HC Deb 20 March 1941 vol 370 cc293-5
Mr. Lees-Smith

May I ask the Prime Minister whether he will state the forthcoming Business of the House?

The Prime Minister

The Business will be as follows: —

On the first Sitting Day—Consideration of Lords Amendments to the War Damage Bill; Second Reading of the Public Works Loans Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution; Second Reading of the Isle of Man (Detention) Bill; Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Land Drainage (Scotland) Bill, and Motion to approve the Sulphuric Acid (Charges) (No. 1) Order.

On the second Sitting Day—Second Reading of the National Service Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

On the third Sitting Day —The Adjournment of the House will be moved, and a Debate will take place on the Concentration of Industry.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget before Easter. The actual date will be announced, probably in Secret Session, on the next Sitting Day.

Mr. Benson

Does the Prime Minister remember that after the last Budget it was suggested that there should be a general discussion before the next Budget was opened in order that the House and the Chancellor might consider the general financial situation? Are we to understand that before the opening of the Budget there will be such a financial discussion?

The Prime Minister

I should have thought that that was totally opposed to our practice. The Government take the responsibility of framing the Budget, and the House discusses it.

Mr. Benson

But the Chancellor himself said that a free discussion on the financial position—at least, I think the House thought he said so—would be welcomed by the Government.

The Prime Minister

Part of the Chancellor's duties is to put himself into touch with the formation of opinion generally, but that is quite a different thing from setting up a precedent for the establishment of a discussion in the House before the Chancellor makes his Budget speech. Such a course would be extremely undesirable when he cannot really take any part himself, and when anything he said or did not say might be misinterpreted.

Sir J. Mellor

Will the Prime Minister say whether the House will have an opportunity of discussing the scope of the Government's proposals for assistance to local authorities whose rateable value has been seriously impaired by enemy action?

The Prime Minister

Certainly, some time will be found in the course of the Session for a discussion on such an important matter as that, but I do not make any pledge. There are many Parliamentary occasions when the matter could be raised.

Mr. Granville

With regard to the concentration of production and industry, in view of the fact that the proposals are far-reaching and that a large number of Members would like to take part in the Debate, will my right hon. Friend consider giving a second day for the Debate?

The Prime Minister

We shall have to get on with the business, as 31st March is an important point in the Parliamentary year. I am not sure that it would be possible to do as the hon. Member suggests, but the Government are always anxious to endeavour to meet the wishes of the House.

Earl Winterton

Will my right hon. Friend consider increasing the length of the Sittings in order to bring it more into consonance with the position in pre-war days?

The Prime Minister

I am told that actually the Business has been finished every day, but certainly I think we might consider the matter as time goes on in order that the Debates may become more full.

Mr. R. Gibson

Will the Prime Minister consider an extension of the Sitting on the third Sitting Day, when the concentration of industry is debated, and will he say whether that Debate is to take place in public or in secret?

The Prime Minister

I should like to ascertain a little more what is the opinion of the House about the length of the Sittings, but in regard to the Debate taking place in secret or in public, I should have thought that obviously it would be taken in public.