HC Deb 30 November 1943 vol 395 cc210-6
Mr. Mander

Might I ask the Leader of the House whether it is proposed to take the Second Reading of the Local Elections Bill to-day, and whether ample time will be allowed for Debate on that Second Reading?

Mr. Attlee

No, it is not proposed to take it to-day.

Mr. Speaker

As the House knows, I promised to make a statement about the Amendments to the Address. To-day the general Debate on the Address will be continued. On the second Sitting Day a Debate on the release of Sir Oswald Mosley will take place. On the third Sitting Day I propose to take the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) and other hon. Members, when Dominion affairs will be discussed: ["But humbly regret that it has not yet been possible definitely to arrange for an Imperial Conference to consider the closer cohesion of the Commonwealth and Empire after the war."] On the fourth Sitting Day I shall first call the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown): ["But humbly regret that Your Majesty's Gracious Speech makes no proposal for raising the pensions of retired State servants, for example, civil servants (Home and Colonial), officers of the armed forces, teachers, local government officers, etc., to a level corresponding with the increased cost of living"—] and next that in the name of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby)— ["But humbly regret that Your Majesty's Government have given no indication of any specific measures to be taken in this country to deal with the world food shortages, now becoming widespread; and, in particular, of any steps to utilise fully the productive capacity of our fishing fleets, and to maintain the quality of our flocks and herds."] As regards the subject to be debated in the next series of Sittings, I shall have to make a statement later.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask for your guidance, Sir, as regards the Debate announced for the next Sitting Day? Is it possible to say what form that will take? Is it to be regarded as part of the Debate on the Gracious Speech, or is it to be taken as a special item of Business? I ask for your guidance because it may be, within the Rules of our procedure, that, if hon. Members have spoken or wish to speak in the general Debate, they are precluded, so it appears to me, from speaking in the course of the Debate announced for the second Sitting Day. That seems to me to be improper. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—because—with respect, I am putting the point to you, Sir—there is nothing contained in the Gracious Speech which refers to the release of Sir Oswald Mosley. It has nothing to do with reconstruction or the Government's social reform proposals. It is something that has emerged out of the past. It arises out of a Regulation operated by the Government within powers vested in the Government by hon. Members, and therefore it would appear to me—but it is a matter for your discretion, Sir—that to preclude hon. Members from participating in the Debate on the release of Sir Oswald Mosley because they had participated in the general Debate, would be hardly fair. I would ask whether it is not possible to regard the Debate in isolation. There is a further point I would like to put to you, Sir—though I am not certain it is a matter for you; it may be a matter for the Government—as to whether it is intended to offer hon. Members facilities for dividing on that issue? If hon. Members wish to have a Division, they cannot have a Division if the Debate takes place on the Address. It seems to me that hon. Members are to be at a disadvantage unless the Debate is regarded as a special occasion.

Sir Irving Albery

May I ask you, Sir, further to the point which has just been raised, also to consider the position of Members in this House if that Debate is taken on the next Sitting Day? There has been a wide-spread interest in the question of the release of Sir Oswald Mosley. There are a very large number of Amendments on very important questions down to the Address, and, as the Prime Minister has said, it is the main and principal occasion during the Parliamentary Session for dealing with these matters of outstanding importance. I also desire your guidance. If it is your decision that the Debate on Sir Oswald Mosley shall take place on the next Sitting Day as part of the Debate on the Address, what will be the position of those Members who wish to raise some other and much more important matters but at the same time desire to make some contribution to the Debate on the release of Sir Oswald Mosley? I would further desire you to consider that, if a large number of Members are precluded from taking part in this Debate on the release of Sir Oswald Mosley on account of having more important matters which they desire to raise, that Debate will not be an effective Debate.

Mr. Gallacher

The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) and I have put down a Motion, which will appear on the Order Paper to-morrow, drawing attention to the very grave alarm and distrust which have been caused in this connection and proposing that the Government should take the necessary action to re-intern Mosley. I suggest that it would be very unfair, in regard to a discussion on a question of this character that has aroused so much feeling throughout the country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question."]—to fit it in somewhere as part of the general discussion on the King's Speech. That would be to evade the whole question that is at issue, and, in order to get a proper Debate on this matter, it should be taken separately from the King's Speech as a subject in itself related to the war against Fascism, and it should be debated on the basis of a distinct Motion, so that we would have something in the nature of a real Debate and at the conclusion of the Debate a Division of this House in order to see where the House stands on this matter.

Mr. Speaker

I really think that it is better that I should say something now. The considerations that have been put forward by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) and by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) are perfectly correct. If the Debate took place as part of the general Debate, hon. Members would be precluded from talking on other matters, but that situation need not arise. An Amendment has been handed in to the King's Speech which is in Order, and therefore I propose to call that on the next Sitting Day. Hon. Members then, if they wish, can talk on that Amendment, and they will not therefore forfeit their right to talk on the general subject.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you will state the terms of that Amendment and whether the Amendment will be put to the House at the conclusion of the Debate, thus enabling Members to divide?

Mr. Speaker

The Amendment will appear on the Order Paper to-morrow, and the Question will be put at the end of the Debate, so that Members can divide.

Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare

There are two main issues with regard to the Business on the third Sitting Day. The first is the question of Imperial collaboration and the second is the Constitution for Newfoundland and whether she shall get back her authority. The first question has never been discussed in this House, although it is a burning issue and has very wide ramifications. Would it be possible, Mr. Speaker, to separate the question of the Constitution of Newfoundland and keep it for some other occasion, as many Members want to speak on the broadest application of the question?

Mr. Beverley Baxter

Since you have decided not to call the Amendment of myself and my hon. Friends about Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker: ["But humbly regret that no mention is made in the Gracious Speech of any offer to restore self-government to Newfoundland and thus put an end to a state of affairs which is unworthy of our imperial traditions."] we find ourselves in a very difficult position. If only one day is to be given to Imperial affairs, at some stage in the Debate Newfoundland will have to be condensed, or the other subject which my hon. Friend pointed out will have to be neglected. In view of the fact that three hon. Members have been in Newfoundland and we want to hear their reports, and in view of the statements which my hon. Friends and myself want to put before the House, cannot we have a whole day for the Debate on Newfoundland? I do ask you to consider that, because it is not going to be satisfactory and, to my mind, will be taken as an affront by the people of Newfoundland themselves meaning that we can Debate Mosley for a whole day and that Newfoundland cannot adequately be debated.

Mr. Speaker

I had hoped that part of a day might be devoted to the subject of Newfoundland, but if there are objections to that, it will not be possible, I am afraid, for that subject to be reached in the present series of Sittings in any event. After all, every hon. Member thinks his Amendment is the important one. I have not counted all the Amendments which have been put down on the Paper, but honestly, I had to scratch my head a good deal in trying to get at the most important issue raised by them, and I am afraid that I cannot hold out any hope that Newfoundland will get a separate day on an Amendment to the King's Speech.

Mr. Baxter

May I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he will consider giving a whole day for the discussion of Newfoundland and taking the subject out of the Debate on the Address altogether?

Mr. Attlee

We can see how the Debate on Dominion questions generally goes with regard to Newfoundland, and in the light of that, consider what further discussion should be given to Newfoundland.

Mr. Kirkwood

I wish to raise the question of the Amendment which stands in my name and that of some of my colleagues: ["But humbly regret that no provision is made to increase Old Age Pensions to 30s. per week, without a means test; to deal with the serious housing situation which is so vital for health and for the combating of tuberculosis; to implement the Beveridge Plan in full; nor to propose measures for a further development of sell-Government to Scotland, with the retention and expansion of its industries and the restoration of its depleted population."] It is essentially a Scottish Amendment, and we consider it most important. Time and again we have held up the Business of this House on Scottish affairs. The last time was when the question of compensation arose, and some of my colleagues were annoyed at me and at my hon. Friends from Scotland because we were using up the time of the House when they wanted to discuss other matters. We wish to show to the House that by setting up again the Scottish Grand Committee this could be avoided. Scottish Members would be removed from this House to transact Scottish Business, in St. Andrew's House if necessary. This Amendment has been put down in order to draw attention to the hellish conditions that are prevailing at the moment in Scotland—not in Newfoundland or in Japan, but in our own native land.

Mr. Speaker

I think the hon. Member cannot have caught what I said earlier. In the last sentence which I used I said—although I do not hold out much hope to the hon. Member—that as regards the subjects to be debated in the next series of Sitting Days I hope to make a statement later, and I have noted what the hon. Member has said.

Mr. G. Strauss

With regard to the Debate on the next Sitting Day, you have told us, Sir, that you propose to accept an Amendment to the Address for discussion. As things stand, hon. Members will not know the terms of that Amendment until they come to the House, and that, I suggest, will be extraordinarily inconvenient. Doubtless you, Sir, have the terms of the proposed Amendment before you, as you have said that you are prepared to accept it for discussion, and I therefore ask whether it would not be convenient to inform the House now of the terms of that Amendment.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

Before you do so, Sir, may I ask the Leader of the House, through you, whether, in view of the fact that the Debate on the release of Sir Oswald Mosley has nothing to do with the King's Speech, an extra day will be given for Debate on the other and much more important matters which do arise on the King's Speech?

Major Lloyd

May we have your assurance, Mr. Speaker, that the discussion on the next Sitting Day on the Amendment to which reference has been made, will be without prejudice to the Motion which is on the Order Paper in connection with the reconsideration of Regulation 18B?

[That this House is of opinion that the time has come for reconsideration of Regulation 18B and of the practicability of bringing to trial those now in detention on the sole responsibility of the Home Secretary.]

Mr. Speaker

That last question has nothing to do with me. I do not select the Motions which have been put down on the Order Paper. That is the responsibility of the Government. As regards what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), I am not certain that he is not criticising my decision. I have said quite frankly that when these matters boil up, I think it is far better to get them settled straight away and have done with them.

Sir A. Southby

On a point of Order. I hope, Mr. Speaker, you did not think that I was in any way reflecting on your decision. You will remember that I prefaced my remark by saying that I wished, through you, to ask the Leader of the House whether the Government would give an extra day to the Debate on the Address, in view of the fact that the question of Sir Oswald Mosley's release does not really arise out of the King's Speech, and therefore we are losing one day which could otherwise be devoted to the discussion of more important subjects?

Mr. Speaker

The Amendment to which reference has been made and which I propose to accept for discussion is as follows: But humbly regret the decision of your Majesty's advisers to release Sir Oswald Mosley, which is calculated to retard the war effort and lead to misunderstanding at home and abroad.