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Business Of The House

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 16 November 1961

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

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

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

MONDAY, 20TH NOVEMBER and TUESDAY, 21ST NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Transport Bill, and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

At the end of the proceedings on the Bill on Monday, we propose to consider the Motion relating to the Motor Vehicles (Tests) (Extension) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 22ND NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Housing (Scotland) Bill, and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

THURSDAY, 23RD NOVEMBER—Supply [1st allotted Day]:

Motion to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair, when a debate will arise on an Opposition Amendment relating to civil aviation.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Import Duties (General) (No. 7) Order.

FRIDAY, 24TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Health Visitors and Social Workers Training Bill, and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

It may be found possible then to obtain the Committee and remaining stages of the Civil Aviation (Eurocontrol) Bill.

MONDAY, 27TH NOVEMBER—The proposed business will be: Second Reading of the Army Reserve Bill, and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

Will the Leader of the House confirm that, before the Christmas Recess, in addition to the Supply day next week, there will be one other Supply day, a nationalised industries day, and also a day to debate public expenditure under the new arrangements made last year—one of the three days allocated for that subject?

I think that that is right, I can certainly confirm the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question. We hope to have a day before Christmas to discuss the matter referred to in the other part of his question.

As my right hon. Friend has apparently not been able to find a day to debate shipbuilding, coastal shipping, ship-repairing, shipping and the like, is he aware that when Private Members' Bills come up later in the Session, I shall, to protect the interests of back benchers against the Executive, try to vote against every such Bill, in an effort to disrupt the programme so that we may have an opportunity to debate matters of national importance, in which many of us are interested?

Will the right hon. Gentleman be kind enough to say whether the Committee stage of the Army Reserve Bill will be taken on the Floor of the House? If it is not, will he bear in mind the advisability of having it dealt with not by a Standing Committee upstairs, in the ordinary way, but by a Select Committee?

Does the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, which we discussed during the early hours of this morning, extend to the Palace of Westminster? Is that the reason why the Home Secretary will not give up his tenancy of the Leader of the House's room to the right hon. Gentleman?

Order. I am sure that in the common interest we must confine questions on this statement to the business for next week.

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. I am sorry that you anticipated the prefatory remarks I was about to make on this matter, namely, that the whole House is inconvenienced because hon. Members have to go to the basement—the floor below—to find the Leader of the House.

I seem to remember that in the last Session the hon. Member and I had some discussion about those hon. Members, if any, who were entitled to make prefatory remarks. As far as the hon. Member is concerned, this is the time for a question.

Will the Leader of the House tell us when he is prepared to find time to debate the Motion standing in my name, criticising the conduct of the Attorney-General in regard to the Southall air disaster?

[ That this House deeply deplores the failure of the Attorney-General to institute proceedings for breaches of the Air Navigation Order and Regulations following the Southall air disaster on the 2nd September 1958 as a result of which 7 people lost their lives; draws attention to the fact that clear and documented evidence of overloading was submitted to the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation on 11th October 1958 and the Director of Public Prosecutions on 30th October 1958 and at the same time attention was drawn to two other serious breaches which required investigation; requests Her Majesty's Government to make available to the House the whole of the documents relative to this case either in the Department of Public Prosecutions or the Ministry of Aviation, then the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, including any correspondence that may have been written by Members of Parliament and replies thereto; and further regrets that the Attorney-General allowed inaccurate information to be given to the House on 14th July 1959 which remained uncorrected until the Attorney-General's reply to a Question from the honourable Member for Southall on 5th June 1961.]

I have studied the Motion that the hon. Member has put down, but it will not be debated next week.

The Leader of the House has announced a number of Bills which are to be debated next week. Can he give an assurance that when these Bills are debated the Ministers responsible will reply to the debates? As one of those Members who was present during the early hours of this morning, may I ask him whether he is aware that we debated an Act for eight hours, and then, although the Minister concerned had promised to give us a reply, the Closure was moved and carried without a Ministerial statement having been made and without one back bencher opposite having taken part in the debate? For your guidance, Mr. Speaker—

Order. I shall be obliged for the guidance of the hon. Member privately, but this is the moment when he must confine himself to asking a business question.

This is the moment for the hon. Member to ask a question of the Leader of the House.

On a point of order. I was putting to the Leader of the House a question, and then I was asking for your guidance, in furtherance of that question, Sir. May I therefore ask you whether the point that I am now going to put—[Laughter.] It is quite simple. I am asking, Mr. Speaker, whether the point that I am now going to put should be directed to the Leader of the House or to you. I shall now put my point. [Laughter.] This is a serious matter. When Bills are thoroughly discussed, and Ministers have promised to reply to the debates and then do not attempt to reply, what remedy have ordinary Members? Do I put that question to the Leader of the House or to you, Mr. Speaker?

The House decides whether or no the Question should be put when the Closure is proposed. It would be easier if the hon. Member were at this time to ask the question, if any, that he desires to ask of the Leader of the House.

Will the Leader of the House make certain that when each of the Bills to which he has referred is debated next week the Minister responsible will reply to the debate? Will he see to it that when hon. Members are taking part in the discussion of serious matters Minsters will reply, after having promised to do so?

I think that last night's operations, in which the hon. Member took part, were conducted with great skill on both sides of the House.

Will the Leader of the House have another look at the Motion on the Order Paper relating to the social and economic consequences of the proposed pit closures in Scotland? Is not he aware that these are not the responsibility of the National Coal Board or of the British Transport Commission or even. particularly, of the Minister of Power and the Minister of Transport; but are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the President of the Board of Trade, and, generally, the Government as a whole? In all the circumstances, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to find time for a debate on the Motion?

[ That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to appoint an independent committee to inquire into and report upon the social and economic consequences of the pit closures in Scotland proposed by the National Coal Board and the railway closures and curtailment of services in Scotland proposed by the British Transport Commission; and further calls upon Her Majesty's Government to direct that these closures and curtailment of services will not take effect until the report of the committee has been received and considered.]

I cannot give that undertaking. I did promise last week that I would discuss this with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State particularly in relation to the Scottish Grand Committee. I do not think that that procedure would be appropriate. The Minister of Power and the Minister of Transport do not appear before the Scottish Grand Committee and, therefore, I do not think that that is the appropriate vehicle. But I did say that I would consult my right hon. Friend, and I have done so.

Does my right hon. Friend really think it fair to ignore the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward)? Is he aware of the great concern in shipbuilding areas about the future of the shipping industry? Could not we have a definite statement that time will be found to have a debate on this very vital subject?

I have some hope that I may be able to satisfy hon. Members—including my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward)—on this matter before Christmas, but I cannot promise. The House must realise that having taken a decision, which both sides of the House seemed to think right, regarding the Committee stage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, it restricts the time available for other debates in the House.

May I put a question further to that put by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about a day for debating Government expenditure as part of the three days which the previous Leader of the House said would be available each Session. Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that one of those days would be allocated in the next week or so, or, at any rate, before Christmas? Is he giving an undertaking that since last year we had only two days instead of the three we were promised, one of the last Session's days will be carried forward to be added to the three days to which we are entitled this year?

Three days are normally earmarked, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, for debates on these matters and we expect that one of the days will be taken before Christmas.

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my second question? It is no use saying "normally", because we started the system only last year. Since we had only two days instead of three days last year, may we have four instead of three this year?

I would rather go into that matter. At the moment, three is what I am promising.

Last week my right hon. Friend seemed to be so clear in his own mind that he was prepared to honour the pledge given by his predecessor. I hope that he is not slipping back.

I am not. I was dealing for the moment with the business for next week, and the hope of a debate before Christmas.

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he is aware of the great alarm and despondency which has been caused throughout Scotland as a result of the statement of the Minister of Power about pit closures in Scotland? Will not he reconsider the question? We are being forced to discuss Scottish housing legislation next Wednesday. Would not he agree that we should be far better employed discussing the grave economic position in Scotland rather than housing Measures, which will bring still further hardship to the people of Scotland?

No. I am sure that the hon. Member knows that we cannot do that at this time of the year, when the Government must ask the House to take Second Readings of Bills. It may happen, I think it likely, that there will be a short Bill concerning the finances of the National Coal Board, when it is possible that an opportunity will arise to discuss some of the matters referred to in the hon. Gentleman's question.

May I ask two questions which, I think, are of importance? First, in relation to homeless families. In view of the fact that we did not receive a reply during the debate last night, may we have a proper debate on this matter in the early future and receive an adequate reply?

My second question is one which I have asked of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor time and again. I never got any satisfaction, so I am now asking the right hon. Gentleman. May we have time to debate the question of the very serious unemployment in Northern Ireland? Northern Ireland shipbuilders are not to get that for which they hoped and prayed, the opportunity to build a new "Queen" liner, because the liner is not now to be built. When are we to discuss the economic plight of this part of the United Kingdom?

Certainly not next week, and I cannot see any possibility of our doing so before the Christmas Recess. I hope that hon. Members will read HANSARD and study the events of last night and draw their own conclusions.

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Prime Minister to be present on Wednesday and, if not actually to introduce the Scottish housing Bill, to sit through the proceedings, so that we may improve his knowledge of the true state of Scotland; and disprove some of the information which he probably got from Mr. Cotton and Mr. Clore, whose connections with Scotland, to my mind, are fairly remote?

Can the Leader of the House say whether we may have an early debate on agriculture, in view of the failure of the Milk Marketing Board and the unions to reach a price solution as requested by the Minister, and of the staggering rise of agricultural subsidies forecast for this year and the slowness of the arrival of anti-dumping measures?

Is the Minister aware that there is a Motion standing on the Order Paper containing an accusation against two of Her Majesty's judges in Scotland and calling for their removal from the bench? Is he prepared to give time for a debate according to precedent and tradition before Christmas, so that these gentlemen will not be left in suspense?

[That this House is of the opinion that the sheriffs substitutes in Argyll who passed excessive sentences on persons demonstrating at Holy Loch should be removed from the bench.]

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that this is a case where you, Sir, might be able to offer some assistance to hon. Members. There is, of course, an absolute rule that an hon. Member cannot question or criticise the actions of a judicial officer except upon a substantive Motion. That being the rule, if hon. Members wish to criticise they must put down a substantive Motion; and my hon. Friends have done so. If no time is found for it, the right to criticise the conduct of judicial officers is utterly lost. Is there no way in which time can be found to question this conduct in the only constitutional way open to us?

There are Private Members' Motions days. Apart from that, I do not allocate time, and I cannot involve the Chair in any dispute about that.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Do you recollect that it was on your advice that we put down this Motion, as that was our only constitutional remedy?

I do not dispute what the hon. Member says, if, by "advice", what is meant is that I indicated that the other method which hon. Members were seeking to adopt was out of order.

The net result would appear to be that private Members will have no way whatever of exercising rights which are traditionally the rights of the House. It would appear to follow from your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that only "official" Members can put down this kind of Motion with any chance of it being heard. This, Sir, would surely be wholly out of accordance with the traditions of the House.

I cannot help remembering that the hon. Gentleman himself yesterday drew a place in the Ballot. But I expect that at that moment this was not in mind.

Reverting to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) and the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman to hon. Members to look at HANSARD; is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the trouble is that the speech we all want to read will not be in HANSARD, because the Patronage Secretary prevented it from being delivered? As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government was pregnant with a speech which had taken a great deal of time to prepare, would it not be in the interest of the House, of public health and the people of London, that time should be found for the hon. Gentleman to deliver that speech?

That is precisely why I advised the House to read HANSARD, where they will find the most convincing reasons why that speech was not delivered.

Is it now your definite Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that when this Motion is put on the Order Paper it cannot be discussed in the House unless the hon. Member concerned succeeds in winning a place in the Ballot?

All I said was that the Chair does not allocate time, and that I cannot allocate time for that or any other Motion.