HC Deb 28 November 1944 vol 404 cc2403-5
Mr. Speaker

There is a matter to which I would like to draw the attention of hon. Members. I have been thinking about the arrangements now in operation for the half-hour Adjournment Debate. It has very often been the case that subjects have not been selected for raising on the Adjournment Motion until the date has been secured. I propose to lay down the Rule in future, to operate from the beginning of the new Session, that the half-hour Adjournment may not be booked for more than a fortnight in advance and must be booked after 10 o'clock in person at my office. The subject then must be given. I suggest we might follow this arrangement during the coming Session to see how it works.

Mr. Driberg

If there is a last-minute cancellation of the subject that has been booked, either because the Member himself cannot be there or because, as has happened on occasion, the Minister is unexpectedly called away and cannot be there to answer, will that half-hour then be available, as usual, for any hon. Member who chooses to raise anything at quite short notice?

Mr. Speaker

Yes. I think that if the half-hour is not taken, any hon. Member would be able to catch my eye. I would say that I expect Ministers to make arrangements to be there for the fortnightly bookings.

Sir Percy Harris

Will you, Mr. Speaker, make perfectly clear that the right of hon. Members to raise subjects in the half-hour Debate on the Adjournment still remains? This new procedure of stating the subject some time in ad- vance, I suggest, should not preclude the ancient right of ventilating grievances on the Adjournment.

Mr. Speaker

This is purely a war-time arrangement, because we have no ballots at the moment, and Private Members do not get a chance in that way to raise matters. If the Government give back Private Members' time I shall have to reconsider the procedure.

Mr. W. J. Brown

I understand from what you have said, Sir, that at any time the Adjournment may be booked up, probably for a fortnight ahead. There must, nevertheless, be other Members rising from day to day, and giving notice that they want to raise matters at a later time. Will note be taken of these, and at the end of the 14 days will you, Sir, allocate the Adjournment, in the order in which Members have given notice in the House?

Mr. Speaker

No, I hardly think that that would be right. The Adjournment is there for Members to raise matters of definite importance, which it is not possible to discuss on other occasions.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Will you Mr. Speaker, make clear what will be the position in the event of a Member who has the Adjournment, and has named the subject, wishing to raise another subject? Is he entitled to raise another subject, in view of the fact that he has the half-hour, or will he have to miss his place in the queue, and allow another Member to have the Adjournment?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think he could have a prescriptive right. I think it is a pity when a Member changes the subject. It causes inconvenience to other Members and to Ministers who have to be there.

Mr. McGovern

Have you, Mr. Speaker, given consideration to the question of abolishing the right to call a Count during that half-hour, as most Members then leave the House? Usually it is only the Members concerned and the Minister responsible for the subject who are interested.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a question for me, but for the House. I have, as the hon. Member knows, extended the time for taking a count to three minutes, which will be more convenient for Members.

Mr. Ballenger

Of course the House does not know how this new arrangement will work. As you know, Sir, there is a very long waiting list of Members who desire the Adjournment. Will you be prepared to review the arrangement later on, if it does not work out as you anticipate?

Mr. Speaker

I said that we should see how it will work.

Mr. W. J. Brown

If the extension of the 14 days' list is not to be made according to the order in which Members give notice at Question Time—which is the present practice—who is to determine how Adjournment days are to be allocated as between various subjects and various Members? I do not see how this is going to work out, and I would be grateful, Mr. Speaker, if you would tell us.

Mr. Speaker

I think it will be a matter of first come, first served. I should hesitate, myself, to choose subjects for hon. Members to raise.

Mr. Pritt

You, Mr. Speaker, have been telling the House about the arrangement for the half-hour Adjournment Debate. I take it that that will apply equally, en days when Business ends earlier than expected and there is an Adjournment Debate of longer than half an hour?

Mr. Speaker

It applies when the Adjournment Debate goes on for longer than the half-hour.

Lieut.-Commander Hutchison

If a Minister is unable to attend through illness, will the right of the Member who has the Adjournment be carried over to another date?

Hr. Speaker

I should want notice of that question at the time.

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