HC Deb 02 May 1963 vol 676 cc1315-22
Mr. H. Wilson

May I ask the Leader of the House to 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, 6TH MAY—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

Remaining stages of the Fort William Pulp and Paper Mills Bill.

TUESDAY, 7TH MAY—Motion to take note of the Report of the Tribunal on the Vassall Case (Command No. 2009).

Motions on the Civil Defence (Training in Nursing) Regulations for England and Wales and for Scotland.

WEDNESDAY, 8TH MAY—Supply [16th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate on the National Health Service, for England, Wales and Scotland, which will arise on the appropriate Votes.

Progress with the remaining stages of the Education (Scotland) Bill.

THURSDAY, 9TH MAY—Motion on the Report on the Royal Commission on Police, 1962 (Command No. 1728).

Completion of the remaining stages of the Education (Scotland) Bill.

If there is time, Motions on the Tuberculosis (Extension of Payments Period) Regulations for England and Wales, and for Scotland.

FRIDAY, 10TH MAY—Private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 13TH MAY—Proposed business will be: Supply [17th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Debate on Civil Aviation, which will arise on the appropriate Votes.

Mr. H. Wilson

While the point that I want to put to the Leader of the House might be regarded as being related to the business of the House only with a certain degree of elasticity, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that hon. Members on both sides, while understanding the reasons, and having deep sympathy with the motives for them, will have heard with great regret the decision which our oldest Parliamentarian, the Father of the House, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), announced yesterday? While it would be inappropriate, and, I think, out of order, to follow this now, I am sure that the House, on an appropriate occasion, will want to express its views on this question.

On the business of the House, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman when he expects to be able to anounce the decision of the Government on the question of House of Lords reform, to which he referred at the end of the debate in March, and what the timetable is for enacting any decision which the Government may have reached?

Mr. Macleod

I am sure that the House will agree with what the Leader of the Opposition has said about my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), and that hon. Members of all three political parties should recall with great pride that we have sat as Members with one of the country's greatest sons.

I tried to make the question of House of Lords reform clear in the discussions that we had. We shall make a statement some time this month. I said then, and the position remains, that legislation is possible, but that it was unlikely that it could be taken this Session. But we have given an undertaking that it will be in operation before the General Election.

Mr. W. Hamilton

A Ten Minutes Rule Bill.

Mr. Ross

Is the Leader of the House aware that the business that he has announced for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday means that in each case important Scottish business will be taken after ten o'clock? Does not he think that this is rather hard on his hon. Friends? At least 100 of them will have to be kept here on each occasion, just in case the Scots decide to teach the leader of the House a lesson?

Sir C. Osborne

Do not be so pompous.

Mr. Manuel

Who said that?

Mr. Ross

Would it not be far better, in the case of an important Measure like the Education (Scotland) Bill, to ensure that half a day was devoted to it? Equally, the Scottish Committee is meeting—and doing so to help him with his business—on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Surely this is rather unfair on the Scots, including his hon. Friends.

Mr. Macleod

The Fort William Bill passed through its entire Committee stage in two minutes.

Mr. Manuel

It might not now.

Mr. Macleod

I dare say. I am just relating what happened in the past. As for the Education (Scotland) Bill, it is precisely to meet the sort of point that the hon. Member has made that I have indicated—if he will study the exact words I used—that on Wednesday and Thursday we will try to meet the convenience of the House.

Sir C. Osborne

Will the Leader of the House consider finding time in future to consider the sensible suggestion that Dr. Beeching should be appointed to consider the co-ordination between road and rail, to help solve the overall transport problem?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a business question.

Sir C. Osborne

On a point of order. I am asking my right hon. Friend whether he will find time in the near future to discuss what I consider to be one of the most important questions facing us at present.

Mr. Speaker

The future of it sounded so remote as to be a matter of policy.

Mr. Brockway

A week ago the right hon. Gentleman said that the Home Secretary would be making a statement on the subject of the Public Order Act and the Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill. Is the fact that the Home Secretary is sitting at the right hon. Gentleman's side an indication that he will do that today? If not, when will he do it?

Mr. Macleod

The answer to the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question—when it became interrogative—is "No." But we will do this as soon as possible. It is a very complex matter. I hope that we can do it within a very short period. I give an absolute guarantee that we will do it before Whitsun. I hope that it will be done quite a bit before that.

Mr. H. Clark

Will my right hon. Friend tell us when the House will be given an opportunity to discuss agriculture? He must be aware of the widespread concern about the long-term development of the industry.

Mr. Macleod

Yes, but if my hon. Friend will study the precedents, going back for ten years or more, he will find that these matters are almost invariably taken on Supply.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

Has the right hon. Gentleman studied the Motion on the Order Paper, signed by 123 hon. and right hon. Members of both Opposition parties, protesting against the grave and cynical breach of treaties entered into and ratified by Britain and Greece?

[That this House, resolved to honour the solemn pledges, repeatedly given since 1945 by Great Britain and Greece, jointly to defend and promote democratic freedom and to challenge any denial of human liberty, asks Her Majesty's Government to urge the Government of Greece to grant now a general amnesty to the over-1,100 political prisoners, many of them veterans of the anti-Fascist resistance, including women, and many of whom, since their separation from their families and imprisonment up to 18 years ago, have reached an advanced age and are desperately ill in body and mind.]

Will the right hon. Gentleman give time to discuss this matter, which has become one of vital interest to everybody who is concerned with the honour and decency of both countries? We have made this request before. Cannot he see that 123 hon. and right hon. Members, some of them very senior Members who themselves have been Ministers and have been concerned with these matters, are extremely anxious about this situation? responsible in various offices which are Will he provide time now, or in the near future?

Mr. Macleod

No, not in Government time.

Mr. S. Silverman

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that last week I asked him about possible facilities for the House to debate the question of civil defence, which we have neglected for many years, and also the implications of the Government's admission about regional seats of Government? I then got a rather negative reply. But did the right hon. Gentleman hear the Prime Minister's Answers to Questions today, in which he appeared to admit that there was at present no Parliamentary authority to put these matters into operation, and that there would have to be such Parliamentary authority when the time came? In those circumstances, will he reconsider the answer that he gave last week, and promise that the House will have an early opportunity of considering these matters?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. But I will consider that question with all the other applications that are made. The House will realise that, the business up to Monday, 13th May, having been announced, and with the comparatively short run from then until Whitsun, under the procedure that we have the overwhelming number of those days are, quite frankly, bound to be taken up by the Finance Bill in Committee on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Lipton

Reverting to the Motion on the subject of the amnesty of political prisoners, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it would be in the highest degree desirable to provide the House with an opportunity to discuss that Motion before we have any other visits to this country from Greek royalty?

Mr. Macleod

The matter was dealt with a few moments ago. I have nothing to add to the answer then given.

Mr. K. Robinson

Will the right hon. Gentleman provide a day in Government time to discuss the 10-year plan of the health and welfare services of local authorities, recently published by the Ministry of Health? In case he intends to mention Wednesday of next week, may I ask him if he recalls that this is a Supply day, and that the Opposition will require to discuss critically other aspects of the Health Service?

Mr. Macleod

That is an extremely defensive way of putting it. I will consider that, together with the other applications, but if the Opposition really want to discuss health and welfare they can put down the appropriate Votes on Wednesday. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will be delighted to reply.

Mr. Lawson

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his intention to bring on the Education (Scotland) Bill after ten o'clock on Wednesday night? I make no complaint about the Fort William Pulp and Paper Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that during this Session no time has been wasted on any Scottish Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The Leader of the House is not challenging me. I ask him to appreciate that this Bill is important, and that we strongly object to its being brought on for discussion after ten o'clock at night.

Mr. Macleod

On the Report stage there are three Government Amendments, and I believe that each is designed to meet points raised by the Opposition in Committee. In answer to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), I have already made it clear that in putting down the Bill for Wednesday and Thursday we would try to meet—as far as we could—the convenience of the House.

Mr. Hilton

Will the Leader of the House seriously reconsider the reply he gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark) about a debate on agriculture? It may be true that in past years a Supply day has been used for this purpose, but have we really come to the time when only the Opposition are sufficiently interested in the most important industry of agriculture to provide time for a debate on it? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of the very widespread concern among farmers all over the country—so much so that in recent weeks they have marched to Westminster in protest? Will not he reconsider his decision, and allow Government time to debate this matter?

Mr. Macleod

In reply to the question raised by my hon. Friend, I was recalling the precedents of the House. The hon. Member knows that what I said on this subject is accurate, because he is familiar with the situation. This is what has happened for many years past. As for the provision of Government time, I must rest on the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). Anybody who adds the sum up can virtually tell how the days will be allocated between now and Whitsun.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the right hon. Gentleman look again at the scope of the debate which is to take place next Wednesday. As recently published by the Government, the local health authority 10-year plan is very comprehensive. At the same time, we have the Kindersley Report on pay, and there is a considerable amount of material about nursing and the whole question of the general practitioner service. In addition, the Scottish Health Service is to be lumped into this debate. Will he consider the possibility of the Government providing time to discuss their own plan for local health and welfare services?

Mr. Macleod

I understand that claim. But if the Opposition want a wide debate they can arrange it by putting down the appropriate Votes for Wednesday. If they want a narrow debate—as I understand they might—to concentrate on a certain point, I will consider, but only in competition with other claimants, the point of view that has been advanced.

Mr. Snow

After the somewhat mixed reception given to the Beeching plan, is it the intention of the Government to provide a further opportunity for discussing it in the light of possible forthcoming events, and also in view of the rather unsatisfactory planning aspects which became apparent during this week's debate?

Mr. Macleod

I have no plans for a further transport debate.

Dr. King

Is the Leader of the House able to tell us when he contemplates having a debate on the Rochdale Report?

Mr. Macleod

We are to have one. I was asked last week to try to be more precise about that. I said it seemed clear that it could not be until after Whit-sun. The hon. Member will realise that in a normal year it is the period after Whitsun that gives most scope for debates of this sort.