HC Deb 18 July 1963 vol 681 cc737-40

Standing Order No. 90A

Line 4, at end insert, "except estimates concerned with expenditure on defence".

Insert new Standing Order No. 90B (Defence Expenditure Committee).

There shall be a Select Committee, to be designated the Defence Expenditure Committee to examine such of the Estimates presented to this House as are concerned with expenditure on defence either by service or civil departments, including home defence expenditure by civil departments, and to report upon the effectiveness of the policy which those Estimates are designed to implement, to consist of fifteen Members, who shall be nominated at the commencement of every session, and of whom five shall be a quorum.

The Committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, and to report from time to time.

It shall be at the discretion of the Committee to require every person, not being a member of the Committee, to withdraw.]

Will he, in his capacity as Leader of the House, bear in mind that this House must control expenditure on defence, and consider this problem in relation to both present and future needs? Having considered it, will he be good enough to promise to speak during the debate, or consider submitting to the Select Committee on Procedure the proposal which I have put forward, or one which the Government might put forward, after consultation with my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench?

Mr. Macleod

I have studied the Motion relating to the suggested new Standing Order. It may be relevant to the debate that we are to have on defence, but it raises issues which go considerably wider than matters of defence. Of the various suggestions that the hon. Member puts to me, the last one is probably the one that I should pursue, and in due course I would have those discussions.

Mr. Ross

On Tuesday's business, can the Leader of the House tell us when he expects us to be able to start the discussion of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill? He will be aware that it is the major piece of Scottish legislation this Session. Will he take the precaution of suspending the rule, and give us an estimate when we shall finish, that night? Is he aware that he has not added to his reputation as Leader of the House by arranging that we should discuss an important Measure like the Children and Young Persons Bill at five o'clock in the morning, giving pride of place to a matter which is of rather specialised and limited importance—the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure?

Mr. Macleod

Not every hon. Member would agree with the hon. Member's last observation. I thought it right to try, on that Measure, to meet what I am sure was the general wish of the House. As for Tuesday's business, we would suspend the rule for that Measure. I certainly hope that it comes on at a reasonably convenient time.

Mr. Leavey

I wish to refer to the proposal to debate Welsh affairs on Monday week. I mean no disrespect whatever to hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies, but does not my right hon. Friend feel that the practice of devoting a day to Welsh affairs is becoming a bad habit? If we have to have debates based on this regional principle, would it not be as well to consider having a day's debate, for example, on Lancashire, which covers one of the largest concentrations of population in the world, and is an area which contributes at least equally, both culturally and economically, to the wealth of Britain—and, incidentally, is an area which does not nourish any break-away or nationalist organisations?

Mr. Speaker

These geographical advertisements with tourist attractions in them get outside the scope of business questions.

Mr. Steele

Will the right hon. Gentleman think again about next Tuesday's business? Does not he agree that his idea of a reasonable hour is not our idea of a reasonable hour? Will he alter the business so that the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill will be taken as the first business on Tuesday and not in the middle of the night, and until five o'clock in the morning?

Mr. Macleod

I can look at any suggestion made for the order of business. I will keep in mind what has been said. But the House will realise, as has been said, that no one wishes a Bill in which he is particularly interested to come on either on Mondays or Fridays or late at night, and that the combination of those three does limit the opportunities.

Mr. Hector Hughes

In view of the strange and limited connotation of definition that the Government have lately put on the very simple phrase "North-East", may I have an assurance from the Leader of the House that the debate on unemployment on Monday will include North-East Scotland?

Mr. Macleod

The debate on Monday is on "Consequences of the Rent Act, 1957, and property profiteering". The words are those of the Opposition and not mine. But the point the hon. and learned Member makes would, I think, be more appropriate in relation to the debate on Wednesday.

Mr. Farey-Jones

In view of the revelations by Professor Lovell, following his remarkable visit to Russia, may I ask the Leader of the House whether we may look for a statement before the Recess on British participation in the developments in outer space?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I know of no plans for any such statement.

Mr. Thorpe

May I ask the Leader of the House about the Peerage Bill? Is he aware that under the radical influence of the Conservative Party in another place significant Amendments have been made, to the discomfiture of the Government? Will he accept the assurance that there are many of us who would wish that any man who wishes to become more common should have the right to do so? In view of the fact that there are by-elections pending this autumn, will this matter come before us before the Recess, so that it may be considered?

Mr. Macleod

The answer to the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question is "Certainly". In answer to the other part of his question, it is interesting to hear from the Liberal benches that if there is a conflict between the two Houses the view of the Upper House should prevail.

Mr. M. Foot

Before the Leader of the House starts to rearrange the business for Tuesday, under the plausible pressure from my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies, should not he take into account that many hon. Members think that the Public Order Bill needs to be fully and properly examined? Therefore, to satisfy his hon. Friends from Scotland, should not he move their business to another day?

Mr. Mendelson

In view of the statement made this afternoon by the Minister of Power, is the Leader of the House aware that during the long and protracted Committee stage on the Pipelines Bill the danger that the public might not be properly protected was foreseen? In view of the discussions, will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend to publish a White Paper before the Houses rises, even though there may not be time for a debate, so that after a perusal of the White Paper there may be a debate as soon as the House returns?

Mr. Macleod

I doubt whether that would be appropriate when the matter is to be inquired into. But it is for my right hon. Friend to judge.