HC Deb 13 May 1965 vol 712 cc702-8
Sir Alec Douglas-Home

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business of the House for next week?

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Bowden)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 17TH MAY—Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Committee stage, which will be continued on Wednesday, 19th May, and Thursday, 20th May.

TUESDAY, 18TH MAY—Remaining stages of the Trade Disputes Bill.

Motions on the Fertilisers (United Kingdom) Scheme, and on the Church of England Benefices (Suspension of Presentation) (Continuance) Measure.

FRIDAY, 21ST MAY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 24TH MAY—The proposed business will be: further progress with the Committee stage of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

To return to the question I asked last week—whether the Government will provide a day to debate Commonwealth affairs before the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference—is there not a case for broadening this debate to include some colonial matters as well? Would the right hon. Gentleman say when the Colonial Secretary is likely to make a statement about the Aden Commission, since there are indications that his proposals will contain some very unusual features for a Commission of this kind?

Mr. Bowden

Yes, Sir. I think that a statement will be made next week on the Aden Commission.

To answer the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I have given some consideration to the matter. It would be necessary to fit this in before Whitsun if the debate is to be worth while; that is, if it is to take place before the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference. Perhaps we can discuss this through the usual channels. I am fairly certain that a debate can be arranged.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Is the Leader of the House aware that there will be some disappointment throughout the House at his not having found time for the half-day debate for which I asked last week on the Second Report of the Select Committee on Procedure in regard to Question Time? I beg the right hon. Gentleman to give this suggestion his sympathetic consideration. It is a pity that he has not managed to find time for this discussion next week. Is he able to promise to provide time the week after?

Mr. Bowden

No, Sir. I cannot move from the position which I took up last week. The position is that I do not think that the House should make any change whatever in its procedure until a decision has been taken by the House in debate. This is because there are two Reports from the Select Committee on Procedure and the Government must bring forward their own proposals. We should not have this debate until such time as we can implement the decision of the House. This does not affect the roster between now and the end of July if the Opposition wished a change to take place then.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Will the Leader of the House try to find time for an early debate on foreign affairs? Is he aware that there is armed conflict in certain parts of the world, that no serious attempt is being made to end these troubles by the machinery of the United Nations and that, apart from the S.E.A.T.O. and N.A.T.O. conferences, there are other matters which urgently require discussion?

Mr. Bowden

I agree that these are urgent and important matters, but I cannot promise time for a debate this side of Whitsun.

Mr. Marten

Following on the question put by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, since, on Monday week, we resume the Committee stage of the Finance Bill, and since it is also Commonwealth Day, would it not be appropriate for us to debate the Commonwealth on Commonwealth Day?

Mr. Bowden

I think that perhaps the usual channels had better have a look at that suggestion.

Mr. Shinwell

In view of my right hon. Friend's reply to the question of the Leader of the Opposition on the subject of a debate on Commonwealth affairs, does my right hon. Friend intend to have a debate on the Commonwealth in Government time or on a Supply day? Why is it necessary to have a debate on the Commonwealth at the request of the Opposition when the Opposition practically abandoned the Commonwealth two or three years ago?

Mr. Bowden

It so happened last year that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference was later in the year, July, and the debate took place in Government time. The difficulty this year is that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference is rather earlier. That presents certain difficulties, despite which I think that a debate should take place this side of the Whitsun Recess.

Mr. Lubbock

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed Motion No. 196, about the case of Timothy John Evans who was hanged for a murder which he did not commit? Will he arrange for a debate to take place on this subject, so that we may try to persuade the Home Secretary to undertake a fresh inquiry into this matter?

[That this House calls on the Secretary of State for the Home Department to carry out an investigation into the case of Timothy John Evans as he advocated in 1961, or to appoint a Judge of the High Court to hold a public inquiry for that purpose.]

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary did make a statement, I think, early in February. I will have a further conversation with him to see whether he has any change of view.

Mr. Woodburn

In view of the possibility of protracted debates on the Finance Bill next week, will my right hon. Friend, through the usual channels, consider whether the House, in its dignity, ought to allow hon. Members to risk death by being brought here in ambulances and by other means to vote when they could pair and by that means stay in bed, with the same result in the voting Lobby? [Laughter.] Is he aware that hon. Members will not laugh or feel very proud if some of their colleagues die in this exercise? Is it not stupid of us not to make other arrangements?

Mr. Bowden

I am inclined to agree with my right hon. Friend. I would not think that any hon. Member really likes this system, but we have it and are stuck with it until such time as we change it. It would seem reasonable if, through the usual channels, it would be possible to agree that where there are two ambulances coming here, one on each side, the hon. Members concerned could pair so that neither of them need come here and there would be no risk. However, I understand that on a recent occasion that was not so easy to arrange, because one of the hon. Members concerned insisted on coming here.

Mr. Hastings

Has the Leader of the House seen the Motion in the names of about 100 of my hon. Friends and myself on the subject of the Steel Bill? In view of the charade to which the House of Commons and the country have been subjected by the Government, and of what most of us would regard as a gross deception of two hon. Members of the House, would the right hon. Gentleman consider granting time so that we may debate this Motion? Would he also accept that important public statements made by senior Ministers of the Crown on the Floor of the House cannot be simply written off or closed by private party meetings upstairs?

[That this House notes the suggestion of the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs that Her Majesty's Government is prepared to listen to proposals other than its own for the future organisation of the British steel industry, and calls on the Prime Minister to inform the House and the nation, when, where, and on what basis he proposes that discussions with the steel industry should take place.]

Mr. Bowden

The criticism is often made that statements are not made on the Floor of the House, but at party meetings upstairs. On this occasion, the statement was made on the Floor of the House; I see little objection to that.

We have already had one full day's debate on steel this week Perhaps the matter could be raised on the Second Reading debate on the Bill.

Mr. John Hynd

Referring to the foreign situation, may I draw attention to the fact that these desperate and urgent situations are arising throughout the world, and that it would be deplorable were the House not given at least a half-day's opportunity to make some expression of its views on the general situation before the lapse of another five or six weeks? Would it not be possible to discuss this matter through the usual channels?

Mr. Bowden

There are difficulties about fitting in an additional day this side of Whitsun. I accept that if it is not done before Whitsun it must wait for about four weeks. On the other hand, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made one or two statements in the House, and will continue to be as helpful as possible. But I cannot promise a debate on foreign affairs until after the Whitsun Recess.

Sir F. Bennett

Can the Leader of the House say anything about the progress of business on Wednesday mornings? Is he aware that during the last few weeks we have never had many more than about half a dozen Labour Members in the Committee during these morning sittings, and as these sittings were very largely his idea in the first place, can he do anything to persuade rather more of his hon. Friends to abandon their directorships and other private pursuits to come to the House and take part in our proceedings?

Mr. Bowden

The hon. Member will recall that the decision to conduct the Committee proceedings on the Floor of the House was taken by the House itself. As for attendance here on Wednesdays, if the hon. Member looks at the Division lists he will find that considerably more than a few hon. Members have been here.

Mr. Paget

Would my hon. Friend agree that it would require no more than a simple Resolution of the House to enable a sick Member to be nodded through the Lobby before he got into the ambulance instead of only after the ambulance got here? Could not we have that Resolution?

Mr. Bowden

I should be delighted to look at that suggestion through the usual channels, to see whether something can be arranged, as it is rather more sensible than the present procedure.

Dame Irene Ward

Has the Leader of House seen the Motion in my name to invite the Fleet Air Arm Presentation Team to give in the Grand Committee Room in Westminster Hall an account of their personal service and of their aircraft? Will he be kind enough now to find out whether the appropriate Minister will issue such an invitation, a step that would be very welcome to both sides of the House in view of the Fleet Air Arm's service to the country?

[That in the opinion of this House the Fleet Air Arm Presentation Team would be very welcome to give, in the Grand Committee Room in Westminster Hall, their experiences of their personal service and that of their aircraft: and the House urges the Minister of Defence to accept the offer made by Admiral Sir Richard Smeaton, K.C.B., M.B.E., of an early date in June for this purpose; that the House would appreciate the opportunity of participating in the tour of the Fleet Air Arm Presentation Team which has given in many towns an opportunity to the community of seeing and hearing up to date experiences of this magnificent service.]

Mr. Bowden

I have seen that Motion. I am very sympathetic towards it, and like it, and I will see what I can do to make it possible.

Mr. Warbey

Will my right hon. Friend try to do something, at least, through the usual channels to get a debate before Whitsun on the United Nations? Is he aware that the United Nations is facing probably its gravest crisis in the 20 years of its existence as a result of the persistent flouting of the United Nations Charter by the permanent members of the Security Council; and that if something is not done very quickly to make possible a pronouncement about this from this House we may see the end of the United Nations before we can even begin to discuss its peace-keeping operations?

Mr. Bowden

I promised last week to look at this subject, but I cannot do anything this side of the Whitsun Recess. We must see what happens afterwards.

Mr. Fisher

As the Leader of the House has invited us to raise on the Second Reading of the Steel Bill the rather shabby trick played by the First Secretary of State in the last debate on steel, could he say when that Second Reading debate is likely to be? Will it be before Whitsun, or between Whitsun and the Summer Recess?

Mr. Bowden

It is not next week. It will be announced in the usual way on Thursday's business at some point.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. In the general interests, we must move on now.