HC Deb 28 January 1963 vol 670 cc586-93
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)

I have two announcements to make on this week's business.

The Government cannot be satisfied with last week's progress on the Committee stage of Clause 1 and Schedule 1 of the London Government Bill—[HON. MEMBERS:"Oh!"]—and I must, therefore, ask the House to consider a Timetable Motion for the Bill. This will be tabled today and will be taken tomorrow, Tuesday, 29th January.

Two further days will be allotted to Clause 1 and Schedule 1 on the Floor of the House and, of course, if the House is prepared to dispose of the Timetable Motion at a reasonably early hour tomorrow further progress on the Schedule will also be possible.

On Defence, I told the House last week that I would take into account representations made that two days should be allotted to this debate. I think that this would be for the general convenience of the House.

The business for the rest of the week will now be:

TUESDAY, 29TH JANUARY—London Government Bill.

Guillotine Motion, and London Government Bill (Clause 1 and Schedule 1): Committee.

WEDNESDAY, 30TH JANUARY, and THURSDAY, 31ST JANUARY—Debate on Defence, which will arise on a Government Motion.

At the end, on Thursday, consideration of the Motion on the Import Duties (General) (No. 14) Order.

FRIDAY, 1ST FEBRUARY—Consideration of Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 4TH FEBRUARY—Supply [5th Allotted Day]: Committee stage of the Supplementary Estimates presented on 17th December, 1962, which it is proposed to take formally.

Debate on Unemployment and the Government's Economic Policy, which will take place on an Opposition Motion.

Mr. G. Brown

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House are very glad that he has bowed to the general desire that there should be a longer time to debate the Nassau agreement and defence, so that the House can examine the fearful chaos in which the Government's defence policy is now?

As to the right hon. Gentleman's first announcement about the timetable Motion, does he not, on reflection, regard this as a specially disgraceful use of the guillotine procedure? Is he aware that the London Government Bill is a Bill which practically nobody in the areas affected, whatever his political alignments, regards at all as satisfactory? Is he aware, for example, that last week his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) said: I sincerely hope that we shall consider it fully and not be unduly hurried in our discussions…"?—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd January, 1963; Vol. 670, c. 221.] Does the right hon. Gentleman therefore really think that the way to deal with such a Bill, which is essentially a gerrymandering Bill, should be to force it through the House by the votes of hon. Members on his own side who happen not to be affected by it and, therefore, are willing to vote against even their own hon. Friends who are supporting us on this Measure?

Mr. Macleod

I am glad at least that we are agreed that a two-day defence debate will be appropriate and I hope that that will meet the wish of the House. On the question of the timetable Motion, the right hon. Gentleman, of course, is firing a sighting shot for tomorrow's debate and I will reply in detail to these matters then. If the right hon. Gentleman consults, for example, the key majorities, which are those on the two-day discussion we had and then on the two-day debate on Second Reading of the London Government Bill, he will see the support that there is for this Measure on this side of the House.

Sir G. Nicholson

My right hon. Friend said that it is proposed to take the supplementary Estimates formally next Monday. I give him fair warning that he is speaking only for the two Front Benches and that those of us who take a keen interest in the duty of the House to control expenditure do not regard ourselves as in any way bound not to intervene at that stage.

Mr. Macleod

That, of course, is understood. I made that clear on Thursday when I announced this business. It is sometimes convenient to the House to take Supply in this way formally and then have a major subject for debate. But this in no way inhibits the rights of hon. Members and could not inhibit them.

Mr. G. Brown

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear, as he did last Thursday to his hon. Friends and others, that taking this matter formally next Monday to enable us to have that urgent debate that day does not mean that we lose the opportunity of debating these Supplementary Estimates, which, I understand, can be taken later on other days which will be available?

Mr. Macleod

Certainly, Sir. There is an opportunity on Report and on the special Consolidated Fund Bill for these Estimates.

Sir G. Nicholson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Consolidated Fund Bill is no substitute for a proper consideration of Supplementary Estimates? There are peculiar features attached to these Estimates and, although it would be nobody's wish to delay the vitally important debate that will ensue, at the same time it would be a sorry precedent if the House parted with Supplementary Estimates in a formal manner.

Mr. Macleod

I think that I have made the position clear. These arrangements are often made and they cannot and do not in any way inhibit the rights of hon. Members.

Mr. M. Stewart

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions? First, what justification have the Government for saying that they are not satisfied with the progress so far on the London Government Bill? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during the two days we have already had, we have had serious debates on important Amendments and that it was not reasonable to expect us to get very much further than we have done if all the points of view from both sides of the House were to be properly expressed?

Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman really defend a process whereby the House will be asked to debate tomorrow a guillotine Motion the text of which, unless the right hon. Gentleman takes some special measures, will not be available to the House until hon. Members see tomorrow's Order Paper? Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared either to arrange immediately for copies, even if only duplicated copies, to be available to hon. Members, or to tell the House now what is in the Motion which we are being asked to debate tomorrow?

Mr. Macleod

It is normal, and, of course, the hon. Member knows that that is being done, that copies are at once distributed through the usual channels.

As for precedents, the last time that a Motion of this sort was brought in, the appearance of the Motion on the Order Paper—and I am talking about the 1949 Iron and Steel Bill—preceded the announcement in the House. I will consider the point the hon. Member has made and have copies made available today to hon. Members. I am certain that that can be done. Perhaps the hon. Member did not hear the main point that I made. I said that it is suggested that two further days, which would run to eleven o'clock at night, would be allotted to the remaining part of the Schedule.

Mr. Stewart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has not answered my first question at all? I asked what justification the Government had for saying they were not satisfied with progress so far. Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman's answer to my second question does not meet the case at all. In the 1949 precedent which he quoted hon. Members at least we were able to see on the Order Paper the text of the Guillotine Motion well in advance of being asked to debate it.

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, providing copies of a Motion through the usual channels is not by itself a way of enabling all hon. Members who may want to take part in the debate to have a copy before the debate occurs. What conceivable urgency is there for asking us to debate this Motion at this incredibly short notice?

Further, when the right hon. Gentleman mentioned what he called the principal point of his statement, that relates only to that part of the Bill which is being debated in Committee of the whole House, but surely I am right in supposing that this Timetable Motion relates also to Standing Committee. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to give us some indication immediately of the nature of the proposals made for the timetable in Standing Committee on the Bill?

Mr. Macleod

With regard to the hon. Member's comments on the 1949 Bill, no doubt he will look the matter up between today and tomorrow. He will find that the Motion, contrary to this occasion, appeared before the statement and there was only one day between the statement and the debate in the House.

In response to the hon. Member, I have said that I will make available to the House a roneoed version of the Motion which will appear on the Order Paper tomorrow.

As for general justification, I am, of course, fully ready to debate that with the hon. Member if he is speaking for his party on this matter tomorrow. I do not think that it is appropriate to debate it as part of a business statement.

On the question of the remaining stages of the Bill, it is suggested in the Motion that the Bill be reported from the Standing Committee upstairs to the House on 21st March.

Mr. Doughty

Would my right hon. Friend have a word with the Minister in charge of the Bill and ask him to be a little more helpful to Members who have put down Amendments in order to speed up the proceedings in the Committee, and will he also particularly draw the Minister's attention to the undertaking which he himself gave to the House in his winding-up speech in the two-day debate on the White Paper dealing with the Bill, the undertaking which he gave about the boundaries of the Greater London area?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, certainly I will. Of course, under this sort of procedure, disagreeable though it always is to both sides of the House, it is possible so to arrange the Motion that each of the subjects in the Schedule will be discussed.

Mr. A. Lewis

Arising from his shocking statement, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister of Housing and Local Government himself, during our debates last week, said that he never anticipated getting the Bill until the end of the Summer Recess? That is on record. What is the hurry to get the Third Reading by the end of March? Is he aware that if that happens, as the Bill now stands, there cannot be any May elections this year? That will mean that the May elections will stand over.

Is this because the Government are anxious to have the May elections ended, or do they want a General Election? According to this memorandum which hon. Members have not seen—I have just glanced at it—it looks as though that is what is at the back of the Government's mind. We shall not be able to have May elections this year.

Mr. Macleod

I am sorry, but, with respect, I do not follow the hon. Member's point about May elections.

As to the question of the Bill going through all its stages in both Houses, I am bound to say that I agree with my right hon. Friend in what I understand he said to the House.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

We cannot spare any more time on this matter now. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) wanted to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House.


Mr. Fletcher

On a point of order. May I revert to the statement that the Leader of the House made a few moments ago about tomorrow's business? Hitherto, when a guillotine Motion has been announced it has always been put on the Order Paper in time to enable hon. Members to put down Amendments to it.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know of no principle on which we can go back to that matter.

Mr. Fletcher

May I put my point of order, Sir?

Mr. Speaker

I do not understand how the hon. Member can. I have had to bring the matter to an end, so that we could get on with other business. We cannot now go back to point A again.

Mr. Fletcher

May I, with respect, put my point of order? A guillotine Motion is, in the ordinary way, subject to amendment. Hitherto it has always been the case that such a Motion has appeared on the Order Paper at least a day before it has been debated, so that hon. Members have had an opportunity of putting down Amendments to it. The Leader of the House has said that he will circulate a copy—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I can find no principle by which I can allow the hon. Gentleman to use the time of the House —which is not mine to allow—to argue the matter now. No doubt, he will have his remedy by voting furiously against the proposed Motion if he objects to it.

Mr. M. Stewart

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I do not think that my hon. Friend has his remedy in that way. We are drawing your attention to a serious point of order which must be raised now, if at all, Sir.

Tomorrow, we shall be asked to debate a Motion to which hon. Members will not have had an opportunity to table Amendments. The point of order in which, I think, we are both interested in these circumstances is whether the Chair will accept manuscript Amendments in the debate tomorrow, since there is no opportunity to put Amendments down in the ordinary way.

Mr. Speaker

I shall consider that matter when it is raised with me. I do not at the moment; I am not sure of my powers. I hope that I may be forgiven for saying this. Hon. Gentlemen did have opportunity to ask questions on the business statement, and it would seem that that was the moment at which to raise it.

Mr. Reynolds

You stopped the questions, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Not before the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) had had at least one opportunity. But let us not get involved in those matters. If injustice is involved, and if I can, then, of course, I shall accept a manuscript Amendment, if it be appropriate. But I should like to look into it.