HC Deb 07 February 1963 vol 671 cc671-6
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, 11TH FEBRUARY—Debate on the Situation Arising from the Breakdown of the Brussels Negotiations.

TUESDAY, 12TH FEBRUARY—The remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill which will, if the House agrees, be taken formally to allow Monday's debate to be continued.

WEDNESDAY, 13TH FEBRUARY—London Government Bill (Clause 1 and Schedule 1): Committee (1st Allotted Day).

THURSDAY, 14TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Contracts of Employment Bill.

FRIDAY, 15TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 18TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be: Motion on the National Assistance (Determination of Need) Amendment Regulations, until seven o'clock, when Private Members' Motions will be considered.

Afterwards, the Motion on the Prison Commissioners Dissolution Order.

Mr. G. Brown

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he has noticed the Motion on the Order Paper, standing in my name and the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends? If so, are we to take it that the debate on Monday and Tuesday will arise on this Motion?

[That this House has no confidence in the ability of Her Majesty's Government to formulate or to carry through a programme which would bring about the necessary changes in our policies for international trade and for economic and political co-operation; and does not believe that it has the capacity to arouse of Great Britain the sense of urgency and national purpose so necessary to meet the situation created by the breakdown in the negotiations in Brussels.]

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I have, of course, noticed that rather remarkable Motion which has been tabled, to which the Government will today be tabling an Amendment.

Sir W. Teeling

Can my right hon. Friend remember when we last had a debate on Malta? In view of the statement made yesterday that we are about to hear in the next two or three days a statement from the Secretary of State for the Colonies and that a day or two after that my right hon. Friend himself is to go to Kenya, does he not think that it is high time that the people and Government of Malta got some kind of clue as to what the House feels both about the present conditions in Malta and since the Colonial Secretary is presumably about to do to bulldoze the Maltese Government into doing something which many of us think would be wrong?

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is difficult to construe this into just a question about business.

Mr. Macleod

Perhaps I may reply at least to part of the question, Mr. Speaker. Some time next week my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies will be making a statement about one matter in relation to Malta which is very much in the mind of the House.

Mr. G. Thomas

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is a long time since he gave us the opportunity to discuss leasehold? Is he aware that this is still a very burning problem in South Wales? Has the passage of time softened him in any way? Does he think that we could discuss it next week on in the foreseeable future?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. Frankly, I cannot see an opportunity for some time, apart from the opportunities afforded by private Members' time or Supply days, since we are, as the House knows, now moving into the period of Supply and of defence debates, and so on. This, naturally, restricts very much the amount of Government time available.

Mr. W. Yates

Can my right hon. Friend say what official documents will be available for the debate on Monday? Is he aware that senior people in the French Government give totally different reasons for the failure of the Brussels talks? In order that we may have a real debate and not merely take part in a game of charades, could we have the documents which would show us what did and did not occur?

Mr. Macleod

I do not think that the position is in any doubt. In any case, we have had a series of reports on the negotiations by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. We do not contemplate a further White Paper before Monday.

Mr. Greenwood

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it will be possible to discuss the Report of the Royal Commission on the Police? If we are not to have such an opportunity in the immediate future, will he consider issuing a White Paper setting out the Government's attitude towards the Report?

Mr. Macleod

I hope to arrange for a debate some time, but I cannot define "some time" any more precisely. But it will be possible to debate the Report. I will discuss with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary the point the hon. Gentleman raised in the second part of his Question.

Sir C. Osborne

Would it be possible to extend the time for the debate on the Common Market on Monday, since the issues to be discussed will affect this country more greatly than anything else for 100 years and many hon. Members will want to take part?

Mr. Macleod

We have had many debates on this subject and I would have thought that the general sense of the House was that two days is long enough.

Mr. Bowles

The right hon. Gentleman is always having to refuse time for debates on subjects about which hon. Members feel strongly. He is adept at introducing Guillotine Motions. Will he consider introducing one for the Finance Bill this year?

Mr. Macleod

It is an idea. [Laughter.] But I do think—if I may reply seriously —that at some time the House will have to address itself to this matter. The only way in which the House could find a considerable block of time for debating many matters, such as education, the Albemarle Report and leasehold reform, would be if it agreed that the great majority of the proceedings on the Finance Bill in Committee should go upstairs.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

Can my right hon. Friend say when the House will be asked to give a Second Reading to the Television Bill?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. It is not in the immediate programme.

Mr. M. Foot

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how strongly he has been pressed by the First Secretary of State for an immediate debate on the dramatic report of his visit to Central Africa?

Mr. Macleod

My right hon. Friend and I have not had any lengthy discussion on that point.

Mr. N. Pannell

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the fact that since 8th November, and including today, 172 Questions have been put down for Oral Answer by the Home Secretary, but that only 75 have been reached? Is he aware that Questions to this Department are rarely reached at Question Time unless they are at the top of the list and that there is unlikely to be another opportunity to put Oral Questions to the Home Secretary until 4th April? Does he realise that I have been prevented, because my Questions have not been reached, from putting devastating supplementary questions? Will he consider the reallocation of Question Time in order to give the Home Office a better share of it?

Mr. Macleod

We review the rota for Questions several times a year, and always before any break. We will be looking at it again in the usual way before Easter.

Mr. Woodburn

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Finance Bill. Is he seriously considering the suggestion that he put forward, or some other method of avoiding late sittings and other problems which arise on the Bill?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. The position is that the House has appointed a Select Committee on Procedure, of which I am Chairman. We are at the moment considering the very complicated matter of the sub judice rule. When we have completed our discussions on that, I intend to invite the Committee to consider a number of matters—a programme for future work, as it were; and I would include this matter amongst them. It is interesting to see the support which my suggestion seems to have had from both sides of the House as at least a possibility.

Mr. Webster

When will we have a statement from the Minister of Transport on the Rochdale Report and a debate on it?

Mr. Macleod

The question of a debate will have to await the statement. I hope that will be made within two or three weeks.

Mr. C. Pannell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not necessary for him to refer to the new Select Committee on Procedure the question of the Finance Bill and other matters? Does not he recall that his predecessor set up a Select Committee in 1958–59, the majority of whose recommendations for the more intelligent disposal of the time of the House were ignored by the Government of the day? What is the point of asking another busy group of hon. Members to consider these matters when we already have the recommendations made by the Select Committee which sat in 1958–59?

Mr. Macleod

I am well aware of the Report of the previous Select Committee on Procedure. Its arguments have been well aired. I do not suggest that there should be any lengthy re-examination of this question—that would not be necessary—but that it would be right for the Select Committee to consider it and submit a report.

Mr. Doughty

Will my right hon. Friend look into the question of early legislation to ratify the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf, in view of the fact that such legislation would appear to be non-controversial and of great importance to the gas supply of this country?

Mr. Macleod

We have looked at that possibility, but I could not cover it in today's statement on business.

Mr. Mayhew

When can we have a statement and debate on the Report of the Royal Commission on the Press?

Mr. Macleod

Not in the business I have announced.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the poor, unfortunate Criminal Law (Scotland) Bill has suffered a great deal of victimisation by being pushed off from day to day and week to week? When will he find time to go ahead with it? Is he waiting to find a seat for the Lord Advocate?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I am not waiting for that. I had hoped to include the Bill in today's statement, but we decided to take the National Assistance Regulations and I am sure that the House would agree with that priority. I take the point put by the hon. and learned Gentleman, however, I would like to bring the Bill before the House at an early date.

Mr. Goodhart

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the large number of hon. Members who will wish to take part in the debate on the Common Market, will you consider accepting the recommendation of the last Select Committee on Procedure that an hour in the evening should be set aside for very short speeches during very important debates?

Mr. Speaker

I will, of course, do anything practicable which the House asks me to do. But the hon. Gentleman, and the House, will remember that that particular proposal had a rather divided reception. I would wish to be satisfied, first, that the House wanted it, and. secondly, I would have to have some power and a little direction whereby I was to do it. Perhaps the Leader of the House could help in this.

Mr. Macleod

If I might return to what I was saying, that can be studied by the Select Committee on Procedure which, I think, would be the right body to tender advice to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House.

Mr. Woodburn

Would it surprise the right hon. Gentleman to know that in Scottish debates hon. Members have for many years practised self-restraint and have voluntarily limited themselves to as near 15 minutes as possible?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, it would surprise me very much.

Mr. Speaker

May I say that that would appear to be an illustration of the difficulties attached to launching into this without guidance. Not only is there clearly a difference of view about self-restraint, but I find a difference of view about what is a short speech.

Mr. W. Yates

Would the Leader of the House consult the Leader of the Opposition, through the usual channels, to inquire whether we could not try the experiment once, during the debate next week, to see whether or not it worked?

Mr. Speaker

I have indicated that it will not work on Monday.