HC Deb 14 February 1963 vol 671 cc1495-502
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, 18TH FEBRUARY—National Assistance (Determination of Need) Amendment Regulations, until seven o'clock, when private Members' Motions will be considered.

Afterwards, the Motion on Parliamentary Elections.

TUESDAY, 19TH FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

The Pig Industry Development Authority (Functions), and Levy Scheme (Approval) Orders and the Meat Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 20TH FEBRUARY—London Government Bill (Clause 1 and Schedule I): Committee [2nd Allotted Day].

THURSDAY, 21ST FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill [Lords], and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

Afterwards, the Prison Commissioners Dissolution Order.

FRIDAY, 22ND FEBRuARY—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 25TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be:

Second Reading of the Television Bill.

Motion on the Motor Vehicles (Tests) (Extension) Order, 1963.

Mr. G. Brown

In view of the passage of time, can the Minister yet tell us when the Defence White Paper is likely to be published?

Mr. Macleod

I am not certain of the exact day, but it will be in the middle of next week, probably Wednesday.

Sir T. Moore

On Thursday's business, is my right hon. Friend aware that there is much division of opinion about the abolition of the much-respected Prison Commission? Could he not give us more time, and a better time, than our Scottish colleagues are likely to leave us?

Mr. Macleod

It is always possible that we will get on to the Order earlier. In any event, it is exempted business.

Mr. V. Yates

In view of the fact that the previous Home Secretary gave an assurance to the House during the Committee stage of the Bill that we should be given adequate time to discuss the Order concerning the Prison Commission, is it fair to put it on as an Order which is most likely not to come on before Ten o'clock on Thursday night? I ask the Minister to reconsider the matter, as there is widespread opinion on both sides and much concern about this change, which should be adequately discussed before it is finally agreed.

Mr. Macleod

I know of the feelings about this matter. It is partly for that reason that the Order has been put down for a day when there is, at least, a possibility—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] lea us leave it at that—at least a possibility that it will be reached earlier. The Order was included in my business announcement for last week and had it been taken, it would certainly have come on after Ten o'clock. I hope that we will reach it at a reasonable hour.

Mr. W. Yates

Has my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House been informed by the Foreign Secretary that one of Her Majesty's legations is to be forcibly closed next week? Will he consider giving time for a debate before a foreign legation of this country is closed? Will be also bear in mind that an hon. Member opposite and myself saw the Foreign Secretary last night and we came away with the impression that he was not telling us the truth—

Hon, Members


Mr. Speaker

That would be out of order at any time, but on a business question even more so.

Hon. Members


Mr. W. Yates

I realised when I made that statement that it was not in accord with Parliamentary custom and therefore, I must withdraw it. Last night, however, when we were present, the hon. Member opposite and I had the impression that there was equivocation. We could not get a proper answer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Very well, I will describe it as a terminological inexactitude. Will the Leader of the House consider having a debate when one of Her Majesty's legations is to be closed without the House even being asked to discuss it?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. Whatever euphemisms my hon. Friend chooses to use, what he has said in the House about my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary is a disgraceful statement which he should not have made.

Mr. G. Thomas

In view of the demonstration held here yesterday, when 800 railwaymen and miners from South Wales came to protest about the insecurity of their life due to the railway and pit closures, may I ask when we are likely to have a debate on economic life in Wales?

Mr. Macleod

I cannot see an immediate opportunity for that, unless, of course, it comes on a Supply day.

Sir W. Teeling

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that we all still want a debate, if possible, on Malta, preferably before the Commonwealth Relations and Colonial Secretary comes back in four weeks' time?

Mr. Macleod

I am not clear why my hon. Friend wants the debate before my right hon. Friend returns. I should have thought that the first thing hon. Members would wish to do would be to study the papers which are now in the Vote Office. If it is appropriate, we could then have discussions through the usual channels.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Reverting to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), may I ask the Leader of the House whether the Minister of Transport is shortly to make a statement about the future of rural transport? Will the Minister bear in mind how essential it is for an early statement to be made and for us to have a debate in view of the fact that there are rumours which, in places like South Wales, have an adverse effect upon industrial development?

Mr. Macleod

There is certainly no immediate likelihood of that. It is known that the Government are to receive a report in some weeks' time and, naturally, a statement will be made by the Minister of Transport, but this is in no sense immediate.

Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

In view of the really shocking statement to which we have just had to listen from the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and Secretary of State for the Colonies, may I reinforce the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling), that we should have a debate on Malta as soon as the right hon. Gentleman returns?

Mr. Driberg

Does the Leader of the House seriously suggest that the important Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill will finish before ten o'clock on Thursday, and that ten o'clock on a Thursday night, after a Scottish day, is a very convenient time for the majority of Members? Is he aware that there are strong feelings about the Prison Commissioners Dissolution Order, on both sides of the House—both in support of and against it—and that it ought to be debated at a reasonable time, perhaps not next week but the week after?

Mr. Macleod

I am very conscious of feelings in this matter and quite ready to respond to them. I think that we had better leave it, as it were, on the Order Paper and see on Thursday how we get on.

Mr. J. Wells

Further to the point about the Prison Commissioners Order, we have not had a proper debate on prisons since 26th July, 1960, when the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) raised the matter after midnight on the Consolidated Fund Bill, and my hon, Friend the Member for Solihull (Sir M, Lindsay) intervened. It is time there was a general debate on the present prison situation. Would my right hon. Friend undertake to discuss the timing of this, in addition to through the usual channels, with hon. Members on both sides of the House who have prisons in their constituencies and are interested in this subject?

Mr. Macleod

I am always ready to receive representations and discuss the business of the House with those hon. Members who are not covered by the phrase "the usual channels". I have taken the point that is made for next Thursday. We will see how the business goes.

Mr. A. Lewis

Reverting to the questions which have been put concerning the closing of railway workshops in Wales, which also affect London, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the London Members, as always very generous, are anxious that there should be a debate on this and would quite willingly offer to him next Wednesday, because none of us wants the London Government Bill? That would give adequate time to discuss this matter. As no one wants that Bill, would he consider giving the time to my right hon. and hon. Friends?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. But there would be an alternative method of procedure. There are, of course, several Supply days coming along, and as soon as the Opposition have decided who their Leader is to be they could press these claims on him.

Mr. Farey-Jones

May I ask the Leader of the House whether, in view of the importance of this subject to the future prosperity of these islands, he would set aside a day in the immediate future in which the House could debate the provision of a wholly-owned British satellite telecommunications system, coordinated within the Commonwealth? In view of an occurrence only a few hours ago, would he give it his favourable consideration as neither time nor space is on our side?

Mr. Macleod

I will, of course, give it consideration. But I cannot promise that it will be favourable.

Mr. Ross

The Scottish business for next Thursday has been twice postponed and it would be fair to make the House aware of the fact that the last time it was postponed was because a full day for debate was not available. In view of the importance and interest aroused by this Bill on both sides of the House, has the right hon. Gentleman given consideration to suspending the Standing Order for an hour next Thursday night?

Mr. D. Smith

In view of the two well-supported Motions on the Order Paper in connection with the distribution of the rate burden, would my right hon. Friend consider giving time for just a small debate on this very pressing problem, in view of the great anxieties of many ratepayers at present?

[That this House, approving the Government's policy of expanding the social, public and educational services, in which programme the local authorities have an important rôle, but having regard to the fact that the share of the financial burden falling upon all categories of ratepayers is absorbing an ever increasing proportion of the national wealth, urges Her Majesty's Government to assume additional financial responsibility for certain local authority services which are now more national than local in character; and, whilst reaffirming its confidence in the rating system, urges Her Majesty's Government to set up a central Advisory Rating Committee through which the technical aspects of this system would be kept constantly under review.]

[That this House, conscious of the necessary changes under the rating revaluation of premises due to come into force in April, 1963, believes that the time has now arrived for the rate burden to be spread more fairly amongst all citizens, for the financing of education to be transferred, by stages, to the national Exchequer, whilst retaining local control, and for a full inquiry into possible new methods of raising revenue for local government services.]

Mr. Macleod

I have studied those Motions, but cannot see any immediate prospect.

Mr. Boyden

In view of the threat made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), together with the promises made by the Under-Secretary of State during the Committee stage of the Criminal Justice Bill for England and Wales, is it not a very poor outlook for future discussions on prisons if the main body which is concerned with prisons is to be dealt with in such an arbitrary fashion?

Mr. Macleod

The House can take it that I am entirely sympathetic to this point of view. Of course I will take this into account. I would not wish this business to come on at an unreasonable time.

Mr. Warbey

Would the right hon. Gentleman give time in the near future for a debate on the decline in employment opportunities in the Midlands, taking into account the effect of technological changes and also the decline of certain industries, such as the hosiery industry, on which the prosperity of the Midlands has hitherto depended?

Mr. Macleod

I think that that would be appropriate for a Supply day, but I cannot give Government time for it.

Mr. Monslow

Having regard to the general economic decline, would not the Government consider giving a day of their own time to debate this important problem?

Mr. Macleod

I am not sure whether the hon. Member refers to the point which was immediately raised. I should have thought a considerable number of days are taken from those in which the Government have the initiative in deciding business, and that it is also appropriate that a number should come from the allocation of time for which the Opposition have the initiative.

Mr. Driberg

While we are grateful for the concession which the right hon. Gentleman has hinted at, could he say—since it is evident that Scottish business is going to run till ten o'clock on Thursday night—that he will make another announcement about this Order on Monday or Tuesday?

Mr. Macleod

If I decided to remove this from the Order Paper I would make another short announcement.

Mr. Hector Hughes

May I refer to the unanswered question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) about the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill—a very important Bill which has been buffeted about from day to day and from week to week? Will the Leader of the House give time for the completion of that Bill next Thursday instead of cutting it off at ten o'clock?

Mr. Macleod

This Bill comes up on Thursday. I could, of course, consider whether it would meet the convenience of Scottish Members if we suspended the Standing Order until, say, midnight of that night.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Is my hon. Friend aware of the fact that the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) was in some danger of being sold for £63,000 last week? Therefore, could we possibly find time for a debate on livestock exports, which are so important to this country?

Mr. Macleod

No, I cannot see any particular time for that, but I should have thought that in the varied business I have announced for Tuesday a little ingenuity could have made the point there.

Mr. Scholefield Allen

Would it not assist the Leader of the House if he withdrew altogether the order for the assassination of the Prison Commissioners?

Mr. Speaker

That is too murderous for business questions!