HC Deb 09 April 1963 vol 675 cc1105-9

4.0 p.m.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)

I beg to move, That this House, at its rising on Thursday, do adjourn till Tuesday, 23rd April. May I briefly make a few points on the Motion for the Adjournment for the Easter Recess? The period of 11 days is almost invariable. There are one or two points of information which I would like to give the House, First, as the House knows, under Standing Order No. 112 we can return at short notice, if that is appropriate.

Secondly, I would propose to make a Business statement tomorrow covering the business for the week after the Recess. I expect that that statement will include notice of a two-day debate on the Beeching Report to be held early in the following week—that is, about a week after the date that we return.

Thirdly, on Central Africa, and particularly Southern Rhodesia, my right hon. Friend the First Secretary will make a statement to the House before we rise on the state of the discussions. He may be in a position to lay Papers before the House.

Lastly, the Radcliffe Report has now been received and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would shortly wish to consult the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition about it. We aim to publish it before Parliament resumes, either in full, if that is possible, or, if some sentences have to be deleted, in the fullest form consistent with security. If that has to happen, the full version would be shown to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and those who accompany him in these discussions. We will on this matter, which I know that the House is so anxious to debate, discuss through the usual channels arrangements for an early debate, in accordance with the undertaking that I have previously given to the House.

4.3 p.m.

Mr. George Jeger (Goole)

I do not intend to obstruct the Motion in any way, but since the Leader of the House has not let it go through on the nod, which it was about to do, I think that he should give the House a little more information. He has chosen to give the House a Business statement rather than an explanation of why we should adjourn until Tuesday, 23rd April.

May I refer the Leader of the House to the Daily Telegraph of the 6th of this month, in which the noble Lord, Lord Hailsham, the Leader of another place, is reported as saying: Parliament is not passing the laws which it ought to pass. I would like to hear from the Leader of the House what these laws are which we should be passing and which we could be passing in the period between now and 23rd April, to which it is suggested we should adjourn.

The noble Lord is further reported as saying: No doubt part of this is due to Opposition obstruction … I would like to know which of these laws which are so desirable in the eyes of the noble Lord are being obstructed by the Opposition. Is there not a Government majority of 106? It is true that it is dwindling. It is also true that the Tory Government have lost the confidence of the country. However, if there are any laws they wish to pass, they have temporarily a majority in the House which would enable them to pass them.

Could we not have some further information about the obstruction in which the Opposition are alleged to be participating? Could we be told whether this is an implicit rebuke to you, Mr. Speaker, or to the various Chairmen of the Committees which are considering these laws which the Government desire to pass? If the Leader of the House would tell us which Bills are being obstructed and which Bills the Government are anxious to pass, I am sure that we on this side would withdraw our obstruction. We would facilitate the passing of those Bills, if they were for the general good of the country.

For example, if there wore a Motion to send the noble Lord, Lord Hailsham, complete with cap and bells, to Yorkshire, in the same way as he went up the North-East, to produce some schemes to alleviate unemployment in Yorkshire, we would facilitate his visit to Yorkshire and give him a very good reception.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Such travels by the noble Lord would, as far as I can see, be unaffected by the date on which the House resumes.

Mr. Jeger

I was seeking to show, Mr. Speaker, that the noble Lord came back from his trip to the North-East convinced that there were laws which ought to be passed which are not being passed. It would facilitate the arrangement of the business of this House if the Leader of the House were to ask the noble Lord to go to Yorkshire in order to bring back another list of Bills which this Government are neglecting to put before us and which ought to be passed for the benefit of the country. I should be very much obliged if the Leader of the House would elucidate those points.

4.5 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

May I ask just one question of my right hon. Friend? Did I understand him aright to say that the statement on the Southern Rhodesian application for independence would be made just before Easter? If that is so, is it to be made literally at the last moment possible, and, therefore, on Thursday? If this is so, would it be wise to adjourn until Tuesday, 23rd April? Ought we not to have a debate more or less straight away on this very important matter?

4.6 p.m.

Mr. Iain Macleod

I will reply to those two points. First, the reason I did not try to secure the Motion on the nod was that there were one or two matters, such as the receipt of the Radcliffe Report and the procedure we intend to follow, which are of great interest to the House and the country, and I thought it appropriate, both on that matter and on Southern Rhodesia, to give the latest situation to the House.

In reply to the hon. Member for Goole (Mr. Jeger), who made some pleasant remarks about a noble Friend of mine in another place, whatever my noble Friend may have been referring to—I am bound to say that I am not absolutely clear on this matter—I do not think that we would make great progress with legislation by cutting down the minimum Recess, which is all that I am proposing to the House today.

In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), I did not say that the statement on Southern Rhodesia would be made on Thursday. It might be made tomorrow, if we can get clearance between ourselves and Southern Rhodesia as to publication of the documents in time. It simply depends on that. In either case, I undertake that a statement will be made to the House.

Sir Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)

May I put one question to my right hon. Friend arising out of his statement? My right hon. Friend said that the Prime Minister would discuss the Radcliffe Report with the Leader of the Opposition and other hon. Friends of the Leader of the Opposition whom he might wish to accompany him. Will my right hon. Friend explain to whom that would refer? If it is to be available to Members other than the Leader of the Opposition, why should it not be totally available to the whole House?

Mr. Iain Macleod

It may well be so. We have had the Report only for a few hours. It may well be that we can publish it in full without a sentence or a comma altered. Clearly, we cannot tell that, because matters of high security are involved, as the House will obviously understand, before we have studied it a little. What I have said is that we will either publish it in full or with only such sentences deleted as are necessary on the grounds of the highest security of the State.

In either case, in accordance with undertakings that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has given to the House and to the Leader of the Opposition, he would wish to have consultations with the Leader of the Opposition and such of his right hon. Friends as he might wish to bring with him on this matter. Quite apart from that, at the earliest possible date, which I would hope would be—I would not like to be tied to a precise date—about a fortnight after the time that we return, I would hope to provide an opportunity for the House to debate this matter.

Sir B. Craddock

Do I understand that, should it be necessary to delete certain passages then only Privy Councillors, would also see the full Report?

Mr. Macleod

I understand so, but it does not follow. We hope and would like to be able to publish it in full, but we must, of course, consider the security of the country first. Art appropriate statement would be made to the House if it should be necessary to delete some passages before whatever was laid before the country and the House.

Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby)

Presumably, if the statement which my right hon. Friend the First Secretary proposes to make on Southern Rhodesia is made tomorrow, or on Thursday, there will not be adequate time in which to debate the matter. Am I to understand that the statement will be so non-committal that it will require no debate or, alternatively, that when we return a substantive Motion will be put down which we will be able to debate?

Mr. Speaker

We are in a muddle about this. It is not a statement that is being made by the Leader of the House. He made a speech. The right form in which to ask him a question is to say, "Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down". He has, in fact, sat down repeatedly. It is his original speech on which hon. Members are asking questions and the more questions he is asked the more he may wish to group his replies into one speech.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

I would like to raise one point on the Vassall Report, on which I am not quite clear. If the Report cannot be published in full—and if it is the intention of my right hon. Friend, as I understand it is, to show it to the Leader of the Opposition, in accordance with tradition—will my right hon. Friend make it perfectly plain that those accompanying the Leader of the Opposition will be Privy Councillors and that there will be no extension of that? Will my right hon. Friend see that the Report will not be shown, if it cannot be shown to all hon. Members, to Members other than the Leader of the Opposition and Privy Councillors?

Mr. Macleod

I think that that is the accepted doctrine.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, at its rising on Thursday, do adjourn till Tuesday, 23rd April.