HC Deb 06 December 1945 vol 416 cc2662-84

10.30 p.m.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlce)

I am making this statement at this hour, as hon. Members will realise, owing to the need for a synchronisation with the announcement in the United States of America. I thought it right that this announcement should be made in the House of Commons, and not just in the Press. There are White Papers which will be found in the Vote Office. This is the statement:

The economic and financial discussions between officials of the United States and United Kingdom Governments, meeting in Washington, have now been completed. These discussions have been concerned with the major problems affecting the basic economic and financial relations between the two countries, in the light of the provisions of Article VII of the Mutual Aid Agreement between their Governments, signed on 23rd February, 1942. They have covered the questions of financial assistance from the United States to the United Kingdom, the demobolisation of war-time trade and monetary restrictions, the settlement of Lend-Lease, the disposal of surplus war property in the United Kingdom owned by the United States, and finally, long-range commercial policies in the broad sense embracing the fields of trade barriers and discrimination, the policies in respect of commodities in world surplus, cartels and international trade organisation, and international aspects of domestic measures to maintain employment.

The purpose of the discussions has been to arrive at mutually advantageous solutions of these problems which the two Governments would commend to the peoples and legislatures of the two countries and to the world as a whole. Both sides have been fully conscious of the significance to other countries as well as their own of the outcome of these discussions, and they have from the beginning had continuously in view the common interests of their Governments in establishing a world trading and monetary system from which the trade of all countries can benefit, and within which the trade of all countries can be con ducted on a multilateral, non-discriminatory basis.

The discussions have been successful. Agreement has been reached, subject to the approval of the legislatures of both countries, for the extension by the United States to the United Kingdom of a line of credits of 3,750,000,000 million dollars on the terms stated in the Financial Agreement signed this day, for the following purposes: to facilitate purchases by the United Kingdom of goods and services in the United States; to assist the United Kingdom to meet transitional post-war deficits in its current balance of pay- ments; to help the United Kingdom to maintain adequate reserves of gold and dollars, and to assist the United Kingdom to assume the obligations of multilateral trade. This credit would make it possible for the United Kingdom to relax import and exchange controls, including ex change arrangements affecting the sterling area, and generally to move forward with the United States and other countries, towards the common objective of expanded multilateral trade.

Agreement has been reached for the final settlement of Lend-Lease and Reciprocal Aid, the disposal of surplus war property in the United Kingdom owned by the United States, and the final settlement of the claims of each Government against the other arising out of the con duct of the war. Agreement has been reached on the broad principles of commercial policy for which the two Governments will seek general international support. These arrangements, if carried out, will put an end to the fear of an economic ally divided world, will make possible throughout the world the expansion of employment, and of the production, ex change and consumption of goods; will bring into being for the first time a common code of equitable rules for the conduct of international trade policies and relations.

The realisation of these proposals will depend upon the support given by the peoples and legislatures of the United States and United Kingdom; and, where they envisage measures requiring broad international collaboration, the support of other countries.

The following documents resulting from these discussions are being issued by the two Governments:

Financial agreement.

Joint statement regarding the under standing reached on Commercial Policy.

Joint statement regarding settlement for Lend-Lease, Reciprocal Aid, Surplus War Property and Claims.

White Papers containing the texts of these documents, together with the texts of the American proposals for consideration by an International Conference on Trade and Employment, are now in the Vote Office. At the same time, a paper containing the statistical material presented during the Washington negotiations is also available.

I will now, with the permission of the House, refer briefly to the Financial Agreement and the Joint Statement regarding settlement of Lend-Lease and Reciprocal Aid, Surplus War Property and Claims. These documents are of a far-reaching character. The Government of the United States has agreed, subject to the approval of Congress, to extend to H.M. Government a credit of 3,750,000,000 dollars for the purposes of helping the United Kingdom to overcome the difficulties of the post-war transition, and to assume, as rapidly as possible, the obligations of multilateral trade. At the same time, H.M. Government has acknowledged a net liability to the United States Government of 650,000,000 dollars arising out of the termination of Lend-Lease and Reciprocal Aid on the conclusion of hostilities, and the acquisition of surplus United States war property as a complete and final settlement of financial claims of each Government against the other arising out of the war. This liability is to be regarded as an addition to the credit, and will be liquidated on the same terms. It brings the assistance extended to H.M. Government by the United States Government up to a total of 4,400,000,000 dollars repayable over 50 years beginning on 31st December, 1951.

Next I should like to read to the House the Joint Statement regarding the understanding reached on Commercial Policy. The Secretary of State of the United States has made public today a document setting forth certain "Proposals for consideration by an International Conference on Trade and Employment." These proposals have the endorsement of the Executive branch of the Government of the United States and have been submitted to other Governments as a basis for discussion preliminary to the holding of such a conference. Equally, the Government of the United Kingdom is in full agreement on all important points in these proposals, and accepts them as a basis for international discussion, and it will, in common with the United States Government, use its best endeavours to bring such discussions to a successful conclusion in the light of the views expressed by other countries.

The two Governments have also agreed upon the procedure for the international negotiations and the implementation of these proposals. To this end, they have undertaken to begin preliminary negotiations at an early date between them selves and with other countries, for the purpose of developing concrete arrangements to carry out these proposals, including definitive measures for the relaxation of trade barriers of all kinds. These negotiations will relate to tariffs and preferences, quantitative restrictions, subsidies, State trading, cartels, and other types of trade barriers treated in the document published by the United States and referred to above. The negotiations will proceed in accordance with principles laid down in that document. The American "Proposals for consideration by an International Conference on Trade and Employment," are contained in one of the White Papers now avail able in the Vote Office. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will announce the arrangements for an early Debate on 'all these matters.

Finally, since many hon. Members are, no doubt, interested in the Commercial Policy proposed, I will, if I may, finish with some explanatory remarks on this part of the negotiations which have just been concluded.

His Majesty's Government welcome the initiative of the Government of the United States in publishing their proposals for setting up an International Trade Organisation and will be glad to play their part in any international discussions which eventuate on this most important subject.

The proposals which have been published represent not only the constructive thought of the United States Government but also the culmination of a long process of study and exchange of ideas between our own experts and those of the United States.

During this preparatory period extending over two years our experts held a series of informal and most valuable consultations with experts from the Dominions and India who made a number of very helpful contributions on the various topics discussed. The recent talks in Washington preceding the publication of the United States document, were, of course, conducted on behalf of the United Kingdom alone, and I am not in a position to speak for our partners in the Commonwealth, none of whom are in any way committed and who will each, no doubt, state their views themselves. I would only say now that while we have kept closely in touch with them during the conversations, it is quite understood that each of the Governments concerned will be able to approach the international discussions with full freedom of action in relation to the various matters dealt with in the proposals.

I should make it clear that this proposal is put forward by the United States Government with the object of formulating a basis for an international conference at which their suggestions will be subjected to full discussion before any final agreement is arrived at. Nevertheless, His Majesty's Government in welcoming these proposals, desire to express their agreement with the broad objectives aimed at, that is to draw up a code of conduct for international commerce and facilitate its expansion, so as to secure as far as is possible full employment at rising standards of living in all the countries participating in the scheme.

In the interests of the balance of payments of the United Kingdom, which depends upon the import of foodstuffs and raw materials, it is essential to clear the obstacles to our exports of manufactured goods without abandoning the right to control our imports so long as this is essential to our balance of international payments. The document recognises this fundamental fact. It is to be noted that the preamble to the document stresses the vital need for high and stable levels of employment in all countries, and the necessity for all countries to adopt domestic measures for the preservation of a high level of economic activity. It is, of course, the intention of His Majesty's Government to adopt such measures. But the success of our domestic measures will be assisted, and the expansion of our export trade will be greatly promoted, if other countries also adopt appropriate domestic policies for high and stable levels of employment. For this reason His Majesty's Government particularly welcome this statement of the need for appropriate domestic employment policies.

There is one particular matter arising out of the terms of Article VII of the Mutual Aid Agreement which is of especial interest and importance to the British Commonwealth and Empire—that is the question of tariff preferences. I would therefore refer shortly to that aspect of the American document which deals with both tariffs and tariff preferences.

The statement sets forth the procedure to be followed by common consent in considering, in the context of a general lowering of tariffs and other trade barriers, what contribution can be made from our side by way of reduction or elimination of preferences.

The statement makes it clear that, in pursuit of the objectives of Article VII of the Mutual Aid Agreement, we for our part are ready to agree that the existing system of preferences within the British Commonwealth and the Empire will be contracted, provided there is adequate compensation in the form of improvement in trading conditions between Common wealth and Empire countries and the rest of the world.

The statement further provides that in entering negotiations for the reduction of tariffs the parties concerned will not refuse to discuss the modification of particular preferences on the ground that these are the subject of prior commitments; on the contrary, all margins of preference will be regarded as open to negotiation, and it will of course be for the party negotiating the modification of any margin of preference which it is bound by an existing commitment to give a third party, to obtain the consent of the third party concerned.

Further points to be noted are:

  1. (i) The statement makes it clear there is no commitment on any country in advance of negotiations to reduce or eliminate any particular margin of preference. The position is that each country remains free to judge in the light of the offers made by all the others, the extent of the contribution it can make towards the realisation of the agreed objectives.
  2. (ii) It is recognised that reduction or elimination of preferences can only be considered in relation to and in return for reductions of tariffs and other barriers to world trade in general which would make for mutually advantageous arrangements for the expansion of trade. There is thus no question of any unilateral surrender of preferences. There must be adequate compensation for all parties affected.

The statement does not in advance of the detailed negotiations lay down how far the process of reduction and elimination of preferences will be carried at this immediate stage. It must be realised that some preferences are of particular importance to the economy of certain parts of the world just as some tariffs are important in others. The elimination of all preferences would be such a step as would require a most substantial and widespread reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers by a large number of countries. Thus it is recognised that the degree to which the final objectives can be reached at the initial stage can only appear at the negotiations themselves and as the result of a mutually advantageous settlement.

There are numerous other proposals in the document dealing with general and export subsidies, quantitative restrictions, State trading, restrictive business practices and commodity arrangements, and also with the proposed International Trade Organisation.

Both the United States and the United Kingdom intend well in advance of the International Conference to carry on between themselves and other countries, including of course in our case British Commonwealth countries, preliminary negotiations upon the subjects dealt with in the American document, in order to prepare the way for and contribute to the success of the International Conference when its meets. It is hoped that at the International Conference which it is pro posed to hold in the summer of next year, these negotiations will be completed on a full international basis and that the International Trade Organisation can be brought into being.

As I have said, His Majesty's Government give their support to this attempt to work out the policy set out in Article VII of the Mutual Aid Agreement and adumbrated in the Atlantic Charter. They earnestly hope that all the countries participating in the meeting will find it possible to make such concessions in their existing tariffs, trade barriers and preferences as to lead to their mutual satisfaction and that thus the way may be open to proceed to the setting up of a world trade organisation which can contain within it every form of public and private international commerce and can at the same time, by bringing some measure of order into future trade and commercial relations, contribute to that expansion of international commerce and attainment of full employment on which the future of all countries—and particularly our own-depends so much.

There is one point which, I am afraid because this has been a little hurried has been left out of the document. The rate of interest on the line of credit is two percent.

10.50 p.m.

Mr. Churchill (Woodford)

I am sure we are all obliged to the Prime Minister for having brought the House together in order that this announcement might be made to them, instead of having it appear through other channels, in the morning papers. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will realise—no one better—that a statement of this character, so complicated, must be carefully considered in black and white by all of us before we should be able to express any opinion upon it one way or the other. It is evident that a very early focussing of opinion on this matter must be reached, and we shall certainly address ourselves to the topic on this side of the House with the utmost energy with a view to the speedy despatch of this grave business. May I now ask the Leader of the House if he will in the light of what has occurred, state the Business of next week?

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

On a point of Order. Will that preclude any further questions to the Prime Minister on this subject, if the Business is stated? I wish to ask a question on it.

Mr. Speaker

It will not preclude any questions to the Prime Minister, on Business.

Mr. Stokes

May I ask a question? Mr. Speaker: Yes, on Business.

Mr. H. Morrison

In reply to the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, the business for next week will be as follows: Monday, 10th December.—Report state of the Finance Bill; Report and Third Reading of the Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Bill; and Motion to approve the Local Government (Boundary Commission) Order.

Tuesday, 11th December— Third Reading of the Finance Bill; Report and Third Reading of the Public Health (Scotland) Bill [Lords]; Second Reading of the Local Government (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Bill; and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution.

Wednesday, 12th December—There will be an opportunity on a Motion to 'be proposed by the Government, for the House to debate the result of the Washington negotiations, together with the Bretton Woods agreements. This Debate will be continued, and we hope concluded, by 7 o'clock on Thursday, 13th December. It will also be necessary to pass through all its stages by the end of the week a short Bill enabling the Government to take such action in respect of the Bretton Woods agreements as needs specific legislative authority. This Bill will be presented tomorrow, and we shall ask the House to take the Second Reading and the Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution on Thursday, on the conclusion of the Debate.

Friday, 14th December.—Committee and remaining stages of the Bretton Woods Bill which we hope to conclude by 2 o'clock, in order that the Bill may be sent to another place that same day. Afterwards, we propose to take the Committee stage of the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Bill.

It may, perhaps, be for the convenience of the House if I make it clear that White Papers are now available in the Vote Office dealing with the matters in the statement which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has just made. There is a White Paper entitled "Statistical Material Presented during the Washing ton Negotiations" Cmmd. 6707; a second "Financial Agreement Between the Governments of the United States of America and the United Kingdom dated December 6th, 1945," Cmmd. 6708; and another "Proposals for Consideration by an International Conference on Trade and Employment," Cmmd. 6709.

10.55 P.m.

Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham, South)

The House has had from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister a statement of policy which must have a tremendous effect upon the future history, not merely of this country, but of the world. The Prime Minister was followed by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who told the House that it was necessary not only to focus opinion quickly but also to take action speedily. Following the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) we have had the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, who has announced the Business for next week involving among other things legislation to implement this agreement, legislation to be rushed through the House by Friday next. I have a very vivid recollection, Mr. Speaker, that when you were installed in your Chair at the beginning of this Session you told the House that you were the champion of the back-benchers. It looks to me as though there is here collusion between, on the one hand, the Leader of the Opposition and, on the other hand, His Majesty's Government; and I am asking that this House shall not be required to pass legislation at this very rapid rate. I am asking that my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench shall not require this House to honour the date 31st December for ratifying the Bretton Woods Agreement. This House is being asked to take far too rapid action on a tremendously important matter. I beg, Sir, that a decision on Bretton Woods shall not be taken in this hurried fashion.

10.57 P.m.

Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)

I would like to ask one question of the Prime Minister, and that is how he reconciles the statement he has just made, with the repeated pledges given by successive Governments to this House that no decision would be taken on the Bretton Woods Agreement, unless this House had had an opportunity of discussing that agreement. Some of us have been pressing for a discussion on this for the last ten months. We have never been allowed to have a discussion. Now we have a pistol pointed at our heads, and are told that we have to pass the whole thing in three days. I think, with all due respect, that the Prime Minister is not honouring the undertaking repeatedly given by this Government and by both the preceding Governments, to this House. I would like to ask how he reconciles this statement with those undertakings.

The Prime Minister

My statement was that before a decision on Bretton Woods is taken, the House will have an oppor- tunity for full discussion and debate. And it is proposed that there should be a two-day' Debate on this matter. I think that is fully honouring the pledge.

10.59 p.m.

Mr. Stokes

As it is evident that the terms of this loan are dependent on the Bretton Woods proposals being accepted support the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Notting ham (Mr. N. Smith) and the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) that more time should be given to this matter. May I ask the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that the whole of this arrangement depends on the acceptance of the Bretton Woods proposals and the whole intention of America is to get us back on to the gold standard, will he make it abundantly clear to the country, that acceptance of this policy means a return to the gold standard—

Several Members


Mr. Stokes

And if the Debate must take place next week, will the right hon. Gentleman see that Whips are taken off so that Members can be free to vote according to their opinions?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) will be able to make that point, but I do not accept his premises.

11.1 p.m.

Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)

The Prime Minister, in his very important announcement, mentioned the scaling down of Imperial preferences in return for compensations and advantages which will have to balance what already exists. I would very much like to know whether we are to be presented with legislation to be carried through by the Government with their majority, or whether we are first to have a chance to debate this very important issue before we are presented with Government legislation with, in the end, the imposition of the Government majority.

The Prime Minister

I am afraid the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) has not got it right. There is no question of legislation on the commercial agreement. The commercial agreement is a point which is going to be discussed at an international conference, and the matter is intimately bound up with other matters. All that is suggested is, not a unilateral abandonment of preferences, but discussions for a general reduction of trade barriers in which the reduction of preferences might form a part. No legislation is required on that.

11.3 p.m.

Captain Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)

Would the Prime Minister, for the purpose of clarifying public opinion on this matter, in view of the important Debate which is to take place next week, indicate whether the total of the loan agreement and the pro posed Bretton Woods proposals would prevent or impede the fulfilment by the Government of the policy of bulk purchase and collective bargaining laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary at Blackpool?

The Prime Minister

The answer is, "No." I think perhaps hon. Members would find it convenient if they would study the documents obtainable at the Vote Office. They will find answers to-these questions in those documents.

11.4 p.m.

Mr. Stanley Evans (Wednesbury)

In view of the fact that many hon. Members, and many people throughout the country, regard Bretton Woods as economic strangulation for the British Common wealth of Nations, will the Government consider taking the Whips off on the occasion of this Debate?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The fact that certain people hold certain opinions does not necessarily mean that, therefore, we should take the Whips off.

Mr. N. Smith

What is the Prime Minister afraid of?

Mr. Stokes rose

Mr. Speaker

We are not at Question Time now, but on the Motion for the Adjournment. Once an hon. Member has risen and exhausted his right to speak, he may not speak again. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) has already spoken, and therefore, he is not entitled to speak again.

Mr. Stokes

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Am I not entitled to ask the Prime Minister a question before he sits down?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member has done that already, and he may not speak again.

Mr. Stokes

Further to that point of Order, Sir, I submit, with great respect, that I have not done anything of the sort. I was exercising my right to speak on the Adjournment. I now wish to put a question to the Prime Minister.

Mr. Churchill rose

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman has already spoken.

Mr. Stokes rose

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) persists, I shall begin to get angry.

Mr. Churchill

I was about to ask you, Sir, on a point of Order, whether I am not entitled to put a further question to the Leader of the House on the Business statement which he has made?

Mr. Speaker

On a question of Business, yes.

Mr. Churchill

I would like to ask the Leader of the House whether We may take it that, in regard to the outline of Business for next week, in connection with the statement made by the Prime Minister—a suggested outline but one which will, of course, be interpreted in accordance with the general wishes and desires of the House—if more time is required, we shall not be held to be agreeing at this moment to the allocation that has been proposed.

Mr. H. Morrison

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's position, which is not unreasonable, and, of course, if discussions are desired through the usual channels, they shall take place, but I am bound to say that I ran in a very real difficulty. I am up against the clock and the calendar. The Bretton Woods Agreement, if it is to be effective, must be implemented by 31st December by legislation, and, in order to get it into another place at the proper time, I am advised—and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) knows, we have had discussions and have put it off a bit to give more time for consideration—but I must get it into another place, I am advised, by two o'clock on Friday of next week. That is the difficulty I am in, and having pointed out this very real difficulty that really ties me up, certainly I would not wish to prevent any real discussion.

Mr. Stokes

On Business, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. N. Smith

May I ask if it is on your authority, Mr. Speaker, that this House is required either to implement or reject the Bretton Woods agreement by 31st December?

Mr. Speaker

That is a most improper suggestion. I had nothing to do with the Bretton Woods Agreement or with the arrangements. If the hon. Member wishes to object to any arrangements made, when the Bill comes before the House he will be able to vote against it and show his protest.

Sir Alan Herbert (Oxford University)

May I ask the Leader of the House whether, in view of the proceedings of the last eight weeks, he will soon—perhaps, next week—reconsider his decision about Private Members' time? May I ask whether, next Friday, he will, perhaps, give up time to discuss Private Members' Bills, because, since the great decision was made, I have studied the time taken by five Members of the Government in Government legislation on Friday There have been eight Fridays since our rights were taken away. As we all remember, the great thing was this great spate of Government legislation—

Mr. Speaker.

The hon. Member is asking that the decision of the House to take away Private Members' time, can be re versed. This cannot be done in the same Session, which has already decided that the right to raise matters is on the Motion for the Adjournment.

Mr. Stokes

May I ask the Lord Presi- dent of the Council, in view of the very serious statement he has just made as to the effect of this on Business next week, whether it is the Government's intention to ask this House to put this country back, as the result of acceptance of the Bretton Woods Agreement, on the gold standard next week, when some of us have spent about 25 years fighting against it?

Mr. Morrison

I am not, myself, a conclusive authority on the gold standard—

Mr. Stokes

The right hon. Gentleman ought to know what he is asking for.

Mr. Morrison

In this matter, I am concerned with the Business of the House, not the gold standard. It does seem to me that, if the Bill is published and the White Paper is available tomorrow, with the Prime Minister's statement, it is not unreasonable to ask that the House should begin the discussion on Wednesday and conclude it, over all, by 2 o'clock on Friday. I really do not think we are treating the House badly. Naturally, the House will have opportunity for all points of view being heard, and, in the mean time, there will be considerable discussion in the Press and otherwise. I do not think we are treating the House in a way which can be described as thrusting this down the throats of the House, without reasonable opportunity for discussion.

11.10 p.m.

Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)

May I ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House on Business? We have been promised for some time a Debate on Palestine. I would like to know whether there is a prospect of that taking place before the Recess.

Mr. Morrison

As I said last week, I have no objection to that, but I think that, in the new order of things, whereby we have had two days on the Motion of Censure, and there will be the two and a half days on financial and economic matters next week, I am bound to say; whilst I will still do my best, the prospect dims and dims, and whether we can get the Debate this side of Christmas I do not know.

Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)

May 1 ask a question not based on party bias? The Congress of the United States had three months to discuss this question and surely the holidays are not so sacred that we could not give up some of our time for this most important matter.

Mr. Morrison

I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree with me that, between the procedure of the United States Congress and the British House of Commons, it is very difficult to make a comparison, and I do not think we can make a comparison.

Mr. N. Smith

In view of what Mr. Speaker said to us last August, when we first took our seats, I want to ask who it is that governs the Business of this House. Who said this legislation must be passed by 31st December?

Mr. Speaker

I have already informed the hon. Member that I do not govern the Business of this House. The Government govern the Business of the House.

Mr. Bracken

Could we not have the eleven days available before the 31st December? There are eleven days on the Business calendar and the House is willing to give up all its time to consider this.

Mr. Morrison

I am not quite sure that the House is necessarily willing to sit on Christmas Day and the other days —[An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"]—I only say I am not sure. Really, the right hon. Gentleman must not assume that what he wants to do the other 640 hon. Members want to do. i am not seeking to be provocative. We shall have a "do" sooner or later, but it must be remembered that the Bill has to go to another place, and they have their rights. That is one of the problems we have to consider, that we have to allow time for the other place to consider the Bill.

Mr. Churchill

On Business, it is always possible for the House to sit Saturday, Sunday or Christmas Day if we need extra days, and feel that our duty cannot be discharged without those extra days. If the House decides, it is fully in our power.

Mr. Morrison

I quite agree that, if that were practicable, that might be worth considering, but the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I must take into account the convenience of another place, 1 am the Leader of this House, but not of another place.

Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)

I trust the Leader of the House will not agree to the House sitting on Sundays, which seems to have been very airily put from this side of the House without proper consideration of the Sabbath.

Mr. Speaker

This is a series of questions, and is becoming almost a ragged Debate. If hon. Members study the White Papers, they will learn more about them.

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

May I make another suggestion? Would it be possible for the Government to begin the discussion on Tuesday instead of on Wednesday and thus give a third extra day?

Mr. Churchill

I hope, before the question is answered, the right hon. Gentleman will not deny us the opportunity of an interval for consideration of these tangled matters before we come to a decision.

Mr. Morrison

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. As a matter of fact we were going to start on Tuesday, and that point was forcibly put on behalf of the Opposition. I had sympathy with it because I think the House should have an opportunity of studying the matter before the Debate begins. The other problem is that there is a lot of Business to get done before the Christmas Recess, and if the hon. and learned Member's suggestion would mean sacrificing the Tuesday in the sense that I lost that Business, I should be in a difficulty. That is the kind of arrangement that is circumscribed.

Captain Gammans (Hornsey)

A point arises which I think is of the utmost importance from the statement that the Prime Minister has made. Before the Debate comes off next week will he say at what rate between the dollar and the pound—the parity of the pound in relation to the dollar—these sums have been fixed, both in regard to the repayment of capital and of interest?

It being a quarter past Eleven o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Whiteley.]

The Prime Minister

I think hon. Members will realise that at this hour it is difficult to go into detailed questions. There will be full opportunity of doing it when the Members have read the White Papers. I think it is inadvisable to go into these things now.

Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)

Can the Prime Minister assure us that when this Debate takes place, in view of the wide disparity of opinion which there is on all sides of the House and in the country, the Government will not have the Whips on, and that we shall have a free vote?

The Prime Minister

I have already replied to that point. Our practice in this House is that the Government should take responsibility for the Measures which they bring forward.

Mr. Pargiter (Spelthorne)

Is the financial settlement with America completely dependent upon the Bretton Woods Agreement?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, the Bretton Woods Agreement is part of the whole Agreement.

Mr. N. Smith


The Prime Minister

I think hon. Members had better read the whole thing. I know that certain hon. Members have an almost religious fervour on this point.

Mr. N. Smith

Why not?

The Prime Minister

I quite agree, and I do not grudge it to the hon. Member, but I think it would be better if hon. Members would look at this thing as a whole, and study this document. There will be plenty of opportunities for my hon. Friends below the Gangway to vent all their wrath when they really know what they are talking about.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

I have already allowed the Prime Minister to make several speeches, and I cannot allow hon. Members to put questions to the right hon. Gentleman which will require further lengthy answers.

Mr. Stokes

Might I put 'this point to the Prime Minister— —

Mr. Speaker

Not to the Prime Minister. He cannot speak again.

Mr. Stokes

To the Lord President, then.

Mr. Speaker

In respect of Business?

Mr. Stokes

Yes, Sir, on Business. May I ask whether, in his consideration of the Business for next week and what may follow it he will bear in mind the repeated promises that have been made to this House to allow us full time to consider this matter before the decision is taken? The Americans have had months in which to discuss this matter, and if the right hon. Gentleman rushes this thing through the verdict of this country will be that he has sold us out to the moneylenders.

Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley) rose

Mr. Stokes

May I have an answer?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member can not make another speech.

Mr. Stokes

On a point of Order. Has not the Motion for the Adjournment been moved again, and therefore can 1 not I peak again? I crave your fairness in this matter.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is correct. I overlooked the second Motion. He may therefore then ask the Lord President of the Council to answer.

Mr. H. Morrison

If I get the permission of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I think it is unreason able for the hon. Member to assume that nobody has heard of Bretton Woods before this statement was made.

Mr. Stokes

There has been no discussion here.

Mr. Morrison

I know, but a knowledge of documents and proposals has been knocking about for months. I have read the Agreement, but not with that fullness that I ought to have, I admit; but I have heard of the Bretton Woods Agreement for some time, and therefore the subject has been known. The question is whether we are giving reasonable notice of Debate. I suggest that we are. Whether there should be any question of suspension of Rule on the Wednesday, to give a bit more time, we would be willing to discuss through the usual' channels, to meet in any way we can hon. Gentlemen who are concerned in that respect.

11.20 p.m.

Mr. Harold Maemillan (Bromley)

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down may I put this to him? This is a very grave matter. I fully realise the difficulties in which, from the point of view of time, the Government and the House find themselves. Perhaps we might ask that, as a result of the interchanges, the Leader of the House would regard the time-table as fluid, as a matter for discussion through the usual channels, so that we can reach the best possible arrangement for the discussion of a matter of such great importance. I am quite sure that the House would place itself at the disposal of the Government and if there was any inconvenience with regard to the holiday the House would be very willing to make the necessary arrangements. We have been very fairly met by the Leader of the House and we might come to some arrangement as to the discussion, so that even he might find an opportunity to read the Bretton Woods Agreement in the interval.

Mr. H. Morrison

I did not say that I had not read it at all. I only said that, in those earlier days, when I used to hear of Bretton Woods so frequently, I had not thoroughly read the agreement then. Of course, I have read all about it during these recent days. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) that we will certainly be prepared to discuss this matter through the usual channels and see whether any elasticity can be found. I do not want to make a firm promise. My trouble is to find the elastic, and there really is not very much about at this time.

11.22 p.m.

Mr. N. Smith

My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council has told the House that all of us have had ample time in which to consider this thing. I would submit that that is obviously inaccurate, for the simple reason that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said tonight explicitly that the Bretton Woods ratification is part of the whole affair. This has only been announced less than an hour ago. That being so, I want to ask the Government if they would not put this matter off until after the Christmas Recess. The Prime Minister said, I think, most improperly, that some of us are treating this subject with religious fervour. What is wrong with that? What is wrong with a man being sincere? Many of us are sincere about this thing, and 1 beg of you, Mr. Speaker, as the protector of the back benchers to see that we are let down and that there is no collusion between the two Front Benches. All I ask of the Government is to put this off until after the Christmas Recess.

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid I cannot order the Government how to deal with Business.

Flight-lieutenant Beswick (Uxbridge)

May I ask the Prime Minister what is sacrosanct about the date, 31st December? What principle would be involved in setting it back?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid I have exhausted my right to speak.

Mr. Stokes

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you, in order to get it on record, whether in view of the fact that this statement involves legislation, the whole of this discussion is not out of Order on the Adjournment?

Mr. Speaker

It may eventually require legislation, but the statement had to be made. I say quite frankly I was concerned with the point, and it does not break the Rule.

Mr. Stokes

For the sake of the record, Sir, and not with any intention to dispute your verdict, may I point out that the Leader of the House stated that legislation would be introduced next week. We then proceeded to discuss his statement and the statement of the Prime Minister, which clearly involve legislation. Clearly, therefore, it was out of Order.

Mr. Speaker

That is why I have been trying to keep to Business questions only.

Flight-Lieutenant Beswick

As the Prime Minister has not spoken since a quarter past eleven, when the new Motion for the Adjournment was put, is he not in Order in answering my question about the date?

The Prime Minister

On that point of Order. I regret to say I have spoken since the Adjournment was moved again. I can speak again only by leave of the House. The short answer to the question which has been put is that under the terms of the Bretton Woods Agreement, becoming an original Member of the Bretton Woods undertaking is dependent on the matter being passed by legislation before 31st December.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-six Minutes past Eleven o'Clock.