HL Deb 19 April 1955 vol 192 cc402-6

2.37 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to ask the following Question of which I have given private notice: Have Her Majesty's Government any statement to make upon future Business?


My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Earl for giving me this opportunity of informing your Lordships of our proposed programme before Parliament is prorogued. We have already had discussions through the usual channels with noble Lords opposite, and we hope that we shall enjoy not only their co-operation but the co-operation of noble Lords on all sides of the House in bringing it to a successful conclusion. I am afraid that we shall have to ask your Lordships to allow us to take the different stages of many Bills at short intervals, but we shall do our best to give the House as much opportunity as possible, within the time before us, for their proper consideration.

Briefly, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government hope to proceed with all the Bills which are on the Order Paper this afternoon with the exception of the Police (Scotland) Bill, which amends as well as consolidates the law, and therefore requires the setting up of a Joint Select Committee of both Houses, a procedure for which there is really no time.

On Thursday next, April 21, we propose to ask your Lordships to allow us to bring forward the Second Reading of the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Bill, which is at present down for Second Reading on Tuesday next, and which for obvious reasons we are anxious to save from the bonfire. The publication of the Bill, which is popularly known as the "Horror Comics" Bill, had an immediate effect upon the production and sale of these pernicious publications, and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is rightly afraid that its disappearance from the Government programme would give rise to an immediate recrudescence of these harmful publications, with their serious threat to the morals of the child and adolescent population. We earnestly hope that noble Lords opposite, who, we are sure, are as anxious as we are for the welfare of our young people, will give us their best help towards saving this useful and necessary measure. In the programme we have envisaged the House should have ample time for the full consideration of this Bill.

We do not propose to proceed further in the present Parliament with the Copyright and Television Exhibiting Right Bill, which is down for Committee the same afternoon, and for whose progress through another place there is obviously not time at present. Nor do we propose to proceed further with the Criminal Justice Administration Bill, which is down for Second Reading to-day fortnight, and which must obviously fall by the way, as it, too, has originated in your Lordships' House and has still to go through all its stages in another place.

As your Lordships know, by arrangement with noble Lords opposite we are postponing the Second Reading of the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Bill from next Thursday until Tuesday next, the 26th. We shall take the Committee stage of the "Horror Comics" Bill the next afternoon, and it has been agreed that on Thursday 28th we should take the Committee stage of the Requisitioned Houses Bill. We shall ask your Lordships to sit on Monday, May 2, in order that we may complete those Bills which are still awaiting their final stages, and send down any Amendments which may have been made upon them for consideration in another place.

From the Commons we may expect the National Insurance (No. 2) Bill, a short measure which is designed to relieve the lower income groups of liability for recent increase in insurance contributions and with which noble Lords opposite will, I am sure, be the last persons to quarrel. Finally, my Lords, we shall in due course receive a short Finance Bill to enable the country to tide over the period between the old and new Parliaments. I hope that these arrangements will meet the convenience of the House. May I add that the Prime Minister will make a statement in another place, in response to a Private Notice Question, at 3.15 this afternoon, and with your Lordships' permission I shall interrupt the Business of this House in order to repeat that statement here.

2.43 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount the Acting Leader of the House for that Answer. I hope he will convey to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House our concern about his health and our wishes for his speedy recovery. I should like to thank the noble Viscount for the statement he has made. I can well understand his desire to save certain Bills, if I may use his phrase, "from the bonfire." I feel bound to point out that it was the noble Lords opposite who applied the match to the bonfire. I hope, therefore, that, in considering some of these Bills, we shall not be placed—I am sure the noble Viscount would not desire it—in any sort of position of "take it or leave it" because there is no time to make Amendments or because, if we make Amendments, there is no time to get them considered in another place. That applies particularly to the "Horror Comics" Bill which obviously is exactly the type of measure which needs that careful revision which your Lordships' House is so well qualified to give, although I entirely agree with the noble Viscount that on principle there is nothing between us, in that we all desire to protect our children and young persons from disgusting publications, whilst preserving the fullest freedom of expression in the Press and in magazines.

The Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Bill, is also a measure in regard to which I trust that Amendments will be most carefully considered. I hope that the Government will meet us so far as they can on that Bill and that, if they are convinced that any Amendments which we may or may not think fit to move really have substance, we shall not find a closed mind opposed to us because there is a difficulty with regard to time in another place. For the rest, I can reassure the noble Viscount about all the Bills on the Order Paper to-day. I anticipate no difficulty whatever about the National Insurance (No. 2) Bill, to which the noble Viscount referred at the end of his statement, and I anticipate no difficulty about the short Finance Bill. Following our normal practice, I suppose we shall have some discussion on that Bill and then pass it through all its stages. With regard to the "Horror Comics" Bill, it may be—I do not say it is certain—that, on consideration, we shall want to consider the wording of the Bill to see that it really carries out the wishes of the Government; also, we may want to consider the question of date and time with regard to the Requisitioned Houses Bill.


My Lords, I wish merely to express the concurrence of noble Lords on these Benches with the course proposed by the Government. I need add nothing to what has been said by the noble and learned Earl who has just spoken, except that we are pleased that the "Horror Comics" Bill is to be saved from extinction and that special measures are to be adopted which will, we hope, result in the passing of the Bill into law during the present Parliament.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount a question? In asking it, as is customary in your Lordships' House, I state my interest in the matter—namely, that I am, as the noble Viscount is aware, a director of Wembley Stadium. May I ask the noble Viscount whether he is aware that unless and until the controlling bodies of sport and the sports promoters obtain the protection that is afforded to them under Clause 2 of the Copyright and Television Exhibiting Right Bill, there can be no hope of extended television of major sporting events?


My Lords, I am quite well aware of that, but we are controlled by a matter of time. There will be another Parliament after this, as the noble Viscount will appreciate.


My Lords, I am rather surprised at the statement which has just been made by the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank. May I ask whether Her Majesty's Government recognise the authenticity of that statement, or is it just an expression of opinion? Because in discussions which took place through the usual channels we held rather a different opinion from that which the noble Viscount has just expressed.


I regard it as a matter of opinion.