HC Deb 12 April 1945 vol 409 cc1986-92
Mr. Arthur Greenwood

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he can state the Business for next week?

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

The Business for next week will be as follows:

Tuesday, 17th April—Supply (4th Allotted Day): Committee, Debate on the San Francisco Conference.

Wednesday, 18th April—Further progress will be made in Committee on the Requisitioned Land and War Works Bill.

Thursday, 19th April—Supply (5th Allotted Day): Committee. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister proposes to make a statement on Russo-Polish relations and on the war situation generally. Afterwards there will be an opportunity for a Debate.

Friday, 20th April—Motions to approve the continuance in force of Proclamations made under the Government of India Act; and Committee stage of the Income Tax Bill.

Mr. Greenwood

May I ask a question on Business, arising out of an earlier Question? As it appears that, as a result of negotiations between my right hon. Friend and the organisations of medical men and women there has been some departure from the White Paper, will the Government arrange for a White Paper to be issued showing what departures, if any, have been made from the White Paper which was discussed and approved by the House, because this document published by the British Medical Association is not available to Members of this House? Would he also make arrangements for a free and open discussion on this matter before the B.M.A. Conference at the beginning of May?

Mr. McEntee

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why a paper, which is marked, "Not for publication," and which is not made available to this House, has in fact been sent out by the B.M.A.?

Mr. Eden

I cannot answer the last question. It is not within my jurisdiction. As regards my right hon. Friend's question, certain conversations have been taking place, following the Debate we had here on the White Paper. No conclusions whatever have been reached as a result of those conversations. If conclusions are reached, obviously they will have to be considered by the Cabinet and, after that, a report made to the House. At this stage they are purely exploratory conversations. My right hon. Friend assures me that no decisions of any kind have been taken, and obviously none could have been, because Members of the Cabinet are entirely unaware of the conversations.

Mr. Greenwood

I am sure my right hon. Friend is as anxious as I am to see that the House is treated with proper dignity and consideration in these matters. There were discussions with other bodies before the White Paper was issued. Long discussions have subsequently ensued. I understand that the B.M.A. has circulated these conclusions to every person holding medical qualifications in this country. Conclusions—tentative conclusions, if you like—have leaked out all over the country, in every hospital. I am submitting it is somewhat unfair that this House should conclude a Debate on the broad assumption that we had in fact agreed in principle to the White Paper—[Interruption]—I am making my submission to the Leader of the House. While, of course, I accept his word that no conclusions have been reached by His Majesty's Government, I should still have thought that the issue of a White Paper, indicating where the proposals differ from the White Paper, should be issued to Members of the House, and before conclusions are reached the House ought to have an opportunity of re-discussing the matter.

Mr. Eden

I think my right hon. Friend and the House will understand there is not the slightest desire to be discourteous to the House in this matter, nor do I think any abnormal procedure is being followed. It is, at least, obvious that since Members of the Government have not yet themselves received any conclusions from their colleagues, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health says that no final conclusions have yet been reached—it must be remembered that these conversations have not only been going on merely with the B.M.A., but with local authorities as well—the first stage is that the Government themselves must be made aware of what the situation is, and we must come to our decision. When we have come to a decision, we will consider how most fairly to present our conclusions to the House, so that the House may have a full and fair opportunity to express itself.

Mr. Tinker

Has the Leader of the House considered the promise he gave that he would grant a day for a discussion on war gratuities? He gave a promise some time ago, but he has not told us yet what he intends to do about it.

Mr. Eden

I hope there will be an opportunity, but I cannot yet say when.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

It seems to me that we are now trying to discuss, when we are talking about Business for next week, some Debate on a hypothetical matter of which we have no official knowledge. What is before the House is the Business for next week.

Mr. Muff

On a point of Order. I would draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that less than half an hour ago we had an authoritative statement from the junior Member for Southampton (Dr. Russell Thomas) that the Government had made up its mind, and had changed its mind.

Mr. Gallacher

I wish to ask the Leader of the House—he may be surprised at my asking such a question—if there is any information forthcoming about when we are to have a discussion on the Scottish Education Bill.

Mr. Eden

I cannot give a date, but I hope it will be before I come back from San Francisco.

Commander Bower

In view of the fact that the success of the San Francisco Conference would appear to depend on whether all nations, especially Poland, are represented there, would it not be better to have the Debate on Poland on Tuesday, and to debate the San Francisco Conference on Thursday?

Mr. Eden

I had naturally thought about the order of these Debates. In actual fact we had originally intended, as perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will remember, to have the San Francisco Debate before Easter. We put it off, because I thought the nearer it was to the meeting the more convenient it would be to the House. It is quite impossible to have it later, because there is a long way to go, and we must get there a day or two before the Conference begins. It is not practicable for the Debates to follow one after the other, as my hon. and gallant Friend has suggested.

Mr. Stokes

Is it the intention of the Government to afford an opportunity for a Debate on Bretton Woods, or are we to conclude that since no more reference is being made to it on Thursday, the matter has now been killed, despite the Chancellor of the Exchequer's behind-the-scenes endeavours?

Mr. Eden

I think the position remains unchanged, that the House will be consulted before any final decision is taken, and that is where we stand.

Mr. McNeil

It has been customary, with the indulgence of the Chair, to proceed a little beyond the Business for the following week. May I therefore request the right hon. Gentleman to assure us that we will have an opportunity of discussing the stage to which the Minister of Health has taken his negotiations on the White Paper?

Mr. Eden

I had hoped I had made it plain that when the Government have taken any decision on this matter, and the first step must clearly be for the Government to take, they must then take into account how the House will be informed and what opportunity will be given for debate.

Commander Kinģ-Hall

Do the Government feel able to give time to discuss the Motion about the public utterances of Ministers, which stands in my name?

[That in the opinion of this House Members of His Majesty's Government should refrain from attacking each other in public until the conclusion of hostilities with Germany.]

Mr. Eden

No, Sir. I should not have thought that discussion of my hon. and gallant Friend's Motion would be the very best means of promoting the cause he has at heart.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser

Will the Leader of the House tell us what are the Votes on which the Supply Days are being taken?

Mr. Eden

I am sorry. On Tuesday it will be the Foreign Office and other related Votes, and on Thursday the appropriate Votes will be put down.

Sir Georģe Schuster

Can my right hon. Friend give any indication of when time can be found to take the Motion on Resettlement of Service Personnel which stands in my name and the names of some 3o of my hon. Friends:

[That this House is of the opinion that the Government's plans for the resettlement in civilian life of Service personnel and war workers constitute a major national issue; that steps should be taken to ensure that such plans cover all sections of the community engaged on work of national importance connected with the war effort; and that the plans should receive further consideration at an early date.]

Mr. Eden

I could not hold out hopes for a discussion of the Motion, but I should have thought that there might be a discussion upon that issue on one of the Supply Days before very long.

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew

May I ask the Prime Minister a question about the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Bill? We hoped that it will be withdrawn, though I suppose it is too much to hope that, but would the Leader of the House give an undertaking that when the Bill, which would alter completely the Private Bill procedure in this House—and why that should be necessary I do not know—is taken, we shall be allowed a free vote?

Mr. Eden

I should like to consider that.

Mr. Silverman

In view of the interest which has been expressed, will the Leader of the House give an assurance that until we have had an opportunity of discussing any proposed change, the policy of the Government as expressed in the White Paper will remain unchanged?

Mr. Speaker

I have already stated that what we are considering is the Business of the House and not the policy of the Government.

Mr. Silverman

On a point of Order. I was not seeking in the least to depart from the advice you, Sir, have given to the House but as there is not to be a Debate for some time, surely it is in Order to ask the Leader of the House whether the policy of the Government will remain the same in the meantime.

Mr. Speaker

We are dealing only with Business.

Mr. Turton

In view of the importance of the San Francisco Debate will the Leader of the House consider giving two days to that Debate, so that on one of the days we can concentrate upon the Imperial aspects of the matter?

Mr. Eden

I am afraid that our present plans would not allow us to give two days. If more time can be given on one day I will consider that.

Mr. Petherick

On the question of a two days' Debate next week does the Leader of the House appreciate that it is important to have the Debate on the general war situation, which will presumably include some statement on Poland, first, because that may have a great effect on the views that hon. Members may adopt on the question of a world organisation? What has happened in Poland and what may happen are of extreme importance. It is a test case and has an important bearing on the wider position.

Mr. Eden

Of course we all understand the importance of the Polish issue in its relation to all other matters but I would ask the House to remember that we are not the only people concerned and that the Conference is to meet at a certain date and that it really is not physically possible, if we are going to discuss San Francisco, to put the other Debate in advance of it. There are many aspects of San Francisco which the House can and should discuss before the British Delegation goes to San Francisco, quite apart from the importance of Polish affairs.

Mr. Gallacher

I want to ask the Leader of the House, in view of the answer which he gave me about a discussion on the Scottish Education Bill before he returns from San Francisco, whether I am to understand that there will be a cable from that Conference about the Scottish Education Bill?