HC Deb 10 May 1962 vol 659 cc645-52
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, 14TH MAY—Supply [16th Allotted Day]: Committee.

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

Motions on Fertilisers and Ploughing Grants Schemes for the United Kingdom.

TUESDAY, 15TH MAY—We shall begin the Committee stage of the Finance Bill, which will be continued on WEDNESDAY, 16TH MAY.

THURSDAY, 17TH MAY—Supply [17th Allotted Day]: Committee.

There will be a debate on Education, which will arise on the appropriate Votes.

Lords Amendments to the South Africa Bill.

FRIDAY, 18TH MAY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 21ST MAY—Further consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Leader of the House aware that, in our opinion, it will be necessary before long, and, in any case, before the Whitsun Recess, to have a discussion upon the Common Market negotiations, to try to clarify the real issues which are now emerging during the course of these negotiations? Will he bear that in mind? Is he aware, also, that it will shortly be necessary to have a debate on foreign affairs, covering the Berlin situation and various other aspects, including the N.A.T.O. Conference?

Mr. Macleod

Both those are, of course, topics of the first importance which, no doubt, the House will wish to debate. We should be glad to discuss the timing of them.

Dame Irene Ward

Are we to have an intervention from the Treasury in next Monday's debate on nurses' pay? Are we really going to get down to business on that matter?

Mr. Macleod

We took note of what my hon. Friend said last week. The debate will be wound up from this side of the House by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

Mr. M. Foot

Has the Leader of the House been able to give consideration to the questions which I have put to him during the past two or three weeks about whether there should be a debate specifically referring to the matter of hydrogen bomb tests? Does he realise that it is extremely difficult to discuss by Question and Answer either the complications of the proposals put by the neutral nations at Geneva, where negotiations are still proceeding on such matters as the high altitude tests about which, apparently, the President of the United States is now beginning to alter his opinion because of protests which have been made? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it would conform far better with the dignity of the House, whatever views right hon. and hon. Members may take about H-bomb tests, that, when events of such mammoth importance are taking place, we should have a debate here so that the matter may be discussed and hon. Members may state their views about it?

Mr. Macleod

I understand the point which the hon. Gentleman makes, although he will agree that some of the questions which were put to me last week were put under the misapprehension that these tests would take place from Christmas Island rather than from Johnstone Island. On the timing of a debate, I made the Government's position clear last week. The Leader of the Opposition gave notice a few moments ago that he would wish to discuss the possibility and timing of a foreign affairs debate. Perhaps we could wait to see what scope there will be in that debate.

Mr. M. Foot

But many more tests will have taken place before then.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be a very grave error to have a debate on the Common Market negotiations in the middle of those negotiations, and that to do so would be a substantial hindrence to our negotiators in Brussels? Is my right hon. Friend aware that most hon. Members in the House are prepared to await the final outcome—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and then adjudicate upon that?

Mr. Macleod

It is difficult in this situation to know what is the most helpful time to have a debate, whether one should have it while the discussions are going on or as they are coming to a close. I remind my hon. Friend that we have not taken any decision on the timing of a debate. These discussions are going on, and all we have said across the two Dispatch Boxes is that, at some time, it would be desirable to have such a debate and we would have discussions on the timing of it.

Mr. Wigg

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the early day Motion in my name, a copy of which I have sent to him, asking the House to deplore the action of the Minister of Defence in summoning a special Press conference yesterday afternoon to give information about the increase in the strength of the Rhine Army and the additional cost, information which he failed to give the House?

Will the right hon. Gentleman choose between the two alternatives open to him, either find time for my Motion or ask the Minister of Defence to come to the House and explain his action in calling this conference and the gross disrespect he has shown to the House of Commons?

Mr. Macleod

Without accepting everything that the hon. Gentleman has put, may I say, first, that I am grateful to him for giving me notice of the terms of the early day Motion he is putting on the Order Paper; and, secondly, that I will discuss the matter at once with my right hon. Friend and consider what action it is appropriate to take in the House.

Mr. Peyton

Doubtless my right hon. Friend has had plenty of time now to look at the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, which I mentioned to him last week. Is he aware that it was with absolutely stunned surprise that I heard this Bill objected to on Friday last? Will he now take an early opportunity of consulting the Minister of Transport on what he could do to advance the fortunes of this very useful little Measure, which is calculated, for once, to help the customer?

Mr. Macleod

I am sure that my hon. Friend understands the position. I give him an undertaking that I shall not object to his Bill, but I cannot, obviously, give such an undertaking on behalf of every Member of the House. Like everyone else, he must take his chance in these matters as they come.

Mr. G. Brown

May I revert to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg)? Is the Leader of the House aware that the Minister of Defence has made a habit, over a long period, of making important announcements about defence policy outside the House and hardly ever making them inside the House? Is he further aware that the Minister had every chance yesterday to make this important new announcement of departure from Government policy in the House, but that he did not do so but went straight from the House and immediately did it outside?

Apart from the Motion, does not the Leader of the House think that it is a requirement that the Minister of Defence should come here on the earliest possible occasion and tell the House what he told the Press last night?

Mr. Macleod

The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, arguing the merits of the early day Motion. What I have said, I think, covers both the point which he made and the point which the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) made. I will consider this matter. Indeed, I have already started consultation on the early day Motion which is being put on the Order Paper. In consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, I will consider what statement, if any, should be made to the House.

Mr. Donnelly

May I return to the question of the two gentlemen in Moscow who are sustained there through the good offices of Her Majesty's Government? The Leader of the House will recollect that last week he said that it could not possibly arise on this week's business. Next week it could arise. I have a Question down for the Prime Minister on Tuesday, and I shall be only too happy to withdraw that Question if the Leader of the House will make arrangements to have a full and proper statement made so that the misapprehensions which no doubt exist can be cleared up.

Mr. Macleod

I should have thought that this matter could quite well be dealt with by the Question which the hon. Member has on the Order Paper to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Shinwell

May I revert to the question of the proposed debate on the Common Market? I understand that the Leader of the House has agreed with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that the debate should take place before Whitsun. In that event, do I understand that the Government, in order to provide facilities far a reasonable and factual debate, will inform hon. Members, perhaps through a White Paper or in some other fashion, about the process of the negotiations and some of the details of the negotiations, including the political implications? If not, does he not realise that the debate, without such information, would be purely academic and of very little value?

Mr. Macleod

I will take note of that. I did not go as far in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition as the right hon. Gentleman suggested. The Leader of the Opposition said that it would be desirable for this debate and, I think, the foreign affairs debate to take place before the Whitsun Recess, and I said that we will discuss the timing of these matters. I should be very glad, in relation to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Brussels negotiations, to see whether information could be made available to the House by way of an interim report in some way or another.

Sir L. Plummer

Last week the Leader of the House said that he would consider my request that there should be a debate on the Radcliffe Report and on the Government's decisions arising from that Report. Can he now say when such time will be found?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. Not yet. The hon. Member will recall that the Prime Minister said that disoussions with the staff side of the National Whitley Council were to be opened. These discussions are continuing and I do not think that it would be appropriate, at any rate at this stage, to have a discussion.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Does the Minister understand the volume and variety of criticism there is in the country at present on the question of nuclear tests? It has been expressed by scientists such as Sir Bernard Lovell and leaders of Church opinion such as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Does he not realise that people are asking questions: what is the House of Commons doing, why is it shirking a debate, and why is the House going on unofficial strike without this momentous issue even being discussed?

Mr. Macleod

That certainly is not true. These matters are discussed regularly. They are often discussed at Question Time. They have been discussed in response to statements which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and other Ministers have made to the House. There is no question of shirking a debate on this matter. But I made it clear last week that as we have consistently supported a general policy in this matter which is common with the United States, we as a Government do not think it necessary to seek the formal approval of the House by way of confidence or in any other way.

Mr. Mendelson

Arising out of the earlier reply and considering the rather uncertain nature of the date for the debate on the Common Market, may I ask whether the Leader of the House does not recall that when the Lord Privy Seal last gave an interim report—a long interim report—the gave a definite promise to the House that quite soon an opportunity would be given to discuss that interim report and that we should not be faced with a fait accompli at the end of the negotiations? In view of that, is it not right that before Whitsun a date should be fixed for a debate on the Common Market?

Mr. Macleod

With respect, I think that final decisions are much further away than the hon. Member's question indicates. In view of what the Leader of the Opposition said, we will discuss the most suitable timing, and as far as we can we will attempt to meet the wishes of both sides of the House in this matter.

Mr. Driberg

Since the right hon. Gentleman says that the question of nuclear testing is often discussed at Question Time and after statements by the Prime Minister and others, may I ask whether he does not recall that the Prime Minister himself, and other Ministers, have frequently complained that it is quite impossible to discuss these important issues by Question and Answer?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir, but there are opportunities of this nature. On 25th May both the second and third Motions on the Order Paper, one of which is in the name of the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), are on this subject.

Mr. Warbey

In preparation for the debate on the Common Market, will the Government publish a White Paper giving an authentic English translation of the Treaty of Rome and the Bonn Declaration, so that hon. Members and people of the country generally may know exactly what it is to which the Government have already committed the country?

Mr. Macleod

That comes under the general umbrella of the question asked earlier by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). We will consider that point.

Mr. Driberg

Since the right hon. Gentleman has drawn attention to the qualified good fortune in the Ballot yesterday of another hon. Member and myself, would he be good enough to say that he will find time for a debate on this extremely important issue if by any chance the debate on the first Motion on 25th May should be unduly prolonged, in view of the very great interest in the subject?

Mr. Macleod

I accept that this is a qualified opportunity and may well not arise, because there is enormous interest in the first Motion. That has to do with Service pensions, and there are few matters in which there is more interest in the House than that. I could not give an undertaking in the terms which the hon. Member requests.