HC Deb 31 January 1963 vol 670 cc1131-8
Mr. Speaker

Mr. Brown. Business question.

Mr. G. Brown


Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Brown

For a terrible moment I thought that it was not coming.

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, 4TH FEBRUARY—Supply [5th Allotted Day]: Committee stage of the Supplementary Estimates now standing referred to the Committee of Supply, which, if the House agrees, will be taken formally to allow a debate on Unemployment and the Government's Economic Policy, arising on an Opposition Motion.

Consideration of the Motion on the Anti-Dumping Duty Order.

TUESDAY, 5TH FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the National Insurance Bill, which it is hoped to complete on Wednesday, 6th February.

At the end on Tuesday, Report stage of the Supplementary Estimates, and Consideration of the Foreign Compensation (Egypt) (Final Distribution) Order.

THURSDAY, 7TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill related to the Supplementary Estimates.

I shall be obliged if Members will inform me as to the subjects contained in these Estimates which they particularly wish to discuss and I will of course arrange for the Ministers concerned to attend.

FRIDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 11TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be: Debate on the Situation Arising from the Breakdown of the Brussels Negotiations, on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

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

It may be convenient for the House to know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget on Wednesday, 3rd April.

Mr. Brown

To anticipate, and, I hope, to avoid any subsequent misunderstanding or difficulties, would the Leader of the House make it clear that the Consolidated Fund Bill which we shall be taking formally on Tuesday, 12th February, is a special Consolidated Fund Bill limited only to the Supplementary Estimates, to discuss which we shall have provided time next Thursday, and that by agreeing to take it formally on Tuesday we shall not be taking away any of the rights of the House?

Mr. Macleod

That is exactly the position. There will be a full day on Thursday, 7th February.

Sir G. Nicholson

May I thank my right hon. Friend for his much more approachable attitude and his friendly phraseology about the Supplementary Estimates? I do not want to delay the very important debate on Monday. Nevertheless, does not my right hon. Friend agree that there is a real problem here? Through no fault of their own the Opposition were compelled to select a Supplementary Estimates Supply day for a very important debate. As it happens, this year the Supplementary Estimates are not of very great significance, and it does not matter so much, but it is conceivable that another year that may not be the case.

Will my right hon. Friend consider whether an arrangement should be made whereby debates on Supplementary Estimates should be guaranteed, so to speak, if they are of significance, without interfering with the rights of the Opposition?

May I also thank the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) for what he has said?

Mr. Macleod

I will take my hon. Friend's point into account. I am always anxious to find ways of improving our procedure, if possible, but, as my hon. Friend confirmed, I think that the arrangements that I have announced will be convenient to the House.

Mr. Wade

Will the Leader of the House tell us when a debate is likely to take place on the Report of the Select Committee on House of Lords Reform?

Mr. Macleod

What I propose is to have a debate in both Houses of Parliament in due course, and that thereafter the Government shall make their view known. In other words, we would not have a statement until we had heard the views of both Houses on the Report.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

On Monday's business, despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) has said, does my right hon. Friend realise that these Supplementary Estimates do matter? No one would wish to curtail the debate on unemployment, but has my right hon. Friend observed the Motion standing in the names of some of my hon. Friends and myself, objecting to the British purchase of United Nations bonds, some of which may have been used to assist the United Nations in an unjust war against British interests, and against the United Nations Charter?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must not go into the merits of these matters when business questions are being asked. It is an abuse of business question time.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

In that case, Mr. Speaker, will the Leader of the House arrange—without curtailing the unemployment debate—for this vital matter to be fully debated, with an appropriate Minister of the Crown present?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. No doubt this matter can be debated on Thursday. I will take my hon. Friend's question to me now as notice that he intends to raise that matter on that day.

Mr. Rankin

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what has happend to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill? Has it been thrown overboard.

Mr. Macleod

No, but the matters to which the House wishes to give most priority at the moment are the National Insurance Bill—which we all want to see on the Statute Book as soon as possible—and the major debates, in respect of both of which we are having a two-day debate, on defence, and on the question of the Brussels negotiations. Naturally, we will come soon to the Second Reading of the Bill to which he refers.

Mr. Rankin

When? This year?

Mr. Russell

Can my right hon. Friend say when he proposes to take the remaining two days on Clause 1 and the First Schedule of the London Government Bill?

Mr. Macleod

I hope to include at least one of those days in my business statement next week.

Mr. G. Thomas

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the serious reports issued on the state of our schools? Is it not high time that we had a debate on education, so that the Government's policy could be discussed?

Mr. Macleod

I will certainly take note of that point. Offhand, I am not sure whether Thursday's debate, to which I have referred, would provide an opportunity.

Mr. F. Harris

In view of the fact that the House has never been given an explanation for the compulsory resignation of the former Governor of Kenya and the appointment of Mr. Macdonald, is it possible for a statement to be made next week as to why that action took place?

Mr. Macleod

Some time ago I referred my hon. Friend's question to the Colonial Secretary, who saw no need to make a statement. Naturally, Questions on this important matter could be addressed to him.

Mr. Warbey

Will the Leader of the House clarify the proposed arrangements for the debate on the breakdown of the Brussels negotiations? As this raises the greatest issues that this country has had to face since May, 1940, will the right hon. Gentleman consider, first, having a three-day debate on this question? Secondly, will he so arrange the debate that it can be concluded by a clear-cut Division on the Government's handling of the negotiations and their outcome? As it now appears, it looks as though we shall have to divide—if we are to divide at all—only on the Motion for the Adjournment.

Mr. Macleod

I am sure that in view of the many discussions that we have had on this matter, two days is the appropriate time, as provided for in the announcement that I have made. It is true that, as things are at the moment, there will be a Government Motion for the Adjournment of the House, but, as the hon. Member knows very well, many historic debates and Divisions have taken place precisely on that Motion.

Mr. Stratton Mills

In the new situation following the breakdown of the Brussels talks, in order to prevent a further period of uncertainty—possibly for two months—will my right hon. Friend consider consulting the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the question of bringing forward the date of the Budget?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. It is because he was anxious to avoid speculation— and I mean speculation about the date— that my right hon. Friend asked me to make this announcement. I think that it is for the convenience of the House.

Mr. Brockway

Is the right hon. Gentleman now in a position to say whether facilities can be granted for the further consideration of the Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill? Will he give special consideration to the fact that, first, this Bill has had a First Reading on nine occasions, and, secondly, that it is supported by hon. Members of all parties?

Mr. Macleod

I am aware of those facts, and I have no wish to avoid this subject, on which I am at least as interested as the hon. Member. But I have made it clear before that we must keep to this position: the Government intend to make a general statement on these matters to the House as soon as some of the cases on which there may be appeals are finally disposed of.

Mr. Temple

Has my right hon. Friend observed the Motion in the names of 20 of my hon. Friends and myself, referring to relief for ratepayers?

[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 role, hut 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.]

If so, will my right hon. Friend be able to offer time for a debate on this very important subject?

Mr. Macleod

I read that Motion with interest, but I cannot promise Government time for it.

Mr. Greenwood

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we may expect to have an opportunity of debating the Report of the Royal Commission on the Police?

Mr. Macleod

No, I cannot give a precise date.

Sir B. Janner

In view of the very grave concern that there is about juvenile delinquency and other youth matters, can the right hon. Gentleman say when the long overdue debate on the Albemarle Report is likely to take place?

Mr. Macleod

No, I cannot. The House will recognise that if, to meet the wishes of the House, we find extra days—and an exceptional number of extra days have already been found this Session—for second-day debates on such matters as defence and the Brussels talks, it makes the provision of Government time to debate other matters a good deal more difficult.

Sir B. Janner

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to reconsider this matter, in view of the serious concern which there is throughout the country about the matter to which I have referred? Further, instead of waiting for decisions in the courts—he knows very well what the position is— why does not he state categorically that there will be a debate on the subject raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway)?

Mr. Macleod

On the second point, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has said that he will make a statement to the House as soon as these matters are resolved. I am sure that that is the right decision, and that we cannot properly consider whether our law is or is not adequate until we know the final outcome of these cases.

As for the other point, of course the Albemarle Report and the problems of juvenile delinquency are of very great importance, but that fact does not add to the amount of Government time available.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Is not it a fact that it is years since the Albemarle and the Wolfenden Reports were made public and that this is a matter of very great urgency which the House ought to debate at an early date?

Mr. Macleod

I am not disputing that for a moment. But there are opportunities other than Government time for debates. Further, if we have two days for other debates—I have even been pressed today for three days for one debate—it is a matter of common sense that that cuts down the amount of opportunities which the House has to debate other matters.

Dr. King

Can the Leader of the House say when we can expect a debate on the important Rochdale Committee's Report on the major ports and whether the Government have any statement to make about it?

Mr. Macleod

It will be preceded by a statement to the House by the Minister of Transport. I cannot give the precise date for that. It will probably be in a few weeks.

Mr. Morris

In view of the bids and counter-bids on the Stock Exchange for the Whitehead Iron and Steel Company, may I reiterate the request I made last week for an early debate on the steel industry?

Mr. Macleod

Certainly the hon. Member may, and I will reiterate my answer.