting this vast expenditure, which has such a stranglehold on the economy?

Mr. Macleod

What my hon. Friend suggests is in order. Supply days, like the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill, are, by tradition, those on which the Opposition have the initiative in putting forward proposals. That does not mean that other matters are out of order.

Mr. J. T. Price

The Leader of the House said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) that there will be an opportunity to discuss the grievances arising from the contemplated closures of branch lines in the North-East during later stages of the Transport Bill.

Is the right hon. Gentleman forgetting that that Bill is proceeding under a Guillotine? If the right hon. Gentleman is not taking into account the effect of the timetable on the Oppositon, will he bear in mind that, since it was agreed by this House about a fortnight ago, the Notice Paper on the Transport Bill has been flooded with scores of new Amendments which have been tabled by the Minister of Transport and by his hon. Friends to the disadvantage of Opposition Amendments concerning important matters of principle, thus preventing them from being discussed in a proper manner? This will also prevent adequate discussion during later stages of the Bill.

A Government in possession of a majority can gravely disadvantage the Opposition, first, by getting a guillotine Motion accepted and then by flooding the Notice Paper with Amendments of a technical and drafting character so that important matters of principle shall not be discussed. Speaking for myself—and, I hope, for other other hon. Members—I regard this as a gross breach of Parliamentary procedure.

Mr. MacLeod

I do not accept that for a moment. Quite apart from the Committee stage, there is also the Report stage and Third Reading. There are opportunities to discuss the wider implications, such as there were when a much larger Bill was produced some years ago by the Socialist Government. The additional opportunities include not only those provided in private Members' time, but the opportunities available during Supply times. In particular, there is the opportunity afforded by the general debate next Tuesday.

Mr. C. Pannell

On the Question of Mr. Speaker's Advisory Committee on Accommodation, will the right hon. Gentleman remember that it was the financial exigencies of last year which gave an excuse for the developments not being proceeded with during the Recess last year? Has not the right hon. Gentleman an idea of the necessity of hon. Members, as occupants of the House, being consulted about any of the projected building, rather than that the Ministry of Works should get on with it straight away?

Will the Leader of the House also bear in mind the projected developments on the site on the other side of the road? A lot of the trouble springs from the fact that the convenience of hon. Members is not consulted at every stage. Will not the right hon. Gentleman see that it is a matter of urgency that the Committee is set up?

Mr. Macleod

I will certainly bear in mind the points made by the hon. Member. As I think he knows from an earlier answer which I gave to him, it is the question of accommodation on the site on the other side of the road from the Palace of Westminster that I was considering in relation to asking for advice.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask whether the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill is exempted business? Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have at least fifty things which I should like to raise, which I gather it would be in order to raise?

Mr. Macleod

I am afraid that the answer is, "Yes, it is."

Mr. Bellenger

Hitherto, the right hon. Gentleman has given us the business for the following week and then for the Monday following that. Today, he has announced the business for the Tuesday following next week. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If I understood him aright, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill would be discussed on Tuesday week, or perhaps I misunderstood him.

Mr. Macleod

Next Tuesday.

Mr. Lipton

Having put down a Motion on the subject of the pay of nurses and midwives, may I ask the Leader of the House whether it would not have been a little more courteous, and a little less cowardly, if the Government had found time to discuss this problem, rather than that they should sit back and wait for the Opposition to force them to take notice of it?

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to ensure that the claim of nurses and midwives for increased pay is negotiated on its merits.]

Mr. Macleod

On the contrary. This is an eminently suitable subject for Supply time, as is shown by the fact that the Opposition have put it first among the list which they wish to discuss next Tuesday.

Mr. Hannan

Referring to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock), may I ask the Leader of the House whether, in any consultations which take place anent this question, he will suggest to his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that the Secretary of State for Scotland should be included?

Mr. Macleod

If there were any question of wider consultation arising out of any incident which might have taken place in a recent by-election, that would be done.