HC Deb 02 March 1944 vol 397 cc1583-6
Mr. Arthur Greenwood

May I ask the Leader of the House the Business for the next series of Sittings?

The Secretary of State for Foreiģn Affairs (Mr. Eden)

Yes, Sir. The Business will be as follows:

First Sitting Day—It is proposed to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on going into Committee of Supply on the Navy Estimates, and to consider Votes A and 1 and Navy Supplementary Estimate in Committee.

Second Sitting Day—Committee stage of the Civil Estimates and Estimates for Revenue Departments, Vote on Account, 1944. A Debate will take place on Nutrition and Infantile Mortality.

On the Third and Fourth Sittings Days we shall make further progress in Committee on the Education Bill.

During the week we hope that there will be an opportunity for further progress to be made with the India (Attachment of States) Bill [Lords.]

Mr. Greenwood

Arising out of the Business for the Third and Fourth Days of the next series of Sittings, can my right hon. Friend make a statement as to what steps can be taken to speed up progress on the Education Bill?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. I have felt—and I think the House has felt—some concern at the fact that we were not making more rapid progress with the Bill. At the same time the Government have been reluctant to impose any form of automatic machinery. I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education has had some conversations with all parties interested in the various Amendments and that, as a result, a general understanding has been reached that it would be desirable to arrange a programme in order to complete, if we can, the Committee stage of the Bill before the Easter Recess. I propose that this programme should be circulated to all hon. Members, and I hope it will be accepted as a method of carrying on our Business. There are, of course, precedents for this; we have had voluntary arrangements of this kind before which are, I think, much better than automatic arrangements. I hope the programme will commend itself to the House and the hon. Members will held us in getting the Committee stage of the Bill before Easter.

Mr. Thorne

If more rapid progress is not made with the Education Bill than is being made now, does the Government intend to introduce the Guillotine?

Mr. Eden

I think that we shall, by this agreement, make progress and get the Committee stage by Easter. I prefer it to any other methods.

Mr. Maxton

Could the Leader of the House give us any indication of the day on which the Government hope to reach the India (Attachment of States) Bill [Lords]? I cannot see any day's Business which we could curtail, in fairness to the persons interested.

Mr. Eden

I am not sure either, but sometimes it happens that the House concludes its Business before the allotted hour, and, if that happened, I should hope to make progress with that Bill, especially after the generally favourable reception which was accorded to the Measure yesterday.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

As regards to-day's Business, would my right hon. Friend consider a further appeal that the question of tanks should not be discussed to-day but that the Government should give a day to it entirely by itself? I think it is the general wish of the House that this very important subject should have a separate day.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps it might be more convenient to the House if I answered that Question, instead of the Leader of the House. I have been looking into the question of a Debate on tanks in Secret Session, and I must say that I rather deprecate it at the present moment. I do not quite know how I should be able to keep it in Order. After all, the question of tanks is one more for the Ministry of Supply than the War Office. There is also a Memorandum of the Select Committee from which Members might wish to quote but as this document has not been presented to the House, it would be entirely against the Rules. This makes such a Debate at the present moment a little inconvenient.

Mr. Hammersley

Arising out of what you have just said, Mr. Speaker, the points very much in my mind are first the importance of this Debate and secondly, the fact that having it in circumstances which might lead to the feeling that other normal Army matters were being crowded out would, perhaps, be unfortunate. But could we get some opinion from the Front Bench as to whether they would give a full day on another occasion for a Debate on tanks?

Mr. Eden

The Government's position was that if the House wished to debate the question of tanks, we would not make any difficulty about it and, indeed, would provide facilities. However, in view of what has been said and Ruled by you, Mr. Speaker, it is dear that the matter could not be taken to-day. It is equally clear that some hon. Members want to raise it, so perhaps they will leave it to me to try to find an occasion. I would not like to promise a full day or to say what the occasion would be, but perhaps I could make an occasion before the House rises for Easter.

Mr. Hammersley

As I now understand that the Government have undertaken, if not to provide a full day, to provide an adequate opportunity for tanks to be debated, I will, in those circumstances, not endeavour to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser

Can my right hon. Friend help us with regard to the Business for the next Sitting Day by indicating whether it is hoped that Mr. Speaker will allow us to have a wide Debate on the Pensions Bill, including the Royal Warrant, which is a parallel instrument in the concessions proposed to be made available to officers and men? If not, could he see that the draft Royal Warrant comes to this House, as, otherwise, arrangements might be made final without the House being able to discuss them?

Mr. Eden

I do not think the extent of the Debate is a matter for me; it is a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Does the Leader of the House recall the promise of the Prime Minister some weeks ago that we should have a full day's Debate on war decorations, ribbons and awards to serving men? Is not that Debate long overdue?

Mr. Eden

I am aware of that, but it is in the programme. It is not easy to fit in all these subjects, but that Debate will take place before long.

Viscount Hinchinģbrooke

Will my right hon. Friend take into account the desire expressed in some quarters that the Debate on health services should be postponed for a week beyond the date now contemplated, owing to the intricate nature of the proposals contained in the Ministry of Health White Paper?

Mr. Eden

I have not come to any decision about the actual date at present. I will bear in mind what my Noble Friend has said.

Mr. Granville

In view of the promise made by the right hon. Gentleman that there would be an opportunity to discuss Empire economic co-operation and Dominion affairs, can the Leader of the House say whether such an opportunity will be provided before Easter?

Mr. Eden

I think I can give that undertaking, although I prefer to announce the Business week by week.

Mr. Shinwell

My right hon. Friend remembers that he promised such a Debate?

Mr. Eden

Very well.

Mr. Shinwell

Do not run away from it.

Mr. Eden

I am not running away from it.

Mr. Gallacher

Will the Leader of the House take care not to be guided by the infantile minds of the young Tories behind him?

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

Can my right hon. Friend say what time has been allocated to-day for the discussion of the Amendment on Army pay and allowances in the name of the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Kendall)? Further, is he aware that a large number of serving Members desire to take part in that discussion?

Mr. Eden

That is not a matter for me.