HC Deb 17 May 1962 vol 659 cc1537-42
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:


Further consideration in Committee.

THURSDAY, 24TH MAY—Supply [18th Allotted Day]: Committee, which it is proposed to take formally.

Debate on Foreign Affairs, on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motions on Purchase Tax and Import Duties.

FRIDAY, 25TH MAY—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 28TH MAY—The proposed business will be: Debate on the Fifth Report, 1960–61, and the Fifth Special Report, 1961–62, from the Estimates Committee, relating to London's Airports.

Mr. Gaitskell

Thursday's business is to be on the Adjournment of the House. I presume that this will cover anything which anyone wants to raise, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the subjects which we particularly have in mind are Berlin, the recent N.A.T.O. Conference and the defence decisions taken there, the disarmament negotiations, and the position in South-East Asia?

May I also ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to agree that before the Whitsun Recess we should have a discussion on the Common Market, covering a two-day debate? Is he aware that it will be necessary to have two days in order to cover the very many different questions which arise and which were apparent from the Lord Privy Seal's statement yesterday?

Mr. Macleod

I note what the right hon. Gentleman said about the debate on Thursday although, as he pointed out, it is on the Adjournment and, therefore, almost anything is in order. I agree that it would be possible to fit in a debate on the Common Market. We might have it in the last week before the Whitsun Rcess. As to the length of the debate, whether one day or two, perhaps we may have a discussion on that, although no doubt we shall be able to reach an agreement.

Mr. S. Silverman

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the description offered by the Leader of the Opposition of the subjects mainly to be considered in the foreign affairs debate next Thursday? If he does, can he give any indication when the House will have an early opportunity of discussing specific matters arising out of the situation in Laos and Thailand?

On a different subject, has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the recent reports by the Estimates Committee of the unfortunate wastage of public money under the cotton reorganisation scheme and the rapidly deteriorating situation in Lancashire, where the textile trade is the main means of employment? Can he offer an opportunity of discussing these matters, too, on a specific Motion?

Mr. Macleod

Both the Leader of the Opposition and I made it clear, on the first point, that these matters are in order, as is anything else except legislation and such matters on the Adjournment of the House. Representations have been made about the situation in the cotton industry. The Government are considering this matter and I have no statement to make today.

Mr. Ridsdale

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the Motion on local government finance standing in my name and the names of over 100 hon. Members from both sides of the House? Is he aware that the replies from the Government up to now have been disappointing both from himself and from the Minister of Housing and Local Government? Is it possible for him to arrange an early debate so that other hon. Members who wish to speak on this can express their points of view, too?

[That this House, in view of the increasing amount of Local Government Expenditure, and the consequent dependence on the National Exchequer for Grants, urges Her Majesty's Government to appoint a Committee to inquire into the Rating System, and the possibilities of alternative sources of local revenue.]

Mr. Macleod

I will consider with my right hon. Friend whether any further information can be given beyond that which I gave in the short debate initiated by my hon. Friend a week or two ago.

Mr. K. Robinson

Before Easter the right hon. Gentleman said that time would be found after Easter to debate the White Paper on the Hospitals Plan. Are we to have a debate before Whitsun?

Mr. Macleod

I am still hopeful, but this is a day which I promised in Government time, and, as the hon. Member will have gathered from exchanges which we have had on recent Thursdays, there are other claims on Government time. I still hope to get that day in before Whitsun.

Mr. Peyton

No doubt my right hon. Friend's deep interest in transport matters, combined with his even more active concern for brief and intelligible legislation, is bound to arouse in him a restrained enthusiasm for my Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill. Should I be right, therefore, in assuming that the fact that it has no place in next week's business is because he will find it a place in the week after?

Mr. Macleod

If my hon. Friend believes that he will believe anything.

Mr. Grimond

The agenda already proposed by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the House for next Thursday's debate is fairly wide, but even so, it leaves out, for instance, the question of the tests and the specific question of the Athens meeting of N.A.T.O. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I apologise. In any event, there could be only a passing reference to it in connection with many other things. Apart from the debate on the Common Market, does the right hon. Gentleman hold any hope of having any other discussions on these matters before Whitsun?

Mr. Macleod

The matters to which the right hon. Gentleman referred were covered by the Leader of the Opposition in the first announcement which he made on this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tests?"] Yes, tests are part of disarmament, and observations and speeches on the subject would be in order, subject to what the Chair said, on that day. There can be no question about that. Taking this particular debate, I could not promise another day before Whitsun if we are also to have a major debate on the Common Market.

Mr. Thorpe

May I ask again about the Agricultural Price Review? It is some weeks since the Minister made his statement. Does he not agree that an early debate would provide a useful opportunity for testing opinion in the rural areas?

Mr. Macleod

This subject is normally taken on Supply, and I do not know whether it is the intention of the Opposition to do so at some time. That is usually when it is discussed.

Dr. King

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the Motion on the Order Paper, to which he showed himself not unsympathetic, which calls attention to the needs of the public service pensioners? Is he aware that it has 124 signatures from hon. Members on both sides of the House? Will he give serious consideration to providing a day to debate it?

[That this House, recognising the hardships of public service pensioners and especially of older public service pensioners, whose pensions bear no relation to similar pensions now obtaining in the public service, urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce, as soon as economic circumstances permit, a new Pensions (Increase) Bill to raise the incomes of such pensioners.]

Mr. Macleod

The hon. Member will realise that the first Motion to be debated on Friday, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), covers an enormous number of subjects closely related to that which the hon. Member mentioned. All this matter will come up for discussion on that day and there will be a reply from the Treasury Bench.

Mr. Pavitt

Has the Leader of the House seen a Motion on the Order Paper, in the names of myself and of several of my hon. Friends, drawing attention to the inadequacy of the National Health Service Whitley machinery and asking for an inquiry? In view of the wide public sympathy with the lower-paid Health Service workers, will he find time for a debate on this Motion?

[That this House is of the opinion that the National Health Service Whitley Council machinery has proved so inadequate to its tasks that it no longer commands the confidence of the staffs and their representatives, that the interference of the Health Ministers in negotiations has nullified the responsibilities of the management side and made serious negotiations impossible, and calls on Her Majesty's Government to institute an independent inquiry into the functioning of National Health Service Whitley Councils in order to establish better arrangements for the future.]

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I cannot go beyond the debate we have had and the Answers to Questions which the Minister of Health has already given on this subject.

Mr. M. Foot

Will not the Leader of the House seriously reconsider this question about the debate next Thursday? Some of us have been asking for several weeks that a full day's debate should be particularly devoted to the question of the H-bomb tests. We may be on the eve of an appalling fresh series of H-bomb tests conducted by the Russians. Nobody knows the amount of fall-out there will be. But apparently we are not to have time for a debate of that subject.

Since then we have had the grave situation which has arisen in Laos and Thailand. These are in addition to the subjects mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. Is it not treating the House in the most puerile fashion when grave and significant events of this nature are happening in the world and they are all to be compressed into one day's debate, with no vote about the major issues involved? If the House postponed one day's proceedings on the Finance Bill until the following week, we should not suffer very much, and at least we should be attempting to discharge our responsibilities better than at the moment.

Everybody knows what happens when it is attempted to have only the one-day debate; the debate is all jumbled together and we are not able to deal with the subjects in the way in which we ought to deal with them. I ask the right hon. Gentleman seriously whether he is discharging his responsibility to the House by ordering our affairs in this manner?

Mr. Macleod

Of course I do. I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety to raise these matters and, subject to his being called by Mr. Speaker on Thursday, there is not the slightest reason why he should not raise them in the debate which has been arranged.