HC Deb 18 April 1923 vol 162 cc2062-5
Captain BENN

May I ask a question about the Business of the House. It has already been announced that on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House to-morrow night the Postmaster-General will make a statement in reference to broadcasting licences. May I suggest to the Patronage Secretary that that is a very inadequate opportunity to deal with this question; and is he prepared to put down a Motion prolonging the Debate after 11.30?


It is not that I wish to make a statement on this question, but an hon. Member of this House has given me notice that he desires to raise the question of broadcasting to-morrow night, which he is quite entitled to do, and, in accordance with my duty, I shall be in my place and give such information as I can.

Captain BENN

I quite appreciate the courtesy shown by the Postmaster-General, but I should like to know whether, in view of the great interest taken in this subject, the Patronage Secretary could not arrange to prolong the Debate after 11.30.


I am afraid it would be quite impossible to do that. I think the House sits after Eleven o'clock quite often enough. The obvious opportunity would be on the Post Office Estimates.

Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY

May I also ask a question about the business for to-morrow? The Vote in Supply which has been put down is the Vote for the English Ministry of Agriculture. Scotland is not concerned in that. Vote at all. It has been suggested that a general discussion will be allowed on agricultural policy and I wish to ask how can the Scottish aspect be presented on an English Vote. If it is put down in that. way and a general discussion is allowed then I suggest to the Patronage Secretary or the Prime Minister or whoever may be responsible, that arrangements should be made to have a Scottish Minister on the Treasury Bench competent to answer the case for Scotland.


I have consulted the, Chairman of Ways and.Means, and he says that, as far as the broad principles are concerned affecting both countries, it will be open to discussion by the Scottish Members, but he could not allow detailed questions about Scottish administration. Those must be put to the Scottish Minister.


Under the ruling you have just given on behalf of the Chairman of Ways and Means, is it not important that the Government should intimate to the House that the day promised a little time, ago for the general discussion on agriculture should still be granted by the Government for that purpose?


Would it be in order to-morrow to discuss the Interim Report of the Economists' Tribunal upon the Agricultural Vote? I understood that some arrangement was to be made whereby the Chairman of Ways and Means would allow such a discussion, but I understand that some objection has been taken. It would be a great convenience to those of us who hope to take part in the Agricultural Debate to know whether we should be allowed to discuss that Interim Report or not, because, as you are well aware, we could not discuss details of legislation, but could only discuss administration, upon such a Vote.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

In view of what the Chairman of Ways and Means has said through you, Sir, may I point out to the Government that, so far as Scotland is concerned, the Debate will be perfectly inadequate? There will be many questions with which we, who represent Scottish agriculture, will be unable to deal, and in these circumstances I venture to ask the Government not to have a general Debate on agricultural policy to-morrow, but to give to the House the day that was promised.


I think our view as to whether another day a will be necessary or not will largely depend upon whether we can discuss the Interim Report of the Committee to-morrow. If we can discuss that Report to-morrow, we can cover practically the whole of the general ground— I am not speaking of Scottish questions; but if we cannot discuss that Report we shall have to press for another day.


May I suggest that, we should first of all have the day that was promised, and not have first the discussion on the English Vote. We Scottish Members are very anxious to raise important points about Scottish agriculture. The difficulties of Scotland are just as great as those of England, and we feel that, if that Vote is taken to-morrow, Scottish interests will be almost entirely excluded.


May I, as an ignorant Anglo-Saxon, ask what is the difference between Scottish and English agriculture?


The one is Scottish and the other is English, and that is all the difference in the world.


I think she matter must be left in the hands of the Chairman of Ways and Means to-morrow.


Will it be in order to-morrow to discuss the Interim Report of the so-called "Economists' Committee "?

Lieut.-Colonel COURTHOPE

May I point out that, at the very commencement of that Interim Report, a statement is made as to the expenditure incurred by the use of shorthand clerks and others who, I understand, appear on the Ministry of Agriculture Vote?


I must leave that to the Chairman of Ways and Means.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

In view of what has passed across the Floor of the House to-day, and not knowing what is or is not going to happen to-morrow before the Chairman of Ways and Means gets into the Chair, may I respectfully urge that it would be much more satisfactory if we settled now that there should be a day for the general Agriculture discussion, and that to-morrow's Debate should be devoted to the ordinary subjects which are discussed in Committee of Supply, the strike in Norfolk, and other matters of that description? I suggest that it be definitely settled now that we shall have another day for the Agriculture discussion.


May I ask the Patronage Secretary, or whoever is responsible for Government business, whether it would not be possible to-morrow to put down a Vote similar to that which was tint down last Wednesday, so that, instead of the Ministry of Agriculture Vote, we might have a Motion for the Adjournment of the House upon which the whole Agriculture question could he dealt with?

Colonel WILSON

I am very sorry that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is not here, as he did not know that this question was going to be raised. It is really very essential that we should get on with Supply. To-morrow is a Supply day, and I do not think it would be possible for the Government to depart from the position which has already been announced to the House. It is certainly hoped, however, and I believe it is the general wish and desire of the House—and, if that be so., I understand that the Chairman of Ways and Means will be willing to meet the wishes of the House— that there should be as wide a discussion as possible on the Vote that has been put down for to-morrow.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

That does not meet the case of Scotland at all.