May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for the first week after the Recess?
Yes, Sir. The business when the House resumes after the Christmas Recess will be as follows:TUESDAY, 24TH JANUARY—Second Reading of the Overseas Service Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution. Second Reading of the Diplomatic Immunities (Conferences with Commonwealth Countries and Republic of Ireland) Bill. WEDNESDAY, 25TH JANUARY—Second Reading of the Post Office Bill, and of the Agricultural Research, etc. (Pensions) Bill, and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolutions. THURSDAY, 26TH JANUARY—Second Reading of the Trustee Investment Bill [Lords.] FRIDAY, 27TH JANUARY—Consideration of Private Members' Bills. MONDAY, 30TH JANUARY—The Proposed Business will be a debate on the White Paper relating to the Reorganisation of the Nationalised Transport Undertakings. The White Paper is to be made available in the Vote Office later today.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that the business he has just announced for the first week after the Recess is of a singularly dull character and is hardly appropriate to the kind of situation which we shall be confronting at that time? We are to go away for a month's Recess. The economic situation is disturbing, and there are problems all over the world which need our attention. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider representations nearer the end of the Recess to change the business if the circumstances make that necessary?
I would not say that the list I have read is unduly dull. There is the reform of the Post Office and a series of interesting Measures. There is a day reserved for consideration of Private Members' Bills, which has been expressly done. I would not have thought that the debate on Monday, 30th January, on the reorganisation of the nationalised transport undertakings would be uninteresting. Naturally, we shall bear everything in mind, which is what we like to do during the Recess.
Will the right hon. Gentleman try to raise his standards of dullness a little in future and say that the House of Commons may discuss things which really interest the nation as well as merely getting the business through?
Has my right hon. Friend given further consideration to the possibility of holding a debate on economic affairs in which Members of the House can give their views on the structure of taxation, one of the most important aspects of our public life, well in advance of the Budget?
We had an economic debate immediately after the debate on the Address, and we had a financial debate yesterday; but I will certainly bear in mind what my noble Friend says.
Without undertaking that if my request were granted that would necessarily introduce any undue enlivenment into the business for the first week after the Recess, may I remind the right hon. Gentleman that there is a subject which, while not of world importance, is of some importance to the House, which has been standing on the Order Paper for some time and which he, I think, agrees will some day have to be discussed, but for which no time has yet been provided? I refer, of course, to the Motion about his responsibilities as Home Secretary in the exercise of the Prerogative of mercy in two recent death penalty cases. Has he in view any time at which this Motion can be discussed?
[ That this House places on record its profound regret that the Secretary of State for the Home Department failed to advise Her Majesty the Queen to exercise Her Royal Prerogative of mercy in the cases of Francis Forsyth and Norman Harris, the first of whom was only a month or two over eighteen years of age and the other twenty-three years of age, both of whom were said by the learned counsel who prosecuted them to have had no intention to kill, and one of whom, namely, Norman Harris, was admitted to have struck no blow and was not present when any fatal act of violence was committed.]
It is certainly not included, as I have announced, in the business when we come back. The hon. Gentleman has spoken with moderation, and I will do so, too. I do not at the moment see any opportunity, but I realise the importance of the subject.
Is the right hon. Gentleman seized of the importance, urgency and necessity of bringing before the House at the earliest possible date the report on the breakdown of the electrification of various branches of the railways throughout the country, bearing in mind that this is not a matter of ideological considerations as between nationalisation and private ownership, but one affecting the prestige of the British engineering industry throughout the world? When we have the report, will he consider giving an opportunity for us to debate it?
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, in answer to Questions yesterday, indicated that the report would be brought forward as soon as possible and would first be published. We must give time for this to occur, and I am sure that we would all like to consider it without any particular prejudice in our minds.