House Of Commons
Monday, 23rd March, 1964
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Awards To Widows (Damages)
asked the Attorney-General if he is aware that account is taken by a court in assessing the damages due to a widow making a claim in respect of her husband's death of her future matrimonial prospects; whether he is aware that no special talent lies with the courts to enable them to prognosticate upon such issues; and whether, in order to bring the law into keeping with contemporary standards, he will refer consideration of widows' damages to the Law Reform Committee.
The damages awarded to a widow in an action under the Fatal Accidents Act are measured by the financial loss that she suffers as a result of her husband's death. In estimating the extent of the loss the courts are bound to take into account the possi- bility that she may remarry. It may well be that the courts have no special expertise in matters of this kind, but an assessment has to be made. I do not think there is any problem here which could usefully be referred to the Law Reform Committee.
Is not the Attorney-General aware that there is a growing body of opinion which thinks that it is degrading that a widow should be subjected to treatment which perhaps would be expected by a slave girl in a Persian market? Is not it really absurd to expect a judge—whatever a soothsayer may be able to do—to be able to assess whether a woman may get married or not? Is he further aware that, as a result of this unfortunate and uncertain method of assessing damages, widows are being spied on to ascertain whether they have friends whom they may be likely to marry? Is not it time that something involving a reform of the law was considered by the Government, or are they completely stuck in this present Session?
A large number of measures for the reform of the law have been introduced while this Government have been in power, and particularly during this Session. Coming down to the details, this is a difficult question, as I recognise. But if a widow has already remarried someone who is better off one would not expect that that fact should not be taken into account; and if she were about to marry someone better off I think that that fact must also be taken into account; and if there is an expectation that she will marry someone who is better off that is also something which the courts have to consider. In any case, I think it is generally recognised that judges deal with these difficult cases with delicacy and good judgment in the vast majority of cases.
Legal Aid (Accident Claims)
asked the Attorney-General what action he will take to expedite the hearing of accident claims under legal aid, in view of a case last week which arose from an accident in 1957.
My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor is making inquiries about this matter and I cannot yet say whether any action is called for.
In view of the remarks of Mr. Justice Paull in the High Court last week, is not there evidence to suggest that some solicitors are not pursuing the cases of their legally-aided clients with the diligence that they show in respect of private and public clients? Has not the time come when the Chancellor and the Law Society should take some action in respect of those solicitors who are letting down their legally-aided clients?
The general impression is that those who are legally aided are better looked after by the solicitors, for good reasons which I can explain to the hon. Gentleman afterwards. Since this matter has been made public and the comments made by Mr. Justice Paull, the Lord Chancellor is looking into the matter to see whether there is anything in the allegations which requires action by him.
Public Trustee Office
asked the Attorney-General when the official inquiry into the allegations made in relation to the conduct of the Public Trustee Office will be completed.
My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has com- pleted his investigation into the allegations made about the Public Trustee Office. My noble Friend has written to my hon. friend the Member for Solihull (Sir M. Lindsay). In view of the interest shown by hon. Members in this matter, I am arranging for copies of his letter to be available in the Library.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Is he aware that I hope that it will contain something which will allay the many anxieties which exist on this matter? Is my right hon. Friend aware that at the present time, when the unit trust is so widely used by so many small investors, there is a general expectation that the Public Trustee Office should concern itself and base its policy not only on the need to protect the finances for which it is responsible, but to see that there is a growth element in them?
My right hon. Friend will be interested to read the report. It is detailed and, I think, generally reassuring about the way in which the Office of the Public Trustee works. It is true, of course, that the Public Trustee is advised by an investment advisory committee which has some very experienced people as its members, and he does look for and is anxious to see that there is growth. But there are many trusts which contain limited powers of investment and trustees have to balance the interests of the life tenant who requires a high income against the interests of the reversioner who may want growth.
Can my right hon. and learned Friend say how this inquiry has been carried out? Was it purely an internal departmental inquiry, or was it held by sonic other people?
It was an inquiry by the Lord Chancellor himself.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, meticulously as, no doubt, this inquiry has been carried out, the 80 people who have made allegations that their affairs have not been properly conducted will not be satisfied with an inquiry into allegations against the Public Trustee Office which have been investigated in the Public Trustee Office?
Hon. Members will probably desire to read the report and see the nature of it before they form a judgment on that matter.
Development Decade Programme
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent Her Majesty's Government are now prepared to contribute to the Development Decade Programme, to which they agreed in the General Assembly of the United Nations on 19th December, 1961, and which was reaffirmed in this House on 10th May, 1963.
Her Majesty's Government contribute very substantially to the purposes of the Development Decade. The extent of our aid to developing countries is described in Command Paper 2147 of September 1963.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the fear among non-governmental organisations that the resolution agreed to by Her Majesty's Government in the General Assembly infers a lessening of Government contributions to the Decade Programme? Will he, therefore, give an assurance that the Government will endeavour to increase rather than to decrease their contribution?
I am grateful for the oportunity to try to clear up a misunderstanding which, apparently, persists about this resolution. I assure my hon. Friend that, in co-sponsoring this resolution with a number of delegations from developing countries, Her Majesty's Government have no intention of throwing the burden of development on to non-governmental organisations. Nor is it in any way the intention of Her Majesty's Government, by this resolution, to relieve Governments of their primary responsibility for carrying out the objectives of the Decade. Our contributions to overseas development have increased over the first part of the Decade, and we will try to do our best to maintain this increase during the coming years.
While I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House are grateful for what the Minister has just said about the intentions of Her Majesty's Government, is he aware that the doubt about their intentions will be cleared up only when they give much larger sums than they have so far done to the cost of the Development Decade? Can he tell us in terms of cash what he means by very substantial support?
All payments concerned with development aid, whether they are part of the regular budgets of the United Nations or its Specialised Agencies, or outside them, form part of the Development Decade. We are the third largest contributor to the regular budget of the United Nations and to the budgets of most of the Specialised Agencies. We are the second largest contributor to the budgets of a number of other agencies, including the F.A.O., and we are also the second largest contributor to the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance and to the Special Fund, to which we have contributed in the last two years 10 million dollars.
South African Embassy Staff (Diplomatic Immunity)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, how many persons attached to the South African Embassy on London are accorded diplomatic immunity.
Ninety-seven, of whom thirty-two are wives.
Is the Minister aware that at a meeting, on 28th February, organised to draw attention to South African political prisoners, there were two men standing in the hall, one with a cine-camera taking pictures of the queue forming to come in, accompanied by a second man with a lamp? Is he aware that inside the hall, there was a third man with a camera and flash bulb taking photographs of the audience? Is he further aware that at least one of these men is credibly believed to be attached to the South African Embassy? In those circumstances, will he take steps to ensure that no one enjoying the privilege of diplomatic immunity is seeking to impose the methods of the South African police State in this country where citizens wish to go freely without any check on them by the South African Government?
I am afraid I have no knowledge of the matters which the hon. Member has raised, but I will certainly look into them.
Denmark (Faroese Fisheries)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state the nature of the conversations which Her Majesty's Government had with the Danish Government after that Government unilaterally enforced on 11th March, 1964, a 12-mile fishing limit on the sea area of the Faroes; what has resulted from them; and what is the position at present.
Her Majesty's Government have not held conversations with the Danish Government since 11th March. The discussions mentioned by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary on 9th March, in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), had already been concluded by that date. They concerned the practical measures necessary to minimise the risk of unpleasant incidents. The present position is that since the enforcement of the limit there have been no incidents involving British trawlers.
Does the Minister not realise that that announcement is a very evasive one and is playing with dates? Does he realise that this matter is very important to the British and particularly the Scottish fishing industry, and that unilateral action by the Danish Government is very wrong in international comity? Will he take steps to see that the British Government act just as firmly in the interests of the British fishing industry as the Danish Government do in relation to their industry and see that the traditional fishing rights of the British fishing industry are preserved?
I am sorry if the hon. and learned Member thought that I was being evasive; I certainly did not intend to be. I certainly agree that this is an important matter for the Scottish fishing industry. With regard to our attitude towards this unilateral act on the part of the Danish Government, I do not think I can add anything to what was said by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on 9th March.
United Arab Republic (Resequestrated Property)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement about the result of his discussions with the Government of the United Arab Republic regarding the property of British nationals that was resequestrated in October, 1961.
Further representations have been made to the United Arab Republic authorities, both in Cairo and in London, about this matter since my hon. Friend the Minister of State replied to my hon. Friend's Questions about it on 29th May last year. It seems clear that the United Arab Republican Government will accept the principle of compensation for that part of the property which is not returned to its owners. I regret, however, that they have yet to communicate their decisions about how and when the compensation is to be paid and when the remainder of the property is to be released.
Is my hon. Friend aware that that is exactly the same reply as I have received every time I have asked this question in the last two years? Is he aware that only last week the U.A.R. Government announced that they were paying compensation for sequestrated property of their own nationals and that 48 British nationals have been deprived of the use or management of their property now for over two years? What will he do about that?
We are well aware of the situation, and I have seen the Press reports to which my hon. Friend refers. The embassy in Cairo realises the great importance we attach to the question and is taking every opportunity to press for a satisfactory settlement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many British missionaries have now been expelled from the Sudan; and what reasons have been given for these expulsions.
Seven have already been expelled and three are preparing to leave. The Sudan Government have stated that they are expelling all foreign missionaries because their activities threaten the integrity and stability of the Sudan.
While we admire much of the work of General Abboud's Government, will my hon. Friend agree that the persecution going on in the south must strain good relations with Christian Powers? Does my hon. Friend agree that the threats to take action to expel missionaries from the north of the Sudan if representations continue to be made about what is happening in the south cause the worst possible impression?
Her Majesty's Ambassador is in touch with the Sudanese Government on the subject. Everything possible has been done to ensure proper protection for British missionaries. This is a matter for Sudanese domestic law in the first instance. In reply to the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, the order originally applied only to missionaries in the three southern provinces, but I understand that it has recently been extended to cover at least one mission outside those provinces, the Sudan Interior Mission in the Blue Nile province. There are no United Kingdom citizens in that mission.
British Victims Of Nazi Persecution
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that many years have now elapsed since his Department were informed of the claim of Mrs. G. M. Lindell for compensation for her suffering in concentration camps during the war; and whether he will make a statement on the progress of negotiations with the Federal German Government on behalf of all British sub- jects illegaily detained and illtreated by the Nazi Government.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when the negotiations were opened with the Federal German Government on compensation for British victims of Nazi persecution; and how many persons due for compensation are in the category of the late Wong Commander Yeo Thomas.
Negotiations with the Federal German Government were resumed in October 1963. They are proceeding as expeditiously as possible and with goodwill on both sides.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very serious concern on both sides of the House that 19 years after the war no settlement has been reached about members of the British public who were in concentration camps? Will he see that in future this matter is dealt with at the highest level with the Federal Government?
Yes, Sir. I took the opportunity of the visit of the German Minister of Finance, Dr. Dahlgrün, to raise this question last week. It will be resumed when my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary visits Bonn next month.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am absolutely devastated that after all this time the Foreign Office has allowed these people connected with the work of resistance to go uncompensated? Does not my right hon. Friend think that, as Wing Commander Yeo Thomas has died, it reflects most unfavourably on both the Government and the Federal Government of Germany that no action has been taker up to date? May I have an assurance hat my right hon. Friend will personally ask my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) and myself to put down a Question at a very early date in order that he may state that adequate compensation has been paid to these people? How many people are involved in this?
I could not give an exact figure. While not accepting all my hon. Friend's language, I certainly agree that this is a very serious question, which we are trying to push ahead. Owing to the fact that these negotiations will be going on next month, I cannot give a date for a Question, but I will certainly keep the House informed.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is quite possible to obtain a full list of all the British victims of Nazi persecution because, through the International Tracing Service in Western Germany, a complete record is preserved of everyone who has ever been in a concentration camp. It should therefore be possible without much difficulty to obtain a complete list of all the British victims who have suffered in this way, and for them to get compensation in the same way as the citizens of many other countries have already obtained compensation.
I think that we can obtain a great many facts and I shall be obliged for any information which the hon. Member sends me, but I do not think that at the present moment it would be useful to give any particular names or lists to the House.
May I ask one question? Why have all the victims of Nazi persecution in other European countries been compensated and not the British?
I have drawn this to the attention of the Federal German Government.
Geneva Disarmament Conference
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest position reached at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva.
I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer which I gave to the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) on 16th March. The Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Conference, in continuing its discussions on general and complete disarmament, is concentrating on the reduction of nuclear delivery vehicles, and on immediate confidence-building measures. I hope that, with good will and effort on all sides, the conference will now make further progress.
Is it not a fact that since the conference resumed it has tended to take the form of a series of rather disconnected speeches all covering a wide range? How far are the issues discussed narrowing down to the point which the Foreign Secretary mentioned, and are these being discussed in more detail? Does he not think that that is the way forward for the conference at this stage rather than various nations having their representatives make long speeches not necessarily connected with each other?
I ventured to make this one of my suggestions when I visited the conference a few weeks ago. My hon. Friend the Minister of State will be visiting Geneva later this week.
Will the Foreign Secretary circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the statement which he made in the Committee of Eighteen on 25th February endorsing President Johnson's proposals for a nuclear vehicle freeze?
It would be rather long to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but I will make it available in the Library.
The sentences in which the right hon. Gentleman endorsed those words were quite short but very important and it would be of great value to have them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
I think that it would be better to put them in the Library. I do not claim the great honour of having them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has made to the recent official protest made by President Sukarno that he has in his possession documents of Her Majesty's Government establishing that Her Majesty's Government sought to subvert the Government of Indonesia; and if he will make a statement.
There has been no official protest, but a broadcast speech by President Sukarno on 15th February contains the allegation that the President possessed documentary evidence of a British plan to encircle and undermine Indonesia. No such plan has ever existed and the Indonesians could consequently not have obtained any such documents from their attack on the Embassy on 18th September, 1963.
Has any demand been made to President Sukarno to hand over these purloined documents or, alternatively, to hand over facsimile copies of them so that the true facts may be established?
I do not think that any such action is likely to be successful.
High Commission Territories (Charitable Gifts)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will approach the South African Government in order to ensure that gifts of clothing, food and other charitable supplies are admitted into the High Commission Territories duty free.
The High Commission Territories are in customs union with the Republic of South Africa. Under the 1910 Customs Agreement, they receive a fixed share of the import duties collected by the South African authorities and this is a valuable source of income for them. It is a necessary feature of the Agreement that the Territories should conform as far as possible to South African law as regards rebates and refunds and there is no provision in South African customs laws for the refund of duty on charitable gifts. I am not convinced that there are good grounds for asking the South African authorities to change the customs laws in this respect, but if the hon. Lady has a case in mind and can give me full details, my right hon. Friend is prepared to consider taking it up with the South African authorities.
While thanking the hon. Member for that reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that the Church World Service recently offered a free gift of blankets and foodstuffs to the Community Development Centre at Mochudi, Bechuanaland, on condition that no import duty was payable on them but that the officials of this centre were informed that they would have to pay 25 per cent. duty on the blankets and a smaller percentage on the foodstuffs? As there will be an increasing number of this kind of charitable gift, does not the hon. Member think that this matter ought to be renegotiated with the South African Government?
I am aware of the case which the hon. Lady mentioned. I believe that the Colonial Office have had some correspondence on this matter.
Cyprus (Un Peace-Keeping Force)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been reported to him on the creation of a United Nations peacekeeping force for Cyprus.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the proposed United Nations peace-keeping force for Cyprus has now been established; what financial arrangements have been made; what is the composition of the force; and whether he will make a statement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on the composition, terms of reference, and financing of the United Nations peace-keeping force for Cyprus.
As the House will be aware, the Governments of Canada, Iceland, Finland and Sweden have agreed to contribute contingents to the United Nations Force. Austria is contributing a medical unit. The bulk of the Canadian contingent have already arrived in Cyprus and a Swedish advance party and an Irish planning party are expected there shortly.The basic terms of reference of the force are those set out in the Security Council Resolution of 4th March. As regards finance, paragraph 6 of the Security Council resolution of 4th March laid down that all costs pertaining to the force should be met in a manner to be agreed upon by the Governments providing the contingents and by the Government of Cyprus. Her Majesty's Government have agreed to contribute one million dollars. Other Governments have also promised substantial contributions as a result of which U Thant has expressed himself confident that satisfactory arrangements for financing the force can be made. I am sure that the House would wish me to express our thanks to the Secretary General for what has so far been achieved.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that more than 50 years ago it was proposed in this country, and I believe in this Chamber, that an international police force should be created under the auspices of the old League of Nations? Yet when we are faced with an emergency of this character there appears to be a great deal of confusion or at any rate delay among the members of the United Nations in deciding whether to contribute an adequate force of a peace-keeping character. In view of the statement which has been made and endorsed by the United Kingdom Government that the maximum number of troops which will be available under the auspices of the United Nations will be 3,500 and that the United Kingdom must make up the balance to create a force of 7,000, does the right hon. Gentleman think that we are being asked to bear far too large a share of the burden of keeping the peace in Cyprus? Would it not be wise to relieve some of our troops and to bring them home?
First, we must await the actual establishment of the force which, we hope, will take place later this week. Secondly, I think that it is quite clear that we have, as a country, borne the greater burden of this particular duty. Thirdly, if there is an opportunity when the others have joined us in the United Nations force to relieve some of our troops, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence will take advantage of that opportunity.
Is it not the fact that life on the island has been largely paralysed by the existence of road blocks and other obstacles to free communication? Is it not essential that armed confrontation of the respective Greek and Turkish communities on the island should be brought to an end if the United Nations is to succeed in bringing about political settlement of the problems that exist in the island?
Yes, Sir. I would agree with that general proposition.
Is the Foreign Secretary aware that most of us in this House wish the United Nations peace-keeping force to be successful, and regard it as a very great experiment? Can he say why he did not quote the last sentence of paragraph 6 of the Security Council resolution of 4th March, which provides that the Secretary-General can accept voluntary contributions towards the cost of the force? In this connection, can he say whether the British contribution of one million dollars comes into the category of a voluntary contribution towards the total cost of the force, or is only a contribution towards the cost of the British half of the United Nations force?
We must be under no illusion. We have taken up the generous attitude that we will pay for our own force, and have also made this as a contribution to the force as a whole.
Would not all this invariable difficulty and uncertainty about United Nations peace-keeping forces be dissolved if the Soviet Government could be persuaded to remove their veto, which has prevented the operation of Chapter VII of the Charter since 1945?
I cannot answer for the Soviet Government, but I think that there would be something to be said for that suggestion.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how soon he expects the total force of 3,500 to be in the island? Does he realise that many hon. Members will agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) that the United Kingdom will still be bearing too big a share in what ought to be a general United Nations operation? Would he make representations to the Secretary-General about the terms of reference of this force, which are still vague and imprecise, and might lead to certain dangers?
In regard to the right hon. Gentleman's first point, I cannot give a date when all these contingents will arrive, but General Gyani is meeting the Secretary-General in Geneva on, I think, Wednesday of this week, and thereafter we hope for his immediate return to Cyprus and the establishment of the force. In regard to the terms of reference, we are in contact with the Secretary-General. He has still to discuss with General Gyani the final terms of the terms of reference for the force itself. That, I presume, will be done this week, and I will endeavour to keep the right hon. Gentleman informed.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will assist the Scandinavian project for a United Nations stand-by force by a commitment of logistic support.
We welcome the Scandinavian initiative and are at present considering ways of strengthening United Nations peace-keeping capacity, including the kind of support the hon. Gentleman has in mind. But before reaching any decision we shall need to consult with our allies and with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the noises that the Foreign Secretary occasionally makes in favour of greater use of the United Nations scarcely drown the noises in the contrary sense made by the Prime Minister? Will the hon. Gentleman urge his colleagues in the Government to see that some action is taken following this Scandinavian initiative?
Apart from disagreeing with the first part of the supplementary question, I do not think that I can add anything to the answer I gave.
Whether as regards the Scandinavian approach or any other associated with the United Nations, cannot the British Government at least make up their mind whether a peace-keeping force in Cyprus should adopt a passive or an active rôle? Is that not exceedingly important? Will he consult the Foreign Secretary about the terms of reference of the United Nations peace-keeping force and inform the House of the position before we adjourn for Easter?
The Question I answered was about logistic support. We will consider what the right hon. Gentleman has just said.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the disadvantages resulting to the British fishing industry from the policy of the Norwegian Government since the recent fisheries conference in London, he will seek, jointly with the Norwegian Government, to reopen the matter in order to seek an agreement more favourable to the British industry.
No, Sir. As I pointed out in reply to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) on 3rd March, the position of British deep-water fishermen remains today as it was before the conference, and, as regards fishing grounds off the coast of Norway, is governed by the Anglo-Norwegian Agreement of 1960. I know of no change in the policy of the Norwegian Government since the conference.
May I remind the hon. Gentleman of at least one change that has resulted in its being necessary to send British gunboats to these fishing waters? Does the Minister of State realise that certain nations which have traditional fishing rights in the North Sea and adjacent waters, and which were represented at that conference, are shocked at the way in which the conference was conducted and with some of its findings? Will he take into consideration what I have just said with a view to reopening the conference to see that justice is done to British fishing rights?
I am very sorry, but I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman must have confused these matters. This question is about Norway. British fishermen are fishing in Norwegian waters now to the same extent as before the conference, and will continue to do so until 1970. There is no question of the Norwegian Government having altered their policy since the conference.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I said that British gunboats were there. It is not British gunboats but the British protection squadron; but my point remains the same.
Ussr (Restrictions On Visitors)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what restrictions on free contacts for Britons with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have been removed by the Soviet Government in recent years; what restrictions remain; and what requests he has made to the Soviet Government to remove these remaining restrictions.
It is our impression that the majority of British subjects wishing to visit the Soviet Union are granted visas by the Soviet authorities. Restrictions on free contacts with Soviet citizens continue, and large areas of the Soviet Union are forbidden to foreigners. These are, of course, matters of internal jurisdiction, but Her Majesty's Government have made known to the Soviet Government their interest in promoting tourism and free contacts between the two countries.
While there has been steady progress in freeing our contacts with the Soviet Union, is the Minister aware that the position is still very one-sided? Is he aware of the useful information bulletin published and circulated by the Soviet Embassy in this country? What requests have been made for similar facilities for our embassy in Moscow?
I am aware of that bulletin. We have made it abundantly clear to the Soviet authorities on a number of occasions that we would like to see a free flow of information of all kinds available to the public of the two countries. It would be a great advance if British newspapers were available in the Soviet Union just as Russian newspapers are available here. The lifting of the jamming of B.B.C. Russian language broadcasts since the summer of last year is encouraging.
China (Cultural Relations)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what attempts he has made to develop cultural relations between Great Britain and China.
Her Majesty's Government made several approaches to the Chinese Government in 1962 with a view to developing cultural exchanges between the two countries. Although the first reaction from the Chinese side was favourable, there has so far been no official response to our more detailed proposals for exchanges of scientists and other specialists under Government sponsorship. The Chinese Academy has, however, agreed a programme of exchanges with the Royal Society.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this difficult position is very much like that with the Russians until ten years ago? Will he bear in mind that the important turning point in getting an improvement in our relations with the Russians was a visit from an important delegation from both Houses of Parliament? Will he bear this in mind in connection with China?
Yes, Sir. We should be glad to see those exchanges enlarged.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the total number of people still classified as Palestine refugees; what is the total amount to be contributed towards the programme for their relief in 1964; and what progress is being made in permanently settling them in their adopted countries.
The total number of Palestine refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East on 31st December, 1963, the latest date for which figures are available, was 1,228,064. Of these, 879,874 are in receipt of full rations. About $32·5 million in cash and kind has been pledged to the 1964 budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. This sum does not include non-governmental contributions, which were valued in 1963 at about $700,000.It is a matter for regret that so little progress has been made towards the settlement of this problem, which is inextricably involved with the complex of unsolved political problems arising out of the Arab-Israel dispute.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but is it not appalling that more than 15 years after this dispute started there should still be so many refugees in the Middle East? Is not that entirely due to prejudice among the Arab countries and the stirring up of propaganda among the Arab countries against Israel?
I would agree with what the hon. Gentleman says. As I said in my reply, this is involved in the complex of unsolved political problems arising out of the Arab-Israel dispute, and Her Majesty's Government are doing everything they can to get some progress.
If more money were spent on vocational training, would not many of the refugees be able to find jobs in the Arab countries, which badly need technicians of all sorts?
That is certainly something worth considering. Any permanent resettlement in the Arab countries must depend primarily on the co-operation of the host Governments, and that is the problem.
Can the hon. Gentleman do something to ensure that these very considerable subventions to Arab Governments are linked with effective schemes for the rehabilitation of these refugees?
I will take note of that. We are taking a great interest, and we are a large contributor. We have pledged 5,400,000 dollars this year and in each of the preceding years. I will certainly take note of what the hon. Member has said.
Why does my hon. Friend always give the figures in dollars? Are they across the exchanges or are they payments in sterling?
It is because they are payments to an agency of the United Nations, where the dollar is the normal currency and is understood internationally by all members.
Saudi Arabia (English Language)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action is being taken by the British Council to review the possibilities for English language teaching in Saudi Arabia.
In response to a request by the London representative of the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau in Europe for assistance in the recruitment of British teachers of English, the British Council has informed the Saudi Arabian authorities that it is prepared to send an officer to survey the problems of English language teaching in Saudi Arabia as a preliminary step.
In view of the fact that Saudi Arabia is looking towards Britain for greater friendship and trade, is not this worth while doing? If we do it, cannot we do it in sterling?
Certainly I think that the latter suggestion is constructive. As far as I know, there is no reason why it should be paid in dollars. As for the object, we have taken the first step. English-language teaching is an important aim it every country, but we have only limited resources and we cannot always do as much as we should like in every country.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the recent agreement between the South Vietnam authorities and the United States Government to increase American military assistance in South Vietnam, contrary to the Geneva Agreement, he will now propose to the Soviet co-Chairman the recall of the 1954 Geneva Conference.
On a point of order. This Question is addressed to the Foreign Secretary, not only as Foreign Secretary but in his personal capacity as co-Chairman of the Geneva Conference. Could I therefore have a reply from the right hon. Gentleman?
That is not a point of order for me.
No, Sir. Nothing in the United States policy declaration issued from the White House on 17th March, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House, affects the arguments against the calling of a Geneva conference on Vietnam which I expressed in answer to the hon. Gentleman on 10th February.
Is war without end to be the only prospect for the long-suffering people of Vietnam? [HON. MEMBERS: "Ask the Communists."] If, as some hon. Members opposite think, it depends upon the Communists, would it not be a good idea to take the kind of initiative which Sir Anthony Eden, as he then was, took in 1954 and call the Communists and the Americans and all the other parties concerned again into a conference in order to bring peace and neutrality to this area?
I certainly hope that war without end is not the prospect for the people of Vietnam. I hope that the Communist activities in the Republic of Vietnam will cease and that they and the North Vietnamese authorities will stop assisting the insurgency movement in the Republic of Vietnam, when there may well be a prospect of peace. We see no point in reconvening the Geneva Conference when the Communists failed to honour their obligations under the last conference by interfering in the affairs of Vietnam.
Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten that the International Control Commission, in its special report in June, 1962, condemned the American military assistance then being given to the South Vietnam Government as a violation of the Geneva Agreement? Since that military assistance is now being intensified, is it not to be even more condemned equally with any Communist infiltration that there may be? Is not the right course to put an end to both by summoning a conference?
I know that the International Control Commission in one of its reports found that there was action taken by the North Vietnamese authorities to assist the Vietcong in their insurgency movement in the Republic of Vietnam. As for the second part of the supplementary question, I do not find the United States policy of helping the Republic of Vietnam to resist Communist subversion inconsistent with the Geneva Agreement.
Prestwick Airport (Scandinavian Aircraft)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations he has had from the three Scandinavian Governments regarding S.A.S. flights to be allowed through Prestwick Airport; and if he will make a statement.
The Ambassadors of Norway, Denmark and Sweden called on my right hon. Friend on 9th March to urge that discussions on the Scandinavian Airlines System's traffic rights at Prestwick should be reopened. He is at present considering these representations in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the great concern in Scotland and among all Scottish Members of Parliament. Is he aware that Prestwick Airport is the second International Airport of the United Kingdom and that any action that reduces the frequency or the numbers of international flights through Prestwick, or debars any airline because of imposed conditions from using Prestwick, decreases the stature and lowers the prestige of Prestwick? May I take it that the Foreign Secretary is prepared to do everything he can to make certain that we hold S.A.S. flights through Prestwick?
I can assure the hon. Member that Her Majesty's Government are taking full account of all the matters he mentioned in deciding what action should be taken about S.A.S. services.
United Nations (Peace-Keeping Operations)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what instructions he has given to Her Majesty's Government representatives at the United Nations with a view to the strengthening of the United Nations headquarters staff for dealing with peace-keeping operations.
The United Kingdom representative in New York is in regular contact with the Secretary-General about the progress of plans for United Nations peace-keeping operations, including the strengthening of the staff at headquarters. During my recent visit to New York I was able to discuss these matters personally with the Secretary-General.
But has the right hon. Gentleman made any proposition to the United Nations in this regard. If so, what is it? Does not the delay in establishing the force in Cyprus show the necessity of planning in advance of the arrival of a crisis?
I do not think that we can go as far as earmarking a force. That would mean that there would always be a certain degree of delay. I think that the positive proposals already put by the United Kingdom and the observations which I made at Geneva on this subject for improving the peace-keeping machinery should be taken into account.
Why is it supposed that earmarking a force, as a general principle, would cause more delay than what we have seen in Cyprus? Surely ear-marking specially organised and trained troops would enable action to be taken more quickly?
I do not deny the question of speed, but there is some difficulty in achieving agreement about this.
Does my right hon. Friend not agree that without the facilities of the British bases, in respect of both communications and transport, the United Nations force when it arrived would be completely immobile?
Yes, Sir. I think that the bases must come into the matter.
When did the United Nations Headquarters Staff Committee last meet?
I should like notice of that.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has received from Her Majesty's delegate to the Security Council of the United Nations concerning the massing of Katanga gendarmes and European mercenaries in Portuguese territory in Angola, close to the Congolese border.
My right hon. Friend has received from the Permanent United Kingdom Representative to the United Nations a copy of the Secretary-General's report of the 16th of March to the Security Council. This report included an exchange of letters the Secretary-General has had with the Portuguese Representative at the United Nations.
Did the report not contain a statement by the Secretary-General that it he had learnt from very reliable sources that there was a large force of Katangan ex-gendarmerie and European mercenaries close to the Congolese frontier? Will the hon. Gentleman propose to the Secretary-General that the United Nations force should be left in the Congo until these external threats have been removed?
In the Report, the Secretary-General brought to the notice of the Portuguese Government reports of activities in Angola by Congolese ex-gendarmerie and European mercenary officers. These were denied by the Portuguese Government. A copy of the Report, which contains the correspondence, is in the Library of the House.
Is not the presence in Congolese territory of armed bands for further attacks on Angola a much greater threat to world peace than this canard of the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker)?
I would hesitate to say that it is a greater threat to word peace, but there is no doubt that there are such activities in the Congo as my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) mentioned.
Does not the Secretary-General say that the reports he mentioned came from very reliable sources? Will the hon. Gentleman make representations to the Portuguese Government, as an ally, that they should stop this activity?
This is primarily a matter between the Portuguese and Congolese Governments.
Pensions And National Insurance
Home Confinement Grant (Personal Case)
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance why Mrs. Fenney, of Blackburn, has been refused a home confinement grant.
The home confinement grant could not be paid because the hon. Lady's constituent had her baby in hospital. She did not satisfy the special conditions under which the grant may sometimes be paid, when the baby is born in hospital.
Is the hon. Lady aware that Mrs. Fenney went into hospital on her doctor's orders purely for the delivery of the baby and that she left the hospital the day after the birth? The result is that she incurred all the normal expenses of a home confinement. Is the hon. Lady further aware that the nursing profession thinks that the present regulations operate very harshly in these cases of short stay in hospital? Will she not, therefore, amend the regulations so as to make the home confinement grant payable in every case where the mother spends no more than 48 hours in hospital?
I will consider what the hon. Lady says, but I am a little wary of setting yet another arbitrary limit into these special regulations. If we did that, then every case which stayed one hour over the 48 would also have considerable ground for complaint. Our experience of the emergency regulations shows that a number of factors work quite arbitrarily as to the exact time of discharge.
Ministry Of Health
John Harvey Kendall (Death)
asked the Minister of Health if he will make an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of John Harvey Kendall, whilst under the care of the London County Council health department.
No, Sir. The London County Council has already made a thorough investigation into this unfortunate case and is satisfied that there was no negligence on the part of the managers or staff of the voluntary home where the death occurred.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this boy's death has caused great concern and anguish not only to his parents but to other parents with spastic children? Is he further aware that the death was complicated by the fact that the boy was being fed by a deaf and dumb girl, aged 18, who was not able to give early warning of the difficulties into which the boy was getting? In these circumstances—and this is the sole purpose of the question—will the hon. Gentleman give his aid to seeing that this kind of thing does not happen again?
I see no cause for further inquiry. The matter has been very fully investigated. If the hon. Gentleman has reason to think, however, that the L.C.C. did not carry out a proper investigation, or if he has any new information on the point, perhaps he will let me know and I will look into it.
Is it the case that, in addition to the deaf and dumb girl feeding the boy, there were five other adults in the room? If that is so, was there not gross negligence by someone?
All these points were considered by the L.C.C. I repeat that if the hon. Gentleman has any reason to think that the L.C.C. did not carry out a proper investigation and did not take into account all the factors in the case I will certainly consider it.
asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the 54 per cent. fall in consumption of orange juice by mothers and young children, and the 64 per cent. fall in consumption of cod liver oil by young children since the prices of welfare goods were raised in 1961, he will now restore the former prices.
Does not this mean that the Government are hitting the very poorest children, those who need these foods most? Is not the Minister aware that, for the first time since 1945, cases of sub-clinical rickets are being reported? Will he, therefore, honour the pledge given by his predecessor in 1961 that in such circumstances the charges would be reconsidered?
Where families are in need welfare foods are available free. Most people in this country today can perfectly well afford to pay for these items. I want the State's help—the taxpayers' money—to go where it is most needed, and this is not a case for indiscriminate subsidy. I am informed that the few cases of rickets have been among children of immigrants and that it is a question of ensuring that parents realise the need for children to have adequate quantities of Vitamin D.
asked the Minister of Health if he will hold discussions with the medical profession with a view to establishing as the proper channel for negotiations about general practice within the National Health Service an autonomous general medical services committee, acting as the executive committee of the Conference of Local Medical Committees and answerable only to that body.
No, Sir. There is no reason for me to interfere with the arrangements made by the profession.
Since this Question was tabled, the point has been confirmed by the resignation of the chairman of the General Medical Services Committee. Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that three organisations now seek to represent general practitioners? In these circumstances, is it not the Minister's duty to seek to discuss with the profession ways and means whereby G.P.s can have a democratic structure for discussions on their remuneration and conditions of service?
I have looked at this matter seriously in the light of the hon. Gentleman's Question, and I am satis- fied that there is nothing wrong with the situation. Of course, in that situation, I am not responsible for who is elected.
London Teaching Hospitals (Outpatients)
asked the Minister of Health what response he has had to his request to the London teaching hospitals that they should keep their arrangements for outpatient appointments under constant review; and if he will make a statement.
I have reminded all the boards concerned of the need for continuous inspection of their arrangements and will review the matter later in the year.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the queues at some London hospitals are as long as ever? Will he encourage the management committees concerned to consider adopting some of the more modern systems used in hospitals in other parts of the country?
Yes. I will consider all those points.
asked the Minister of Health if he will make it an offence subject to disciplinary action for any employee of the National Health Service, other than the consultant directly concerned, to offer to arrange a private fee-paying consultation or to advise this action as a means of securing speedier service than can be offered by a hospital through its normal arrangements.
I agree that any such action by an employee, except at the patient's request, would be wrong. This is generally understood in the hospital service, but my right hon. Friend will remind hospital authorities of the point.
Does that mean that the Minister will send out a circular to hospital author ties on the lines I proposed in my Question? I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply to the specific case I raised where this actually occurred, and I look forward to receiving the result of his further investigation in due course.
We shall advise hospital authorities on this. When my inquiries are completed in the case the hon. Gentleman has raised, I will get in touch with him at once.
asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied, in the light of recent experience of the cost of building new hospitals, that the estimates of the capital cost of the Hospital Plan as set out in Command Paper No. 1604 are still valid; and if he will make a statement.
I would ask the hon. Member to await the second revision of the Hospital Plan which I hope to publish shortly.
Can the Minister say when "shortly" is to be? Is he aware that we are getting mounting evidence that the Hospital Plan has run into very serious trouble indeed? We are getting evidence that major scheme after major scheme is being deferred, often from the 1960s into the 1970s, and in some cases eliminated altogether. Does not this bear out the criticisms uttered from this side of the House when we debated it that the plan was inadequately thought out and rushed through for political purposes?
No; that is quite wrong. The hospital plan made it clear when it was published that the estimates of the cost of schemes were tentative and might need to be modified considerably with the closer assessment of need which precedes detailed planning.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say at this stage by how much they have had to be modified? Is it not a fact that the Hospital Plan is now estimated to cost about half as much again as the figures included in the original White Paper?
I would ask the hon. Gentleman to await the revision which I propose to publish shortly. The hon. Gentleman will know from his own knowledge that many of the schemes have increased in scope or cost, and there have been changes in priority which I have announced myself.
In view of the fact that a report was issued on the alterations or improvements that should be made to many hospitals and that starts were made and have now been completely stopped—one case in particular, as the Minister knows, is the Broad Green Hospital, Liverpool—is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to make a statement giving the arrangements which were made first after the ten-year plan was issued and the changes which have taken place just this year in relation to improvements?
I will consider the hon. Lady's point about the particular case which she has in mind. However, when the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) and his friends make assessments of what the cost may be in changed circumstances, I think that it is very relevant to bear in mind that in the financial year which we are about to start we shall be spending £53 million on hospital building compared with only £9 million in 1951.
Crimes Of Violence (Compensation For Victims)
With permission, Sir, I would like to make a statement about compensation for victims of crimes of violence.A White Paper setting out the Government's proposals is being published today; copies are in the Vote Office. Briefly, the Secretary of State for Scotland and I propose to set up a Board composed of persons of appropriate legal experience, which will make ex gratia payments of compensation from moneys provided through a grant-in-aid. Compensation will take the form of lump sum payments and, subject to certain provisos, will be assessed on the basis of common law damages for personal injuries. The White Paper sets out the procedure for making applications, and for enabling an applicant to claim a judicial hearing before three members of the Board if he is not satisfied with the initial decision. The Board will be expected to act in accordance with the principles and procedure laid down in the White Paper, if it is approved by Parliament, but subject to that will be fully responsible for deciding in each case whether compensation should rightly be paid, and, if so, what the amount should be. When hon. Members have had time to study the White Paper, the House will no doubt wish to debate it. Then, if the scheme is approved, it will be brought into operation as speedily as possible. It will not require legislation. This is an experimental scheme. It is also a pioneering one. Apart from New Zealand, no other country in the world has established arrangements for compensating the victims of crimes of violence, and, therefore, there is virtually no past experience to draw upon. I believe that the scheme in the White Paper, while it includes essential safeguards against malicious abuse, will be found to fill a need which the public conscience has increasingly recognised.
May I, on behalf of not only this side of the House, but Members on both sides, welcome the Home Secretary's announcement that he has now overcome his previous feeling that the practical difficulties were too great to do this, but regret that it has taken him so long? Does he recall that my hon. Friends the Members for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) and Lewisham, South (Mr. C. Johnson) have introduced Private Members' Bills to deal with the very thing which the right hon. Gentleman felt could not be met? However, obviously, we cannot discuss the scheme until we see what is in the White Paper.There is one very important question. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, or the Leader of the House, when it is proposed to put the necessary Motion before the House so that we may debate and approve the scheme? Is it intended to do this in the lifetime of this Parliament, or in the very near future; or is this another statement to be acted upon after the election?
I can certainly say that it is intended to debate this scheme within the life of this Parliament.The right hon. Gentleman has perhaps forgotten that very shortly after I became Home Secretary I said that I was in favour of a scheme of this kind and very much hoped that I should be the Home Secretary who would introduce it. There are great practical difficulties here, as evidenced by the fact that the four bodies which advised the Government on this all recommended different and contradictory schemes. I believe that we have worked out a better scheme than any of them.
Does what my right hon. Friend has just said mean that no effort is to be made to recover either the full amount or any part of it from the responsible criminal? If so, why did he reject this point?
The White Paper makes it clear, and I have made it clear elsewhere, that, until I achieve my object of securing that all prisoners who are fit to do so shall do a full week's work in prison, in is not practicable to apply a scheme of holding back part of their earnings for compensation to the victims. However, when my hon. Friend reads the White Paper he will see that that is a practical possibility in the future, as soon as we can build up the system of work in prisons.
I welcome this scheme. I appreciate that we must wait for the White Paper for more details, but may I ask two Questions?First, can the Secretary of State give an assurance that the procedure for applying for grant will be as simple as possible? I take it that this will not be required to be argued before the tribunal by lawyers. Secondly, may I follow up the question which has already been asked? Considering that every weekend crimes of violence are perpetrated from which criminals salt away enormous sums of money, surely it should be possible to recover something from them. Is it impossible to devise a scheme by which, if necessary, prisoners are entitled to earn more in prison in cases where a grant of this kind is given? If a man is serving a long sentence, is it impossible to devise a scheme by which he should make some contribution?
I hope that all the arrangements for applying will be kept as simple as possible. The right hon. Member will realise that there must be effective safeguards against abuse.The scheme makes no difference what-ever to the right of the victim to bring an action against the criminal, and, if the criminal has salted away a lot of money, that may be very effective. But there is also a very large number of people, guilty of crimes of violence, who do not have a substantial amount of money behind them. We must put first things first, and I must first of all build up the system of work in prisons.
Is there any machinery for appeal under this scheme if the Board decides adversely against a victim who wishes to get an ex gratin payment?
There is no system of appeal from the Board, but when my hon. and learned Friend reads the White Paper he will see that if the initial decision is not satisfactory to the applicant he will be entitled to a judicial hearing before three members of the Board.
Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up two points? Is it clear from what he has said that this scheme will apply to victims of crimes of violence against property as well as against the person? Can claims be made whether or not the criminal is ever brought to justice?
The scheme does not cover compensation for loss of property. All those who have expressed views in public on this have agreed that the need is for compensation for personal suffering.The criminal does not need to be brought to justice or identified. The claim can be made, and, if it is genuine, it will be accepted.
Complaint Of Privilege
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise a matter arising from a speech delivered by the Lord President of the Council at a meeting in Chatham last Thursday.A report of that speech appeared in The Times and, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy of it from the Conservative Central Office. I have, of course, given the right hon. and learned Gentleman notice of my intention to raise this matter. It may be of help if I first read the words about which I complain. They are:
"No honest person since we came into power can accuse us of pursuing a reactionary or illiberal policy."
Order. May I suggest to the House that on these occasions, when a complaint of breach of privilege is made against an hon. Member, we assume something like quasi-judicial functions? It is probably essentially fair that both the hon. Member making the complaint and anyone being heard in explanation or exculpation should be quietly heard.
I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, but I am not seeking your protection. The words I wish to quote are:
On page 125 of Erskine May there is some guidance for the House which I submit for your consideration, Mr. Speaker. The relevant text in Erskine May states:"No honest person since we came into power can accuse us of pursuing a reactionary or illiberal policy. Nevertheless, our elbows have been jarred in almost every part of the world by individual Labour members' partisanship of subversive activities. This is the party which is now seeking power."
In this case no such matter could arise because no individual hon. Member is named, but, fortunately, those who have gone before us were aware of this possibility, and on page 117 of Erskine May there appear these words:"Both Houses will punish not only contempts arising out of facts of which the ordinary courts will take cognizance, but those of which they cannot, such as contemptuous insults, gross calumny or foul epithets by word of mouth not within the category of actionable slander or threat of bodily injury."
It is my submission, Mr. Speaker, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, having asserted that some of my hon. Friends were engaged in subversive activities, is guilty of a gross calumny and, therefore, has committed a contempt against this House."Reflections upon Members, the particular individuals not being named or otherwise indicated, are equivalent to reflections on the House."
If the hon. Member is proceeding on a document I hope that he will be good enough to bring it to me.
Copy of document handed in.
I hope that I am in order, Mr. Speaker, if I may, with respect, submit a divergent point of view from that to which the House has listened from the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).I understand that in cases of this kind you wish to take time as a rule to consider the submissions which are made, Mr. Speaker. In order to have before you a divergent submission, I would put before you one or two considerations in the opposite sense. An attempt to raise by way of proceedings for breach of privilege a complaint about a speech of either an hon. Member or a member of the public is, of course, a challenge to his right to say what he said. It is not an objection to the views which he expressed as being incorrect or the facts which he stated as not being in accordance with the facts. It is a challenge to his right to say what he said, whether or not he believed it or whether or not it be correct. I submit that in coming to a conclusion about whether or not a prima facie case has been made out, you will, Mr. Speaker, reflect that if the hon. Gentleman's contention be the correct one there would be a very serious infringement of the liberty of the subject. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] A Minister in this matter has no rights which a member of the public has not got, or an ordinary hon. Member of this House. If the hon. Gentleman's contention is correct, then I submit that what follows—if this is a prima facie example of contempt of the House—is that any member of the public, any hon. Member of the House, or any writer in a newspaper who expressed opinions about the party to which he was opposed, in comparable language, could be liable to be brought up here for proceedings for contempt; and I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that this would be an extremely dangerous precedent for the House to set. I was mounting an attack and I admit that I made a full frontal attack on the Labour Party—
Order. I think that it is fair on these occasions that an hon. Gentleman speaking in explanation or exculpation should be heard quietly.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman should not provoke.
I was mounting an attack—
On a point of order. I wonder whether you would be good enough, Mr. Speaker, to clear up one or two points.As I understand the procedure, an hon. Member, whoever he happens to be, brings to your notice certain facts. You then take 24 hours to establish the relatively simple point, not of the substance, but of whether a prima facie case has been made out. I have not the least objection to the rules being altered in the middle of the game. I have become quite accustomed to that. If the rules have been altered, would it be in order for me later to submit my full case against the right hon. and learned Gentleman?
Perhaps I may explain the situation. It is not complicated.In days of not so long ago Mr. Speaker was required to rule at once and the practice then was that it a complaint were founded on a document against an hon. Member, then directly that document had been handed to the Table he, the accused Member, was allowed to be heard in explanation or exculpation. The present position is that I should inevitably ask for 24 hours to consider before ruling on the proposition, aye or no, does the complaint disclose a prima facie case—that and no more. Since, in those circumstances, I should have thought it right to allow the hon. Gentleman to submit that he was raising a prima facie case, I thought it perfectly right to allow the other hon. Member to submit that he was not, because he would not have another opportunity in certain circumstances. It seems to me to be absolutely necessary in order to be fair.
I was, by way of explanation, Sir, simply saying that I was mounting a frontal attack on the Labour movement. I was not attacking the Parliamentary Labour Party as such, or any member of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I was attacking the Labour Party in the country as a whole and that was the case I was presenting. My case was that it was so crevassed and inter-penetrated by various elements which I, at any rate, regard as subversive, but which hon. Members opposite do not, that it was quite unfit to be elected to power should a General Election take place.I appreciate that it is obvious that hon. Members opposite do not agree with these views, but I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that they are not held alone by myself and that they are sincerely held by myself. What is under challenge is not whether they are correct, but whether I am entitled to put them forward. I claim the right to be entitled to say of a party to which I am opposed—not of the Parliamentary party, but of the whole movement—that it is so inter-penetrated by these elements as to be unworthy of power. Mr. Speaker, my submission to you is this. It is not every reflection that can be held to be a breach of privilege. The subject of privilege has been very widely defined, but I submit that the wisest general statement of it appears on page 109 of Erskine May. I crave the indulgence of the House while I read the paragraph, which is in these terms:
Particular cases, too long to enumerate, are set out on pages 124 and 125. I submit that it appears quite plainly from the nature of the cases set out on those pages that it is only those particular statements which can have the effect referred to in the general rule of which the House will take notice of this kind. I would submit that there is no prima facie case that any words amongst those quoted by the hon. Gentleman could possibly be said to be acts or omissions or words which obstruct or impede—"It would be vain to attempt an enumeration of every act which might be construed into a contempt, the power to punish for contempt being in its nature discretionary. Certain principles may, however, be collected from the journals which will serve as general declarations of the law of Parliament It may be stated generally that any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence."
and, therefore, should not be prima facie treated as a contempt. Mr. Speaker, I would submit that the facts are that the House should allow a very wide range of freedom of speech to its Members and to members of the public in attacking the other side, so long as they put forward views which are within the rule which I have read. All I can say is that, if I have been guilty of any kind of breach of rule, or if any prime facie case is made out, I have a large number of quotations which will give me a very distinguished band of companions in the Clock Tower. I submit not only that no prima fade case has been made out, but that the hon. Gentleman's attempt to prove that there has been is itself an attempt to intimidate the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone."either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results"—
We cannot have any more speeches about it now.
On a point of order.
No point of order arises now.
On a point of order, I think that it does arise, Mr. Speaker. I have always understood that when a matter of privilege is under discussion the said matter had to be raised at the earliest possible moment. I just want you to consider that for the last 12 years I have been making speeches similar to that of my right hon. and learned Friend. [Laughter.]
The hon. Lady may have been lucky. I am not ruling about her good fortune or no.I will rule on the hon. Member's complaint tomorrow.
Further to that point of order.
Order. No point of order arises on the hon. Lady's matter now—just none at all.
Further to the point which has already been made. The hon. Lady cannot be correct in her statement—
Nothing arises on the hon. Lady's statement. The hon. Gentleman's complaint does not relate to it.
May I ask a question which is designed to elicit an explanation by you, Mr. Speaker? When your Ruling is made tomorrow will there be an opportunity for us to make further points at the moment?
It depends on what my Ruling is. I do not know yet.
Further to that point of order. I wanted to refer to the speech by Mr. McGovern, at Los Angeles, when he made similar allegations.
The hon. Gentleman may want to refer to all sorts of things—Hamlet or other works of Shakespeare. The point is this: should I come to the conclusion that there is no prima facie case, then there will not be an opportunity tomorrow. If I come to the opposite conclusion, there will be. That is all there is about that.
The comment I wished to make was this, Mr. Speaker. When hon. Gentlemen were lost in laughter about previous speeches made by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) they overlooked the tact—
No question of that kind arises now. We cannot discuss it now.
Orders Of The Day
Resale Prices Money
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to restrict the maintenance by contractual and other means of minimum resale prices in respect of goods supplied for resale in the United Kingdom, it is expedient to authorise—
(a) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenses under that Act of the Registrar of Restrictive Trading Agreements, and any increase attributable to that Act in the sums required to be defrayed out of moneys so provided under section 35(1) of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 956; (b) the charging on and issue out of the Consolidated Fund, and the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament, of any increase it the sums required respectively to be so charged and issued or paid which is attributable to provisions of the said Act of the present Session increasing the maximum numbers of puisne judges of the High Court and judges of the Court of Session who may be appointed.
Resolution agreed to.
Resale Prices Bill
Considered in Committee.
[Sir WILLIAM ANSTRUTHER-GRAY in the Chair]
Clause1—(Avoidance Of Conditions For Maintaining Resale Prices)
In calling the first Amendment on the Notice Paper, may I indicate that perhaps it would be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss with it the Amendments in page 1, line 8, leave out "exempted goods" and insert:
In Clause 2, page 2, line 31, leave out "exempted goods" and insert:"registration and to the powers of the Restrictive Practices Court thereunder".
In Clause 5, page 4, line 34, after "order", insert:"registration, to the powers of the Restrictive Practices Court thereunder".
In Clause 6, page 5, line 35, at beginning insert:"(being good; of which particulars are entered in the register kept in accordance with those provisions)".
Clause 6, page 5, line 41, leave out from "suppliers" to end of line 42 and insert:(1) It shall be the duty of the Registrar to prepare, compile and maintain for the purposes of this Act a register of goods in respect of which notices are given to him under this section, and to make reference to the court under section 5 of this Act (subject to such directions as may be given by the Board of Trade with respect to the order in which such references are to be made) in respect of all goods of which particulars are for the time being entered in the register.
In Clause 6, page 5, line 44, leave out from "shall" to "and" in line 1 on page 6 and insert:"claiming registration in respect of those goods".
In Clause 6, page 6, line 6, leave out from "which" to "him" in line 7 and insert:"cause particulars of the goods, of the person giving the notice and of the arrangements described in the notice to be entered in the register".
In Clause 6, page 6, line 11, leave out from "which" to "and" in line 12 and insert "particulars are so entered". In Clause 6, page 6, line 15, leave out from "which" to end of line 16 and insert:"particulars are entered in the register kept by".
particulars are so entered.
And in Clause 6, page 6, line 17, leave out "any such list" and insert:(4) The Registrar shall also from time to time publish lists of the classes of goods in respect of which the court has made, refused to make or discharged orders under this Act, and any such list may be combined with a list published under subsection (3) of this section".
"the lists described in subsection (3) of this section".
On a point of order. While we on this side have no objection to the specific grouping of Amendments which you, Sir William, have just proposed, I would say that we assume that any grouping of Amendments in the proceedings on this Bill will be arranged wholly for the convenience of the Committee and not for the convenience of the Government.
On a point of order.
We are already on a point of order.
Sir William, I was saying that, as you are in the Chair, we assume that this will be the case. However, I give notice that, because we have raised no objection to the grouping you have mentioned, it does not follow that we will accept any other specific grouping later.Secondly, on this point of order, Sir William, I am bound to ask for your guidance in this matter. The Committee has been placed in an extra-ordinary position by the manner in which the Government have conducted proceedings on the Bill. The Bill was introduced into the House three weeks ago, and, incidentally, no notice had been given of it in the Gracious Speech. Today we find ourselves, after its Second Reading, confronted with quite a different Bill. No less than 10 Amendments of a complicated kind were tabled on Friday and a number of further Amendments were tabled this morning. It is well within your knowledge, Sir William, that a number of hon. Members visit their constituencies at weekends. I submit that insufficient time has been given to hon. Members fully to consider the complicated series of changes which have been made in the Bill. I realise that this situation is, of course, in no way your fault, but is due to the confusion and muddle into which Government business has fallen. This is characteristic. 4.0 p.m. Nevertheless, in the circumstances, in raising this point of order, I wish to ask you. Sir William, whether it would be in order for me to move now, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again, so that hon. Members from both sides who have not yet fully studied the details of these important Amendments may have time to do so and also that the Government may have time to sort themselves out and be quite sure that the proposals which they are now putting forward are the ones which they really wish to submit to Committee.
As to whether Amendments will be correctly selected or not, I remind the right hon. Gentleman that, as the Committee knows, the duty of selecting Amendments devolves upon the occupant of the Chair. All I can say is that I shall try to perform that duty faithfully.
Further to that point of order, Sir William.
The hon. Gentleman will be heard subsequently, if he will allow me to conclude my reply to the point raised by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay).The right hon. Gentleman asked whether he would be in order in seeking to move to report Progress. He would certainly be in order in so seeking, but I should be equally in order in declining to accept the Motion. At this stage, I am not prepared to accept it.
Further to that point of order, Sir William. Is it in order for my right hon. Friend to accuse the Government of being unfair in introducing new Amendments more or less on the spur of the moment, as he suggested they have, when it is common knowledge that the Government have been having meetings consistently for a whole week with hon. Members allegedly supporting them? If the Minister has been discussing the matter, surely my right hon. Friend is wrong to suggest that he has been doing it surreptitiously.
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that that is not a point of order.
Sir William, the point—
If the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise a different matter as a point of order, I shall hear him by all means.
This is the point I am putting to you, Sir William. My right hon. Friend was suggesting that you should report Progress and ask leave to sit again and, in substantiation, he accused the Government of not notifying the House of what they were doing. What I wished to ask your ruling on was this. Is it in order for my right hon. Friend to say that the Government had not, in fact, made—
Order. As I understand it, that is the identical point which the hon. Gentleman raised earlier. It is not a point of order. I do not accept it.
On a point of order, Sir William. May I put to you the reasons, as they affect a private Member, why we should ask you to reconsider the decision you gave in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Jay)? This Bill has excited, whether rightly or not, a good deal of controversy in the country. As a constituency Member, I attended the Second Reading debate, I visited my constituency and received representations from many retail trade organisations which were concerned about the then implications of the Bill. I studied the Bill. I read the Explanatory Memorandum, and I collected the Amendments at 3.30 on Friday afternoon, with the intention of working through them. I was then informed by certain Sabbath organs of information that the Committee stage was already taking place upstairs in my absence. [Interruption.] I apologise for an inaccuracy. I am told that it was downstairs.However, arriving this morning, I was confronted by the fact that the Explanatory Memorandum had ceased to have any meaning, that the Bill's Short Title had been contravened, and that a number of further Amendments appeared on the Notice Paper hidden among 180 Amendments. No one would suggest for a moment, Sir William, that your selection will not be made in the interests of the House and the country, but it is possible to wonder whether you have been given sufficient time to make a selection, in the circumstances, when you have to study so many complex Clauses at short notice. All the opinions of my constituents are now nugatory. Before voting today, I ought to seek their opinions again. The Minister, who was sailing in one direction a week or two ago, has now given the order completely to reverse direction. It seems to me, Sir William, that on a Bill which some hon. Members consider to be important—though I do not share that view particularly—on which 180 Amendments have been tabled, and about which private Members, in the absence of the services of a computer, are almost completely unable to produce the sort of answers which their constituents expect them to produce of their own volition and out of their own knowledge and experience, as a result of labours which they have gone through voluntarily in trying to make themselves conversant with public opinion—
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not seek to use the raising of a point of order as an opportunity to make a lengthy speech.
I am much obliged, Sir William. Having listened to the Lord President of the Council, I was, perhaps, misled.I submit to you that, in the circumstances I have outlined, which no one has sought to challenge, to continue with this debate today would be intolerable and would put an impossible burden on private Members who have little secretarial assistance and who are endeavouring to discharge their duties as they should.
What the hon. Gentleman has said has not shaken me in my decision not at this stage to accept a Motion, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again. Could we now get on?
Further to that point of order, Sir William. I should have thought that every hon. Member, in seeking to raise a point of order on this aspect of the matter, would have began by expressing the feeling that the Chair had been put in an intolerable position. It would have been at least courteous if the Secretary of State had opened the proceedings by making an apology to you and to the Committee.May I put to you, Sir William, a further reason why you should reconsider the question of a proposal to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again. What is the position of a Member who might wish to sign the new Amendments put down by the Government? The Government have put down fresh Amendments which have appeared on the Notice Paper only this morning. This deprives any Member who wishes to support the Government by adding his name to those Amendments of the right to do so. Surely, this should have been taken into account by the Government before they resorted to the procedure which they have adopted. If the Government felt that they could not produce decisive Amendments until the Monday morning, their right course, to prevent embarrassment not only to the Committee in general but to the Chairman of Way and Means in particular, would have been to seek means to postpone the business of the House on this matter, and this is precisely the course which my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) has recommended. I imagine that there can be no precedent for a Government proceeding with a Measure of this nature and putting down Amendments which hon. Members have not the right to consider supporting in the usual way.