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Business Of The House

Volume 655: debated on Thursday 15 March 1962

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

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

MONDAY, 19TH MARCH—Supply [12th Allotted Day]: Committee stage of the Vote on Account, 1962–63.

A debate will take place on the Economic Situation.

At 9.30 p.m. the Questions will be put from the Chair on the Vote under discussion and on all outstanding Votes, under Standing Order No. 16.

Second Reading of the Vehicles Excise Bill [ Lords], and of the Telegraph Bill [ Lords]. which are consolidation Measures.

TUESDAY, 20TH MARCH—Supply [13th Allotted Day]: Report stage of the following Civil Supplementary Estimates:

Class VIII, Vote 3. Agricultural and Food Services.

Class VII, Vote 9. Stationery and Printing.

Class III, Vote 6. Carlisle State Management District.

Revenue Departments, Vote 2. Inland Revenue.

By Standing Order No. 16, the Questions on the Votes required before the end of the financial year are put at 9.30 p.m.

As opposed Private Business has been set down, the House will be asked to agree to the Supply Questions being put at seven o'clock.

WEDNESDAY, 21ST MARCH—Report and Third Reading of the Commonwealth Settlement Bill, and of the Criminal Justice Bill [ Lords].

If there is time, Second Reading of the International Monetary Fund Bill, and Committee stage of the Money Resolution.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Anti-Dumping Order.

THURSDAY, 22ND MARCH—Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill Second Reading, which it will be proposed should be taken formally to allow debate on an Opposition Motion on the Aircraft Industry.

Committee and remaining stages of the Vehicles Excise Bill [ Lords], and of the Telegraph Bill [ Lords], which, as I have said, are consolidation Measures.

Consideration of the Motion to approve the Payments in Aid of Agricultural Schemes (Extension) Order.

FRIDAY, 23RD MARCH—Consideration of Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 26TH MARCH—It is hoped to be able to take the Second Reading of the West Indies Bill, and the Motion to approve the General Grant Increase Order.

Is the Leader of the House aware that while the debate on Monday will take place on the Committee stage of the Vote on Account, and that it will, therefore, be open to any hon. Member to raise anything in connection with that Vote on Account, it is our intention to concentrate especially on the failure of the Government's policy to expand exports?

Further, can he say when it is proposed to debate the Government's Motion on the setting up of a Joint Select Committee on House of Lords reform?

[That it is expedient that a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament be appointed to consider whether any, and if so what, changes should be made in the rights of Peers of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain or of the United Kingdom, and of Peeresses in their own right, to sit in either House of Parliament, or to vote at Parliamentary elections, or whether, and if so under what conditions, a Peer should be enabled to surrender a peerage permanently or for his lifetime or for any less period having regard to the effects and consequences thereof.]

I note what the right hon. Gentleman says on Monday's business. The main speeches from this side of the Chamber will match that intention, and will be made by Treasury and Board of Trade Ministers.

Discussion of the Government Motion on House of Lords reform will be included in my business statement next week.

Can my right hon. Friend make any progress statement on the discussions Chat have been taking place in relation to the Motion dealing with rights of minorities, and, if so, can he say whether that matter will be debated in due course?

[ That this House takes note of the situation of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland and other minorities in the House in relation to selection for service on Standing Committees; and expresses its disquiet at the present position.]

I took up that matter at once with the authorities, and I have been considering various drafts. I would hope to be able to put proposals to the House in a few days' time.

Does the Leader of the House realise that there are some gaps in the business for next week? Is he aware that his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister now has a new neighbour in Kent? If so, does he not think that that makes it all the more necessary to debate the Motion, standing in the right hon. Gentleman's own name, on House of Lords reform, in order to make it easier to retire the present Treasury Bench to the old folks' home up the road?

It really is an appalling thought that we are to have more of those contributions.

The Leader of the Opposition has given notice that the Opposition will concentrate on exports during Monday's debate. As both sides agree that exports are the most vital of all our economic problems, cannot my right hon. Friend give extra time for that debate instead of closing it at 9.30 p.m., particularly as this week we have been sitting until midnight, discussing much less important matters?

No, Sir. As I am sure my hon. Friend knows, under one of our Standing Orders the Question has to be put from the Chair at 9.30.

Is it possible to find time for a debate on the problems, resulting from Government policies, which face those buying, or desirous of buying, their own houses?

I have not time immediately in mind for that debate. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are coming into the last days now—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hooray."]—of the time that is dominated by the necessities of the situation.

Has my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House observed the Motion standing in my name—which has now been supported by 200 hon. Members from both sides of the House—dealing with the pensions of ex-Service widows? Can he say whether the matter is being looked at sympathetically? If it is left open, could time be given to debate the desperate situation of these very deserving widows?

[That this House, recognising the hardship suffered by retired officers, pensioned other ranks and widows of the armed services, especially those who are old, whose retired pay and pensions cannot be debated under Pensions (Increase) Bills and bear no relation to current awards, urges Her Majesty's Government immediately to improve the pensions of widows bereaved before 4th November, 1958, and to examine the conditions peculiar to all armed service pensioners, and, as soon as economic circumstances permit, to introduce special provisions to improve their retired pay and pensions.]

As I told my hon. Friend—I think, two weeks ago—I took up this matter at once with my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the other Ministers concerned, and action on it is, of course, for them.

Is the Leader of the House aware that many thousands of young people who wish to go to universities, and many hundreds of university teachers, are finding that, like other workers by hand and brain, they are being pushed around by the Government, and will expect this House to give early consideration to the statement on universities made yesterday by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury?

I should have thought that that was certainly a subject that could be considered for a Supply day, or other suitable opportunity.

In view of the worsening economic and employment situation in Scotland, aggravated this week by the information of the closure of the Rothes Colliery, will the right hon. Gentleman find the time to discuss the Motion, signed by all those of my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies, which refers to the closure of mines and railways in Scotland?

[ 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 have, of course, studied that Motion very carefully, and we have, in one way and another, had some discussion of the matters raised in it, but at this time of year—not to slip into the phrase I used a moment or two ago—it is simply not possible to find Government time for it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman not look at this question again? Is he aware that there is the deepest anger and frustration in Scotland at the failure of the Government and of private enterprise to provide the industry required to maintain full employment there; and that we are getting rather sick and tired of this continuous more-than-double the national average percentage of unemployment for the country? Will the Leader of the House take this matter seriously, and let us have a full day to debate it in the House? Many less urgent problems are discussed. Cannot the Government find time for this?

This is a matter of great seriousness, but the first business I have announced for Monday, 19th March, is a general debate on the economic situation, and I should have thought that these matters would be in order then.

As, last night, a most important statement appears to have been made by a member of the Government on the future of the steel industry, including the future of Richard Thomas and Baldwins, at a secret meeting of the Conservative Party—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not secret."] Well, partly secret; we want to discover whether what was said was accurate—does not the Leader of the House Chink that a matter of this importance should be the subject of a statement to the House, made by a Minister, which can be debated at the earliest possible opportunity?

If a statement on these matters is required, I shall, of course, consider it.

If I may dare to ask a question about Scotland, may I ask about the closing of mines there, which must affect the livelihood of miners? Does my right hon. Friend intend to ask for the full facts to be supplied by the chairman of the National Coal Board about why so much money was invested in these mines if the Board did not see a future for them? Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is very disturbing to all pitmen, in both Scotland and in England? I should like to have a full statement from the chairman of the Board who, after all, is responsible.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you tell me what relevance this has to the business for next week?

I was just about to say that I think, in order that we do not abuse our own time, it is important that questions on business should be confined to business. I hope that many hon. Members will notice that.

On a point of order. Could you give me some guidance, Mr. Speaker? Has the Representation of the People Act been changed? Under what circumstances and under what Section of that Act were outside people permitted to be present at the count at a by-election last night? I understood that there were very special arrangements about the type and number of people who should be present at a count.

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but, first, I do not know by what conceivable means this could be a point of order, and, secondly, if we were to discuss the matter, it could not be on the business for next week.

I was about to ask you, Sir, on a point of order, whether the Home Secretary would be prepared to make a statement next week on this very important matter. It concerns the people as a whole.

If the hon. Lady wants to ask a question about that, she would have to address it properly to the Leader of the House. It is not for me.

Will the Leader of the House say when we are likely to have a debate on the White Paper on "A Hospital Plan for England and Wales", which was laid nearly two months ago and which has been already debated in another place?

I cannot give a precise date, but I have said earlier that it would no doubt be the wish of the House to debate this matter. It might be appropriate to have conversations very soon to see Whether we could debate it just before or just after the Easter Recess.

The Leader of the House said a few moments ago that the state of the Scottish economy could be dealt with in Monday's curtailed debate. Did he mean that a definite part of the time during Monday's debate would be set aside for Scottish speakers in the debate?

The hon. Member knows that that is a debate in which the Opposition will have the initiative so far as time is concerned. The conduct of the debate itself—which, no doubt, can range very wide but which may be concentrated by the main speakers on either side—is a question of the Chair.

A fortnight ago the Leader of the House told his hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) that he was looking into the non-party Motion which calls attention to the position of ex-officers', widows' and other ranks' pensions, and also the non-party Motion in my name which calls attention to the hardships of public service pensioners.

[ That this House, recognising the hardships of public service pensioners and especially of older public service pensioners, whose pensions bear no relation to similar pensions now obtaining in the public service, urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce, as soon as economic circumstances permit, a new Pensions ( Increase) Bill to raise the incomes of such pensioners.]

Will the Leader of the House consider giving the House an opportunity of debating those two Motions, which draw attention to similar hardships suffered by groups of people?

I believe there is a link and I said so a few weeks ago, but the answer I gave then to the hon. Member must still cover the point.

Is the Leader of the House prepared to make a statement to the House next week, or will he ask the Home Secretary to do so, with reference to the method followed at a by-election count last night, the number of persons present, and under what circumstances they can be present?

I am sure my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will undertake to look carefully into the point raised by the hon. Lady, and, if he thinks it appropriate, he will bring it in the form of a statement before the House.

In view of the fact that the Service Ministers have now discovered that there is a shortage of doctors, will the Leader of the House allow time for a debate on the motion relating to the shortage of doctors?

[ That this House, in view of the serious shortage of junior medical officers in the hospital service and the shortage of general practitioners in Northern industrial areas, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to make available the finances and accommodation for a substantial increase in first-year medical students at universities in October, 1962, and to provide for several new university medical schools as urgent priority.]

The Minister of Health and the Chancellor of the Exchequer might then be better informed on the matter.

I gave an answer earlier on the question of discussing the hospital building programme. Clearly, the question of staff for that programme would be very suitably a matter for debate on that day.

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to the Motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan), supported by most hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies who sit on this side of the House, drawing attention to the urgent need to have a fifth university in Scotland?

[ That this House, noting with deep concern the increasing number of qualified applicants being refused entry to Scottish universities because of shortage of places at a time when the nation has an acute need for teachers and for trained university men and women for a wide variety of other vital posts, calls on Her Majesty's Government to embark on an adequate programme of university expansion in Scotland by establishing a fifth university and by granting forthwith full university status to the Royal College of Science and Technology of Glasgow.]

Is the Leader of the House aware that yesterday's disastrous statement by the Treasury, announcing inadequate finance for the universities, will be a grave setback? Will he consider giving time for that announcement to be debated?

I have, of course, studied the Motion in the names of hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies. I do not share the view expressed by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) about the effects of yesterday's announcement. In fact, I think that, on the whole, it will be well understood.

In view of the unsatisfactory reply of the Leader of the House to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), showing the right hon. Gentleman's unwillingness or inability to find adequate time to discuss the Scottish economic situation, will the right hon. Gentleman say what he proposes to do? The Scottish economic situation is very serious.

I have examined that point already. It is a serious matter. Some aspects would be in order for discussion in Monday's debate and in other debates other aspects could be discussed. I have never noticed that there were not opportunities to discuss Scottish affairs.

Has the Leader of the House noticed the large number of Questions which have been asked during the past month about the decrease in the consumption of welfare foods, to the extent of about 75 per cent. compared with the old scheme for England, Wales and Scotland? Is he aware of the great concern which this is causing hon. Members on both sides of the House who believe in the welfare services? Does he not think that in view of the steep decrease he should arrange for the House to consider the matter with a view to finding exactly what consequences will flow from this steep decrease in the consumption of these foods?

I have read these exchanges. I think all my right hon. Friends dealt very adequately with the points which were put to them.