HC Deb 03 May 1962 vol 658 cc1209-16
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, 7TH MAY—Consideration of private Members' Motions until Seven o'clock.

Report and Third Reading of the Health Visitors and Social Workers Training Bill.

TUESDAY, 8TH MAY—Debate on Central Africa, which will arise on a Government Motion.

WEDNESDAY, 9TH MAY—Second Reading of the Pipe-lines Bill [Lords], and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

Motion on the Motor Vehicles (International Circulation) (Amendment) Order.

THURSDAY, 10TH MAY—Supply [15th Allotted Day]: Committee.

There will be a debate on Home Office Affairs, which will arise on the appropriate Votes.

FRIDAY, 11TH MAY—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 14TH MAY—The proposed business will be: Supply [16th Allotted Day]: Committee.

A debate will take place on Nurses Pay, on the appropriate Votes.

Mr. Gaitskell

In view of the great importance of the Pipe-lines Bill, which raises all sorts of issues of major principle, may I ask whether the Government are proposing that the Committee stage should be taken on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. We shall follow the ordinary procedure.

Mr. Gaitskell

Would the right hon. Gentleman look again at this matter? This is a Bill which, of course, has been considered very thoroughly in another place and it is quite obvious from the debates there that it raises issues of the highest importance. Will the right hon. Gentleman look again at this, so that the House as a whole can have a chance of taking part in the Committee stage?

Mr. Macleod

I will, of course, look at it again in response to the right hon. Gentleman's request, but what he says about the importance of the Bill does not alone bring it within the doctrines previously laid down on these matters.

Dame Irene Ward

In view of the fact that in the last debate on nurses' pay I was profoundly dissatisfied with the speeches made by both the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, may I ask whether, now that this is a matter of Government policy and right outside the jurisdiction of the Minister of Health, we can expect the Chancellor of the Exchequer to intervene and give us an opportunity of widening the whole debate so that we can really understand where we are?

Mr. Macleod

I will take note of what my hon. Friend says. The main speech will be made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and we will take into account what is being said in considering the final speech in reply from this side of the House.

Mr. M. Foot

In view of the difficulty, which was further revealed by the questions to the Prime Minister a few minutes ago, of eliciting answers about the supremely important matter of H-bomb tests and neutralist proposals and the real effect of these tests, and of the fact that these matters cannot be dealt with by question and answer, may I ask whether the Leader of the House will not rearrange the business for next week so that we can have a full debate on these matters before any more of these tests go ahead with Her Majesty's Government's approval?

Is it not absolutely monstrous that the biggest round of tests supported by the West should take place without any debate whatsoever in the House of Commons? Will the right hon. Gentleman take into account that even if he may not have received representations on this matter through official channels there are large numbers of hon. Members who want a debate and who think that it is a scandal that there has not been one?

Mr. Macleod

With respect, the business I have announced for six days includes no fewer than four and a half days for debates and Motions and only one and a half days for ordinary legislation, and included in the four and a half days are two days on which the Opposition have the choice of discussion. [HON. MEMBER: "Which Opposition?] The debate to take place on Tuesday on Central Africa is in Government time. I think that we are having an admirable ration of discussion on most important matters.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Could my right hon. Friend say whether in the debate on Thursday, on Home Office affairs, the Votes selected for that day include reference to civil defence?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. I understand that at the request of the Opposition we will be putting down all the Home Office Votes. Therefore, any matter covered by them could be discussed.

Mr. Driberg

Surely it is the Government's responsibility to find time for debates on the tests for which the Government have assented to the use of Christmas Island. Is not this particularly the case in view of the new announcement about high-altitude tests which is causing grave concern among scientists, including people like Sir Bernard Lovell?

Mr. Macleod

The position is that the Government have consented to these tests, and if the House wishes to criticise the Government for doing that there are ways in which it can be done. But we do not feel that it is necessary for us to seek the support of the House. We are confident that we have it on this issue.

Mr. Nabarro

Has my right hon. Friend perceived the great anxiety felt by my hon. Friends and myself about the threatened dock strike? As time is now running out, may I ask whether he could persuade the Minister of Labour to make a statement to the House very early next week, preferably on Monday or Tuesday, about the exact position?

Mr. Macleod

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is in the closest touch with the parties concerned. I think that it is always wisest in these matters, if one can, to leave it to the Minister, but if it is appropriate I will consult him as to whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Short

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen an all-party Motion on the Order Paper about the local government Boundary Commission?

[That this House would welcome a declaration by Her Majesty's Government on the intended procedure to be adopted for dealing in Parliament with the recommendations of the Boundary Commission on local government reorganisation, and objections thereto, and considers that an undertaking should be given by Her Majesty's Government that no final decisions will be taken until this House has had an opportunity fully to consider the recommendations.]

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the Government will not make up their mind about any Boundary Commission Report or any number of Reports before the House has had an opportunity of debate? Will the right hon. Gentleman take note of the second part of the Motion, which asks the Government now to declare the procedure which they intend to follow on these Reports?

Mr. Macleod

The procedure is extremely lengthy and complicated and, of course, brings the House into the matter. It is extremely unlikely that the Orders in which the hon. Member is particularly interested will come before the House this Session. If I have reason to think that that is wrong, I will let the House know at an early date. Any changes, after public inquiry and all the rest of it, have to be embodied in Orders which come before Parliament. Major alterations are subject to affirmative Resolutions and others can be prayed against. The House, therefore, has plenty of opportunities in these matters.

Mr. Peyton

Has my right hon. Friend had time to look at the admirable and almost uniquely intelligible little Bill which I introduced to amend the Road Traffic Act, 1960, and to repel the mechanisms of bumbledom? Will he see that his right hon. and hon. Friends in the Government do not object to this Bill tomorrow when it comes hopefully forward for Second Reading?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I can give no undertaking about that, nor that other hon. Members will not object. If a Bill comes forward after the ordinary time for debate, all hon. Members have the right to object to its Second Reading.

Sir L. Plummer

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he proposes to hold a debate on the Radcliffe Report, thus giving us an opportunity of hearing the Government's proposals arising from it?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir, but I will take note of the hon. Member's request. It does not come into the business I have announced.

Mrs. Castle

Has not the right hon. Gentleman seen the very grave warning issued by Sir Bernard Lovell about the possible consequences of the American high-level tests and the dangers which may carry in their wake not merely fall-out, but permanent interference with the magnetic field of the earth? [Laughter.]

Mr. Driberg

They think it funny. They are illiterate fools.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is in the interests of everybody that business questions should be confined to the business announced for next week. The more we get into epithets and speeches, the less progress we can make.

Mrs. Castle

I am trying to point out to the Leader of the House, Mr. Speaker, that here is an urgent matter in which the Government have grave responsibility. If a man of the scientific stature of Sir Bernard Lovell can solemnly warn us that the scientists know not what they do when these tests are conducted, have not the Government the duty to this House, the country and the world, to hold an immediate and urgent debate on this matter so that we can probe these dangers?

Mr. Macleod

Of course, this is an enormously important subject, but I have answered the point put by the hon. Lady. In the business for next week, there is one day of Government time which we are devoting to a debate on Central Africa, which the House very much wants to have before my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary goes out there. Two other days are available and I must make the point that these are days on which the Opposition pick the subjects for debate. If the Opposition wish to have a debate on this, or to censure us for what we have done, that can be arranged, but I do not think that, having taken this decision, it is necessary for the Government to provide time to debate it.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

Can my right hon. Friend recall whether there was a similar approach from certain quarters below the Gangway opposite for a similar debate during the Russian tests?

Mr. S. Silverman

Yes, there was.

Mr. Rankin

Can the Leader of the House say whether the Government propose to bring in at an early date a Pipe-lines Bill with particular reference to Scotland in order to release the many jobs so badly needed to fill the gaps in Scottish industry?

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Leader of the House aware that, if there is no debate on nuclear tests, a large section of public opinion will believe that Parliamentary government and democracy have become a fraud and a farce? Is he aware that there is very great interest in this matter? [HON. MEMBER: "No."] Have a debate and try it. Is not the right hon. Gentleman following the precedent set in the case of the Polaris base, which was never endorsed by this House? Is he not sidetracking the right of the people of this country to express a point of view which is widely felt?

Mr. Macleod

The hon. Gentleman is not being accurate. I am following the ordinary procedure which any Leader of the House follows by saying that on certain days the Opposition have the initiative for debate while the Government have the initiative on other days. I have answered the question in that sense.

Mr. Donnelly

I wish to return to the matter of the two gentlemen in Moscow. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Burgess is reported to be saying that certain members of the Government have been helping him, out of friendship, to obtain funds in Moscow? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the seriousness of this and will he arrange for a Government statement to be made next week to clear this matter up once and for all?

Mr. Macleod

I cannot believe that that has any relevance to the business I have announced.

Mr. S. Silverman

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the answer he gave to my hon. Friends the Members for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) and Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) was entirely inadequate? Will he not reconsider the matter? Will he not bear in mind that what is involved here is not only the series of tests, with all the implications which my hon. Friends have explained, but that those tests are being carried out, without the authority of Parliament, largely on British territory?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that it is the Government's duty, and not the duty of the Opposition, to afford some opportunity for the House to endorse or reject the permission which the Government have given, without authority, for the use of British territory for this purpose? That there are many hon. Members in the House, including this side, who do not want a debate has got nothing to do with the fact that those who do want a debate are surely entitled to have one in a matter of this kind, and that the responsibility for providing the time must rest fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Government and cannot be shifted and evaded in the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has done.

Mr. Macleod

I have no intention of trying to shift or to evade my responsibilities. I have gone into this matter in response to a number of similar questions. I do not think it appropriate, nor do I intend, to provide Government time at present to debate the matter which the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have raised.

Mr. Driberg


Mr. Short

May I refer back to my previous question to the right hon. Gentleman? I think that he misunderstood my point. When we reach the stage of a provisional Order on a boundary, we reach the point of no return. Will he give an assurance that, in the case of the North-East and other areas, the House will have an opportunity to debate the Commission's proposals before the Government decide what to put in the Orders?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I do not think that I can give an assurance in those terms, because the procedure has already been laid down and enacted by this House. I cannot alter it by exchanges across the Floor. But, through detailed talks over many months and the opportunity for objections, representations and public inquiries, there is the fullest opportunity both for local and for Parliamentary opinion to make itself heard.