HC Deb 01 April 1943 vol 388 cc344-8
Mr. Arthur Greenwood

May I ask the Prime Minister whether he will state the Business for the next Sitting Days?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

The Business for the next series of Sittings will be as follows:

First Sitting Day—Assuming that we have concluded the Committee stage of the Catering Wages Bill, the Business will be: Committee and remaining stages of the Nurses Bill; Second Reading of the Evidence and Powers of Attorney Bill (Lords); Second Reading of the Courts (Emergency Powers) Bill (Lords); Committee and remaining stages of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill; and Motion to approve the China Clay (Charges) Order.

Second Sitting Day—It is proposed to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on going into Committee of Supply on the Civil Estimates and Estimates for the Revenue Departments. The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) relating to the British Broadcasting Corporation will be considered.

Third Sitting Day—Supply (4th Allotted Day): Committee. Continuation of Debate on Colonial Administration in the West Indies.

Mr. Greenwood

May I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to a Motion which has been on the Order Paper some time and widely signed by Members of all parties with regard to the position of refugees, and whether it will be possible to arrange before the Easter Recess for a discussion of this problem?

[That, in view of the massacres and starvation of Jews and others in enemy and enemy-occupied countries, this House desires to assure His Majesty's Government of its fullest support for immediate measures, on the largest and most generous scale compatible with the requirements of military operations and security, for providing help and temporary asylum to persons in danger of massacre who are able to leave enemy and enemy-occupied countries.]

The Prime Minister

The Government are not at all opposed in principle to such a discussion, but we should like to consider what will be the most convenient moment when the discussion would do the maximum amount of good. I think that it would be better, if possible; to take place when the Foreign Secretary has returned, as he has been discussing these matters in the United States and knows exactly what the latest position between the United Nations concerned is on the matter. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will explore the question through the usual channels.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

When is it proposed to take the Committee stage of the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Bill?

The Prime Minister

Not until after Easter.

Mr. Stewart

As some delay in addition to that which has taken place seems inevitable, may I ask whether, in view of the extraordinarily large number of Amendments already handed in, covering 30 pages of the Order Paper, and of the fact that a considerable proportion of them are Government Amendments proposing legislation by reference to an extraordinary degree, the Government will consider cancelling the Committee stage, withdrawing the Bill, completely redrafting it, and presenting it in a more workmanlike form?

Mr. Kirkwood

Is that not a strange question to be put by an individual who is part and parcel of a group which has put down a large number of Amendments?

The Prime Minister

I am advised that the Government Amendments do not introduce any question of principle not covered by the Second Reading of the Bill on 24th February, Apart from the Schedules, the Government Amendments are largely of a drafting nature.

Mr. Buchanan

The Prime Minister said that the Business on the first Sitting Day depended on what happened to the Catering Bill. Am I to understand that if the Catering Bill is not finished, the other Business will be subject to adjustment? If that is so, is it not unfair to the House for the Business to be so uncertain?

The Prime Minister

If the Catering Wages Bill is not finished to-day, we shall have to go on with it on the first Sitting Day in the next series of Sittings, and then, no doubt, some of the other Business would have to be moved to a later date, but I hope it may be possible to come to a conclusion to-day on the Catering Bill.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Are the Government yet in a position to say whether they can give an early date for a discussion of the Motion dealing with workmen's compensation standing in the name of a large number of hon. Members?

[This House is of opinion that the scales of payment to injured workmen under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1925, deny a reasonable standard of living to the injured workman and his dependants and delays his restoration to full industrial employment, and calls upon the Government to take steps to raise the rates provided for in the 1925 Act by 50 per cent., and to adjust the method of calculating Pre-accident earnings so that the injured workmen may be compensated on an equitable basis.]

Mr. Ness Edwards

Will the Prime Minister have regard to the grave feeling of dissatisfaction which exists in the coalfields with regard to the present position, and will he endeavour to grant an early date for the discussion of workmen's compensation—after the time which has been occupied by the obstructionist tactics of the last few days?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that I am not able to assign a date.

Mr. Buchanan

Is it quite fair for the Prime Minister to announce three days' Business subject to a set of conditions? Can he not give the House some better idea of what is likely to be the course of Business? If progress goes on at the same rate as yesterday, the Business programme announced for the next series of Sittings will be totally upset. Would it not have been better for him to have come to an arrangement with his own followers before announcing the forthcoming Business?

The Prime Minister

There are sometimes these vicissitudes in Parliamentary life and Parliamentary Business, and the House has in its Procedure and Rules of Order a certain amount of elasticity which I should be loth to curtail.

Mr. William Brown

I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question which I have asked once or twice before, and that is when are we likely to have an opportunity of discussing the Rushcliffe Committee's Report on the conditions of nurses? I ask that specifically because it appears that he is asking——

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member cannot go on to debate the subject.

Mr. Brown

I trust that I am not out of Order in asking for a discussion on the subject?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member can put a question, but he cannot start to debate it.

Mr. Brown

I will repeat my question. Many of us are wanting to discuss the subject, and are we likely to have an opportunity of discussing the Report of the Committee at an early date?

The Prime Minister

No. Sir, not at a very early date.

Sir Ralph Glyn

Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to a Motion on the Order Paper, signed by a number of Members, asking that the Government should realise the anxiety of the House about the U-boat campaign and should take an opportunity of informing the House of great improvements which have recently been effected?

[That the operation of naval and air forces of the United Nations in the conduct of the anti-U-boat war should be examined by this House at an early date.]

The Prime Minister

I should deprecate a discussion upon this subject. Certainly it would be quite impossible in public, and even in Secret Session I should feel very much hampered in stating the full case. I must ask for a measure of confidence.

Mr. Stokes

Is the Prime Minister able to give us any indication as to when the Government will introduce a Measure empowering them to suspend the Standing Orders limiting the Sittings of the House for a definite period only, and will it be introduced at such a time as will allow of a full discussion of it?

The Prime Minister

At an early date this proposed alteration in the Standing Orders will be moved in the House and the usual opportunities of debate will be in no way limited.

Mr. James Griffiths

When may we expect a statement regarding the increase in old age pensions? It has been promised since last November, and I hope that it will be made before Easter.

The Prime Minister

The Bill is still being drafted, and the matter is to be disposed of before we separate this Session.