HC Deb 22 November 1962 vol 667 cc1408-16
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, 26TH NOVEMBER—Supply [1st Allotted Day]:

Motion to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair, when debate will arise on an Opposition Amendment relating to National Insurance etc., Benefits.

Consideration of the Motion on the procedure authorising new routes for trolley buses.

TUESDAY, 27TH NOVEMBER—Debate on Public Investment, which will arise on a Government Motion to take note of the White Paper (Command No. 1849).

WEDNESDAY, 28TH NOVEMBER—Committee and remaining stages of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.

THURSDAY, 29TH NOVEMBER—A debate on the Report and Accounts of the British Transport Commission for 1961.

FRIDAY, 30TH NOVEMBER—Consideration of private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 3RD DECEMBER—The proposed business will be: Debate on the Motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition relating to Central Africa.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Leader of the House when the Second Reading of the London Government Bill is likely to take place, and whether he will provide two days for that debate? Secondly, on behalf of a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House, may I ask him whether he can find time before Christmas for a debate on the Anglo-Japanese Commercial Treaty?

Mr. Macleod

The right hon. Gentleman knows that the Bill has been published only this morning. I can confirm that there will be a two-day debate on Second Reading, but without tying myself to a particular date. There might he more than the usual interval between publication and Second Reading, because this is a complicated business. I can make firm the sympathetic response which I made last week to a request for a debate on the Japanese Treaty, and say that I hope to find time for discussion on that matter before Christmas.

Mr. Wade

The right hon. Gentleman has stated that there might be a debate on the Prerogative Instrument introducing increased pensions for those who served in the Armed Forces and for their widows. When will that debate take place and what form will it take?

Mr. Macleod

According to the precedents, there have not been such debates on similar occasions in the past. Also in accordance with precedent, the Warrant is not signed until the Royal Assent is given to the Pensions (Increase) Bill. What I have suggested is that tomorrow's debate might provide at least some opportunities for some of these matters to be raised and in the light of that we can subsequently consider the position.

Mr. Tiley

May I repeat the repeated request of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) not only that we should have a debate on the Japanese Treaty, but that we should have it quickly? Is he aware that the delay in discussing it is doing harm to the Government and to our trade in the West Riding?

Mr. Macleod

I have undertaken to find time as soon as I can. It cannot be for a little while, but it will be before Christmas. As the hon. Member knows, ratification is some months away.

Mr. Fletcher

When will the right hon. Gentleman find time for a debate on the Report of the Royal Commission on the Police, which contained a number of important recommendations requiring urgent consideration?

Mr. Macleod

Consideration has been given to that matter, but I cannot undertake to find Government time for such a discussion.

Dame Irene Ward

Can my right hon. Friend say who is to reply to Tuesday's debate on public investment, and whether we shall be given details about how this additional money which is to come from the Government in public investment is to be spent in various areas? Will whoever replies be able to tell us how much we are to get in the North-East for our various priorities?

Mr. Macleod

The main Government speaker will be my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary and I am sure that he will take note of the points which my hon. Friend has made and will reply to them as fully as he can.

Mr. Shinwell

Can the right hon. Gentleman include in next week's business an arrangement to enable the Prime Minister to reply to Questions which are on the Order Paper today, which now have been delayed for ten days, and which relate to the Vassall Tribunal—Questions Nos. Q9, Q10 and Q12—because otherwise, with the way things are going, the Tribunal may have completed its investigation before those Questions are answered?

Mr. Macleod

My right hon. Friend will take note of what has been said, but it would not be appropriate for me, when dealing with next week's business, to reply to that.

Mr. Hirst

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his reply to the question of the Leader of the Opposition about a debate on the Anglo-Japanese Commercial Treaty is less definite than what he said last week, and that this matter is causing concern? Is he not aware that there is great concern that there was not a debate before signature and that the industry is greatly alarmed at the way it is being put off week by week? Is he not aware that, if confidence is to remain, a debate must take place much earlier than he suggests?

Mr. Macleod

If my hon. Friend wi11 study HANSARD, he will see that the commitment which I have given this week is firmer than that which I gave last week. Last week I said that I was sympathetic towards the request and hoped to find time, but today I have given an absolutely firm indication that we will find time before Christmas. I will take note of what my hon. Friend says about the urgency of this matter.

Mr. Rhodes

What is the significance of the time of 21 days for which the Treaty has to lie on the Table? Why is the right hon. Gentleman delaying the debate until after that period of 21 days?

Mr. Macleod

The debate is not affected by that. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a convention that treaties of this sort should lie on the Table for 21 days. In certain extremely rare circumstances, it may be possible, if objection is taken, to debate them. However, the key date is not that, but the date of ratification, which is some months away.

Mr. Short

Will the Leader of the House tell us the result of his discussion, which he mentioned last week, with the Minister of Transport about the possibility of a debate on a Motion calling for a suspension of the closing of railway workshops in the North-East so long as there is unemployment in that area?

[That this House regrets the British Transport Commission's decision to close down railway workshops and branch lines in the Northern Region of England, and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to issue a general direction to the British Transport Commission to withdraw this decision until the Government have carried out a comprehensive survey of the economic, social and industrial consequences of such action in the region.]

Mr. Macleod

I drew my right hon. Friend's attention to it. These matters would be in order on the business which I have announced for next Thursday, and I suspect that that is why the Opposition have chosen this subject.

Mr. E. Johnson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in spite of his suggestion that Service pensions might be discussed tomorrow, the debate tomorrow will provide inadequate time for a very important subject on which many hon. Members feel strongly? Could we not at least have a full half-day, if not a full day, to discuss this very important matter?

Mr. Macleod

I will make two points on that, both of which, in a different context, I have made before. There have been discussions on Christmas Adjournments, and so on, but there has not been a separate discussion of this aspect when there have been previous pension increases. Secondly, I have said that we should see what opportunities tomorrow provides, and then study the position.

Mr. Jay

Is it quite clear that if the House does not debate the Japanese Treaty within 21 days of the laying of the Treaty, it is possible, if the House wishes, to take a vote on it when it is debated?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. I understand that that is the position.

Mr. F. Harris

Is it intended to have a debate soon on Kenya? Are we to have an explanation of the dismissal of the Governor of Kenya?

Mr. Macleod

My right hon. Friend will study that, but it does not arise out of next week's business.

Mr. Reynolds

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that even two days on the London Government Bill will permit only about 24 Members to speak, although there are 100 Members whose constituencies are directly affected and at least 50 others whose constituencies are indirectly affected? Is he further aware that as matters stand the maximum size of a Standing Committee is 50 Members—presuming that the Bill is sent to a Standing Committee—whereas similar legislation for Scotland or Wales would be sent to a Committee consisting of all the Members from Scotland or from the Principality? Has he seen the Motion I have put down to amend Standing Orders so as to provide for the setting-up of a Greater London Standing Committee, at least to discuss this Bill? Could we have time to discuss such a Motion?

[That this House believes that Standing Order No. 58 (Nomination of Standing Committees) should be amended so that, for the consideration of all Public Bills relating exclusively to the counties of London, Middlesex, Essex, Hertford, Surrey and Kent, the Committee shall be so constituted as to comprise all Members sitting for constituencies in those counties.]

Mr. Macleod

I have studied the Motion. I do not think that it is practical, but in due course no doubt the hon. Gentleman will be able to develop his argument on Second Reading of the Bill.

Mr. Box

Can my right hon. Friend say when he will have an opportunity of discussing the Bill to deal with the protection of investors, which was sponsored by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade?

Mr. Macleod

I hope that we will be able to find time for the Second Reading of that Bill before Christmas.

Mr. Mayhew

May I ask the Leader of the House when we will have a debate on the Royal Commission on the Press, so that we know what is the Government's attitude to it? Will the Leader of the House also say when we can expect the White Paper on the future of television? What is holding it up?

Mr. Macleod

The Report of the Royal Commission on the Press was published on 19th September, and I have no information to give to the House beyond that.

I hope that we shall be able to publish the White Paper and the Bill before the Christmas Recess—in about a fortnight, perhaps.

Mr. Hirst

Arising out of the answer given by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes), does not my right hon. Friend realise that a great deal of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty is a matter of dispute, to use his own phrase, on both sides of the House? In those circumstances would not he both respect and honour the traditions of the House?

Mr. Macleod

I am not quite clear what my hon. Friend means. It is extremely rare to have a debate within the 21 days which have been referred to, and I have given a firm undertaking that the House will have an opportunity of discussing this matter before we rise for Christmas.

Mr. Hirst

In view of the misunderstanding, perhaps I might assist my right hon. Friend. He said that where there was a dispute in relation to a treaty it was a tradition of the House to lay it on the Table for 21 days so that a debate could take place to inform the Government. This is a matter of very large dispute, and the Government ought to be informed.

Mr. Macleod

Without continuing that point, I think that if my hon. Friend reads in HANSARD what I said, he will see that that is not what I said.

Mrs. Castle

Will the Leader of the House bear in mind the desire, at any rate of hon. Members on this side of the House, for an early debate on the proposals for improving the accommodation of the House? Can he say when that debate will be held?

Mr. Macleod

No, I cannot give any indication. I think that there was a request yesterday that the House would like to discuss this at some time, and I responded to that, but there are a considerable number of subjects to he discussed and I do not think that we can give this particular one very high priority.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that a week ago, on business questions, I asked him about the Government's failure to make a statement on the breakdown of the British Guiana Constitutional Conference, and he then promised to raise this matter with the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations? Is he aware that no such statement has been made? Will he now give an assurance that a statement will definitely be made during the coming week?

Mr. Macleod

I carried out my undertaking and discussed this matter with my right hon. Friend. The position is that the White Paper has been laid, the parties concerned have adjourned for private discussion, and it is not the view of my right hon. Friend that a statement from him at this stage would be helpful.

Mr. C. Pannell

Following the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), that he is not prepared to give high priority to discuss accommodation, is he aware that the Minister of Public Building and Works has already given one answer at variance with that? Ought not the House to have some control over the Ministry of Public Building and Works? This is a job for the Legislature, in which the Executive should be told what we want. Is it not rather impertinent when Government business completely crowds out the work of the Legislature?

Mr. Macleod

The hon. Gentleman has been listening during the last 20 minutes or so to at least a dozen or more suggestions on what we ought to find time to discuss. All those are regarded by those who put them forward, and quite rightly, as of the highest importance. The hon. Gentleman knows that this particular proposal is scarcely as urgent as some of those which have been put to me today.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Can the Minister find time to discuss the Motion in my name and the names of others, relating to the procedure of the House of Commons which enables a Private Member's Bill to be defeated by another private Member simply saying, "I object", without having read the Bill?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is of particular importance in view of the number of private Members, of whom I am not one, who are bringing forward Private Members' Bills at the moment? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that I shall bring in a Private Member's Bill later?

[That this House takes note of the power which at present enables one honourable Member to frustrate or postpone or defeat another Private Member's Bill by simply indicating on Second Reading his objection without giving reasons and without having read the Bill, and would welcome the reference of this matter to a Select Committee on Procedure for their consideration.]

Mr. Macleod

I have a collection of about ten different matters which, in one way or another, it has been suggested might be referred to the Select Committee on Procedure. This is one, and in due course I would ask the Committee, after it has disposed of a matter presently before it, to consider the order of its priorities.

Sir P. Agnew

With further reference to the accommodation scheme, will my right hon. Friend say to which Minister further Questions about its details should be put?

Mr. Macleod

I think that in most cases they should be put down to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works.

Mr. Marsh

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are a number of hon. Members who would like, as a matter of urgency, to debate the implications of the case in the High Court yesterday before Mr. Justice Scarman, when a Member of another place successfully pleaded privilege arising out of a thirteenth century peerage? Does not the right hon. Gentleman believe that it is a matter of extreme importance that we should remedy a situation which apparently means that there is one law for a small group of Conservative peers and another for the rest of the population?

Mr. Macleod

In any case, not next week.