HC Deb 24 May 1962 vol 660 cc673-80
Mr. G. Brown

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, 28TH MAY—Debate on the Fifth Report, 1960–61, and the Fifth Special Report, 1961–62, from the Estimates Committee, relating to London's Airports.


Further consideration in Committee.

THURSDAY, 31ST MAY—Second Reading of the Jamaica Independence Bill.

Report and Third Reading of the Colonial Loans Bill, and of the Northern Ireland Bill [Lords].

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

FRIDAY, 1ST JUNE—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 4TH JUNE—The proposed business will be: Debate on a Government Motion to take note of the White Papers on Hospital Plans for England and Wales and Scotland. (Command Nos. 1604 and 1602); and the Motion on the Functions of Traffic Wardens (Scotland) Order.

Mr. G. Brown

First, may I say that we on this side of the House will want the opportunity of an early debate on the cotton industry. Secondly, will the debate on the Common Market, the week after next, be a two-day debate?

Mr. Macleod

I note what the right hon. Gentleman says about the cotton industry. I know that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade expects to make a statement on that matter before the Whitsun Adjournment. I can confirm that there will be a two-day debate on the Common Market in the week before we rise for the Whitsun Adjournment.

Mr. S. Silverman

With regard to the promised statement by the President of the Board of Trade about the cotton industry, to which I am sure all of us are looking forward with some anxiety, will the Leader of the House bear in mind what my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) has put to him? It referred, not to a statement by the President of the Board of Trade, but to an opportunity of debating the cotton industry. Will the Government offer an opportunity before then to debate the situation of the textile industry in Lancashire in the light of any advice which the Government are able to give?

Further, do the Government propose to give us an early opportunity of debating, and of reaching a decision in the House on, the wisdom or otherwise of the action announced by the Prime Minister a few minutes ago, of sending British forces into a foreign country without any authorisation by the House of Commons?

Mr. Macleod

I can, I think, promise the statement on the cotton industry, but I cannot promise a debate, because, with a two-day Common Market debate, all the days up to the Whitsun Adjournment are mortgaged. I note what has been said. If the Opposition wish to use a Supply Day for a debate, one could be provided very shortly after the Whitsun Recess.

It will, of course, be in order to discuss the statement which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has just made to the House—it will form one of the threads of discussion—during the foreign affairs debate, on which we shall be embarking in a few minutes.

Mr. W. Yates

Has my right hon. Friend noticed two Motions on the Order Paper standing in my name, one relating to Private Notice Questions, dated 28th February, and the other concerning the official duties of the Leader of the Opposition? One is:

[That this House reserves always the absolute right to debate and vote on any situation concerning the committal of the armed forces anywhere, and cannot accept that the official duties of the Leader of the Opposition include that of opposing a Motion concerning the armed forces under Standing Order No. 9, and therefore calls for a reduction of his salary at the appropriate time.]

and the other is:

[That this House considers that any hon. Member, having obtained leave of Mr. Speaker by 12 noon, should have the right to convert one question down for oral answer on the Order Paper into one of Private Notice, provided that by so doing he does not anticipate the question of any other hon. Member already on the Order Paper, and that any rule to the contrary should be laid aside].

I think that the House is in some difficulty about Private Notice Questions, because in Chapter 17 of Erskine May there is a rule Which states: A question cannot be asked by private notice in order to anticipate a question of which notice has been given. No doubt the Leader of the House has noticed what occurred on Thursday last, when the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) had a Question down and leave was given to answer a Private Notice Question by the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the House might be aware that this position occurred once before, in 1944—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is doing. If he wishes to criticise a decision of the Chair, he must do it in the proper way. If he looks at the Question to which he has referred, he will see that there could be no reasonable question of anticipation. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to ask a question about business, let him do it.

Mr. Yates

I respect what you have said, Mr. Speaker, but I hope that I was not in any way criticising a decision of the Chair. I was pointing out a Ruling Which a former Speaker gave in 1944. However, if you, Mr. Speaker, desire that I should raise this matter after the business for next week is dealt with, I will do so.

Mr. Speaker

I thought that the hon. Member was proposing to ask a question of the Leader of the House relating to the business for next week. This is the time for doing that.

Mr. Yates

In view of that, may I leave the Leader of the House with these two points? The whole problem of Private Notice Questions deserves debate, and, in fairness to hon. Members, may I ask my right hon. Friend what he proposes to do about it?

Mr. Macleod

With respect to my hon. Friend, on the question of the admissibility of a Private Notice Question, he was, in fact, criticising the Chair and, obviously, this is not the time nor the way to do it. I have no intention of replying to that point, nor of supplying Government time to debate the salary of the Leader of the Opposition. If I may express a personal view, I think that he earns his salary and that he will have many, many years in which to prove it.

Mr. C. Pannell

Further to that point of order. In so far as the rights of—

Mr. Speaker

Will the hon. Member help me? Can we finish the business questions first? It was not a point of order. I do not know what it was. The hon. Member did not rise to such.

Mr. Pannell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I rise following the Ruling which you have given to the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) and this is the appropriate time. The hon. Member raised the question of the rights of the Leader of the Opposition on Private Notice Questions. I am asking you, Sir—

Mr. Speaker

I am sorry, there is a confusion. As I understand the matter, the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates)—I hope that I do not misrepresent him—began to refer to a Motion which he has upon the Order Paper, which is No. 67. It was tabled a long time ago. From that, we entered into a discussion which, I felt, my duty obliged me to stop. The hon. Member then referred to a further Motion of his relating to the official conduct of the Leader of the Opposition and was told that time would not be found for it by the Government. I do not think that anything else arises.

Mr. Snow

In the forthcoming debate on the Common Market, may we assume that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be one of the Government spokesmen?

Mr. Macleod

That is very likely, but the list of Government speakers has not finally been decided.

Mr. Peyton

Since last week, when I mentioned for the third time my excellent Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, the horrible but, I hope, unjustified suspicion has crossed my mind that my right hon. Friend might not have read the two lines that compose this admirable Bill. Does he realise that I have been driven to this beastly suspicion by the belief that nobody of his known perspicacity and judgment, having read the Bill, could have failed to adopt it with enthusiasm on the part of the Government?

Mr. Macleod

On the contrary, my hon. Friend must be frank with the House. The reason why he has been driven to that conclusion is that he asked me whether I have read his Bill, and I said, "No."

Mr. G. Thomas

Can the Minister hold out any hope that we shall have a statement of policy in the near future on legislation on leasehold reform? Is he aware that many promises have been held out about a statement, but that the sands of time are running out?

Mr. Macleod

No, I cannot hold out any such promise. No doubt my right hon. Friend will study the question which the hon. Member has put.

Mr. Russell

The Common Market debate, as my right hon. Friend is, I know, aware, clashes with the meeting of the Western European Assembly in Paris. Has it not been possible to rearrange matters?

Mr. Macleod

I am sorry, no. I understand that difficulty, which affects hon. Members, but it simply is not possible to have a two-day debate on the Common Market, which most hon. Members want, on any other days before the Whitsun Recess. There is bound to be inconvenience to some Members of the House, but, as my hon. Friend knows, we are doing what we can to minimise the inconvenience in that case.

Mr. Bellenger

Can the Leader of the House say on what Motion the debate on the Common Market will arise?

Mr. Macleod

It is likely to be on a Motion for the Adjournment.

Mr. Peyton

In view of my right hon. Friend's deplorable confession, may I hand him a copy of my Bill? It would not take him ten seconds to read it.

Mr. M. Foot

Reverting to the question about the salary of the Leader of the Opposition, does not the Leader of the House think that he could best overcome any embarrassment and difficulty by handing it over to my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman)?

Mr. Kershaw

In view of the fact that the Acts of Parliament Numbering and Citation Bill [Lords] does not appear in the business for next week, may I take it that my right hon. Friend has decided to dispense with this useless and provocative Bill?

Mr. Macleod

No, sir. We intend to take its final stages at a convenient moment after the Recess.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Do I understand the Leader of the House to say that we can probably go into something which might develop into an ugly little war, or, perhaps, a big war, in Thailand without any opportunity given to the House of Commons to approve of it?

Mr. Macleod

The question of debating this matter in the House is obviously in order in the debate on which we are just about to start. The Government are confident that their action in meeting this request from the Thai Government is right and do not think it necessary to fortify themselves accordingly with a vote of the House.

Mr. Wigg

Can the Minister help the House to get the intervention in Thailand in perspective by telling us that 20 Squadron of the Royal Air Force, which is going in, has already been in Thailand since 22nd April until 1st May? Having got that into perspective, this is a political and not a military act. Will the Minister tell the House that on all occasions when British troops are committed the Government will seek the support of the House of Commons by having a debate?

Mr. Macleod

The point which is being raised concerns today's debate rather than the business for next week. Rather than that I should improvise answers at the Dispatch Box, it is obviously right that the case should be deployed in full, as it will be, from the Treasury Bench today.

Mr. S. Silverman

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the way he has just put the matter is in defiance of the whole basis of a Parliamentary democracy? He is now saying that he does not think it necessary to fortify the Government's decision by a vote of the House of Commons. It is true that he has said that he is confident—and we believe him—that the Government are right about this decision, and he has considerable support in that view in that a great many of my right hon. and hon. Friends are, apparently, also of that opinion.

If that is so, would it not be better constitutional practice to put that on the record, so that When the Prime Minister pursues this policy he does it with the express authority of the House of Commons? If it should turn out not to be true, will he not be accused of having deliberately avoided the opportunity of demonstrating that it was not true?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I think that I have stated accurately the position in relation to today's debate. I again remind the House that the statement that I am now dealing with concerns the business for next week. The hon. Gentleman's question concerns an act Which the Government have done and which they are prepared to defend and which their spokesmen will discuss in the debate today.

Mr. S. Silverman

On a point of order. I take it, Mr. Speaker, that we have finished with the questions about business—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and, that being—

Mr. Speaker

On the assumption that what the hon. Member was last saying was still on the business for next week.

Mr. Gourlay

Reverting to matters of more domestic importance, has the Leader of the House observed the Notice of Motion on the Order Paper in the names of several hon. Members from Fife concerning the question of toll charges on the Forth Road Bridge?

[That this House, whilst welcoming the prospect of the completion of the Forth Road Bridge, deplores the decision to impose tolls on its users; and, noting that such charges are not normally made on trunk roads, of which this bridge will be an integral part, and that the imposition of such charges could retard considerably the much needed industrial expansion required in Fife, therefore urges Her Majesty's Government to revoke this decision.]

In view of the adverse effect which such charges would have in attracting industry to Fife, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that we will have time to debate this matter immediately after the Whitsun Recess?

Mr. Macleod

No, I could not give that undertaking. If it is regarded as of sufficient importance, the matter could be raised on a Supply Day.